The saga of People’s Park continues.
If you don’t already know, the park, just blocks from U.C. Berkeley’s campus, is one of the Bay Area’s most storied plots of land, the site of massive counterculture protests in the 1960s.
And after facing decades of opposition to developing People’s Park, the leaders of the University of California system last year approved a $312 million plan to build housing there for both students and unhoused people from the community. But the university’s efforts to transform the park have been plagued by delays, lawsuits and protests, especially in recent weeks.
On Aug. 3, workers arrived at People’s Park to fence off the site and cut down trees to begin construction. But protesters soon showed up, too. Park supporters view the land as precious community space and a historical site that represents the wins of the Free Speech Movement.
Demonstrators breached the fences and occupied trees. They chanted: “Whose park? People’s park!” A stand off with the police ensued and seven people were arrested, according to U.C. Berkeley officials.
In a victory for the protesters, campus officials paused construction. Two days later, a judge issued an order officially halting further development, in response to a lawsuit filed by activists.
It’s now unclear what will happen next. If the university prevails in court, construction could begin again as soon as October. But campus officials say they want to ensure that the work doesn’t disrupt classes and that workers will be safe, so an exact timeline is up in the air.
“Obviously, we’re going to seek to avoid any repeat of what happened last time around,” Dan Mogulof, a campus spokesman, told me. “The commitment to the project is unwavering, but we need to rethink how we’re going to approach that given the sort of response and behavior we’ve seen.”
The university’s plan for the park includes building housing for 1,100 students, as well as for 125 people who are homeless. About half the park will remain open space and will include a commemoration of the park’s history.
In an email sent to students and staff members this week as the fall semester begins, the U.C. Berkeley chancellor, Carol Christ, said the changes to People’s Park were necessary to meet an urgent need for student housing. Berkeley’s housing shortage has already created other kinds of legal trouble for the university.
U.C. Berkeley houses only about 20 percent of its students, the lowest in the University of California system. Christ has vowed to create enough student housing to guarantee that incoming students have a place to live for at least two years.
“To achieve that goal the university must — and will — build housing on every piece of suitable property we own in close proximity to the campus, including some currently being used for other purposes,” Christ wrote in the email. “It is not an either/or proposition; we cannot meet students’ needs without using a portion of the People’s Park site for student housing.”
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Sue Miller, who lives in Rocklin:
“We love the town of Healdsburg — its welcoming downtown park, interesting shopping and many restaurants. The surrounding countryside is rolling hills covered with vineyards and many wineries inviting you to taste. A tranquil break for a weekend away.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
California parents, children and teachers: How are you feeling about the start of the school year?
Email us at [email protected] with your hopes, fears and stories. Please include your name and the city that you live in.
And before you go, some good news
Almost every summer, Levon Alyanakyan, a high school junior in San Juan Capistrano, visits relatives in Armenia. This summer, his luggage was a little heavier than usual — seven suitcases filled with books.
Alyanakyan installed 30 free-standing wooden boxes known as “Little Free Libraries” in provinces around Armenia, particularly in areas with no local libraries. He filled them with book donations from friends and family that he had collected back home in California.
“What it does is it enables the villages to each have a library of their own,” Alyanakyan told The Orange County Register. “It doesn’t have to be a huge concrete library with a lady there. These are small communities, so they can all share this one little library and give everyone access to books.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Cozy place for a cat (3 letters).
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