‘We are the land’: Activists protest residential development on the Oxford Tract

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Jim Xu/Staff

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Chants in opposition to potential development on the Oxford Tract echoed through Giannini Hall at a press conference Thursday.

The press conference was organized by Defend the Oxford Tract, a coalition of students, faculty and other supporters of the preservation of the Oxford Tract land for research and teaching purposes. Attendees repeatedly exclaimed, “We are the land, the land is us!” while entering the hall before the start of the event.

Event organizers and Student Organic Garden Association, or SOGA, members read a manifesto about the importance of urban agriculture and a letter encouraging College of Natural Resources Dean J. Keith Gilless to oppose housing development on the Oxford Tract.

The Oxford Tract, located on campus, is currently home to greenhouses and research facilities. In January, a university housing task force cited the land as a potential location for the development of student housing — a prospect that press conference attendees congregated to audibly protest.

“Leaders in our community should stand up and vocally oppose this development,” said doctoral candidate Joshua Arnold, who has been conducting research on the Oxford Tract for five years. “Lack of leadership has opened up a vacuum, and students are the ones who have been putting time and effort into saving this space.”

Campus senior and SOGA member Grace Treffinger said that while working on the Oxford Tract Planning Committee last summer, she contributed to the completion of a SOGA report that outlines statistics related to the Oxford Tract, including the number of students it serves and the educational opportunities it provides. The failure of the university to follow through with its promise to release the report in August was “a small piece of this puzzle” that inspired Defend the Oxford Tract to hold the press conference, according to Treffinger.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof confirmed in an email that the university housing task force has identified the Oxford Tract as a potential location for student housing, but said no decision has been made regarding development.

“While the site has the greatest capacity (for student housing) compared to other viable options, it is also the location of important research and experiential learning … that would need to be relocated,” Mogulof said in an email. “The campus has been clear that it understands the importance of the facilities and activities on the Oxford Tract.”

However, Peggy Lemaux, the faculty member in charge of the Oxford Tract, said the relocation of the facilities would be inconvenient for both students and researchers. Lemaux added that many faculty members are dependent on the Oxford Tract for various purposes, including grant writing.

Dasha Pechurina, another campus senior and SOGA member, said relocating agricultural facilities to a remote, off-campus location would detract from potential research and make the campus less attractive to new faculty members.

“It’s time for us to really mobilize, and this is only one of the series of efforts that will be coming,” Pechurina said.

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.

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  • BerCaley

    Just in case any of our Russian visitors are unfamiliar with the Oxford Tract:

    http://plantandmicrobiology.berkeley.edu/oxford-tract
    http://plantandmicrobiology.berkeley.edu/

    It is currently owned by UC Berkeley and is currently used for research and teaching purposes.

    • lspanker

      Nobody here is a visitor from Russia. Nice try, but you’re still a fool.

      • Pietro Gambadilegno

        With the possible exception of Che – who always behaves like a troll whose only goal is to disrupt.

        • lspanker

          I would argue that categorizing him as a “troll” gives him way too much credit…

          • Pietro Gambadilegno

            What is the level below troll?

  • Grady

    Now you know the reason housing is so expensive in California.

  • jim hoch

    Who needs housing anyway?

  • lodule16

    Ground-breaking basic scientific experimentation takes place there. It would seriously harm the College of Natural Resources.

    • lspanker

      Example?

      • lodule16

        You seem to have unlimited time. Give them a call.

        • lspanker

          In other words, you have no answer, because you don’t know. Given your posting history here, I’m not surprised…

  • lspanker

    Idiots like these are the reason that rents are through the roof in Berkeley…

    • Clark Sullivan

      No, greed and real estate speculation are the reason rents are through the roof not reflexive denigration…

      • lspanker

        It’s actually called “supply and demand”…

        • Clark Sullivan

          No, it’s called let’s see how much we rip people off for…

          • lspanker

            Someone who insists on living somewhere he can’t afford, and cries like a baby because nobody will subsidize his housing, really has no moral ground to lecture others about ripping people off.

        • Che

          Lspanker epitomizes white privilege, but it’s cute when he advocates for individual merit.

          • lspanker

            And you epitomize some idiot 20-something who decided that communism is “cool” and babble on about things which you know NOTHING. I’m old enough and have traveled enough in my life to have seen it up close first-hand, which you merely bandy it around as some type of Berkeley fashion statement…

          • Che

            haha. I graduated from Cal, class of ’99. Thanks for the lecture, though, gramps.

          • lspanker

            So you have been our for 18 years and apparently have learned nothing in the meantime…

          • Che

            Nope. Just get a salary, health insurance and a pension with the help of your dimes. Gracias.

      • Grady

        Sorry Clark, this doesn’t fly. Real estate is a part of the private enterprise system where investors and property owners seek ways to make a profit on land or buildings they own. This is called Capitalism. Capitalism is what makes universities available to people like yourself.

        • Clark Sullivan

          Sorry, but universities existed long before capitalism…

          • Zhihuan Li

            And I assure you they were far from accessible to a common citizen.

      • Pietro Gambadilegno

        If you create a shortage of any product, including housing, then you make it possible for those who sell that product to indulge their greed. If there is no shortage, they are greedy as ever but the market forces them to sell at reasonable prices.

        I am sure you don’t know what standard economic theory says that monopolies do: they reduce supply below the market level so they can charge prices higher than the market price.

        In the case of housing, we don’t have anything like a monopoly, but NIMBYs have done the same thing: reduced the supply below market level and pushed up the price.

        Denouncing their greed doesn’t do any good. We have to increase supply to prevent them from indulging their greed.