Mountain View Cemetery is one of Oakland’s great civic ornaments for several reasons: its gravestones and tombs commemorate generations of historically important Bay Areans, and its plan was Frederick Law Olmsted’s second significant large-scale project in landscape design after New York’s Central Park. It’s a fine piece of open space that’s used by many different groups of people.
I think of the cemetery as a great civic ornament for two special reasons of my own. First, it’s a superb display of Oakland’s natural landscape as the first settlers knew it.
Second, it’s got some great exposures of Franciscan melange, the mixture of rock types that was created by the tectonic collision between the North America and Farallon plates about 90 million years ago.
The cemetery’s operators are planning to reoccupy and develop the highest part of the grounds, the two heights in this photo taken from the Catholic cemetery next door.
Here’s the view from up there. The cemetery proposes putting in roads and formal structures in the foreground and up on the hill beyond the fence, behind the greensward.
The goal is to accommodate about 1500 more grave plots. A lot of dirt and rock will be dug up and moved around. The plan talks of building up the hilltop and tilting it toward the bay for better views.
The city’s master page for the proposed work is here. The draft environmental impact report is there, plus info on two upcoming hearings (July 11 for the Landmarks Preservation Board, July 20 for the Planning Commission). This month is the public’s most influential time window.
The land beyond the fence is a special bit of countryside . . .
. . . with its own constituency.
It also has its share of rock outcrops. To me these are precious things. Most outcrops in these hills either were blown up during development or are locked up in people’s back yards.
I’m still thinking about what I want to tell the city. But my basic concerns are that the natural character of the land — its contours and vegetation — be respected and preserved as much as practicable. The project will affect a landmark that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy from their own windows and yards.
Olmsted considered these hills the essential setting for the elegant, transformative parkland he planned here in 1863. Mountain View was, and remains, an icon of the City Beautiful movement and a destination for landscape architects everywhere. It and Stanford University (designed in 1888) are the only major Olmsted projects in the Bay area.
This amazing cemetery is Oakland’s cemetery. Let’s speak up to help keep it as beautiful as possible.