Take a walk through the iconic green arches of Sather Gate will find yourself at the historical starting point of one of the most defining passageways of the city of Berkeley: Telegraph Avenue.
Today, with campus expansion, the street begins at the intersection with Bancroft Way and stretches for 4.5 miles connecting the campus to Oakland’s city center. Last November, Occupy Oakland protesters marched down the entire avenue as a sign of solidarity with Occupy Cal Day of Action. Soon after, members of Occupy Cal themselves marched the entire avenue to Oakland.
When you step off of campus onto Telegraph you enter one of the busiest and most historic districts of the avenue – a mix of cheap eats and treats, young adult fashion, book and music stores, cafes, and specialty shops of the counterculture.
Find yourself weaving around street vendors selling beads and bracelets or even tie-dye T-shirts embroidered with the name “Berkeley”. Clusters of freshmen make the ritual pilgrimages to the street’s tastiest offerings. Street performers offer rhythms and beats or an impromptu art show for passers-by.
On Telegraph, the weird and strange is commonplace. For some it’s what makes the city of Berkeley special.
“Every city is like the next city, said Mark Hawthorne a Berkeley resident commonly know as the Hate Man. “Some cities are starting to realize … there are unique aspects of this particular city (such) that including weirdos and characters, give it a special character.”
Walk further on Telegraph to the intersection with Haste and encounter an 88-foot-long mural depicting the political and social history of Berkeley. It was at this intersection that began a plot of land purchased by the campus in the 1950s, left as a deteriorating and trashed parking lot in the 1960s and in April of 1969 relandscaped without university approval to become a green community and living space called People’s Park.
Since its creation in the midst of political unrest and violent confrontations with law enforcement, People’s Park has persisted as a hub for the street community of Berkeley. Settlers young and old, and their dogs, call the park and Telegraph their home. The visible presence of the street community on the sidewalks along Telegraph Avenue has caused friction with some of the businesses on the street who argue that it detracts from business. This November,
Berkeley voters will decide whether the street community should be allowed to sit or lie on sidewalks like those on Telegraph Ave.
“I want to see Telegraph Avenue become a more friendly place,” said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, which supports passing the Berkeley civil sidewalks measure.