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PEOPLE'S PARK: WHAT'S NEXT?
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
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
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
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.