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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Environment & Forest Defense
Redwood Grove Under Threat of Removal @ UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley intends to remove a grove of 16 redwood trees (and one maple tree) from a lot behind Soda Hall on UC Berkeley campus, in order to build a institute for design innovation. Local activists have concerns that the UC is not taking into account the environment impact the removal of the grove will have. Furthermore, Berkeley city government (Mayor Tom Bates) is supporting the removal of the redwood grove, by claiming the trees impede pedestrian right of way on Ridge Road; even though an examination of the lot shows this not to be true.
___ The trees ___
A common cause is being found in a grove of redwoods at the corner of Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue. Adjacent to Soda Hall, 16 California redwoods stand, along with a maple. These trees are targeted for removal, as part of the UC's expansion plan. The trees are slated for replacement by what is being called the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, for the college of engineering. The trees are in good health, despite a statement from the UC which says vaguely claims "the trees aren't doing so well".
___ Qualcomm and the UC ___
The building funds do not come from the state of California. The funds for the building come from Paul E. Jacobs, the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Qualcomm Incorporated. Qualcomm has representation in the UC Regents through Sherry L. Lansing, who is 'a member of the board of directors of Qualcomm Inc., for which she receives an annual director’s fee of $135,000, plus stock options' (Source: http://www.spot.us "Investor’s Club"). As reported at Spot.us, 'Lansing owns “more than $1 million” in Qualcomm stock options (no upper limit is specified)'. The UC invested $397 million in Qualcomm after Lansing joined the corporation's board. Lansing's first term as a regent began 1999 and ended in 2010, Lansing was reappointed by Schwarzenegger up to March 2022.
___ Climate of campus protests ___
February 2014 saw a protest against Janet Napolitano's presidency over the University of California system. As the former head of the Department of Homeland Security has no background in education or academic research, there is a concern that the new UC president is in place to watch over the corporate interests of the UC, and to weaken campus/community activism. A lab paid for by the CEO of Qualcomm follows a trend of the corporation of the UC; for example, British Petroleum has a lab at Berkeley campus.
There is still a student anger over the UC attack on Occupy Cal at Sproul Plaza. There is student frustration over rising frees, and frustration towards the UC's prioritizing of never ending construction projects and a growing police/security-culture over education. Many students feel that the UC is leaning to much into the tech-industry, and cutting back too much on humanities, arts, language studies, and horticultural/environmental studies. There are student workers and non-student campus workers who have their own sets of grievances. And there are those in the community who feel like the UC is cutting back on the public programs and public outreach an open university should offer to even non-students.
The redwood trees represent the concerns over a Corporate Cal, and concerns that the UC isn't meeting its obligations towards environmental stewardship. There are community members looking to challenge the removal of the trees through the courts. There are community members who are looking to challenge the removal of the trees by raising public awareness of the corporatization/privatization of the UC.
___ Deceptive statement by Berkeley government ___
A spokesperson for the city of Berkeley issued support for the removal of the redwood trees, saying that the trees impede the sidewalk on Ridge Road. In reality, the trunks of the trees are not immediately next to the sidewalk, and the trees do not lean into the sidewalk, or block the sidewalk in anyway. There are branches (especially on the largest redwood which towers over the neighborhood) that shade the sidewalk, but these branches are far enough overhead that people can walk under them. The roots of the trees are not breaking up the sidewalk, and are not causing any tripping hazards. There is not any evidence that the trees are obstructing the public right of way. The statement coming from the city government is entirely deceptive.