District 7 Candidates Aim To Improve People's Park

City Council Candidates Hope to Quell Violence, Turn Park Into a Safe Space for the Community

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People's Park

Worthington and Beier respond to City News Editor Sarah Springfield regarding the concerns surrounding People's Park.

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Multiple incidents of group violence in People's Park combined with the area's ongoing trend toward violence during certain parts of the year has some Berkeley City Council candidates vying to turn the park into a more positive - and safe - space.

While exclusively the responsibility of UC Berkeley, violence at the park has, especially in recent weeks, become a political issue that Cecilia Rosales, a candidate for the District 7 council seat in this year's Nov. 2 election, said will require a "multi-agency work of cooperation" to improve.

District 7 is currently represented by Councilmember Kriss Worthington and contains much of the campus area, including People's Park.

According to George Beier, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association who is also running for the District 7 council seat, "the park is almost a public nuisance at this point," and the past weeks' multiple incidents of violence by individuals in large groups have done little more than confirm the urgent need to make changes in the park and the park community.

Though the property is solely owned by the university, city and university officials alike - as well as officers from both UCPD and the Berkeley Police Department - have an investment in maintaining the property and preventing violence in the area, officials from both agencies have said.

In an interview, Beier outlined a rough proposal of physical changes to the space, which included the addition of play areas and a possible cafe or museum as well as safety amenities such as video cameras, emergency phones and improved lighting.

Additionally, Worthington said improvements to the area would rely on a "stable amount of resources, not just for the park but for the vicinity."

He said in the past, neither the university nor the city has adequately provided a "balance" to maintain the area year-round, instead only focusing on the park in times of what UCPD officers have called "peaking" violence, which may occur when groups of individuals travel through the city with the express purpose of visiting - and "not getting along" at - the park.

Resources allocated to improving the park must come from both the city and university, regardless of who technically owns the park, according to Worthington.

"We keep having these massive amounts of attention, where it seems like every officer in the city of Berkeley is in the area," Worthington said. "I'm exaggerating, but it's only for a few weeks. Then the big crisis is over and it goes back to not enough (officers), and I think the real argument is to have not massive amounts but to spread it out."

While he acknowledged that in the past weeks the park has played host to particular scenes of violence and worrisome group altercations, Worthington also emphasized the opportunities available to the city and university to turn the park into a positive space, which he said has been previously accomplished when violence in the area is not "peaking."

"In various years we have had groups, like the Residence Hall Assembly, that worked very strenuously to create a positive atmosphere in the area," Worthington said. "We had a whole flowering of numerous events, and during those periods the whole atmosphere was changed. The environment of people, the number of people and the variety of people using the park was greatly diverse."

Worthington and Beier both said the space must be opened up to the greatest number of people possible to increase community members' investment in the park and also limit the area's potential for crime.

"I feel if we could change the mix of people that use the park, it would cease being a destination for people who go to the park who just cause trouble," Beier said.

He emphasized, however, that the city and the university could "never say these people are acceptable in the park and these people aren't; that doesn't serve anybody. I would say 'This would be a park for everyone,' and shift the dynamic of the park over time."


Sarah Springfield is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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