For 35 years, The Monthly has chronicled the best of the East Bay’s culture. Now we turn to this innovative region’s most creative minds, for a view of the future.
We call it home, this region with the best weather in the country. But the East Bay is more than home. It’s a dream factory. It’s a safe place to take risks. It’s where many have tried and failed, but more have tried and succeeded–while the rest of the country tried to keep up.
Thirty-five years ago the first issue of The Monthly was assembled, in old cut-and-paste style on a living room floor in North Berkeley. Freeing our area’s readers and merchants from ugly ads and provincial newspaper copy, The (then) Berkeley Monthly had a unique voice and pioneered a sophisticated approach to regional magazine journalism. Today The Monthly is a rare independently owned forum for long-form magazine journalism and first-person essays.
Three hundred ninety-nine issues later, we want to know what’s next around the bend. What does the future hold for this very experimental, cutting-edge place? So we asked the experts–19 of the East Bay’s innovators in food, business, politics, culture, and spirituality–what we can expect to be reading about in 2040.
Stick around and enjoy a good read. Edited by Kate Rix and Kira Halpern
I see the East Bay, Berkeley in particular, maintaining its place as one of the world’s best places to experience great food. I have always said that Berkeley is probably the most appreciative food audience in the world. You combine that with the diversity and openness of the East Bay and you have a recipe for creativity that results in world-class food. Berkeley made our business. Go Bears!
Unless there’s a major change in leadership–at all levels–we’re going to have very bad air quality in 35 years. But there are things we can do about this right now. We need to think much more seriously about demand management on the roads. It’s not that we need more road capacity; if you look at the cars on the highway, how many have one person? The diamond lane should always be for three people per car and maybe the far right should always be for two people.
We need to be much more assertive about planning our communities so they’re environmentally sound. It’s going to take great density in places that already have transportation in place, not just Oakland but elsewhere, like Walnut Creek. Property owners in the green belt are going to have to accept that we’re going to protect the green belt, and people who live near BART and bus lines are going to have to accept an uptick in density.
Third, we need a single-payer health care in California to address the aging of the baby boomers and the fattening of the children. This has to be dealt with in a comprehensible way.
There are lessons for us from what’s happened in New Orleans. What it means for us–being in an area which is bound to be hit by an earthquake or urban fire in the next 35 years–is, we’re on our own. California needs an independent emergency response system, with helicopters and adequate infrastructure. As a state, we’re big enough and wealthy enough to make our own disaster response.
Also, BART must be expanded. It must go all the way to San Jose–you can’t have the biggest city in the Bay Area not on the biggest train system. And it’s never going to get cheaper so let’s get started.
If we handle these issues, I think this will be an amazing place to live in 35 years, especially Oakland. We’re creating a new American–the mixing of people in the Bay Area to create something new and unique. It’s why people like me stay here and fight, to make sure these issues get handled–to make sure that the new American has a city to live in.
Dimensions Dance Theater was founded in 1972. I feel as if I have come full circle with the arts in the Bay Area. Now more than ever we need the arts and artists. The Bay Area has always been energized by its artists that see the world from a different lens and make us all feel more alive. The landscape is changing quickly due to the high cost of living, housing, and ability to work as an artist. I am hopeful that the many wonderful artists that make up the Bay Area will be able to remain in the area so they can continue to make art that inspires and communicates.
I truly believe that art is magic. It has the manifesting power to transform our consciousness, speak to the depth of our souls, expand our hearts, and is the ingredient that will cause a great shift within the universe–the shift that makes us all connected and the world a better place. Art is a life force, omnipotent and unstoppable.
Thirty-five years ago, the Potluck Restaurant was the serious restaurant in the East Bay. Soon, Chez Panisse and Narsai’s had opened. Peet’s Coffee and the original Cheese Board anchored what would soon be known as the Gourmet Ghetto. Pig-by-the-Tail, the Produce Center, Cocolat, and Acme Bread soon filled out the neighborhood.
Le Poulet showed us everything that could be done with chicken, and was the launching pad for Aidells Sausage, which would reawaken America’s interest in sausages. Acme’s bread revolution quickly spread. Semifreddi’s introduced us to bread with seeds. The rye bread from Metropolis was as good as any in Los Angeles or New York. The Pugliese from Grace Baking was as good as any I ate in Puglia. So, as sad as it was to see the end of Larrabaru Soudough Bakery and Sam Brenner’s rye bread, a new wave with far greater variety was taking their place.
Clearly, Berkeley was the creator of California Cuisine, with its commitment to freshness and simplicity of presentations. The same creative juices that energized the food scene of the past 35 years are now being directed at addressing obesity and sustainability. Now that our food is some of the finest in the world, we will find a way to grow the crops safely and teach society a modicum of responsibility in how it eats.
[U.C.] Berkeley will continue to dominate the landscape, and finally start to throw off vital and interesting new companies at the pace that private institutions (such as Stanford) do. Why? Because the ongoing trend of public/private will take root, and spur innovation further and faster.
It would be completely imaginable that one of the most impressive evolutions in the next 35 years would concern an even further elevation of the East Bay’s institutions of higher learning, particularly the University of California, for which the East Bay is already so well-known. The experience I have had living in Europe part-time over the past 20 years is that already the international respect and status of U.C. Berkeley is superlative, second to none, and remains one of the most coveted destinations among both students and scholars and will continue to grow in its prestige in the future.
Already host to an out-of-the-ordinary high number of recognized and decorated scholars, educators, Nobel Prize Laureates, etc., the East Bay has the inherent spark and curiosity within the community so necessary for developing, constructing, and realizing one’s visions and dreams. As the world continues to race toward the future, surely most would agree that education is one of the most essential elements of realizing hopes and ambitions. Almost certainly one could imagine that the University of California among other fine institutions will continue to grow and continue to further stimulate and inspire our world’s next generation of leaders.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley and San Francisco; editor of Tikkun magazine and author of ten books including Healing Israel/ Palestine and the forthcoming The Left Hand of God: Taking America Back from the Religious Right (HarperSanFrancisco, January 2006)
In the next 35 years we will witness an amazing spiritual revival in the Bay Area, a return and renewal of the creativity and risk-taking of the 1960s counterculture synthesized with the wisdom of an aging and sage-ing baby boomer generation.
The East Bay will once again become the innovator of international trends as it generates a movement for a New Bottom Line in American society, insisting that institutions, social practices, and legislation be judged efficient, rational, and productive by a new standard: not only how much money or power gets generated, but how much love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological behavior, and how much people are encouraged to treat each other as embodiments of the sacred and to respond to Nature with awe, wonder, and radical amazement.
With that new consciousness, the East Bay will become a center of a new kind of intellectual life, based on love and generosity–and not solely on domination of nature or manipulation of human beings. New Age individualism and flakiness will be transcended by a deeper level of mutual interconnectedness and intellectual sophistication as the East Bay becomes a global center for spiritual, religious, scientific, and political life.
Secular people will insist on a spiritual dimension in their work, seeking lives that are a vocation and not only about accumulating money, and schools will teach wisdom, justice, peace, and nonviolence, and foster children’s ability to be caring for others, no longer focused exclusively on the path to material success in a competitive market. Science will be taught to foster awe and wonder.
Retirement homes will become centers of pleasure, learning, innovation, political leadership, and wisdom teaching.
Students and young people in their 20s and 30s will break through their ageism and form loving relationships, communes, political organizations, and social life with people in their 70s and 80s, and together they will build a revolutionary movement based on a global spirituality that draws on the wisdom of all of the world’s religious, spiritual, and humanitarian traditions, manifesting compassion and open-heartedness to all as we join in a global effort to repair and renew Earth’s precious environment.
The San Francisco Bay Area will continue to be the leading region of the Western United States in the year 2040, particularly in those fields requiring the greatest amount of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. The human resource talent pool that is here along with unmatched educational resources are the reasons why this will be the case.
The critical problems facing this community are all traceable to the strain on infrastructure caused by the continued economic expansion and accompanying population growth. Enormous investments in all transportation modes will be continued and accelerated. The vast majority of the physical growth will be truly “smart development” with high-density housing situated proximate to transportation nodes, employment sources, shopping, entertainment, and recreational facilities. Population and average inner-city incomes will soar, forcing major change solutions to public and private schools and medical health care delivery systems. The economic resources necessary to bring about these changes will be available because these higher-earning families will cause them to occur.
The 2040 skyline of the East Bay will be dominated by mid-rise and high-rise residential and commercial structures interspersed with large amounts of open space in the form of urban parks, recreational amenities, and walkways all served by a distributed multi-modal transportation system for people and goods. The air will be cleaner, crime will be less, schools will improve, and an alternative to uncontrolled suburban sprawl will have emerged.
I love what I do–communicating, healing, and teaching people spirit to spirit. I am a teacher. I love introducing beginners to their own aura, chakras, and their personal psychic meditation space. It is no small task to keep the formula the same as it was originally intended to be and what has worked over the years. I love psychic kindergarten.
I see that meditation will become more of a lifestyle necessity, a way of going within for one’s own answers, yet calming the body, releasing stress, and self-healing. In 35 years, science will prove the amazing health benefits of using one’s psychic ability to its fullest. I see the East Bay becoming even more of a resource for seekers, a place where the spiritual quest does not end, but is empowered. Psychic reading and healing is on the rise. The children born today and those born in the past 30 years are seeing things, hearing things, and knowing things that they can actually clearly speak of and that was not happening before. Being labeled psychic will become normal in 35 years. The New Age child needs, more than ever, protection in the sense of being taught psychic tools. I see more schools such as Yin Yang School for Psychic Children, which I started in 1979, where students are validated for their clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairsentience.
Every morning I arise and assess my spiritual bubble and perform a ritual of setting the energy for my day: this involves seeing the color, vibration, intent, goals, and mock-ups–or energy wishes–that I have going for me this day. I validate and bless all aspects of my life: spiritual, personal, and career. It is kind of like asking for what you want and getting it. If I want the Church of Divine Man or the Berkeley Psychic Institute to take a big step in a specific direction, according to my vision of the future, I imagine it right now. This imagining process–meditation–is what inspires me and brings me to the realization that I can accomplish anything.
Smart, creative, and innovative people will continue to want to call the East Bay home only if the quality of life can be maintained and improved. Education, housing affordability, improved transit, and the environment are key.
Having a viable public education system is perhaps our most important challenge. Neighbor-hoods with safe, well-maintained, and successful public schools will determine whether or not people will continue to want to live here.
Somehow we need to create affordable housing for our teachers, police, firefighters, and other service providers or we will lose them from our communities. Higher-density, transit-centric housing is one component that should be embraced by local government and the public as well. Without it, two-hour commutes will become the norm, and our transit and environmental problems will become intolerable.
It appears the recent talk of a “real estate bubble” has made buyers cautious. I feel that housing prices have risen to the point where we are likely to see a gradual leveling off of prices in the next few months. If the economy continues to improve and we continue to create jobs in the Bay Area, prices may stabilize or retreat only slightly in the next several years. However, if interest rates jump significantly or the economy slows due to gas prices etc., we could see prices decline in the five to ten percent range over a period of two to four years. In the long run, however, if we are able to overcome or address some of the key issues I’ve discussed, home prices will begin to appreciate and surpass today’s prices eventually.
All demographic information points to more people in the Bay Area in the next 15 to 20 years and we aren’t creating more land for housing, especially in the communities nearest the Bay. Higher density may help but not overcome the demand. We are likely to see a demographic shift as only the wealthy will be able to afford to live here. If this happens and the issues haven’t been addressed by 2050, eventually jobs will move elsewhere and the outlook for the second half of this century may not be as rosy.
A regional approach to mass transit and the environment will be needed to maintain the quality of our air, water, and preservation of our open space. An emphasis on solar and wind power; green, sustainable building design; rapid transit, ferries, ride- and car-sharing; and creation of housing near jobs and transportation will not only improve the lives of the people who call the East Bay home, but serve as an example as to how a community can come together to meet its challenges.
We have the resources, technology, and creativity to make all this happen. The final ingredients? Public will and leadership.
Meredith Maran, Author of Dirty: Inside America’s Teenage Drug Epidemic; Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School; and What It’s Like to Live Now, among other books; regular contributor to The Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, and Health, among other magazines; writer in residence at UCLA’s Global Center for Children and Families
Besides the thrill of waiting for the next earthquake, the best thing about being an East Bay writer is writing and reading in a thriving community of writers and readers. The question is, will the endangered species of independent bookstores, independent publishers, independent thinkers, and, well, books survive for the next 35 years?
Although book sales are, as they say in the trade, “flat,” I daresay books will still be with us: While worshipping the ozone hole at Lake Anza or ducking guano at Lake Merritt, old farts like me would rather turn pages than squint at a screen. But the fate of our precious homegrown bookstores–Cody’s, Black Oak, Diesel, Marcus Books, Mrs. Dalloway’s, Pegasus/Pendragon, A Great Good Place for Books, and other such sanctuaries of authors, books, and ideas that don’t sell by the pallet load at Costco–is far less secure. The indies will survive only if we decide that saving a few bucks at B&N or Amazon is too hefty a price to pay for what we’d lose without them. In this matter at least, unlike earthquakes and elections, we have some choice about what our future holds. I for one consider each book bought at Cody’s an investment in the East Bay I hope to be dottering around in 35 years from now.
I expect the population will have doubled, and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley will have significantly developed as important cultural centers for the East Bay, quite distinct and perhaps competitive for regional domination along with San Jose and San Francisco. Like San Jose, Oakland’s population will exceed that of San Francisco county by 2020.
It may be that Alameda and Contra Costa counties will follow the suburban to urban model of Orange County (which has grown separate from the mother city, L.A.) and become increasingly independent culturally, socially, and politically from San Francisco. I believe that the East Bay will drift to the right, although it will remain a “blue state region” for several generations.
In the transportation field, I expect the East Bay to retain its reputation for innovation and creativity. And we won’t have to wait 35 years for many bold steps to start paying dividends. Here are just two examples:
In the next few years, the Bay Area’s first high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane is likely to debut on the Sunol Grade section of I-680. Under the HOT lane concept, excess capacity in a carpool lane is auctioned off to single-occupant motorists, with the proceeds used to extend the carpool lane network and make other transportation improvements in the affected corridor. Carpools and vanpools would continue to use the HOT lanes free of charge. HOT lanes already have been successfully implemented in southern California, Houston, and Minneapolis. It’s long past time for the Bay Area to give them a try.
The toll bridges connecting the East Bay to the Peninsula already are equipped with FasTrak electronic toll collection, which speeds motorists through the toll plaza without having to stop and fumble with cash. Over the next few years, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will be implementing a similar system for paying fares on public transit systems like AC Transit and BART. It’s called TransLink, and this smart card will be good for paying transit fares on any of the Bay Area’s two dozen transit systems. Over the longer run, I hope that we will one day have a single electronic “transportation pass” that the region’s residents can use to pay for bridge tolls, transit fares, parking meters, or even renting a bike locker.
In 35 years we hope the East Bay will still be the place where things begin, and that the ideas we take for granted here have taken root in other places around the world.
The big challenges before us include finding satisfying work for our people, ending the great inequalities of wealth that lead to social chaos, sustaining our planet as a livable and beautiful place, and having the world at peace. Fortunately for us, solutions to these challenges can be linked. In 35 years we see a thriving economy oriented toward developing, manufacturing, and marketing the next wave of green technology. That will provide good jobs and products in the global economy as the reality of global warming sets in.
The green economy will be linked to our schools–small high schools with personal attention for every young person will be linked to career exploration and internships in the environment, law, construction and building trades, health, and other broad career areas. The green economy will have flexible work hours and part-time work options for parents and other caregivers.
We know how to achieve these goals. It’s all about the choices we make–each of us as workers, consumers, and family members–every day for the next 35 years. There is also a negative alternative vision that is possible if we do nothing: increasing inequality of wealth, increasing global and local pollution and the diminishing of life that comes with them. It’s all about choices.
Our hope is that everything will move toward a more natural and organic approach to food usage, preparation, and purchase. Lalime’s is a green restaurant, and Fonda is just about green, and Sea Salt is almost there as well. Everyone is being more conscious about what we use and how we use it and supporting the local industry–growers, fishing, meat growing–rather than purchasing from large entities. Everyone used to get all their ingredients from one of the mega-delivery companies. The restaurant business now, especially the East Bay and San Francisco, wants direct contact with growers and appreciates what they do.
I see the population growing in the East Bay at a rapid pace and I hope that the mass transit system will continue to improve in order to maintain a cohesive society–geographically, for quality of life, and for people to come together for various events of all kinds. The growth of the population is a good thing for the economy and organizations like ours but it’s dependent on the growth and development of mass transit and the way communities are built.
The people who conceived of our mass transit, of BART, were visionaries. We need to have the same kind of visionaries to look forward and keep it functional. Therefore, a lot of things will prosper: the arts, business, the quality of life–the people who live here won’t be stuck in traffic all day or isolated from each other. Based on the history of this region–and I grew up here–BART is so important to the life of this community.
I think the arts will continue to prosper. The arts business has changed enormously in the last decade largely because we are living in a smaller world and our work is now very much international, rather than just local. And that’s only going to continue and accelerate. It’s also why mass transit is so important. Internationalism and bringing people together through the arts is crucial to the future of world peace.
Today the East Bay is a great place to live, work, and play because of its temperate climate, diverse population, rich cultural history, tremendous range of businesses, its standing as an international transportation hub, and of course its natural beauty from the Bay waters to the tree-topped hills. All those factors attract talented people from across the nation and around the world.
At the Port of Oakland we have been working hard to build for the future to keep Oakland a competitive and significant international gateway. If we do our job right, 35 years from now the Port of Oakland will be handling triple the cargo we see today, more efficiently and quickly. When you stand at the water’s edge in 2040 at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park you’ll see plentiful wildlife in its natural habitat while at the same time being at the heart of an international seaport. You will be able to take your grandkids to the shore and be awed by the numerous mega-ships entering the Port stacked high with the latest gadgets, clothing, and other goods from Asia. You will see the transfer of containers to high-speed near-dock rail, to barges headed up the delta, and to trucks that are now all running on efficient and cleaner alternative fuels.
I see a beautiful residential neighborhood along the waterfront in the Oak to Ninth streets district of Oakland teeming with families enjoying the public access near the Oakland estuary. By that time Jack London Square will be a sought-after global destination for its California Harvest Hall, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment at the waterfront. Oakland International Airport will significantly increase its presence as a regional airport and be better than ever with getting people where they need to go on a nonstop hyperspeed plane at a reasonable price. The BART Connector will be commonplace carrying millions of travelers to and from Oakland International Airport.
We can imagine the future, but when it comes down to it, no matter the improvements, those who make their home in the East Bay will be fortunate indeed as this is a great place to be.
The East Bay offers a diversity that is unmatched in the region, making it one of the best places to live in Northern California. The access to great schools, a variety of neighborhoods, multiple commute options, sports facilities, arts centers, and wineries creates a unique and special environment for residents.
As a place to work, the East Bay offers employees the opportunity to work at leading-edge companies, often close to where they live. When Ask Jeeves was determining where to relocate our corporate headquarters in 2004–ultimately moving from Emeryville to downtown Oakland–staying in the East Bay was an easy choice. Our ability to offer challenging high-tech job opportunities in one of the fastest growing areas of technology, in one of the fastest growing areas in the Bay Area, are both significant pluses for talented professionals.
I believe this area will continue to attract highly creative and entrepreneurial individuals from around the world, who will have the opportunity to be key players in driving innovation and economic growth. The increasing diversity of this area will be the catalyst for innovations that will reshape the way we live, work, and raise our families both here and around the world.
I think the future will bring more collaboration between different art forms, which will be very exciting. Like sampling in the music industry, you’ll see more cross-pollination between different art forms and institutions–for both economic and aesthetic reasons. A different vocabulary will emerge to appeal to new audiences and a new voice as to what art can and might be.