Potemkin Creek: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nature

Latest Developments

June 2012:

The pump was in fact turned on on May 21, 2012 (see May 2012 update).  However, a remarkable thing happened several days later: POTEMKIN CREEK FLOODED.  The headwaters / pond area overflowed after a backup occurred on Friday May 25th.  According to Gene Mazza of the Flood Control District: “There was debris stuck in the underground City line that caused the back up of water from the creek pump.  We were alerted to this Friday evening 5/25, about 8:30 p.m.  I sent one of my staff to turn the pump off.  On Wednesday 5/30, we met with City of Oakland Public Works staff who hydro blasted the jammed up underground line free of debris.  The creek pump was put back in operation shortly thereafter. ”  So, I will never again say that one of the benefits of the fake creek is that it can’t flood the way the original creek did.

May 2012:

Two interesting developments this week!  One is that the creek has, obviously, not been on yet this year.  Usually the Flood Control District turns it on after the Earth Day Cleanup.  I called to ask what was going on and they said that their confined space certifications were out of date due to updates made to the State confined space codes, so they couldn’t access the hatch.  Or something like that.  Anyway today (May 20, 2012), while giving a brief Potemkin Creek talk to the Water Underground’s Riparian Bike Tour of Temescal Creek, I noticed a sign posted by the DMV Neighbors Association that reads “Don’t worry! Don’t scream! Temescal Creek will flow again!!!!  May 21, 2012”.  That’s tomorrow.

The second development is that while having dinner with a friend who works for the City of Emeryville, I casually mentioned the Bakery Lofts development featured in my thesis, and he said, Oh, they came in last week to update their Permit; they just got funding for their project.  So perhaps the first of the new generation of fake Temescal Creeks will happen after all.

June 2009:

The economy has hit development in Oakland hard. The Bakery Lofts project has been renting out the parking lot where B3 would go for at least two months now – to a construction company that is not working on the B3 project. The Eco-miniums lot at 51st and Telegraph has been put up for sale and the “Eco-miniums coming soon” sign taken down. The City extended the permits to do the work into 2011 and if anyone buys the property they apparently acquire the approvals. And the Creekside project (Global Video) continues to see no activity.

April 2009:

THE CREEK IS ABOUT TO BE TURNED ON FOR THE SEASON! Gene Mazza from the Alameda County Flood Control District expects to turn on the pump sometime during the day on April 20. That means his crew will be cleaning out the creek bed of debris, or that may happen by volunteer groups on the weekend before as it did in 2008. At any rate soon Potemkin Creek will be diverting Temescal Creek flows to the surface again.

As of the close of 2008, no ground has been broken on any of the three developments described in Chapter Five, due no doubt in part to the severe economic downturn. Creek Side developer Hauser Architects continues to promote the project and work with neighborhood groups to find a workable solution to the extension of the faux creek. Bakery Lofts III developer Madison Park has the necessary permits from the Oakland Planning Department. This is the most intersting of the three projects, in terms of the spatial expansion of the faux creek to another part of the Temescal Watershed, so I will watch with anticipation.

There is a hard copy at the main library at SFSU, and I plan to donate a hard copy to the Archive and Map room of the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District in Hayward and maybe the Temescal branch of the Oakland Public Library.

It was defended at the Department of Geography, SFSU, on May 19, 2008, and completed in August, 2008.

This work was presented to the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers (http://www.csus.edu/apcg) (regional group of the Association of American Geographers) at their annual conference in Long Beach, California on October 19, 2007.


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