Our Fight for the Bay Continues

Before last Tuesday, I was preparing to send a letter to our Save The Bay community about all of our remarkable accomplishments in 2016.

But I had to rewrite it.

It’s difficult to celebrate local and state successes when we know the environment is about to be under assault here and throughout the nation. I am gravely concerned that the Trump Administration and Congress will attack the Clean Water Act that protects our Bay, deny climate change instead of combating it and adapting to it, and defund the Environmental Protection Agency.

But I’ve faced scary situations like this before and persevered.  So have other experienced leaders on Save The Bay’s staff and board.  So did the brave women who started our movement, by being tenacious and smart and strategic, by enlisting allies and speaking truth to power.  We’re already gathering our colleagues and the partners we’ve gained in business, labor, and local government to continue to fight for the Bay.

What we’ve accomplished this year shows we can succeed by growing our local efforts to have regional and statewide impact. Our work to ban plastic bags spread from one city in 2008 to most cities in the region in just four years, creating the political momentum to pass Proposition 67 banning these bags throughout the state. Because we overcame millions of dollars in plastic industry campaign spending, billions of bags won’t trash our ocean and harm wildlife here, and other states and countries can copy our model.

Our unprecedented nine-county victory on Measure AA in June – $500 million in local taxes to restore thousands of acres of Bay wetlands – took a decade of work by Save The Bay. Again, our leadership can have national impact, as communities around the country ask us how they can apply our model for accelerating climate adaptation with natural infrastructure, without relying solely on the federal government.

Save The Bay isn’t satisfied with these wins, because the Bay faces big threats from climate change and pollution. We’ve set an ambitious Strategic Plan to secure a clean and health Bay for future generations, and added to our political muscle with new methods, broader public outreach, and new partnerships this year. We launched the Save The Bay Action Fund to endorse and pass crucial ballot measures. We started an annual Bay Day celebration that reached more than 2 million Bay Area residents. And we recruited new businesses, elected leaders, and community allies to support our ambitious agenda for the Bay.

We should all be very proud of these accomplishments – they position us to fight and win more progress for the Bay, even though the national election makes our work harder.

I know there are many pressing needs with a Trump administration on the horizon, and I’m especially grateful to those in our community who continue to make Save The Bay a priority. I ask that you continue to support us by donating, volunteering, and answering the call-to-action by standing with us against prominent threats to our Bay. There is a real opportunity ahead of us to continue making progress for the environment, right here at home. We have a beautiful Bay, and together we have the opportunity to make it healthy and vibrant for future generations.


Election 2016: The good news you may have missed

Evening fog blankets the bay_Mike Oria_4.03.15 (800x533)
Sometimes the small victories at home can lead the way in making a big difference for the state and the nation. Photo by Mike Oria.


While the nation reckons with the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in last week’s presidential election, and we begin to make sense of the effects it may have on public policies and budgets in California and the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay supporters have a lot to celebrate in state and local election results.

This year, Save The Bay endorsed a full slate of statewide and local ballot measures to improve the environment and advance environmental justice by reducing major sources of trash that foul our Bay and by upgrading outmoded transportation, housing, and infrastructure.

Our endorsements of Prop 67 (the statewide single-use plastic bag ban), Prop 56 (the increase in the state’s tobacco tax), and 10 local Bay Smart Ballot Measures helped almost all of these measures to victory.

With nearly all the votes counted, Prop 67 passed with 52 percent of the vote (the plastic industry’s deceptive counter-measure, Prop 65 failed with 45 percent). Prop 56 passed with 63 percent support, and nine out of ten local Bay Smart Ballot Measures passed as well.

Building on our success in passing Bay restoration Measure AA in June, Save The Bay’s contribution to these victories is another big advance for our 2020 Strategic Plan.

We have extended our work upstream and upland to address sustainability issues facing our region in ways that benefit San Francisco Bay. Perhaps as important, we have positioned ourselves powerfully to protect our Bay in the uncertain period ahead.

In the next few months, we will be working hard to develop our 2017 state legislative agenda, as well as a focused approach to preserve federal funding and environmental protections for the Bay.

Thanks to you and Save The Bay’s thousands of supporters, we are confident that we will continue making progress to protect and enhance San Francisco Bay in these new and challenging circumstances.

Here are the complete results for the local Bay Smart Ballot Measures that Save The Bay endorsed:

Affordable Housing Measures

  • Measure A1 (Alameda County Bond): $580 million bond for down payment assistance, rental and housing development, preserving homes for low-income and other vulnerable people, preserving affordable rental housing, and preventing tenant displacement.

PASSED: 72.3%-27.7% (2/3 required)

  • Measure K (San Mateo County Tax): 20-year extension of a half-cent sales tax with commitments from the Board of Supervisors to increase investments in affordable housing, focused on seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and working

PASSED: 70%-30%  

  • Measure A (Santa Clara County Bond): $950 million bond to create and maintain affordable homes for the most vulnerable members of Santa Clara County communities, including veterans, seniors, homeless children, and low-income and working

PASSED: 67.3%-32.7% (2/3 required)

Transportation Measures

  • Measure C1 (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District): 20-year extension of a $96 annual parcel tax necessary to continue providing nearly $30 million per year necessary for safe, reliable, affordable AC Transit bus service for the East Bay.

PASSED: 81.4%-18.6% (2/3 required)

  • Measure B (Santa Clara County Tax): half-cent, 30-year sales tax measure expected to generate $6 billion for transportation projects, including expanding and improving BART and CalTrain; increasing bus frequency; and bike and pedestrian programs to close gaps and improve

PASSED: 71%-29% (2/3 required)

  • Measure RR (BART Bond): $3.5 billion general obligation bond to repair and replace rails, upgrade the train control system to reduce congestion, and improve access to BART with more parking, disabled access, and bike

PASSED:  70.2%-29.8% (2/3 required)

Housing/Transportation Measures

  • Measures J & K (San Francisco): Measure K calls for a 0.75 percent general sales tax increase for 25 years, expected to generate between $150 and $155 million for the General Fund. Measure J establishes new funds and allocation requirements that will provide roughly $100 million for transportation programs (MUNI equity and affordability; transit maintenance and expansion) and $50 million for homelessness

Measure J PASSED: 66.4%-33.6%  

Measure K FAILED: 35%-65%  

Infrastructure Measures

  • Measure KK (Oakland Bond): invests up to $600 million in repaving and repairing streets and sidewalks, improving libraries and parks, and upgrading public safety buildings and fire

PASSED: 82%-18% (2/3 required)

  • Measure T1 (Berkeley Bond): $100 million general obligation bond for infrastructure improvements including streets and sidewalks, storm drains, green infrastructure, parks and recreation centers, and public  buildings.

PASSED: 86.5%-13.5% (2/3 required)

Voter Guide: Saving the Bay by sustaining the Bay Area

As the Bay Area struggles to accommodate rapid growth, it is critical to invest in affordable housing, improved transportation, and community infrastructure.
As the Bay Area struggles to accommodate rapid growth, it is critical to invest in affordable housing, improved transportation, and community infrastructure.

Already, 2016 has been a pivotal year in the remarkable history of Save The Bay.

After 55 years of hugely successful work to protect San Francisco Bay from damaging shoreline development, dumping, and storm water-borne toxic trash, the passage of Measure AA on the June 2016 ballot marked the evolution of our mission from rescuing the Bay to restoring it.

But 2016 isn’t over yet, and now we’re taking another giant step to advance Bay Smart solutions to threats posed by our region’s rapid growth.

For the first time in Save The Bay’s history, we’re endorsing 10 local ballot measures focused on upgrading the Bay Area’s outmoded transportation, housing, and infrastructure.

Download our Bay Smart Voter guide

These measures align with Save The Bay’s 2020 Strategic Plan, which extends our work upland and upstream from the shoreline to address sustainability issues facing our region in ways that will benefit San Francisco Bay.

Our challenge is to reduce the flow of pollutants into the Bay, increase the efficiency of water use, decrease emissions of airborne particulates and greenhouse gases, reduce heat island effects, and improve access to the shoreline, all while the Bay Area’s population is projected to grow 30 percent larger.

This slate of measures takes important steps toward these goals by:

  • Funding public transportation upgrades and roadway improvements that will decrease automobile use and storm water runoff, and the pollution they contribute to the Bay
  • Creating affordable housing that will alleviate homeless encampments – which are a major source of Bay pollution – and maximize the environmental benefits of denser development by reducing displacement of working families from our urban centers
  • Expanding the use of green infrastructure and increasing urban greening, which will keep the Bay cleaner and healthier and help more people to enjoy its beauty.

Taken together, these measures advance the key environmental justice goal of ensuring that disadvantaged communities, which have suffered the most from environmental damage, do not suffer further as our region adapts to become more resilient to climate change.

These measures will also reduce the pressure that lack of transportation and housing infrastructure creates for more sprawl into open space, including baylands, and will help preserve the political consensus for protecting the Bay that comes from our region’s shared sense that it belongs to us all.

We hope you and all of our region’s residents who love the Bay take a moment to review the “Bay Smart” slate on Nov. 8, and follow its recommendations when you vote.

Passing these ballot measures is just the beginning. We’ll be working with partner organizations, businesses and municipalities to advance a Bay Smart communities agenda through other policy mechanisms like local and state legislation, regulatory changes, and by helping cities improve best practices.

Ultimately, saving the Bay will require saving the Bay Area’s quality of life. In the words of our strategic plan, “We must help save the Bay Area as a sustainable community with a healthy Bay at its heart.”

Our Chance to Uphold California’s Bag Ban


In 2014 something incredible happened: Californian legislators, environmentalists, community groups, labor unions, and business groups all came together to pass a piece of environmental legislation to ban single use plastic shopping bags. Unfortunately the state law, SB 270, which would have prohibited all grocery stores in California from giving away the often littered, unrecyclable plastic bags, never got the chance to be effective. The out-of-state plastics manufacturers who opposed it spent over 7 million dollars to keep it from ever being implemented. They have tried to stop the ban from taking effect for years, but this November, Californians will have the chance to vote yes to uphold this first-of-its-kind legislation in order to reduce plastic trash throughout California and prevent out-of-state industry from setting state policy in our state.

How did we end up here?

We should have had a state wide bag ban for nearly a year now–SB 270 was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014 and was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2015. Though there had been previous attempts to ban bags at the state level, the 2014 law passed largely because of the example set by highly successful bag bans here in the Bay Area and stronger legislative leadership. The 2014 bag ban had the support of lawmakers from all around the state including every Bay Area Legislator, but wealthy plastics manufacturers from out of state spent millions of dollars to collect signatures for a referendum. Once the plastics industry’s referendum qualified in early 2015, implementation of the bag ban was put on hold.

So even though a statewide bag ban was supported by cities and organizations throughout California, passed by the legislature, and signed by Governor Brown, there are still plastic bags being handed out – ready to blow or float into our waterways and ocean – at stores all around the state.

Local bans paved the way for statewide action

Over 80% of Bay Area residents live in a city or county that has banned plastic bags. Cities across the Bay Area have reported that bag bans are a highly effective way to prevent this plastic trash from entering our environment and endangering fish and wildlife. We know how important bag bans are, which is why it is vital that we all vote YES in November to uphold the bag ban. SB 270 succeeded in the first place, unlike the many bag bills that failed before it, because of political will and popular approval established by the groundbreaking laws here in the Bay Area.

Challenges ahead, but we have the power

To date, out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers have spent over $7 million fighting this law because a statewide ban in California will be a model for the rest of the country. But by blocking our hard-fought policy, bag manufacturers are asking us to pay for the damage done to our environment by their flimsy, throwaway product. We cannot let their greedy interests pollute our waterways and trash our communities. Here are a couple things to keep in mind between now and November, when we will all have a chance to vote YES on the bag ban:

  • The November ballot will be a long one and the bag ban will be somewhere in the middle. Make sure you sign up for our email updates to find out the proposition number once it is assigned and stay updated on opportunities to help support the ban.
  • Don’t be fooled. The plastics industry will continue spending money on misleading information and scare tactics to confuse voters and turn our attention away from what we already know: bag bans are good for the environment and wildlife, and reusable bags are the best alternative.

We know that California voters care deeply about the health of our oceans, bays, waterways and wildlife. We can’t allow state policy to be dictated by out-of-state corporate greed. Stay tuned for more information about the bag ban and how you can get involved, and start talking to friends and family about this important opportunity in November.

Measure AA for the Bay: Why Now?

On January 13, the SF Bay Restoration Authority voted to place a modest parcel tax on the June ballot that would bring dramatic benefits to the Bay Area. Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have traversed the Bay Area to talk to different stakeholders and elected officials about the importance of restoring wetlands for the health of the Bay and for the safety of our shoreline communities. But no matter the audience or the location, one question persists: Why now? What’s the urgency in passing this tax in 2016?

We deal with so many serious challenges in the region – housing, transportation, health care, just to name a few – that it can be difficult to understand the urgency of passing a funding measure for wetlands restoration, especially if you do not live near the shoreline or don’t regularly access the Bay. But no matter where you live in the Bay Area, we all stand to benefit significantly from the projects this tax will fund. And a confluence of events, driven largely by our rapidly changing climate, tells us that now is the time to get this done. Here are the reasons.

Scientists urge acceleration of wetlands restoration to adapt to climate change

In late October, more than 100 Bay Area scientists released a long-awaited follow up to a 1999 report that assessed the health of the Bay ecosystem. That original report, the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, determined that a healthy Bay was dependent on at least 100,000 acres of baylands, or tidal marsh and flatland. Historically, the Bay had more than 200,000 acres; after 150 years of urbanization, however, that has been reduced to 44,000 acres – a decrease of roughly 80 percent.

The October report, The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do, reiterated the need for wetlands restoration and called for accelerating these projects to guard against rising tides and flooding from extreme storms. The authors noted that failure to act quickly will cause the baylands to shrink, producing a number of devastating effects: We would lose the natural, cost-effective infrastructure that adapts to sea level rise and buffers our shorelines against storms; the loss of habitat would diminish the Bay’s diversity and abundance of wildlife; water quality could degrade, as the wetlands would no longer absorb excess nutrients and filter pollutants; and we would lose large areas of public access to the shoreline that currently allow us to enjoy the Bay’s beauty up close.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. We now have more than 30,000 acres of wetlands in public stewardship awaiting restoration. All that’s missing is the funding.

Local money will help leverage additional funds to benefit the Bay Area and a wider range of projects

Unfortunately, the state and federal government have long failed to produce much in the way of funding for restoration work in the Bay Area, forcing us to seek a local source. Each year, the Bay receives far less federal restoration funding than other major watersheds in the nation. Federal and state money is always difficult to access, but it’s particularly difficult in the current fiscal climate. This was the basis for creating the Restoration Authority in the first place. With a local source of funding, it will demonstrate that the region is serious about this work and that multiple stakeholders are invested, demanding a larger contribution from the state and the federal government.

If we can secure a local funding source now, it will help us access additional state and federal funds that much sooner. And the sooner we can fund these important projects, the sooner we will reap the benefits and adapt to our changing climate.

New working relationships mean opportunities for lasting partnerships

To advance this effort, Save The Bay has partnered with a diverse group of stakeholders – some of whom are not traditional allies. Because of the myriad benefits these projects will have, including habitat restoration, flood control and sea level rise adaptation, and improving public shoreline access, Save The Bay has the chance to work with groups and individuals with whom we may not regularly work and with whom we do not always agree. This includes business groups, organized labor, and a wide array of elected officials and community leaders in a large geographic area, including people who live and work miles from the Bay.

The Bay is a regional treasure that crosses county boundaries, and people’s love for the Bay is not divided along age, racial, economic, or partisan lines. Working together to pass a measure that benefits us all, in many different ways, gives us the opportunity to create new and lasting partnerships that will help us tackle other challenges to come. Climate change demands our action now, but it gives us the chance to cement those relationships for future work.

Bay Area voters support this, and the economy is strong

When the Restoration Authority was created in 2008, it was a lousy time to propose new funding measures in the region. The whole country was reeling from a severe economic depression and would be for a number of years. Voters simply weren’t receptive to the idea of any tax. Fast forward eight years, and we are in a much better place for proposing a measure like this. The economy is the strongest it has been in those eight years, with low unemployment and rising consumer confidence.

Despite the high cost of living in the region, voters have shown that they are willing to pay this very modest tax in order to keep the Bay clean and healthy and to protect communities and critical infrastructure from flooding. Given the strong support we are seeing from voters, and in light of the ever-improving economy, we are confident that now is the time to move forward with placing this measure on the ballot.

The climate is changing, and protecting our Bay cannot wait. Now is the time. We can do this.

Pledge your support for Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay today!