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

An Alameda County Superior Court judge decided Friday evening that construction can begin at People’s Park because the University of California’s plan does not violate guidelines under the California Environmental Equity Act.

The case of Make UC A Good Neighbor et al. v. Regents of the University of California, one of three lawsuits over UC Berkeley’s current student housing development at People’s Park, was brought before Judge Frank Roesch.

After hearing arguments from the defense and plaintiffs Friday, Roesch said the plaintiffs had brought forward “nothing new,” and UC Berkeley has not violated CEQA in its plans for new development. Roesch said his tentative ruling will apply to all three lawsuits filed last summer.

The groups may try to appeal the decision, according to Harvey Smith with the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group, which jointly filed the lawsuit with Make UC a Good Neighbor. The group has maintained that there are alternate locations that would better suit the project, like the current Channing/Ellsworth parking garage.

“We feel Roesch is wrong,” Smith said. “Why would you keep an unsafe parking structure and destroy a park in a time of extreme climate change?”

An appellate court granted the plaintiffs a stay order in early July that halted the construction, and it was upheld a few weeks later to last through Aug. 3. Smith said at least through this weekend, the park can’t be altered.

UC Berkeley has not been allowed to make any changes to the People’s Park grounds throughout July.

There have been ongoing rallies to save the park in the meantime, with the most recent action on Thursday.

Defend People’s Park held a large demonstration against the development on July 6, marching from downtown to Southside, attracting several hundred people.

The university has not set a specific date for construction to begin, but UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said earlier this month that despite the stay order, it would probably commence this summer as planned.

“We’re pleased with the judge’s decision. We look forward to it being made official on Monday, just as we look forward to starting construction this summer,” Mogulof said Friday.

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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...