SAN FRANCISCO — A California appeals court has blocked a People’s Park housing project proposal that has sparked protest and controversy, ruling that the project’s environmental impact statement was inadequate.
In a unanimous 3-0 decision, the judges of the First District Appellate Court found that the EIA “insufficiently analyzed potential alternatives to housing project No. 2 and the impact of noise and displacement. In a rarity for appellate court rulings, the 47-page decision also tries to quell possible public outrage.
“We don’t take sides on policy issues. Our job is limited. We must apply the laws that the legislature has written to the facts on file,” the decision reads. It adds that the project can proceed if the UC Berkeley regents “return to court and fix the errors in the EIR.”
“The EIS failed to justify the decision not to consider alternative sites for the People’s Park project,” the judges wrote. “In addition, it failed to assess the potential sound effects of loud student parties in residential areas near campus, a long-standing problem that the EIA has wrongly dismissed as speculative.”
The ruling overturns a July 2022 decision by Supreme Court Justice Frank Roesch who gave the green light to begin construction on the proposed $312 million housing project, finding it did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act , known as CEQA.
The proposal includes 1,100 university students and 125 homeless residents in two 12- and 6-story dormitories. emergency and a death.
The project has sparked protests and clashes with the Berkeley Police Department, which cost UC Berkeley more than $4 million in additional costs last year, according to public records. That toll includes a whopping three-quarters of a million dollars to pay for the fencing protesters ripped from the sidewalks around the 2.8-acre park, but the largest cost is $2.73 million to compensate law enforcement officers in People’s Park.
The appeals court decision notes that UC Berkeley provides housing for less than a quarter of its students, “by far the lowest percentage in the UC system.”
Staff writer Katie Lauer contributed reporting.