PLEASANTON -- One stretch of land on Pleasanton's southwest side continues to be a historical treasure trove for archaeologists.
For at least the fourth time in the past decade, Dr. James Allan and his colleagues are working at the area, carefully unearthing the remains and artifacts of Ohlone Indians.
As of Friday, in the most recent recovery effort, Allan and his team had discovered 19 sets of Ohlone remains just east of Interstate 680 and south of Bernal Avenue in Pleasanton. The first remains were discovered there this month.
The remains were found after Safeway hired Allan's firm, William Self Associates, a cultural resource management firm, to survey the land as it prepares to build a 58,000-square-foot store on 39 acres of the Bernal property across from the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
The recent findings push the number of remains found by Allan's company on or near the site to more than 500.
"Modern folks in the area are finding out what the Ohlone Indians knew, that the Tri-Valley was a great place to live," said Andrew Galvan, an Ohlone descendant and curator of Mission Dolores in San Francisco.
In 2001-02, 16 Ohlone Indian remains were discovered on the same piece of land when the company was conducting work for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which had a water line installed.
In the late 1990s, 470 Ohlone remains were found there on land KB Home developed into a subdivision just south of the fairgrounds.
"It appears to be the case that Ohlone Indians called this area home," said Allan, the company's vice president and principal. "Given the number that we have found, and the close distance, it appears to be a fairly large population."
Safeway received approval from Pleasanton's city council in October to build the store. The development agreement approval had a list of provisions attached that included the hiring of a qualified archaeologist to conduct land surveys.
The remains were discovered in the ground right where the proposed store is to built, near Interstate 680, said Susan Houghton, Safeway's director of public affairs.
Once the remains were found, the company followed state law and contacted the California Native American Heritage Commission, which then assigns a person known as "the most-likely descendant," to consult with the landowner.
Ramona Garibay, a Lathrop resident, has been working with Allan to catalog findings.
Safeway broke ground on the new store Thursday and work on the site where the remains were found has been suspended. Allan said the cataloging and excavating could take three months to complete.
Once that work is complete, Allan said the remains could either be moved to another site for burial or be reburied on the same site in a spot where they won't be disturbed.
Safeway anticipates a November opening for the store. The developers of the property also have plans for a 14,000-square-foot pharmacy, bank, restaurant, and a mix of commercial and retail projects for the two-phase project.
Robert Jordan covers Dublin and Pleasanton. Contact him at 925-847-2184.