Berkeley City Council approves funding for multiple housing projects

photo of homeless encampment with tents
Ethan Lejano/Staff
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted to move forward with an application for state funds to convert Golden Bear Inn on San Pablo Avenue into permanent supportive housing and for the development of supportive housing units on People’s Park, in addition to several other housing projects.

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The Berkeley City Council voted to advance several housing initiatives at a special meeting Dec. 14.

The council moved forward with an application for state funds to convert Golden Bear Inn on San Pablo Avenue into permanent supportive housing and for the development of supportive housing units on People’s Park. The council also approved funding for several other affordable housing projects, including a project on San Pablo Avenue meant to house Berkeley Unified School District employees.

“It is truly exciting to see the city moving forward on so many homeless and affordable housing projects simultaneously,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn at the meeting.

In partnership with Memar Properties and Bay Area Community Services, the city will apply for funds from the state’s Homekey program for the Golden Bear Inn project. If successful, the project will provide 43 units for homeless individuals.

The council also voted to join Resources for Community Development, which was selected by UC Berkeley to develop housing in an application for funds from the state’s No Place Like Home Program to fund 119 units of housing, in addition to the student housing, on People’s Park. According to the meeting agenda, the project will set aside 62 of these units for supportive housing and 46 of these units for homeless individuals or those who experience mental illness.

“This is what it takes,” Hahn said at the meeting. “This is really the fulfillment of a promise many of us made to the voters when we were first elected.”

During public comment, most speakers expressed support for the housing items, though some attendees expressed concern over public safety and the expedited timeline of the Golden Bear Inn project.

Rajdeep Sidhu of Mountain Mike’s Pizza, which is located adjacent to the Golden Bear Inn, initially opposed the project, citing concerns over public safety. However, following the council’s discussion of the item, Sidhu reversed his stance.

Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, who represents the district where the hotel is located, acknowledged the speed at which the city has moved forward on the project.

“The city is working under a constrained timeline due to the need to seek substantial Homekey funds from the state,” Kesarwani said. “This proposal is cost-effective for our Berkeley taxpayers.”

Speakers during public comment brought up the loss of public space at People’s Park and asked the council to remove the People’s Park item from the consent calendar to allow for more community input.

Councilmember Rigel Robinson supported the People’s Park project.

“I believe that the most crucial thing that we can do as a city to honor the legacy of People’s Park is to end homelessness,” Robinson said at the meeting. “I am resolute in that vision.”

Contact Alexander Wohl at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @dc_arwohl.