Berkeley's People's Park closer to becoming student housing, amid opposition

A Superior Court Judge’s decision Friday paved the way for a long-planned construction project at Berkeley's historic People's Park. 

UC Berkeley has been trying to build new student housing there, but opposition groups have waged court battles to block it, including allegations the university was violating guidelines under the California Environmental Equity Act.

Friday, a judge decided that was not the case, saying the University was not in violation, which opens the way for construction.  The decision is expected to become official as early as Monday.

"When the ruling becomes official, it will remove any obstacles between the university and all that it intends to do to address an urgent student housing crisis," said Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley Spokesman.  

But the opposition isn’t giving up the fight. In addition to another legal challenge through appeal, some are planning to take a stance at the park itself, to block any potential construction.     

To address that need, the university plans to build below-market housing for roughly 1,100 students on less than half of the 2.8-acre site.

This could be the last weekend you hear live music being played at Berkeley’s People’s Park. 

ALSO: Female pedestrian struck by vehicle in Berkeley crosswalk, seriously injured

A coalition of groups opposing that plan went to an event at the park Saturday and vowed to appeal the decision.  

"We’re trying to stop that.  We’re trying to continue to stop the development.  We’re trying to have this be a park in perpetuity," said Lisa Teague with People’s Park Council. 

There are plans for music performances in the park through Monday to draw in a crowd. The organizer is encouraging people to camp out to deter construction crews that some believe could arrive next week.  

"So, we’re just trying to get as many people in the park for that possibility as soon as possible," said Rachelle Hughes, an advocate for the park to remain untouched.

ALSO: UC Berkeley 'jolted' by sudden death of chemistry professor

The historic park, an epicenter for protests beginning in the late 60s, became a haven for the unhoused in recent years. UC Berkeley says it’s been working with the homeless, helping to bring their numbers in the park down from around 80 to less than a handful.   

"The reason is that the city, working in concert with the university and the state of California, gathered millions of dollars to provide transitional housing for all of the unhoused people that had been sleeping in the park," said Mogulof.

Still, Nicholas Alexander argues the park should remain for the people. He was on site fortifying a wooden structure he plans to stay in to thwart any plan the University might have to break ground in the coming days.

"It’s not easily disassembled and you can’t even get in through the exterior. I mean, they have a lot of logistical challenges, legal challenges removing me safely," said Alexander.

The university has not given a date for groundbreaking, and will only say it plans to begin sometime this summer.