Friday, May 4, 2018

Good Intentions and the Road to You-Know-Where

From the LA Times: For nearly 50 years, the University of California and Berkeley activists have been locked in conflict over one of the state’s most contested pieces of land. The standoff started in 1969, when hundreds of people hauled sod, trees and flowers to a scruffy lot that the university intended to build on and proclaimed it their own People’s Park. A few weeks later, UC fenced the public out, and thousands of protesters marched there. A bloody battle ensued when law enforcement pushed them back with tear gas and buckshot. Fights over the land have continued ever since as the once-vibrant park has become home to trash, rats and crime.

Now, UC Berkeley officials hope they finally have a plan that will let them use the space without fierce backlash. On Thursday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ announced plans to develop a large part of People’s Park into much-needed housing — not only for students, but also for some of the community’s 800 homeless people. The campus newspaper first reported the possibility last year.

“The breakthrough realization for me was ... that helping with homelessness — specifically in the park, but more generally in the community — was really part of the university’s responsibility,” Christ said in a recent interview. “The park was like the third rail,” she said. “A lot of chancellors felt they just couldn’t touch it. But I think the time is just right. It’s a combination of people’s sense of urgency of the housing crisis and also, frankly, the urgency of the homelessness crisis.”

...Under the plan, private developers would lease the land and build separate residential units. One would include as many as 1,000 beds, most likely for upperclassmen or graduate students. A nonprofit developer would build up to 125 apartments for community members who are homeless or at risk of losing shelter — possibly veterans, former foster youths or people with disabilities. The developer would select an organization to provide services such as mental healthcare and substance-abuse treatment. UC Berkeley’s schools of social welfare and public health also would help. Under the proposal, a portion of the park would remain open green space. The university also plans to memorialize the park’s history, possibly with a sculpture or plaques...

Full story at

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