UC Regents Approve Parking Lot Alterations

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The UC Board of Regents' unanimous approval of the Underhill Area Plan yesterday cleared the way for construction to begin this winter.

Although the regents approved only two of the plan's major components, construction on one building, a central dining facility in the Underhill Parking Lot, will begin in January, said Jennifer Lawrence, UC Berkeley's principal planner.

Crews will start on apartment-style university housing on the Durant and College avenues lot in the spring, she added. Construction is estimated to take about two years and will temporarily limit parking in the area, she said.

"I'm very happy the regents approved it," she said. "The students have been asking for a long time for apartment-style housing. This is a real sign that the campus is committed to providing housing."

The central dining commons and new apartments are part of a larger plan that would dramatically alter part of the Southside. If fully approved, it will create a three-story parking structure and 900 beds of new housing, helping the university house the "tidal wave" of new students expected to flood the UC system in the next nine years.

But some UC Berkeley students and area residents said the regent-approved plan should have included even more housing.

"It's disappointing," said Rick Young, the Boalt Hall School of Law student who camped on the lot for three weeks last spring to protest the plan's parking element. "I wasn't really expecting that they would reject it. It's a very large missed opportunity for them to show some real leadership here, and they blew it."

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district the plan will affect, said he is worried the plan will bring additional traffic to the neighborhood.

"The regents have rejected simple compromises that would have allowed them to replace all the parking and still have space for 500 beds," he said. "Instead they're going for a dramatic increase in parking which is going to bring thousands of extra cars zooming through the streets of the Southside, causing more congestion. It's very sad because if they were to build student housing on that site, then people wouldn't have to be driving their cars."

Although many regents maintained UC Berkeley had done a good job of taking community concerns into account, Worthington disagreed.

"I think it's unfortunate that the opinions of hundreds of students, neighborhood residents, businesspeople and environmentalists don't seem to matter," he said.

One ASUC official said that while the regents' approval is an important step, the university still has a long way to go.

"I believe that the element of 840 beds that's being proposed is an excellent step, but it's only a first step," said Nick Papas, the ASUC external affairs vice president. "The housing crisis in the city of Berkeley is tremendous. It was a bad idea to make it a parking lot in the first place, and it's a bad idea now."


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