A. Corporation Yard Site
From those early days of horse drawn wagons, the history
of the Corporation Yard is certain to evoke the romance of Berkeley's
past. Probably only a few people realize, however, the critical role
the Corporation Yard has played, since WWI, in the shaping of Berkeley
and its modern municipal government.
Corporation Yard and New District
Prior to the purchase of the property at Allston Way in
1913, this part of Berkeley had experienced little development. The
new site also relieved some of the congestion in the manufacturing district.(17)
Historic records show that the Yard contained some of the first structures
in the area. The location of the maintenance yard was directly linked
to the opening up of this district, which today is known as the SUDS
area (Sacramento Street, University Avenue, Dwight Way, and San Pablo
Avenue). Subsequently, during the next several years, this new district
underwent a number of street improvements, including the culverting
of Strawberry Creek at Acton Street, next to the Yard.
City/Yard as the Contractor
Prior to 1913, road repairs, the construction of creek
culverts, and garbage collection were performed by private contractors.
Soon, the City of Berkeley began to look for ways to manage these growing
costs. This issue was clearly reflected in an address made in 1917 by
a mayoral candidate who stated, "At present, one of the heaviest
of our expenses accounts is street work. Berkeley might well consider
taking this work into her own hands. We can hire the same men, employ
the same engineers, and buy the same materials at the same price."(18)
The idea was that the profits could then be returned to the taxpayers.
This is what began to happen as Berkeley, the contractor, began to work
for Berkeley, the city. As a result, the Corporation Yard was developed
to house these new municipal activities, i.e., staff, equipment, and
Modern Streets Division, the Beginning
of Public Works
In early 1917, a new Streets Division was organized
at the Corporation Yard. (19) Before that time, Public Works activities
centered around street cleaning and asphalt sweeping. These operations
were expanded to include street work, and two gangs of workers
with power rollers were organized. Eighty-five years ago, the
idea of the City managing these services led to the creation of
a more diversified municipal workforce and more maintenance activities
performed by the City. The recently completed Ratcliff building,
with its storeroom, sheds, and truck stalls, was first used to
house the new Streets Division.
Corporation Yard street maintenance vehicles
Creation of Solid Waste Division/First Facility
The Corporation Yard was the site of another major shift
in city operations. In 1921, the City assumed the activity of refuse
collection for Berkeley. This new municipal task soon grew to dominate
the Yard's activities until the mid-1980's when the Garbage Division
(now the Solid Waste Management Division) moved to the Transfer Station
at 2nd Street and Gilman in northwest Berkeley.
Creation of Fleet/Equipment Management
City of Berkeley's fleet of vehicles
Public Works Garbage Truck Fleet City Corporation Yard 1937
Corporation Yard is the site of Berkeley's first fleet management.
From 1915, when the first motorized vehicles and pieces of equipment
were purchased, fleet management at the Yard has been an integral
part of the City's operations. Historically, fleet management
entailed more than auto maintenance. Because little equipment
was available, or even made back then, staff often had to improvise
innovative adaptations for vehicles and equipment in order to
perform new municipal tasks. Today, the Public Works Department
manages more than 500 vehicles and pieces of equipment.