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:

●have a junior high school (1910)
●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)
●become a nuclear-free zone with warning signs at its borders
●have police bike patrols
●have a cyclotron (1931)
●have listener-supported radio (KPFA, 1949)
●have a wet suit (1952)
●serve a latte (Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue, in 1950s)
●make gourmet coffee (at Peet’s, 1966)
●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)
●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)

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

famous Berkeley residents

current
●comedian W. Kamau Bell
●singer/songwriter, Tom Fogarty
●founder of Camp Winnarainbow Wavy Gravy
●musician Country Joe 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

former
●actor Raymond Burr (famous for “Perry Mason” lawyer role), and graduate of Berkeley High School
●comedian/actress Whoopi Goldberg
●U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris
●financial advisor Suze Orman
●basketball player Bill Russell
●political columnist for The New York Times, James Reston
●Editor in Chief of The New York Times Magazine Jake Silverstein

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

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

sister cities

Sakai, Japan (1966)
Gao, Mali (1985)
Jena, Germany (1989)

Berkeley resources

BLOG POSTS
Things to do Here and There around Berkeley
ARTICLES
9 radical things to do in downtown Berkeley

Berkeley Enoughvideo
“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.”
berkeleyca.gov–Take advantage of the unique breadth of services the City has to offer.
Berkeley Parents Network–community forum
Berkeley Path Wanderers Association–maintains a list of Berkeley’s 137 paths
Berkeleyside–community news
The Berkeley Voice–newspaper
Hike the Berkeley Paths–blog
Weekend Adventures Update–Carole Terwilliger Meyers’s  blog about travel discoveries in Northern California

more information

Visit Berkeley
Berkeley Chamber of Commerce