In 1920, as part of an inheritance from a wealthy alumnus, the University of California inherited 458 acres of partially filled marshland on both sides of Webster Street. In 1929, capitalizing on the Airplane fever created by Lindbergh's transcontinental flight, the UC Regents began construction of an airport. The marsh was drained by digging a network of ditches from which water was pumped. After grading the site, crushed oyster shells were barged from Bay Farm Island to pave the 3,400 foot and 1,700 foot runways. All of the airports functions were housed in a single 53,000 square foot hanger constructed for a cost of $150,000. The airport's success during 1930-31 led to a 160-foot addition to the original hangar and the first 160 feet of a second hangar. The victim of a depression era economy and the loss of major airline tenants to Oakland and San Francisco Airports, the airdrome was used primarily by private planes and business fleets. In 1941, the Navy first condemned 70 acres bordering Atlantic Avenue for a housing project and later ordered the abandonment of "America's first downtown Airport".Environmental Concerns
The office park represents one of the tour sites where the investigation and cleanup of petroleum contamination has been completed. The site received "case closure" from the Alameda County Local Oversight Program for underground storage tanks in 1996 after removing 3 underground tanks, drilling 30 soil borings, installing five groundwater monitoring wells and then excavating 9,000 cubic yards of petroleum contaminated soil (600 truck loads). The soil was treated on site by a bioremediation process, reducing the petroleum contamination levels in the soil and allowing it to be used safely for fill during construction at the site. The business park was constructed after the soil remediation was complete in 1990. Monitoring groundwater quality at the site was continued for an additional five years after the cleanup was finished to verify the completeness of the cleanup.Current Property Use
The College of Alameda has also performed investigation and remediation of underground storage tank sites and hydraulic lifts at facilities used in the college's vocational training program.
The Navy has also performed environmental baseline surveys of property at the Naval Supply Center Annex and has completed the removal of contaminated soils from several locations.
Alameda College, Navy Supply Depot, US Navy Housing, Miller Public School, Health Club, Office Park, Restaurant, and the Webster Tube approach all were constructed on property that formerly operated as the San Francisco Bay Airdrome.What to Look For
The use of the property substantially changed in the 1950's when the Navy cut the largest hanger in half and rebuilt it at the Supply Annex to the west in order to make way for the Webster Tube.
Alameda College opened in 1970 and Miller School was constructed in 1993. The Athletic Club is located in a remodeled (mid 80's) warehouse. The office park (1990's) is located on a site that operated automobile services following the Webster Tube construction.
Soil settlement beneath the Airdrome's small hangar (now Navy Building 365) was part of an 1960's engineering study of the problems encountered when building on soft bay mud, found throughout the former marshlands in Alameda. The hangar structure was adequately supported by piles that were driven through the bay mud into stiffer soils. However the floor was built directly on grade, and relied solely on the strength of the soft bay mud. Ramps built up to doorways on Building 365 are evidence of the over three feet of elevation loss resulting from the settling of bay mud as it was compressed by the combined weight of the concrete floor and the Navy storage containers and equipment.Site Statistics
Building 365 is located behind the Athletic Club. A number of Navy groundwater monitoring wells are located along the fence line and can be identified by markings on the metal covers. Building 372, a portion of the large hangar that was deconstructed and moved, can be seen behind the northwest corner of the College of Alameda.
OFFICE PARK DEVELOPER: John Beery Organization
ACREAGE: 8 acres
INVESTIGATION STATUS: Complete, all monitoring wells removed.
CLEANUP STATUS: Case closure received 1996.
COST OF ASSESSMENT AND REMEDIATION TO DATE: $250,000 (estimated)
- Mariner Square Limited
- TWA Airlines
- United States Navy
- University of California