Setting the record straight about this project.
There is a great deal of misinformation about this project, especially on social media. We want to set the record straight and present the facts about this project.
We invite you to learn more about a visionary new future for People's Park that responds to a crisis of available and affordable student housing in Berkeley, provides permanent support for unhoused people, meaningfully commemorates history, and revitalizes 1.7-acres of park space for all.
Incorrect: The buildings are 17 stories tall, or higher, and out-of-keeping with the area.
The Facts: The student housing building has two wings with varying heights. The north wing is the tallest and features 11 floors of student apartments over a ground floor and a partial basement level. The south wing is raised to create an open and airy pass-through into the new park space below, and has 6 floors comprised entirely of student apartments. The overall building height aligns with the City's Southside Plan that will regulate privately-developed buildings in this area.
Incorrect: This is luxury student housing that generates profit for a private developer/operator.
The Facts: The campus will develop, own, and operate the student housing at People's Park. There are no private developers. There are no private operators. No profits are being generated for private entities.
This is not luxury housing. It will be comparable in quality and pricing to existing campus housing. In fact, all our campus housing is below market and this project will be no exception.
Incorrect: Pile drivers will cause loud noises and dangerous vibrations that will severely damage nearby historic buildings.
The Facts: The method of construction will not use pile drivers. The project design relies on auger-cast piles rather than driven piles, which do not create loud noise and do not cause vibrations.
Incorrect: Services will be contracted out instead of using represented employees.
The Facts: There will be no contracted out services. The student housing will exclusively use university employees who are represented, earn benefits, and get paid a living wage.
Incorrect: People have always slept overnight in the park.
The Facts: Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus enforced a nightly closure of the park. As public health conditions improve, and shelters for unhoused people return to their normal capacity, regulations restricting overnight sleeping in public spaces, such as parks and streets, will once again be enforced by cities and agencies throughout California.
Incorrect: The campus will displace unhoused people from the park with no place to go. The campus doesn't have any plan to support the unhoused park users.
The Facts: We strongly believe in better solutions for unhoused people than sleeping in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. We are not waiting for construction to support park users in finding shelter and connecting them with services. Our full-time social worker is at the park now, day in and day out, to support the park users. He has already found permanent housing for more than 80 households. We have heard the voices of those who advocate for the interests of unhoused people: We will proceed with construction only after having a plan in place that will offer access to shelter and services to the 40-50 people currently sleeping in the park. This is consistent with the campus’s current commitments and efforts.
Incorrect: There is no funding for the supportive housing.
The Facts: The campus selected RCD, a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization with 37-years of experience successfully funding, building, and operating such projects. Various government programs provide financial support for supportive housing, and this project is no exception. RCD has already secured housing vouchers from the City of Berkeley for this project and is moving forward to apply for additional funding programs that are best suited for this site.
Incorrect: The entire park will be replaced with buildings, eliminating valuable open space from Berkeley's Southside neighborhood.
The Facts: Most of the site, approximately 1.7-acres (which is about 1 1/3 football fields in size) will be maintained as green, open park space. Many of the existing trees will be preserved. We believe in a safe, revitalized park that will be used by a wider segment of students and the Berkeley community.
Incorrect: There hasn't been any meaningful public engagement about this project.
The Facts: The campus has engaged in years of extensive public engagement and input on this project. There have been one-on-one meetings, workshops, focus groups, open houses with hundreds of attendees, presentations in person and online, presentations to the Berkeley City Council and city commissions, there have been opportunities for formal public comment through the environmental review process, and to the UC Board of Regents.
Incorrect: The campus has plenty of other places for new housing, such as Clark Kerr Campus, and doesn't need to build at People's Park.
The Facts: In response to the Bay Area housing crisis, the campus committed to double its existing student housing. This requires over 8,000 new beds, and that requires building on every site yet identified for new housing. This includes People's Park, Clark Kerr Campus (where legal covenants restrict development until after 2032), and many others. It is not a question of which sites to develop: we need to utilize every single one, plus more, in order to meet our housing goal. Building on undeveloped university property that lacks water, electricity, and transportation infrastructure is not feasible due to prohibitive costs and environmental considerations.