Public Comment

Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council
Re: the "Activation of BART Plaza"

Carol Denney
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:15:00 AM

I have concerns about the January 23rd plan to allow the Downtown Berkeley Association to "implement arts and cultural programming" at BART Plaza given its past record.

The Downtown Berkeley Association began its history trying to outlaw panhandling, helping create ordinances that targeted the poor, violated the constitution, and were overturned by the courts. Their mission of driving the poor out of shared space has never changed. We've had to battle anti-sitting laws, laws designed to target people with more than two square feet of belongings all with the same purpose: to make life as difficult as possible for the most vulnerable among us.

They allowed posters in BART Plaza created by the city, but threatened with arrest anyone who posted a flier from any other source, claiming in writing that the First Amendment only applied to the government. They violated campaign finance laws in their wholehearted effort to target the people they have unilaterally decided should not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of public space downtown.

This is the same Downtown Berkeley Association which ignores Public Record Act requests, which trains Green Shirt Block by Block "ambassadors" who then seem to think it is their job to assault homeless people on camera for exercising their constitutional right to rest. Their advertisement of downtown businesses is highly selective - some are celebrated while others are ignored - and there is no oversight or complaint system as was promised when our current mayor was campaigning. 

The Downtown Berkeley Association which did these things is being made the arbiter of art and culture in a public space where they've brutalized anyone who doesn't fit their preferred profile. Please pull this 

item off the agenda, reduce its $50,000 cost to the $10,000 recommended by the Arts Commission, and make sure this contract is overseen by an oversight committee composed of representatives from the Peace and Justice Commission, the Police Review Commission, the Commission on Mental Health, the Arts Commission, the Commission on Homelessness, and the Human Welfare Commission so that any programming and management decisions instituted have a chance of being fair.  

Thank you,