Public Comment

The Petition On People's Park: Scrap It!

Harry Brill, PhD, UC Berkeley, 1960-1969
Monday November 12, 2018 - 03:05:00 PM

On the recently signed op-ed published in the Planet, the signers urged UC Berkeley not to build housing in People's Park. The reason given is that the park embodies the ideals of free speech and the constitutional right to assemble. As the signers explain, it has been a safe gathering place for activists, students, the homeless and others. 

Since I was a grad student at UC Berkeley during the 1960s, I share similar sensitivities with the endorsers. We were engaged in difficult, uphill battles to retain what we won and go beyond what we achieved.  

However, I believe it is a serious mistake to leave People's Park as it is. What residents of Berkeley need, particularly students and the homeless is affordable housing. In fact, 10 percent of the student body has experienced homelessness at UC Berkeley. Moreover, the rate is 20 percent for postdocs. That's unacceptable. Also, many students are forced to live a long driving distance from the campus, which is tiresome and limits their involvement in campus life. So People's Park offers those in need an excellent opportunity. Since the Park is on public rather than on private property, we are in a much better position to influence the UC Berkeley administration. 

Earlier this year, in May , the University expressed an interest in building on the site affordable housing for a thousand students and 125 units permanently for the non-student homeless. The Berkeley community should organize a campaign to make sure that the University does not change its mind and will really provide housing at rents that are affordable. 

To do so is consistent with the values of the struggle to protect People's Park. After all, most political campaigns we engage in either directly or indirectly represent our efforts to reduce inequality. So my suggestion to the signers of the petition below is that they cease their campaign, which regardless of their good intentions, will hurt many vulnerable members of the Berkeley community. Instead, let's all participate in the struggle to build affordable housing in People's Park.