East of Telegraph Avenue and surrounded by Haste Street, Bowditch Street, and Dwight Way, People’s Park is the center point of much controversy due to its unhoused residents and historical significance, as well as the long-established building plans that led to the park’s recent closing. The land that People’s Park sits on is owned by the University of California, Berkeley. Still, in recent years, it has been utilized less by the university and more as a site for Berkeley’s growing unhoused population. Despite this, UC Berkeley has the right to renovate the space and make it a better place for all the people of Berkeley. By renovating, they are helping the land reach its full potential as a community space.
In all the redirects, protesters from Berkeley and surrounding areas have lost sight of UC Berkeley’s intentions for the space: a park area, permanent housing for the homeless, and student housing. People’s Park is a site linked to free speech and civil rights issues, but it’s no longer a park of the people like it was intended. Because of this, the University should have the right to renovate the park and turn it back into what it was meant to be: a space for the people of Berkeley.
This significance to the people of Berkeley is one of the reasons UC Berkeley faces pushback for the development. However, with UC Berkeley’s housing plans, this history and culture will not be erased. A 1.7-acre space will be left that honors the turbulent history of the park. “This project is a win-win for our city,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín when addressing a strategies committee, according to Berkeleyside.“People’s Park has a long and storied history, but I believe now is the time for a new vision for the park, one where we can honor its rich history and address the challenges of our time and preserve part of the park the community helped create over 50 years ago.”
The main reason for pushback against the building plans is because of the homeless population that lives in People’s Park. As construction begins, the park’s semi-permanent residents have been removed. However, UC Berkeley partnered with the City of Berkeley, and together they put over six million dollars into transitional homes and resources for the unhoused who were residents, and the vast majority took them up on it. UC Berkeley’s plans for the land also include housing for 125 low-income or unhoused people, different from a shelter, and with better living conditions than those that people living in the park experienced. This fact is continuously overlooked, even though it displays the fact that the university wants the best for the park’s residents. Understanding the outcome of the project, it’s easy to see that the People’s Park is being anything but ruined, and instead is reaching its potential as a space for bettering lives.