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 May 2018 announcement of the plan here.

This FAQ was updated in February 2020 to include the latest information on the plans for the park.

Who will be eligible to live in the student housing?

Currently enrolled students only are eligible to live in University housing . This includes undergraduates and graduate 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, in addition to the other University-owned sites that will be developed in the city, is ideal for helping to meet those objectives.

Who will be eligible to live in the supportive housing?

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. The permanent supportive housing is intended to be a stable and long-term housing that provides needed support services and deeply affordable rent for members of the community.

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 blends well with the built environment around the park, is achieved through similar colors and/or materials and/or formal elements. The project is currently in the initial planning phase to determine the overall sizes and spatial relationships between the student housing, supportive housing, and landscape elements of the project. Site plan options will be shared with the public in spring 2020. Work on detailed architectural ideas and renderings will begin after a site plan is finalized.

How many beds will there be at each facility?

The supportive housing building will have between 75 and 125 apartments. The exact number of rental homes 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 750 and 1,200 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. In short, in order to address the student housing crisis and meet the established goals, the University must build new student housing on every site it owns in close proximity to the central campus. 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 a private developer operate the student housing?

Student housing at People’s Park will be developed and operated by UC Berkeley. The University has selected Bay Area architecture firm Leddy Maytum Stacy (LMS) as Executive Architect to master plan the entire site and to design the student housing component. Construction will be managed by UC Berkeley Capital Strategies, and once completed, the student housing will be operated by UC Berkeley Residential and Student Service Programs (RSSP).

Will the campus or a private developer operate the supportive housing?

Following a public submissions process, the University has selected Resources for Community Development, a Berkeley based firm with over 35 years of experience, to develop and operate the supportive housing component.

What are the crime statistics associated with the park?

Between January 2013 and April 2018, 10,102 UCPD-related events were documented 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 (January 2013 – April 2018):
Homicide
No homicides were reported.
Robbery
9 robberies were reported.
Rape and assault
5 rapes were reported.
Larceny
42 thefts were reported.
Arson
One arson, in June 2016, was reported. Ten other fire calls were documented.

Summary of other calls for service (January 2013 – April 2018):
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 landscaped areas once this project is completed?

Our objective is to create new, open space within the site’s current footprint that will be safe, inviting and responsive to the students’ and the community’s needs and recreational interests. An important element of the open space design will be a commemoration of 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. In addition, a graduate student has been hired to study mitigation alternatives that the campus may pursue, with findings and recommendations expected in June 2020. 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.

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

As a campus-developed project, the University is responsible for funds spent on the student housing and landscaped areas. While it is too early in the process to offer specificity, we anticipate that the student housing and landscape elements of the project will primarily be financed using the future income of the project.

The supportive housing will be separately financed and developed by Resources for Community Development.

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) which requires a sequence of public notifications, meetings, comments, and responses. (2) 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?

We will work with the City of Berkeley to identify, select and engage an appropriate funding source for the non-profit development of the supportive housing facility. We 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. 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, the 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) began in early 2019 and is scheduled to continue through summer 2020.
  • 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 spring 2020 and will be finalized after a public comment period in spring 2021.
  • Student housing at People’s Park is part of the campus’s larger master housing plan across multiple sites. Planning work began in fall 2018 and will conclude in summer 2020 following a series of public engagement and outreach efforts. In the next phase, architectural plans and specifications will be developed, with planned construction anticipated to begin by spring 2022. Construction is projected to be completed by the summer of 2024.
  • Supportive housing planning work began in fall 2018. Resources for Community Development, a local Berkeley affordable housing developer, was selected in early 2019. The first phase of program design and public engagement for the supportive housing will be completed by summer 2020. In the next phase, architectural plans and specifications will be developed and the developer will apply for subsidized financing with planned construction scheduled to begin after financing is secured.
  • Open space planning work began in fall 2018 and will conclude in summer 2020 following a series of public engagement and outreach efforts. In the next phase, plans and specifications will be developed with construction anticipated to begin by spring 2022. Construction is projected to be completed by the summer of 2024.