Frequently asked questions about the plan for People’s Park

People sit and relax in the sun at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif. on Friday, April 20, 2018. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

People sit and relax in the sun at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif. on Friday, April 20, 2018. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

UC Berkeley’s plan to redevelop and revitalize People’s Park includes building a new a residential facility for students and to make land available for the construction of permanent supportive housing for members of the city’s homeless population. Open and recreational space also will be set aside, as well as a memorial to the park’s history and legacy.

The following provides answers from the campus to key questions. You can read the complete story here.

▸Student, supportive housing details

Who will be eligible to live in the student housing and the supportive housing?

University housing is provided for currently enrolled students. This includes undergraduates and graduate and professional students. Students with families are eligible to live at University Village. We do not expect to house freshmen in the new housing on this site. Our current housing plan provides enough housing for first-year students in other units. In developing our plans for campus housing, we have the goal of increasing both the number of beds and the housing options for continuing students (i.e., not first-year students) and for graduate and professional students. We think this site is ideal for helping to meet those objectives.

Various government (city, county, state and federal) programs fund supportive housing. These funding programs often focus on a particular population. For example, there are programs specifically for military veterans and others for the developmentally disabled. Who the residents of this supportive housing will depend on the source of the funds obtained to develop it. We intend to focus our efforts on funding sources that support veterans, families with young children and transitional age youth.

Note: More details about the supportive housing can be found here, in a separate FAQ dedicated to this part of the project.

What will the new buildings look like? How big will they be?

An overall goal for the buildings — both student and supportive housing —is a cohesive design that is achieved through similar colors and/or materials and/or formal elements. We will share specific ideas and proposals once we have more detailed architectural ideas and renderings. Design guidelines prepared by UC Berkeley’s Design Review Committee recommend that both the supportive and the student housing be no more than five stories tall, except along Haste Street, at the east end, where the committee believes the site can and should accommodate a taller building.

How many beds will there be at each facility?

The supportive housing will have between 75 and 125 apartments.

The exact number of beds will be determined as the density and programming details of the location fall into place. For the student housing, our current goal is to provide between 700 and 1,000 beds in to-be-determined room configurations.

Will rent for the student housing be based on the citywide market, or kept in line with other campus-owned residence halls?

Our goal is to provide safe, secure, high quality residential communities for all campus student housing. This includes offering functional, convenient and comfortable housing at a rate similar to that of other campus housing.

What about the other sites identified in the Housing Task Force report?

The shortage of available and affordable housing for Berkeley’s students and untenured ladder faculty is a matter of urgent concern for the university. At present, Berkeley has the lowest percentage of beds for our student body of any campus in the UC system, despite the fact that we are situated in one of the tightest housing markets in the state. This lack of campus housing capacity adversely impacts the overall student experience and challenges our ability to recruit faculty. To address this challenge, a Housing Task Force was formed, and potential sites for development have been identified. The report can be found at chancellor.berkeley.edu/task-forces/housing-initiative. We are now in the process of developing a master housing plan for all of the sites under consideration and will work very closely with the city to consider the impact of that plan on the city of Berkeley.

Will the student housing require security beyond that found in other residence halls?

Creating a safe and secure housing community is our top priority.  We will provide the same measures we use in the rest of our residence halls (e.g., controlled access through a key card), including the student housing across the street from the park. The campus and its law enforcement professionals believe that managed, supportive housing (with services and staff) will contribute to making this section of the city safer and more secure for students, members of the community and visitors.

Will the campus or the developer operate the student housing?

The developer/private partner will be responsible for the operation of the building. The partner will be bound to operational and programming standards consistent with University of California standards and values as established by a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Will the housing developer also be responsible for the supportive housing?

No, there will be separate developers.

▸Prioritizing safety for all

What are the crime statistics associated with the park?

During the past five years, we have documented 10,102 UCPD-related events in People’s Park. They include calls-for-service and self-initiated activities.  The total per year is as follows:

  • 2013: 1,771
  • 2014: 2,313
  • 2015: 2,252
  • 2016: 1,834
  • 2017: 1,585
  • 2018: 425 (as of April)

SUMMARY OF “PART-1” CRIMES:

Homicide

No homicides were reported.

Robbery

During the past five years, 9 robberies were reported.

Rape and assault

During the past five years, 5 rapes were reported.

Larceny

During the past five years, 42 thefts were reported.

Arson

One arson, in June 2016, was reported. Ten other fire calls were documented.

SUMMARY OF OTHER CALLS FOR SERVICE:

Over the past five years, UCPD responded to the situations below that involved a threat or disruption at People’s Park:

  • Assault or battery: 125
  • Assault with a deadly weapon: 15
  • Domestic violence:      6
  • Knife possession:                              16
  • Indecent exposure:      7
  • Drugs/narcotics contacts: 182
  • Dangerous animal:              37
  • Noise:                          74
  • Trespassing:                        18

What are the campus’s current annual costs for maintaining, staffing and policing the park?

Current annual costs are about $369,400. About $169,000 goes toward staffing, security patrol officer coverage, grounds, custodial, refuse and plumbing. Another $200,400 is related to police costs. In 2017, there were 1,585 calls to police that were related to People’s Park and 153 police reports filed. This translates to over 1,600 hours of officer time for UCPD.

What do you envision for the new park area/open space?

Our objective is to create new, open space within the park’s current footprint that will be safe, inviting and responsive to the students’ and the community’s needs and recreational interests. We will also be working on an important element of the open space design that will commemorate, honor and celebrate the history and the significance of People’s Park. We intend to solicit ideas about and input for this project.

How will we keep the open spaces of the park from reverting to their current character?

The park was originally envisioned as an open, welcoming and inclusive place — intentions that are poorly met at the park today. Safety concerns will be addressed, with new neighboring uses adding views into the park and a wider array of individuals enjoying the park.

We realize that when we close the park to start construction, the daily habits of the park’s current users will change. When appropriate, we will work in concert with the city and the community to respond to the impact of those changes.

The current park is a high crime area. The perpetrators of crime are not those who use the park on a regular basis, but those who come to the park because it is accessible from all surrounding streets and not well observed. This will change. The design guidelines for the new open space and buildings will emphasize what architects refer to as “eyes on the street (the park).” The buildings will feature entries and windows facing the open space that allow residents to view and monitor activities in the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, the current park is large, open on three sides and was never designed for particular activities. There are no dwellings that currently open up in the direction of the park, and therefore it is disconnected and isolated from the surrounding community. The design of the new open space will focus on visibility throughout — no hidden corners. It will likely be accessible from only one side and open for use by occupants of both the residential facilities and the public. If places are visible to the public, crime is less likely to occur.  We believe a safe, revitalized park will be used by a wider segment of the local community.

 What will happen to those who currently live or hang out at the park during the day?

Although there is a perception that people live in the park, no one currently is allowed to camp there overnight. The park is cleared at night. Some individuals come to the park only when free meals are provided. Approximately 40 to 50 people regularly stay in the park throughout the day. Some of them have housing in the community. The total number of homeless people who spend time in the park is small, compared to the nearly 800 individuals who are homeless in the city of Berkeley.

In 2017, UC Berkeley hired a social worker who works with individuals in the park, connecting them to resources such as food and housing. This work will continue and closely correlates with efforts by the city of Berkeley to solve the crisis of homelessness. Through coordination with the city and by devoting considerable resources to alternatives, UC Berkeley expects spillover impacts of change at the Park to be minimal.

We realize that when we close the park for the start of construction, the daily habits of the park’s current users will change. This is another area where an effective/collaborative partnership between campus and city will have important benefits. The campus will work to support municipal and civic efforts to respond to the impacts of the park’s renovation and redevelopment.

How will the park’s legacy/history be honored?

The campus Design Review Committee (DRC) has recommended that a commemorative walkway be created along Bowditch Street. Plaques within the paving and/or associated with vertical elements in the property’s design, plus possible sculpture, would highlight the park’s legacy and history. One advantage of the DRC recommendation is that a walkway would provide “breathing room” for the beautiful historic buildings across the street. UC Berkeley is committed to providing a meaningful physical memorialization and celebration of the park’s legacy and history.

▸Funding the project

Will the campus need to expend funds for any part of the project? If so, for what? And how much?

While it is too early in the process to offer specificity, we anticipate that the campus will be responsible for a small portion of the overall costs associated with initial site planning, design guidelines and analysis. We intend to partner with the community to identify funding sources and programming for the conceptualization and development of the area that will be allocated for a park/open space.

What will be the financial arrangements between the campus and the student housing developer? How and to what extent will the developer profit?

The campus will use the Public Private Partnership (PPP or P3) model for the development of both the student and supportive housing projects. The University of California has successfully employed P3 for many projects, including student housing, medical buildings and research facilities. UC Berkeley’s primary motivation for utilizing a P3 structure for the student housing project is access to capital. The campus expects to partner with a nonprofit housing developer that has built other successful supportive housing projects, as the campus has no experience building projects of that type. Utilizing experienced private development teams, particularly those that specialize in particular building types, such as supportive housing or student residences, is efficient and cost effective.

The campus will enter into a ground lease with each developer — one for the supportive housing, the other for the student residential hall. The developer will be responsible for the financing, construction and operation of the building and will work in close concert with the campus on design elements. The developers will work collaboratively with the campus and the community to ensure affordability, alignment with mission and design cohesion.

The student housing developer will be selected from vetted systemwide developers that have demonstrated capacity to deliver high-value projects that maximize affordability for students. More information regarding the UC Housing Initiative can be found at ucop.edu/student-housing-initiative/.

Is the park land being sold or leased?

The land will be leased.

▸Collaborative planning

How and when will we engage faculty, students and neighbors in the planning process?

There will be two parallel processes for campus and community engagement about plans for the property: (1) The environmental review process prescribed by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a sequence of public notifications, meetings, comments and responses. (2) At the same time, we will continue to present ideas about the project at internal (campus) committee and task force meetings and to interested neighborhood/community groups. We expect this to be a consultative process that will be open to input from the campus and from urban communities as the campus considers the decisions it will make to further define and refine the project’s parameters.

What is the city’s role in all of this?

The campus will work with the city to identify, select and engage an appropriate funding source for the non-profit development of the  supportive housing facility.  UC Berkeley will also work with the city to identify the population that is most in need of supportive housing and that would best be served by it. Currently, the city of Berkeley has only approximately 30 beds in supportive housing units for an estimated homeless population of 800 people; thus, the acute need for places to house more of our most vulnerable populations. The city’s support and partnership will be instrumental in obtaining public funding for this housing. The campus looks forward to engaging with the city, our neighbors and subject area experts on this part of the project.

How will the project approval process work? What is the anticipated timeline for the project?

The time table for each stage of the development project will be a bit different and operate independently within a larger planning envelope. The process is designed to be highly collaborative with many opportunities for public participation. The project will pass through multiple rounds of engagement and approval. Initially, campus will offer conceptual approval and identify funding sources for the project. The project will be periodically reviewed by campus, city, public and legislative stakeholders. The UC regents will review the project throughout the development life cycle:

Preliminary planning that includes the formation of campus and city working groups; recruitment of key staff who will lead the planning process; campus approval; initial scoping reviews with campus, UC regents and public stakeholders; and the development of design guidelines (building heights and sizes and an open space character, for example) will begin within the month and is scheduled to continue through winter 2019.

Environmental review, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), must be completed before approval is granted by the UC regents. This analysis and public disclosure of environmental impacts is scheduled to be initiated in fall 2018 and will be finalized after a public comment period in winter 2019.

Student housing on the People’s Park site is part of a larger master housing plan for all of the sites under consideration. In a first phase, we will holistically assess the housing needs of our students and evaluate housing options currently available, engage a developer and design the programming for the building. The first phase will be initiated in fall 2018 and conclude after a public workshop in late spring 2019. In a second phase, architectural plans and specifications will be developed, with planned construction scheduled to begin in summer 2020. Construction is scheduled to end in summer 2022.

Supportive housing on the People’s Park site is scheduled to begin in fall 2018. The first phase of program design, developer selection and public engagement is scheduled to be completed by summer 2019. In a second phase, architectural plans and specifications will be developed with planned construction scheduled to begin in fall 2020. Construction is scheduled to end in fall 2022.

Open space planning on the People’s Park site is scheduled to begin in fall 2018. The first phase of program design, space designer selection and public engagement is scheduled to be completed by winter 2019. In a second phase, plans and specifications will be developed with planned construction scheduled to begin in fall 2020. Construction is scheduled to end in summer 2022.