For a brief moment, People’s Park was a park this year.
People’s Park has been a point of controversy within the Berkeley community as campus seeks to build housing on the park, while activists work to preserve its historical and environmental importance. The park has been contentious since its founding as a space for gathering, activism and protest in 1969, according to People’s Park community member Lisa Teague.
But currently, the park is “chaos,” according to Nicholas Alexander, a resource coordinator who helps run the kitchen in the park.
“In the beginning of 2022, we were all with people we’ve known for sometimes decades,” said Alexander. “Now there’s quite a lot of new people who have to acclimate to that new dynamic. It’s still community.”
|March 2||Campus, in collaboration with the city of Berkeley and local nonprofits, announced plans to relocate People’s Park residents, offering to house them at the Rodeway Inn in order to transition them into permanent housing.|
|April||The encampment expanded during April and May. A longstanding community existed there already, some of them living around each other for decades, according to Alexander.
He added that during the same months, all occupants of the park were placed into housing, leaving few tents behind.
|Where Do We Go Berkeley released an independent review of the Rodeway Inn, noting the substandard food, lack of privacy, curfew and grievance policies, among other things.
Peter Radu, the assistant to the city manager, noted that the shelter has since updated its curfew policies and switched food providers.
Abode Services, which runs the Rodeway Inn through Project Roomkey, said the report did not contain verifiable issues warranting further investigation.
|May 24||People’s Park was designated as a registered historic landmark. After sending the landmark application early in the year, it was passed unanimously by the state, according to Teague. However, it ended up going to Washington DC for final analysis.
“It also makes very real the historic significance of People’s Park, and why it should remain a park in perpetuity,” Teague said. “Our little 2.8 acres of Berkeley were a significant area of contribution to the history of political struggle in universities in the 1960s.”
|June||Early in the month, residents were moved out of People’s Park and offered housing at the Rodeway Inn.
“We want to make sure we are not displacing people from the park,”said assistant to the city manager Peter Radu. “Instead, we are doing whatever we can to connect them to the services they need to end their unsheltered status.”
|July 1||A stay order granted by the California First District Court of Appeal forced all construction on People’s Park to a temporary halt.
Campus attorneys filed declarations of opposition to the stay that same day.
|July 13||On July 13, Berkeley City Council voted in a closed session to work with UC Berkeley on an agreement to govern growth of both campus and the city. The agreement calls for campus to provide annual payments to the city totalling $82.64 million over the next 16 years, according to a joint press release from Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office and Chancellor Carol Christ.|
|July 29||A court order lifts the stay on People’s Park, allowing development to begin.|
|Aug 3||In the early morning, UC Berkeley began fencing off People’s Park and cut down the trees in a move that immediately drew protesters, who staged sit-ins and blocked the ability of workers to put up fences.
“It was early in the morning, but we were starting to get more people, and I think the rage just really turned the corner, as we were mad,” Teague said.
By noon, protestors outnumbered UCPD officers, and tore down the “antiscale” fences with wire cutters and physical force.
|Aug 4||The California First District Court of Appeal granted a temporary stay order prohibiting construction and demolition at People’s Park. According to Teague, the case decision is expected no sooner than January 2023.|
|Late October||Grills located in the kitchen at People’s Park are moved out into the open for community use.
“One to two times a day, someone from the park and surfounding community will utilize that public space and utilize it for the benefit of everyone,” Alexander said. “There is that community and community care.”
Alexander has also been working on fortifying the kitchen and treehouse as points of retreat for protestors the next time campus decides to build on the park. He’s gathering gas masks, shields, masks and leaf blowers.
|Nov. 4||31-year-old Tyler Cary was found dead in People’s Park. He was a longtime resident of the park, and a “unique” part of their community, according to Alexander.
“He was educated and reading books. People like to color the park with this monolithic brush, we’re all just drug addicts, zombies that don’t deserve compassion, are irrational and mentally ill, and all those can’t be true,” Alexander said. “We all have a story. I think his story is a tragic one and he died, but it goes to show how colorful many of us are.
In the meantime, People’s Park residents who were moved into the Rodeway Inn are able to live there for 18 months. By mid-2023, they may face housing insecurity again, according to Harvey Smith, president of People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group.
“We have to ask ourselves, it’s a huge moral, ethical failing in our society,” Smith said. “We live in (one of) the richest areas of the richest country, why do we have one homeless person?”