New: Human Remains Unearthed on Fourth Street

Becky O'Malley
Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 02:17:00 PM

Lost in the chaos of last night's Berkeley City Council meeting was the very important announcement that human remains were uncovered last Wednesday, March 29, in the 1900 block of Fourth Street, which is claimed by some to be the site of an ancient shell mound maintained by Native Americans of the Ohlone tribe. The announcement was made during the initial public comment period by Andy Galvan, an Ohlone who has been designated by the State of California as the official most likely descendant (MLD) of the historic Native American inhabitants. According to an article in the San Francisco Weekly, Galvan frequently serves as an MLD and often supports developers. 

It was difficult to understand exactly what information he was presenting because of repeated interruptions from Mayor Tom Bates, who was trying desperately to restrict Galvan to the two minute time limit for items not on the (increasingly scrambled) agenda. Councilmember Linda Maio, in whose district the alleged shell mound site is located, attempted with only moderate success to give Galvan time to explain the discovery, which could have a significant impact on two projects on this block. 

The discovery of a human skeleton, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous, has been reported to the Alameda County Coroner to determine its probable age and origin. It was found on the site next to Spenger's Restaurant at 1919 4th Street, where a commercial addition is currently being constructed. Galvan said he has met with a project representative and an archeologist to discuss what measures should be taken to ensure mitigation measures that respect the human remains. He said that for some reason the project had been exempted from the California Environment Quality Act, but property owners had agreed to follow proper procedures anyhow. 

Galvan also said he himself was sure that the property just across the street at 1900 Fourth, where a suburban-type shopping mall and apartment complex is being proposed by an LLC represented by former Berkeley Planning Director Mark Rhoades, has no Native American remains on-site.  

He said that "...it must be made clear that in no way does this make the site across the street more sensitive. It is across the street, the parking lot. We have not found a shell, a flake. This is an anomaly." 

The exact dimensions of the shell mound or the full shell mound site were not referenced, but it appeared that he was saying that if there was a mound or a mound site in the vicinity it had stopped exactly at Fourth. An environmental impact report is being required for the project at 1900, which may elicit more information.