Sucker-Punch Attack on People's Park Flora, Removal of Sequoia's Last Remains, Draws Praise and Scorn
A day after the university back-hoed some crab-apple trees in People's Park it claimed were dead and tore down a historic park pergola, some park regulars were filled with gloom, doom, and anger.
A pergola is a vine-covered archway. A backhoe is a tractor with a scoop up front and a hoe in back. The backhoe sucker-punched the crab-apple trees.
A sucker-punch is an unexpected blow. Not even Telegraph property owners, who had proposed the very actions the university took Wednesday, expected it to happen. They said they were not informed by the university.
The fact that the deforesting work was done by private contractors says that the university couldn't wait until the grounds and maintenance division returned from winter's break. What was the rush?
An especially cold winter has reduced the park's population; many travelers have travelled-on to warmer climes. A vacation was announced at Occupy Berkeley. Food-Not-Bombs was handing out less food.
In what developed into a clean-up day, on and near Teley, the several-weeks old final remains of the fire-ravished Sequoia are on their way to a cement-lined dump in Nevada, which accommodates severely contaminated debris, according to a source close to the apartment building's owners.
The contaminate debris was from lead, not asbestos, as many side-walk supervisors had speculated. There was no asbestos in the Sequoia, according to the source.
According to demolition team foreman, "Freddy" Pena, the Sequoia's final remains will be gone in "two weeks."
According to my source, who is close to Sequoia's owners, who despise the press,("They always get it wrong")owners Ken and Gary Entplan to re-open the popular Teley businesses, Cafe Intermezzo, and Raleigh's Pub within two months.
Pappy's, the successor to Larry Blake's will open in January.
But People's Park supporters have nothing to look forward to, as many I interviewed Thursday, told me they view the unannounced tree-raid as the beginning of the end of People's Park. They see the looming Anna Head West Student Housing project scheduled to open, Aug. 2012 as a nail in their coffins.
As many as three crab-apple trees, a beloved pergola, and lots of bamboo were destroyed early Wednesday. Two mounds (berms) covering the burial grounds of chunks of the university parking lot, which had ignited the battle for People's Park in 1969--were flat-topped, or be-headed.
Just be-heading the berms was not good enough for Craig Becker. Becker, owner of the Cafe Mediterraneum, and president of the Telegraph Business Improvement District said he would have preferred that the berms be "taken down to ground level."
Becker main-authored the from-our-mouths-to-your ears missive to the university, calling for Improvements in safety and security, increasing stay-away orders, adding emergency phones, security cameras, and halting camping in the park.
According to Roland Peterson, spokesman for TBID, the work in the park, Tuesday, was "a first good step."
I didn't have to ask what would be good future steps? it's in Becker's letter, and we've covered this all extensively in the Planet. A short summary: Becker wants to rid Telegraph of people from the park, "who don't play by the rules." In Berkeley, where no one plays by the rules, this is considered a threat.
The university cited "safety concerns" for what pissed-off and hung-faced park regulars called an illegal encroachment.
What no one has reported is that the university's move may have been a police request for a stake-out. "Public safety" is short for too many arrests.
Four police officers stationed themselves away from the action Wednesday. Two from the university, two from the city, all sergeants, and all probably part of the partnering up of the two agencies to fight South-side crime.
I asked one of the sergeants was there anything to park rumors that pot busts were on the rise The sergeant said there had been twenty arrests in three months. Was that higher than usual? It was.
Need for a stake-out? Prior to the clearing of the West end of People's Park, drug dealers used the cover of the pergola vines, ferns, and bamboo to elude view by police from the street.
Now police can get a quick look from the street, or an improved view as they approach.
I spoke to a dealer, who said that "you have to be stupid to get busted." I told him the story one of the sergeant had just told me. One of the 20 busts was for possession of a pound and a half of marijuana, and that the dealer could do four years, because of his drug background.
"See what I mean," the dealer said, "now that's stupid."
He said that there had been several pot-selling arrests in the park during the tear-down. One dealer did it in the face of an officer. "How stupid is that?"
Hate-man, at the other end of park, was being asked to auto-graph the cover of the West County Times, which ran a front page piece on Hate, as he is known in Camp Hate, his encampment in the South east corner of the park.
I had to compete with the autograph-seekers, but Hate said that he didn't think the clean-up at the other end of the park would affect his camp, which is open to the world, which gets it busted.
Police won't need a better view through Camp Hate. It's in their faces, and it’s famous.
Once upon a time, Ted Friedman would write a piece based in People's Park. Contact or read his blog-site: berkeleydailyplanetreporter.com