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On January 21st, EBCNPS submitted a letter to FEMA in response to the recently released Final Environmental Impact Statement for their East Bay Hills Fuels Management Plan. EBCNPS’s concerns are focused on changes FEMA has made to the Final EIS – specifically, modifying the projects proposed by Berkeley and Oakland which planned to remove Eucalyptus and restore native habitat. FEMA is now requiring that UC Berkeley and Oakland adopt a plan that is similar to that proposed by the East Bay Regional Park District, where Eucalyptus stands would be thinned and managed rather that removed. This raises an issue with the regulatory process since both UC Berkeley and Oakland’s projects were determined to be self mitigating due to the native habitat restoration that would have been achieved.
EBCNPS’s letter can be viewed here: CNPS FIES Response Letter 1_12_15 FINAL
The release of the Final EIS has raised more questions that it has answered. EBCNPS plans to continue following this issue as it develops.
The 2015 CNPS Conservation Conference is coming up in a few weeks. Join over 1,000 conservation and native plant enthusiasts in San Jose! Attendees include scientists, conservationists, CNPS chapters, university professors and students, policymakers, professional and amateur botanists, landscaping professionals, and land-use planners from California and beyond. The Conference will take place on January 15th 16th and 17th and there are pre-conference workshops and field trips occurring on January 13th and 14th. Visit the conference website for more information and to register to attend: http://www.cnps.org/cnps/conservation/conference/2015/
This event only happens once every three years, and with the location so close to our chapter area, this is one not to miss!
On November 14th, EBCNPS submitted comments to the East Bay Regional Park District regarding their Notice of Preparation for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for their Albany Beach Restoration and Public Access Project. Our comments focused on the importance of making sure the eelgrass beds that exist just offshore of the project area are protected both during construction and during recreational use of the beach after the project is completed. A copy of our letter can be viewed here: 11_14_14 NOP Comment
On November 18th, the Oakland City council voted 6-2 to approve the Oakland Zoo’s proposed conservation easement – taking the final step in approval for the Zoo’s proposed expansion project that would remove public access to roughly 77 acres of public wildland in Knowland Park. With this vote, the Oakland City Council sent a message that public land in Oakland is up for grabs to any private entity that wants to profit from it.
The most heartening part of the challenging night was that supporters of the park packed the council chambers and were eloquent to a person in their support for protecting the park. It was clear that had the audience voted, the easement would have been crushed. And the divide between what the public wants and what it got from this city council is manifest. On the zoo’s side I can recall only zoo staff, a few zoo volunteers, and zoo board members speaking. We also know that hundreds of e-mails were sent to CC members, and one of our petitions hit 17,000 signatures. So, the outpouring for the park, for the native plant and wildlife resources was overwhelming. Four reps from Sierra Club spoke, one from Defense of Place, and letters came in from the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental organizations. Not a single local environmental organization supports the Zoo’s project.
Councilmembers Councilmembers Kaplan and Kalb were the dissenting votes. Kaplan gave no reasons for her vote (although we know from our talks with her that she is a park user, was deeply offended by the removal of public access to benefit a private entity). The person who nailed the reasons for opposing the conservation easement was Councilmember Kalb who made it clear that the easement on already protected public park land is double-dipping–regardless of what the zoo’s paid biological consultant said–and that easements like these shouldn’t be used. He also made plain that the city—regardless of whether it was a successful legal strategy–should have required the Zoo to complete a full EIR with the implication that the mess that the city is facing is because it never did the Alternatives Analysis which would have been required in an EIR document. Although Dan doesn’t lose his temper, he scolded the city and the Zoo for dodging this critical step. “It’s not something that a good nonprofit should’ve done,” Kalb said to Zoo representatives, adding, “The city made a mistake in not pushing you to do it.”
While we obviously failed to win the vote (which we knew was a long shot), we succeeded in getting this issue out in front of the public after a long uphill fight. Those of us who remember the meetings in 2011 recall the challenging efforts to inform decision makers and the public about the native plant species and communities in the park. CNPS was often cited in the discussions and certainly vilified by the opposition, which if anything has helped us in the eyes of the public. I don’t think we’ve ever had more media attention, and the environmental community did join our cause in full force.
The Knowland Park Team will be de-briefing and assessing next steps, so stay tuned. We cannot adequately thank those who have poured their hearts into this effort. For now, let’s get out to the park and continue to enjoy and learn from it while we can.
Please come to Oakland City Council meeting
Tues 11/18 starting 5:30 pm
Oakland City Hall at 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Council Chambers, 3rd Floor
Please RSVP here if you can attend: bit.ly/knowlandmeeting.
Beautiful & wild Knowland Park is home to native wildlife, including rare and threatened species, and it was deeded to the city of Oakland to remain a public park forever. The Oakland Zoo wants to take over the heart of it (77 acres of prime habitat on western ridge) for an exhibit of species that are now regionally extinct due to development! …plus restaurant, gift shop, offices and meeting rooms, and a gondola ride that will transport Zoo visitors uphill to the ridgetop development. This is not conservation. Once the chain-link perimeter fence goes up and the richest portion of Knowland Park is bulldozed, it’s gone forever―habitat significantly damaged, no free public access.
This could be it―giving Zoo management the go-ahead―unless we can convince the City Council to vote down this horrible plan and demand that the Zoo consider alternatives below the ridgeline. We can do this with your help.
Come to the City Council meeting on Tues 11/18 to stand up for your park.
Help us to tell the City Council they must not vote to give away our public parkland. The Zoo has room to build their project BELOW the ridge. We can still have a great Zoo and save Knowland Park.
Note: You can sign up for a 1-minute statement, or if you don’t want to speak, you can cede your time to other speakers.
FYI, the City Council will be voting whether to approve 52 acres for a “conservation easement.” While that sounds like a good thing, it’s actually a penalty being required as a condition of the Zoo’s project permit, only because Zoo management insists on building their big project on top of prime habitat for a threatened species, and refuses to consider the recommendation of the state Fish and Wildlife agency that they move the project.
Please join us in our final appeal to the City Council. We need every single supporter to stand with us. Thank you!
Dublin voters made their voices heard in yesterday’s election! Measure T, written and supported by developers was defeated in a landslide of more than 4 to 1 with 83% of voters voting NO to development outside of Dublin’s Urban Limit Line.
The defeat of this measure ensures continued protection for Doolan Canyon (Part of EBCNPS’s East Dublin and Tassajara Botanical Priority Protection Area), and sends a strong signal to developers that Dublin residents value their open space areas and deem them worthy of protection.
Thanks to the many residents of Dublin who volunteered their time and energy to ensure that this misleading measure was soundly defeated. Thanks also to the local environmental groups who joined EBCNPS in opposing this measure: Tri-Valley Conservancy, Save Mt. Diablo, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Vineyards, Greenbelt Alliance, Alameda Creek Alliance, and Ohlone Audubon.
A report from the Contra Costa Times can be found here: Landslide defeat for Measure T in Dublin
On October 7, 2014, EBCNPS sent a letter (linked below) to the Oakland City Council regarding their closed session meeting to discuss the Oakland Zoo’s proposed 53 acre Conservation Easement in Knowland Park.
The East Bay Express just reported on the results of a recent poll by the Save Knowland Park Coalition that found that 77% of Oakland Voters oppose the Oakland Zoo’s current expansion proposal. We are hopeful that Oakland’s elected officials and Zoo executives will view the results of this poll as a wake-up call and that it will inspire them to consider alternatives to their current environmentally destructive proposal.
You can view and comment on the article here: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2014/10/16/save-knowland-park-releases-poll-showing-strong-voter-opposition-to-oakland-zoo-expansion
Some great articles were posted this week on SF gate and Contra Costa Times regarding the community opposition to the developer funded “Measure T” in Dublin which would allow for urban development in Doolan Canyon – one of EBCNPS’s Botanical Priority Protection Areas.
Today’s East Bay Express featured an article that investigates the history and current state of the Oakland Zoo’s proposed expansion into Oakland’s Knowland Park (part of our “Foothills of South Oakland” BPPA). It is an in-depth story that was well researched. Please check out the article and share it with your friends via email and social media: