Remembering State Assemblyman Jack Knox

1969_Historical_BCDC
From left to right: Senator Marks of San Francisco, Senator Petris of Oakland, State Assemblyman Knox.

Another giant in the movement to save San Francisco Bay from destruction has passed away. Former State Assemblyman John T. (“Jack”) Knox died at the age of 92 on April 4, after a long illness.  Knox represented Richmond and West Contra Costa County in the Assembly for 20 years, starting in 1960, and served as Assembly Speaker Pro Tem.

He was a key leader in passing the McAteer-Petris Act to establish the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) as a permanent agency to regulate development in the Bay and on its shoreline. He also led the creation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970, requiring all projects in the state to undergo a rigorous evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives before approval.

Save The Bay recognized Knox’s substantial contributions to the health of the San Francisco Bay with our Founding Member Award in 2008. Knox was a long-time member of Save The Bay’s Advisory Council and regularly attended our annual Founding Members Tea.

Knox was a smart attorney and became an accomplished legislator, which colleagues attributed to his personality as much as his knowledge: “Amid the understandable demonization caused by our new, toxic White House, let us pause and acknowledge a great public official,” said former Assemblyman William Bagley about Knox last week. “During my own 14 years in the Assembly and thereafter, I never heard him disparage anyone, not even outrageous colleagues.”

The East Bay Times noted in its obituary for Knox:

“Knox’s win with the McAteer-Petris Act was groundbreaking at a local and international level, and continues to have a profound impact on the Bay today.  As the first coastal zone management agency, the BCDC became the model for most others in the world, and since its inception has fostered a net gain in the size of the Bay through tidal marsh restoration.  The new public shoreline access mandated by BCDC agency permits have increased the six miles of access in 1969 to over 300 miles today, providing Bay residents throughout the Bay area with opportunities to connect with the Bay, and become its stewards.”

At a speech in 1988, Save The Bay co-founder Esther Gulick recalled an example of Knox’s leadership in the crucial year of 1969. The original BCDC commission had delivered its report to the legislature with recommendations for managing the Bay. If the legislature didn’t act to make the Commission permanent, it was scheduled to go out of business. After the original BCDC leader, Senator McAteer died of a heart attack in 1967, and the successor leader, powerful Senator George Miller, Sr., also suffered a fatal heart attack in early 1969, Knox introduced and shepherded the same McAteer-Petris bill in the Assembly.

“One committee meeting that will never be forgotten was the hearing on John Knox’s Bill #AB 2057. KQED telecast this hearing to the Bay Area. The meeting room was packed and the large room next to it where one could hear, but not see what was going on, was also filled. People stood out in the hall. The lawyer for [developer] Westbay spoke passionately against the bill. Finally, John Knox asked him if he had read it. He said no.”

On its final vote in the legislature, the bill passed by one vote and BCDC became permanent upon the signature of Governor Ronald Reagan on August 7, 1969.

Among Knox’s many legacies is the beautiful Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline Park in Point Richmond. Knox was also a World War II veteran, whose Army service included a posting in Nome, Alaska. He is survived by his wife, Jean, children John, Charlotte and Mary, and seven grandchildren.

Read more about Jack Knox’s life and legacy here: 

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article144659879.html

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/04/05/john-t-knox-longtime-contra-costa-assemblyman-dies/

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/John-T-Jack-Knox-former-Bay-Area-11059517.php

Weekly Roundup November 1, 2013

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

Contra Costa Times 10/26/13
Court case, environmental fight continues over planned development in Newark’s Areas 3 and 4
A fight over the development of a swath of land in the southwestern part of town known as Areas 3 and 4 has been reignited as the city updates its plan for the future.
In one corner are city officials, who since 2006 have wanted to construct more than 1,000 homes and a golf course on more than 600 acres of land owned mostly by Newark Partners, a consortium of developers.
In the other corner are some residents and environmental groups who filed suit in 2010 to try to stop the development and have so far done so, although an expected court ruling could change that.
“It’s not a smart place for the city to be building on or sprawling into,” said Josh Sonnenfeld, of the environmental group, Save the Bay. “Most of the region has focused growth around existing transit and infrastructure, but there is no existing infrastructure out there.”
Read more>>

weekly roundup

San Francisco Chronicle 10/27/13
Otter Signals Lake Merritt Ecosystem Comeback
Greg Lewis had just finished his evening row on Oakland’s Lake Merritt when he saw a slick, squirmy, furry bundle hoist itself out of the water and onto the edge of the dock.
It was a river otter, the first one spotted in Lake Merritt in decades.
“I saw his head pop up and saw him pull himself on the dock,” Lewis, 53, of Berkeley, said of the surprise Oct. 6 encounter. “He looked at us, we looked at him for a bit.”
Lewis, who develops air pollution monitors, snapped a few shots, and like that, the animal plopped back into the water and paddled off.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 10/28/13
Report: Some Chemicals in SF Bay Near Levels of Concern
Pesticides, flame retardants and other chemicals used in homes and businesses have been found in San Francisco Bay at levels that could pose hazards to aquatic life if they go unchecked, according to a new report.
For now, none of the chemicals is present in concentrations alarming enough to be of “high concern,” meaning they are unlikely to cause significant harm to water quality and the bay’s inhabitants, according to the annual report from the Regional Monitoring Program, an environmental group that tracks contaminants in the bay.
Read more>>

North Bay Business Journal 10/28/13
Efforts to Reform CEQA Environmental Law Fizzle
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law a much-scaled back version of a bill that was aimed at reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, eliciting disappointment from much of the business community across the North Bay.
Despite significant momentum from a number of interests across the state, comprehensive reform of CEQA — perhaps one of the most polarizing laws in the state — fizzled at the close of the last Legislative session, resulting in a much narrower bill that proponents of reform say fails to address systematic abuse and slowed economic development.
Read more>>

Oakland Tribune 10/25/13
White Pelicans Flock to Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge
Being the first wildlife refuge in the nation, the bird sanctuary at Lake Merritt has quite a history of visiting birds.
“Not only are we on a migratory path, but we also house injured and senior birds that can no longer fly with their pack,” says Stephanie Benavidez, the supervising naturalist of the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge since 1974.
Two of their more famous injured birds were Hector and Helen, a pair of American white pelicans that had made Lake Merritt their home until they died at the ages of 27 and 29 years old, respectively. Hector died in 1985 and Helen in 1999.
Read more>>

Contra Costa Times 10/30/13
Fiery Newark Residents Sway Planning Commission Delay Vote on General Plan Environmental Report
A vote to certify the general plan’s final environmental impact report has been pushed back at least two weeks, after a fiery Planning Commission meeting where residents complained the city gave them just a day to review the document.
The draft report was made public Monday and posted on the city’s website, but some residents told the commission on Tuesday they could not access it because the large file kept freezing their computers.”The public’s ability to provide substantive comments during this public hearing are being thwarted because the documents under review were not provided in a timely fashion,” said Carin High, member of the environmental group Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge. “I’ve never encountered a situation before where the public is given only one day.”
Read more>>

Palo Alto Online 11/1/13
Saving the Baylands
Palo Alto Online The Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve marshlands, home to the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and the California clapper rail, have turned to fall colors of red and gold. Behind the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center, yellowing native Pacific cord grass nods at the channel’s edge, and the succulent pickleweed, which tastes briny and tart, is crimson.
Last week, long-billed dowitchers and godwits pecked at mudflats exposed by the receding tide. The elusive clapper rail did not appear along the watery channel known as “rail alley.” But there were signs: Marks in the mud bank showed where the birds had scooted down to water’s edge from hollows made in the pickleweed. A lone feather clung to a nearby plant.
Read more>>

National Wildlife Refuge System 10/23/13
Seals Making a Comeback on the Farallon Islands
More than a century after fur traders killed them off, northern fur seals have staged an amazing recovery on the Farallon Islands. Starting with the 1996 birth of a fur seal pup on West End Island ¬− the first seal birth in the Farallons in more than 150 years − the northern fur seal population on Farallon National Wildlife Refuge has increased exponentially. Seals have re-colonized the islands, which offer prime habitat − remote, easily accessible by sea and lacking human presence.
Read more>>

Weekly Roundup | April 12, 2013

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

San Mateo Daily Journal 4/5/13
OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA
The two of us remember the challenges that faced our state before 1970, the year the California Environmental Quality Act was enacted. We are disturbed by recent proposals to weaken this landmark legislation, which has served as the cornerstone of California’s environmental protection laws.  While the challenges facing the environment are different today (in fact, they are probably even more difficult), the need for CEQA is as strong as it was in 1970. We cannot forget the reasons that led to our state’s hard-won environmental safeguards. Those reasons still exist.
Read More>>

Oakland Tribune 4/9/13
Reform of California’s Landmark Environmental Law is on Life Support
Proponents of what reformers call CEQA “modernization” appeared to be on track until Michael Rubio, a Democratic senator from Bakersfield who had been shepherding reform legislation as chairman of a key environmental committee, resigned from the Legislature six weeks ago to become a Chevron lobbyist. He was replaced by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who told this newspaper he’s open to improving CEQA but has “no desire to change the fundamental law passed 40 years ago.”
Read More>>

Capitol Weekly 4/9/13
Scaling down the big one?
The nature of one of the most ambitious public works projects in California’s history resides in the detail.  And more details are emerging.  The newly-released, preliminary planning documents for the $18 billion Delta tunnels project include a detailed analysis of how the plan would affect the Delta’s ecosystem and the 57 fish, wildlife and plant species that it’s designed to protect, plus additional details on how the project would be managed.
Read More>>

SF Examiner 4/7/13
Another piece of Presidio’s transformation coming together
The southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge will be completely transformed when it’s completed in 2015, and with it will come a new look for The City’s northern waterfront.  The rebuild of Doyle Drive is bringing new parkland and pedestrian access between Crissy Field and the Main Post of the Presidio, a former Army base. The seismically unsafe roadway is being replaced by a pair of tunnels, and they will be covered with greenery.
Read More>>

Redwood City-Woodside Patch 4/8/2013
Pedestrian Bridge to Inner Bair Island to Open Mid-April
The Inner Bair Island pedestrian bridge, and a small poriton of the trail, is set to open within the next couple of weeks, according to Eric Mruz, refuge manager for the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The project has been in the works for the past few years and is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to restore 1,400 acres of Bair Island to its natural condition as tidal wetlands.  Mruz said there will most likely be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with a talk about the restoration, with involvement from the project’s partners.  A big event will happen in the fall or spring once the rest of the graveled trail opens and the work crew finishes constructing two viewing platforms, he said.
See photos of the progress here>>

 

Could AB 32 Help Save The Bay?

This week, California’s landmark climate law, over a decade in the making, goes in to effect.

Back in 2006, then-Governing Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 32, the state’s now landmark Green House Gas (GHG) reduction law.  Central to that new law is establishment of a cap and trade system, which sets a limit on air pollution across the board.  Over time, that cap is lowered, and polluters must take one of three actions.  They can reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses, purchase carbon “credits” from other polluters, or they can purchase offsets from a set of qualified projects aimed at reducing atmospheric CO2 and other GHG’s.

While wetland restoration projects like those in San Francisco Bay aren’t currently included in the profile of eligible projects, we’re curious what would happen if they were.  One of if not the greatest challenge currently facing Bay restoration is funding.  Over 32,000 acres of restorable habitat – roughly equivalent to the entire city of Richmond – are currently in public ownership just waiting for restoration, yet is precious little funding at the state and federal level to restore this land to healthy Bay habitat.

For the past 40 years, another landmark environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (or CEQA) has required new construction and development to offset environmental impacts with what’s called compensatory mitigation, effectively creating environmental benefits to offset impacts somewhere else.  This practice has created a very profitable industry of mitigation banks – often large tracts of land that are sold piecemeal as industry needs to compensate for the building of a new housing development, a highway, or sports stadium.

Currently AB 32 provides carbon offsets though tree planting and forest restoration from Maine to the San Diego.  But with so many important restoration projects right here at home, and projects that will sequester carbon at a much higher rate than forests of pines or box elders, the California Air Resources Board should open the discussion for a variety of new restoration opportunities on the horizon.