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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Government & Elections
UC to encroach on public right of way, install archway on Telegraph Avenue
In this first semester as new UC Berkeley president, Nicholas Dirks has expressed intentions to increase the UC's influence over Telegraph Avenue by encroaching on the public right of way to install a piece of UC Berkeley property - an illuminated archway. The archway is designed by university staff and the Berkeley Design Advocates, a local design firm who supports the sale of the Berkeley Post Office by UC regent Richard Blum. The city of Berkeley's department of public works made minimal effort to make the public aware of the proposed encroachment, announcing a short 2 week notice for comment - which is now closed - on a small, indistinct piece of paper on a lightpole.
The University of California has expressed intent to encroach on the public right of way at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way, by installing a piece of UC property, an illuminated archway, on city sidewalk over a city street. Supporting the encroachment is the Telegraph Improvement District, who in the past few years have advocated for polices to make the Telegraph area more UC-centric. The archway is designed by university staff and by the Berkeley Design Advocates, an organization which recently has spoken in support of the sale of the downtown Berkeley post office by UC regent Richard Blum.
The city of Berkeley's department of public works made minimal effort to make the public aware of the proposed encroachment. On Oct 11th, the city of Berkeley's engineering division placed a small, indistinct announcement of a short 2 week notice for comment - which is now closed - on a traffic-pole. Even to people living in the neighborhood, the notice is not something that stood out as important, and the detail of a 2 week deadline for comment was not in large or bold print. The city made no effort to mail out notice of public comment to residents living in the neighborhood, notice of public comment was never mentioned in recent city council meetings, nor were public announcements placed in local press/blogs.
Along with encroaching on public right of way by taking up space on the sidewalk, the University's archway will add to light pollution, as it features illuminated rings of red, yellow, blue, orange, florescent pink, and florescent green. The archway goes against both the city and the UC's climate action plan, by unnecessarily producing light.
For the UC to encroach onto city space is controversial, and archway could become a target of protest, then becoming an eyesore. The contentious nature of the arch and its very design will inevitably lead to graffiti and stickers being placed on the supporting poles, and objects (shoes, clothes, various debris) and banners being strewn across the archway. The new chancellor should be focusing on education, note encroachment politics. The UC's budget situation is peculiar, as it it claims to be in a financial brink in some situations, but has money for an archway.
The university intends to install a major design element into a space it does not own, which will change the change the space for the surrounding neighborhood, and the least possible effort was made to let the public aware what is happening. The city should extend time for public comment. The city and the UC and related parties should consider finding a more useful way to spend public money than an illuminated arch. The UC could give the money slated towards to the arch to the underfunded People's Park. Or the UC and the city could use money to find a way to have a 24/7 public restroom in the Telegraph area.
The city of Berkeley's identity needs to be more than just the university. The Telegraph area and the university can complement each other, while maintaining distinctly different style and features. Telegraph Avenue does not need a florescent, contemporary take on Sather Gate for the city to have a better relationship with the university.