Why does UC Berkeley insist on destroying People’s Park?
To the editor: Your editorial, “CEQA is too easily weaponized to block housing and slow environmental progress,” misses the core issue in the UC Berkeley People’s Park case — the university did not analyze alternative sites, a fundamental requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act, not some minor omission.
Describing park defenders as NIMBYs is incorrect. Park defenders want more student housing, but we also want to save a National Register of Historic Places site. Supporters of the park are from every part of Berkeley and California.
The fear that blocking housing at People’s Park will harm much-needed development is overblown. An October 2021 report commissioned by the Rose Foundation found no evidence supporting the assertion that CEQA is a major barrier to development.
Anyone sincerely interested in building student and supportive housing should request that UC Berkeley move ahead at an appropriate site, while preserving the much-needed public open space of People’s Park.
Harvey Smith, Berkeley
The writer is a historian with the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group.
To the editor: CEQA saves lives. For many front-line communities impacted by the climate crisis, CEQA is the only pathway to secure vital public health protections during land development.
Your editorial highlights the potential misuse of this law by certain interest groups. But we must not weaken the law’s essential safeguards, especially for low-income residents and communities of color who experience disproportionate burdens.
CEQA fosters public participation in land-use decisions and holds public agencies accountable to their communities. CEQA can prevent housing from being located around toxic sites.
Because of CEQA, warehouse logistics projects in Riverside County and elsewhere have reduced their emission of pollutants, agencies have amended decisions to drill oil wells near homes and schools, and oil companies have been required to reduce their noise and air-quality impacts.
We must keep CEQA strong for future generations.
Jonathan Pruitt, Oakland
The writer is green zones program manager at the California Environmental Justice Alliance.