The Oral History Project

"Karl Linn: Landscape Architect in Service of Peace, Social Justice, Commons, and Community"

Download a PDF file of this 206-page document published by the Bancroft Library Regional Oral History Office whose research specialist Lisa Rubens conducted the nine hour-long interviews documenting Karl's life from childhood through his work coordinating the cluster of commons projects in Berkeley's Westbrae neighborhood. Funding for this project was provided by the Ford Foundation's Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative.


Westbrae Commons Projects

The Westbrae Neighborhood Commons includes a cluster of adjacent commons projects -- the Peralta, Northside, and Karl Linn Community Gardens, the Ohlone Greenway Natural and Cultural History Exhibit, and the Berkeley EcoHouse -- and the Schoolhouse Creek Common, about a mile away. These unique community spaces feature artwork and eco-friendly technologies amidst lush vegetable gardens and native California vegetation. A network of beautiful and comfortable spaces invites visitors to enjoy nature and each other's company.


The projects began with the construction of a hand-crafted commons in the Karl Linn Community Garden in 1993, after the city-owned community garden was dedicated in Karl's name, on the occasion of his 70th birthday to honor his lifelong commitment to community and peace.

In 1996 planning began for two community gardens with commons on vacant land across the street -- the Peralta Community Art Garden and the Northside Community Garden.


Three years later the idea of creating the Ohlone Greenway Natural and Cultural History Exhibit along an adjacent pedestrian and bicycle path captured the imaginations of a devoted team of artists and volunteer professionals.


The California Habitat Indigenous Activists (CHIA) formed when gardeners began cultivating native plants and saving seeds which they planted along the Ohlone Greenway with the goal of restoring the coastal prairie habitat. Here is a short video about CHIA's restoration work along the Ohlone Greenway.


Schoolhouse Creek Common, about a mile away, grew out of community efforts to transform a neglected asphalt playground into a safe and welcoming gathering place.

To support these model projects, join and/or contribute to Friends of Westbrae Commons.


Berkeley EcoHouse

When the small house adjacent to the Karl Linn Garden went up for sale, a campaign began to purchase it and convert it into a demonstration site for eco-friendly technologies. Thanks to contributions and no-interest loans from community members the property was secured. EcoHouse has been a project of the Ecology Center since 2006. Indoor and outdoor projects continue to provide models for ecological urban living and a location for Ecology Center workshops. 


"Building Commons and Community"

New Village Press