After weeks of deliberation, Berkeley City Council agreed not to challenge UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP, in a closed session. The LRDP — a comprehensive framework for land use, capital investments and campus growth — continues to perturb Berkeley residents and neighborhood coalitions. It took $82.6 million from the UC system for city officials to wholly embrace it.
Berkeley residents should have had the opportunity to be in the room where this decision happened.
Approving the LRDP is no small decree: The LRDP entails extensive housing and development plans for UC Berkeley’s campus, and it calls for the demolition of historical sites. The two most contentious developments written into the LRDP include the housing developments at 1921 Walnut St. and at People’s Park. Berkeley residents will be impacted — for better or for worse — for years to come.
Up until recently, City Council had determined that the plan’s impact was for the worst. Mayor Jesse Arreguín expressed that the city still faces unmitigated issues around student population and housing resulting from the previous 2005 LRDP.
A decision with such far-reaching consequences should not have been made outside of the public eye — especially after City Council publicly criticized the very plan in question.
$82.6 million is one of the largest amounts of money ever given to a host city by a university. While City Council may be pleased with such a large sum of money, some community residents feel as if they have been “sold out.” Though this viewpoint may not be entirely accurate, these feelings of anger are valid, and City Council must work to rectify the harm done.
Additionally, Berkeley City Council may have acted in violation of the Brown Act, a code intended to provide public access to local government meetings. Two Berkeley community organizations, the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group and Make UC A Good Neighbor, are asking a judge for an injunction on these grounds. We share their belief that the vote should be redone and discussed in an open session.
Regardless of the result of the petition, Berkeley residents should have sway over the fate of such a large sum of money — especially residents who may be disproportionately affected by the LRDP, such as houseless folks who live at People’s Park or the tenants of 1921 Walnut St.
City Council should revisit the agreement — including allocation plans for the UC system’s $82.6 million payment — in an open session. Berkeley residents must, at the very least, be in the room where that decision happens.