Rick Young has been doing some long-term parking – without the benefit of an automobile.
The second-year law student at Boalt Hall stationed himself in the Underhill parking lot on Sunday at noon, and says he won’t budge until UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl agrees to negotiate in good faith.
“I don’t have a special vision. For this block I want to see more housing and less parking than the current university plan,” said Young, who faxed a five-point letter to the Chancellor calling for “discussions in good faith” on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and emphasizing Southside housing over parking. “It’s amazing how many people agree the university plan is not good. Nearly every student I’ve talked to thinks the current university plan is not good.”
University spokesperson Marie Felde acknowledged that the chancellor did indeed
receive Young’s letter, and will respond to it.
“The chancellor’s office will respond to it. They always try to be prompt,” said Felde. “Everyone has the right and is encouraged to present their views on the Environmental Impact Report process. The comment period is open until June 9.”
Now a 400-plus space sunken lot, the Underhill block – bordered by College Avenue, Channing Way, Bowdtich Street and Haste Street – used to house a multi-level parking structure topped by a gargantuan Astroturf playfield. Following the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the upper levels of the structure were demolished, leaving the resultant parking pit. Under the current plan, the university is aiming to rebuild the multi-tiered structure, increasing the lot’s capacity from around 400 to over 1,000 (or up to 1,450 with attendant parking).
Berdahl was quoted in the April 17 edition of the Daily Planet as stating the university has lost roughly 1,000 parking spaces over the past decade “mostly due to the loss of Underhill.”
Young, who has been compiling statistics over the past year for Students for a Livable Southside, claims that the university actually lost only 64 spots between 1988 and 1999 (a reduction from 7,450 to 7,386).
“Parking statistics, I’ve found are A. Incredibly difficult to get and; B. When you do get the information, as a law student I’ve gotten good at understanding Legalese and gobbledygook, and whoever was writing some of these parking reports was obviously a master,” said Young, a graduate of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “It seems it almost has to be intentional obfuscation.”
While Young has been committed to the study of Southside housing and parking for some time, the idea of staging a sit-in is something relatively new.
“The idea came up as kind of a joke,” said Young, a member of both the environmental group Kyoto Now! and the newly formed People Against Lots of Parking and For Plenty of Housing on Underhill Block (the fun-to-say acronym PALPFPHUB). “But I got more serious late Saturday night, I decided to do it.”
Young claims to be receiving overwhelming support from the Boalt Hall community, passers-by and local representatives. Councilmember Kriss Worthington donated a cell phone to the effort, and the pastor of a local Lutheran church also offered to help with supplies (Young is re-stocked by “three or four” close friends, and, to answer the big question, he relieves himself in the Underhill’s many outhouses).
Young says he has even had a positive experience dealing with the UCPD.
“I’ve been talking to the UC Berkeley police, and, with a few exceptions, they’ve been very processional,” said Young, who, with finals upcoming on Monday says he’ll “cross that bridge when he comes to it.” “The police have told me that I cannot sleep in the lot, so as you can imagine, I’m pretty tired.”
While Young’s main focus is on emphasizing housing over parking, the Underhill plan has met opposition from several Berkeley groups. Longtime bicycle activist Jason Meggs claims that the proposal will add more cars to an already overflowing Southside, creating additional danger for pedestrians and bike riders.
“I really support what he’s doing, and I may be joining him,” said Meggs of Young. “If this issue is not resolved by next semester, you may see a big campout here.”