Sunol Long Term Improvements Project Wins 2020 San Francisco Collaborative Partnering Award

Most every major infrastructure project encounters challenges during construction.  The Sunol Yard Long Term Improvement Project was no exception. However, the manner in which the project team joined together to overcome these challenges is why the project team won a 2020 San Francisco Collaborative Partnering Award. 

In January 2017, the project began construction at the Sunol Yard in the East Bay to construct a new LEED Gold administration building, 4 maintenance shops, fueling station, backup generator system, vehicle wash station, landscaping and site improvements.  The existing yard was dilapidated and beyond its working life. 

As the team began to excavate soil for the new buildings, they suspected they might uncover some historic features from the Rancho Period of the area. They had no idea how much they would find. Not only did the team find the foundations of the famous Sunol Adobe and a garbage pit  (a treasure trove for archaeologists ) used for several years around 1839,  they started to uncover much older features. Some of them stretching back 2,000 years. In total they found 31 historic features (Rancho Era) and 44 Pre-Historic features, including thousands of artifacts and some human remains. The overall work demonstrated that the area was a substantial settlement, perhaps the most important one within the Causen Ohlone territory during the Middle 1 Period.  The site has been deemed potentially eligible for the California Register of Historical Resources.

The Project Team carefully trained all personnel working on the site to be on high alert for historic, and pre-historic, resources. When they find something, they were to stop work immediately and call in an archaeologist. The Muwekma-Ohlone tribal members were on site to provide context and historical background to the excavation team on the site and its importance.  On a site so laden with history this might have caused a great deal of tension between the contractor, the archaeologists and the Native American representatives who monitored and helped the excavations.  Not only did this not happen, but the team rose to the occasion. 

The contractor  SJ Amoroso and its team were incredibly sensitive to the historic significance of the site.  The contractor changed the way they excavated the site to preserve any archaeological finds. As described by the contractor, “The operator was required to dig slowly, scraping inches of soil at a time with a flat‐blade bucket. Every time they found something that could potentially be related to the tribe, the site work came to a halt and the archeologists meticulously reviewed the findings and the site.”

The team maintained open and respectful lines of communication at all times. They approached each archaeological challenge with respect and out-of-the-box thinking to minimize impacts to the project. And Tribal members, archaeologists, and the contractor fully participated in all discussions regarding excavations at the site.  In the end, it was this spirit of partnership and respect that impressed the judges for the San Francisco Collaborate Partnering Awards. 

“It was a long and challenging journey and thanks to the dedication and commitment to work together as a team to overcome those challenges, we successfully completed the project and earned this award,” said Bryan Dessaure, Project Manager.

The team participated in a virtual awards ceremony on October 23, 2020.