STUDY CITES NEED FOR MORE OVERSIGHT
Bay Area News Group
After a nine-month study of People's Park in Berkeley, consultants
have released what are likely to be controversial findings.
The report was presented to the People's Park Community Advisory
Board at its October meeting and is online at community
MKThink studied the history and current uses of the 2.8-acre park,
which is owned by the University of California-Berkeley. It collected
and assessed the perspectives of residents, park users and others.
The park on Haste Street, just off Telegraph Avenue, has a reputation
as a haven for drug dealers and users, and a crash pad for homeless
people, city and UC officials say. What's more, UC police report a
fair amount of petty and violent crime.
The advisory board set out to find a way to make the park more
accessible and user-friendly by hiring the consultant, who found:
• A broad desire for the park to remain, to some extent, a publicly
accessible open space.
• A need for the park to better fit the needs and interests of the
local community and UC-Berkeley students.
• A lack of clear principles, plans and programming to anchor the
park to the local neighborhood.
• An understanding that the park isn't ideal for providing food and
• A need for more oversight to make the park safer and more welcoming
to the broader community.
• A suggestion that thinning or possibly removing vegetation along
the park's corners and in wooded areas would improve visibility into
the park and provide better pedestrian access to certain areas of the park.
• A desire for formal recognition of the park's history.
The university has embarked on reform efforts before, most recently
in the mid-1990s, when it and the city collaborated on a long-range
plan for the park and nearby communities.
But nothing much came of it, said Irene Hegarty, UC-Berkeley's
director of community relations.
Change, Hegarty said, has historically been stymied by the politics
of the park and clashes between those who cherish its history and
others who would like to see greater use from a broader segment of
society. Also, officials feared that changes would again spark riots
along Telegraph Avenue.
The park was initially built by students and community members who
gathered at the lot on a weekend in April 1969 and planted trees and
flowers. They laid sod and put up playground equipment, benches and
tables and named it People's Park.
A month later, UC-Berkeley moved to take back the land for student
housing, calling in hundreds of police. What followed was a battle
between police and young people that spread into the streets and onto
the campus. The university backed off and the park has been open
space ever since.
The park's advisory board will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at
Trinity Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, to take
public comment on the study. The board will make recommendations to
the university on the study and next steps at its Dec. 3 meeting,
which also will be held at Trinity Methodist.
Comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the
People's Park Community Advisory Board, 336 Sproul Hall No. 4208,
Berkeley, CA, 94720.