The realization will hit any day now. It will be brutal for those who thought they could somehow create Rodeo Drive out of Telegraph Avenue, but the upside is that it will save years of police riots, court costs, and the bewildering schizophrenia of having the richest property owners in town kill off tourism by bad-mouthing Berkeley.
This is a college town.
If you really want to you can arrest the guy from Sweden with the backpack sipping coffee and poring over a map trying to figure out how far Berkeley is from Santa Cruz. But there’ll be another one along in an hour or so.
No matter how brutal we make our streets, how unaffordable we make our hotels and restaurants, rich property owners in Berkeley and the university itself would be wise to consider that having the University of California sitting like a cat in the sun in the middle of town is an attractive nuisance worth exploiting, rather than fighting.
And it does mean listening to youth.
It may be tough for the class that commands the country club to take, but it might save Berkeley a lot of money to take a few cues from the 30,000 or so young people who would love to shop, dance, join, learn, and participate in community events if they weren’t treated as such a threat by a town that can’t seem to grasp that not only are they here to stay, they have something to offer.
It isn’t just the students enrolled on campus, but the wider culture they create by just being here that will always attract travelers, hitch-hikers, poets, artists, dreamers, and people who aren’t sure who they are yet but want to check out any town roaring with creativity and life.
That’s us. That’s us at our best, and youth culture is a big part of it. The recent push-poll that flopped as an effort to support the proposed anti-sitting law revealed some valuable input from the students who took it, who wanted more dancing, more creative events, more art events available to them.
We can do that – this town really does know how. But the people doggedly wed to the criminalization of poverty need to make a little room at the table for creative ideas. We’re a college town, and with a more inclusive attitude we can thrive in every possible way. We might even learn a thing or two.