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The university owns the storied park known for political activism and lately for crime.
Construction is expected to begin next year on housing for about 1,100 undergraduates as well as for homeless people and very low-income residents. The housing for students would be at below market rate, university officials said.
“We have an opportunity for a win-win-win benefitting our students, unhoused people in our community, and our neighbors across the city,” University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement to the campus community.
But she said some people remain skeptical. The university will be trying to build support among people who don’t think the project will be a win for all.
Berkeley’s Mayor Jesse Arreguin, the city’s vice mayor and a councilmember support the project along with among others the Telegraph Business Improvement District, according to the university.
“I strongly support the university’s vision for the future of People’s Park,” Arreguin said in a statement. “We can honor its rich history, while reimagining it as a place where all people can come together, where we can shelter our homeless and provide needed housing for our students.”
Park would get smaller
One hundred apartments are planned for People’s Park to house homeless and very low-income residents while 1.7 acres of the park will be dedicated as green space and will be open to everyone. Currently the park is 2.8 acres of green space and free of buildings.
Christ said the university is committed to making changes to the plan for the project.
“We have heard the voices of experts and activists,” Christ said.
That means the university will not start building until it is able to offer housing and services to the 45 or so people presently sleeping in People’s Park.
Christ said also planned is a “daytime place” for them to gather when the park is closed for construction. University spokesman Dan Mogulof said a variety of ideas for the gathering place are being considered.
Every day a social worker is at People’s Park helping homeless people get the services they need, Christ said. So far, the social worker has helped 80 people find permanent housing, according to Christ.
University officials hired a firm to survey UC Berkeley students in late August about the university’s plans for People’s Park. Students who weren’t given information about the four elements of the university’s current plans said by a margin of 56 percent to 31 percent that they supported what they knew of the plans.
When students had information about the four elements, the margin grew to 64 percent in favor to 24 percent opposed.
Students were sampled randomly, and the survey was conducted scientifically, Christ said. The university has made the data, methodology and survey available to the public.
Students surveyed also expressed “significant levels of concern” about the unhoused people at the park, given the university’s plans.
“We shall continue to heed and respect those voices,” Christ said.
Mogulof said the university did not survey residents of the area. He said the university is dedicated mainly to serving students.