By Camila Ceja
Following the People’s Park action on Jan. 29 to protest university construction, fences were once again placed in the park and Chancellor Christ released an email with detailed plans for the park’s housing construction. Claiming to be a project in efforts to aid the students housing crisis, the email details the need to construct on the land for city and student needs.
In the university plans for People’s Park construction, the project is said to provide housing for 1,200 students, while providing permanent housing and resources for 75 to 125 low- income and unhoused members of the community. Providing the visual plan, the project will use the ground floor of the supportive housing for campus use. The supportive housing will further be managed by a non- profit partner under a ground lease with the University. Furthermore, the project is said to renew an open space for the “safety and enjoyment of everyone,” as well as providing a commemoration of the university’s “historical past.”
In regards to the treatment of unhosed folks during said construction, the University claims to be working on a plan to support the unhoused “during the daytime,” claiming that night housing was “successfully banned” prior to the covid- 19 pandemic. Currently, the University states that the ban is not being upheld due to the pandemic, but will soon be reinforced.
According to the University, a public engagement process was established upon project creation, detailing a research process with focus groups and public open houses. The February 2020 open house was said to have detailed a revision of the purpose and history of People’s Park. In March 2020, the open house was a meeting to receive feedback from site concepts. Lastly, the April 2020 open house was the announcement of the project’s plan. The plan will be finalized at the end of 2021 and construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022.
As a response, the People’s Park organization released a statement refuting the university’s statements.
Since the action on Jan. 29, the People’s Park Organization has continued to do work to protect the park and preserve its role as a community space. Students and community members have worked together to meet every week to continue to plan protective actions and community events. Furthermore, student organizers have occupied People’s Park for over 16 days to prevent further construction from occurring. The People’s Park organizers have also held community gardening, teach-ins and movie nights.
On Feb. 23, the park’s organizers released a statement of short- term demands via instagram. The coalition demands the university to end capital strategies development of People’s Park immediately. The Park demands the immediate defunding of UCPD by 50% as well as the elimination of firearms, assault weapons and other military equipment. People’s Park demands the respect of the park users’ autonomy by supporting the unhoused community members in finding housing. Demanding for social and health service expansion, the coalition suggests the recentering of People’s Park as a hub for mutual aid, community support and activism. Lastly, the People’s Park organizers demand transparency by openly informing the park users and community members of any proposed activity within the park.
Though the SF Chronicle has reported dissent of the protection of People’s Park by claiming “history is just history,” there have been many public statements of support for the protection of the park. The Daily Californian has released an article in support of the movement, standing with the community in calling for a halt in development, furthermore calling for the university to “take proper care to maintain People’s Park.” The UC Berkeley Black Student Union (BSU) released a statement in support of the People’s Park organization. Highlighting that the university has failed to support Black and Brown people by further gentrifying their space and using police enforcement, the Cal BSU rejects construction and calls for further support of the People’s Park actions. Further support statements have been released by the student organizations of the Suitcase Clinic, the UC Berkeley Mariachi Luz de Oro, Hermanos Unidos and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
For continuous updates on People’s Park actions, visit https://www.instagram.com/peoplesparkberkeley/