Election Section

Albany-Berkeley Border Walking Tour Saturday

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:30:00 AM

Nearly a century ago, Berkeley and Albany were at war over waste. 

“The garbage problem with its many phases once more confronts this city in a menacing manner…” the Berkeley Daily Gazette darkly warned in a front-page story on Jan. 6, 1909. Berkeley had a lot of waste back then, more than 24 tons a day, according to the city engineer, who noted “you can imagine how fast it piles up.”  

The city was in the habit of hauling that waste out to the edge of Albany for disposal, and the good citizens living to the northwest didn’t like being downstream of the detritus of the self-styled Athens of the Pacific. 

The town trustees of Albany, then calling itself Ocean View, decided to call a halt. With the new year, their attorney advised Berkeley the dumping had to come to an end.  

Mother Nature lent a hand, with pouring rains that made the roads impassable for heavily laden garbage wagons. Berkeley’s trustees were reduced to considering dumping Berkeley garbage in Berkeley down on the waterfront, building an incinerator, or perhaps—the most humiliating option—begging Oakland to temporarily take Berkeley’s waste and haul it out to sea. 

Today, relations are better. Berkeley and Albany are generally comfortable neighbors, sharing a couple of shopping districts and neighborhoods. At most points the two communities merge into each other along blocks of quiet streets lined with well-kept, modest homes. In many areas the transition between towns is almost imperceptible. 

To celebrate and explore that common seam and the history of both communities, the Albany and Berkeley Historical societies are planning a joint boundary walk on Saturday Sept. 6. This commemorative walk also marks the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Historical Society and the 100th anniversary of the city of Albany. It starts at the eastern boundary between Albany and Berkeley and ends at the western boundary.  

Learn about the antics of M. B. Curtis, famous star of Sam’l of Posen, and his upscale community on the Albany Berkeley border. The development he promoted included an ornate hotel, once one of the most prominent features of the Berkeley skyline. 

Visit historic churches and the members who have attended church there for generations. See where Codornices Creek is being daylighted, visit the homes of Albany’s most famous developer, Charles M. MacGregor (who also built in Berkeley) and revisit the site of the infamous Garbage Wars, of which the 1909 dispute, noted above, is but one episode. 

The walk will last about two hours, starting at 10 a.m. Participation is limited and reservations are on a first come-first-served basis. The cost is $10 per person. To register mail a check to the Berkeley Historical Society, Walking Tours, PO Box 1190, Berkeley, CA 94701-1190. Include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. You will be sent a reservation confirmation and the location of the beginning of the walk. Center phone number is 848-0181.