by Carol Denney October 2021, Berkeley Daily Planet
We Have a Plan for People's Park, Too, by Carol Denney
As someone whose west Berkeley neighborhood just suffered three shootings in three days, I'm always amused when the university's spokesperson, Dan Mogulof describes People's Park as "attracting crime" as he just did in the San Francisco Chronicle. This is the same university I attended and graduated from which suddenly, absent any factual foundation, described me and former Ashkenaz owner David Nadel in a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) as a "key leader in a violent conspiracy" in 1992 when, as now, a group of us formed to oppose the destruction of People's Park.
Several million public dollars later the university removed its own sand pit volleyball courts which had most definitely attracted years of creative protest. That predictable fact cost both the university and the City of Berkeley unnecessary millions.
The supposedly top university has, apparently, learned nothing. The most renowned landmark in town, People's Park, is surrounded by at least eleven additional landmarks including the First Church of Christ, Scientist built by Bernard Maybeck in 1910, which is on the National Register, as People's Park soon will be.
Keep a couple things in mind as the university gets its preferred headline that "housing" is on its way to People's Park. The university isn't building "housing"; it's building short-term luxury student rentals which well-off students can utilize for only two years before they're swimming in the same predictable, deliberately planned, politically lucrative housing market the rest of us do.
And the over-enrollment by thousands which helped create the housing crisis was recognized - and just capped - by Judge Seligman who, unlike our mayor, managed to see that square footage is not only finite, the university itself chose only sites right next to its campus in a tight ring of proposed high-rises despite being the largest landowner in California.
The university's decades-old effort to annihilate People's Park and any recognition of the role it plays in resistance history is an old song. And we have a new song; respect natural landscapes, irreplaceable open space, redwoods, and significant cultural history while building real housing in the places where it will be welcomed. And apologize for costing lives, business, and educational focus along the way.
As someone who's played music and gardened at People's Park for over 50 years, I can assure you that these headlines reflecting the university's wishful thinking always show up every five to ten years just like successive chancellors' claims that destroying People's Park has "student support", and they're always wrong. Be sure to ask your City Council how many lives they're willing to lose this time.
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