This Tuesday, after a dramatic multi-week negotiation, Oakland City Council passed the “Oakland Together Budget”. Supporters of Save The Bay, along with many others, called Council Members, emailed the Council and City staff, and attended meetings to ask the City for funding to address Oakland’s greatest needs. The resulting budget will steer the course of Oakland’s work for the next two years, determining how far the City goes to address pollution, local flooding, sea level rise, and many other critical issues.

Wins for the Bay
A few highlights in the new budget will benefit the community by helping to keep pollution off of city streets, and out of creeks, Lake Merritt, and the Bay:

  1. Continued funding for Oakland’s illegal dumping crews and the addition of one more team: Oakland’s illegal dumping crew program has been incredibly successful, with crews responding to tens of thousands of requests every year. These crews remove large and small trash items like abandoned furniture and mattresses from Oakland’s sidewalks and streets. This helps to keep the sidewalks safe for children to walk to school, reduces community blight, and keeps trash and contaminants from flooding and leaching into creeks, streams, and the Bay during rainstorms. The addition of one more team will help keep our communities clean, and help properly dispose of illegally dumped waste before it enters our waterways.
  2. $1,000,000 for Downtown Streets Team and other community clean up work: Downtown Streets Team hires unsheltered residents to remove litter from illegal dumping hot spots around the City, while providing employment training and building community among those struggling with displacement. Programs like this help to address pollution in our waterways while providing support for another critical issue facing Oakland residents: displacement and homelessness. After proving to be so successful over the past budget cycle, we are disappointed that these programs won’t see funding until year two in this budget, and we hope other resources can be achieved to continue this work in the interim.

Room for Improvement
While there are a number of exciting achievements, the approved budget does not go far enough to protect our communities and waterways from trash, runoff, and other harmful pollution. There are two key items which need additional funding:

  1. More funding is needed for trash capture devices: We are glad to see the inclusion of some funds in the budget to install trash capture devices, which collect trash in the storm drain system and keep it from flowing to the Bay. However, the $250,000 included in the budget will only pay for a fraction of the devices the city needs. The City must spend more than eight times this amount to achieve the pollution controls required by the Clean Water Act, and ongoing maintenance for these devices. More funding for these devices is critical to keep trash out of our creeks, Lake Merritt, and the Bay.
  2. An update of the Storm Drainage Master Plan – which remains unfunded – is still a critical step in addressing Oakland’s storm drain needs: Oakland must spend $2 million on an evaluation of the City’s 400 miles of storm drains and pipes that carry polluted water to the Bay. The City’s storm drain system is in a concerning state of disrepair, but no one knows just how bad it is because the last assessment was 13 years ago. Re-evaluating this critical infrastructure was ranked priority # 2 among all of the City’s proposed capital projects, so it is frustrating that the Council chose not to fund this project. Oakland must update their Storm Drainage Master Plan to ensure Oakland’s infrastructure is resilient in the face of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding from large storms.

In addition to these funding needs, we are disappointed to see that a remaining balance of over $400,000 in Oakland’s revenue from their Excess Litter Fee Fund remains unspent in the budget. These funds are collected specifically to prevent trash and litter from entering the City’s storm drain system and polluting our waterways, and they should be allocated as soon as possible to address this pressing need.

What’s Next?
While the budget is set, there are many avenues for Oakland to achieve its work to stop pollution from entering local waterways. Save The Bay will keep pushing the City to find opportunities to increase the number of trash capture devices installed, and to update its Storm Drainage Master Plan.

Save The Bay will also continue to encourage the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to collaborate with Oakland City Council to address trash and runoff on highways that spills over into Oakland communities and waterways. Caltrans, like Oakland, is required to clean up trash from roadways before it enters the storm drain system and eventually the Bay. Caltrans is under a strict enforcement order to carry out this work in the next year (read more here!), and partnering with Oakland will help both Caltrans and Oakland achieve their pollution prevention goals more effectively, more quickly, and at a lower cost than working on this issue alone.


Mount Tamalpais Sunset, Photo by Jenny Liang

By Juliana Medan

Summer is here, and what better way to celebrate than watching the sunset with family and friends? Visit one of these stunning lookout points and take advantage of all the amazing views our Bay has to offer. You and your Instagram will both appreciate your visit to theses photogenic sunset spots.

1. Peak of Mount Tamalpais – Marin

In the heart of Marin County, Mount Tamalpais has some of the most gorgeous views our Bay has to offer. Its highest point, East Peak, sits above the clouds, ensuring that the view of the sunset is clear even on foggy days. From the East Peak of Mount Tam you can see the Farallon Islands that sit 25 miles out at sea, the Marin County hills, the East Bay, Mount Diablo and of course, San Francisco Bay. On rare occasions, you might even be able see the snow-covered Sierra Nevada.

2. Mount Hamilton Lick Observatory – Santa Clara

Mount Hamilton sits as a gem of the South Bay. At 4,209 feet, it is the highest point in all of the Bay Area. While it is fairly simple to get to the peak of the mountain via a long curving road, you should allow an hour to drive from San Jose to the Lick Observatory at the very top. The journey, however, is well worth it. Witness captivating views of the rolling South Bay hills and explore the Lick Observatory building and all its history. The Observatory is another great place to see the stars after your sunset viewing is over.

3. Mount Davidson – San Francisco

At 927 feet, Mount Davidson is the tallest natural point in San Francisco. It is not only a great option for hiking on a cool day, but for watching the sunset in the evening. Sit perched on one of the many viewpoints and look over stunning, expansive views of the city. Mount Davidson Park itself is open until 10pm, so you can enjoy the view well after the sun sets.

4. Twin Peaks – San Francisco

The top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco is arguably the best place to catch a full 360 degree view of San Francisco, in addition to a prime view of the Bay. The two hills sit in the very center of the city and remain the second highest natural summit in San Francisco. Like other viewpoint options, this spot is open well past sunset, until midnight. Catch a clear glimpse of the city lights once the sun finishes setting. Twin Peaks is easily accessible by car or bus.

5. Bernal Heights – San Francisco

Bernal Heights in San Francisco may be a residential neighborhood, but it offers a wonderful sunset spot with a surprise. At one of its stunning lookout points, a tree swing sits at optimal sunset-viewing position. Take turns with loved ones swinging over the city, and watch the sunset over our Bay. Bernal Heights holds some of the most breathtakingly clear views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco, the East Bay hills, and San Bruno Mountain.

6. Berkeley Bay View Point – Berkeley

The Berkeley Bay Viewpoint is part of the larger Tilden Regional Park, one of Berkeley’s most scenic areas. It is popular with bikers, hikers, and swimmers, but also offers an incredible place to take advantage of the beauty of a summer night. The Berkeley Bay View Point sits next to the Lawrence Hall of Science and is easily accessible by all modes of transportation. On colder nights, watch the sunset from the warmth of your car and behold a magnificent view of the East Bay and San Francisco.

From any of these viewpoints, you are sure to enjoy the beauty and diversity of our Bay. As the sun dips below the horizon and the city lights begin to twinkle, take in the wonders of the Bay Area and marvel at just how lucky we are to live here.

 


By Sidra Goldberg Pierson

Our weather has been hot and dry, but we know the rains will return this winter, bringing with them flooded streets and storm drains, carrying water, trash, and pollution into Lake Merritt, our creeks, and the San Francisco Bay. Oakland’s storm drains are a critical system in preventing this pollution, as they carry stormwater directly into the Bay. We know Oakland’s storm drain system is deteriorating, but no one knows just how bad it is.

The City of Oakland has a chance to fund critical storm drain system improvements now, through its two-year budgeting process. The City budget is being negotiated by the City Council and must be completed by the end of this month. Unfortunately, the Mayor’s initial budget didn’t include any funding for Trash Capture Devices which collect trash in the storm drain system and keep it from entering waterways. Council President Rebecca Kaplan’s budget included $1.5 million for Trash Capture Devices but the latest proposal already rolled this back to just $250,000. The City needs to show a lot more commitment to keeping trash out of our Bay.

Here’s What You Need to Know
Save The Bay is asking the City Council to reconsider their original proposal and include $1.5 million for Trash Capture Devices in the City budget. In addition, Oakland needs to update its Storm Drainage Master Plan.

We are concerned because we know that $250,000 is nowhere near enough for Oakland to achieve its trash capture goals and meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The city needs multiple large devices, as well as thousands of small devices to keep our waterways free of trash. The proposed $250,00 would only cover 100-200 small devices, or a small fraction of the cost of a large device. If the City budgets $1.5 million for this work, it will go much further in achieving the pollution controls the City needs, and ongoing maintenance for these devices. This will keep trash out of our creeks, Lake Merritt, and the Bay.

In addition to immediate installation of Trash Capture Devices, Oakland must fund critical planning to address its storm drain needs now and into the future. We are asking the Council to include additional funding for an evaluation of Oakland’s 400 miles of storm drains and pipes that carry polluted water to the Bay. We know this system is deteriorating, but no one knows just how bad it is. Updating the City’s Storm Drainage Master Plan will ensure Oakland’s infrastructure is resilient in the face of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding from large storms. You can read more about it in our last blog on this campaign.

Your Help is Needed!
You have the opportunity to influence Oakland’s budget before it is finalized at the end of this month. Please take a few minutes to call or email Mayor Schaaf, Council President Kaplan and your representative on the City Council (contact information listed below). We have provided a template that you can either copy and paste into an email or use as a script for a phone call. If you are unsure who represents you, look up your Council District here.

Thank you for your efforts to protect The Bay!

All Districts Mayor Schaaf officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com 510-238-3141
All Districts Council President Kaplan atlarge@oaklandnet.com 510-238-7008
District 1 Council Member Kalb dkalb@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7001
District 2 Council Member Bas district2@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7002
District 3 Council Member McElhaney AMarqusee@oaklandnet.com 510-238-7003
District 4 Council Member Thao District4@Oaklandca.gov 510-238-7004
District 5 Council Member Gallo Ngallo@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7005
District 6 Council Member Taylor District6@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7006
District 7 Council Member Reid lreid@oaklandnet.com 510-238-7007

Phone/ Email Script:

Hello, My name is ________, and I am an Oakland resident. I am calling/emailing to support the inclusion of $1.5 million for Full Trash Capture Devices in the budget – these devices will collect trash in the storm drain system and keep it from entering waterways.

But the City still needs to allocate additional funds to remain in compliance with the Clean Water Act and keep trash out of our Bay. I also support funding for an update the Storm Drainage Master Plan. These additions will protect our community from flooding during large storm events, prepare the city to meet regulatory requirements, and allow Oakland to partner with Caltrans to achieve critical funds to clean up trash in our stormwater. These key recommendations are in the Resilient Oakland Playbook and will reduce community flooding and pollution that harms public health, creeks, Lake Merritt, and the San Francisco Bay.

Thank you.



By Sidra Goldberg Pierson

Oakland’s City Council is meeting on Monday, June 10 to discuss adoption and revision of the Proposed City Budget. The current proposal is missing a key piece of funding to protect Oakland residents and the Bay: an evaluation of Oakland’s 400 miles of storm drains and pipes that carry polluted water to the Bay. We know this system is deteriorating, but no one knows just how bad it is.

This evaluation, the Storm Drainage Master Plan (SDMP), is a necessary investment in Oakland’s long-term resilience, sustainability, and Bay stewardship.

Here’s What You Need to Know and How You Can Take Action

Many parts of Oakland already experience seasonal flooding due to decades of underinvestment in the City’s stormwater infrastructure, and climate change only exacerbates these threats to Oakland residents. We see the consequences of ignored infrastructure in Oakland’s pot-holed and dangerous roads. Patchwork attempts to reduce damage to the storm drain system without a comprehensive plan will set the city up for increased community flooding, unmitigated pollution, pricey emergency repairs, and potential regulatory fines.

Funding for an update to the SDMP will provide a critical tool for the city to begin to address all these needs. A SDMP update will:

  • Comply with the City’s own Resilient Oakland Playbook, which recommends this update:  The Resilient Oakland Playbook, a tool for fostering climate and economic resilience in Oakland, identifies updating the SDMP as a key action step. It warns that the City’s storm drainage system is in critical need of maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. A key first step to identifying critical projects that will reduce potentially costly and dangerous flooding is to update to the SDMP.
  • Provide needed knowledge and data to address stormwater pollution systematically: This will help to ensure that Oakland infrastructure is resilient the face of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding from large storms while reducing trash and pollution flowing into the Bay.
  • Help the City to achieve trash clean-up goals: Oakland is required to achieve “100% trash capture from stormwater” by 2022 based on the Clean Water Act. If the City fails to do so, pollution will continue to run into the Bay, and Oakland could face fines that would further jeopardize efforts to achieve a clean and healthy Bay.
  • Allow Oakland to access state funding for needed trash clean-up: In pursuing work to clean up trash in stormwater, Oakland has an opportunity to partner with the California Department of Transportation to achieve the requirements of the Clean Water Act. A cooperative trash clean-up plan could give the City access to much-needed state funding, making trash clean-up faster and cheaper.

You Can Make a Positive Impact for Oakland

You have the opportunity to influence Oakland’s two-year budget before it is finalized at the end of this month. Please take a few minutes to call or email members of the budget committee, whose contact information is listed below. We have provided a template that you can either copy and paste into an email or use as a script for a phone call.

Council President Kaplan atlarge@oaklandnet.com 510-238-7008
Council Member Fortunato Bas district2@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7002
Council Member McElhaney AMarqusee@oaklandnet.com 510-238-7003
Council Member Taylor District6@oaklandca.gov 510-238-7006 (press 5)
Council Member Thao District4@Oaklandca.gov 510-238-7004

Phone/ Email Script:

Hello, My name is ________, and I am an Oakland resident. I am calling (/emailing) to request that funding to update the Storm Drain Master Plan be included in the Oakland City Budget. Completion of a Storm Drain Master Plan will protect our community from flooding during large storm events, prepare the city to meet regulatory requirements, and allow Oakland to partner with Caltrans to achieve critical funds to clean up trash in our stormwater. Also, an update to the Storm Drain Master Plan is a key recommendation in our own Resilient Oakland Playbook, as it will reduce community flooding and pollution that harms public health, creeks, Lake Merritt, and the San Francisco Bay.

 


The following Opinion piece was published on June 5, 2019, in the San Jose Mercury News.

Since our great awakening in the 1960s, the Bay Area has become a proud leader in protecting our local environment, from the redwoods and ridgelines to San Francisco Bay. We stopped shrinking the Bay with landfill and garbage dumps, cracked down on polluters and treated our sewage. We started restoring old salt ponds to lush tidal marshes for wildlife and flood protection, creating hundreds of miles of Bay Trail and shoreline parks.

But some wealthy developers don’t care, despite decades of being told, “no, we won’t build on the Bay anymore.” With Donald Trump’s help, Cargill Salt and luxury home developer DMB Associates keep putting their profit above the health of our Bay.

Sound familiar? In 2012, after years of massive public opposition, Redwood City officials halted the same companies’ project to build 12,000 homes on Bay salt ponds. They saw that “Saltworks” development would put people at risk from floods, destroy wildlife habitat, increase traffic and overtax city drinking water supplies.

Now Arizona-based DMB is back and trying to build on the Bay again, buoyed by the Trump administration’s attacks on federal environmental laws that protect wetlands and clean water.

But what made this the wrong place for housing before, hasn’t changed today.  Endangered fish, birds, and other wildlife need more shoreline habitat not less. California laws still protect water, wetlands, and the wildlife that depend on them.

Cargill’s salt ponds are still a top priority for addition to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Redwood City zoning and land use rules still prohibit housing or other development on this “tidal plain” of the Bay – only agriculture or public recreation and parks are legal there.

Traffic is still terrible on Highway 101 and other roads near this site, which is miles from Caltrain. Building thousands of luxury condos there would add more cars, traffic and emissions.

What has changed since 2012? More reasons not to develop on Bay wetlands.

Bay Area residents are more concerned than ever about climate change and sea level rise because we’re already experiencing more extreme storms and floods. We know it’s not smart to put more people and buildings at risk in this flood zone.

We have better science on how our Bay can adapt to rising tides. A new report shows natural solutions are cheaper than seawalls, better for wildlife, and that the entire Saltworks site is suitable for tidal marsh, not new development. [“New Plan to Combat Sea Level Rise,” 5-2-19] . We understand this so well that more than 70 percent of us voted to tax ourselves in 2016 to accelerate Bay marsh restoration.

Marsh restoration is proceeding on either side of the Saltworks site – it’s the missing piece of a continuous wildlife corridor from San Carlos to San Jose.

To combat climate change and create more resilient and equitable communities, the Bay Area needs to add affordable housing near transit hubs, not pave over more wetlands. Redwood City has led Peninsula cities by adding thousands of new housing units downtown and on transit corridors this decade, with more coming.

Local politicians hear the public loud and clear without developer-sponsored forums to “Reimagine Saltworks.” Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain says, “The community wants to see the site restored to wetlands and there’s close to zero appetite for another housing proposal.”

Over the last 50 years, we’ve turned the tide to stop shrinking the Bay, embraced it as our greatest natural treasure, and restored its health. We can’t let the Trump Administration and misguided developers take us backward by destroying the Bay we love.

David Lewis is executive director of Save The Bay.