City Council discusses changes to Telegraph District in special meeting

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City Council convened Tuesday in a special meeting to discuss economic development on Telegraph Avenue and was met with resistance from attendees after a misunderstanding led many to believe there were plans to remove People’s Park.

Because of a false impression, some attendees believed that City Council would be discussing converting People’s Park into housing units. Councilmember Kriss Worthington stated he received many emails from concerned people over converting People’s Park into housing.

“Not once under the current president or chancellor have I heard that proposal,” Worthington said.

Under the work session report submitted by city economic development manager Michael Caplan, People’s Park was labeled as an underutilized site. The report stated that the park would be able to “ease pressure on the local housing market by creating new housing for the UC community.”

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and City Council members said they had no prior knowledge of this item on the agenda. The item on the agenda led many advocates for People’s Park to speak during the meeting.

Community member Michael Delacroix, who has lived in the surrounding area for 51 years, spoke during the meeting to discuss preserving People’s Park and possibly converting it into a museum.

“People’s Park means a lot to people, worldwide, everywhere,” Delacroix said.

According to Bates, the university currently owns People’s Park and has control of what happens to the property. Bates made sure to reiterate that he and the council were not suggesting any changes be made to People’s Park.

Caplan stated that the purpose of placing People’s Park on the agenda was to bring the use of the space into conversation with the community. He said that it was ultimately up to campus to decide what to do.

Additionally, Caplan and city economic development coordinator Jordan Klein gave a presentation to the council outlining the developments in the Telegraph District in the past and suggested improvements to the area.

Klein suggested that the district would benefit from a more diverse tenant mix including more venues for entertainment, because the Telegraph District has a high concentration of food services. He also stated that campus students are the most important market for the Telegraph District.

According to Caplan, much of the economic development of Telegraph is due to the significant increase in student population. With an increase of 4,000 new students over the next four years, Kaplan sees even more room for development.

Many council members expressed excitement at the prospect of a revamped Telegraph District, including Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who commented on the legacy of Telegraph and the potential it holds for future development.

“I think we can celebrate the rich history of Telegraph as well as embrace the future,” Arreguin said.

Contact Kailey Martinez-Ramage at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kmartinezramage.