Foster City tackles outdoor smoking

Cigarette butts are toxic, plastic trash that threaten wildlife and impact water quality.

Cigarette butts are toxic, plastic trash that threaten wildlife and impact water quality.

On Monday night, the Foster City Council gave tentative approval for smoking restrictions in the city’s public areas. Soon, people will not be allowed to smoke in city parks, shopping areas, bus stops, sidewalks, and other outdoor spaces. The city is also considering restricting smoking in multiunit housing facilities and outdoor dining areas.

By limiting the areas where people can smoke in Foster City, the council is helping to tackle a serious litter problem in the Bay Area – cigarette butts. This toxic, plastic trash flows from our streets into storm drains and out to the Bay, where it threatens wildlife. Many people have no idea that cigarette filters are plastic – yep, that’s right. Not cotton, and definitely not biodegradable. And they’re full of the same toxic chemicals found in the tobacco, including arsenic, lead, and pesticides. Gross.

Foster City is just one Bay Area city looking to regulate smoking to protect public health and the environment. The City of El Cerrito is working on an ordinance, which could be adopted at the end of the summer. Walnut Creek recently passed their policy, which established a smoke-free downtown area. With 3 billion butts littered in our region each year, every city has the responsibility to prevent these butts from trashing our creeks and the Bay. Click here to urge your city to pass and enforce outdoor smoking bans.

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Our Bay Area Kids are Saving the Bay!

Dig in your hands, move ‘em about, and voila, an earthworm is winding through your muddy fingers! You’re 7 years old and grinning as wide as a crescent moon. “Loooook, Mom!”

Excitement for nature is not hard to imagine at age 7. We are amazed by everything! And why shouldn’t we be? The world is one incredible place, and there are so many ways to explore (and get muddy).

David_nueva school

Save The Bay’s Executive Director David Lewis, (front center) was once a student at The Nueva School. We are grateful to the current students of The Nueva School and Stevenson PACT Elementary for their fundraising efforts for the Bay.

Inspiring a love for nature at a young age is one of the most important things we can do for the next generation, because that love lasts a lifetime. During our early years, we begin to understand how the environment impacts us and how we impact it. This understanding often spurs a desire to protect the places and creatures we love, from the bugs in our hands to our gorgeous local marshlands.

Two groups of remarkable kids in the San Francisco South Bay and Peninsula have recently demonstrated their love for the Bay by raising money to protect it.

An ambitious group of third graders at the Nueva School in Hillsborough recently raised more than $500 through their unique farmers’ market fundraiser. And at Stevenson PACT Elementary School in Mountain View, the second-grade class has also raised over $500 through their craft sale. All of us at Save The Bay feel honored to receive these hard-earned donations, and we’re truly inspired by these young people’s initiative and passion for the Bay.

Stevenson’s second graders decided to support Save The Bay after hearing about our work through a student presentation. At Nueva, the third graders watched the documentary “Saving the Bay”, highlighting San Francisco Bay’s ecological importance and the threats it faces every day.

“The students learned that oil and plastic pollution can cause harm to birds and other wildlife, and can drastically pollute the Bay,” says Lisa Hinshelwood, the third graders’ Social Emotional Learning teacher. She believes that her students were motivated by a real concern that the Bay they know today won’t be around when they get older.

These second and third graders know that their donations will allow Save The Bay to preserve and protect our Bay by restoring wetlands with native plants, reducing pollution in the Bay, and campaigning against reckless shoreline development. We’ll also keep nurturing a love of nature in middle and high school students, through our award-winning restoration education programs.

From all of us at Save The Bay: a huge THANK YOU to the spirited kids of the Nueva School and Stevenson PACT Elementary! Your love for the Bay and your teamwork inspires us all, and we adults will never stop learning from you.


Save The Bay’s Executive Director, David Lewis, attended The Nueva School before it moved from portable classrooms in Menlo Park to the Crocker Mansion in Hillsborough in 1971. In fact, quite a few of Save The Bay’s supporters have a relationship with the Nueva School as alumni, staff and parents. Check out David’s fourth grade class photo above!

David recalls, “A lot of my time at Nueva was spent outdoors, learning about and through nature. We went to Lake Lagunitas at Stanford to catch tadpoles and mosquito larvae, camped at Mt. Madonna, and visited a working farm. Those outdoor experiences influenced my interest in the environment early on.” 

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Drought Shows Stark Contrasts

I just got back from a week-long backpacking trip in the High Sierras, and what I saw shocked me.

It’s impossible to escape news that California is in the midst of a terrible drought, but it took spending five days in the backcountry of Inyo National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park to give me perspective on just how dire the water situation in our state really is.  Creeks and rivers that should be raging are barely ankle deep.  Peak summits that should be encased in snow and ice are exposed and dry.  As soon as I got home, I downloaded photos from the trip, and started looking online for photos from previous years.

Below are two photos – I took the one on top two weeks ago looking West from the shore of Summit Lake in Humphrey’s Basin, at an elevation of roughly 11,000 feet.  The one below was taken by a fellow backpacker almost exactly 4 years earlier, on July 6th of 2010, a nearly perfect “average” snow year based on data from the Department of Water Resources.  The contrast is indeed stark.

Summit Lake, July 2014

Summit Lake, July 2014

Summit Lake, July 2010

Summit Lake, July 2010. (Photo credit – user: OLI,

So we know there’s a drought, and we can see the difference in charts and graphs that show snowpack and river flows.  But living in urban communities there’s a gap between what we know, and our behavior.  After all, the water still comes out of our faucets just as fast, and the price we pay for residential water has barely nudged, leaving both our perceptions and our pocketbooks intact.  Without additional action, there is little beyond personal responsibility to motivate people to conserve.

Earlier this week, the State Water Resources Control Board approved stiff new fines for conservation scofflaws.  Californian’s caught wasting water – hosing down sidewalks instead of using a broom, over-watering landscaping – may now be subject to a $500 per day fine.  But as we’ve seen with other environmental issues like Save The Bay’s efforts to enforce outdoor smoking bans, regulation means little without consistent enforcement.

While it remains to be seen whether the recent emergency drought declaration by Governor Brown, or the State Water Board’s approval of fines will change behavior, there are still significant gaps in how we manage water in California.  Statewide management of groundwater resources continues to lag behind other western states (although an interesting new court ruling may change that).  And the Bay Delta region continues to be one of the longest standing bureaucratic and political messes in the state.

As the adage oft attributed to Mark Twain goes, “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.”


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An Ode to Bay Sailing


Save The Bay’s Restoration Program Manager, Jon Backus, and his father, Paul, like to enjoy the beauty of the Bay by sailing to the Berkeley Marina.

The warm summer sun had burnt off the fog lingering above the San Francisco Bay on a bright beautiful Sunday afternoon in June. It was a perfect day to get out on the water and go sailing. My father and I had been talking of sailing together ever since I joined the Cal Sailing Club in spring of 2013, and today was finally the long awaited day to go. We suited up in our life vests and raised the sails of a small Bahia to venture out near the Berkeley Marina.

Every time I go sailing in this pocket of the Bay between the Marina and Point Emeryville, I think of how this area could have been drastically different if it weren’t for the 3 women that started the organization I work for now, Save The Bay.

The area I sail today in the 1950’s was slated for development, filling in the shallow waters of the Bay for more commercial and residential space, and expanding the city of Berkeley 4 square miles westward into the Bay. But thanks to Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick who led a coalition of 10,000 members in its first year, Save The Bay was able to stop this project from becoming reality and changed the course for any further development on the Bay. Now I am able to enjoy long sunny afternoons on the water practicing my sailing skills as others pass windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking and more.

My father and I spent hours traversing the waters back and forth as I showed him my tacks and jibes, how to adjust the sails and what to do if the boat did capsize (which he was very happy to see that it didn’t happen). It was a great day for us to bond, showing off my new hobby and having some great conversation, with beautiful views of the Golden Gate and the San Francisco skyline.

Bay Area residents are so lucky to be living in such an incredible place, but how often do we really get out and enjoy it? I am very happy to say that with the work my organization has done, I am able to enjoy the immense beauty the Bay has to offer and share it with people I love. I encourage all to do the same.

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3 Island Getaways in the Bay

Angel Island

You don’t need a plane ticket for an island getaway. Angel Island offers one of the island adventures you could have in San Francisco Bay. Photo: Jerry Ting

If you’ve been dreaming of a summer escape to an island paradise, but your piggy bank has other ideas, take heart. We’ve got our own islands right here in San Francisco Bay. You may even catch a balmy breeze, watch palm trees sway, and enjoy a stunning sunset. Now is a great time to visit some of the Bay’s best attractions. No plane ticket needed.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island offers sweeping views of the Bay, terrific hikes, and campsites from which you can see the twinkling urban skylines that surround it. Pack your satchel with sleeping bag and supplies, and take the Blue and Gold ferry over. Recommended hikes include the five-mile perimeter trail and the trek up to Mt. Livermore, where hikers are treated to a panoramic view of the Bay and Golden Gate. Reserve a campsite online at Reserve America. Bring a gas stove or charcoal for cooking, as no fires are allowed.


From its palm-tree lined boulevards, to its sleepy, small town atmosphere, Alameda offers a surprisingly different experience than the rest of the bustling Bay Area. Hipsters with children, who have fled SF for easier living and better schools, rub shoulders with retirees and Bay Area natives, giving the place a Mayberry-meets-Brooklyn vibe.  Yet it’s just minutes from downtown Oakland by car, and accessible by Ferry from SF.  Start at Crown Memorial State Beach and soak up some sunshine. It’s the largest, most stunning beach on the Bay, and a great place to walk and bike. Head over to St. George Spirits for one of the best tours (and tastings) in the Bay Area.  To get a real feel of the Alameda vibe, check out Speisekammer Restaurant, a homey spot with a great wine and beer selection.

Treasure Island

Come for the wine. Stay for the sunset. Since the Navy decommissioned Treasure Island in 1996, it’s exploded with housing, becoming a bedroom community to San Francisco. Surprisingly, it’s also become quite a wine destination, with several urban wineries setting up shop. Napa it’s not, but hey, you can get there on Muni! Take the Muni 108 from San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal and visit Treasure Island Wines, The Winery SF, Erista, and Bravium, and Fat Grape Wineries, most of which are clustered along 9th Street near Avenue of the Palms, and are open on weekends until 5 pm.

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