A strange pup tent appeared today alongside the perimeter path parallel to Spinnaker Way, not far from the western porta-potties. Constructed of a standard plastic tarp with a yellow caution tape near one end, the structure housed shovelfuls of soil on both ends. A homeless person had not, as of this evening, taken possession, although it looked inviting.
What this is about, I can only speculate. There has been an unfinished piece of work at this location since at least May of this year. Sometime that month, a work crew began an excavation connected with one or more of the buried pipes and utility boxes at that spot. Extraction Well No. 6, part of the sprawling system for collecting landfill gases, sits here, along with what looks like an underground water line.
The crew dug a hole, made a pile of dirt next to the hole, popped some plywood over part of the hole, set up a couple of plastic barriers, and left. And didn’t come back.
I photographed the unfinished excavation on May 30, and again on July 2, and again on August 10, and again on October 9 and 25; see images below.
You might think that some boss person from the Berkeley Parks Department might have noticed this problem on one of their visits to the park — but it’s probably the case that no Berkeley Parks boss has set foot in Cesar Chavez Park since John Mann retired two years ago. (They might have to use one of the porta-potties.) In any case, last week I sent photos of the abandoned work site to the Public Works department, where there is still a pulse, unlike Parks. Today’s pup tent looks like a quick safety fix: cover up the open excavation before somebody falls in it and sues the City. How long it will take before the abandoned job is actually finished and the ground restored, remains to be seen.
A long-standing open excavation like this raises several questions. When a work crew gets sent out, there’s always a work order. When the crew returns before completing the job, the work order remains open. How is it possible that management ignored an open work order for a period of more than six months? Particularly when the job involved an open hole within a couple of feet of a much-used public walkway, where any number of people, especially kids, were liable to step into it and get hurt? What does this say about competence in the office?
Park employees, by contrast to management, visit the park daily. While emptying trash containers and mowing/trimming, employees undoubtedly saw the open excavation numerous times. Did they mention it to management, and were they ignored? Or did they not mention it, knowing that they would be ignored and possibly dinged for causing trouble? What does this say about management-labor relations?
Incidents like this one grind away at the illusion that Berkeley is governed in a more enlightened and progressive mode than other cities. No other city of Berkeley size allows porta-potties as permanent fixtures in its parks. Richmond doesn’t allow it. Emeryville is ahead of that. Oakland is way more progressive. Berkeley may have a more liberal-speaking and progressive-intended City Council, but where the rubber hits the road, with City management, Berkeley trails the pack.