Court Rules to Allow Housing in Once-Iconic Park

( – The California Supreme Court last Thursday ruled that the University of California could convert UC Berkeley’s People’s Park into a housing complex for students, bringing an end to a yearslong legal battle over the landmark that has been the site of campus protests since the Vietnam war.

The state Supreme Court determined that a 2023 state law invalidated the claims made by two local groups that sued to block the conversion by arguing that adding more student housing in downtown Berkeley would increase noise pollution in the already densely-populated area.

In the court’s unanimous decision, Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero wrote that due to the new law which the parties in the suit all acknowledged, the lawsuit against the housing plan posed “no obstacle to the development of the People’s Park housing project.”

The state desperately wants more housing, including for students attending California’s public colleges and universities where some students stay with friends, sleep in their cars, or are forced to commute hours to attend classes due to the lack of dorm space or nearby apartments.

The Supreme Court noted that among the schools in the University of California system, UC Berkeley provides housing for the lowest percentage of students.

In the 2023-24 academic year, only around 22 percent of UC Berkeley’s 45,699 students were provided housing, according to a spokesman from the school.

The school’s planned complex would provide housing for roughly 1,100 students on the nearly 3-acre People’s Park for a cost of $312 million. Opposition to the plan has at times been so intense that protesters have clashed with police.

When crews began clearing the trees to make way for the project in 2022, protesters broke through the 8-foot high chain-link fence to stop them. Earlier this year as crews erected double-stacked shipping containers to wall off the site, protesters had to be removed by officers in riot gear.

The People’s Park was founded in 1969 and was a gathering place for free speech and civil rights activists. The park was used for community gardening, distributing free meals, and displaying art projects.

UC Berkeley spokesman Kyle Gibson said the school was relieved by the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision and would resume construction at the site.

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