Ocean View



This weekend I was walking streets near Telegraph Ave., and stopped on Telegraph itself in front of the recently closed Cody’s Books. As local readers know, the closing of Cody’s and the related concerns about the state of Telegraph Avenue have been in the news quite a bit. Across town, the other location of Cody’s remains open on Fourth Street. Telegraph Ave. and Fourth St. are probably at the very opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of shopping districts in Berkeley. Most weekend days on Fourth Street, you can find crowds of people waiting to get breakfast at Bette’s Oceanview Diner, hanging out with their dogs in front of Peets Coffee, and shopping at the boutiques and outlets along the street.

Serious hikers know that if you want to get away from the crowds in most places, you just need to hike a mile out from the trailhead. I am finding the same concept can be applied to walking in shopping areas. The shops on Fourth Street extend just a few short blocks, and that is where most people stay. Little do they know that there is so much to explore in this area, from the historic buildings of the first settlers in what was called Ocean View to the abandoned and operating factories and industrial complexes.

Recently I read Barbara Gates’ memoir, Already Home: A Topography of Spirit and Place, in which she explores the neighborhood surrounding her home in West Berkeley. I had just finished walking the streets in Ocean View, so it was fun to read about the places she discovered on her walks. Some of the street names and locations had been changed, but were easily recognizable to someone who has walked the streets in the area. What I liked best about this book was how the author talked about all aspects of this neighborhood as she saw it, not just the ones that you might read about in a historical essay about the area or in a real estate description of the neighborhood. She notices and describes the historic buildings in the area and trees in her backyard, but also the toxic industry fumes, the drug whistles, and the alcoholic homeless woman. They might not all be pleasant, but all of these sights and sounds and smells are also part of the area, and all are worth observing if one wants to really explore a neighborhood.

Why the Ocean View name? Straight across from Ocean View is the Golden Gate, which joins the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. Berkeley’s location in relation to the Golden Gate and the bridge that spans it can be seen in detail in Berkeley photographer Richard Misrach’s book The Golden Gate, a collection of photos taken from his home in the Berkeley hills.

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5 Comments »

  1. Delaware Neighbors said

    The Ocean View district gets its name not only from the obvious reference, but is specific to this area because of the township that it was before annexed by Berkeley a long long time ago (we’re talking late 1800s).

    And the privileged views of Richard Misrach’s photos are from East Berkeley, aka the Hills. The Ocean View neighborhood is in the Flats of Berkeley.

  2. Delaware Neighbors — thanks for the additional information about the Ocean View name! Also, I meant to note that the Misrach photos were taken from the Berkeley Hills when I was writing this entry, but somehow it didn’t make it in. I added that detail to the post — thanks very much for the clarification.

  3. NickySS said

    Hi!
    Nice info, big thx.

  4. […] a few blocks away, but many people who work in West Berkeley probably never get over there. And, as I noted previously, many people drive directly to the Fourth Street shopping area and never stray outside of those few […]

  5. Does any one have any links to old pictures of Ocean View?

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