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by Lisa Stephens

With the end of the current lease agreement for People's Park between the City and the University approaching in March, the University of California is once again threatening to plunge the community into turmoil by promoting plans that have widespread community opposition and to take back complete control of the Park.

The community has responded with a citizen-initiated effort to buy People's Park that has support from across the political spectrum.

The current "official" proposal under consideration is a Conceptual Plan for People's Park, the result of a 5 month, $50,000 process facilitated by private consultants working for the City and the University.

The Berkeley community has consistently supported People's Park as a much needed community open space, and every process (no matter who the sponsor) has generated an abundance of wonderful ideas for the Park. This process was no different; in fact, by bringing people in the community together who had not worked with each other before, a real community consensus was generated.

The problem, of course, is that what University officials want for the Park is not what the community said they wanted or thought everyone had agreed to.

The breaking point in the process was the insistence on the part of campus officials that the center of the Park be turned into an athletic field, and their refusal to consider a partnership with the city and the community, let alone turning the Park over to the City.

Mayor Shirley Dean and Chancellor Tien also threatened to withdraw support for the park as permanent open space if free food and clothing continues to be provided in the Park, a position clearly not supported by the community.

As a result, hundreds of people marched from People's Park to City Hall for the November 28th Council Meeting, asking for peace and community control, and causing the Council to delay action until January. The issue of ownership of the Park is also now squarely on the table.

The challenge before the City Council in January is to put an end to the periodic upheavals that beset our community as a result of the University's plans for People's Park. Call or write the Mayor and Council and ask them to end support the efforts to buy the Park. The Regents should give us People's Park, but if they can't understand the historic and open space value of the Park to our community, maybe they'll understand money.


Lisa Stephens serves as Co-Chair of the People's Park Use Standards and Evaluation Advisory Committee for People's Park.

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