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Published on February 29, 2024
UC Berkeley Foots $16.1 Million Bill for People's Park Closure and Security Since AugustSource: Al83tito, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

UC Berkeley finds itself shelling out a hefty sum, as preliminary costs for the closure of People's Park and its ongoing security measures have been made public, the tab? A cool $16.1 million since August 2022. The university has taken steps to repurpose the contentious space for student and homeless housing, alongside revamping the park itself - a move that has been met with a mix of controversy, resistance and a staggering invoice list detailed by Berkeley News.

January alone accounted for $2.85 million spent on constructing an imposing perimeter around the park, which entailed about $972,000 splurged on just shipping containers and the rest divvied up between gates, equipment, and a plethora of engineering and supervisory costs; the university claims these expenditures were necessary after their initial August attempt to close the park took a violent turn, resulting in $1.5 million in damages, and the numbers have been climbing ever since. Law enforcement didn't come cheap either, with $3.77 million going towards ensuring peace and security with costs covering police overtime, lodging, meals, and external security services.

Generosity or an essential community responsibility, UC Berkeley hasn't skimped on its support for the displaced unfixed residents of the park - the Quality Inn has served as a transitional housing program since November, racking up a $1.16 million expense. Managed by Dorothy Day House, participants enjoy perks like housekeeping and meals while housing navigators and care coordinators provide crucial back-end support. External law enforcement agencies are yet to send in their bills so the figure is all but set to rise higher, although it's just a sliver of the overall pie that could exceed $400 million, according to university brass. Not to mention, there's a pending decision from the California Supreme Court before any construction can commence.

The broader impact has, however, been hard to dismiss with a noticeable drop in serious crimes in the areas surrounding People's Park - to give credit where it's due, there's only been one serious crime reported this year, compared to seven in 2023 and even 13 back in 2022. The university is steadfast on its legal footing, ensuring the site remains closed, while maintaining that these costs align with the grave task of reviving the park and cushioning the fall for those who called it home; this endeavor includes not just construction, but also resolutions of past conflicts and hope for a less troubled locale for Berkeley students and the community.