BERKELEY — People’s Park is fenced in — officially marking the start of UC Berkeley’s construction of a $312 million student housing project on the historic property.
In the wee hours of Wednesday, the drone of heavy-duty drills echoed across the park as 8-foot metal fencing was erected and bolted into the concrete sidewalks around the perimeter of the park.
About two dozen protesters and a handful of homeless people were scattered around the park when the activity began, surrounded by lines of uniformed University of California Police Department police department officers standing shoulder to shoulder — decked out in riot gear — just blocks south of UC’s campus.
The fencing was the first step in UC Berkeley’s plan to construct housing for 1,100 university students and 125 homeless people within two 12- and six-story dorm buildings, after an Alameda County Superior Court judge filed a judgment Tuesday that lifted a stay preventing any physical changes to People’s Park.
Within an hour after midnight, each of the four streets bounding the 2.8-acre park were barricaded and cleared of any cars, in an attempt to keep people away from the area as dozens of construction workers and private security guards closed down the park.
Lisa Teague, a member of the People’s Park Council, said the operation unfolded just as she feared: slow, methodical and with “lots of back-up.”
“It’s almost worse because it’s so calculated,” Teague said, adding that the timing was “perfect” in between the completion of summer classes and the start of the fall semester, before a majority of students would return to Berkeley. “They knew the timeline, so they had a chance to refine their tactics.”
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A small handful of protesters and activists vying to preserve the park — bounded by Telegraph Avenue, Bowditch Street, Dwight Way and Haste Street — were arrested after lying limp in front of construction tractors trying to make their way inside under bright floodlights.
UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the university wanted to start construction as soon as possible in order to complete the project and welcome new residents within two …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News
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