Campus news

UC Berkeley releases preliminary costs for closure of People's Park

An estimated $16.1 million has been spent to secure the site since 2022; expenses include shipping containers, law enforcement, and housing and support services for unhoused residents.

By Jason Pohl

 A photo shows double-stacked shipping containers along a Berkeley street, with a view of the Campanile in the background.

UC Berkeley on Jan. 4 closed People's Park and used shipping containers to build a wall around the site. The campus plans to develop it into housing for students and unhoused people as well as a revitalized park space. 

Brittany Hosea-Small for UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley today released preliminary costs related to its work in January to close People's Park and secure the site for the anticipated construction of housing for students and unhoused people and a revitalized park space.

Since August 2022, the campus has spent approximately $16.1 million to secure the site and to provide housing and support services for unhoused people. The invoice totals released today include January's construction of a shipping container wall around the property, preliminary and partial costs for law enforcement personnel, and costs to lease a nearby property — the Quality Inn — since November for a transitional housing program.

As of today, the January operation's costs include:

  • $2.85 million to build a perimeter around the site. That includes approximately $972,000 for shipping containers; $1.27 million for gates, equipment, lighting and supervision; and $515,000 for engineering services and surveying.

  • $3.77 million for law enforcement, including roughly $849,000 for lodging; $281,000 for on-the-job meals; $1.47 million for UC Police Department overtime; and $633,000 for outside security services.

  • $1.16 million to provide transitional housing and support services at the Quality Inn to unhoused people who had slept at the park. Managed by Dorothy Day House, residents receive daily meals, housekeeping and toiletries, storage for belongings and access to housing navigators and on-site care coordinators.

The campus is still awaiting invoices from several external law enforcement agencies that provided support during the operation. To date, only one invoice — from UC Irvine's police department — has been received. Invoices from other UC campus police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the San Francisco Sheriff's Office are pending.

The primary goals for the January operation were to safely clear the park, deter conflict and minimize the disruption to students and local residents. Campus leaders have said it was unfortunate that such measures were made necessary by the outbreak of violence and vandalism when the campus first tried to close the site in August 2022. They've also stressed that the expenses are in line with a project whose overall cost may exceed $400 million.

Additional expenses include some $4.4 million from the campus's attempt to secure the site in August 2022. Another $3.6 million that same year went toward housing people who were living at the park at the Rodeway Inn, as well as designing, building and operating a daytime drop-in space for unhoused individuals.

Approximately $242,000 was for landscaping, hazardous materials handling and equipment rentals from UC Berkeley Facilities Services. The final $128,000 expense of the $16.1 million tally was for various permits and associated parking spaces, paid to the city of Berkeley.

Construction on the site is awaiting a ruling from the California Supreme Court. Once legal matters are resolved, work on student housing for more than 1,100 sophomores, juniors and seniors and the public park, which will commemorate the site’s storied history, is expected to take a few years.

In the meantime, the campus is enforcing its legal right to close the construction zone. The January closure was set against the backdrop of its August 2022 attempt to close the park — an effort that was met with violence and some $1.5 million in vandalism.

Compared to recent years, preliminary data shows a noticeable drop in serious crimes reported to UC Police in the neighborhood surrounding People's Park. So far in 2024, there has been one serious crime — an aggravated assault. By comparison, campus analysts who review crime reports noted a total of seven serious crimes in the same period in 2023 and 13 in 2022.

Expense category Cost
Webcor contractor (container perimeter design, construction) $ 2,850,563
Law enforcement operations (invoices as of Feb. 28) $ 3,764,738
Housing/support services for unhoused people (since Nov.) $ 1,157,982
Roadway Inn (2022), Drop-in Center design, build, operation $ 3,558,000
August 2022 attempted park closure operation $ 4,438,061
UC Berkeley Facilities Services $ 241,600
Various permits to city of Berkeley $ 128,314
Total (as of Feb. 28) $ 16,139,258