“Save San Francisco Bay” Movement
Starting as early as the Gold Rush in 1849–50, many shallow portions of San Francisco Bay were used as garbage dumps or filled for development. Berkeley’s original shoreline was near Second Street, but Bay fill and a municipal garbage dump, begun in 1930, gradually created this artificial peninsula. Developers and some civic leaders proposed additional Berkeley landfill. Industrial tracts, housing subdivisions, shopping centers, and an airport, which would have extended the shoreline another two miles into the Bay, were promoted.
In 1961, as the pace of landfill quickened around the Bay, three Berkeley women—Esther Gulick, Kay Kerr, and Sylvia McLaughlin—founded the Save San Francisco Bay Association. This grassroots movement changed public opinion and policy, reversing Berkeley’s plans for extensive landfill by 1963. Two years later, “Save the Bay” and its many supporters persuaded the State to establish the first coastal protection agency in the country, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Its regulations halted indiscriminate Bay filling and greatly increased public access to the shoreline.
“Save the Bay” was a milestone in the environmental movement, inspiring efforts worldwide to protect and restore bays, estuaries, wetlands, and coastlines.
Berkeley Historical Plaque Project