BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — One of the main sites for Vietnam-era protests in the Bay Area may be turning into a site for much-needed housing.
People’s Park in Berkeley, 2.8 open acres just off Telegraph Avenue, is now known as a haven for the homeless, but there’s a new plan that could turn this into housing for students and others.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported University of California, Berkeley officials are set to announce the school will build housing on the site for some 700 students, along with up to 100 apartments for the homeless.
Previous attempts over the years to build housing on the site have been met with fierce opposition, but the times appear to be changing.
“For many decades this was the third rail of politics in Berkeley, but today I think there is a desire to look at something different,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the Chronicle.
With a history rooted in Vietnam War activism, People’s Park has been the scene of many a strange trip, and a place some call home.
“A lot of strange people from all over the country, even out of the country,” said a park frequenter who went by the name of Jack.
It’s been the source of plenty of complaints. “It’s not lit properly, there’s a lot of crime,” said UC Berkeley student Chadwik Bowlin. ”I don’t think the residents are safe either.”
UC Berkeley acquired this land in 1967, but activists declared it a park two years later, and it’s been one ever since.
Decades later, this land could have a new future. “I think it could be changed, because there’s a lot of homeless people and I think building housing would definitely help,” said UC Berkeley student Tony Tu.
“I’ve have friends who are homeless, and they’re, like, ‘I don’t want to stay there … of all places I would definitely not want to stay in People’s Park,’” said Bowlin, citing safety concerns.
But last year, UC hired a social worker to begin talking with the people who hang out in People’s Park, a possible precursor to the housing plan.
A UC spokesman wouldn’t confirm any plans for the park, but said the university could have an announcement by the end of the month.