by Carol Denney, December 2022
Survey? or Red Herring,
Re: Dr. Jasper Eshuis, Associate Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, is doing a community survey about People's Park which includes questions about whether people support or oppose UC's building plans and their related activism:
I just participated in your survey, and wanted to comment to your team that I found some of the questions very worrisome.
Somewhere in the survey it said, "It is important to me that people who are unhoused are helped, but not at the cost of less student housing." It then gave various degrees of support or opposition to that statement without offering the chance to question the question's assumption.
That statement is the essence of the false dichotomy that enabled the assault on our landmarked park. Your survey helps imply that we simply must sacrifice our parks to create "student" housing; this is utterly untrue. The widespread acceptance of this falsehood has put our town unnecessarily at odds.
The University of California has spent over seventy years trying to annihilate local East Bay culture surrounding its flagship campus, which was former swampland adjacent to what was initially the town of Oceanview, a hardcore working town of small farms, breweries, vaudeville halls, brothels, race tracks, jazz clubs and the rip-snorting, uncontrollable lives of the diverse cultures who came here for work and a chance to start over. UC hated this. It wanted the campus to be an isolated, serene, protected and controlled place where it could nestle into the traditions of Ivy League schools and imitate them. The most cursory look at its initial footprint tells the story.
Our town has lost so much, and continues to lose not just square footage and historic landmarks to the endless pockets of money UC sets aside for land acquisition all over the state. UC also nurtures connections to corporations which now surface in the names and even the curricula on campus. It has taken whole departments, such as the Criminology Department, and erased them. It has taken the Public Health Library, among others, and put it completely out of reach on distant campuses. It favors and often partners with special Business Improvement Districts which shortchange all voices except those that own property.
People's Park was a garden, but also a revolt against the UC expansion which primarily targeted low-income housing it now proclaims it embraces as a goal. Even in the past year it has destroyed rent-controlled housing which was a city landmark. UC revolted against its own agreements to enrollment caps, creating homelessness and a housing shortage it now uses to destroy People's Park's critical cultural contributions and silence the communities which consistently gather at the park to expand collective thinking about respecting the earth and each other.
Your survey's focus on building housing is a red herring in a town where we consistently have approximately 1,000 unhoused people and consistently over 3,000 empty housing units, some over ten years empty. We don't need to build a thing. We just need to hand out the keys to what we have.
Carol Denney, co-founder of the People's Park Historic District Advocacy Group
---------------- * https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-06/editorial-the-state-needs-a-different-approach-to-solving-uc-crowding
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