Chappell R. Hayes was a well-respected West Oakland activist who championed local level environmental justice issues. After the collapse of the Cypress Viaduct of the I-880, Oakland and Caltrans understood they needed to rebuild. The big question was where would it be built? Immediately after the Loma Prieta earthquake the clean-up of the concrete and rebar mess that was the freeway revealed a clearing of space for the surrounding neighborhood. The West Oakland community wasted no time on mobilizing against the plan to rebuild the freeway in the same spot and area of land. Instead most activist, namely the Citizens Emergency Relief Team or CERT, pressured Caltrans to have the freeway route pass through the edges of West Oakland, closer to the Port of Oakland and further away from West Oakland homes. They didn’t want to sever West Oakland from downtown or displace people from their homes.
In a separate but similar campaign, Chappell specifically framed the problem of the freeway placement in terms of community health outcomes. In combination with poor access to healthcare amenities, asthma rates and life expectancy all shown to be negatively affected by living near a freeway in the Bay Area. Though they were successful in preventing the new I-880 from running straight through West Oakland, the new freeway intersected a few portions of West Oakland. Among other causes, Chappell was vocal about the shipping industry’s treatment of the harbor as he understood the air and water pollution only worsened with industry in the Port. He died in 1994 at 44 years old of pancreatic cancer but is survived by his wife, former Oakland City Council member Nancy Nadel and daughter. Though Chappell had a somewhat contentious relationship with the Port of Oakland, in 2004 they honored him by giving the lookout tower his name at Shoreline Park. On the lookout tower there is also a plaque with an inscription detailing a short bio of Chappell and the bottom of the plaque reads a quote from Congressman Ron Dellums, “Chappell was an inspiration to so many in his life, one whose priorities were so appropriate and whose humanity was so manifest.” In an interview, his wife reflected that it was appropriate to name the watch tower in his name as Chappell was a committed lookout for the West Oakland community for his entire life.