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A 935-unit mixed-use community is proposed for the former Oak Knoll Naval Medical Center.  EBCNPS generally supports redevelopment in urban areas, but commented at community meetings in early 2016 that this project fails to protect a large population of the rare and iconic Oakland star tulip (Calochortus umbellatus) and native needlegrass grassland on the site.

Please attend an upcoming public meeting to learn more on currently published Draft Supplemental EIR. Here is the Agenda (see item 3, pg 6), and Staff Report. Join EBCNPS and speak or submit comments to Oakland City Planning Commission:

6:00PM @ Wednesday, October 5, 2016

@ Council Chambers, City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

oaklandstartulip

(Photo: Oakland star tulip, Calochortus umbellatus, CNPS rank 4.2, EBCNPS rank *A2)

Written comments due October 12, 2016 on the Draft Supplemental EIR. We currently reading this document and formulating our comments, but currently, our focus is on:

  • Opposition to proposed relocation of 732 Oakland star tulip bulbs to build houses (see CNPS policies, positions and guidelines, especially Mitigation Guidelines).
  • Opposition to proposed removal of thousands of mature trees. Although we are supportive of removing unhealthy or unsafe trees, and nonative trees in favor of native trees, and generally favor the City of Oakland Tree Preservation Ordinance, we are analyzing their removal and replanting plan for allowing for further protections.
  • Support of Rifle Range Creek restoration plan, especially with inclusion of native plants in landscaping plans.
  • Support removal of eucaluptus at Urban Wildland Interface between the proposed project and surrounding homes.
  • Recommend increased open space on the Oak Knoll itself, where construction of a large outdoor exhibit and extensive accessible trail system with associated parking spaces, are avoidable large scale impacts that should be reduced or reconsidered completely.
  • Recommend equipment hygiene standards for reducing spread of invasive weeds.

Please let us know if you would like to join our efforts. Keep an eye out for more updates throughout the month of October.

Karen Whitestone

conservation@ebcnps.org

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Mountain View Cemetery, a famously beautiful location for contemplation and recreation in the City of Oakland, also harbors many old- growth Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) that face the chopping block in the cemetery’s expansion plans. Comments  on Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) were due August 1, 2016, plus an extension. Read EBCNPS comments.

Recent other media coverage: East Bay Times: Mountain View Cemetery Seeks to Ax Oakland Oaks (Conservation Committee Chair Jean Robertson, photo credit Mark Hedin)

mvc_jrobertson

Established in 1863 and encompassing 226 acres of rolling hills at the head of Piedmont Avenue, the main portion of the Mountain View Cemetery was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The cemetery plans to greatly expand the developed area, involving massive land moving, removal of at least 190 mature oak trees, and potential impacts on many more mature oaks. These trees and the oak woodland habitat provide an oasis of natural serenity within the urban setting. EBCNPS commented that the proposed project fails to fully describe impacts on the oaks and woodland, provides inadequate protections for remaining oaks on the site, and urged adoption of a less-impacting alternative.

The planning commissioners and the City of Oakland Staff received many more comments from the public (over 100 e-mails and phone calls), expressing support for retaining the native trees, which include many large individual trees as well as entire swaths and groves. We are all currently in a waiting period, as the comments on the Draft EIR are officially processed. The response to comments can come as early as October, or perhaps up to three more months away.

We encouraged those who learned about the project from EBCNPS, to copy my email address conservation@ebcnps.org when submitting their comments. The following is a thank you letter EBCNPS sent out to those passionate citizens on August 31, 2016.

 

Thank You to Supporters of the Mountain View Cemetery Live Oak Trees:  

The East Bay California Native Plant Society (EBCNPS) would like to take this opportunity to thank you for submitting comments to the City of Oakland, regarding the proposed expansion project at Mountain View Cemetery.  As the Conservation Analyst for EBCNPS, I also submitted suggestions and objections on behalf of our organization. We focused most on the potential removal of 190 or more coastal live oak trees (scientific name, Quercus agrifolia).

Perhaps you first heard of the project from one of your friends. We know that not everyone copied my email address when rushing to make sure their message reached Catherine Payne, of the Oakland Planning Department. All of our impact together surely resounded in the inboxes of the Oakland City Planning Commissioners and the Mayor. You raised important points ranging from your love of oak trees, desire to save habitat for wildlife, and wish to conserve water and other environmental issues. I was touched to read heartfelt emails from people who have family buried at Mountain View Cemetery, and from those who enjoy it as a refuge for solitude, bird watching and walking.  It was obvious: we all love Oakland. Specifically, we showed we care about this peaceful parcel of land with the magnificent live oak trees.

So, what happens next? In a public process such as this, we can expect the City of Oakland to take time to read through our submissions, and hopefully, make revisions to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). All those who submitted comments  should receive notice of the next public distribution and comment period regarding this proposed project EIR (even if your comments were submitted after the August 1, 2016 deadline).

City of Oakland Planning and Zoning Commission: Mountain View Cemetery Proposed Expansion Project 2016, and future updates posted on this City of Oakland website. The City may take 3 to 6 months to respond to all the comments submitted.

Are you interested in remaining on my email list, specific to upcoming Mountain View Cemetery proposed expansion project developments? Do you belong to a foundation or organization that would also like to submit their opinion? Could you assist with lobbying? Part of the EBCNPS plan includes greater media coverage for this project.

We are also considering arranging meetings with public officials in order to gain favor for requiring large changes to this project proposal, or even, rejecting it altogether. If we can count on you to be ready to support the next steps to save the live oak trees, and for news specific to the Mountain View Cemetery expansion proposal, please email me directly at conservation@ebcnps.org.

Karen Whitestone

 

On 29 March 2016, our chapter’s Conservation Committee gathered at a volunteer’s private home to discuss current native plant conservation issues in the East Bay Area. Here is an outline of our main topics:

  • Antioch, CA: Vineyards at Sand Creek development: Several of our volunteers have attended public meetings to understand the impacts of this housing plan on our Four Valleys Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA) (map), southeast of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The City of Antioch and Antioch Planning Commission is deciding how to embrace this idea for a Highway 4 gated private residential community, also called the Sand Creek Focus Area. Unfortunately, Antioch decided several years ago not to participate in the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This particular valley is an important remainder of a once larger east-west migration corridor for plants and animals.
  • Richmond, CA: Point Molate: Conflicts over land use are settling, and this beautiful area is receiving broom removal treatments. The Urban Land Institute recently delivered six future plan alternatives to Richmond City Council, including two favoring total parks or mixed use with public parks and only some housing. This would be great news compared to the alternative of a casino discussed several years ago. It is concerning to note that City of Richmond plans to perform rezoning in the area as early as this week. Our chapter’s objective is to maintain the native vegetation corridor as much as possible from hilltop to beach and eel grass beds beyond. We favor continued public recreational enjoyment of the beautiful Point Molate with simultaneous protection of native plants. The Bay Trail Commission is in planning stages for making a connection through the area, as well.
  • East Bay Regional Parks District and fuels treatments: Our chapter continues to express worry about unclear management protocols for areas like the Huckleberry Preserve, specifically for care of sensitive maritime chaparral and the endangered pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida). We are working cooperatively with the Parks District on clarifying that forthcoming vegetation management plan. Additionally, we excerpted from their current Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Resource Management Plan for discussing how native plant protections are framed in contract language grazing guidelines, in other regions where fuel breaks are needed.
  • Oakland, CA: Knowland Park addition to Oakland Zoo:  The East Bay Zoological Society is building its California Trail project, but several of our volunteers noted enough (17) permit violations to merit an impressive letter to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) asking for immediate action to protect remaining rare plant communities and Alameda Whipsnake habitat, including independent monitoring, penalty fee collection for mitigation, and beginning weed removal. We have not received a reply yet from CDFW.

 

Brief updates

– Hilltop Drive, Richmond: One of our volunteers noted construction spoils and indiscriminate herbicide spraying on native grasslands off of this Highway 80 exit.

– Point Pinole, Richmond: Wildlife populations may be declining due to drought or park management practices, including vegetation management.

– Berkeley Global Campus, Richmond: Construction plans are currently paused, which gives us the opportunity to learn more about the native flora and prairie grasslands.

 

Our Conservation Chair Jean Robertson led the meeting and kept our discussions focused. Want to get involved with our committee meetings? We love having more hands on deck! Please contact myself, or our Conservation Chair Jean Robertson (conservation-chair@ebcnps.org). Let us know  briefly what conservation projects in your area you are interested in contributing to, and what skills you can volunteer.

The Conservation Committee will meet again on 26 April, 2016.

Participate in field trips with our chapter from our Meetup page.

Read more conservation updates from our April 2016 chapter newsletter, the Bay Leaf.

 

Karen Whitestone

Conservation Analyst

conservation@ebcnps.org

maritime chaparral at Knowland Park. photo: Mack Casterman

maritime chaparral at Knowland Park. photo: Mack Casterman

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!

Knowland Park, East Bay Express photo: Bert Johnson

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:

East Bay Express Article: Zoo Gone Wild

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed mitigation areas (no public access) as of April 2014.

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed conservation easement areas (in yellow) as of April 2014.

In August, lawyers from the law firms of Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger (SMW) and Barg, Coffin, Lewis & Trapp (BCLT) submitted letters to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on behalf of EBCNPS and the Friends of Knowland Park.

The letter from SMW was sent to USFWS and addressed issues with the Zoo’s proposed conservation easement, which is meant to provide mitigation for impacts to the federally threatened Alameda Whipsnake . This easement would remove over 50 acres of public access to public park land. A copy of the letter can be viewed here: SMW_Letter_re_Oakland_Zoo_Expansion_8-1-14

The BCLT letter was sent to USACE and addresses a wetland area (a perennial freshwater seep) 700 feet down-slope from the Zoo’s proposed development footprint. It discusses the need for avoidance measures to be considered during the permitting process for the Zoo project. A copy of the letter can be viewed here: 2014-08-15_Letter_to_USACE_re_Oakland_Zoo_Expansion

We are hopeful that the regulatory agencies will take the advice and information presented in these letters to make informed decisions regarding the issuing of permits for the Zoo’s proposed project.

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed mitigation areas (no public access) as of April 2014.

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed mitigation areas (no public access) as of April 2014.

The most recent edition of the Sierra Club Yodeler includes an article titled: “Oakland Zoo Proposed Expansion Goes From Bad To Worse.”

“The Sierra Club believes that the public’s right to full and complete access to land in Knowland Park is unequivocal. Furthermore, building on ridge lines, in protected park land, and in listed-species habitat is an affront to conservation principles—especially when there’s more than adequate unused land to accommodate this project within and immediately adjacent to the zoo footprint.”

Follow this link to view the entire article.

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed mitigation areas (no public access) as of April 2014.

Map of Oakland Zoo Expansion footprint and proposed mitigation areas (no public access) as of April 2014.

The Oakland Zoo is continuing to pursue its expansion into Knowland Park that will greatly damage rare maritime chaparral, native grassland, and habitat for local wildlife, including the threatened Alameda Whipsnake. The Zoo must provide mitigation for the land it is destroying, and it is proposing to take even more acreage in Knowland Park, much of which is not suitable habitat, removing even more of the park from open public use. If the project were in a more suitable place, this would not be necessary.

EBCNPS has written a letter to the regulatory agencies disputing the Zoo’s proposed new mitigation areas. Our letter can be found at this link: 04_21_14 Letter to CDFW re Oakland Zoo

Click here to view a letter from the Zoo to Oakland and the regulatory agencies regarding the most recent project footprint maps as well as their proposed mitigation areas which will be closed to public access(4-21-14). The new mitigation areas have increased the footprint of the project by more than one third! Maps of the project footprint, mitigation areas, and fuels management areas can be found here: EBZS_CATrailMaps_USFWS_CNPSTransmittal.

We are doing everything we can to get the Zoo to consider a plan that would less environmentally harmful, but we need your help:

The Oakland City Council must approve this change. Please sign and send a letter to urge them to preserve the park from this development!

For a ready-to-go letter to the Oakland City Council (for residents and non-residents), go to: http://www.saveknowland.org/5-ways-you-can-help-save-knowland-park/.

Print, sign and mail! Thank you.

Also, please sign the two petitions on the website! Visit the park now – The flowers are out!

 

A bird's eye view of the Oakland Zoo's proposed expansion site at Knowland Park - note the rare maritime chaparral in the right side of the picture. photo Copyright, Steve Whittaker

A bird’s eye view of the Oakland Zoo’s proposed expansion site at Knowland Park – note the rare maritime chaparral in the right side of the picture. photo Copyright, Steve Whittaker

Please follow this link to join the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Friends of Knowland Park and the Center for Biological Diversity in calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect this park from the zoo’s destructive expansion plan!

To follow along with our work to save Knowland Park, please “like” us on Facebook and share this info with your friends and neighbors. You can also visit the Knowland Park Coalition website at saveknowland.org for up to date reporting on the ongoing efforts to gain permanent protection for this wonderful park. Knowland Park has been referred to as Oakland’s best kept secret, but with your help, we are hopeful that it won’t stay a secret much longer.

Field of Lupins at Knowland Park

Field of Lupines in the Knowland Park Grassland Spring 2013 photo: Mack Casterman

In March, the Oakland Zoo submitted a Biological Assessment to the Regulatory Agencies as part of their permit process for their proposed expansion project in Knowland Park. Unfortunately, the Zoo omitted any mention of the rare maritime chaparral plant community that would be impacted by the project. This omission came in spite of the fact that the top state vegetation ecologist visited the site with Zoo personnel and confirmed the occurrence in person. In response to this omission, EBCNPS submitted a detailed report last month, including a legal letter, to the agencies documenting the “denial and disappearance” strategy that the zoo is using to try to gain its permits.

You can view a copy of EBCNPS’s report to the regulators here: EBCNPS Letter to Agencies RE Oakland Zoo 2013 Biological Assessment

And a copy of the accompanying legal letter from our attorneys here: Legal Letter to USACE and CDFW re Oakland Zoo expansion

Included in EBCNPS’s report package to the agencies was an extensive review by wildlife biologist, Dr. Shawn Smallwood, of the highly flawed Alameda whipsnake portion of the zoo’s Biological Assessment.

The Center for Biological Diversity concurred with this analysis and submitted a letter of its own to the agencies, urging that they withhold permits from the project.

We will be following up our letter with actions in which the public can become involved.  Stay tuned to this website in the coming weeks for our next steps.

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Conservation Analyst Contact Information

1-510-734-0335
conservation@ebcnps.org

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