Real Estate News

Published on Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Two apartment buildings will rise on landmark that was focal point of 1969 protests.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge has given the green light to UC Berkeley to begin construction on a $312M student housing project that will erect two apartment buildings in Berkeley’s famous People’s Park.

People’s Park was so named in 1969—when an earlier plan by the university to build student housing in the 2.8-acre park generated protests that led to the declaration of a state of emergency.

One person died in the violence that erupted during the 1969 protests, which saw thousands of demonstrators descend on the park and occupy it.  The civil unrest in 1969 was a stark contrast to the Woodstock vibe of the Bay Area’s laid back “summer of love” in 1968, when hippies established communes in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.

Community backlash began after UC Berkeley announced plans last year to build two apartment buildings, one 12 stories and the other six stories, as housing for 1,100 university, with 125 units set aside for homeless people who live in the park in makeshift shacks.

Three court challenges to UC Berkeley’s student housing project were jointly filed last year by Local 3299, a union that represents UC service workers, and two community groups, Make UC A Good Neighbor and Berkeley Citizens for a better plan.

The groups argued that environmental impact reports filed by UC failed to account for how projected student enrollment growth at the Berkeley campus over the next 15 years will negatively impact the surrounding community by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and clogging dangerous wildfire evacuation routes.

The court filings also claimed that UC Berkeley failed to consider more than a dozen other sites for the student housing.

Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled earlier this month that the student housing project does not violate the California Environmental Quality Act, clearing the way for construction to begin as soon as the judge’s written opinion is filed, according to a report in SiliconValley.com.

The People’s Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June. Roesch’s ruling lifts a stay issued by an appellate court last month that prevented any physical changes to the park until the legal issues were resolved.

A UC Berkeley spokesperson said the university expects to start construction of the student apartment buildings before the end of the summer.

The university has been trying to relocate people who live in the park, which is bounded by Haste Street and Dwight Way about four blocks south of the UC campus, to a nearby Rodeway Inn on University Avenue.

UC Berkeley says it will preserve 1.7 acres at the park as open space, pledging to honor the history of People’s Park with a memorial walkway, murals and photo displays.

But people who have been living in the park since the 1970s, including several Vietnam War veterans, told SiliconValley.com they’re willing to “wage war” against any effort to clear the space for the student dorms.