The California State Legislature wrapped up its 2017 session last month with the passage of some significant environmental bills that will provide important benefits to San Francisco Bay and Bay Area residents. Below are some of the notable achievements that will help keep our Bay – and Bay Area air – clean and healthy. With the exception of the bill extending the cap-and-trade system for reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions, which has already been signed into law, all the bills mentioned below await the Governor’s signature.

Bay Restoration Funding in the State Parks and Water Bond

In one of the final votes of the 2017 session, the Legislature passed a Parks and Water Bond measure, Senate Bill 5 (de León), that voters will likely see on the June 2018 statewide ballot. The proposed bond contains $4 billion for parks, green space, and water projects statewide.

Notably, the bill contains a one-time investment of $20 million for San Francisco Bay restoration, something we worked hard to include. With support from key allies and thousands of our supporters throughout the region, we made a strong case for Bay restoration funding among competing environmental priorities throughout California. While we are disappointed that the final bond does not include a higher level of funding, this $20 million would add to the $25 million annually for 20 years provided by 2016’s regional Measure AA. If the Governor signs the bill as anticipated, the bond will be subject to voter approval on the June 2018 statewide ballot.

Stormwater Financing

Stormwater is both an important freshwater resource and a major source of pollution in our waterways. Yet, unlike drinking water and wastewater projects, critical stormwater projects have failed to move forward due to an interpretation of state law that limited the ability of local governments to fund them. Failure to repair and upgrade our stormwater infrastructure over many years has led to increased local flooding during storms and the continued flow of trash and toxic heavy metals into the Bay, polluting the water and threatening wildlife habitat. Given chronic water shortages in California, it is imperative that local governments fund projects that capture and recycle stormwater in order to reduce the strain on our freshwater resources.

Fortunately, the Legislature passed new measures to help municipalities do just that. To help facilitate local financing and implementation of stormwater projects, Senate Bill 231 (Hertzberg) will give municipalities and local water agencies the necessary authority to finance stormwater projects while maintaining strict requirements for transparency and accountability. To prioritize these projects, Senate Bill 5 contains $100 million in competitive grants for statewide investment in water reuse and recycling, including stormwater projects. The bill also contains $100 million statewide for stormwater and other flood protection and repair projects that will help reduce the flow of trash into our waterways.

Smoking Ban in State Parks and Beaches

Complementing the numerous local and regional smoking bans already in effect throughout the Bay Area, the Legislature passed two bills to prohibit smoking in state parks and beaches. Smoking in these areas exposes visitors to second hand smoke, and cigarette butts threaten the health of wildlife and local waterways. An activity that mars the quality of our air, landscape, and water has no place in areas where Californians go to enjoy the outdoors with their families.

Cigarette litter is toxic, plastic trash that plagues California’s beaches and shoreline. Cigarette filters are made from non-biodegradable cellulose acetate, and will persist in the environment indefinitely. Cigarette butts have been the most common type of litter collected on Coastal Cleanup Day for the last 20+ years. At state parks in the Bay Area, including China Camp State Park, McLaughlin East Shore State Park, Crown Beach State Park, and Angel Island State Park, thousands of cigarette butts are found each year during Coastal Cleanup Day events.

The two bills, Senate Bill 386 (Glazer), which is stronger and more prescriptive, and Assembly Bill 725 (Levine), which leaves state officials greater flexibility for purposes of implementation, would ban smoking in state parks and beaches and impose fines on those who violate the ban.

Cap-and-Trade Extension

Finally, in one of the more contentious and momentous votes of the year, the Legislature voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade system through 2030. California’s cap-and-trade is the strongest greenhouse gas emission reduction mechanism in the nation, and one that has yielded billions of dollars in funding for key climate mitigation programs. In order to continue funding these important initiatives, retaining some type of carbon pricing scheme was essential.

Earlier this year, cap-and-trade’s future was uncertain. The program was set to expire in 2020, and a pending lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of its simple-majority passage back in 2006. In order to overcome that legal challenge and extend the policy beyond 2020, legislative leaders needed to craft an extension that would achieve passage by a two-thirds majority.

In order to reach that threshold, cap-and-trade supporters in the Legislature accepted significant compromises. The final deal gave away billions of dollars in allowances to oil companies and other big polluters; it reduced the ability of local air regulators to control carbon dioxide emissions; and it allowed polluters to increase their use of carbon offsets rather than reduce their emissions, among other problems. Therefore, the bill was opposed by environmental justice groups and some others in the environmental community who believed it did more harm than good, and that its passage came at the continued expense of low-income communities and communities of color who suffer disproportionately from the negative impacts of climate change.


Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.
Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond. Photo by Dan Sullivan.

It’s a new year, which in the case of 2017 means a new Congress and a new administration in Washington, D.C. Many of us in the Bay Area have a palpable sense of unease about what the impending changes in the federal government mean for the Bay and the environment more broadly. And on no issue is this concern felt more deeply than the fight to address climate change and its impacts.

Environmental advocates in the Bay Area – and California as a whole –  are determined and prepared to advance this fight, and we at Save The Bay are doing everything we can to ensure that climate change remains front and center in regional, state, and federal agendas over the coming years.

Here is what we are doing to make this happen:

On the local level

As the Bay Area rapidly grows in the coming years, we can help ensure that the growth happens in a way that minimizes the impact on the Bay and adapts to climate change. This is the aim of our new Bay Smart Communities Program, which promotes investment in green infrastructure, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, and increased affordable housing along the Bay. These “smart growth” components have a number of significant climate change-related benefits, including:

  • Reducing vehicle emissions and harmful pollutant runoff into the Bay by building higher density housing – particularly affordable housing – and commercial developments near public transit, allowing people to work in the same communities in which they live, thereby facilitating decreased vehicle use;
  • Conserving fresh water and slowing the flow of rain water by building “green streets” and plumbing systems that filter pollution from rain water and provide opportunities for its capture and local reuse; and,
  • Increasing urban green space, which enhances recreational space, encourages people to walk or bike instead of drive, and reduces urban heat islands that lead to higher local energy consumption.

On the state Level

We are fortunate to live in a state that has led the nation in the fight against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature have already committed to pursuing continued aggressive action regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C. In 2017 and beyond, Save The Bay will:

  • Build on the success of Measure AA by advocating for additional state funding to match our regional investment, allowing for more Bay restoration that will protect the ecosystem while also safeguarding shoreline communities against climate change-induced threats like flooding due to sea level rise;
  • Build on the success of landmark 2016 climate mitigation legislation by advocating additional policies that further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide communities – particularly low-income communities and communities of color, who suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change – with the resources to minimize these emissions and improve public health, safety, and quality of life; and,
  • Support other climate resiliency legislation to benefit the Bay, including bills dealing with stormwater management, green infrastructure investment, allocation of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies, and water allocation and storage.

On the federal level

Despite what we expect to be a more climate-change skeptical and anti-environment leadership in Washington, D.C., over the next few years we will be more aggressive than ever in asserting the importance of federal environmental protection laws, regulations, and strong action on climate change. Already, we have:

  • Opposed the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his record of fighting EPA action on climate change and opposing enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act – all vital laws that we rely on to help protect the Bay and its ecosystem, particularly in the face of climate change;
  • Urged our state’s newest U.S. Senator, Kamala Harris, to actively oppose Pruitt’s nomination in her capacity as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; and,
  • Discussed with our congressional partners the importance of creating a new federal program for San Francisco Bay restoration, including robust funding to match regional and state investments, both to ensure that the Bay ecosystem is protected into the future and to create a framework for addressing the growing threat of sea level rise and other climate-induced changes.

Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.


Earlier this month, thousands of Bay Area residents and dozens of  community organizations celebrated the first-ever Bay Day. Here’s a quick look at how we marked this new regional holiday:

[View the story “Bay Day 2016” on Storify]


Dave Gordon

Voters across the state and region made their voices heard on Tuesday on a slate of measures that impact San Francisco Bay. From parks and water to transportation and land use, voters approved measures that will protect and enhance the Bay and rejected measures that posed a serious threat to the health of the Bay and Bay Area communities.

Save The Bay Action Fund endorsed these measures for the benefits they will provide for San Francisco Bay and Bay Area residents. Here is a brief summary of the results:

YES on Proposition 68 – WIN:

In a big win for the Bay, voters overwhelmingly approved Prop. 68, the statewide parks and water bond, which includes $20 million for Bay wetlands restoration, adding to Measure AA funds. This will accelerate important work to increase wildlife habitat, improve water quality, protect communities against flooding, and enhance public access to the Bay shoreline. In all, the bond includes more than $4 billion to ensure clean drinking water, provide more equitable access to our state’s parks, and protect California’s open spaces against wildfires, drought, and floods.

NO on Proposition 70 – WIN:

Voters soundly rejected this effort to hamstring the state’s ability to spend its cap-and-trade revenue. The Legislature currently spends these funds each year on programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities most affected by pollution adapt to climate change. Prop. 70 would have locked up this revenue after 2024 unless the Legislature voted by two-thirds to release it – an unnecessary and burdensome hurdle to funding critical climate programs.

This is the third and final blog in our series on the June ballot measures that will affect San Francisco Bay.

If you’ve read our previous posts in this series, you’ll know about a couple of the important measures on the June ballot that will affect San Francisco Bay. Proposition 68, the parks and water bond, includes $20 million for Bay wetlands restoration, adding to Measure AA funds. Regional Measure 3 would help relieve Bay Area traffic, reducing roadway and air pollution that threatens the health of the Bay and the air we breathe.

Save The Bay Action Fund has endorsed these measures for the benefits they will provide for San Francisco Bay and Bay Area residents. Here are Save The Bay Action Fund’s voting recommendations on other measures on this Tuesday’s ballot:

NO on Proposition 70 – Obstructs Climate Change Spending: Proposition 70 would hinder the Legislature’s ability to allocate money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which holds revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program. The Legislature currently allocates GGRF funds each year to programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities most affected by pollution adapt to climate change. This measure would lock up GGRF revenue after 2024 unless the State Senate and Assembly both vote by two-thirds to release it.


Photo by Vincent James

This is the second in three posts about June ballot measures that affect San Francisco Bay.

Bay Area residents know all too well the gridlock on our roads and highways. Our region’s rapid growth has put a significant strain on our transportation infrastructure, with more cars on the road, more passengers packing trains and buses, and longer commute times.

All of this growth has a direct impact on the health of our Bay, as more vehicles crowd roads and highways that parallel the shoreline and cross the water. When cars sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic along I-880 or inch along the Bay Bridge, more oil runs off onto roads and washes into the Bay, and more particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions pollute the air and threaten Bay water quality.


Tidal Wetlands by Paul Crockett

In this series of 5 posts, we examine the different June ballot measures that affect San Francisco Bay

Voters in June will have a chance to vote for San Francisco Bay when they consider Proposition 68, the first statewide parks and water bond since 2006.

Prop. 68 would authorize $4.1 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection and restoration, water infrastructure, and flood protection.

This includes $20 million for San Francisco Bay to match funds from 2016’s regional Measure AA and accelerate restoration projects around the Bay, creating vital wildlife habitat and increasing our ability to adapt to rising seas.


Funds from measure AA will help accelerate Bay marsh restoration

Measure AA is accelerating Bay marsh restoration – realizing a vision Save The Bay first had more than a decade ago.

On April 11, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority voted to spend the first tax receipts from the nine-county ballot measure Bay Area voters overwhelmingly approved in June 2016. The first nine recommended project grants invest $23.5 million to restore tidal marsh habitat for wildlife around the Bay. Many of these projects also will provide trails and other public recreation, and help protect shoreline communities against flooding.

The Authority received a lot of proposals to fund restoration projects. “There was twice as much money requested as was available. There’s a lot of demand,” Save The Bay Executive Director Lewis told The Mercury News.


This week, Measure AA goes to work accelerating Bay marsh restoration – realizing a vision Save The Bay first had more than a decade ago.

On April 11, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority will vote on how to spend the first tax receipts from the nine-county ballot measure Bay Area voters overwhelmingly approved in June 2016. The first nine recommended project grants would invest $23.5 million to restore tidal marsh habitat for wildlife around the Bay. Many of these projects also will provide trails and other public recreation, and help protect shoreline communities against flooding.

Scientists have told us for decades that the Bay needs at least 100,000 acres of restored tidal marsh to be healthy, after development reduced tidal marsh to only 40,000 acres. Many diked salt ponds and hay fields were acquired and protected for restoration over the last 20 years, bringing that goal within reach, and we identified the missing ingredient is sufficient public funding.


With the 2018 state legislative session now underway in Sacramento, we are working hard to advance our top priorities for protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay. Our ambitious agenda is focused to achieve meaningful progress on our most important issues – from wetlands restoration funding to reducing stormwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – so that our Bay and Bay Area communities remain clean and healthy for future generations.

Bay Restoration Funding

Two years ago, we did what no one thought possible – we led an overwhelming majority of Bay Area voters to pass Measure AA, a $500 million investment in restoring the health of San Francisco Bay. Despite this momentous victory, Measure AA will cover only a third of the estimated cost to restore the tidal wetlands awaiting action around the Bay. It is now the state’s turn to step up and invest in San Francisco Bay restoration, ensuring that this natural treasure remains clean and healthy for future generations. Securing a significant investment in Bay restoration from the state is our top legislative priority.