A California judge ruled Friday that the University of California, Berkeley may start clearing the historic "counterculture" People's Park for a redevelopment plan to build student dorms and low-income housing.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch ruled Friday that the university may begin clearing the land, which was the site of protests in 1969 and eventually left alone from development, to build more student and low-income housing as part of a 2018 redevelopment plan.
In 1969, an estimated 6,000 protesters planted trees, flowers and sod on the land to prevent its development, causing the National Guard to be called in, resulting in a violent confrontation that saw one student killed and many injured.
Even though the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May and three lawsuits were filed to stop the redevelopment of the land, the school is pushing forward in its plan to build 1,100 units of student housing on the land as well as a "long-term solution" for homelessness, the Times report said.
Harvey Smith, president of People’s Park Historic District Advisory Group, one of the groups suing the university, told the Times that the group plans to appeal the decision and ask for a stay until the case is heard by an appeals court.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told the Times that the school is "pleased with the judge's decision and look forward to the court making it official early next week, just as we look forward to starting construction sometime this summer."
In making his decision Friday, Roesch said that the plaintiffs in the case "brought nothing new" to the arguments and found that the university followed the required steps to proceed with its redevelopment plan, Berkeleyside.org reported.
Smith told the publication that there is a nearby site that has an "unsafe" parking garage located on it that would be a much better place for the proposed development.
"We feel Roesch is wrong," Smith told Berkeleyside.org. "Why would you keep an unsafe parking structure and destroy a park in a time of extreme climate change?"
Peoplespark.org is asking for donations to battle the plan in court, saying current legal bills total $79,000. The site links to a GoFundMe page that states, "This fundraiser is organized by People's Park Historic District Advocacy Group."
"Now is the time to come to its aid. This 53-year struggle has been very successful lately thanks to our legal team," Peoplespark.org said. "We currently owe them $79,000. They must be paid. Our History, Our Park, Our open green space are invaluable."
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