Friday, July 2, 2010

Oxford Tract

Farms in Berkeley? (Sorry, a little obvious.) The Oxford Tract is an agricultural testing ground. Judging from what's been planted in the past, performance in dry weather is the issue. There's a mix of crops this year, rather than the rows upon rows of corn I used to see. It's remarkable to me that the tract has survived, given the university's appetite for building sites. A few years ago, a three-story surge building was added at the south end, along Hearst. Separated by greenhouses and other plant biology buildings (if that's what they are), it isn't really noticeable until you near the Oxford/Hearst corner. On the north end, EBMUD put in a pumping station. To EBMUD's credit, the student garden on that end was mostly preserved. It provides a visual buffer and an amenity for the apartment houses that face it. The pumping station is more sensitively designed than the surge building in terms of fitting in. Although it's fenced off along the street, it's good to have this agricultural remnant as part of the local terrain. It feels vulnerable, even more so now that Helios is going up on the south side of Hearst. I hope it survives as it is.

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