California’s State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to recommend People’s Park be listed on the National Register of Historical Places on Friday.
“People’s Park qualifies for the National Register due to its critical role in the Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War and finally the Student Protest Movement,” said Joe Liesner, a member of the People’s Park Council, in an email. “More specifically, it is the Free Speech Movement that changed the entire character of protest in the 1960s and ignited nation-wide campus results.”
Liesner added during the 1960s, People’s Park became the location of the first death of a white student activist on a northern campus.
The recommendation comes amid protests over the university’s push to build student housing on People’s Park. The UC Board of Regents voted to approve these plans in late September.
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the recommendation to list People’s Park on the national register is “not incompatible” with campus’s current development plan.
“The listing of People’s Park on the National Register is not incompatible with the university’s plans to build housing for unhoused people; create urgently-needed below-market apartments for more than 1,000 students; preserve a majority of the site, approximately 1.7 acres, as a revitalized open community park space; and to create a new memorialization of the park’s past, meaning and legacy,” Mogulof said in an email.
Mogulof added the plans to build student housing have garnered the support of a “strong majority” of students, Mayor Jesse Arreguín and members of the City Council, including Councilmember Rigel Robinson.
According to Max Ventura, another member of the People’s Park Council, the State Historical Resources Commission received 65 letters in support of adding People’s Park to the national register and only one letter in opposition. The sole letter of opposition came from the Board of Regents.
Ventura added the commission’s chair was “appalled” that the Board of Regents would oppose the recommendation. Ventura alleged the university will only “back off” if lawsuits are filed or if they look “horrific” in the media.
“The activism cannot stop,” Ventura said.
According to a press release by the People’s Park Historical District Advocacy Group, or PPHDAG, Make Uc a Good Neighbor and the PPHDAG filed a lawsuit against the Board of Regents last Thursday, arguing the plan to build student housing failed to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.
The proposed terms of settlement included capping student enrollment at 43,000, constructing 9,000 more beds for students and locating undergraduate housing away from residential neighborhoods.
Harvey Smith, president of PPHDAG, has said the university has refused all the proposed demands. Smith also added support for the recommendation to add People’s Park to the national register.
“What it shows is what all of us know and many of us have been saying: The park is a highly historic site; it should be maintained for its historical and cultural legacy and also for its environmental value,” Smith said.