People’s Park on Aug. 26, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Update, July 12: The state appeals court upheld the stay order through the end of the month, and the case will be back in court on July 29.

Original story: A state appeals court granted a stay order Friday evening that will temporarily pause any construction or changes at People’s Park, where Cal was set to begin building student housing this summer.

The order is the latest development in a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit filed last summer by two neighborhood groups — Make UC a Good Neighbor and the People’s Park Historic Advocacy Group — to dispute Cal’s settlement with the city to pay $83 million over 16 years for services and support of development plans.

It’s among three separate, ongoing court battles that attempt to challenge UC construction in the city and at People’s Park.

The stay order halts any “construction, demolition, tree clearing, or other landscape alteration activities” at the park for about two weeks. A decision is due on July 19, but may come earlier, according to Cal spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The park has been rapidly changing over the last few months, when Cal began relocating park occupants to the Rodeway Inn, closing bathrooms, opening a nearby drop-in daytime shelter and clearing the park to prepare for construction.

The university has not set a specific date for construction to begin, but Mogulof said that despite the stay order, it will probably commence this summer as planned.

“The university has a great deal of confidence in the quality of its CEQA analysis for the People’s Park project,” Mogulof said. “We remain perplexed that litigants who demand the university build more student housing are suing the university in an effort to stop it from building student housing.”

In a statement, the People’s Park Historic Advocacy Group President Harvey Smith said the stay order is welcome news, and they hope it will eventually lead to the university building housing elsewhere, such as the current location of the Channing/Ellsworth garage. The group has also suggested the greenspace become a California state park.

“We don’t understand why the University would choose a seismically unsafe park structure over a landmark of national importance, trees, birds and open space,” Smith said.

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Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...