Some favorite places in Berkeley

Click image to view interactive map with comments on selected places.


To Build a Home

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home 
- "To Build a Home" The Cinematic Orchestra

I can't wait to be home. Being in a state of errantry is exciting, and I've never wanted to be one to be tied down to one place, but there's something about a home. Maybe it's because I've been listening to Mercedes Sosa, but I mean really listening to it.

Empeze con la cancion "me gustan los estudiantes" y memorize la letra. Estuve tan feliz escuchandolo que hasta estuve cantandolo mientras camine a mis clases y no me importo quien me escuchaba. Luego escuche "Gracias a la vida:"

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado el sonido y el abecedario
Con el, las palabras que pienso y declaro
Madre, amigo, hermano
Y luz alumbrando la ruta del alma del que estoy amando
Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados
Con ellos anduve cuidades y charcos
Playas y desiertos, montañas y llanos
Y la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio

Esa cancion tiene una cualidad inquietante- susurra en mi oido y el alma de tiempos pasados con mi familia y historia, pero tambien de tiempos que aun no han venido.  Ese sentimiento es a la vez emocionante y tranquilo.

No se de lo que estoy diciendo. Queria practicar escribiendo en español, comi mucha azucar anoche y estoy emocionada que voy a regresar a mi casa- al lugar donde se que estan la gente que amo con toda mi vida.

Y queria escribir tambien. La proxima vez voy a practicar el uso de acentos.
Hasta la proxima vez!


Parks, Culture and Identity in Land’s End, San Francisco

In this post, I explore how the construction of sites such as the Golden Gate Park and the Sutro Bath Ruins impacted the natural landscape. I look into how San Francisco interacts with the natural landscape by analyzing events such as William Ralston's "Sussex in the Sahara" conception of what was to be Golden Gate Park and developments and proposals at Lands End during the 1860s through the 1960s. I investigate why the construction of these sites were significant to the emergence of the city's identity and how they might have shaped the city's relationship to the natural landscape. Through these investigations, I hope to understand what the character of San Francisco's developing interactions with the environment.

Walking around the Golden Gate Park, one can see a waterfall, gardens with a diverse set of flowers and a variety of plants. Some San Francisco residents are astonished to learn that this green landscape has not always existed and were in fact cultivated to such an extent that the creation of this park is quite unsustainable. Gray Brechin’s chapter “Water Mains and Bloodlines” in his book Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthley Ruin describes exactly how the Golden Gate Park became San Francisco’s Sussex.

William Ralston was a significant figure in San Francisco working as a financier and businessman during the 1860s.  Many of his projects were intended to increase land values in San Francisco.  One of his projects was to create a park that could “attract desirable, immigrants and investors”’ to the ocean and to help “legalize squatter land claims and quiet contested land titles” (Brechin 1999).  Ralston first asked Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York’s Central Park, to design a park that could surpass New York’s park.  Olmstead advised against such a feat because the lands adjacent to the ocean were tremendously windy.  He instead suggested that the plan be moved to just west of the city center, but his advice was ignored and another engineer was hired for the job (Brechin 1999).

William Hammond Hall was the engineer that would make the Golden Gate Park possible.  His experiments with dune anchoring barley and lupine were a success in raising more than just dust in the wind-swept sand dunes that made Land’s End.  However, in order for the park to be realized a lot of water was needed to support plant growth.  The Spring Valley Water Works had to find more water to “keep the illusion of Sussex in the Sahara alive” (Brechin 1999).

Before San Francisco had its Golden Gate Park, there was no natural recreational area, let alone any kind of public grounds for the city’s residents to enjoy and use to escape from the city.  In the 1850s Charles C. Butler purchased 160 acres of land around Point Lobos (Delgado et al 2000).  He used this land to develop a fashionable and exclusive resort that included the Cliff House.  Many of the city’s residents could not afford to visit this resort.  To get there, people had to travel to the site by carriage, paying tolls along the way (Delgado et al 2000), and then there was also a fee to stay a night at the inn.  During the 1870s the Cliff House declined in popularity and eventually in 1881, a man named Adolph Sutro bought the house and surrounding land.

"You have not seen San Francisco if you have not been to Sutro Baths and Museum." (Image from the Cliff House Project)

From 1881 to 1898, Adolph Sutro began to build the Sutro Heights recreational complex.  Sutro obtained much of his wealth through the Comstock Lode.  He designed a tunnel to attempt to improve ventilation, drainage and safety problems for the miners (Western Neighborhood Project, 2004). In 1885, Sutro’s recreational complex opened to the public.  In 1896, the Sutro Baths were completed.  The trip on the Park and Ocean Railroad from downtown San Francisco to the seaside cost 20 cents round trip.  It was very important to Sutro that everyone in the city, not just the affluent, gets to enjoy his development at Land’s End.  

(Image from the Cliff House Project)

Sutro showed just how much he meant that his recreational complex remain affordable when he began to conflict with Southern Pacific railroad.  In 1893, the Cliff House and Ferries Railway were purchased by Market Street Railway Company, which was a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Even though Sutro demanded that the fare not be increased, Souther Pacific Railroad did just that and increased the fare to 10 cents.  Infuriated, Sutro fenced the property surrounding the recreational area and began to charge a fee to anyone who took the rail line managed by Southern Pacific.  To rival Southern Pacific, Sutro then had another railroad built on Presidion Ave. just above Clement St, the street in which the Southern Pacific railroad operated, and charged half what Southern Pacific charged.  Sutro’s tactics worked and profits for the Southern Pacific fell by 75%.

Image from the Cliff House Project

Image from The Cliff House Project
The Sutro Baths were very significant to the city’s self-image.  As shown in one of the pictures above, the overriding sentiment attached to the Sutro complex was that if one hasn’t seen San Francisco without a visit to the Sutro Baths and Museum. Even after the baths’ demise, the city demonstrated their attachment to the complex.  When the Sutro Baths burned down in 1967, thousands of the city’s residents went to watch (Delgado et al., 2000).  In 1969, when the architectural firm run by Wurster, Bernardi, Emmons proposed a development plan to convert Land’s End into a resort, the community lashed out against it, determined to preserve the cultural landscape. The plan was dropped and the land was added to the Golden Gate National Recreation area (Delgado et al., 2000).

Rosen’s and Tarr’s article “The Importance of an Urban Perspective in Environmental History” begins by stating environmental historian Donald Worster’s definition of what exactly environmental history means: “the role and place of nature in human life” (Rosen and Tarr, 1994). In this definition, Worster argues that there is no need to study the built environment when analyzing nature because the built environment concerns itself chiefly with culture, while the purpose of environmental history studies nature (Rosen and Tarr 1994). However, critical of Worster’s definition, William Cronon stated that the built environment is very much intricately connected with the role of nature in human life. From the research that I have done and the sites I have examined at the Golden Gate Park and Sutro Bath Ruins, I have found that the urban landscape often shapes nature just as much as nature influences humans.

Works Cited
Brechin, Gray. Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin. University of California Press, Berkeley: 1999.

Delgado, James P., Bradley, Denise, Scolari, Paul M. and Stephen A. Haller, 2000. “The History and Significance of the Adolph Sutro Historic District: excerpts from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared in 2000.” National Park Service: Sutro Baths History.

Rosen, Chrsitine Meiser and Arthur Tarr. “The Importance of an Urban Perspective in Environmental History.” Journal of Urban History, 20: 299, 1994. 

Western Neighborhood Project "Adolph Sutro."2004 http://www.outsidelands.org/sutro.php


How cities can promote environmental justice

Maybe cities aren't the best proponents of environmental justice (as of now).  Most often, cities are the scene of the crime - fires at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA, air pollution from the port in Wilmington, CA.  These cases and others like it impact already vulnerable communities the most, but it doesn't have to be so.

Environmental Justice.  It was hard to define this especially because I hear so many different meanings. But the best and clearest definition I've heard comes from activist Majora Carter "no community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other." In her TED talk, Carter speaks of how the creation of a greenway along the South Bronx waterfront transformed the surrounding neighborhoods with green open spaces and mixed-use economic development.

I am inspired to think that cities don't have to be the sites of social and environmental degradation anymore.

Here is Majora Carter on "Greening the Ghetto"


Me on Vacation

From either humortrain.com or failblog.org (I forget)

Ugh, the sad truth. It's spring break and I have to drag myself to go outside. But so far, it has not been a total waste.  I went to a Trader Joe's for the first time and splurged on their chocolate almonds.  It's the small victories that count.

The big victory is that I survived near death by challenging my inexperienced Angeleno legs to bike San Francisco's hilly streets, much to the annoyance of the motorists behind me.  Never mind the hills, the ridiculous wind speed alone almost toppled me into the car's path.  I'm exaggerating, but those winds do travel really fast.  

So, chocolate almonds and conqueror of Market Street, SF. Pretty good start to my first spring break away from home.

Farmer's Market at Market/7th St


Millard Canyon Hike

I like to sleep in until 10am when there's no class I have to push myself out of bed for, but I woke up at 6:22am this Sunday morning ready to go hiking in Altadena near JPL.

The day had a rough start. There was a group of us going in a small bus, but two of my friends went on their own and got desperately lost, never making it to the canyon. Although from what they described, they did have an exasperatingly hysterical adventure of their own, getting lost in the canyon and having a run in with a Jet Propulsion Lab security guard (never to be messed with) and getting mistaken for house maids in a gated community. But that's definitely a whole other story.

Those of us on the bus headed out from Pasadena City College in the right direction thankfully. Along the way we passed the haunted/Enchanted Forest where my friend described the morbid details behind the forest's notoriety. Evidently, there used to be a meat processing plant underground, somewhere in the canyon wall I suppose, where two men dragged their victims to their deaths. Though now teenagers and college students dare themselves and their friends into the canyon during the dead of night, keeping an eye out for ghosts and scarily enough, the cops. The bus rumbled on and we passed near Gravity Hill where, as the story goes, the ghosts of schoolchildren from a horrible accident push your car up the hill while the car is in neutral. We passed the places of these (could be true) urban legends and headed into Millard Canyon.

We had reached the Millard campgrounds and gotten off the bus before I, mortified, realized that this wasn't the place we were meeting the volunteers from another organization. The bus was about to leave stranding us, but my friend signaled the driver and let him know that this wasn't the right place. We boarded the bus again and headed down the canyon towards JPL finally reaching the right road.

We had planned to join with a local environmental organization called the Arroyo Seco Foundation, but found that they had headed up the canyon trail before we got there. However, one of the organization volunteers was thankfully notified that we were trying to reach them and so came down to meet us.

Once in the canyon we wound our way through jutting rocks and the small streams sheltering the small frogs that call the canyon home. We passed over makeshift wooden planks over larger streams, careful not to let any one of us fall into the water. One of volunteers had smartly brought his rain boots and was able to make his way through the course of the stream without fear of getting wet.

Can you see the frog??
In addition to frogs we also found a salamander that was accidentally startled when one of our participants passed a little too close to it prompting the salamander to hurriedly make it's way up the canyon from the stream.

The main reason we went in the hike though was to pick up trash and so as soon as we met up with the rest of the group, which consisted of a couple girl scouts and boy scouts earning their badges with their parents, we got some trash bags and those metal trash picker uppers whose name escapes me and began to look for any trash around the canyon.

It was a really fun time. We learned a bit about the plants around and how it was used in the past. For instance, the Native Americans used mule fat for bows and arrows because of how straight it is. Though it's called mule fat because miners on their way up the canyon would feed their mules the plant to keep them nourished.

The air was fresh and brisk and there were only a couple of people on the canyon trail with their dogs. Though it felt isolated and was quiet, at the top of the canyon to the side were houses, which might have explained a rusty sink we found at the bottom of the canyon.

Bonus: There's a couple great bike paths near the canyon that go alongside the stream and JPL.

I will definitely be returning soon.