People’s Park listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Berkeley People’s Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the free speech movement.
Long contentious in Berkeley’s history, the 2.8-acre park was recommended for national historic status last year. The recommendation was ultimately made by unanimous decision of the California State Historic Resources Commission, according to a press release from the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group.
“It’s wonderful; it’s well deserved,” Annapurna owner Al Geyer said in response to the park’s new status. “(The establishment of the park) was quite a beautiful and spontaneous event. gardens, rolled grass; the whole community participated.
The National Register of Historic Places is a list of federally recognized U.S. sites that the National Park Service deems “worth preserving,” according to California Office of Historic Preservation supervisor Jay Correia. The reasons for being added to this list are varied; in the case of People’s Park, it meets the “event” criterion through the 1969 protests. Correia said a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places does not limit what an owner can do with the historic property, including completely transforming it.
Campus spokesman Dan Mogulof described the park as the site of “deeply significant and significant” historical events, referring to protests from Berkeley’s counterculture era. Nonetheless, he reiterated the campus’ commitment to developing the park.
“Listing in the National Registry does not limit future use, and by itself does not preclude future development,” Mogulof said in an email.
According to Harvey Smith, president of the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group, People’s Park is one of Southside’s last green spaces.
Smith said the development of the park ignores how “underparked” Southside is, where the relationship between residents and parks is heavily skewed.
“One of their alternate sites is one block from the Ellsworth parking structure,” Smith said. “If they want to build on Southside, that’s the site they have to use; they should not destroy open space.
The official People’s Park development website explains that crime and disrepair have turned the park into something people “avoid”. The website claims that however the park came to be, it is “difficult” to envision that history through the current state of the park.
According to the official development website, the campus plans to build the apartments later this year.
However, Smith argues that since the campus owns People’s Park, the campus could simply revitalize it and turn it into another green space.
“The university tells students ‘the park is full of crime, it’s dirty, it’s awful and the reason we’re building on it is to save it,'” Smith said. “It’s a very contradictory statement; they save the park by destroying it, which is ridiculous. They didn’t maintain the park; they neglected it, and it’s the only park space in Berkeley that looks like it.
Contact Lance Roberts at [email protected]and follow him on Twitter at @lance_roberts.