The Albany landfill is an undeveloped spit of land, densely carpeted with vegetation, that pokes a little over a mile into San Francisco Bay from its east shore. Shaped like a tree that has fallen in the water, it begins as a broad elevated plateau, thins to a narrow neck, then widens out at the end to form what is known as “The Bulb.” Looking out from the Bulb on a clear day the eye can sweep in a wide arc from the Bay Bridge and the skyline of San Francisco in the south, to Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the headlands of Marin. Overhead a huge sky. Far behind the freeway clogged with cars, and the cities of Albany, Richmond, and Berkeley.
The landfill opened for business in 1963 when the City of Albany signed a contract with the Sante Fe Railroad Company “for the purpose of creating usable land.” Prior to 1975, the operators of the landfill accepted garbage and refuse. But the landfill was intended for “demolition debris” and over time the garbage was buried under tons of concrete rubble, rebar, wire mesh, corrugated tin, steel, iron, coke, slag, asphalt, glass, plastic and excavated dirt. The first years of dumping created the plateau. When the mesa of rubble reached its peak the trucks began dumping their loads further out into the Bay. The finger of fill narrowed to create the neck, then widened at its tip and kept widening until December 1983 when the landfill was closed. In 20 years over 60 acres of new land had been created by the dumping of approximately 2 million cubic yards of waste to an average depth of 40 feet.
Over the past three decades, Nature and a particularly resourceful group of homeless people have reclaimed the Bulb as a wild space and a community space. The combination of reclaimed nature, community, and outsider art have made this former dump one of the most beautiful peninsulas into the San Francisco Bay, and has attracted daily dog-walkers, day-strollers, curious wanderers, picnickers, and others to an amazing place that reminds us of the many ways humans need the wild.