The new Christ the Light Cathedral is a beautiful structure, designed to guide the mind toward bliss, to allow the susceptible a glimpse of heaven. In early 2005 I sought a high place of my own type—a parking structure—to have a look at the cathedral’s construction site.
The site was at one time a glamorous high-Deco car dealership. Before that I don’t know, but the Oakland geologic map shows it as half fill and half “marine coastal terrace” deposits. The fill half would be on the lakeshore side, naturally. The terrace is basically a shelf of sediments deposited in San Francisco Bay during the last interglacial, more than 70,000 years ago, when the sea was a good five or ten meters higher than today. Only small, subtle bits of it are around today. The pit looks like it’s floored with nice clean golden sand. That might be aboriginal sediment, or it might be dirt from downtown hauled here to fill in the swampy lake shore, as it was around almost the whole lake. The downtown dirt is Merritt Sand, a widespread sheet of ancient windblown dune sand much like what underlies western San Francisco. That sand came here at the height of the last ice age, when the seas were very low, the weather was cold and the winds blew fine sand from the wide, exposed continental shelves onto the coastal hills.
If I had an hour to poke around these excavations! But only the geotechnical engineers get to do that, and maybe a touring group of their fellow professionals, all in hardhats. If any of those fine specialists are reading this, my email is geology at about dot com.