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California YIMBY Comms Director Lies About Berkeley Parks
by ParkNonymous
Monday Feb 1st, 2021 4:23 PM
Matthew Lewis, the Communications Director for the lobby group California YIMBY, has been spreading disinformation about available park space in Berkeley. The CAYIMBY Communications Director is messaging on social media for the purpose of riling public open against People's Park.
California YIMBY is a lobbying group that gets financial support from tech companies, financial institutions and major developers. As an example, they received a $1million dollar payment from Stripe in 2018. [See: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2021/01/the-only-thing-worse-than-a-nimby-is-a-yimby] They disguise their rhetoric and motivations as being in line with progressive housing justice movements, but the have different motivations. Quoting journalist Nathan J. Robinson, their organization "is not anti-capitalist"; "they are allies of developers who believe in letting the 'free market' determine what kind of housing will be built." [See again the Current Affairs article cited above]

Lewis made a statement that in the past 20 years "there have been precisely *zero* protests in favor of building more housing" in Berkeley. [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356303687707107330] Advocacy for more affordable housing in Berkeley was a major motivator for the Occupy movement, which had one group off campus and one group on campus. The difference between CAYIMBY and the Berkeley Occupy movement was that major corporations give large financial donations to CAYIMBY, while the Occupy protesters were faced with police oppression. CAYIMBY can have meetings with politicians without fear of arrest. Since the Occupy movement there has been grassroots efforts to advocate at city council meetings for more affordable housing in Berkeley. People's Park supporters aren't against the concept of increasing the housing supply in Berkeley.

In the same statement, Lewis accuses People's Park activists of allying with and defending "selfish NIMBY homeowners". People's Park is surrounded by dorms, and apartments. There are few houses in the direct neighborhood of People's Park. Those few homes that do exist in the area are mostly rented to student tenants . "NIMBY homeowners" have nothing to do with preserving People's Park. (Oddly, Lewis is a homeowner, according to his profile on the CAYIMBY website. [See: https://cayimby.org/staff/] He gets paid to lobby for high density housing, but lives in standard, old-fashioned low density housing.)

Continuing in his Twitter thread, Lewis makes the argument that People's Park is not needed as a public open space, because there are "a half dozen other parks/fields/forests" directly around People's Park. [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356316311819706368] He posted a map as part of his argument. [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356312456423858177] He lists Garber Park, which Lewis wrongly attributes as being in Berkeley. It is actually in Oakland, and as such is not a part of the Berkeley housing policy discussion. It is two and half miles away from People's Park, not 4 blocks away like Lewis claims . [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356303687707107330]
The park is a thin trail that goes through a sloped natural landscape; it is not a flat open space like most city parks are.

Lewis lists Claremont Canyon as a reason why People's Park is not needed. Claremont Canyon is closer to People's Park (8 blocks away), but Lewis omits that the access points to the Canyon are not ADA accessible. The Canyon access trails are steep and narrow. Even getting to the start point is not easy for people with disabilities, as the eastern stretch of Dwight Avenue is on a significant incline. Claremont Canyon is also subject to closures during fire season. As a natural park it does not offer a performance stage, basket ball courts, or vegetable gardens as People's Park offers. It is for a different type of recreation.

On the map, Lewis also suggests that the area behind Memorial Stadium is evidence that People's Park is not needed as open space. He omits the fact that the sports fields are not open to the general public. The rest of the space open to public hiking, but it is a nature area for ecological research. There are no open flat fields available for the public, as the research area has a winding trail that goes up sloped hillside terrain. It's a different type of space than an all purpose public park. It is not a space that is easily accessible to people with mobility issues, and the trail heads are about 1 mile from People's Park. Similarly to Claremont Canyon, the area is subject to closures during the Summer and Fall due to fire conditions.

Lastly, Lewis presents the main UC campus as a reason why People's Park is not needed as a open space. Much of the campus has buildings, parking lots, paved roads. Most of the campus is not open free space. There are large green spaces that are not publicly accessible like the Chancellor's garden, Edwards Stadium, Evans Diamond, and North Hearst Field. There are areas that are used as construction staging sites. Some spaces are used by classes (during normal non-pandemic operations) There is no community garden on main campus, unlike People's Park. Besides, while the campus does invite visitors on campus, the UC does not advertise main campus as a park. It is open to the public, but the UC doesn't encourage casual use of the green space on campus as a public park. Given that the primary purpose of the main campus is to serve the students, building new dorms directly on main campus would be a better alternative than controversially building on People's Park. None of the open spaces available on campus have the same historical baggage as People's Park.

Lewis continues by saying that the activists trying to preserve People's Park are the "enemies of higher education". [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356373963564224513] Many of the people trying to save People's Park are current students and former students. People trying to serve the park are not against education. Lewis mocks those who see the UC as a "corporate entity", but many of the UC Regents come from the corporate sector, and the UC has many strong ties to corporate sponsors. The UC Berkeley infamously welcomed a British Petroleum laboratory on campus. Shortly after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, UC scientists wrongly claimed that bacteria ate the oil and the water was clean. [See: https://tucson.com/news/science/environment/oil-eating-bacteria-responsible-for-ridding-gulf-of-toxic-plume/article_aa6948a3-a295-547d-8e35-21d4014c42fc.html] UC Berkeley put an Amazon hub on campus, and chopped down a campus redwood grove for a Qualcomm funded tech design lab. This is a university that tries to cut unionized campus support staff as to replace them with non-union workers. Campus workers, students and workers have all protested against the increasing corporate influence on UC Berkeley.

His concluding Tweet is that "leftists" oppose "the fostering of knowledge acquisition". [See: https://twitter.com/mateosfo/status/1356373964524670978] This statement against "Leftists" circles back to Nathan J. Robinson's Current Affairs article 'The Only Thing Worse Than a NIMBY is a YIMBY'. [See: reference in first paragraph] California YIMBY is not a progressive, left leaning organization. They are defenders of a Right leaning, pro-corporate Libertarian ideology. Writer Fernando Marti explains that CAYIMBY cannot "get too far in liberal beachheads like San Francisco...using the traditional Republican platform", so they use the issue of housing "to destroy belief in regulation, public investment, and democratic participation". [See: https://shelterforce.org/2019/02/19/yimby-white-privilege-and-the-soul-of-our-cities/]

Save People's Park. The UC, the city and developers can find other locations to build new housing in Berkeley.
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