Update 01/03/19: This article has been updated with additional information from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.
UC Berkeley removed 38 of the planned 41 trees in People’s Park early Friday morning, generating criticism from some community members.
The landscaping department is addressing deferred tree maintenance across campus, with the People’s Park project one of a list of 15 tree maintenance projects. A work crew began the People’s Park project by removing and pruning about a dozen trees Friday. The campus plans to remove about 16 medium to large trees and 25 small trees to grade level from the park.
“Performing tree work during curtailment allows us to be efficient and minimize interruptions,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email.
Other sites near campus set for tree maintenance include the old art museum, the Women’s Faculty Club, Boalt Parking Lot, Hearst Gymnasium for Women, Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library, Carleton Street, Piedmont Avenue, West Crescent, Sproul Plaza, Sather Gate, Wurster Hall and the tennis court on Bancroft Way.
There has been recent controversy surrounding People’s Park since the campus released its plans to develop housing on the site in May 2018.
The tree removal project is unrelated to campus housing plans, however, according to the statement, and is part of a “campus-wide effort to address deferred maintenance issues related to trees on university property.” Campus housing construction in the park is not expected to start until summer 2020.
Mogulof said in an email that there are three reasons for the pruning and removal of the trees in People’s Park: lighting interference due to the large size of the trees, the close proximity of more than a dozen trees to power lines that need to be trimmed to prevent a dangerous situation and the presence of three dead trees and seven other trees with hazardous branches that need to be cut down.
According to ABC7 News, a small group of protesters tried to stop the work crew from cutting down the trees Friday, and many of the protesters said the campus should have better informed the public about the tree maintenance.
Community members of People’s Park said the project was disturbing. At least three people said they would be willing to face arrest to prevent the cutting of three trees on the south side of the park, according to Berkeleyside. UCPD predicted that no arrests would be made, however, and the three trees were not cut down.
Members of the People’s Park Committee created a petition to save the park in response to the tree maintenance project.
Mogulof said in an email that the community was “fully informed” of the tree maintenance with informational flyers distributed on the site that day and media outlets provided with more specific information regarding the removal of the trees.
“Anyone who has been around Berkeley since 2008 knows full well that arboreal activity of any sort in this town has the potential to ignite profound passions to the point of actual conflict,” Mogulof said in an email. “In that context, the campus was determined to take the steps necessary to minimize the potential for unfortunate confrontations.”