Saving the Bay: a movement started by women

 

Our founders’ legacy — one of courage, persistence, diligence, and success — has inspired today’s generation of Bay savers to carry on their mission to protect our greatest natural treasure for generations.

Before we celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 and the first full-length issue of Ms. Magazine hit newsstands in 1972, major progress in the Bay Area was already underway thanks to a trio of East Bay women who dared to question environmental and social norms.

In the early 1960s going green wasn’t hip, nor was the idea of preserving the natural environment. During that time the Bay, often dredged for development, looked like a devastated wasteland flowing with raw, smelly sewage that also doubled as a dumping ground for toxic trash.

Four years after Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick founded Save San Francisco Bay Association (later renamed Save The Bay) in 1961, the McAteer-Petris Act placed a moratorium on additional filling of our Bay and established the first coastal protection agency in the United States called the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

The passing of this landmark legislation set the stage for the coming decades of environmental protections. Prior to 1965, few environmental organizations existed and even fewer environmental laws had been passed. But, these women led a grassroots environmental movement — during an age where a woman’s word was undervalued, especially in government.

This was the first of many milestones Save The Bay achieved. A few years after its establishment, the BCDC became a permanent regulatory agency empowered to permit Bayfill and require public access to the shoreline.

Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.
Our founders and Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.

Thanks to the courageous efforts led by Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick, this 1960s projection illustration published in the Oakland Tribune, won’t become a reality. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that our natural environment does not give way to urbanization, industrialization, and big business at home and around the globe.

Bay or River Image
In 1961 the Bay was projected by the Army Corps of Engineers to become a river by the year 2020, as illustrated by this graphic published in the Oakland Tribune in 1960.

Over a half century later, Save The Bay has continued to fight the good fight, educate and inspire the next generation of environmentalists, and remains dedicated to keeping the Bay healthy for all to enjoy for generations.

As they’ve inspired today’s generation of bay savers, the women working to protect our environment today inspire the young environmentalists of the future. Donna Ball, Save The Bay’s Restoration and Habitat Director, is one of those women encouraging tomorrow’s environmental solution developers (both girls and boys) to follow their dreams.

Despite advancements in the American environmental and women’s movements, we have yet to achieve gender equality in the sciences both internationally and here at home. We know of a remedy that may help close that gap: it takes is at least one ordinary individual with extraordinary ideas, courage, belief, and vision.

Will it be you?

Weekly Roundup | April 19, 2013

newspaperCheck out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay.

Slate 4/19/13
Seven Spectacular Places Saved by the Environmental Movement
The first Earth Day, in 1970, was inspired by anger. The nation was a mess. Four million gallons of oil from a blown offshore well were smearing California beaches. Flames leapt from the surface of Ohio’s Cuyahoga River. Bald eagles, our national symbol, had been winnowed by hunting and chemical pollution to a few hundred breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. It’s no wonder that 20 million people took to the streets.
Read more >>

Tri-City Voice 4/16/13
Beyond Earth Day
Picking up a few empty bottles or planting some trees Earth Day morning has become regular duty for any Bay Area resident with a conscience. The trio below just kept going after “E Day” and shows how average people can make a big difference in our place by the Bay.  Steve Haas started volunteering with Save the Bay about four years ago. Save The Bay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving San Francisco Bay and has been doing it for over 50 years. The management consulting and software development professional retired about two years ago and spends more and more of his free time with Save the Bay and other environmental organizations, getting out once or twice a month to assist projects at Eden Landing in Hayward and other locations on the Peninsula. The projects involve removing invasive plants, planting native species, mulching, and watering. Haas says he enjoys all of these, but especially removing the invasive plants.
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San Francisco Bay Guardian Online 4/16/13
Warriors Arena proposal rouses supporters and opponents
Rival teams have formed in the last week to support and oppose the proposed Warriors Arena at Piers 30-32 as the California Legislature considers a new bill to approve the project, a new design is about to be released, and a trio of San Francisco agencies prepares to hold informational hearings.  Fresh off the collapse of two of the city’s biggest development deals, Mayor Ed Lee and his allies are pushing hard to lock in what he hopes will be his “legacy project.” A new group of local business leaders calling itself Warriors on the Waterfront held a rally on the steps of City Hall today, emphasizing the project’s job creation, community partnerships, and revitalization of a dilapidated stretch of waterfront.
Read More>>

San Jose Mercury News 4/13/13
Family of beavers found living in downtown San Jose
A family of beavers has moved into Silicon Valley, taking up residence along the Guadalupe River in the heart of downtown San Jose.  The discovery of the three semiaquatic rodents — famous for their flat tails, brown coats and huge teeth — a few hundred yards from freeways, tall office buildings and the HP Pavilion represents the most high-profile Bay Area sighting since a beaver family settled in Martinez in 2006. The discovery of those beavers sparked national headlines when city leaders at first tried to remove them and then backed down after public outcry.  The appearance of the furry mammals in downtown San Jose is believed to be the first in 150 years.
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San Mateo Daily Journal 4/17/13
San Mateo moves to ban plastic bags, polystyrene
The San Mateo City Council voted unanimously to support a reusable bag ordinance, completing the regional effort in San Mateo County and parts of Santa Clara County to reduce litter.  The amendment to city code promotes the use of reusable bags as an alternative to single-use plastic and paper bags and mirrors a countywide effort.  The City Council also voted Monday night to support the polystyrene ban which will ban the use of polystyrene in restaurants and delicatessens.  Adoption of both ordinances is expected May 6 with implementation beginning June 6 in San Mateo.  San Mateo County, along with many other cities will implement the reusable bag ordinance Earth Day, April 22.
Read More>>

Oroville Mercury-Register 4/15/13
Legal action threatened if Chico adopts plastic bag ban
An attorney for the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition is threatening legal action if the city of Chico moves forward with its proposed ban on plastic bags.  The City Council is set to consider an ordinance Tuesday that would prohibit specified stores from providing single-use plastic carryout bags and require a charge for the provision of single-use recyclable paper bags. The ban is slated to take effect next Jan. 1, after an extensive educational campaign.  Attorney Stephen L. Joseph said the Los Angeles-based Save The Plastic Bag Coalition objects to the ordinance’s adoption without prior preparation and certification of an environmental impact report. In an email to the city, he said the coalition would file a petition in court for writ of mandate if the document is not prepared and request the court invalidate the ordinance.
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Marin Independent Journal 4/13/13
Environmental group proposes hybrid levees for Marin, other bayside counties as sea rises
Fortifying the bay’s shoreline with levees fronted by restored tidal marshes is a cheaper, more aesthetic and ecologically sensitive way to protect Marin and other bayside counties from sea level rise, according to a new report by a Bay Area environmental group.  The Bay Institute’s report — the subject of a panel discussion earlier this month in San Francisco — proposes restoring tidal marshes with sediment from local flood control channels and irrigating the marshes with treated wastewater. The plan also calls for “horizontal levees” that are a hybrid of traditional earthen levees and restored marshes. The conclusion was based partly on research done in the lower Corte Madera Creek watershed.
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Appreciating the Legacy of Saving the Bay

San Francisco Bay
What if the Bay was just a shipping channel?     Photo by Dan Sullivan

Five years ago, I left my home in Boston for what I thought was a year-long stint working in San Francisco. This summer, I returned for a visit to indulge in New England summertime, happy to escape the San Francisco fog. I grew up in Vermont where July means ice cream cones and swimming holes, hiking trails and concerts in the park. I spent my college years in Boston where you can take a commuter rail to white sand beaches and the park system forms an Emerald Necklace. Summers are spent outside in the open spaces that I once took for granted. As I’ve learned more about the modern environmental movement, I’ve realized that public access to natural spaces is not a value that everyone shares and that protecting these spaces is the result of campaigns waged by visionaries.

Save The Bay’s work is grounded in the legacy of such visionaries, three women who stood up against developers in 1961. Celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary last year, I learned to tell the story of this great history. But it was this May during the Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary, standing on the Bay shoreline near Crissy Field and looking out over the treasured Bay, that I uncovered an overwhelmingly deep appreciation for the environmentalists who saved this Bay.

What if the Bay was just a shipping channel? What if my childhood memories of New England were filled with billboards and strip malls instead of mountains and rivers? I am determined to never take these natural treasures for granted again, and to continue the fight to ensure open spaces for the children who grow up 50 years from now.

– Monica Canfield-Lenfest, Communications Assistant