Judge rules UC Berkeley can clear People’s Park, site of 1960s protests, to build housing

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Berkeley’s People’s Park, for half a century a symbol of Bay Area protest and counterculture and for years the home of numerous unhoused people, is one step closer to becoming student dorms and housing for low-income community members after a judge tentatively ruled Friday that construction can commence.

Alameda County Judge Judge Frank Roesch, in a decision that won’t become official until it is issued in writing, probably next week, ruled that UC Berkeley can begin clearing the historic park and starting site work because the university’s plan does not violate the California Environmental Quality Act.

UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley proposed redeveloping the park in 2018, calling it a first-in-the-nation plan to build long-term supportive housing for homeless people on university land. The university would also build 1,100 units of badly needed student housing and retain some of the park as open green space, while also erecting a monument to its storied history.

But two organizations — the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group and Make UC a Good Neighbor — jointly filed a lawsuit, arguing, among other things, that the university had other options for developing housing and had not adequately studied them, as required by state law. Two other groups filed their own challenges, which will be consolidated into the judge’s decision.

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