"Folsom Avenue's low-lying yards are dotted with citrus trees slumping with fruit. Rows of grayish sandbags guard the foundations of dilapidated homes and line the bottoms of garage doors, foreshadowing floodwater.
We have just crossed Rumrill Boulevard from North Richmond into San Pablo, two working-class towns northeast of San Francisco. We've been tracing the overgrown course of Wildcat Creek upstream from its mouth near the junkyard at the corner of Gertrude Avenue and Richmond Parkway. Josh Bradt, a spry Berkeley-based stream restorationist, plods rapidly ahead, his mane of short dreadlocks snapping from side to side as we lurch along a weedy, garbage-choked easement. He's brought me out on a February afternoon to see what the muddle of industry, pollution and water engineering along two local waterways has done to the impoverished communities that surround them."