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UC Students Remove Fence from People's Park
by Writer
Saturday Jan 30th, 2021 1:29 PM
A group of UC students, and non-student allies, removed the fencing that the University of California had placed around a significant portion of People's Park. The panels of the fence were carried to Sproul Hall, and left as a message to the UC Regents not to build on People's Park
Jan 29, Berkeley CA: At 3PM, a rally gathered in opposition to a construction plan to build housing on People's Park. The opposition was not to new dorms, which are much needed, but rather to the location of those dorms. The UC has noted in the past that there are several options for building new dorms in Berkeley. People's Park was not the only location for these new buildings, but the UC chose this location despite the controversy it would cause.

As UC students and other community members gathered in People's Park, the UC panicked and issued a vague and dramatic safety warning through the campus email network and social media. At 4:42PM the UC Berkeley Police used Twitter to announce: "Police activity at People's Park, Telegraph Ave, Upper Sproul Plaza. AVOID THE AREA until further notice." (Source: https://twitter.com/UCPD_Cal/status/1355315311248101378) This message was repeated through UC Berkeley Police's Everbridge account. (Source: https://manager.everbridge.net/pub/776534382085701) Everbidge is a public safety warning platform for "crises and major incidents". The UCPD violated the public trust by falsifying crisis warnings. Their intent was to dissuade the public from witnessing and potentially participating in a non-violent protest. There were no injuries during the rally and march. There were no arrests during the rally and march. There's wasn't even property damage. Even the modular fence panels were carefully disconnected and carefully carried to Sproul Plaza. There was no crisis, and there wasn't police activity as the police didn't interact with the rally. There needs to be public demand for an investigation on who in the UC administration, and who in the UCPD chain of command ordered these fake crisis warnings.

The UC's fence blocked the only driveway access into the Park. Located on Haste Street, this vehicle access point has been used to deliver food, and gardening supplies into People's Park. The fence extended around a significant portion the open green space.

It is notable to compare and contrast the fence that was dismantled with another fence on UC campus. At the northern end of campus, there a a parcel of land adjacent to Hearst Avenue. This area is the Chancellor's residence and private garden. In area, the fenced off portion of North Campus is comparable in size to People's Park. The current chancellor doesn't even live in the house, having chosen to live in an off campus residence. Despite being maintained, the garden is rarely used for anything. In 2016, then-Chancellor Nick Dirks ordered the construction of a $700,000 security fence in front of the house. This cost was just for a small stretch in front of the house, as the rest of the perimeter already had fencing. Chancellor Carol Christ, Dirk's successor, chose to live off campus instead of using the controversial on-campus estate. In 2018, a protest was held in favor using this North Campus location for a student housing project: (Source: https://socialistworker.org/2018/04/26/protesters-to-ucs-chancellor-use-it-or-lose-it)

When UC Berkeley announced their intent to build a new dorm, the public was told there were 9 different possible locations. (Source: https://www.berkeleyside.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/housing_master_plan_task_force_final_draft_january_2017.pdf) As an option, People's Park wasn't even the largest proposal. Their projection was for around 200-300 units. Building on the UC property at Channing and Ellsworth could add 400 new units. Additions to the Unit 3 living facility would add 600-900 new accommodations. The Oxford track could house 1000-3000 new students according to projections. In addition, there are other smaller parcels that could be used to build multiple dorms which would add many hundreds of new units spread across different locations.

The UC never considered the Crescent Lawn at the western edge of campus. A significantly large housing structure could be built there, placing students directly on a bus route, and a short walk away from BART. This location would place students directly on campus, and adjacent to the downtown restaurants and shops.

The UC could build a new dorm at the former location of the UC's art museum, right across the street from campus. Instead this location has been designated for a science lab, despite not even being close to any of the other science facilities on campus or at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. There is enough space to build the lab elsewhere and to build a towering new dorm at lot of the former art museum. (The former art museum does not meet contemporary earthquake code standards.)

As for the supportive housing component for non-students, there are also other locations within the city boundaries for this part of the project. There is no compelling reason why People's Park is the best option.

Yesterday's protest is surely only the beginning to civil resistance against the development proposal at People's Park. Protest and delay will add to the cost of any project, which makes the location less fiscally logical. The UC and its developer partners should find a new location for the apartments, rather than continue on this course of provocation.
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