Return to opening menu.


by Clifford Fred
Member of Berkeley Planning Commission

On January 9, 1996, the Berkeley City Council took an important step by adopting the principle that: "People's Park should be retained as permanent public open space in the South Campus area." However, the Council weakened the community's legal rights to the Park by declining to ask the UC Regents to continue the City's lease on the East and West Ends of the Park. The current lease does not include the central lawn area, about 50% of the park's total land area. Ideally, a new lease would cover the entire Park.

The current lease, which began in 1991, expires on March 21st of this year if not renewed. A lease is both a contract and real property rights. Specifically, the existing People's Park lease has for the past five years given local residents the legal right to be in and use People's Park. Instead, the Council proposes that the City provide management services in the Park under contract with UC.

This is better than UC managing the Park. But, this means the City would be managing the Park for the University of California. The actual property rights in Peoples Park that the people of Berkeley now enjoy by virtue of the existing lease would expire with the lease. The existing lease provides for an additional 5 year term. Why not take advantage of this? Grassroots momentum is building for either the city or a land trust to acquire title to People's Parks's 2.8 acres. Continuing the lease would allow five years to negotiate the acquisition of the Park from UC, without giving up in the interim the property rights already held by the city, by virtue of the present lease.

The long-term solution to resolving controversy over People's Park is acquisition by the City or a land trust.

As long as UC owns People's Park, there will be controversy and discontent. Monetary pledges to buy the Park are now being sought by Park supporters.