The Student Organic Garden Association (SOGA) and Oxford Tract (OT) are slated for development. In January 2017, UC Berkeley released the Housing Master Plan Task Force Report, which outlined nine potential sites that UC Berkeley currently owns where student housing could be built. The proposed sites include Albany Village, the Richmond Field Station, People’s Park, and the Oxford Tract. Oxford Tract, on which SOGA is located, is described as having the most potential beds: 1000-3000 bed range compared with the next highest site (Unit 3 densification) with 650-900 new beds. Chancellor Carol Christ tasked the Oxford Tract Planning Committee to come up with the cost of relocating all OT facilities, which would involve breaking up the facilities onto different sites. The Committee’s report is due August 15th, 2017. More information and documents from the College of Natural Resources can be found on the Oxford Facility page.
Oxford Tract and SOGA represent a unique and increasingly rare space for agricultural researchers, students, and community members to engage in hands-on learning and gain agricultural knowledge in an urban context. SOGA is especially rare as it is a completely student-run garden where members have autonomy and creative freedom in their farming endeavors. It is also a space where community members and students are encouraged to collaborate. UC Berkeley was originally founded through a partnership between the College of California (a private institution) and the Agriculture, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College (a public institution) in 1868. The latter was established as a land grant university under the 1862 Morrill Act, which offered public lands to colleges that teach agriculture and mechanic arts. The two colleges came together under the condition that they would teach the humanities as well as agriculture, mining, and mechanics. SOGA is now the only space near campus where students can practice agriculture and conduct independent research, continuing with the original mission of the University of California and using the land that was granted by the state of California for the agricultural purposes it was designated to be used for.
The University claims the garden occupies one of the last potential sites for student housing. Housing is unquestionably a top priority for the University, and members of SOGA wholeheartedly support building new housing for students. However, UC Berkeley’s recent interests and actions have shown a lack of commitment to maximizing the use of vacant sites, even those zoned for high capacity residence, for student housing developments. Attempting to open a 200-room hotel rather than a student housing complex in Downtown Berkeley, constructing a $15 million dollar swimming pool across the street from campus, and admitting more and more students every year without accounting for where they will live– are the irresponsible decisions made by the University, and SOGA feels that it should not be the collateral damage of this planning. SOGA will continue to update students and community members on what we know of the University’s plans on this page.
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