Berkley Development Sparks Protest At People’s Park


Just 2 days after UC Berkeley attempted to begin work on a contentious student housing project in People’s Park, a state appeals court issued a stay order delaying all construction and changes until October. 

What Happened? 

Protesters who had flocked to the park after officials from the University of California had put a fence around it early on August 3 hailed the decision as a victory and celebrated its implementation.

According to a statement made by the authorities, construction workers and law enforcement personnel have been “withdrawn from the site,” and the administration’s first goal is to safeguard the well-being of the teachers and students. Many see the place as a sacred ground because of its importance as a symbol of the counterculture that developed in the 1960s.

Although construction on a project to provide housing for students and the homeless had already begun just a few hours after a judge approved it, university officials have stated that they will “evaluate the situation to decide how best to proceed” with the project’s construction.

Starting the Construction

Harvey Smith, the president of the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group, was happy that work had ended; yet, he continued to assert that it should not have been started in the first place. 

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and the city of Berkeley collaborated on a proposal to rehabilitate the park in 2018. They said it would be the first plan of its sort in the United States to build long-term supportive housing on university grounds for homeless people. Furthermore, the university wants to construct 1,100 much-needed student housing units.

Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch delivered a preliminary judgment allowing the University of California, Berkeley, to begin preparing the historic park for building. However, within a few hours after making the plot public, the institution had already begun prepping the area by erecting obstacles. 

The Reason for the Protest

Activists from both groups who had been awake for more than 24 hours went to the park’s fallen trees on Wednesday night to relate personal stories about why they strive to maintain the park. Residents of the Bay Area who had previously been involved in housing difficulties banded together to demonstrate unity and support.

Misty Cross, one of Moms4Housing’s co-founders, drew parallels between the campaign to keep People’s Park open and the battle to keep the West Oakland encampment of Wood Street open after a tragic fire. Both engagements were fought in the aftermath of the fire’s devastation. A court has granted an order compelling individuals camping at the park to leave before the campsite is cleaned.

Most of the park’s homeless population could locate new housing in a leased Rodeway Inn building before work started, thanks to a collaboration between the city of Berkeley and the University of California. 

Furthermore, they funded a daytime drop-in shelter on Haste Avenue to dissuade homeless people from congregating in the park by giving them food, a place to rest, a place to charge their electronic devices, a place to wash, and lockers. Again, this discouraged homeless people from congregating at the park.

What is Happening Now?

The renovations have been halted until October due to the court appeals and lawsuits that homeless advocates and activists have filed. To address homelessness in Berkeley and the protests that have been happening there, city officials are trying to figure out a plan. Still, the renovations are currently on hold until the appeals court makes its decision.

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