A developer has pulled out of an agreement with the University of California at Berkeley to build housing for the homeless at the national landmark People’s Park.

Resources for Community Development was to construct 125 units of permanent supportive housing in conjunction with the university’s plan for student housing at the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The developer cited a Feb. 24 appeals court decision, overturning the development’s approval, in making its decision.

“This creates significant delays and new challenges that negatively impact our capacity to move forward,” RCD spokeswoman Lauren Lyon said.

UC Berkeley officials said they understand RCD’s decision and will look for a new developer.

“The university’s commitment to donate a significant portion of the site for the construction of supportive housing is unwavering, as is our commitment to the other, essential elements of the project, including urgently needed student housing, revitalized open green space and a commemoration of the site’s storied past,” university spokesman Dan Mogulof said in an emailed statement.

Opponents and university clash

The path toward implementing the university’s plans has been rocky.

Last year, protesters thwarted the university’s efforts to start work, which began with cutting and removing trees. Seven people were arrested in a melee Aug. 3. Two law enforcement officers were hurt, university officials said.

While opponents cited potential noise from the project, their main criticism was that the university has 15 other properties where it can build student housing, said Harvey Smith, a leader of park advocates.

Smith said the housing for homeless people hinged on RCD getting federal funding for the project. Requests for federal funding require an environmental/historic review because the park is on the National Register, Smith said.

Smith said RCD decided not to pursue such a review. RCD declined to answer questions Friday concerning the situation.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said he was disappointed with RCD’s decision and criticized a “minority of people who are determined to stop progress.”

“Their campaign of ‘no’ has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars and project-based Section 8 vouchers which would have helped us achieve our goal of housing for those living in People’s Park and on the streets,” the mayor said.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.