Welcome to Walking Berkeley! Please see the About page for background about this project. I completed my goal of walking every street and path in Berkeley at the end of 2007. Although this blog ended with the completion of the project, the archives will stay up and available for browsing. Enjoy!
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Georgia of Local Ecology asked me to submit a post for her Tree Walks feature on Local Ecologist. Read the post about my experiences with fruit trees, and while you’re there browse the rest of her blog for lots of interesting observations on neighborhoods, landscape design, urban forestry, and much more. I particularly like Georgia’s reading lists; thanks to her suggestions I have learned about books like the wonderful There, There: East San Francisco Bay at Your Feet, by Margot Patterson Doss. Berkeley Public Library has copies of the book, and you can check out some of Doss’ columns posted on Local Ecologist.
I had planned a longer post today, but had a few more bits and pieces of information come up that were relevant to past postings:
Thanks to Laurie, who commented here that she found a Wednesday hiking group in Marin that has an offshoot group of Wednesday hikes in the East Bay. I like that many of the Marin hikes meet at a bus stop, and also noticed that one of the upcoming East Bay hikes is one that I had been hoping to do myself, a trek from Orinda BART over the hill to Berkeley BART. I also ran across the Weekly Wanderers all-women hiking group, which has regular East Bay hikes and urban walks in Berkeley and neighboring cities. Glancing through the group’s message archives, it looks like there are quite a few that are transit accessible and others that have carpools from Berkeley.
Also, thanks to the ever-observant Georgia for pointing out the recent Chronicle food section article about healthy after-school snacks, which has suggestions from Berkeley Unified School District’s nutrition services director Ann Cooper. I had actually recently checked out Cooper’s book, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, from the library. The book has a bunch of recipes from Cooper, from the Chez Panisse Foundation, and other sources, if you are looking for more child-friendly and healthy food ideas.
Catching up on the Berkeley Daily Planet, I found that they have a review of Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley, which I mentioned in my last post. Another recent issue has a series of articles on getting around Berkeley without a car, covering walking, transit, and bicycles.
One artist that I didn’t point out in Why People Walk: Art is Simon Pope. A friend recently gave me a copy of his book London Walking: A Handbook for Survival, which is far from a typical guidebook to sightseeing in London. While there are details specific to the city, the book contains all sorts of thoughts and ideas about walking in general. Here are just a few of the section titles: improvised navigation, lichen and fungi, roadside barriers and fencing, consumer geomancy, fractal lawns, street games, walking the underpasses, calorific values of specific cakes and pastries, warning to hat wearers, and spiral stair techniques. The book is UK-published, but available in the U.S. Highly recommended!
Speaking of books, I’ve mentioned Berkeley Rocks a couple of times here, and it got a mention in the Chronicle this week. This quote, of course, drew me in:
Suddenly, you get it. This is how that North Berkeley neighborhood was meant to be explored — not in a car, but slowly, with awareness, on foot.
Recently I’ve seen a couple of mentions of the website Walk Score, a Google Maps mashup that allows you to enter an address find out how “walkable” a neighborhood is. This application specifically focuses on proximity to stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. My address got a score of 75 out of 100, which surprised me because I can easily walk to everything I need within a mile. I tried some other addresses, and the highest score I got for Berkeley was the Elmwood neighborhood, at 95. An address in the area discussed in the Chronicle article above received a 40. As the website mentions, there are a number of factors that cannot be taken into account (such as transit, safety, and street trees), but this is still a fun application to play around with and as a reminder of what’s in your neighborhood that is walking distance.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a nice article today about neighbors who have taken down fences to combine their backyards. Not mentioned in the article is a block of houses in Berkeley known as “The Meadows” where the fences have been down for for a number of years. I’ve been to another shared backyard in Oakland, and imagine there are others out there in the area.
Also in the news is the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, which was passed last night by the Berkeley City Council. Normally I don’t report on politics here, but this is worth pointing out because it is of interest to walkers. The initiative is meant to make shopping districts more inviting by banning activities such as smoking in front of businesses, yelling, urinating in public, etc. The initiative has been criticized by homelessness advocacy groups. As the initiative begins to be enforced, I will report on what changes (if any) I notice when walking in commercial districts.
In response to my post about Front Porches, Georgia at Local Ecologist noted that she is a member of the Professional Porch Sitters Union, an informal group that encourages sitting on the front porch. Somehow I missed NPR’s series on porches from last summer, which talks about the porch sitters union and other porch-related topics.
The website outside.in recently published a list of the Top Ten Bloggiest Neighborhoods. No Berkeley neighborhoods on the list, but who knows — maybe someday! Around the same time that I saw this list Mark Celsor left a comment here about his Willard Park Blog started last month, described as “a place to post information about life in the neighborhoods just south of the university in Berkeley. The blog takes its name from Willard Park at the corner of Derby and Hillegass, halfway between the Elmwood and Telegraph shopping districts.” Camelia Street Blog is a “neighborhood blog devoted to quality of life issues for those living and working in west Berkeley.” The long-running Scrambled Eggs & Lox blog covers the Potter Creek area of west Berkeley.
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard about any other every-street walkers, so it was fun to find out about this guy who walked every street in Manhattan in under 3 months. Thanks to Gary at Runs Brooklyn for letting me know about this site!
Many of you have commented or sent notes about the photos on my blog, some of which are taken by Joe Reifer. If you’re in the Bay area and want to check out some more of his work, there will be an opening for his show this Friday (along with photographer Troy Paiva) at the Lucky Juju Pinball Gallery in Alameda. For a car-free trip from Berkeley, take BART to 12th Street Oakland and connect to AC Transit Bus 51, which has a drop off right by Lucky Juju (Santa Clara St.) and runs every 10-20 minutes. And speaking of Alameda, I have always thought this would be a great city for walking every street: it’s an island, it has lots of interesting houses and buildings, and a closed naval air station that has lots of redevelopment projects in process.
Some notes related to past entries:
When I wrote my last post about books, I did not realize that Barnes & Noble was planning to close. This is not the sort of news that will probably cause a stir like Cody’s closing — Barnes & Noble is a huge chain, and there are other nearby locations — but it is interesting to think about. Across the street on Shattuck from Barnes & Noble is the independent bookseller Pegasus, but the two stores carry a very different selection of books.
Last summer when I talked about the North Berkeley rock parks, I mentioned that a new books was due out called Berkeley Rocks. It’s out now, and I just got a copy of the book. It’s a very fun and interesting book, and includes photos of both things I have seen on my walks and also locations that cannot be seen from the street — including creative ways that homeowners have incorporated the North Berkeley rhyolite into their homes’ architecture. Well worth checking out! The public library has a couple of copies of the book on order, but they have not come in as of this writing.
Some of you may have looked at the website Turn Here, which features short films about specific neighborhoods in the Bay Area and beyond. For Berkeley, they have a humorous film on the Gourmet Ghetto, another about the Shipyard artist community, and East Bay coffee. Lots more neighborhood films on the website as well; it seems like a good vacation planning tool as well.
This post goes against my usual style of talking about one topic or theme, but I have a slowly growing pile of bits and pieces related to past posts that I want to make sure I share:
If you are interested in further scholarly reading related to psychogeography, check out the Bureau of Public Secrets‘ situationist writings. Ken Knabb has translated a number of relevant texts, such as Formulary for a New Urbanism and Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography.
Thanks to James and Georgia for their comments about taco trucks in response to my lunch trucks entry. As James points out, the term “foodie” is “misunderstood by the media to be a hoity toity rich persons moniker – which is absolutely does not NEED to be.” I couldn’t agree more, and the taco truck also provides an example where blogs and websites provide additional resources on a topic beyond the news. There a number of taco truck reviews online for various regions, including one for nearby Oakland’s taco trucks. Georgia noted an article from the local food magazine Edible East Bay that includes trips to both tapas bars and to taco trucks. Also of interest — awhile back I ran across Frugal Foodies, a Tuesday-night dinner series in Berkeley. I have not yet been to one, but it looks great. For $7 you get to help cook and eat a mostly organic feast. Some of the meals focus on specific ingredients or cuisines of the world, and there are guest chef nights.
Georgia, who I mention above, has great blog about neighborhoods called Local Ecology. Various cities are the focus of her posts, but she currently lives in Berkeley and has some interesting posts about Berkeley related topics such as livable (traffic-calmed streets), landmarks, and bicycling.
Berkeley, A City in History, a series of lectures at the Berkeley History Room of the Berkeley Public Library, offers a nice history of periods in Berkeley history. Apparently the History Room publishes a pamphlet of fiction set in Berkeley, which I definitely plan to check out.
I have talked a bit about fruit trees and vegetable gardens in yards, but chickens and ducks are kept at some houses in Berkeley. How many home chickens and ducks exist in Berkeley is not a question I will be able to answer from my walks, because for the most part their owners keep them in the backyard. However, there have been several cases where I have heard chicken and duck sounds, and I’ve had a few glimpses of the animals themselves. One cooperative household I’ve walked by in central Berkeley lets their chickens wander in the front yard, and ducks swim in a bathtub next to the Ecohouse near the Ohlone Greenway. One of the stranger sightings of chickens was a year or so ago on University Avenue next to the now-open trail at the Santa Fe Right-of-Way. Kenney Cottage, a historic prefab cottage, sits on a raised site there, with the sign “Kenney Cottage Needs a Home.” (The photo at the bottom of the linked page shows what it looks like right now.) A couple of times I walked by there to find chickens pecking around underneath the cottage. A good setting for a Werner Herzog film.
Out of curiousity, I checked the Berkeley Municipal Code to see what it had to say about these sorts of animals. It looks like the main rules have to do with keeping domestic fowl from disturbing neighbors. You can have goats, but only two female goats over one year old. Herding is not allowed. And two cows are allowed in most areas as well. Most homes in Berkeley do not have much land for the keeping of livestock, so I would have been surprised by this code if I had not visited a house on a permaculture tour I took back when I first moved to Berkeley. This household, located just off of San Pablo Avenue, had chickens, rabbit, pigeons, and goats, and a huge food garden, in a 6,000-square-foot yard. It was really one of those experiences that makes me wonder what other interesting things happen in people’s backyards here in Berkeley.