The California State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously Friday to recommend Berkeley’s People’s Park be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The university plans to develop two buildings — one with 148 units for students and the other with 125 beds, at least half of which will go to the homeless — on the 2.8-acre site near campus.
Neighborhood groups have opposed the project, arguing that building housing at the park destroys the history and legacy of the site.
Harvey Smith, president of the People’s Park Historic Advocacy Group, applauded the vote by the California State Historical Resources Commission.
“We were very happy that the commissioners understood the important historical and cultural legacy of the park and acknowledged the loss of life during the struggle for the park,” Smith said in a statement. “The commission recognized the park’s importance in the great social and political movements of the 1960s and Berkeley’s extraordinary role in the history of that decade.”
A spokesperson for UC Berkeley said in a statement that a listing on the National Register does not prevent the development.
“In fact, listing a property on the National Register alone does not prevent any future development,” the statement read. “Accordingly, the listing of People’s Park on the National Register is not incompatible with the university’s existing plans to build on the site housing for unhoused people; create urgently needed below-market apartments for more than 1,000 students; preserve a majority of the site, approximately 1.7 acres, as a revitalized open community park space; and to create a new memorialization of the park’s past, meaning and legacy.”
Anyone can nominate a property to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nominees are first vetted by the state’s historic preservation office — including the commission — and National Register Review Board before being forwarded to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final review.
In 1969, the park became a battlefield after UC Berkeley cleared housing there to make way for dormitories. Activists fought the plan and ultimately won, keeping development from the property, even though a county sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a man and then-Gov. Ronald Reagan brought in the military to occupy the area.
Smith’s group and Make UC a Good Neighbor, another advocacy group, have vowed to fight UC Berkeley’s plans for the park.
In July, the group filed a lawsuit against the regents alleging that their overall long-range plan for UC Berkeley failed to meet state environmental law requirements. On Thursday, the groups added the proposed development at People’s Park to the July lawsuit, Smith said.
“CEQA requires that UC mitigate the impacts of its massive growth on the community,” …….