Bal Tashchit for the Bay

Michael with David Lewis
Seventh grader Michael Sipes presents Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis with the fund raised for his Tzedakah Project.

Michael Sipes is a 7th grader at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School who selected Save The Bay for his Tzedakah project, which honors the Jewish value of obligatory giving. Each student chooses a Jewish value and a social issue that aligns with the value, as well as an organization working on the issue. Students then commit to volunteering, advocating, and fundraising for the organization.

Michael chose the value of Bal Tashchit and identified Save The Bay as an organization working to prevent environmental degradation. He fundraised $1,300 dollars for Save The Bay as part of his Tzedakah project, which he presented to Executive Director David Lewis.

In his own words, this is why Michael chose Save The Bay for his Tzedakah project:

The value I chose for the 7th Grade Tzedakah Project was Bal Tashchit (בל תשח׳ת), which means to protect our world. Bal Tashchit is important because the world is our most precious resource, and we must do everything we can, to protect it from harm. Save the Bay is an organization that works on solving environmental degradation by preventing pollution, restoring wetlands and by stopping bay fill in the Bay Area. By doing this, they are enacting Bal Tashchit. For those reasons I chose Save the Bay as my organization.

Thank you to Michael for your commitment to protecting our world through protecting San Francisco Bay!

Heroes on the Bay: Berkeley Yacht Club

Founders flag on sailboat
The Berkeley Yacht Club chose Save The Bay’s founders as ‘Heroes of the Bay’ for the Opening Day on the Bay parade.

Opening Day on the Bay is a long-standing tradition to launch the boating season on San Francisco Bay. Since 1917, sailors have paraded their vessels as a celebration of spring and their love for sailing the waters of our beloved Bay.

The parade’s theme this year was “Heroes on the Bay” and the Berkeley Yacht Club chose to honor Save The Bay’s founders for their entry. They gave us a call to see if we had any images of Sylvia, Kay, and Esther that could be used to fit the theme. Fortunately, we held onto a long banner picturing the founders from our 50th anniversary gala, which the club was able to rig up on the front of a sailboat named Oksza.

The image of our founders flew proudly above San Francisco Bay, and a Save The Bay flag flew high above a long banner reading “Protection and Restoration”. Club members were inspired to introduce the story of these local environmental heroes to a new generation of Bay enthusiasts. Plus, the Oksza took 2nd place sailboat in the parade!

Patti Brennan from Berkeley Yacht Club said, “It was a memorable moment to see the original founders of Save the Bay inspiring a new generation. Berkeley Yacht Club and its members are honored both to have had this opportunity and to receive this award.”

Thanks to the Berkeley Yacht Club for celebrating Sylvia McLaughlin, Esther Gulick, and Kay Kerr, as Heroes on the Bay!

Roundup: Science of saving the Bay

Photo: Britta Heise
Photo: Britta Heise

Report: Baylands & Climate Change

How will climate change impact the Bay Area? In 2015, local scientists released an important update to a 1999 report on the Bay’s ecosystems and habitat. The report calls for accelerated restoration efforts across the Bay to prepare for dramatic climate fluctuation. Read more about this significant research from Save The Bay’s lead scientist Donna Ball.

King Tides


All Hail the King… Tides, That Is

King Tides are the highest tides of the year that occur around the Winter and Summer Solstices. These extreme high tides provide a glimpse of the typical tides of the future as sea levels rise. Fortunately, restoration of transition zones around the Bay shoreline can act as a natural barrier, soaking up and redirecting bay waters. Read more about what the King Tides tell us about the future of San Francisco Bay.


The Science of Wetlands & Wastewater

As a partner on a groundbreaking, experimental project called the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee, Save The Bay is creating new habitat that may model how our region can adapt to rising sea levels. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley researcher Aidan Cecchetti is measuring another aspect of the project: How this habitat can filter excess nutrients and other pollutants from treated wastewater. Read more about the research at Oro Loma.


Carrying on Sylvia’s legacy


Sylvia with Monica
Monica met Sylvia McLaughlin during Save The Bay’s 50th anniversary.

When someone asks me, “Who are your heroes?” the people who come to mind are often strangers who live in other places or other times. Sylvia McLaughlin is the one whose picture I see every workday, reminding me that heroes are simply people who see what needs to be done and do it.

I started working at Save The Bay in 2011, as the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary year. It was an incredible way to connect with the history of this environmental movement. The story of these three women from Berkeley who stood up for a better San Francisco Bay is inspiring to all of us. Can you imagine if they hadn’t succeeded? Would our beloved San Francisco Bay be merely a polluted shipping channel? Before learning the history, it was easy to take the Bay for granted, a sparkling gem that defines the Bay Area. I am both inspired and humbled by the work that Save The Bay’s founders started in Sylvia’s home in the Berkeley hills all those years ago.

I was thrilled the first time I heard Sylvia speak in person, at our 50th anniversary gala event.  She quoted her friend and co-founder Kay Kerr: “The San Francisco Bay is never saved, it is always in the process of being saved.” She encouraged each of us to keep working for a better San Francisco Bay. Her words resonated throughout the room, a reminder not just to look back at the fights already won, but to embrace the work of constantly improving our Bay.

When Sylvia McLaughlin passed away last month at the age of 99, she left a long list of accomplishments and an admirable legacy.  As we honor her life, I’m filled with awe and gratitude of the impact she had on our region. The San Francisco Bay is no longer seen as a giant sewer or unused real estate. This thriving estuary is now ringed with parks and open space to give the public access to its shoreline, including McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, named in Sylvia’s honor. Each time we look out over San Francisco Bay, we can thank Sylvia.

A legacy of determination

I am so thankful to Sylvia for her persistence and determination. She and her friends faced what must have seemed like impossible challenges, and changed the course of history. Sylvia’s lifelong commitment to working for a better Bay is a legacy all of its own.

The ways that we interact with the Bay have changed in the last 50 years, and the challenges we face are new as well. In the face of climate change and the Bay Area’s growing population, the task at hand can feel as impossible as what our founders faced half a century ago.  But just as Sylvia saved the Bay for us, I am confident that we can save the Bay for future generations.

We take inspiration from Sylvia’s vision for the San Francisco Bay, rooted in her deep love for this place we all come home. We will remember her courage when we face our own impossible odds. We’ll channel her tenacity when confronted by powerful interests. And we will share her faith that ordinary people achieve great things when they come together and raise their voices as one.

Remembering Sylvia McLaughlin

Sylvia McLaughlin
Sylvia McLaughlin 1916-2016

Save The Bay is deeply saddened at the news that the organization’s last living founder, Sylvia McLaughlin, passed away at her home in Berkeley on Tuesday January 19, 2016 at the age of 99. Sylvia McLaughlin’s commitment to saving the San Francisco Bay created a lasting legacy for the region and the environmental movement.

“Sylvia and her friends just wanted to stop the Bay from being destroyed. They were so successful they launched the modern grassroots environmental movement in the Bay Area,” said Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis. “We have a cleaner, healthier and more vibrant Bay because of Sylvia’s efforts. Her drive, determination and spark will remain an inspiration to us all.”

“Words are hardly adequate to convey Sylvia’s profound influence on protecting the environment, restraining runaway development around the Bay and providing a powerful role model for those who whose power is based not on wealth or inside political connections but on determination and a just cause,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

A long, full life

Sylvia McLaughlin was born December 24, 1916 in Denver, Colorado, the third of four children and the only daughter of George E. Cranmer and Jean Chappell Cranmer. Her father was the city official responsible for creating Red Rocks Theater and Winter Park, her mother a trained violinist and patron of classical music. Their house was surrounded by open prairie and commanded a view of the Rockies. She enjoyed horseback riding, skiing, and mountain climbing wtih her brothers. After her graduation from Vassar College in 1939, she returned to Denver and the family home.

Sylvia married Donald H. McLaughlin, President of Homestake Mining Company, in 1948 and moved in with him and his mother in Berkeley, California. Don had two grown sons from his first marriage, and Sylvia’s first step-grandchild arrived before her own two children. In the early years of her marriage she was active in civic and charitable activities alongside her supportive role as the wife of a mining executive and UC Regent.

Sylvia forms Save The Bay, shapes Bay Area environmental movement

Save The Bay FoundersIn 1961, Sylvia and her two friends, Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick, formed Save San Francisco Bay Association (now Save The Bay), spurred into action by the City of Berkeley’s plan to fill in 2,000 acres of San Francisco Bay and the fear that the Bay could become a river-like shipping channel if all the region’s bay fill plans moved ahead. Appalled that the filling of their beautiful natural treasure was considered “progress” and that there was very little public access to the Bay, the three women quickly mobilized their communities.

Establishing BCDCWith Save The Bay, Sylvia helped build and lead a massive citizens’ movement that won a moratorium on landfill in the Bay and then a permanent state agency to regulate filling and shoreline development, the Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC).  BCDC was the first agency of its kind, and is the model for coastal zone management world-wide. Sylvia helped ring the Bay with a necklace of shoreline parks, including McLaughlin Eastshore State Park on the very shoreline that she stopped Berkeley from filling, which was renamed in her honor in 2012. Public access to the Bay – one of the many causes she championed – has grown from only six miles in 1960 to hundreds of miles today.

A lifetime of conservation

Over the course of her career, Sylvia occupied several appointed positions – including seats on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Advisory Planning Commission and on the Berkeley City Council Waterfront Advisory Committee.  She sat on Save The Bay’s board of directors for almost 40 years, and on the board of directors for the National Audubon Society, East Bay Conservation Corps, Save the Redwoods League, Citizens for East Shore Parks, Trust for Public Land, Greenbelt Alliance, and many others.

In addition to Save The Bay, she co-founded Urban Care, a Berkeley group, and Citizens for East Shore Parks.

Even in her nineties, Sylvia refused to retire, remaining an active and articulate advocate for the Bay and open recreational spaces – with a busy schedule of speaking engagements, board of director duties, and community meetings. At 93, she captivated an audience of Bay scientists, stewards and supporters at a premier screening of Saving the Bay – a documentary film chronicling the history of San Francisco Bay and the unprecedented work Sylvia did to save it. In 2012, the East Bay Regional Parks officially named McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in honor of Sylvia’s work to preserve the Berkeley shoreline.

Sylvia is survived by her children, Jeanie Shaterian and George C. McLaughlin; her stepson, Donald H. McLaughlin, Jr.; four grandchildren and six step-grandchildren.

“Her work and achievements are unparalleled and serve as inspiration to every individual or group working to protect and conserve the natural beauty and resources in the region and beyond,” Lewis said.

San Francisco Bay would not be what it is today without the work of Sylvia McLaughlin and we are humbled to carry on the legacy of her commitment to San Francisco Bay. May her drive, determination and spark remain an inspiration to us all to improve our region for future generations.

A public memorial service will be held Tuesday, February 2, 4:00 pm, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley. We also will host a special event in honor of Sylvia’s life in the coming months, and will share more information as the details come together.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Sylvia McLaughlin be made to Save The Bay or to Citizens for Eastshore Parks.

To honor Sylvia, we invite you to please share your memories or appreciation of Sylvia in the comments below. We’ll share this outpouring of love and gratitude with Sylvia’s family and assemble it into a fitting public tribute.