Protestors at People's Park in Berkeley

Protesters Thwart Plans To Cut Down People's Park Trees

Bob Butler
December 28, 2018 - 2:31 pm
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BERKELEY — Protesters blocked workers from chopping down trees in People's Park on Friday as part of an ongoing dispute about the future of the open space owned by UC-Berkeley.

About a dozen trees were removed, but the project had to be abandoned temporarily because of the presence of a small number of feisty opponents. 

The pruning and removal is long overdue, according to university spokesman Roqua Montez.

“Many of the trees are growing dangerously close to power lines. That’s a hazard that needs to be addressed immediately," said Montez. "Several of the larger trees are dead. They need to be removed. And some of them have large branches that are in danger of splitting off and falling.”

He said the felling of 40 trees will take place later to avoid a confrontation.

Protesters in People’s Park today blocked UC-Berkeley from cutting down some of the trees that are slated for removal from the popular open space. They told KCBS Radio that they oppose the university’s plans to develop the park. Hear reporter Bob Butler’s story on KCBSRadio.com.

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The park got its name in 1969 when activists fought the university's plans to develop the land with dormitories and athletic fields, according to a history by the university's police department. 

Now, homeless people often reside in the park. Critics fear the university will evict those residents and perhaps erase the park's historical significance by redeveloping it with dorms for students. 

Protester Russell Bates told KCBS Radio the maintenance is “a significant aggression against the people in the park.”

But that significant homeless population has created tension with neighbors who say the park has become unsafe and should be put to better use. 

Earlier this year, the university announced plans to build a housing complex for students on the land.

“They’re telling us that they’re putting in housing for students that can’t afford housing. That is not the deal here. It’s gentrification," said protester James Trejo.

Montez wants protesters to know “there’ll also be a component of that plan for supportive housing for the homeless population.”

Update: This article has been revised with information about the park's history from the university's police department. 

Written by Jessica Yi.