UC Berkeley plans to build housing in People’s Park

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Berkeleyside – By Frances Dinkelspiel

UC Berkeley plans to build housing for as many as 700 students in People’s Park, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting.

Chancellor Carol Christ will soon announce the plans, which also includes supportive housing for 100 homeless people and an ample area for open space for the park, according to the newspaper. Berkeleyside has independently confirmed that plans are in the works and that Christ had intended to release the information on May 9.

However, Dan Mogulof, a university spokesman, said Wednesday morning that the article is “not entirely accurate and certainly incomplete.” He said that “plans aren’t finalized and therefore we don’t and can’t have any comment at this point.”

However, an official announcement may come soon, he said.

“There is a group of senior administrators that has been working hard on the housing issue,” Mogulof said in an email. “I believe that current plans are aiming at an official, comprehensive announcement about the next step in our efforts to address the student housing crisis sometime next week.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín expressed support for the idea of building housing in the park, which celebrated its 49th birthday last weekend.

“For many decades this was the third rail of politics in Berkeley, but today I think there is a desire to look at something different,” Arreguín told the Chronicle.

Arreguín declined to talk to Berkeleyside Wednesday.

Not everyone is so sanguine about the idea of changing People’s Park, which was created after the university — ironically — bought the land in 1968 and demolished the housing on it with the intent of eventually constructing student dorms.

In April 1969, a number of activists, including Michael Delacour and Wendy Schlesinger, went to the lot, planted some grass and flowers, and declared it a park. When the university tried to erect a chain-link fence around the land, protests broke out. Then Gov. Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard on May 15, 1969, and the fight intensified. With more than 4,000 people gathered around the park, Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies used shotguns to control the crowd, killing James Rector in the process.

“We need housing,” said Osha Neumann, an attorney and advocate for homeless people who designed the 1976 mural depicting the history of the park and Telegraph Avenue that is painted on the side of Amoeba Records near the park. “We need housing for students. We need housing for people who are homeless. I don’t think we need it there.”

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