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


Title Page and Abstract

Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, List of Figures, A Brook in the City poem

Read the entire Thesis, or…

In the Introduction I describe the phenomenon of faux creeks and lay some of the groundwork for the exploration of the changing idea and role of creeks in the urban fabric. I also set out some research questions.  (Pages 1-12)

In this Historical Overview I describe Oakland’s (and Emeryville’s) Temescal Creek through the years and how it is utilized by the Ohlone, Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans.  I pay special emphasis to the last eighty years, since the creation of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, when urbanization has most dramatically altered and disguised the creek.  Finally, I describe the initial results of the Columbus Day Flood of 1962, which led to what I call the “potemkinizaiton” of Temescal Creek.  (Pages 13-40)

The purpose of a Literature Review is to explore what other researchers have already said about this and related topics, to see if my work can be informed by or inform past work.  Here, I look at literature on the concepts of nature and culture, restoration of disturbed natural areas, and the commodification of nature in cities by the ongoing processes of capitalist accumulation.  (Pages 41-60)

The Methodology section explains how I will approach the topic, specifically through interviews with key players in the creation and protection of both Temescal Creek and the faux creek, public agencies involved in protecting people from Temescal Creek or Temescal Creek from people, and private developers who intend to continue the faux-reserection of the Creek. (Pages 61-68 )

Here in this Case Study is the main body of the paper.  I describe how the original Potemkin Creek was created in the 1970s by a public agency as a compromise between local ecology and development forces, and how in the 2000s private developers are copying the idea as a way to increase the exchange value of their ‘green’ housing developments along the Temescal Creek culvert.  (Pages 69-111)

Finally, the Conclusions include the implications of the proliferation of faux creeks along and above the Temescal Creek culvert, how these landscape features might be changing and challenging our ideas of what is natural, and how faux creeks could spread to other drainage basins, both locally and regionally.  (Pages 112-136)

Epilogue Just a fun little anecdote.  (Pages 137-143)

Bibliography (Pages 144-150)


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