Wiener criticizes judge's ruling on Berkeley People's Park housing project

An appeals court has blocked a $312 million housing project at People’s Park in Berkeley. The court ruled the project fails to address environmental concerns.

"We are really the only green space in this immediate area. I think it is important," said Lisa Teague, a neighbor who is also with the group Defend People’s Park.

Teague called this a small victory to protect the park’s history and legacy. Teague said members of neighborhood groups are not necessarily "NIMBY’s"– they just want the University to build somewhere else on campus.

"Even if this is truly the only place you wanted to build, the law says you have to look at alternative sites," said Teague.

The court ruled that the University failed to consider other locations and did not properly assess potential noise impacts in nearby residential neighborhoods.

State senator Scott Wiener called the ruling a terrible decision.

"These neighbors are NIMBY’s and they don’t want this development in their community. They are going to sue no matter what and the court has just empowered them to keep going and keep fighting and keep suing. And meanwhile college students are living in cars," said Wiener.

He said it sets a dangerous precedent to use the California Environmental Quality Act – or CEQA – to stop desperately-needed housing projects.  Wiener said noise from students is not the same as pollution, and it’s time for CEQA reform.

"This court case is going to be used and abused to stop all sorts of housing projects in California," said Wiener.

MORE: Court: UC Berkeley failed to consider alternate sites for housing to preserve People's Park

The Governor’s Office also put out a statement over the weekend. Part of it reads, "California cannot afford to be held hostage by NIMBY’s who weaponize CEQA to block student and affordable housing. This selfish mindset is driving up housing prices, and making our state less affordable."

UC Berkeley issued a statement after Friday’s court ruling. Part of it reads, "The campus is dismayed by this unprecedented and dangerous decision to dramatically expand CEQA, and the campus will ask the California Supreme Court to overturn it."