West Berkeley, Berkeley, California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Coordinates: 37°52′28″N 122°17′55″W / 37.87444°N 122.29861°W / 37.87444; -122.29861 West Berkeley is generally the area of Berkeley, California, that lies west of San Pablo Avenue (though sometimes it may also refer to the larger area west of Sacramento Street though this includes Westbrae), abutting San Francisco Bay. It includes the area that was once the unincorporated town of Ocean View, as well as the filled-in areas along the shoreline west of I-80 (the Eastshore Freeway), mainly including the Berkeley Marina. It lies at an elevation of 23 feet (7 m).


The area's first inhabitants were indigenous people who settled along Strawberry Creek around 3700 BC. They built one of the largest – and possibly the first – of the 425 shell mounds around San Francisco Bay. Archaeologists estimate that native people lived on or near the West Berkeley Shellmound for 4,500 years,[1] until the Medieval Dry Period. They abandoned the West Berkeley Shellmound around 800 AD. However, where the people went is still a mystery. They may have associated with other mound dwellers or left the area entirely. The extant Ohlone tribe may be their descendants.

Ocean View was the name of a stagecoach stop established by former sea captain William J. Bowen along the Contra Costa Road (today's San Pablo Avenue) in the 1860s. The name derived from the area's view of the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate across San Francisco Bay. The moniker was adopted by the settlement that grew up between the stagecoach stop and the wharf built at the foot of what is now Delaware Street. Ocean View was included in the incorporation of Berkeley in 1878 and thereafter was known as West Berkeley. The first mayor (technically, the President of the Board of Trustees) of the newly incorporated Town of Berkeley was elected from Ocean View, Abel Whitton of the Workingman's Party; he served from 1878 to 1881. Ocean View was also, briefly (1908-9), the name of what is now Albany, California, just north of Berkeley. Ocean View was primarily an industrial, working class community.

The name "Ocean View" was revived during the 1970s when neighbors fought against the City's West Berkeley Redevelopment Project. Those struggling to save what remained of the old Victorian neighborhood coalesced to form the Ocean View Committee. The OVC, in association with Berkeley preservationists, assemblymen and congressmen, succeeded in saving Ocean View.

The area later went on to experience a full revival of apartment building and commerce. Beginning in the late 1970s, the development of the retail commercial area along 4th Street led to a gradual gentrification of the surrounding residential area. Businesses located there include Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel Outlet, Restoration Hardware, Bette's Oceanview Diner, Builder's Booksource (an architectural bookstore), Aveda, Bare Escentuals and Peet's Coffee and Tea. Cody's Books was formerly located there.

Tours of West Berkeley – conducted since the 1970s – feature the area's restored buildings.[2][3][4]


The main east-west thoroughfare in Ocean View was Delaware Street. In later years, it was eclipsed by University Avenue. The main north-south thoroughfare was San Pablo Road (initially called the Contra Costa Road), today's San Pablo Avenue.

One of the earliest buildings in Berkeley was an inn at the Ocean View stagecoach stop called "Bowen's Inn", located at what is now the northwest corner of San Pablo Avenue and Delaware Street.

The earliest school in what is now Berkeley was the Ocean View School located on the southeast corner of Virginia Street and San Pablo Avenue, established in 1856. The creek that flowed adjacent to the school was dubbed "Schoolhouse Creek". The school was subsequently renamed The San Pablo Avenue School, and again later The Franklin Elementary School. Nothing of the original Ocean View School building remains. In June 2002, The Franklin Elementary School was closed and transformed into the Berkeley Adult School which opened on September 7, 2004.

Just east of I-80 between Ashby and University Avenues is Aquatic Park created in the 1930s by the WPA. Its centerpiece is an artificial mile-long lagoon.


The wharf at the foot of Delaware Street began as "Jacobs Landing", named for its builder and proprietor, James H. Jacobs. The wharf was improved and enlarged with the help of Zimri Heywood, the proprietor of a lumberyard at the wharf, and then renamed "Jacobs and Heywood Wharf". Lumber, soap, hay, and many other goods were transhipped from the wharf. Ferry service was established between the wharf and San Francisco in 1874.

In 1876, the Central Pacific Railroad constructed its new main line, part of the transcontinental overland route, along the shoreline. A passenger and freight depot was built at Delaware Street. This was replaced in 1911 by a depot at 3rd Street and University Avenue.

Amtrak's Berkeley Station is now located adjacent to this former depot and provides daily train service.

Local public transportation in the West Berkeley area is provided by Emery Go-Round and AC Transit.


West Berkeley was one of the Bay Area's principal industrial zones up until about the 1960s, after which it began to decline. Several well-known companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, Heinz, Canada Dry, and Cutter Labs had plants in West Berkeley.

Some industry remains: Pacific Steel Casting, opened 1934 and located in West Berkeley, was the third-largest steel foundry in the United States as of 2007. West Berkeley is also home to Fantasy Studios, a film and former music production company.

The drug manufacturer Bayer, who bought Cutter Labs, has a large manufacturing facility in West Berkeley and is the city's largest private-sector employer. In 2009, it contemplated leaving the Berkeley campus to reduce costs, but as of 2014 it has instead expanded its facilities and job footprint.[5]

Explosives factory accident[edit]

On 9 July 1892 a nitroglycerine explosion at the Giant Powder Company set off a series of three huge explosions in the company store-houses. These consisted of, respectively, 350 tons of giant powder (blasting powder based on dynamite), 150 tons of black powder, and a large quantity of dynamite. Several smaller explosions occurred and hundreds of tons of sulphur stored on the wharf caught fire. Rivers of nitric and sulphuric acid ran out of the factory. Six people were killed and many injured. Buildings all around were destroyed as well as the factory. Buildings on the other side of the bay in San Francisco were also damaged and a ship 150 miles out to sea reported feeling the blast. A woman several miles from the blast was hit on the head by a piece of falling plaster and went insane.[6][7]


  1. ^ Curl, John (21 September 2003). "The shellmound: more than a parking lot". Berkeley Landmarks. 
  2. ^ "Berkeley "Magical History Tour--Ocean View District" Part 2". Times-Herald. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Magical History Tour of West Berkeley". Berkeley Patch. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Taylor, Tracey (23 August 2012). "The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Berkeley praises Bayer, city's largest for-profit employer". Berkeleyside. November 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ Friedman, Lawrence M, "Civil wrongs: personal injury law in the late 19th century", Law & Social Inquiry, vol. 12, iss. 2-3, pp. 351–378, April 1987 on p. 362.
  7. ^ "Terrible explosion:Giant Powder Works at West Berkeley blown up", Sacramento Daily Union, 11 July 1892.

External links[edit]