Wednesday, November 3, 2021

SearchResearch Challenge (11/3/21): Why is the Carquinez Strait so undeveloped?

It's a mystery to me... 

As I flew out of the San Francisco airport on a clear fall day, I noticed a vast imbalance in the landscape below, an asymmetry that I couldn't quite understand.  See that image above?  Notice anything odd about it?  

I noticed that while there's a lot of development (houses, shopping centers, etc.) on the north side of the strait, there's very little on the south side.  

This region of the greater San Francisco Bay region is a series of towns that have varied in size and importance over the years.  The lone village in this singular blank spot is Port Costa, and just to the west of that village is Crockett, home of the C&H Sugar factory.  If you shift to the east, you'll find Martinez, the former Pony Express stop, county seat, and home to John Muir for the last third of his life.  

But there's a big gap between Crockett and Martinez, a large region of undeveloped land.  It seems inconceivable to me that there wouldn't be SOME development between those two cities.  Why isn’t it more like Cinque Terre, with trails, small villages, fine restaurants and not just a strip of underappreciated shoreline?  Mind you, I'm not advocating for that--I love this stretch of the Carquinez Strait and I appreciate the quiet when I visit, but I'm puzzled.  Why is it like that?  So here's this week's Challenge:  

1. Can you figure out what's going on in this stretch of otherwise unused coastline?  Is it really the "Lost Coast" of the North Bay? Why so... empty?  What didn't happened here?   

The perfect answer will probably be some kind of historical briefing: What happened to this stretch of the coast?  Why was it left alone while everything around it turned into cities?  

Of course, in some sense, this is the dog that didn't bark--the missing piece.  And that's always a bit difficult.  

So be sure to tell us HOW you figured this out!   Let us all know in the comments.  

Search on!  

Here are two more images to give you a bit of context and maybe a few clues.  

The Carquinez Strait is just south of Vallejo (top center) and Concord (slightly down and to the right).  


  1. I found a little history of the area.
    I searched [undeveloped south of carquinez strait]

    Page 61:
    cil as an amendment to the 1973 Central
    Martinez Specific Area Plan and 1972 Mar-
    tinez General Plan. The plan covers 500 acres
    of undeveloped hills including the Hemphling
    and Sacchi properties •. The Hemphling prop-
    ertyis considered 1/ Sensitive Land" and Sacchi
    is designated as "Public Permanent Open
    Space". Policy 30.621 designates the area ex-
    tending from the Carquinez Straits to Route 4,
    as "Environmentally Sensitive Lands or Pub-
    lic Permanent Open Space"

    But why?

    Searching [Hemphling and Sacchi properties] gave strange results, including “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

    [history of carquinez strait regional shoreline] was a history of privately held land.

    About the biodiversity there:
    “The unusual mix of plants survives largely because of the extraordinary expanse of open space that remains along the strait. The East Bay Regional Park District alone has set aside nearly 3,500 acres of parkland on the strait’s southern shore—a key to district efforts since the late 1960s to open 47 miles of public shoreline in the East Bay. Much of the other open space near the strait is owned by the nonprofit Muir Heritage Land Trust and working ranchers.”
    “In 1843, the governor of Mexico granted the entire southern shore of the strait, including the Crockett Hills, to one Teodora de Soto…… And the rugged hills that de Soto ranched not so long ago? Over the 20th century, a succession of three ranchers leased the property to raise cattle. Some of their handiwork can be seen today just past the Crockett Hills parking area.”

    And it continues with the history of creating open public space. That is the superficial reason but it still doesn’t answer the deeper question of Why.

    [why is the southern shore of carquinez strait undeveloped] and
    [why is the East Bay Regional Park District undeveloped] did not yield any new results.

    About the dog who didn’t bark: It seems sad that we think development is the default or logical outcome of human habitation and we have to come up with a reason for not developing a spot of land.

    I never knew that Conan Doyle is the origin of the phrase “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, which happens to be the title of a book I am enjoying for the second time. I felt pretty silly after I searched for Section 1.

    1. all from the absence of the expected… most curious, in a quiet way…
      arf, non-arf
      Silver Blaze, Dartmoor
      "Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy who is described as "a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties"

      nice Doyle collection
      Tulare Lake
      Haddon - check the paintings
      Haddon visuals
      Coke and Fante
      a trailer, adieu
      it was a Shiba Inus

    2. As always, thanks. I read Silver Blaze and, while Sherlock’s conclusion was correct, there could have been other reasons why the dogs did not bark. Haddon writes like I think.

      I have heard “That dog won’t hunt” but “That dog won’t bark” is a new one on me.

      Actually, my mother had a Pekinese (not on your list) who did not bark. She had been raised with a Siamese cat before my mother inherited her. Even though she moved into a home with other dogs, we heard her bark only one time, a single “arf”. Obviously the ability to bark is innate, but is barking behavior nature or nurture?

      Am I the only person who says “the dog who”?

      I am assuming the Challenge’s use of the dog is metaphorical (according to the aforementioned book, all metaphors are lies). What didn’t happen? I don’t see many roads serving the south shore but suspect that is a consequence rather than a cause of lack of development. The Google map description is “Narrow stretch of tidal waters lined with fishing piers & protected parks offering family hikes.” Could there be a geologic reason?

      I’m having fun with this but not making much progress. To get a different perspective on the terrain, I did try [view of Carquinez strait] using Images and it looked like the north shore is more hospitable looking and the southern shore is “lumpy”. It doesn’t look nearly as inviting as Cinque Terre.

    3. I didn't mean to imply that the undeveloped lands SHOULD be developed, in fact, I think the opposite--I'm VERY glad they haven't been developed. It's a bit of a sense of wonder ("they haven't built here!") that prompted my question.

      It is tough to answer a "why didn't X happen?" kind of question. It's a kind of counterfactual reasoning for questions that might not have an answer.

    4. the Carquinez game is afoot
      81 pages
      36 pages… pictures, maps & graphs
      it's not like $20 trillion
      plans go back a ways… 1959
      "I quote at length because the matter-of-fact tone of the report captures the accepted wisdom of the time. Nature exists to be flattened and filled. There's no official recognition of the idea that maybe, just maybe, there's value in leaving things the way they are."
      no one listens… only what is in the momentary self-interest… imho

      I needed explanation

    5. @remmij -- excellent find (the plans). You found the dog.

    6. Dan, I am a dog
      mug dog
      maybe if the Russians had held on…? (channeling Brin) — but too expansive an empire — it always ends badly - ask Alexander.
      imagine the Farallons with no rush… no egg ravishing
      too bad there wasn't a commission…
      transcontinental rr
      the buffalos might have appreciated that…
      so much may have remained unaltered or different… but for Au, element 79

    7. So if a million dogs sit at a million keyboards for a million nanoseconds....

    8. If one million dogs sit for one million nanoseconds, they will have sat for 1 millisecond. (nano = 10^-9; million = 10^6) Which is about the attention span of a few dogs I know...

    9. I know what a nanosecond is. That was intentional.

      My daughter used to grow carbon nanotubes. If anyone is interested in a lighthearted look at nanotechnology try

      [ nano song]

      Ryan Miyakawa is a former colleague.

    10. I figured you knew what a nanosecond was! Just pointing out that a million nanoseconds, although it sounds like a lot, actually isn't! ;-)

    11. With a million dogs the total time would be 16+ seconds. How much is that in dog years?

    12. Flinch: I must be a closet engineer.

    13. I have high hopes for the space elevator.

  2. I always wondered the same about that area as we pass through last twelve years on our return treks from Tahoe.

  3. Port Costa History / county name / CONTRA COSTA COUNTY / File:Karquines 1898.jpg / CANADA (!) DEL HAMBRES / Rancho Cañada del Hambre y Las Bolsas - Wikipedia ETC / part of old Mexican Land Grant. Name refers to The grant consisted of "Cañada del Hambre" which means "Valley of Hunger" in Spanish, and "Las Bolsas del Hambre" which refers to "pockets" of land. (Wikipedia)

    I suggest the doggie wants a bowl of water but there is none here on this dry hilly country. The Rail track was abandoned as soon as trucking and bridges coincided. No need for trains to chug through here to get the freight southward anymore - although I see UP has track on the tiny narrow strip of the coast.

    Or was it salt water intrusion? THere is a reason it was named Poverty (Hunger) Valley.

    No more time left. JtU