San Francisco open-space updates
Natural Areas Plan moves to environmental review
The Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan is the city's most important planning document for protection of local biodiversity. To work with the Sierra Club on this process, encouraging the department to move forward so that a final EIR can be certified, contact or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 307
The department will hold a public meeting in March or April to receive comments on the draft plan and on the list of concerns to be addressed in the EIR. For updates, including the scheduling of the meeting, see the department's web site.
For the latest Sierra Club insights on the process go to http://sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/SFGroup/issues/open-space-natural-areas.html
In the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, one component of special importance is the Laguna Salada Enhancement Plan. The Sanchez Creek-Laguna Salada watershed is the location of the Sharp Park Golf Course. The area has great ecological value, serving as home to two federally listed species: the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake.
The California Environmental Quality Act requires the department to consider alternatives. Whatever alternatives are considered, habitat for the endangered species should be a priority, along with compatible recreational uses.
Attend the public meeting (see above). Insist that the department take adequate measures to protect the listed species.
Open Space Fund faces double threat
For years the Recreation and Park Department has used the Open Space Fund as a slush fund to cover cost overruns for everything from swimming pools to golf-course renovations. This year again, as during last year's budget crunch, the Department is considering dipping into the fund to cover regular operations-and-maintenance expenses - even though such uses clearly violate the voters' intention when the fund was created in 1974 and renewed in 2000.
An even more serious threat comes from proposals to eliminate not just the Open Space Fund, but all the set-asides in the annual city budget. Elimination of the fund would have disastrous consequences on the department's long-term capital budget for years to come. The Open Space Fund is a kind of spending that is essential in the long run, but is likely to be shunted aside in any given year's budget squabbles. For that reason it needs to be structured as a set-aside.
Contact the Recreation and Park Commission at:
501 Stanyan St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
Tell the commission to safeguard the Open Space Fund and preserve it for its intended uses.
Palou-Phelps acquisition threatened by development
A primary intended use of the Open Space Fund, as approved by the voters, is to fund the acquisition of valuable parcels of open space remaining in private hands. The Recreation and Park commissioners, however, have continually procrastinated about using the funds for acquisitions, often with the justification that there is no need to expend monies unless a threat of development is imminent.
One valuable parcel (actually an ensemble of parcels) - which has been recommended for priority acquisition as far back as 1997 - is the Palou-Phelps Open Space in the Bayview. That site is now, predictably, coming under threat of development with a proposal to construct housing on the steep hillside. Given the high ecological value of the site, and its location in a high-needs neighborhood, the Sierra Club believes that the Recreation and Park Department should immediately open negotiations to purchase the remaining lots to ensure that the current development proposal does not happen, and that the site is protected into the future.
Contact the Recreation and Park Commission at the address above. Tell the commissioners to stop procrastinating and immediately to open negotiations with the landowners to secure the remaining parcels.
Contact Supervisor Sophie Maxwell at:
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, #244
San Francisco, CA 94102-4689
Urge her to act to ensure that Palou-Phelps, one of the last remaining open spaces in the Bayview, is not lost to development.
Yosemite Slough restoration on hold
Along with many other state-funded conservation projects, the Yosemite Slough Restoration project has been put on hold due to the state's ongoing financial crisis.
When our grim governor speaks of "economic stimulus", he often seems to mean only environmentally destructive projects such as new highways and dams. In fact, environmental restoration is often the best way to provide a real short-term stimulus to communities as well as long-term benefits. Especially now that a budget has been passed, conservation projects like the Yosemite Slough enhancement should not be put on hold while politicians figure out the budget mess.
Write to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at:
Sacramento, CA 95814.
Tell him to unfreeze funding for Yosemite Slough and other high-priority conservation projects. Urge him to include such conservation projects as an important component of any economic-stimulus package.
RPD looking for a new general manager
San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department is searching for a new general manager. Meanwhile, Jared Blumenfeld, director of the Department of the Environment, is doing an admirable job as acting manager. We hope that whoever is ultimately chosen will address the pressing needs of the city's natural areas and will take seriously the department's obligation of ecological stewardship. The ghost of John McLaren will be watching.