People’s Park community members and activists Charles Gary and Lisa Teague watch as UC Berkeley removes construction equipment from the basketball court at People’s Park on the morning of Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

The University of California began removing construction equipment from People’s Park Monday morning, days before a state appeals court is expected to hear arguments on whether Cal can build student housing on the contested site.

Tow trucks arrived at the park around 7 a.m. and started loading the heavy equipment onto the flatbeds.

“Today, the contractor for the student housing construction project removed four pieces of rented heavy construction equipment left at the site following the pause of construction in early August 2022,” UC Berkeley spokesman Kyle Gibson said.

Unlike in August, when crews delivered the equipment in the wee hours of the morning to begin work on the student housing but were eventually thwarted by dozens of park activists, only a few activists watched as bulldozers damaged by protesters were hauled away Monday.

Gibson said before the equipment was removed, UC Berkeley “determined with reasonable confidence that the owner could safely return to the site to recover their damaged property. All four pieces of equipment were safely removed, one at a time, without incident.”

The equipment was removed so the owner could file an insurance claim for the heavy machinery, which Gibson said “is likely damaged beyond repair.”

A flatbed tows a bulldozer at People’s Park on Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

In 2021, the UC Regents voted to build 1,100 beds for students in two buildings, one 12 stories high and one six stories, along with 125 beds of supportive housing for the unhoused. But that decision has been opposed by several advocacy groups, including Make UC a Good Neighbor.

A court cleared the way for UC to begin construction on the site last July, but a week later they were met by activists, who tore down a hastily built fence, forcing construction crews to halt their activity.

A judge later granted Make UC a Good Neighbor and the People’s Park Historic Advocacy Group a stay order to allow the court to review an appeal petition on their original California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit. The case is due back in court Thursday.

UC Berkeley removes construction equipment from the basketball court at People’s Park on the morning of January 9, 2023. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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