Lessons From People’s Park

The University of California, Berkeley faced bitter opposition to new student housing. What does this mean for universities—and for democracy?

1 minute read

June 20, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

In an op-ed for MinnPost republished in Next City, Zak Yudhishthu outlines what the city of Berkeley could learn from its contentious fight over student housing in People’s Park.

“Residents of the city wanted to see UC Berkeley reduce its admission size, arguing that the students were an environmental nuisance which the city did not have room to house.” While the university won out in this case, a state court ruling means future students will be considered an environmental impact due to potential noise.

Yudhishthu compares the situation to St. Paul, where a similar debate over student housing happened in the 2000s and again in 2012. For Yudhishthu, “In an immediate sense, the refusal to let our higher education systems grow is a destructive tendency. When colleges can’t grow, the students of tomorrow face a world with less choice and greater competition for existing slots.”

Yudhishthu points out that opposition to student housing often goes hand in hand with other exclusionary policies such as single-family zoning. “This is no healthy way to cohabitate in our cities and towns. Successful communities shouldn’t be defined by keeping people out, but by welcoming newcomers and incorporating them into civic life.”

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