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WHO OWNS THE
by Lisa Stephens
With the end of the current lease agreement for People's Park between
the City and the University approaching in March, the University of California
is once again threatening to plunge the community into turmoil by promoting
plans that have widespread community opposition and to take back complete
control of the Park.
The community has responded with a citizen-initiated effort to buy People's
Park that has support from across the political spectrum.
The current "official" proposal under consideration is a Conceptual
Plan for People's Park, the result of a 5 month, $50,000 process facilitated
by private consultants working for the City and the University.
The Berkeley community has consistently supported People's Park as a much
needed community open space, and every process (no matter who the sponsor)
has generated an abundance of wonderful ideas for the Park. This process
was no different; in fact, by bringing people in the community together
who had not worked with each other before, a real community consensus was
The problem, of course, is that what University officials want for the
Park is not what the community said they wanted or thought everyone had
The breaking point in the process was the insistence on the part of campus
officials that the center of the Park be turned into an athletic field,
and their refusal to consider a partnership with the city and the community,
let alone turning the Park over to the City.
Mayor Shirley Dean and Chancellor Tien also threatened to withdraw support
for the park as permanent open space if free food and clothing continues
to be provided in the Park, a position clearly not supported by the community.
As a result, hundreds of people marched from People's Park to City Hall
for the November 28th Council Meeting, asking for peace and community control,
and causing the Council to delay action until January. The issue of ownership
of the Park is also now squarely on the table.
The challenge before the City Council in January is to put an end to the
periodic upheavals that beset our community as a result of the University's
plans for People's Park. Call or write the Mayor and Council and ask them
to end support the efforts to buy the Park. The Regents should give us People's
Park, but if they can't understand the historic and open space value of
the Park to our community, maybe they'll understand money.
Lisa Stephens serves as Co-Chair of the People's Park Use Standards
and Evaluation Advisory Committee for People's Park.
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