City’s Plan Would Pave Bay Wetlands with Golf Course, Nearly 500 Houses

Photo of Area 4
Historic Bay tidal marsh, Newark’s “Area 4,” is one of the largest areas of restorable, undeveloped baylands in the South Bay (Photo by Margaret Lewis)

Should a bayside city work to help expand the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, restoring more than 400-football fields-worth of Bay wetlands and habitat? Or should they forever destroy that opportunity by filling in the area with an 18-hole golf course and nearly 500 single family houses?

Those are the choices right now in the City of Newark – a shoreline city of 40,000 next to Fremont. Rather than recognize the incredible opportunity to protect the Don Edwards S.F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge, endangered species, and migratory bird habitat, Newark is seeking approval to fill in over 300 acres of historic baylands, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands and aquatic habitat, sprawling the city into a FEMA-designated flood zone.

Environmental organizations and regulatory agencies have long stressed to Newark of the ecological importance of 550-acre “Area 4” – one of the largest areas of restorable, undeveloped baylands in the South Bay:

  • The 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project, the scientific roadmap for the restoration of the Bay shoreline, identifies Area 4 as being uniquely situated for the restoration of both tidal marsh and adjacent upland transition zones, two habitats critical to the health of the Bay
  • Area 4 is host to approximately a dozen special status species –including the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse – and it is directly adjacent to Mowry Slough, a primary breeding ground for San Francisco Bay Harbor Seals
  • The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board has stated that “large expanses of undeveloped uplands immediately adjacent to tidal sloughs are extremely rare in the south and central San Francisco Bay” and that “Area 4 represents a rare opportunity to … provide an area for tidal marsh species to move up slope in response to sea level rise”
  • Similarly, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have stated that “this wetland is an integral component of the San Francisco Bay ecosystem,” and “critically important to waterfowl and shorebirds.”

Yet Newark has ignored these concerns, proposing to fill in these rare wetlands and wildlife habitat with 2.1 million cubic yards of fill – enough dirt to fill nearly 100 trucks a day for two years straight!

The City should focus future growth within already developed areas, near transit, shops and services, not on ecologically-sensitive, restorable baylands at risk from flooding and sea level rise.

Update 10/11/2013: 

Opposition to Newark’s plan to build as many as 500 houses and an 18-hole golf course on one of the largest pieces of restorable Bay shoreline in the South San Francisco Bay is growing. More than 2,000 Bay Area residents submitted comments to the city on its General Plan. You added your voice to the chorus of opposition from regulatory agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and the Water Board.

A letter submitted by Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS) staff stated, “the proposed development of Area 4 will only add to the cumulative loss of tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay and endangered species that are dependent on that habitat.”

Your support also helped us convince several environmental organizations to send letters of opposition, including Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and Greenbelt Alliance. Thanks to you, Newark’s plan will not go unnoticed much longer. Sign up here for updates on next steps.

Just Beyond the Bay: Take Action to Protect the Whales

Blue whales swim in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Dan Shapiro courtesy of NOAA Photo Library.

Biking through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, I emerge into the pinkish glow of the sun setting over Ocean Beach. The sun sinks below the horizon, eclipsed by a large container ship cruising from San Francisco Bay toward distant ports across the Pacific Ocean. Like ducks in a row, two more follow and another  is just visible in the distance.

Before these ships reach open water, they will pass through the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries, where endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales come to feed. Imagine a constant flow of shipping vessels speeding through one of the most abundant assemblages of marine mammals in the world.

The noise from all those ships disrupts the whales’ ability to communicate with each other, navigate, and forage. Even worse, ships strike and kill whales. These sanctuaries are meant to protect endangered creatures, but the proximity of the shipping lanes to the feeding grounds results in countless whale deaths.

The ships follow internationally recognized shipping channels between San Francisco Bay and major ports of the Pacific Rim. But these channels cut directly through the marine sanctuaries, where whales are put at a greater risk of death by cargo ship. Federal agencies are taking steps to fix the shipping lanes, but they need to hear from us.

Imagine as the sun slides into the Pacific Ocean, a majestic creature breaches the surface of the water, free from the danger of passing ships.

Take Action today to protect the whales of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries.


Wonky Wednesday: Fix San Francisco Bay’s Trash Problem

Take ActionIn an age when your phone is smarter than you are, and scientists can clone just about anything, why are we still allowing tons of trash to pollute our Bay?

According to a recent study, over a million gallons of trash flow into the San Francisco Bay each year  from our streets and storm drains. That’s the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping almost 300 kitchen garbage bags into the Bay every day.

The Bay Area Water Board is responsible for making sure that cities reduce the amount of trash in our waterways. Urge the Water Board to hold cities accountable for reducing trash in our creeks and Bay!

Cities must take actions to reduce litter before it flows into our creeks. Some cities are being proactive, while others are doing very little to address this serious problem.

Keeping trash out of the Bay will require every city to do their part. Tell the Water Board to enforce strong trash regulations throughout the Bay.


San Francisco: Ban the Bag, once and for all!

Tomorrow, all eleven San Francisco supervisors will vote on whether to approve amendments to the city’s single-use bag ordinance, proposed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and co-sponsored by Supervisor David Campos.  The main changes will:

  • Expand the ban to apply to all retail establishments and restaurants
  • Establish a minimum ten cent charge for paper, compostable plastic, and reusable bags to encourage the public to bring their own bags — by bringing your own, you avoid the charge!

If these changes are adopted, the improved ordinance will keep thousands more plastic bags out of our waterways and the Bay.

Now, more than ever, Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors need to hear your support for these amendments.

Our creeks and the Bay do not distinguish between plastic bags from large retailers versus those coming from smaller businesses and restaurants – as long as plastic bags are being distributed in San Francisco, Bay wildlife and habitats will still be threatened by bag litter.

Tell Mayor Lee and the supervisors — get rid of plastic bags once and for all!

Tell Coca Cola: Don’t Be a Soda Jerk on Pollution

Two disturbing new stories came out recently illustrating industry attempts to block efforts to clean up our environment.

It was reported in the New York Times that Coca Cola, who made a whooping $2.2 billion in profits in the last quarter alone, used their financial influence to squash the National Park Service’s attempts to ban the selling of plastic bottles in the Grand Canyon.

This isn’t the first time Coca Cola has stood in the way of pollution prevention efforts. At the same time as they were lobbying the National Park Service, the company was pushing the T.V. show American idol to pull the plug on a public service announcement urging viewers to reduce their use of single-use plastic items.