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.


Just after Labor Day, we asked you to join Save The Bay in the fight to secure additional funding for important Bay restoration projects in the Parks and Water Bond under consideration by the State Legislature. You responded with overwhelming support. Over 1,700 of you signed our petition that we delivered to key members of the Bay Area Legislative Caucus.

With that support, and the help of our allies from the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Operating Engineers Local 3, and the Governing Board of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, we worked hard to make our case for Bay restoration funding among competing environmental priorities throughout California.

While we are disappointed that the final Parks and Water Bond the Legislature approved does not include the level of funding we had hoped for, we are happy to report that it does include a one-time state investment of $20 million for San Francisco Bay restoration projects. Subject to the Governor’s signature and voter approval on the June 2018 statewide ballot, these funds would add to the $25 million annually for 20 years provided by 2016’s regional Measure AA.

We have already begun work to identify additional Bay funding options that we can pursue in the coming year, and as always, our success will rely on your efforts.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our beautiful Bay,

David Lewis
Executive Director, Save The Bay


On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.
On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.

I bought my tickets for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. two days after the election while overwhelmed by emotion and anger. It had been years since I’d been to a march. As a working mom, I started seeing my pride in and role of building partnerships at Save The Bay as my daily contribution to making the world a better place. So I arrived in Washington, D.C. before Inauguration Day feeling hopeless like many others. I was sick, missing my son and community back in Oakland, and not wanting to believe that the United States was about to swear in a dangerous and corrupt President Donald J. Trump.

“We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.”

 

But my despair was met with hope on Jan. 21, 2017—and I joined an estimated 1 Million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values.  And that is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in. You connect with others and experience moments of solidarity and cooperation for divisive days ahead.

We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.
We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist. We collectively represented a range of aspirations from criminal justice reform to investing in scientific research and addressing climate change to safeguarding LGBTQ rights. We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

Cheering traveled through an unending sea of faces and signs like waves. It was massive. The crowd was exuberant, most forgetting all of the effort it took to get there. We bought plane tickets, traveled long distances, organized, and prepared ourselves for the long cold walk ahead. At one point we got trapped in the National Mall, and people began boosting each other up on posts. People lent helping hands and words of encouragement as we all took turns one-by-one, vaulting three feet above the crowd to take in the full view. Before the march officially started, the route that was originally mapped out for us was already full and no marching could take place.  Enormous groups took alternative streets to march to the White House. We marched and waited hours to deposit signs on a fence that sent a clear message, “We are the 51 percent minority.”

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist.

The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. shook me up and inspired me to find new ways to live my days in hope and connection with other people. My eyes are wide open.  Resistance to the Trump Administration’s incredible power grab is going to require daily persistence. We all have the opportunity to find local spaces to show up and integrate taking action into our daily lives to protect the most vulnerable people and the planet. Because of the Women’s March, I will not forget that not only am I a Bay Saver, but I am also a part of the people’s majority and one of millions. We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.


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.