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About Berkeley

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in Northern California, in the United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington. The eastern city limits coincide with the county line (bordering Contra Costa County) which generally follows the ridgeline of the Berkeley Hills. Berkeley is located in northern Alameda County.

Berkeley is the site of the University of California, Berkeley, the oldest campus of the University of California system, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Hall of Science, Space Sciences Laboratory, and Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, which are on the campus grounds.


The site of today's City of Berkeley was the territory of the Chochen/Huichin band of the Ohlone people when the first Europeans arrived. Remnants of their existence in the area include pits in various rock formations which were used to grind acorns from native oak trees, and a shellmound now mostly leveled and covered up along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay at the mouth of Strawberry Creek. Other artifacts were discovered in the 1950s in the downtown area during the remodeling of a commercial building, near the upper course of the same Strawberry Creek.

The first people of European ancestry (most of whom were actually of mixed ancestry and born in America) arrived with the De Anza Expedition of 1776, which is today noted by signage on U.S. Interstate 80 which runs along the San Francisco Bay shoreline of Berkeley. The De Anza Expedition resulted in the establishment of the Spanish Presidio of San Francisco at the entrance to San Francisco Bay (the "Golden Gate") which is due west of Berkeley. Among the soldiers serving at the Presidio was one Luís Peralta. For his services to the King of Spain, he was granted a vast extent of land on the east shore of San Francisco Bay (the contra costa, "opposite shore") for a ranch, including that portion which now comprises the City of Berkeley.

Luis Peralta named his holding "Rancho San Antonio". The primary activity of the ranch was the raising of cattle for meat and hides, but hunting and farming were also pursued. Eventually, he gave portions of his ranch to each of his four sons. Most of the portion that is now Berkeley was the domain of his son Domingo, the rest being held by his son Vicente. No artifact survives of the ranches of Domingo or Vicente, although their names have been preserved in the naming of Berkeley streets (Vicente, Domingo, and Peralta). However, the legal title to all land in the City of Berkeley remains based on the original Peralta land grant.

The Peraltas' Rancho San Antonio continued after Alta California passed from Spanish to Mexican sovereignty as a result of the Mexican War of Independence. However, the advent of U.S. sovereignty as a result of the Mexican-American War, and especially, the Gold Rush, saw the Peralta's lands quickly encroached on by squatters and diminished by dubious legal proceedings. The lands of the brothers Domingo and Vicente were quickly reduced to reservations close to their respective ranch homes. The rest of the land was surveyed and parceled out to various American claimants.

Politically, the area that became Berkeley was initially part of a vast Contra Costa County. On March 25, 1853, Alameda County was created by division of Contra Costa County.

The area of Berkeley was at this period mostly a mix of open land, farms and ranches, with a small though busy wharf by the Bay. It was not yet "Berkeley", but merely the northern part of the "Oakland Township" subdivision of Alameda County.

In 1866, the private College of California located in the city of Oakland sought out a new site. They picked a location north of Oakland along the foot of the Contra Costa Hills (later called the Berkeley Hills) astride Strawberry Creek, and at about an elevation of 500 feet (150 m) above the Bay, commanding a fantastic view of the Bay Area and the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate.

According to the Centennial Record of the University of California, "In 1866…at Founders' Rock, a group of College of California men were watching two ships standing out to sea through the Golden Gate. One of them, Frederick Billings, was reminded of the lines of Bishop Berkeley, 'westward the course of empire takes its way,' and suggested that the town and college site be named for the eighteenth-century Irish philosopher and poet."

The College of California's "College Homestead Association" planned to raise funds for their new campus by selling off parcels of land adjacent to it. To this end, they laid out a plat and street grid which became the basis of Berkeley's modern street plan. Their plans fell far short of their desires, and collaboration was then begun with the State of California, culminating in 1868 with the creation of the public University of California.

As construction began on the new site, more residences began to be constructed in the vicinity of the new campus. At the same time, a settlement of residences, saloons, and various industries had also been growing up around the wharf on the bayshore called "Ocean View". A horsecar line was constructed out from Temescal in Oakland along what is today's Telegraph Avenue to the University campus.

By the 1870s the Transcontinental Railroad had reached its terminus in Oakland. In 1876, a branch line of the Central Pacific Railroad, the Berkeley Branch Railroad, was laid from Oakland into what is now downtown Berkeley. That same year, the main line of the transcontinental railroad into Oakland was re-routed, putting the right-of-way along the bayshore through Ocean View.

In 1878, the people of Ocean View and the area around the University campus, together with the local farmers incorporated themselves as the Town of Berkeley. The first elected trustees of the Town were the slate of Dennis Kearney's Workingman's Party who were particularly favored in the working class area of the former Ocean View, now called "West Berkeley". The area near the University became known as "East Berkeley".

The modern age came quickly to Berkeley, no doubt due to the influence of the University. Electric lights were in use by 1888. The telephone had already come to town. Electric streetcars soon replaced the horsecar. A silent film of one of these early streetcars in Berkeley can be seen at the Library of Congress website: "A Trip To Berkeley, California"

Berkeley's slow growth ended abruptly with the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The town and other parts of the East Bay somehow managed to escape even moderate damage from the massive temblor, and hundreds if not thousands of refugees flowed across the Bay. In 1909, the citizens of Berkeley adopted a new charter, and the Town of Berkeley became the City of Berkeley. Rapid growth continued right up to the Crash of 1929. The Great Depression hit Berkeley hard, but not as hard as many other places in the U.S. thanks in part to the University.

On September 17, 1923, a major fire swept down the hills toward the University campus and the downtown section. Some 640 structures burned before a late afternoon sea breeze stopped its progress, allowing firefighters to put it out.

The next big growth occurred with the advent of World War II when large numbers of people moved into the Bay Area to work in the many war industries, such as the immense Kaiser Shipyards in nearby Richmond. One who moved out, but played a big role in the outcome of the War was U.C. Professor and Berkeley resident J. Robert Oppenheimer. During the war, an Army base, Camp Ashby, was temporarily sited in Berkeley.

The postwar years saw moderate growth of the City, but events on the U.C. campus began to build up to the recognizable activism of the sixties. In the 1950s, McCarthyism induced the University to demand a loyalty oath from its professors, many of whom refused to sign any such oath on the principle of freedom of thought. In 1960, a U.S. House committee (HUAC) came to San Francisco to investigate the influence of communists in the Bay Area. Their inquisition was met by protesters, including many from the University. Meanwhile, a number of U.C. students became active in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, the University in 1964 provoked a massive student protest by banning the distribution of political literature on campus. This protest became known as the Free Speech Movement. As the Vietnam War rapidly escalated in the ensuing years, so did student activism at the University, particularly that organized by the Vietnam Day Committee.

Perhaps the crowning event of the Berkeley Sixties scene was the conflict over a parcel of University property south of the contiguous campus site which came to be called "People's Park".

People's Park with high-rise student housing in the background
People's Park with high-rise student housing in the background

The battle over the disposition of People's Park resulted in a month-long occupation of Berkeley by the National Guard on orders of then-Governor Ronald Reagan. In the end, the park remained undeveloped, and remains so today. A spin-off "People's Park Annex" was established at the same time by activist citizens of Berkeley on a strip of land above the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway construction along Hearst Avenue northwest of the U.C. campus. The land had also been intended for development, but was peacefully turned over to the City and is now Ohlone Park.

The era of large public protest in Berkeley waned considerably with the end of the Vietnam War in 1974. But activist politics continue. One person who rose in prominence during the late sixties and into the seventies was Ron Dellums, nephew of C.L. Dellums, an African American labor leader. He first served on the Berkeley City Council, and later became a Congressman for the district which includes Berkeley. He was elected as Mayor of Oakland in 2006.

The 1970s saw a decline in the population of Berkeley, partly due to an exodus to the suburbs. Some moved because of the rising cost of living throughout the Bay Area, and others because of the decline and disappearance of many industries in West Berkeley.

The period from the 1980s right up to the present has been marked by a continuation of rising costs, particularly with respect to housing, especially since the mid-1990s. In 2005–2007, sales of homes appear to finally be slowing, but the average home price is still among the highest in the nation.

Although many think of the 1960s as the heyday of liberalism in Berkeley, it remains one of the most overwhelmingly liberal cities in the United States, with its 2004 presidential vote going more than 90% for John Kerry (54,419 votes) versus only 6.7% for George W. Bush (4,010 votes).


Berkeley is located at 37°52′18″N, -122°16′29″W (37.871775, -122.274603)GR1.

View of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay from LBNL.
View of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay from LBNL.
View of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay at nightfall.
View of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay at nightfall.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 17.7 mi² (45.9 km²). 10.5 mi² (27.1 km²) of it is land and 7.2 mi² (18.8 km²) of it (40.94%) is water, most of it the adjoining San Francisco Bay.

Berkeley borders the cities of Albany, Oakland, and Emeryville and unincorporated Contra Costa County including Kensington as well as San Francisco Bay.


Most of Berkeley lies on a rolling sedimentary plain, rising gently from sea level to the base of the Berkeley Hills. From there, the land rises dramatically. The highest peak along the ridgeline above Berkeley is Grizzly Peak, elevation 1,754 feet (535 m). A number of small creeks run from the hills to the Bay through Berkeley: Codornices, Schoolhouse, Marin and Strawberry are the principal streams. Most of these are largely culverted once they reach the plain west of the hills.

The Berkeley Hills are part of the Pacific Coast Ranges, and run in a northwest-southeast alignment. In Berkeley, the hills consist mainly of a soft, crumbly rock with outcroppings of harder material of old (and extinct) volcanic origin. These rhyolite formations can be seen in several city parks and in the yards of a number of private residences. One such park is Indian Rock Park in the northeastern part of Berkeley near the Arlington/Marin Circle.

Berkeley is traversed by the Hayward Fault, a major branch of the San Andreas Fault to the west. No large earthquake has occurred on the Hayward Fault near Berkeley in historic times (except possibly in 1836), but seismologists warn about the geologic record of large temblors several times in the deeper past, and their current assessment is that a quake of 6.5 or greater is imminent, sometime within the next 30 years.

In 1868, a large earthquake did occur on the southern segment of the Hayward Fault in the vicinity of today's city of Hayward (hence, how the fault got its name). This quake destroyed the county seat of Alameda County then located in San Leandro and it was subsequently moved to Oakland. It was strongly felt in San Francisco, causing major damage, and waking up one Samuel Clemens (also known as Mark Twain). It was regarded as the "Great San Francisco Quake" prior to 1906. The quake produced a furrow in the ground along the faultline in Berkeley, across the grounds of the new State Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind then under construction which was noted by one early University of California professor. Although no significant damage was reported to most of the few buildings which then existed in Berkeley, the 1868 quake did destroy the vulnerable adobe home of Domingo Peralta in north Berkeley. [1]

Today, the Hayward Fault can be seen "creeping" at various locations in Berkeley, although since it cuts across the base of the hills, this creep is typically concealed by and confused with slide activity. Some of this slide activity however is itself the result of the Hayward Fault's slow movement. Springs and sharp perpendicular jogs of streams are another sign of the fault's location and movement.

One notorious segment of the Hayward Fault runs lengthwise right down the middle of Memorial Stadium at the mouth of Strawberry Canyon on the campus of the University of California. Photos and measurements show the movement of the fault through the stadium.



Berkeley has a Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and wet winters as is typical in the Mediterranean region, but with a cool modification in summer thanks to upwelling ocean currents along the California coast.

Winter is punctuated with rainstorms of varying ferocity and duration, but also produces stretches of bright sunny days and clear cold nights. It does not normally snow, though occasionally the hilltops get a dusting. Spring and fall are transitional and intermediate, with some rainfall and variable temperature. Summer typically brings night and morning fog, followed by sunny, warm days. The warmest and driest months are typically June through September, with the highest temperatures occurring in September. Mid-summer (July–August) is often a bit cooler due to the sea breezes and fog which are normally most strongly developed then.

In the late spring and early fall, strong offshore winds of sinking air typically develop, bringing heat and dryness to the area. In the spring, this is not usually a problem as vegetation is still moist from winter rains, but extreme dryness prevails by the fall, creating a danger of wildfires. In September 1923 a major fire swept through the neighborhoods north of the University campus, stopping just short of downtown. (See 1923 Berkeley fire). On October 20, 1991, gusty hot winds fanned a conflagration along the Berkeley-Oakland border, killing 25 people and injuring 150, as well as destroying 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. (See 1991 Oakland firestorm)

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high temp. °F (°C) 56
Avg low temp. °F (°C) 44
Rainfall in. (cm) 5.1
Table 1: Berkeley Climate Data [2]

[edit] Demographics

Street fair on Telegraph Avenue
Street fair on Telegraph Avenue
1890 5,101
1900 13,214
1910 40,434
1920 56,036
1930 82,109
1940 85,547
1950 113,805
1960 111,268
1970 116,716
1980 103,328
1990 102,724
2000 102,743
2005 100,744
2000 Census [3]
City Data estimate (2005) [4]

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 102,743 people, 44,955 households, and 18,656 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,792.5/km² (9,823.3/mi²), one of the highest in California. There were 46,875 housing units at an average density of 1,730.3/km² (4,481.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 59.17% White, 16.39% Asian, 13.63% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 4.64% from other races, and 5.57% from two or more races. 9.73% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 44,955 households out of which 17.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.9% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 58.5% were non-families and/or unmarried couples. 38.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 14.1% under the age of 18, 21.6% from 18 to 24, 31.8% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $44,485, and the median income for a family was $70,434. Males had a median income of $50,789 versus $40,623 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,477. About 8.3% of families and 20.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.4% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.


Berkeley is served by Amtrak (Capitol Corridor), AC Transit, BART (Downtown Berkeley Station, North Berkeley, and Ashby Station) and bus shuttles operated by major employers including UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The Eastshore Freeway (Interstate 80 and Interstate 580) runs along the bay shoreline. Each day there is an influx of thousands of cars into the city by commuting UC faculty, staff and students, making parking for more than a few hours an expensive proposition.

Berkeley has one of the highest rates of bicycle and pedestrian commuting in the nation. Berkeley is the safest city of its size in California for pedestrians and cyclists, considering the number of injuries per pedestrian and cyclist, rather than per capita.[5]

Berkeley has modified its original grid roadway structure through use of diverters and barriers, moving most traffic out of neighborhoods and onto arterial streets (visitors often find this confusing, because the diverters are not shown on all maps). Berkeley maintains a separate grid of arterial streets for bicycles, called Bicycle Boulevards, with bike lanes and lower amounts of car traffic than the major streets to which they often run parallel.

Berkeley hosts a car sharing network run by City CarShare. Rather than owning (and parking) their own cars, members share a group of cars parked nearby. Online reservation systems keep track of hours and charges. Several "pods" (points of departure where cars are kept) exist throughout the city, in several downtown locations and at the Ashby BART station in South Berkeley.

Berkeley has had recurring problems with parking meters. In 1999, over 2,400 Berkeley meters were jammed, smashed, or sawed apart[6]. Starting in 2005 and continuing into 2006, Berkeley began to phase out mechanical meters in favor of more centralized electronic meters.


Transportation past

The first commuter service to San Francisco was provided by the Central Pacific's Berkeley Branch Railroad, a standard gauge steam railroad which connected in Emeryville with trains to the Oakland ferry pier from downtown Berkeley starting in 1876. This line was extended from Shattuck and University to Vine Street ("Berryman's Station") in 1878. Eventually, the Berkeley trains ran directly to the Oakland Pier. In the 1880s, Southern Pacific assumed operations of the Berkeley Branch. In 1911, Southern Pacific electrified this line and the several others it constructed in Berkeley, creating its East Bay Electric Lines division. The huge and heavy cars specially built for these lines came to be called the "Big Red Trains". The Shattuck line was extended and connected with two other Berkeley lines (the Ninth Street Line and the California Street line) at Solano and Colusa (the "Colusa Wye"). It was at this time that the Northbrae Tunnel and the Rose Street Undercrossing were constructed, both of which still exist (the Rose Street Undercrossing is not accessible to the public, being situated between what is now two backyards). The last Red Trains ran in July, 1941.

The first electric rail service in Berkeley was provided by several small streetcar companies starting in 1891. Most of these were eventually bought up by the Key System of Francis "Borax" Smith who added lines and improved equipment. The Key System's streetcars were operated by its East Bay Street Railways division. Principal lines in Berkeley ran on Euclid, The Arlington, College, Telegraph, Shattuck, and Grove (today's Martin Luther King Jr. Way). The last streetcars ran in 1948, replaced by buses.

The first electric commuter interurban-type trains to San Francisco from Berkeley were put in operation by the Key System in 1903, several years before the Southern Pacific electrified its steam commuter lines. Like the SP, Key trains ran to a pier serviced by the Key's own fleet of ferryboats which also docked at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. After the Bay Bridge was built, the Key trains ran to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, sharing tracks on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge with the SP's red trains and the Sacramento Northern Railroad. It was at this time that the Key trains acquired their letter designations, which were later preserved by Key's public successor, AC Transit. Today's F bus is the successor of the F train. Likewise, the E, G and the H. Before the Bridge, these lines were simply the Shattuck Avenue Line, the Claremont Line, the Westbrae Line, and the Sacramento Street Line, respectively.

After the Southern Pacific abandoned transbay service in 1941, the Key System acquired the rights to use its tracks and catenary on Shattuck north of Ward Street and through the Northbrae Tunnel to The Alameda for the F-train, and also the tracks along Monterey Avenue as far as Colusa for the H-train. The Key System trains stopped running in April of 1958. In 1963, the Northbrae Tunnel was opened to auto traffic.



Major streets


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Points of interest

Other notable places include:

Landmarks and Historic Districts

165 buildings in Berkeley are designated as local landmarks or local structures of merit. Of these, 49 are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including:

Historic Districts listed in the National Register of Histori

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