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.

 



By Juliana Medan

Exciting news! Our Bay-Saving team can once again begin work at the Bel Marin Keys wetland restoration site in Novato.

Save The Bay began work at this site around a year and a half ago but flooding from a levee breach and heavy rainfall this past winter prevented our staff and volunteers from accessing the site. This opportunity is especially exciting because it is our first public volunteer venture into the North Bay in many years.

This restoration site is part of the larger Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy. Save The Bay is continuing this work with the Conservancy and other essential partners. Restoring the Bel Marin Keys is the next step in ensuring that this area is sustainable for countless species of birds, plants, and other organisms native to the Bay.

Both staff and volunteers will implement a farm-style approach to growing native plant species. We will clear invasive species around the farming rows and collect seeds to grow plants at the site. This work ensures that plant propagation is properly scaled for approximately 40 acres of seasonal wetland restoration.

This exciting collaboration with the California State Coastal Conservancy and other partners is crucial to the future of our Bay. Volunteers play a pivotal role in our restoration work.  In helping us, you are helping restore a transition zone of seasonal wetlands–an area of dense vegetation inhabited by many animal species. Transition zones act as a buffer between the water they thrive in and the shore on the other side that remains threatened by progressing sea level rise. You will also learn about the importance of wetlands in our Bay from our knowledgeable staff.

Restoring areas like Bel Marin Keys not only helps restore the habitats of countless plant and animal species but also combats increasing sea level rise. Homes that sit along the shorelines in areas vulnerable to rising tides benefit from the buffering that wetlands. Plants in marsh areas slow down the movement of water by acting as an effective barrier, breaking powerful shoreline waves and protecting both people and wildlife.

The North Bay is an excellent area for recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and fishing. Wetland restoration ensures that more people can enjoy this beautiful Bay and all that it has to offer. The Bel Marin Keys wetlands deserve protection, restoration, and, most importantly, your help.

Join us on June 1st and 15th for this incredible opportunity or contribute in any way you can.


By Dominic Williams

Illegal dumping and excessive litter is a problem that affects everybody. On the surface, the issue of may appear to be too large to tackle. However, as local community groups, nonprofits, and engaged residents have proven, progress can be made when support comes from the ground up. To tackle the issue, many localities have had to get creative.

San Jose Recruits the Homeless: This program pays the homeless $15 per hour to clean up the streets and is a partnership between the city, Goodwill, and the Downtown Streets Team.

East Palo Alto Launches Shame Campaigns: The city posts public pictures of illegal dumpers, institutes a $1,000 fine for illegally dumping and provides a $500 reward for information about illegal dumpers. The city has received criticism that this campaign amounts to “public flogging” of illegal dumpers, but this imperfect solution is having positive impacts, especially for residents that live near illegal dumping hot spots. One hotspot for dumping, the area in front of the Ecumenical Hunger Program, has been clear for weeks since the signs were erected.

Oakland hosts Bulky Block Parties: People can drop off bulky junk that would likely end up on the streets. The initial Block Parties were incredibly successful, collecting more than 157 tons of waste, and are now a permanent fixture on the last Saturday of every month. The city also committed to hiring three “litter enforcement officers” that will identify where the trash is coming from and who is dumping it, but those positions have yet to be filled. Oakland Community Organizations—a coalition of local churches, residents, and unions that advocated alongside Save The Bay for more city resources dedicated to illegal dumping—continues to push for these officers to be hired.

Adopt-a-Drain: Oakland and San Francisco program that allows volunteers to aid in the maintenance and cleaning of a storm drain in their area. A similar initiative called Adopt-a-Hotspot is being launched across Alameda County.

Oakland Bulky Pickup Services: Residents can place their junk on the curb and have it picked up by city employees. Single families, multi-family residences, and property managers can request this service by calling 510.613.8710 or by following the directions on the website. Renters are entitled to one free bulky pickup per living unit per year and provision of access to these services by property managers is required by law.

Cities and counties must be held accountable for their role, but it’s on all of us to consciously decide to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Aside from ensuring that all of our trash is properly disposed of and everything that can be recycled is recycled, you can help by volunteering through any one of many organizations that are tackling our trash issues.

What impact will you have on our Bay in 2019? This list of organizations is a great place to start.

CA Coastal Cleanup Day

Oakland Adopt-a-Drain

Oakland Creek to Bay Day

Save The Bay

San Francisco Adopt-a-Drain

Surfrider Cleanups

Read more about illegal dumping and the build up of trash on our streets.


By Dominic Williams

“The Bay Area has a massive and awful problem… it’s illegal dumping, and it’s trashing all of us.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf delivered this message last May, and it’s clear that the problem is not just confined to cities such as Oakland and San Francisco. All across this beautiful Bay Area, we see the effects of trash build-up and illegal dumping on our streets.

So where does this trash come from? People may hastily assume that the trash we see on our commutes to work in the morning originate in homeless encampments, especially those near bodies of water. This is not true. Homeless encampments account for just a small portion of the trash issue. Studies show that:

Only 3% of street trash is due to homeless encampments.
• Up to 10% of trash comes from professional haulers and dumpers who dump illegally.
• Higher illegal dumping takes place in low-income areas and areas with more renters, non-English speakers, and more densely packed households.

“It’s not just a health issue and a blight issue, it’s an equity issue,” says Mayor Libby Schaaf.

The cost of living continues to rise in the Bay Area and many residents cut spending in areas they deem non-vital – such as the $50 or more to take a load of garbage to the dump. Garbage haulers usually provide one or two free bulky item pickups per year; however, a lack of awareness about this service leads to underutilization and as a result, counties have to pick up the cost. For example, Contra Costa was forced to spend $1.2 million in 2017 to pick up illegally dumped trash.

Steps are being taken at a regional level to address trash in our neighborhoods and waterways. In 2015, the Municipal Regional Storm Water Permit specified trash reduction targets for 73 municipalities in the area, stretching from Fairfield in the north down through San Jose in the south. According to the permit, these municipalities must:

• By July 1, 2019 — Reduce the level of trash in their storm drains by 80%
• By July 1, 2022 — Prevent all trash from flowing into city storm drains by 100%

Most of the areas included under this permit are already seeing significant improvements in trash levels, but too many are not, due to a lack of resources or impetus.

Part of the issue that causes significant concern among local residents is the composition of the trash. Mattresses, old furniture, home waste, and backyard junk are common. The real threats are hazardous wastes, old paints, and toxic materials that are discarded on the streets.

Bay Area residents are frustrated with the lack of action by the local government and have taken the issue into their own hands. Community groups, such as the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, Love Your Block, and more have joined forces with nonprofits and agencies like Save the Bay, San Francisco Estuary Partnership and the California Coastal Commission to remove litter from storm drains and advocate for policies to prevent it from getting there in the first place.

Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) partners with local churches, unions, and residents, as well as environmental advocacy groups to pressure local government into implementing a comprehensive trash management plan. In 2017, Save the Bay and OCO successfully pushed the City of Oakland to dedicate more staff and budgetary resources to illegal dumping response in East Oakland and across the city. Recent reports indicate that these efforts are having an impact; there is less trash on the street overall and illegally dumped materials are removed more quickly. But the problem is far from solved, according to OCO organizer Emma Paulino.

Trash is a global crisis, but its origin starts locally in our communities. Read more and learn how local community organizations are battling illegal dumping in their neighborhoods.