Stephanie Shakofsky, CCLR Board Member Emerita, is a skilled photographer. Several of her prints hang in our office, including a photograph of the Embarcadero Freeway racing past the Ferry Building. Taken prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake that destroyed the Embarcadero Freeway, the photograph has generated some intriguing reactions from CCLR’s interns, including “Why would anyone photoshop a freeway in front of the Ferry Building?” (The Ferry Building was renovated as a mixed use office and retail space in 2003.)
Earlier this week, we took an educational stroll along the waterfront with our current intern, superstar Jackie Ochoa, a 2015 graduate of Holy Names High School in Oakland who is bound for Lawrence University this fall. The story of the Embarcadero Freeway was new to Jackie. That got us thinking -- the re-opened San Francisco waterfront has now been around so long that an entire group of Millennials isn’t aware of how different it used to be.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake, which shook the city at magnitude 6.9 for just 15 seconds on October 17th, 1989, tragically killed 67 people, 42 of whom were on the Embarcadero Freeway when a portion of it collapsed. The removal of the freeway reshaped San Francisco’s waterfront, and as we listened to Jackie reflect on her newly acquired knowledge about this piece of recent history, we thought that her words (and her thoughts on transportation and sustainability) were worth sharing. Following is an interview between Jackie and CCLR staff.
1989: Embarcadero’s route 480 highway prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake. (http://prologispier1.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/1989/06/PP_Picture...)
2015: The Embarcadero’s pedestrian-friendly redevelopment following the Loma Prieta earthquake. (http://dguides.com/images/sanfrancisco/shopping/embarcadero-center.jpg)
CCLR: Tell us a bit about you and how you get around? What do you use for transportation, where did you grow up? What’s your neighborhood like?
Jackie: I was born and raised in Oakland. Growing up, I was not very satisfied with the neighborhood I lived in – it wasn’t as nice as the Oakland Hills, it was kind of the ‘the dangerous’ part of town, and as a kid I wanted to move to the suburbs so that I could have a big house with stairs with my own room. However, after having lived in Oakland for 18 years, I am extremely grateful that my parents never decided to move. Now I realize that there’s so much more available to me culturally, socially and academically. For example, I live just a 15 to 20 minute walk from a BART station, so I’ve never been in a great rush to get my driver’s license. Since I was a freshman in high school (14 years old) I could just hop on BART and would be, at most, an hour away from anywhere I would need go. I do plan on getting my license soon, though.
CCLR: How do you think your situation will change once you go to college? How do you see your life changing in a world without BART?
Jackie: This fall I’m headed to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton is a very small city. I don’t know much about the transportation that is available there, but I do know that I like to get from place to place easily. Given that I don’t really know how to drive and won’t have a car, I probably won’t get around that much. But that’s ok because there are plenty of things happening on campus anyway. Living there long-term might be tough, though.
CCLR: How has your perspective changed now that you know a little more about the history of the Embarcadero? Has that experience helped answer any questions that were lingering from conversations in the CCLR office? Did it lead to any new questions?
Jackie: I had no idea that a freeway once ran along the Embarcadero! Since I was little, my family and I would walk along the waterfront and park, but we never heard anything about its history. Now that I am aware of the Embarcadero’s history, I wonder if there is any history in my neighborhood that I am not aware of yet.
CCLR: After hearing a bit about the history, the restoration and renovation of the Ferry Building, how are you thinking about the built environment? How people experience places through time? The materials that the built environment is composed of? How people themselves influence those places?
Jackie: I had no idea that that the Ferry Building was that old (San Francisco’s Ferry Building opened in 1898). Now that I know, it makes being in the building more enjoyable and more special, almost. In terms of renovating old buildings for modern use, I think it’s good to conserve some of the historic aspects of the design and peoples’ experiences with the building, and not completely start from scratch…How old are those clock hands?! [In reference to the preserved clock hands on display in the Ferry Building’s lobby, dating from the turn of the 19th century]
CCLR: What are your thoughts on the photo that hangs above your computer showing the old Embarcadero Freeway prior to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake?
Jackie: I didn’t even realize that that was the Ferry Building in the photo. When I first looked at it, I knew the building looked like the Ferry Building, but since I never knew that there was a freeway along the Embarcadero, I thought, “No, that has to be some other place.” I still find it amazing that there once stood a freeway along the Embarcadero; visualizing it standing there feels so awkward.
CCLR: As we’ve discussed, much of what we do at CCLR revolves around the waste that society generates, and balancing that with the environmental health and sustainability of our communities. Have you ever seen a landfill before? If so, what were your thoughts? If not, how has seeing photos of them changed your perspective on waste?
Jackie: No I haven’t. Given my interest in environmental health, from that standpoint, I think it is interesting that the photos on websites like Daily Overview and in the film Manufactured Landscapes allow you to visualize these kinds of places, without actually exposing you to the toxins that may be associated with them. When you are living in a city, since you don’t see the waste, I think people tend not to care, or think about it. But now, after seeing photos of landfills and waste pools during my time at CCLR, I definitely do think a lot more about how I dispose of my trash.
CCLR: What are you most excited to learn about/experience in college? Classes? Professors? Activities?
Jackie: I’m excited to experience a new culture, and to be able to call a new state ‘home’. Also, college is definitely a time of discovery, so I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and being able to take classes on topics I’ve never heard of, participating in activities I’ve never pursued before (such as dance), forming new relationships and hopefully gaining a better understanding of what my “calling” is in life.