Berkeley Landscape Life in general Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting Plein Air

Wrong side of the tracks in Rodeo & Trash and Art

Rodeo Shore, plein air oil on panel, 9x12 in. (click image to enlarge)
Rodeo Shore, plein air oil on panel, 9x12 in. (click image to enlarge)

The little shoreline park in Rodeo where we painted Sunday is funky like the town itself, but a fun place to paint.  Click here to see some of Sue Wilson’s cool photos of the area or her little video of some of us in Da Group painting there. This beach is about 40 feet from the railroad tracks where freight trains and Amtrak trains rumble by, whistles blowing, every 20 minutes or so.  One train made me laugh: an engine pulling another two dozen engines which were all riding backwards. It looked so silly.

On the north end of the little beach there’s a broken down old pier and a couple of tin shacks. The shacks and pier are all that remains of the “resort” that a man with big dreams (but apparently little common sense) built there on a former industrial dump. In his later years he allowed a homeless encampment to flourish on his property. When he died his heirs had the vagrants evicted. To get even, they burned the resort down to the ground. The property is worth less than nothing because of the clean up needed due to the toxins under the ground.

Dumps to Cities

Most of the bayfront land in the San Francisco Bay Area is built on former dumps. A combination of ignorance, greed, and “out of sight, out of mind” thinking, led cities and businesses to dump everything from tires and batteries to whole cars; from industrial waste to ordinary garbage into the beautiful bay, eventually creating “landfill” upon which homes, hotels, parks and major freeways were built.

I remember going to the dump at the Berkeley waterfront where you drove up  (holding your nose) and dumped your trash in a pile on the ground, seagulls flying overhead. Then the bulldozers would push it into big hills. Now that dump is hidden under  Cesar Chavez Park, home of the Berkeley Kite Festival. The park has air vents to allow the methane gas to escape from the garbage dump buried underneath the grassy hills and waterfront trails. Vents won’t help buildings on landfill if there’s a big earthquake and the landfill undergoes liquefaction.

Now trash goes first to a warehouse “transfer station” where it is sorted and then piled onto trucks and hauled to a dump/landfill in another town. (And in my own bit of “out of sight, out of mind” I realized I didn’t know where it went and had to look it up). It’s trucked to Livermore, land of rolling hills and wind farms.

Dump amidst the lovely Livermore rolling hills

I’ve heard that all the Bay Area dump/landfills are all going to be full within the near future. I hope we learn to do a better job of recycling and precycling before that happens.

Trash and Art

And now to tie this digression about dumps back to art, San Francisco offers an artist in residence program at the Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center where San Francisco’s garbage goes before being trucked away. Artists get 24-hour access to a well-equipped studio, a monthly stipend, and an exhibit at the end of their residency.

7 replies on “Wrong side of the tracks in Rodeo & Trash and Art”

Well, Jana, You’ve given us something lovely to look at and something thought-provoking to think about re trash and
the need to find good solutions.

Your painting is so lovely–the colors and the textures of the rocks.

Thanks for including the slide show. I really like seeing the setting and people involved in paintings.


Yes, earthquakes and landfill make for a scary combo.
But I LOVE those kites! I couldn’t have a kite when I was little cos of power lines. 😦


Interesting post, Jana, but I’m mostly in awe of that oil painting – it just glows!
My daughter is moving to SF on Monday (sniff) – I’m definitely going to go visit her sometime this year – maybe we could do a sketchcrawl?


The Rodeo Shore, plein air oil on panel is amazing, i love it. in order to build such a park, the land needed to be made safe from tidal flow and flooding. It would have been too costly to just truck in the dirt to raise the land, so the city made a deal with San Francisco. For 13 years, starting in 1968, 500 acres of land were used as landfill. The city charged San Francisco for the right to dump garbage in Mountain View, and saved the money for a construction of a park on top of the landfill. In the 1980s, Mountain View began the process of closing the dumps and began to turn the area into Shoreline Park.


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