A vision of Bay Smart Communities for a Sustainable Future

As the Bay Area continues to grow and change, and the Bay faces new threats, we know we need to take an expanded view of how to protect and restore the Bay for people and wildlife. Creating “Bay Smart Communities” is essential for creating a healthy Bay, because pollution and climate change aren’t limited to the shoreline.

Threats to the Bay originate inland and upstream. So how our cities choose to accommodate more people and businesses will have a huge impact on the Bay. We must shape those choices to make the Bay better.

That’s the discussion we’re having this month with forums in Oakland and Mountain View about our vision for how Bay Area cities can become Bay Smart.

Save The Bay was founded in 1961, with what looked like an impossible mission: stop the Bay from being filled in. It was considered impossible then to stop cities building into the Bay — that was the inevitable march of progress, considered essential to create room for commerce and a growing economy. But when we stopped filling the Bay, the opposite happened. The Bay Area has boomed because protecting nature in our midst made this a more desirable urban area to live, work and play.

In all of this work, Save The Bay will ensure the Bay’s voice is heard. We will leverage the power of our membership, resources, and reputation. We will collaborate with partners who share our concerns and goals. We are eager to learn from those who’ve already devoted years of effort to this work, and we will also bring new perspective and energy to the process.

This month we’ve added more details to our vision of Bay Smart Communities, and made recommendations for protecting the Bay by tackling the big challenges facing our region:

  • How do we live, work and move around the Bay Area in ways that are sustainable and resilient in a time of rapid climate change?
  • How do we accommodate growth in the Bay Area in ways that reduce water and air pollution, including greenhouse gases?
  • How do we reduce water and energy consumption, and improve equity and environmental justice?

We can’t save the Bay without addressing these pressing Bay Area challenges. We can promote Bay Area planning and development policies and decisions that help create Bay Smart Communities — where sustainable growth in our cities actually enhances the Bay, reduces pollution, is more resilient to climate change, advances environmental justice, and promotes equity.

Read Bay Smart Communities for a Sustainable Future here

View of the Bay Area, Photo By Jill Zwicky

 

Hacienda Avenue Green Street Improvement Project, Campbell CA

Caltrans, stop trashing San Francisco Bay

Eric Hoover found a tire and places it into the pile collected at India Basin Shoreline Park in San Francisco. Photo by Paul Kuroda

The San Francisco Chronicle originally published this article on February 15, 2018

Litter on California’s freeways and state roads is a disgrace, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons San Francisco Bay is choked with trash.

Every time it rains, trash from freeways and busy state roads, like El Camino Real and San Pablo Avenue, pours through storm drains into creeks and, ultimately, San Francisco Bay. Bottles, wrappers, Styrofoam, straws and cigarettes poison fish and wildlife, smother wetland habitat and deface the shoreline.

It’s time for our state transportation agency, Caltrans, to obey the law and stop polluting our waters. For years, Caltrans has violated the federal Clean Water Act and state storm water permits that prohibit uncontrolled trash flows from its roads.

Who bears the burden of that violation? It’s Bay Area cities, which are already striving to meet their own legal obligation to allow zero trash flow to the bay by 2022.

That’s because trash that drains off state roads becomes the local city’s responsibility.

So Caltrans ignoring road trash means cities from Oakland to Santa Clara face higher cleanup bills, or even fines for polluting the bay. That’s not fair. And when a state agency ignores the law, it becomes tougher to hold private individuals and companies accountable for polluting the bay.

Fortunately, the solutions are clear. Caltrans must remove roadside litter more often, and put trash-capture devices in storm drains on highways and right-of-ways. A few of these devices have been installed in problem locations, but only where cities pressed Caltrans hard for action.

In Richmond, Caltrans paid to install two trash separators in storm drains near I-580 that will screen water draining off 831 acres of urban streets. In San Jose, Caltrans agreed to fund a partnership with the city’s Conservation Corps to increase freeway cleanups.

Trash lines the shores of Damon Slough near the McAfee Coliseum and Highway 880, one of the worst trash hotspots in the Bay Area. Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Those efforts stop only a fraction of the trash headed from state roads to the bay. In most of the identified trash hot spots, Caltrans is doing nothing — even where trash separators could be incorporated into needed road maintenance. The agency is years behind in dedicating money and setting a specific timeline to cut trash pollution, claiming funding constraints even though its budget this year is $11.3 billion.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board called Caltrans’ behavior “deficient” more than three years ago, and issued a formal notice of violation over a year ago. But the board has not used its power to mandate actions and penalties for these violations. The victims are seals, pelicans and other wildlife choked and poisoned by trash in the bay.

It’s unacceptable for our state agencies to keep violating the Clean Water Act, especially as Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature proclaim our state will uphold federal environmental laws that the Trump administration is trying to erode.

The regional water board should immediately take enforcement action against Caltrans and require the agency to obey the law by cleaning up road litter and installing full trash-capture devices in the worst areas.

Continued violations deserve penalties and fines, just like a private polluter would face.

Until that reckoning, the state is shirking its duty to protect San Francisco Bay, our fish and wildlife, and public health.

So clean up your roads, Caltrans. Stop making San Francisco Bay wildlife and Bay Area cities pay for your pollution.

David Lewis is the executive director of Save The Bay.

Save The Bay & Facebook: Bringing the Bay Area Closer Together

Facebook Interns Restoring Wetlands
Facebook Interns Service Day at Bair Island

San Francisco Bay is home to more than 7 million people and is the largest, most valuable estuary on the West Coast. Facebook’s headquarters is located right on the Bay’s beautiful shoreline, and the company has shown its commitment to protecting local habitat and ecosystems —from the innovative 9-acre green roof at its Menlo Park campus to its broader efforts in the Bay Area.

By sponsoring Bay Day 2017, Facebook is helping people all around the Bay celebrate its iconic role in our community, and inspiring us all to better protect this shared natural wonder. Bay Day is San Francisco Bay’s new regional Earth Day. This Bay Day – Saturday, October 7th – is an opportunity to inspire positive environmental actions by connecting communities with immersive, Bay-themed educational and recreational activities.

This is not the first time Facebook and Save The Bay have partnered to protect the Bay. This June, 350 enthusiastic Facebook volunteers came out for a massive Intern Service Day at Bair Island, bringing their incredible work ethic to our three-acre Inner Bair Island restoration site. Facebook’s volunteers completed 100 days of restoration work in just one day.

At Save The Bay, Facebook’s platforms are vital to everything we do, from spreading the word about the Bay-spanning events this Bay Day to engaging citizens with our vision of a clean and healthy Bay.

This Saturday, October 7th, Facebook’s sponsorship is supporting volunteer restoration events in Redwood City and Palo Alto, and a total of 70 community events around the Bay. And for people and families who can’t make it to one of these public celebrations – Facebook helped us launch My Bay Day Adventure Guide, an interactive, online guide to experience Bay Day from your mobile device. I love how the My Bay Day experience helps people to discover the Bay in a new way, through each of our senses, and hope you and your family enjoy it too.

Save The Bay is proud of our partnership with Facebook, and we are grateful for all the company does to protect San Francisco Bay and the communities that call the area home.  Together, we can ensure a healthy and resilient Bay for generations to come.

$20 Million Closer to a Clean & Healthy Bay

Just after Labor Day, we asked you to join Save The Bay in the fight to secure additional funding for important Bay restoration projects in the Parks and Water Bond under consideration by the State Legislature. You responded with overwhelming support. Over 1,700 of you signed our petition that we delivered to key members of the Bay Area Legislative Caucus.

With that support, and the help of our allies from the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Operating Engineers Local 3, and the Governing Board of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, we worked hard to make our case for Bay restoration funding among competing environmental priorities throughout California.

While we are disappointed that the final Parks and Water Bond the Legislature approved does not include the level of funding we had hoped for, we are happy to report that it does include a one-time state investment of $20 million for San Francisco Bay restoration projects. Subject to the Governor’s signature and voter approval on the June 2018 statewide ballot, these funds would add to the $25 million annually for 20 years provided by 2016’s regional Measure AA.

We have already begun work to identify additional Bay funding options that we can pursue in the coming year, and as always, our success will rely on your efforts.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our beautiful Bay,

David Lewis
Executive Director, Save The Bay

…what exactly, is a 13-year-old doing as an intern for Save The Bay?

Last summer, we had a young and passionate employee at our Save The Bay office: Shreyes, a 13-year-old intern who volunteered with our Marketing and Communications department.

Shreyes was homeschooled and began his academic adventures at the age of five. He excelled, and when he was 9-years-old, he enrolled in an Environmental Studies class at Foothill College. This class changed his life forever. He discovered a passion for conservation that eventually led him to Save The Bay.

After taking the course, Shreyes realized how important it is that we care for the environment. He writes in his blog:

“If we don’t clean up our act, and fast, Homo sapiens will soon cease to exist.

That’s why we have to save the environment.”

And, continues…

“Every single one of us has to pitch in to ensure our species’ survival.

Yes, even me. So I did.

The summer after taking that environmental science course, I replaced 90 percent of all incandescent light bulbs in our house with LEDs or CFLs. I turned off our sprinkler system. I reduced our A/C consumption. Our house’s energy usage was halved, and our water bill reduced by about 20 percent. I even convinced my family to install rooftop solar. But there was only so much I could do at home. One house cannot solve climate change. So I got involved in causes and decided to take action.”

Lucky for us, Shreyes decided to contact Save The Bay and we welcomed him as one of our Communications Fellows.

Your back to school gift to Save The Bay can inspire students like Shreyes. Your donation will support programs like SEED (Students Engaging in Ecological Design), which engages middle and high school students in the complete cycle of tidal marsh restoration from seeds to ecosystems. Your contribution will also support all the education, restoration, and advocacy efforts that teach and inspire students in the Bay Area and beyond.

Shreyes is a truly gifted young man, and his amazing story shows how environmental education can inspire students to protect and preserve the planet. Shreyes had to make an impact…

“Like many, I want to make a difference in my community and the world. Here at Save The Bay, I get the chance to do so.”

Providing immersive, hands-on education to students is vital to protecting the fragile ecosystems of the Bay Area. Our award-winning restoration education programs reach more than 2,000 kids each year – just $10 makes a difference providing essential tools for service learning on the shoreline. DONATE today!  

Our programs provide students with an opportunity to positively interact with and protect our beautiful Bay. After all, these young minds will be responsible for the Bay in the future — and our actions today will influence how they treat our environment tomorrow and for years to come.

Thank you, Shreyes, for your drive and desire to do good in the world! And, to all of our youth and student supporters, we wish you a successful school year ahead.

Sincerely,

David Lewis
Executive Director, Save The Bay

P.S. If you’ve got five minutes today, read Shreyes’ wonderful blog here and remember, when you donate $10 or more you will also receive our new 2018 Save The Bay Calendar.