On April 27, the Oakland Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 to recommend approval of the Mitigated Negative Declaration/ Addendum for the proposed Oakland Zoo Expansion into Knowland Park.  CNPS had a good turnout at the meeting and our members made excellent comments.  Unfortunately, the moment the commissioners began speaking about their thoughts and feelings on the project, it was obvious that the decision had been made well in advance of this meeting.  A highlight (or lowlight) of the meeting came when Sandra Galvez (the commission chairwoman), while explaining her reasons for approving the project, concluded with her personal justification that since the Valley Needlegrass Grassland and other unique natural communities at the project site were already rare, they would probably disappear eventually anyway, so we may as well build on top of them now.  One wonders what would happen if that philosophy was expanded to include all threatened and endangered wildlife on this planet, and what kind of sad state our environment would be in if it were.  Needless to say, trying to communicate the importance of conservation to someone with a mindset of that variety would be a daunting task on the best of days.

While this is a tough setback in our attempts to get a complete Environmental Impact Report with alternatives for this project, the issue is certainly not over.  CNPS will appeal this decision for the record, and then the next step will be working to educate the City Council Members about the unique natural resources of this particular project site before they vote on whether or not to approve the plan.  We will keep working to protect the invaluable native plant communities of Knowland Park and hopefully there will be better news regarding this project in the future.  We will note any updates on this blog.  Stay Tuned!

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