Berkeley co-op manager ratchets up attack on free speech

Bay Area Property Services, manager of a senior housing cooperative in Berkeley, has issued another declaration in its war of words on co-op members who wish to meet and talk.

Berkeley Town House (BTH), a senior housing cooperative, has been notified once again by its recently installed manager, Bay Area Property Services (BAPS), that spontaneous gatherings and discussions by its members in the kitchen, dining room, lounge, multipurpose room, halls, mailroom, elevators, stairwells, garage, laundry room, and outdoor patio will not be tolerated.

The latest warning was posted today. In standard BAPS style, the notice threatens members with punishment without citing any authority. It implies that “meetings held in the common area without reservation” violate some rule, but doesn’t cite the rule because there is no such rule at BTH. On the contrary, BTH has a set of governing documents that expressly grant to its members the right to use the common areas and don’t require that space be “reserved” before it is used. The only rule that requires a reservation requires it for “private” meetings, and then only when a member wants the space reserved for exclusive use. When confronted with this contradiction, BAPS manager Christopher Stanley didn’t respond.

The BAPS warning also threatens BTH members with fines, even though there is no rule at BTH permitting the imposition of fines.

All this is no surprise: BAPS and the directors that hired it have shown practically no interest in obeying the body of rules that they pretend to enforce. Their previous attempts to censor speech at BTH have included a prohibition on holding a discussion of affordable housing, a prohibition on videorecording, and a threat to arrest visitors if they tried to enter the building to discuss civil liberties. And, when reminded of the illegality of all this, they remain silent.

The BAPS threat is likely to prolong the chronic conflict with members insistent on protecting their freedom to assemble without prior restraint, and to intimidate other members into scurrying through the common areas with eyes to the ground, avoiding greetings and conversations in fear of being fined for the crime of “meeting”. As this photo illustrates, BTH’s common areas are already sterile, lifeless caverns. BAPS is intent on keeping them that way, and if it has to break the rules to do so it will.

BTH dining room
BTH dining room

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