UC Berkeley team works on atlas of Oakland’s International Boulevard

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A team of students and a faculty member at UC Berkeley’s Cartography and GIS Education Lab is creating an atlas of maps that highlights a diverse array of themes on International Boulevard in Oakland.

The atlas, called the Intranational International Boulevard, maps a range of topics respective to specific areas, including the prevalence of asthma, density of litter and garbage, and locations of public art and sweet shops. The atlas of maps, started in 2014, stretches from Lake Merritt through East Oakland to the border of San Leandro.

Darin Jensen, continuing lecturer and cartographer in UC Berkeley’s geography department, said the goal of the project is to create a holistic picture and to be able to discern the nuances of communities, as well as map social and demographic data.

“I think another reason it’s important to map this particular place is because it’s part of Oakland, the larger Bay Area, and when it is in the press, it’s usually in terms of what’s negative about it,” Jensen said. “We aren’t candy coating anything but focusing on the positive aspects.”

For Jensen, who has lived in Oakland for 30 years, the atlas is important because it maps an area where there has not yet been an influx of development. Diversity is “very much part of the fabric,” he said.

Although the maps may be taken out of the context of the atlas and still carry a narrative, the project is intended as a collection that tells a story, with all maps informing one another, Jensen said.

The team is in an intensive editing phase, which involves reviewing the maps graphically and editorially. To ensure authenticity of the mapping, the cartographers go into areas to experience them firsthand.

A crowdfunding campaign was set up to fund the publishing, which Jensen said has helped the project by putting it into the public sphere.

Jensen said that he teaches cartography as a graphic communication device and that having a material object, such as the atlas, is very important to him.

“I want to hold something in my hands,” Jensen said. “We want to share (the atlas) with people who are on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

Cooper Krings, a production team member and UC Berkeley alumnus, said International Boulevard was interesting to map — regardless of it being part of the more dangerous area in Oakland — because it is culturally rich and diverse, with the most change block per block.

Krings’ favorite map idea among those considered for the atlas, was a prototype compiled by fellow team member Sasha Helton that superimposes the locations of prostitution arrests against sites of beauty supply stores, such as salons and beauty parlors. The map was later scrapped from the atlas, according to Jensen.

The atlas is a primary source documentation and a snapshot in time of International Boulevard, so that historians can see what the community currently looks like, hundreds of years from now, Krings said.

“Hopefully, this will save some of the history from gentrification of areas over time and maintain the ethnic and cultural diversity that International Boulevard is so renowned for having,” Krings said.

Contact Alex Mabanta and Robert Tooke at [email protected].

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article may have implied that multiple faculty members are on the team creating an atlas. In fact, the team only includes one faculty member.

A previous version of this article may also have implied that a map superimposing the locations of prostitution against beauty supply store sites would be in the atlas. In fact, it was considered as a prototype but then scrapped. The map was also of locations of prostitution arrests, not of prostitution.

A previous version of this article stated that the atlas of maps stretches from suburban Hayward to the border of San Leandro. In fact, it stretches from Lake Merritt to the border of San Leandro.

The article also cited Cooper Krings as saying the atlas is the first piece of documentation and a snapshot in time for cartographers to see what International Boulevard will look like hundreds of years from now. In fact, Krings said the atlas is primary source documentation that will allow historians to see, hundreds of years from now, what International Boulevard looks like now.