continued from yesterday
This is the region I live in, where the most obnoxious gentrification patterns imaginable have steadily sought to scrub San Pablo of its history, not to mention its residents. But my bike ride was supposed to help introduce me to the stretch to the North, an area that is usually forgotten because it is generally either less urban or more poor than Berkeley or Oakland. It was largely uneventful (except for the part where some asshole shot at me from their car in North Richmond, though I have reason to believe it was just a high-powered BB gun), but there were a few highlights that I think exemplify not only the consequences of capital divestment for San Pablo in the second half of the 20th century, but also the diversity of communities in the East Bay generally.
The San Francisco refinery was built in 1896 in Rodeo, not San Francisco. This is actually pretty typical. Oil production was booming in California at this time (production skyrocketed by 1400% between 1890 and 1898), and while the new fossil fuel economy kept San Francisco’s Montgomery Street financial institutions well fed, many of the noxious externalities of oil production were sloughed off on the East Bay. The existing refineries, some bigger than ever, continue to employ and poison working class people in Rodeo, Richmond, Martinez, and Newark, periodically catching fire or exploding, but perpetually contributing to the East Bay’s disproportionately high cancer rates through daily toxic emissions. The refinery in Rodeo has a crude feed capacity of 80,000 barrels a day, and covers over a thousand acres, but it’s still dwarfed by the Chevron Oil refinery. It illegally releases fumes on a regular basis, but is never fined more than a few hundred dollars per offense.
For the most part, Alameda and Contra Costa counties are not agricultural, but there are still pockets of food production, as evidenced by this small hillside vineyard in Crockett just off San Pablo. The Gold Rush economy probably disincentivized agricultural work, but I honestly don’t know for sure why farming isn’t more common in the area, except perhaps that a lot of non-urban land that hasn’t been developed for industry or sprawl is protected, as in Wildcat Canyon, though that probably isn’t exactly arable anyway. I was surprised to see some small ranching operations, though.