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University of California

Berkeley’s Best

The always-fascinating community of Berkeley is a study in contrasts.  Visitors arrive with a variety of expectations.  Some seek the intellectual climate associated with a community built around the University of California, the state’s most prestigious public university.  Others expect to see weird people and hippie communes.  Those who know their food come seeking the acclaimed restaurants, and those who know one of the town’s nicknames, Berserkley, expect to see a bit of that.  Then there is the well-known ultra-liberal political climate, in which someone who would be thought a liberal elsewhere is here considered a conservative, which explains another nickname–the People’s Republic of Berkeley.  In reality, Berkeley is all these things, and, making any stereotype impossible, it is also the place where the word “yuppie” was coined.  Berkeley has also pioneered many frontiers. Additionally, I’ve discovered as a resident that you could never leave this city and yet still enjoy endless explorations and discoveries.

Berkeley was the first city in the nation to:

●found The Sierra Club (by John Muir and Prof. Joseph Le Conte, 1892)
●have a junior high school (1910)
●have fruit cocktail (William Cruess, 1911)
●have a hot tub (invented here in 1915)
●introduce exclusionary single-family zoning, in the Elmwood neighborhood (1916)
●have a public health department
●have a lie-detector/polygraph machine (invented here in 1921)
●discover Vitamin E (by Prof. Herbert M. Evans and Dr. Katharine S. Bishop, 1922)
●become a nuclear-free zone with warning signs at its borders
●have police bike patrols
●have commercial rent control
●have a cyclotron (Ernest O. Lawrence, 1931)
●have listener-supported radio (KPFA, 1949)
●have a wet suit (Hugh Bradner, 1952)
●serve a latte (Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue, in 1950s)
●have a computer mouse (1963)
●have a Free Speech Movement (1964)
●make gourmet coffee (at Peet’s, 1966)
●serve California Cuisine (at Chez Panisse, 1971)
●have a biotech company (Cetus, 1971)
●have curb cuts for wheelchairs (1972)
●ban corporal punishment for children
●ban smoking in restaurants and bars (1977)
●have a dog park (1979)
●have a computer mouse (1963)
●ban gasoline-powered leaf blowers (1991)
●ban Styrofoam
●rename Columbus Day the more politically correct “Indigenous Peoples Day” (it’s listed that way under “holidays” on city parking meters)
●have domestic partner health benefits
●adopt a “soda tax” on sugar-sweetened beverages (2014)
●ban single-use disposables in restaurants, which are also required to use compostable to-go food ware (2019)
●ban installing natural gas lines in new homes (2019)
●use gender-neutral language in the city’s municipal code (2019)
And it is the place where 18 elements on the Periodic Table, including plutonium and berkelium–the 97th element–were discovered. 
More discoveries include:
●vitamin E (1922)
●flu vaccine (1940s)
Additionally, I’ve discovered as a resident that you could never leave this city and yet still enjoy endless explorations and discoveries. 

Berkeley student wearing Berkelium t-shirt on U.C. campus
Berkeley student wearing Berkelium t-shirt
on U.C. campus

famous Berkeley residents

●comedian W. Kamau Bell
●founder of Camp Winnarainbow Wavy Gravy
●musician Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish, the Berkeley-based psychedelic band perhaps best known its performance of “I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag,” a Vietnam War protest song, at Woodstock
●actress Rita Moreno

These people lived in Berkeley for at least a few years.
●actor Raymond Burr (famous for “Perry Mason” lawyer role), and graduate of Berkeley High School, class of 1935
●comedian/actress Whoopi Goldberg
●U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris
●actor Timothy Hutton
●financial advisor Suze Orman
●actor Gregory Peck, attended U.C. Berkeley; he was pre-med and an English major
●political columnist for The New York Times, James Reston
●basketball player Bill Russell
●Editor in Chief of The New York Times Magazine Jake Silverstein

born and/or raised in Berkeley
●actress Rebecca Romijn
●comedian Andy Samberg
●baseball player Billy Martin (deceased)
●singer John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
●director Dave Meyers
●actor Ben Affleck (until he was 2 1/2)
●ophthalmologist Alan B. Scott (developer of Botox)

Do you know of more people who belong on this list?

movies made in Berkeley

The Graduate (1967)  Filmed around town
Andromeda Strain (1971)
THX-1138 (1971)  George Lucas’ first movie, filmed at the Lawrence Hall of Science.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)  Stars Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.
Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978)  I personally witnessed this one.  Stars Nick Nolte and Tuesday Weld. 
Interview with a Vampire (1994)  Some indoor shots in a Berkeley Hills home.  Stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. 
Junior (1994)
Patch Adams (1998)
Bee Season (2005)
The Kite Runner (2007)  Filmed in part at the Berkeley Marina.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Oppenheimer (2023)  Filmed on campus.

sister cities to Berkeley

Berkeley has 17 sister cities.
Sakai, Japan (1966)
Edda people, Imo State, Nigeria (1982)
San Antonio Los Ranchos, El Salvador (1983)
Haidian District, Beijing, China (1985)
Gao, Mali (1985)
Mathopestad, South Africa (1986)
León, Nicaragua (1986)
Brits, South Africa (1986)
Jena, Thuringia, Germany (1989)
Yondó, Colombia (1990)
Dmitrov, Russia (1991)
Uma Bawang, Borneo, Malaysia (1991)
Ulan-Ude, Russia (1992)
Yurok Tribe, California, United States (1993)
Blackfeet Nation, Montana, United States (2000)

famous Berkeley architecture

Normandy Village/Thornberg Village 
Spruce/Hearst sts.  43 units. 
This village of apartments was designed in 1927 by William R. Yelland for Colonel Jack Thornberg, a friend who was a flying ace in WWI and enamored with traditional home designs in Normandy, France.  Yelland was a Cal graduate and master of Storybook style architecture in Northern California who served with Thornberg in Northern France during WWI.  Resembling a French rural village, Yelland’s apartment complex features cobblestone alleys, stone archways, odd angles, hidden doors, carved grotesques, and small gardens.  It is a City of Berkeley Landmark.  An original central courtyard that the complex was built around has been covered by a newer apartment building. 

atmospheric apartments in Normandy Village in Berkeley, California
atmospheric apartments in Normandy Village in Berkeley, California

Berkeley history

Berkeley Historical Society and Berkeley History Center 
1931 Center St., in Veterans Memorial Building, (510) 848-0181.  Free.
Situated within an atmospheric vintage city building located just 2 blocks from BART, the small Berkeley historical museum is still enough off the beaten path that most city residents have never visited.  It features a nicely done permanent timeline of Berkeley history illustrated with interesting photographs.  A temporary exhibit on a specific theme changes every year or so.  The current exhibit about the town’s devastating 1923 fire is illuminating.  Tentatively scheduled next is the history of cinema in Berkeley.  A collection of Berkeley High School yearbooks is kept in the back in a vintage bookcase.  A research library is part of the collection, and volunteers who can help you find information.  Ask to see the document I donated from the Vietnam Commencement ceremony that was held at U.C. on May 17, 1968.  Informative Walking Tours are sometimes scheduled.  Fee. 

entrance to Berkeley Historical Society Museum in Berkeley, California
entrance to Berkeley Historical Society Museum in Berkeley, California

more Berkeley resources

Hike the Berkeley Paths
Weekend Adventures Update
Carole Terwilliger Meyers’s blog about travel discoveries in Northern California
blog posts
Things to do Here and There around Berkeley
9 radical things to do in downtown Berkeley
Berkeley Enough (video)
“Berkeley in the Sixties” 
This 1990 movie provides vivid background regarding the Free Speech Movement.  Netflix describes it:  “University of California, Berkeley, alumni recount how their quiet school became the epicenter of 1960s campus activism, starting with the free speech movement and evolving into organized opposition to the Vietnam War. The students also championed civil rights, the women’s movement and the Black Panther party. Archival footage is interwoven with present-day interviews and songs by the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane.”
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association 
Maintains records of historical buildings, and schedules special events and an annual Spring House Tour.
Take advantage of the unique breadth of services the city has to offer.
The Berkeley Daily Planet 
Online newspaper.  Read my favorite article.
Berkeley Historical Plaque Project 
This website documents where plaques are found around town. 
Berkeley Path Wanderers Association
This group maintains a list of Berkeley’s 137 paths.
The Berkeley Scanner 
Online only. 
Community news.
Berkeley Times
Newspaper; print only.  
The Daily Californian 
East Bay Times-Berkeley
“Founded in 1949 by Lewis Hill, a pacifist, poet, and journalist, KPFA was the first community supported radio station in the USA.”
Facebook pages
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
Berkeley Historical Society & Museum 
Historical Berkeley 

yet more Berkeley information

latitude:  37.872
longitude:  -122.268
named:  in 1866, by University of California founders, for Irish philosopher George Berkeley
incorporated as a town:  in 1878
current population (2024):  120,000+
art:  has 72 art galleries and 17 museums
city bird:  barn owl

Visit Berkeley
Berkeley Chamber of Commerce 

(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)