2 – Before the bulldozers

The place we call People’s Park used to be a different neighborhood. Starting in 1963 the University of California began acquiring homes in a 2.9-acre area boxed in by Haste Street, Bowditch Street, Dwight Way, and Telegraph Avenue. They raised 1.3 million dollars and used eminent domain to evict every single resident.

The Espresso Forum on the corner still stands, it’s Amoeba Music today. The beautiful Italianate homes, duplexes and colonial revival houses had been converted into boarding houses and apartments by the 1960s. The neighborhood was a mix of students and working-class people. If you look at maps, you can see they didn’t touch the retail frontage along Telegraph Avenue. The bulldozer only came for the 25 homes.

That community I described; their addresses appear in a 1965 California Legislature report from their Senate Subcommittee on Un-American Activities. It describes the neighborhood as home to Communists, the FSM (Free Speech Movement), Socialists, and yes even Trotskyites, and Maoists. There was even a civil rights protest at the Lucky’s Store No. 18 grocery at 2455 Telegraph Ave. It’s not surprising that community would take back the space from underneath the pile of rubble the University left behind.

The University of California has named its motivation as growth. They plan to add thousands more students by 2028. As we learned in 1968 and 1991, they are comfortable literally killing people to do it. All told, about 200 people were evicted from their homes in 1965. That’s the community that was lost, and why losing it again is such a travesty. This is what always happens when the monied class wants to take something; the rest of us lose something.