Group of people posing for photo outside on grass in front of apartment building
The racially diverse employees of Codornices Village in 1947 under housing manager, David Kinkead. Courtesy: David Kinkead/Albany Library Historical Collection

From the Albany Bulb, one can see the East Bay shoreline from Richmond to Oakland. This landscape was radically transformed by World War II, both physically and socially. Wartime manufacturing industrialized the landscape and the migration of people from across the U.S. changed how people lived and worked together.

This story was first published on the Monument to Extraction website. See the original version of the story for more photos and a list of sources.

In the 1940s, the vast federal housing development known as Codornices Village in Albany and Berkeley was one place where social changes were catalyzed by wartime needs. The quickly constructed two-story apartments of Codornices Village occupied land that stretched from south of Gilman Street in Berkeley almost to Buchanan Street in Albany, and from San Pablo Avenue to the railroad tracks to the west. 

The residents of this housing worked in shipyards and other facilities in Mare Island and Richmond. Today one can see the suburban Marina Bay neighborhood across the water from the Albany Bulb. During World War II, this area was home to the Kaiser Shipyards, the largest shipbuilding center on the West Coast, drawing 100,000 workers from across the country. The recruitment of women and people of color diversified the workforce despite the resistance of many unions, which were dominated by white men. 

President Roosevelt ordered participation in the war effort, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin and half a million workers migrated to Bay Area industries. Severe shortages of housing led to the 1940 U.S. Housing Defense Act. Local authorities received financing for low-rent public housing projects for families with urgent needs, and were in charge of selecting personnel, project sites and occupant criteria. The Lanham Act required non-discriminatory provisions based on need, but housing for racial minority groups wasn’t constructed in proportion to their employment. Most of the housing created was racially segregated, often in response to local pressure.

In the Bay Area, private builders couldn’t meet the housing demand for wartime workers. Berkeley and Albany didn’t establish local housing authorities, so the federal government requisitioned bayside property for housing projects. The Berkeley City Council argued public housing wasn’t necessary and opposed the establishment of Codornices Village on valuable industrial land. Real estate brokers falsely claimed the housing would lower property values and raise police, fire and education taxes, even though the federal government paid rent and taxes on the land. According to a 1953 study by UC Berkeley graduate student Helen Smith Alaincraig, Albany citizens objected to non-whites in the project and Black children in their schools. Likewise, Berkeley residents didn’t want people of color in their neighborhood. There was firm opposition from business and city leaders such as Berkeley councilmembers Edward Martin, Redmond Staats Jr. and Joseph McKee. On the other hand, councilmember Walter Mork, The Berkeley Democratic Club, and the Alameda County Industrial Union Council considered housing a necessity for the war effort. The Berkeley League of Women Voters also recommended cooperating with the federal authorities for the health and well-being of wartime residents. 

Despite opposition, in 1943, the Federal Public Housing Authorities (FPHA) developed Codornices Village as 1,896 temporary units on 120 acres traversed by Codornices Creek near the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. The federal government leased industrial land in Berkeley and unused agricultural land in Albany held by the University of California. At the same time, the Richmond Shipyard Railway was constructed along Ninth Street to transport thousands of workers on 90 trains that ran each weekday along the East Bay shoreline.

The stuccoed apartments were one to three bedrooms with asphalt roofs, sheetrock walls, and concrete slab floors. Federal funds provided maintenance, an elementary school, a police office, recreation areas and facilities for health care and child care. As the only federally managed (rather than municipally managed) Bay Area public housing project, Codornices Village took steps to integrate racial minorities and improve race relations among residents, while many other wartime housing projects remained segregated.

Black and white photo showing road with streetcar tracks flanked by rows of two-story houses
A 1945 image of the Shipyard Railway running through the Berkeley side of Codornices Village at the intersection of Ninth Street and Harrison Street. Courtesy: Albany Fire Station Album
Black and white photo showing rows of houses and the bay in the background
A 1945 rooftop view of Codornices Village on the Albany side with the Shipyard Railway bridge visible behind the buildings. Courtesy: Albany Fire Department, Albany Library Historical Collection

Initially, the Navy referred mostly Black families to fill the noisy, polluted west side near the factories, dump, and Southern Pacific Railroad. However, after Langdon Post of the FPHA intervened, the Navy assigned families of different races to sites across the development, although mostly segregated by building. According to Alancraig’s study, a leasing agent from Albany reflected local prejudices and helped maintain segregation by favoring white residents, prohibiting Black families from living in units along San Pablo Avenue, and filling vacancies with new tenants of the same race to maintain segregated patterns. 

However, in 1946, Codornices Village transitioned to an integrated project under housing manager David Kinkead. He appointed a citizen committee to evaluate compliance with non-segregation and non-discrimination policies. The committee recommended a first-come, first-served basis regardless of race and suggested Village personnel be screened for prejudices. Kinkead instituted paid employee training on race relations. The leasing department placed white families in units vacated by Black families and vice versa. 

Despite opponents’ predictions, whites didn’t transfer, move out, or complain about Black neighbors. Harold Wise, an administrative official, said “racial tensions disappeared” as residents, especially women, shared commonalities such as child rearing. Roy Nichols from the Village church noted increased neighborly friendliness. The citizens of Albany, Berkeley, and Codornices Village experienced how mixed-race recreational programs overcame racial tensions, promoted cooperation, fostered empathy, and encouraged community building. 

Mr. Kinkead found the objections from white families were mostly related to the subpar environment of the west side. More white families willingly moved after he ordered repairs with the addition of lawns and bus service. As war workers left, university students and families of veterans joined the community until 93% of the buildings had integrated occupancy by fall 1947. As the housing shortage lessened, however, fewer white families applied to live at Codornices Village. Private housing in the East Bay accommodated white families, but Black families of all economic backgrounds were excluded from many neighborhoods. By 1953, the population at Codornices Village was about 80% Black and 20% white.

In 1948, the Codornices Village Council appealed to the Albany and Berkeley city councils to keep the housing in operation. A 500-family waitlist from Kinkead was presented to show the urgent demand for affordable housing. When the Housing Act of 1949 extended funds, advocates including the Berkeley Municipal League and the League of Women Voters urged action for the maintenance of Codornices Village and local redevelopment for Berkeley’s substandard dwelling units. But Bay Area homebuilders, property owners, realty boards, and the Chamber of Commerce fought against “socialist” public housing, claiming that it would drain tax revenue from the city and that private industry would meet housing needs. When the Housing Act of 1950 placed the Berkeley City Council in charge of Codornices Village, Councilmember Martin pushed the motion to forfeit the acquisition of Codornices Village. While Mayor Laurance Cross pleaded for the welfare of the residents, the City of Berkeley decided to request yearly extensions to avoid federal rent controls. A Presidential Order in 1952 continued operation of “unrelinquished war housing projects” like Codornices Village until 1954.

Codornices Village became 90% Black, as there were relatively few other options for Black families nearby. The National Association of Real Estate Boards succeeded in gutting the the pro-housing movement by painting it as dangerously leftist. The University of California chose to abstain from the housing battle, and local governments worked to shut down the Village. The federal government closed the project and evicted the residents by 1956. The City of Berkeley demolished the public housing on their land in order to return it to industrial use. The University of California purchased the housing on their property in Albany and converted hundreds of units to housing for student families. 

The present-day University Village provides affordable living for student couples and families as well as community support systems. Streets with names like Liberty Ship and Kinkead Way are reminders of the history of Codornices Village. 

Codornices Village was a unique model in the history of Bay Area public housing. Today there is once again a housing crisis in the Bay Area. But unlike during World War II, the federal government is not stepping in with large-scale assistance.

In the streets just south of University Village, people without homes live in RVs and tents where the public housing of Codornices Village once stood. And at the Albany Bulb, in tents looking out toward the World War II shipyards, unhoused people lived for years until they were evicted in 2014.

This article originally appeared on the website of Monument to Extraction, a landscape installation and multimedia project created by the UC Berkeley Future Histories Lab and led by professor Susan Kuramoto Moffat. The authors of this story wrote it as students in Moffat’s “Ghosts and Visions” undergraduate city planning and studio art course. Moffat and her students are continuing research on Codornices Village and request people who lived or worked at the Village get in touch by emailing