UC-Berkeley convert from ‘People’s Park,’ refuge for the homeless and drug users, to provide housing for students

An empty basketball court fills a corner of People’s Park in Berkeley, California. on 18 April 2018.

(Thanks to UC-Berkeley )

BERKELEY, Calif – It seems even the famous hippie-dippy friendly administration at UC-Berkeley has had enough with the homelessness, drug use and petty crime on the streets in a so-called “People’s Park,” finally is scheduled to be re-used for student accommodation.

“This city has moved far beyond its stereotype, even after the 1960s,” Mogulof, a spokesman for the UC-Berkeley, told Fox News. “People understand that the current status quo serves no interest, least of all the homeless people who occasionally use the park.”

For decades, the People’s Park was too much as a symbol of the free love, anti-war and anti-authoritarian movement that swept this north California college of the town in the 1960s. Of the “Bloody Thursday” protest of 1969 and 2011, the “tree-sits” against the plans for the development of more student accommodation, the park has long been a place of protest and controversy.

A group gathered in People’s Park in the 1970s.

(Getty Images)

But in the recent years it has also become, as the San Francisco Chronicle recently described it, “a lost and somewhat menacing hub for drug users and the homeless” – and a place where the majority of Berkeley residents and students tend to avoid.

In May 2018, UC-Berkeley reported campus police had called 1,585 times to the People’s Park in the previous year. Between 2012 and 2017, there was an amazing 10,102 criminal incidents reported in the park.

“The students don’t use the park,” Ruben Lizardo, director of local government and community relations at the university, told Berkeleyside. “Not everyone is comfortable. People with real mental health problems can be aggressive. Usually I see homeless people in conflict with each other.”

This city has moved far beyond its stereotype, even after the 1960s. People understand that the current status quo serves no interest, least of all the homeless people who occasionally make use of the park.

– Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the UC-Berkeley

One of the more shocking incidents in the park occurred in June last year, when a 36-year-old mentally ill woman randomly shoved methamphetamine in a two-year-old boy’s mouth in broad daylight, while the child’s nanny, looked on in horror.

In an attempt to deal with the mounting problems of the homeless and mentally ill who reside in the park and also the solving of a huge student housing crisis at UC-Berkeley – the school has recently announced plans to develop a large part of the People’s Park in both residences and long-term supportive housing for approximately 800 homeless people.

“We have problems there in the park,” Mogulof said. “And that is one of the reasons why we have decided to take the steps to renovate and revitalize the park. In addition to the fact that it’s going to help the student housing crisis, we also think that it is a very important step in the field of tackling safety and crime issues in the district.”

A view of the completed homes in People’s Park.

(Courtesy of UC Berkeley)

The development, which will house as many as 1,000 students, and between 75 and 125 apartments for the homeless – plans for the construction of monuments for the history of the park, which is a part of Berkeley’s history since the university first proposed the construction of student housing in the late 1960s.

While UC Berkeley officials see this as a happy medium that both reduce crime and drug use in the park, while providing more student accommodation and housing to the homeless through a non-profit group, the people who now call the People’s Park at home don’t see it that way.

“It’s really sad that they would do something,” John, a 48-year-old homeless man who has lived in the park off and on for about 15 years, told Fox News. “This is a place where people go who have never been to Berkeley before. It is a place where transient people can put down some roots.”

A worker mows the lawn in People’s Park, while a homeless man sits on the grass.

(Thanks to UC-Berkeley)

The officials of the School say that they are prepared for a pushback, but emphasize that it is time to finally clean up the park. The project is expected to be completed in about four years.

But Daniel Reitz, a 26-year-old homeless man who only recently came to Berkeley, said he thinks that there is a big fight – literally – if the university goes through with his plans.

“There was a lot of blood shed in that park back in the day,” Reitz said, in reference to the “Bloody Thursday” protests in 1969 that left a man dead and another blinded for life after the police used buckshot into the crowd. “They think that it will go smooth, but as soon as the authorities down there, they are going to have a riot on their hands.”

Reitz added: “word of mouth advertising is that it is not going to be beautiful, the people are not going to leave it alone.”

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