[HPN] People's Park referendum at UC Berkeley - your vote?

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 12 Apr 2000 21:38:06 -0700 (PDT)

OPINION POLL on People's Park in Brekeley, California, USA:

``Do you think the People's Park area should remain a park
as opposed to having (the university) explore alternative uses
for the space/land?''

Would you vote YES or NO on the nonbinding proposition above?  Why?

See below for two related news articles:

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Apr 10, 2000


Associated Press Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) _ The counterculture field of dreams known
as People's Park is again the subject of debate as University of
California students vote this week on whether the land should be a
preserve for housing or history.

At issue is a nonbinding proposition on the student government
slate that asks, ``Do you think the People's Park area should
remain a park as opposed to having (the university) explore
alternative uses for the space/land?''

Although the vote is purely advisory, its symbolic value is
being watched closely.

Community activists are rallying to support the park, created on
April 20, 1969, when hundreds of people showed up with shovels and
sod, transforming the nearly 3-acre space from a muddy parking lot
into a green space.

``It's one of the only places that is common land on some level
and so there's a lot of people that are involved in it,'' says a
woman who tends flowers in the park and goes by the name Terri

But many students shun the university-owned space a block or two
from campus; it has become a hangout for the homeless and
drug-users in recent years.

``I'm all for preserving People's Park, but it also should be
cleaned up a bit,'' said sophomore Kevin De Liban, who was
campaigning for a spot in student government from the comfort of a
chair in the sunny expanse of Berkeley's Sproul Plaza Monday.

De Liban said he doesn't want to chase anyone out of the park,
but students should be made to feel comfortable, too. ``I don't
really feel safe going into People's Park.''

People's Park began in 1967, when the university bought and
bulldozed a line of apartment houses but delayed doing anything
with the land. A month after activists turned the resulting rutted
land into a park, the university struck back, putting up a line of
chain link fences that set off a riot that left one man dead. In
1972, antiwar demonstrators tore down the fence and the idea of a
park ``for the people'' was revived.

A Monday save-the-park rally opened up a generation gap as
graying veterans of the battle to create the park were largely
ignored by 20-something students eating and chatting in front of
the main administration building.

Speakers exhorted students to take a stand for posterity.

``Vote to stand up to the corrupt corporate powers that have
taken over this university. Vote to keep People's Park a park,''
said Berkeley City Councilwoman Dona Spring.

But some seemed unconvinced.

``People's Park _ well, it represents something right now, I
guess, but I think housing would make a lot more people happy,''
said sophomore Steve Chinn.

The student government member who put the proposition on the
ballot did not make a public appearance at the rally and did not
return telephone calls Monday to The Associated Press. He has said
he is mainly interested in giving students a place to state their
opinions on People's Park.

Over the years, the university has occasionally tried to assert
its property rights to the land, only to retreat in the face of
vigorous protest.

UC Berkeley spokeswoman Marie Felde said officials have no plans
to make any major changes at the park, but they're watching the
measure, as a way to ``better understand student sentiment.''

Votes are being cast Tuesday through Thursday as part of the
regular student government elections.

Park supporter Compost, who refused to give her real name, said
students need to look back on battles fought before they were born.

``It has a lot of history and it has a lot of sweat,'' she said,
``a lot of our work and our dreams.''

AP-WS-04-10-00 2231EDT
Received  Id AP1001018B1FD819 on Apr 10 2000 21:31


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - Tuesday, April 11, 2000 - Page A17



     Debra Levi Holtz, Chronicle Staff Writer

BERKELEY -- University of California at Berkeley students are voicing their
opinion this week on the future of People's Park, a battleground for free
speech and anti-war protest before most of them were born.

Students will vote today through Thursday on a nonbinding proposition
that asks whether People's Park should remain a park or whether the
university should explore ``alternative uses'' for the politically sensitive
parcel of land three blocks south of campus.

The referendum, which does not spell out what such uses could be, appears
on the student government election ballot of the university's Associated

Veteran park activists have been lobbying students in recent days to vote
in favor of preserving the park as open space, a haven for the dispossessed
and an emblem of the counterculture.

Yesterday, at a campus rally on Sproul Plaza, activists in their fifties
begged students at least 30 years younger to honor the park's legacy.

Although students soaking up the sun between classes largely ignored the
speeches, the activists accused the university administration of using the
resolution to revive attempts to build student housing on the 2.8-
acre park south of campus near Telegraph Avenue.

``They have an agenda that crushes the spirit of that park and the people
who for 30 years have given their blood, sweat and tears for that park,''
shouted longtime supporter and civil rights attorney Osha Neumann.

Matt Sherman, a sophomore eating lunch on the plaza, called the speakers
``stoners from the sixties still looking for a cause.''

Another student, talking with a friend several feet from the microphone,
described the speeches as ``background noise'' but said the university
should leave the park as it is.

``I think it's part of Berkeley history, and I don't think the university
should touch it,'' said senior Sanam Pejuhesh.

Campus officials said they have played no role in the ballot measure.

``It's strictly a student-initiated measure,'' said UC Berkeley
spokeswoman Marie Felde. She added, however, that the university is
interested in learning what students think about the university-owned

The referendum comes a week after university officials announced plans
for new student housing, dining, athletic and parking structures in a
five-block area bordering People's Park.

Chancellor Robert Berdahl said last year that the park was
``underutilized and unsafe'' and was a potential site for housing
development, but Felde said the university has no plans to make major
changes at People's Park.

Kevin Sabet, the ASUC senator who sponsored the initiative, said he
wanted to give students a chance to join the debate that is certain to take
place over the park's future.

In the decades after one person was killed and many others injured in
battles between police and protesters in 1969, the fate of the park has
caused sporadic controversy. In 1991, violent protest erupted when the
university built a volleyball court, later taken down, at the park.

Although activists want the park to remain much the same, critics call it
a homeless hangout and an open-air marketplace for drug dealing.

Boalt Hall School of Law student John Tanghe, a park supporter, said the
park's reputation as a dangerous place is highly exaggerated by campus

Increased police enforcement resulted in a drop in violent crime at the
park in 1999, but campus police say it is still a problem spot. An El
Cerrito man was stabbed there during the the weekend, said UC Police Capt.
Bill Cooper.

Many students rarely visit People's Park and are unaware of the park's
significance to the Berkeley community as a symbol for social revolution.

``Most people don't know about it, and I think it's unfortunate because
it has so much history, most of which I learned from the film `` `Berkeley in
the 60s','' said ASUC Senate candidate Janelle Small.

But some students yesterday said the park is in poor condition and a ripe
site for the construction of badly needed student housing.

``When I walk through the park, all I see is homeless people,'' said
Sherman, ``I don't see students. . . . It's kind of creepy there.''


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information
for non-profit research and educational purposes only.**

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