Berkeley - San Pablo Park
This is Berkeley’s oldest neighborhood park. In 1906 the West Berkeley Development Company bought a large tract of land in this area and developed fourteen residential blocks around what would become the park. Lots were sold for $100 down and $10 per month, and a brown shingled “artistic bungalow of five rooms” could be purchased with a $500 down payment.
In 1910 the company donated the park acreage to the City of Berkeley. John Gregg, University of California professor of floriculture and landscape gardening, laid out the original sports fields and play areas. A children’s playground and recreation center were added in 1964. San Pablo Park has provided a central focus to the neighborhood and is home to ballplayers from the entire city. Over the years community members have worked to protect the park and preserve it as open space.
The tract consists of an area of approximately fourteen blocks surrounding a 12.9-acre park equivalent in size to four city blocks. A map of the subdivision shows that the corners of all the blocks have rounded rather than square corners. In addition, Oregon, Mabel and Mathews streets have a gentle curve that breaks the harsher grid of the customary street pattern.
Although regular and coordinated streetcar service along Sacramento Street, San Pablo and Ashby avenues was operating by 1909, San Pablo Park remained sparsely populated in 1911. After the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad opened a passenger station on Sacramento Street in 1912, just a few blocks east of San Pablo Park, the area began to grow rapidly. By the late 1920s the subdivision was almost fully built with one and two-story bungalows. The old railroad right-of-way is still evident at Ward, just east of Dohr streets, where it is named Sojourner Truth.
Although San Pablo Park one of Berkeley's older neighborhoods it is exceptional and rare because it escaped the intrusion of apartment houses during the 1950s to 1970s that have disrupted the ambience and desirability of many central Berkeley neighborhoods.
Today the park is a vibrant space for the neighborhood and city of Berkeley. Visitors enjoy, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields and a children’s playground.