415 Society was a nonprofit training program founded by Daniel Belknap and his wife Honey based out of the Elephant Barn building in Joaquin Miller Park that was described as helping unemployed welfare dependents get back to work. Each year, over 3,000 clients worked in Oakland-area parks removing dead trees and selling firewood. The project ran one of the earliest recycling programs in the Bay Area. The Society was also known for allowing people for performing community service if they were unable to pay court fines. In 1975, a controversy arose because Mr. Belknap was simultaneously working as a Alameda County social worker with partial responsibility for assigning people to community service entities while also working for the 415 Society. Tom Bates, then an Alameda County Supervisor, was behind the investigation. We are still researching how this controversy ended up being resolved.
For a time, the 415 Society jointly managed the Dunsmuir Hellman House with the nonprofit corporation created to manage what was then identified as the Dunsmuir Estate.
Links and Resources
- Daniel Belknap obituary
- "Storm brews over Oakland work-for-welfare program" San Francisco Bay Guardian April 19, 1975
- 415 Society discussion, Oakland History group on Facebook
- 415 Society logo on Elephant Barn building on Flickr
- "Dunsmuir dispute grows" Oakland Tribune March 16, 1978