July 28, 2014

Last chance to support expansion of California’s Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries

Map of Marine Sanctuary Expansion AreaA pair of marine sanctuaries north of the Bay Area is being considered for expansion. Under the proposal, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would extend the boundaries of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries north to Alder Creek in Mendocino County, and west to the edge of the continental shelf. The proposed expansion could protect an additional 2,771 square miles of ocean from overfishing, oil and gas drilling, and sewage dumping by cruise ships.

The public is invited to submit comments online before Monday, June 30. Your comments can help to support and strengthen the expansion of the marine sanctuaries.

Both sanctuaries are home to extraordinary marine ecosystems known for their rich biological diversity. The area is home to dozens of species of marine mammals, including 25 endangered species such as the blue and humpback whales. With one of the most productive ocean upwelling systems on earth, the area attracts a diverse community of fishes, invertebrates, marine mammals, and seabirds from all around the Pacific Ocean to feed in its nutrient-rich waters. NOAA is also considering amending the regulations and management plans for both Marine Sanctuaries. In addition to protecting ecologically-significant seascapes and wildlife, the expanded sanctuaries would promote ecotourism and sustainable fishing practices. 

You can include the following Sample Statements when you submit your comments online:

  1. I support the expansion of the Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries!
  2. Remove the authorization provision that could potentially allow drilling, dredging, marine sewage outfalls, and the taking of marine life.
  3. Increase the 1,000-foot overflight protections for wildlife hot-spots to 2,000 feet, as in the Olympic Coast Sanctuary.
  4. Remove the provision for “Personal Water Craft Zones” that allows recreational watercraft and jet skis in Marine Protected Areas. Allow surfer safety craft by permit only.
  5. The entire Marin coast is part of the Gulf of the Farallones upwelling ecosystem, not the Monterey Bay ecosystem. Please move the MBNMS/GFNMS boundary south to include the entire Marin Coast.

Remember to submit your comments before June 30! Thank you for doing your part to protect the unique ocean ecosystems off California’s north coast.

Save coastal prairie at Richmond ‘campus’

California clapper rail (and its reflection). Photo courtesy the Watershed Project (www.thewatershedproject.org).

California clapper rail (and its reflection). Photo courtesy the Watershed Project (www.thewatershedproject.org).

Help the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) protect one of the last remaining large areas of Bay coastal-prairie habitat.

The area is at UC’s Richmond Field Station, where the two institutions are jointly developing a “second campus”. In their very own publicity materials about the site, they proclaim support for the prairie and its protection, but so far their plans don’t live up to their words.

The site includes numerous sections of prairie, as shown on the accompanying map. We urge preservation and restoration of the Big, Northwest, West, EPA (North and South), Eucalyptus, North, and Gull. Further, many of the meadow areas can be reconnected by removing a few obsolete buildings and unnecessary portions of roadway:

Map from “Richmond Field Station Final Botanical Survey Report” by URS, 1997, modified by Bob Newey.

Map from “Richmond Field Station Final Botanical Survey Report” by URS, 1997, modified by Bob Newey.

 

  • the dilapidated buildings and roadway (Starling Way) separating the Big and Northwest Meadows;
  • the roadway (a portion of Lark Drive) that separates the Big Meadow and West Meadow from EPA Meadow North; this can be made into a pedestrian and bike path);
  • the segment of Regatta Boulevard (running north-south) west of the Northwest Meadow; the drainage culvert there should be converted to a meandering stream flowing into Meeker Slough to the south. Meeker Slough flows through Western Stege Marsh. Access to the area west of the prairies can be attained by a westward extension of the segment of Regatta Boulevard that already runs east-west north of the Big Meadow.

Instead, UC has proposed placing soccer fields and basketball courts on the prairie, and upgrading Lark Road into a major vehicular roadway.

The section of Regatta Boulevard along the western edge of the prairie is also important. Since this is no longer needed as a roadway, UC has proposed turning it into a “greenway/central gathering place”. Turning this into a meandering stream will greatly enhance the greenway as well as the habitat value of the prairie, and further will allow removal of toxics from urban stormwater runoff by natural processes before they can enter the Slough and marsh. (Much work has already been done to remove toxics from the marsh.)

The Field Station site is large enough to contain all proposed development without touching the indicated prairies. UC, LBNL, and Richmond would not be forced to reduce development, lose revenues, or be harmed economically, academically, or financially. UC and LBNL would need to spend some additional funds to realize the plan; we are just asking them to put their money where their mouth is. So far they have offered no public explanation why they wouldn’t.

UC recently formed a committee, chaired by its chancellor, to manage the site and its Long Range Development Plan. This committee issued a final plan before UC even had time to review and respond to public comments.

WhatYouCanDo

Write to Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks at:

chancellor@berkeley.edu
200 California Hall, MC1500
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
fax: (510)643-5499.

Ask him to support the Sierra Club’s vision for the coastal prairie and meandering stream at the Richmond Field Station.

Richmond residents, write to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and the City Council at:

Hector_Rojas@ci.richmond.ca.us
City Hall
450 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804.

Ask the Council to support the Club’s plan for the coastal prairie and meandering stream, and specifically to remove Lark Drive as a thoroughfare from the South Richmond Area Plan.

To work with the Club on this issue, contact Norman La Force, chair of the Club’s East Bay Public Lands Committee, at (510)526-4362.

Norman La Force

Vote yes on Proposition B–waterfront height-limit initiative in SF

YESonB_ 191x300

Update (April 21, 2014): “We thank the Warriors for abandoning their wall on the waterfront and encourage the voters to make their voices heard by passing Proposition B.” — Sierra Club Bay Chapter chair Becky Evans.

The Sierra Club urges San Francisco voters to vote yes on Proposition B–”Voter Approval for Waterfront Height Increases”–on the June 3 ballot. The measure would require voter approval for waterfront luxury-condo towers or other waterfront development projects that violate existing legal building height limits (see Feb., page 4).

A record-breaking petition drive by a coalition of environmental and community groups collected 21,000 signatures, more than twice the required 9,702 in just three weeks. The initiative is backed by the Sierra Club and the No Wall on the Waterfront coalition, who came together to defeat the 8 Washington waterfront luxury-condo towers, which were rejected by 67% of San Francisco voters last November.

“The overwhelming success of this petition drive shows just how strongly the people of San Francisco feel about keeping the waterfront a special place that is open and accessible for everyone to enjoy,” said Becky Evans, chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club and the official proponent of the initiative.

Despite the overwhelming voter rejection of the 8 Washington luxury condos, the San Francisco Port Commission has proceeded to move forward with a series of other proposals to raise waterfront height limits for luxury-condo high-rises, office towers, and hotels. Waterfront height limits can currently be changed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.

The initiative builds on a previous initiative passed by San Francisco voters in 1990 that required the creation of a Waterfront Land Use Plan to guide development along the city’s waterfront.

To volunteer in the campaign, or for more information, see www.NoWallOnTheWaterfront.com,

Vote yes on Proposition B.

Newark plans luxury homes and golf course on precious wetlands

A view of Area 4. Photo courtesy Carin High.

A view of Area 4. Photo courtesy Carin High.

Correction (March 7, 2014): an earlier version of this article misstated which Audubon Society has opposed this project. It is opposed by Ohlone Audubon, the Audubon that includes Newark in its range.

Over the past century and a half, 90% of the Bay’s original wetlands have been paved over, diked off, or replaced with airports, garbage dumps, residential developments, and (especially in the South Bay) salt ponds. To raise tax revenues, the city of Newark seeks to continue this destructive trend.

Last December, Newark updated its General Plan, reaffirming its intent to fill 560 acres to build hundreds of executive homes and an 18-hole golf course. The Sierra Club instead supports restoring these wetlands and adding them to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Help is needed to urge the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board to reject development plans for “Area 4,” one of the largest remaining unprotected areas in the South Bay.

At first glance, Newark’s wetlands (west of the railroad tracks, beyond the ends of Mowry Avenue and Stevenson Boulevard) might not seem remarkable, but even after decades of abuse, they still harbor an array of wildlife. Herons and egrets are common; willets and godwits probe the mud for crabs, crayfish, and worms. Flocks of ducks ply the quiet backwaters, disturbed only by merlins, hawks, and harriers. On the ground, burrowing owls and the rare salt-marsh harvest mouse are occasionally seen. Restoration of Area 4 will allow other important species to return: for example, the endangered clapper rail, a secretive bird the size of a chicken and heavily impacted by diking for salt ponds. The nearby Mowry Slough is one of the Bay’s most important pupping sites for harbor seals.

Area 4 has suffered abuse for decades, yet holds great promise for restoration. Despite continual discing and diking, wetlands have survived. Moreover, ecologists understand that vibrant ecosystems include a full array of ecological niches and vegetation zones. This area’s variety of habitat types—wetlands, upland areas, and the intervening transition zones—provides the mix needed for many species, and therefore gives the site unusual restoration value. While many tidal marshes are now undergoing restoration, with salt ponds being converted to more-natural habitats, very few places remain where both uplands and transition zones can be restored.

Fortunately, the Regional Water Board, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and other agencies have challenged Newark’s proposals, pointing out how they violate state and federal regulations on filling of wetlands. The Water Board has concluded that “impacts to Area 4 would be regionally significant.”

Environmental organizations have also intervened. The Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge has filed two lawsuits challenging the development plans. Since that time, nearly a dozen groups, including the Sierra Club, Ohlone Audubon, and Save The Bay, have opposed the city’s plans.

WhatYouCanDo

The main agency warding off this disaster is the Water Board. It has said that it is not likely to permit the filling of wetlands in this area, but Board officials need to know that the public is on their side.

To add your signature to Save The Bay’s petition telling the Water Board to remain strong in its opposition and deny permits for this development, visit https://www.savesfbay.org/secure/bay-vs-golf-course.

Paul W. Rea, Ph.D., nature writer and environmental activist

San Francisco voters soundly reject B and C–say no to waterfront highrises

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos calls this “the most beautiful spot on the waterfront”. Should this land be used for the Warriors’ sports arena or for better public access to the shoreline? Photo courtesy San Francisco Waterfront Alliance.

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos calls this “the most beautiful spot on the waterfront”. Should this land be used for the Warriors’ sports arena or for better public access to the shoreline? Photo courtesy San Francisco Waterfront Alliance.

On Nov. 5 San Francisco voters soundly rejected Measures B and C, rejecting height exemptions for 8 Washington–and sending a message to City Hall that they don’t want a wall of highrises on the waterfront.

The next potential waterfront battle is the Warriors’ proposal for a waterfront arena, 17-story condo tower, and luxury hotel (see June-July Yodeler, front page). The Sierra Club, San Francisco Waterfront Alliance, and San Francisco Tomorrow are calling on city leaders and Warriors owners to abandon this plan.

“The voters of San Francisco have sent a strong message that our waterfront should not be for sale to the highest bidder,” said Becky Evans, chair of the Sierra Club San Francisco Group. “Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors should pay attention to the defeat of Props B and C when making decisions about the proposed Warriors development projects, which pose a very serious threat to the delicate environment of our Bay.”

“San Francisco voters just put an emphatic stop to turning public land into a new wall of high-rise condos for billionaires,” said former Mayor Art Agnos, a leader in the campaign against B and C. “Multimillion-dollar campaigns can’t convince San Franciscans to do what isn’t in our city’s best interest, whether it is a claim that $5 million condos on public land actually mean affordable housing for the middle class and working people of our city, or whether it is dressed up as a basketball-arena real-estate deal on public piers in our Bay waters.”

More than 62% ov San Francisco voters voted ‘no’ on Measure B, and 66% voted ‘no’ on C. The measures would have allowed construction of 136-foot high luxury-condo buildings at 8 Washington and would have raised the waterfront height limit there from 84 feet to 136 feet, a 62% increase. (“No on B and C in SF” [October-November Yodeler, front page] incorrectly stated that Measure B would raise height limits along the whole northern waterfront. We meant to say that Measure B would raise height limits just at 8 Washington, but would set a bad precedent and open the door for other developers to ask for more height increases along the whole northern waterfront.)

“The Warriors’ ‘pavilion’ proposal for Piers 30 – 32 is 40 feet higher and five times larger than 8 Washington. You could fit almost four 8 Washington condo buildings into the arena alone,” said Gayle Cahill, president of the San Francisco Waterfront Alliance. “That gives voters five times more reason to reject this proposal.”

As currently proposed, the Golden State Warriors’ development would include a 12-story-high basketball and entertainment complex, a 175-foot-high luxury-condo tower and hotel, a 500-space private parking garage, and a 90,000-square-foot shopping mall of retail and restaurants. Most of it would be built not just by our waterfront–but over our Bay! The project also calls for $120 million in San Francisco public funds, and there is no plan to address public transit, vehicle traffic, and congestion.

Sierra Club California has new coastal organizer

High wind on the Mendocino coast. Photo: Flickr / ah zut (cc)

High wind on the Mendocino coast. Photo: Flickr / ah zut (cc)

Sierra Club California has a new organizer for the California Coast Campaign. Our new hire is Michael Thornton and he will begin working for us on Fri., Oct. 4–just in time to attend the CNRCC/SCC Convention in San Luis Obispo the weekend of Oct. 5 – 6.

Michael comes to us with many years of excellent and varied experience in the nonprofit world, including as an organizer. He also has a background in radio news, and so he brings excellent communication skills–something that’s essential for the work he’ll be doing.

Our Coast Campaign will be focusing in the next year on the ongoing effort to establish a new national marine sanctuary off the coast of San Luis Obispo County, and on educating and organizing coastal communities about fracking issues. The campaign will also continue to monitor and help with Coastal Commission issues that have a statewide impact.

Michael’s e-mail will be Michael.Thornton@sierraclub.org, and his desk number will be (916)557-1106.

No on B and C in San Francisco–no wall on the waterfront

Correction (Oct. 7, 2013): the previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Measure B would raise height limits along the whole northern waterfront. Measure B would raise height limits just at 8 Washington Street on the Embarcadero, but would set a bad precedent and open the door for other developers to ask for more height increases along the whole northern waterfront.

 

The Sierra Club urges San Francisco voters to vote no on Measures B and C.

Measures B and C would put San Francisco Bay at risk for massive pollution, create shadows on a park, and use taxpayer dollars to subsidize ultra-luxury housing for billionaires–on public land.

Approval of either of these measures would allow a luxury-condo project on the San Francisco waterfront at 8 Washington Street and exempt it from numerous zoning restrictions—including the height limit that we worked decades to establish for keeping the waterfront open for public use. The project would be twice as high as the Embarcadero Freeway, which previously occupied the site, and would exceed the zoned height limit by 52 feet.  Measure B would set a bad precedent and open the door for other developers to ask for height increases along the whole northern waterfront.

Last year the Board of Supervisors voted to approve 8 Washington–but volunteers rallied, gathering 31,000 signatures in 30 days, to place the issue on the ballot as a referendum, which is now Measure C. To confuse the issue, the project developer gathered signatures on an initiative to “open up the waterfront”, which is now Measure B.

The project would put San Francisco Bay at risk by building too close to a major sewer line that moves 20 million gallons of sewage a day. Engineers have testified that the project could cause the sewer to rupture in an earthquake and flood the neighborhood and the Bay with sewage.

The project would sit on public land–land that should be used for recreation. Further, the city would have to spend an estimated $5 million to upgrade the city-owned portion to keep Bay water from seeping in.

The supporters of the measures are developer-backed groups hoping to open up the waterfront to high-rise construction. Their campaign makes the outrageous claim that 8 Washington would create parks–when in fact it would destroy a public recreation center and replace it with a recreation space mostly for private use. The project would also decrease recreational opportunities on the public waterfront.

The developer also describes the project as creating affordable housing. In fact, there is no affordable housing in the proposed building, and the condos would sell for up to $8 million each.

Ironically, 8 Washington project would create shadows on a park named after Sue Bierman, the freeway-fighter who stopped the city from building freeways through Golden Gate Park. Sue Bierman Park was created after the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down.

The San Francisco Democratic Party, other environmental groups, and housing-advocacy groups all agree with the Sierra Club that Measures B and C are a bad deal for San Francisco and the environment.

WhatYouCanDo

The No on B and C campaign has volunteer opportunities for you:

  • every Saturday, 10 am, mobilizations for precinct-walking;
  • every Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, phone-banking.

Both take place at 15 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco. To get involved, contact (415)894-7008 or No8WashingtonWall@gmail.com.

And vote no on B and C!

Protecting prairie, cleaning up toxics in South Richmond

Channel at Hoffmann Marsh. Richmond is planning for development of the south Richmond shoreline, but is the toxic contamination going to be cleaned up adequately? Photos by G. Donald Bain, 360panos.com. Channel at Hoffmann Marsh. Richmond is planning for development of the south Richmond shoreline, but is the toxic contamination going to be cleaned up adequately? Photos by G. Donald Bain, 360panos.com.

Channel at Hoffmann Marsh. Richmond is planning for development of the south Richmond shoreline, but is the toxic contamination going to be cleaned up adequately? Photos by G. Donald Bain, 360panos.com.

As Richmond moves ahead with its South Richmond Specific Plan, it’s time for it to take a stand for the environment.

We worry that the city will defer to any UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab request for their new “second campus”. The city also faces a confrontation with the Union Pacific Railroad over the Hoffman Marsh, especially remaining privately owned portions. The city still has not made a firm commitment to clean up the toxics at the Zeneca site. For the health and safety of Richmond residents, it’s time for the old industrial sites to be cleaned up.

WhatYouCanDo

Richmond residents, write to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and the City Council at:

Hector_Rojas@ci.richmond.ca.us
City Hall
450 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804.

Urge the city to:

  • make sure that the Union Pacific cannot develop the Liquid Gold site but instead must clean it up to protect the Bay and wildlife;
  • support the effort to add the rest of the Hoffman Marsh to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park;
  • require clean-up of the toxic Zeneca site to the residential standard.

Everyone can write to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at:

Richard Philliber, Environmental Planner
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
One Cyclotron Road, MS 76-225
Berkeley, CA 94720.

Urge the Laboratory to work actively to save the coastal prairie at the second-campus site. In particular, the main access road should not be built through the prairie, but around it from the current main entrance at Regatta Boulevard. Richmond residents can include this request in their letters to the Council also.

For more information see the project web site at www.ci.richmond.ca.us/sssp.

Norman La Force, chair, Sierra Club West Contra Costa County Group

Court affirms lower-court ruling on Drakes Estero–no more oyster-growing in Point Reyes wilderness

A Sierra Club hike to Drakes Head. Photo by Jeff Jolin.

A Sierra Club hike to Drakes Head. Photo by Jeff Jolin.

On Sep. 3 the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company does not warrant an injunction to continue operating after its lease expired on its own terms last November. The company has none of the state or federal permits to operate its commercial oyster-raising business in Drakes Estero, the ecological heart of the Point Reyes National Seashore and the only marine wilderness area on the West Coast (see February-March Yodeler, page 3).

“The court rightly decided that former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had full discretion to let the oyster operation permit expire and to honor the 1976 wilderness designation for Drakes Estero,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

The panel held that it has jurisdiction to review whether the secretary violated any legal mandate contained in Section 124 or elsewhere, but that it lacks jurisdiction to review the secretary’s ultimate discretionary decision whether to issue a new permit. The panel held that Drakes Bay was not likely to succeed in proving that the secretary violated constitutional, statutory, regulatory, or other legal mandates or restrictions, and that it has not shown that the balance of equities weighs in its favor (decision, pages 2 – 3).

Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote that, “We have jurisdiction to consider whether the secretary violated ‘constitutional, statutory, regulatory or other legal mandates or restrictions,’ Ness Inv. Corp. v. U.S. Dep’t of Agr., Forest Serv., 512 F.2d 706, 715 (9th Cir. 1975), and we agree with the district court that Drakes Bay is not likely to succeed in proving any such violations here. Through Section 124, Congress authorized, but did not require, the secretary to extend the permit. Congress left the decision to grant or deny an extension to the secretary’s discretion, without imposing any mandatory considerations. The Secretary clearly understood he was authorized to issue the permit; he did not misinterpret the scope of his discretion under Section 124. In an effort to inform his decision, the secretary undertook a NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] review, although he believed he was not obligated to do so. Nonetheless, any asserted errors in the NEPA review were harmless.”

Gordon Bennett, president of Save Our Seashore, said that, “the Court has now confirmed that the expiration of the oyster-operation permit was a well-established matter of contract and [National Park Service] policy that Mr. Lunny was fully aware of before he bought the last few years of operating rights. This decision facilitates the long-planned wind-down of company operations, and we hope that the company provides strong financial support for the transition of its workers.”

The court further noted, “In letting the permit lapse, the secretary emphasized the importance of the long-term environmental impact of the decision on Drakes Estero, which is located in an area designated as potential wilderness. He also underscored that, when Drakes Bay purchased the property in 2005, it did so with eyes wide open to the fact that the permit acquired from its predecessor owner was set to expire just seven years later, in 2012. Drakes Bay’s disagreement with the value judgments made by the secretary is not a legitimate basis on which to set aside the decision [page 6]“.

“We urge the company to fulfill its long-standing responsibility to its workers by assisting them during this time of transition,” Trainer said.  “The local community will work with Rep. Huffman and other leaders to ensure that the workers are taken care of,” she said.

For the text of the ruling see http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/09/03/13-15227.pdf.

North Richmond Shoreline Festival–Saturday, October 5

2013NRSFestivalFlyerWee 393x504Saturday, October 5, 11 am – 5 pm, Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park, 5551 Giant Highway, Richmond.

The ninth annual North Richmond Shoreline Festival will features free food and entertainment, including burritos, live music, bird-watching with the Audubon Society, fishing, exhibits, pony rides, nature walks, kids’ activities, kids’ chu chu train, and demonstrations.

The event is hosted by the North Richmond Shoreline Open Space Alliance and co-sponsored by the East Bay Regional Park District, the city of Richmond, San Pablo Economic Development, and the Sierra Club Bay Chapter.

The Festival is a grand opportunity to educate people of all ages about the ecology of the shoreline, its fragility, and the need to protect it.

NRS01 300x293For more information, including shuttle-bus schedules, see www.northrichmondshoreline.org/festival.htm or contact Lana Husser at (510)219-1571 or lanahusser@comcast.net.