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Policy Change Allows Sales in People’s Park

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 08, 2007

The People’s Park Community Advisory Board approved a policy Monday to allow a one-year trial for limited commercial activity at the park. 

The park previously had an informal policy that prohibited commercial uses at the park. 

According to Irene Hegarty, director of UC Berkeley Community Relations, the university—which owns the park—has received numerous requests from bands who want to promote their CDs at the park. A farmer’s market will also be allowed. 

“We have turned down these requests repeatedly,” she said. “With the exception of the Berkeley World Music Festival, we don’t pay bands to perform. Allowing them to sell their CDs would provide some incentive to attract better entertainment.” 

Hegarty told the board that although the longstanding philosophy behind the park has always been to prohibit commercial use, the time has come to amend the policy on no sales in the park. 

Ionas Porges-Kiriakou, a UC Berkeley undergraduate and board member, voted against the policy. 

“I just don’t want to see a nightmarish situation where corporations such as BP or Camel start sponsoring events at the park,” he said. 

Community gardener Terri Compost echoed his thoughts. “Open it up,” she said. “What do we have next?” 

“We are just talking incidental use,” said Hegarty. “not corporate sponsorship.”  

According to park policy, not more than two concerts can be held at the park in any one month. About eight to ten concerts are held annually. 

“In applying for a permit to use the park, people would have to check off their desire to sell something,” she told the Planet Wednesday. “Although the board voted on it, I would have to come up with a policy outlining this.” 

A draft policy stipulates that commercial activities would not be allowed at People’s Park except under the following circumstances, reviewed on a case-by-case basis: 

• The commercial activity must be directly relevant to a special event for which a permit has bee approved by the university, e.g., food or beverage sales at a concert, art sales at an arts fair.  

• At least 20 percent of the gross receipts from any commercial sale must be donated to a charitable organization. Proof of tax-exempt status of the charitable organization is required 

• The request to sell goods must be submitted to the university in the special event permit application, and authorization must be set out in the special event permit. 

The possibility of food and beverage sale during concerts was also discussed at the meeting. “Often, many expect to have food available at a concert,” Hegarty said. “We would have to issue a permit to the vendors and make sure they meet state regulations.” 

Board co-chair John Selawsky described food sales at the park as a “logistical and staffing nightmare.” 

“I am concerned about food sales leading to trashing,” he said. “It becomes a totally different kind of an event when people queue up in front of kiosks.” 

Hegarty replied that food sales would only take place four to five times a year. 

“Would it create litter? Yes,” she acknowledged. “Would the university staff be able to clean it up in the next day or two? Yes.” 

Board members were also concerned that food sales would not help the already declining retail sales on Telegraph. 

Board member Sam Davis suggested that neighborhood merchants could be invited to the park to sell their food. 

“I would encourage the university to look into this possibility,” Selawsky remarked. 

The board also discussed the issue of painting on the stage at People’s Park. Under park rules, “construction, installation or modification of buildings, structures, or art is not permitted unless authorized by the university.” 

“When people paint a slogan, is that allowed as free speech or prohibited as vandalism?” Hegarty asked. “There have been times when the university has taken no action and at other times imposed regulations.” 

“The stage was put up by volunteers,” said board member Dana Merryday. “Painting is part of the process to spruce it up. And all of it is not political.” 

The board decided to discuss this issue after San Francisco-based consultants MKThink— who were brought in to conduct a community based planning process for People’s Park—had completed their public workshops.