By Monty Kroopkin
The Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) has announced its 10 Most Endangered List for local historic sites for 2015. The C.H.E. Café is on the list. The list was revealed at SOHO’s annual People In Preservation (PIP) dinner on May 21, 2015:
- Red Roost & Red Rest Cottages
- California Theater & 1960s Caliente Racetrack Advertising Sign
- Teachers Training Annex #1
- Spreckels Warehouse
- Saint Luke’s Chapel, Hebbard & Gill
- Barrett Ranch House
- 4040 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
- Ché Café
- Old Town Pepper Trees
- Michels-Carey House (LGBT Center)
SOHO President Jaye MacAskill explained during the PIP Awards dinner that the “Ché Café is one of those beloved, old hangouts at UCSD that devoted students and alumni will always want to revisit. It may be the last remnant of 1960s counterculture on this campus, and a symbol of free speech served up with an earthy menu. Which is to say, Ché Café is beloved not at all by the university. SOHO supports students and others who argue that history, ‘even history rooted in revolutionary ideas and discourse’ deserves a place at the increasingly crowded UCSD table.”
A January 2015 “Che Café Facility Renovation Feasibility” report, published by the UCSD Facilities Design and Construction Department concluded that “The best use of this site then appears to be to raise [sic] the facility and build new from the ground up.” More than a million dollars is the cost projection the UCSD administration has claimed to need to make the C.H.E. Café building “safe” to use. At the request of the C.H.E. Café Collective, a reputable licensed general contractor with experience in rehabilitating historic wood structures did a preliminary walk through recently and thought the building was in better shape than what he expected to find.
The UCSD administration’s claim that the building is “unsafe” because of a lack of automatic fire sprinklers has been thoroughly debunked. The administration has not explained why a lack of fire sprinklers suddenly became a concern after almost 50 years of use of the building by UCSD. The University’s commissioned 2010 report on the condition of the building states “addition of full fire suppression is not recommended at this time.” Research by alumni revealed that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) abides by the California Fire Code, which states that buildings such as the C.H.E. Café are exempt from any requirement to retrofit an automatic fire sprinkler system. Fire extinguishers and all other Fire Code requirements have always been maintained. Other than retrofitting sprinklers, the official UCSD administration assessments of repairs needed include a long list of items like replacement of all the plumbing pipes, despite the fact that no leaks have been found. This is how the cost estimates from the administration end up topping a million dollars.
LONGEST SIT-IN IN UCSD HISTORY CONTINUES
On March 24, 2015 a court order for eviction went into effect, to push the C.H.E. Café Collective out of its home of 35 years, the C.H.E. Café. The Café ‘s appeal of the court order is still pending in the appellate court.
Following a 5 a.m. Rally to Protect the C.H.E. Café attended by over a hundred people, an occupation of the building by students and other supporters was started on March 24. The occupation, or sit-in, has continued for over two months, in defiance of the eviction order. Since the sit-in/occupation of the C.H.E. Café began, events and activity at the Café have multiplied. Events at the Café in recent weeks have included Student Film Nights, UCSD Triton Art, Earth Day Planting Party, Creative Dance Class, Paint the C.H.E. With Mario Torero, Co-op Prom, presentation on activist history at UCSD by Professor Emeritus Fred Lonidier, Meatless Mondays, an ongoing Queer Film Night, and events with the Roger’s Community Garden.
The UCSD administration has shown no interest in calling off the eviction and Sheriff’s Deputies can arrive at any time to try to force people out of the building. With the summer break starting on June 13, the administration and the Sheriff’s Department may make their move to finalize the eviction once most students are gone. Although this timing tactic would reduce the size of the student body response, supporters are confident that the general community will turn out to protest.
Organizations and individuals publicly opposed to the eviction of the C.H.E. Café Collective from the CHE Café building include the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, the UCSD Faculty Association, the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 (UCSD teaching assistants and student employees), AFT Local 1931 (faculty and staff in the San Diego Community College and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Districts), KSDT Radio, UCSD Mecha, The General Store Co-op, Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Ed.D.(Executive Director, Interfaith Center for Worker Justice), Martin Eder (Interim Director, KNSJ Radio), UAW Local 5810 (Post Doctoral Researchers Union at UCSD) Alor Caleron (Director, San Diego Employee Rights Center), UCSD Co-ops and Collectives Alumni, and many others.
More than 14, 000 people have signed online petitions to tell the UCSD administration to stop the eviction of the C.H.E. Café Collective, to restore the lease and to fund basic building maintenance costs. The current petition, with 900 signatures, is here.
C.H.E. Café Support Network has called a boycott of alumni donations to UCSD. Thousands of alumni have eaten at or attended shows and meetings and events at the C.H.E. Café or enjoyed the low-cost services of one or more of the three other student coops. Hundreds of alumni have actually worked at the C.H.E. Café or at the other coops. As reported at newindicator.com, the boycott demands that UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla:
- STOP THE EVICTION OF THE C.H.E. CAFE COLLECTIVE FROM THE C.H.E. CAFE FACILITY
- RESTORE THE LEASE
- RESTORE THE BASIC BUILDING MAINTENANCE FUNDS
- STOP THE “BIG LIE” PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN TO BRAND THE BUILDING “UNSAFE”
- RENEW THE LONG TERM LEASE FOR ALL FOUR OF THE STUDENT COOPS
An Artists’ Boycott of UCSD has been going on for several months already, with similar demands. Jazz guitar legend Peter Sprague is one of the most recent artists to join the boycott.