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.


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.


In March of this year, the SF Bay Water Quality Control Board asked their staff to bring back an enforcement order against Caltrans for the agency’s multi-year failure to clean trash from Bay Area highways before it pollutes local creeks and the Bay. Despite this clear and urgent direction, an enforcement order has yet to be presented. That’s why close to 80 local elected officials sent a letter to the Board last week urging them to take action immediately and demand cleaner highways for our region and the Bay.

 


Angel Island, one of my favorite scenic escapes by the Bay

I moved to the Bay Area almost ten years ago. I was drawn to the region’s stunning beauty, diverse communities, and delicious food. Each year brings special life experiences for my family; we have countless memories of being together by the Bay. The Bay is the heart of my home. It’s why I’ve chosen to set up roots and raise my daughter here.

But the Bay doesn’t just connect my family; it connects us all.

The Bay defines our geography, bridging the gap between quiet neighborhoods and bustling downtowns. When the pace of city life becomes too frenetic, the Bay offers scenic escapes. It’s integral to our daily lives and vital to our local economy. Because the Bay gives me so much, I do all I can to give back. I work tirelessly with Save The Bay’s policy team to protect the Bay – not just for my family, but for future generations.

Your support makes everything we do possible.

What’s at stake? Each time it rains, litter, PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins are carried into local creeks and the Bay, threatening Bay wildlife and habitat. However, advocacy work and powerful partnerships helped us score significant wins this year to keep trash out of the Bay.

Through a collaboration with Oakland Community Organizations and statewide agencies, we:

  • Exposed the environmental consequences of widespread illegal dumping in Oakland
  • Pushed City Council members to fund solutions for public health and environmental hazards
  • Rallied to support SB 231 (Hertzberg), a pivotal bill that enables cities to raise money for their own water supply and stormwater infrastructure projects

Going forward, Save The Bay plans to ensure that Bay Area cities meet a 2022 deadline to eliminate trash from storm drain systems. We will also promote sustainable urban growth practices and preserve access to the Bay for diverse communities across our region.

Our success is your success. Together, we can make the Bay as clean and healthy as possible.

Thank you for your support and for caring about this big, beautiful Bay as much as I do.

 


A little over a year ago, California voters became the first in the United States to approve a single-use plastic bag ban. With the passage of Proposition 67, Californians took a stand to protect our state’s diverse and fragile environmental systems from being further harmed by plastic bag litter. One year later, we are proud to say that the ban has been successful in reducing the amount of plastic that reaches local waterways and harms wildlife and water quality.

Data from Coastal Clean-Up Day shows that there has been a 72% decline in plastic bag litter from 2010, and plastic bags now account for only 1.5% of total litter compared to 10% seven years before. Furthermore, it cost the state $400 million, or about $10 per resident, to clean up littered bags prior to the ban.

Far from going unnoticed, California’s plastic bag ban set a trend. Hawaii decided to implement its own statewide bag ban, and municipalities across Massachusetts and Washington have taken the same step to protect waterways and wildlife. While many states have yet to follow our example, Californians should be proud of the fact that we have proven ourselves once again to be leaders in protecting both local and global waters from toxic plastic pollution.


Trash from state roads and bustling freeways is flowing into creeks and, ultimately, poisoning San Francisco Bay. But you have the power to stop this pollution from choking and killing local wildlife. Sign our petition today to make sure the Water Board forces Caltrans to clean up this mess.

What comes to your mind when entering the bath after a long, busy day? Most likely you’ll be feeling clean and relaxed. However, have you ever thought about the contents of your bath water afterwards? After all, the oils, bacteria, and other grime on your body don’t magically disappear after they’ve been stripped off.

Similarly, rain flowing through streets appears to clean the landscape as it washes away trash and dirt. Unfortunately, the first significant rainfall of the year holds an often overlooked dirty not-so-secret. It’s called the first flush, and it’s not just trash and dirt that’s being removed from Bay Area streets. Motor oil, cigarette butts, pet waste, pesticides, and other pollutants are picked up by rainwater and enter storm drains, which flow into creeks and ultimately into San Francisco Bay, which acts as a bathtub for the region that drains into the ocean.

North Bay Fire’s Continued Destruction

This year, the first flush brings with it an even greater concern for pollutants into the local waterscape with the tragic and devastating North Bay firestorm in Sonoma and Napa Counties. In addition to homes and businesses, the fires destroyed vegetation that would have stored excess rainwater and filtered its contents through soil. This means that wastes such as household chemicals and heavy metals from burnt areas, which turn more toxic after being exposed to fire, can flow much more freely into local creeks and into the Bay, making the first flush that much more hazardous to wildlife and public health.

The good news is that North Bay, state, and federal officials have acknowledged this threat to regional water quality and are constructing and planning collection ponds to capture and filter debris-ridden water before it enters creeks. Nevertheless, with the additional burden coming from this tragedy, Bay Area residents should be extra vigilant at preventing trash and other pollution from ending up in the Bay and further poisoning wildlife and water quality.

How Can I Help?

Rain is nature’s way of cleansing the landscape, but first flush serves as a reminder that our urban areas act as nature’s drain and there is still a lot of work to be done to stop the flow of pollution into San Francisco Bay. We can start with simple actions such as not littering, moving cars from the sidewalk on street sweeping days, and using reusable bags and bottles.


In almost every city, trashy runoff flows directly into the Bay, untreated.

Distressing images of birds trapped in plastic debris and trash fouling beaches have sadly become common news stories. Events like International Coastal Clean Up Day (Saturday, September 16) and National Estuaries Week (September 16-23), bring much-needed attention to the cleanliness of our Bay, coastline, and waterways. But, often overlooked and not often discussed, is where the vast majority of this trash begins its journey to the Bay. When we look for answers we need to look further inland to one of the greatest sources of Bay trash… our city streets.

Trash is a daily and persistent threat to the health of our communities and neighborhoods. Illegal dumping creates chronic blight in many of our region’s neighborhoods, and city departments are struggling to respond in a timely manner. Homeless encampments lack access to trash bins, resulting in unsanitary and often dangerous living conditions. Trash is deliberately thrown on the ground and accidentally blows out of cars, garbage trucks, and trash bins.

The sources of trash are numerous, but the Bay is often the ultimate destination. Our streets are connected to the Bay through our storm drain system. In most places in the Bay Area, the grates you see next to the curb allow water and pollution to flow freely through a system of pipes that empty into creeks, rivers, and the Bay. Since stormwater does not flow to a treatment plant, all of the trash flowing through this system ultimately ends up in the environment.

Save The Bay has been working for almost a decade to keep trash out of the Bay, including advocating for regulations that require zero trash in city storm drains by 2022. Since most trash starts in our cities, our city leaders and local agencies must play a role in the solution.

The road to zero trash in the Bay is a tough one, but we are already seeing the positive impacts of our advocacy. In July, Save The Bay partnered with Oakland Community Organizations to advocate for additional funding in the city budget to prevent and respond to illegal dumping, a chronic problem that primarily impacts some of Oakland’s most underserved areas. Following pressure from Save The Bay, local and regional organizations, and the community, the city council adopted a budget that not only includes an additional $150,000 to address illegal dumping but also $1.6 million to place port-a-potties and clean trash from homeless encampments. The city also committed to installing trash screens in storm drains as a part of transportation projects.

This victory is only the beginning for our Zero Trash campaign. Like Oakland, cities and counties throughout the Bay Area need to secure additional funding to keep trash out of our neighborhoods and the Bay. Save The Bay is committed to advocating throughout the region to make the 2022 zero trash requirement a reality, and we hope you’ll join us by making a personal promise to reduce your trash footprint:

Four Simple Ways Your Can Reduce Your Trash Footprint!

 Thanks for all you do to help keep our Bay, coastline, and waterways, clean and healthy for all life. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate for zero trash in your city.


California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and other senators today introduced a trio of bills aimed at protecting the state’s natural resources and people against potential threats from the Trump Administration. The California Environmental Defense Bill package includes protections for clean water, endangered species, clean air, climate, public lands, whistleblowers, data, and worker safety.

STATEMENT OF DAVID LEWIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SAVE THE BAY

“We need the California Environmental Defense Bill package to prevent developers from paving Bay wetlands and allowing more pollution.

These state bills will help protect people and wildlife in San Francisco Bay against the President and Congress gutting federal laws on public health and the environment.

Our local leaders are fighting for clean water that’s essential to our quality of life, because the Clean Water Act and other federal laws protecting the Bay are on the chopping block.

We’re grateful that Senator de León and his colleagues are working to protect California’s environment from the Trump Administration, just as they are working to protect California’s diverse communities and immigrant families.”

More info at: http://sd24.senate.ca.gov/news/2017-02-23-senate-unveils-california-environmental-defense-act-public-lands-and-whistleblower


Pruitt_EPA

Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is a big victory for polluters, and a huge loss for America and our Bay.

The danger Scott Pruitt poses to San Francisco Bay is very real. The EPA has a central role in protecting the Bay, particularly by enforcing the Clean Water Act. For years, Pruitt has been a fierce opponent of that law—along with many other critical environmental protections. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt attacked the EPA’s cleanup of Chesapeake Bay—a case that’s directly relevant to future of San Francisco Bay.

So much of the progress we have achieved is under threat all over again. Restorable wetlands we’ve fought successfully to protect—like the Cargill Salt Ponds in Redwood City—are newly vulnerable.

The scary truth is, as long as Scott Pruitt leads the EPA, we cannot count on our federal government to protect the Bay. In this new era, environmental progress and protection will be fought and won locally. That’s why Save The Bay’s effective work with Bay cities and state agencies is more important than ever. To beat Pruitt and the anti-environment Congress, we need more resources to block wetlands destruction, create critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and reduce trash and toxic pollution from cities.

We are ready to fight—here’s what we’re doing:

  • Pushing back fiercely against every effort to undermine environmental protections
  • Pressuring California’s elected leaders to offset disastrous environmental policies from the Trump Administration with strong statewide protections
  • Rallying local communities as grassroots activists and environmental volunteers to protect and restore our Bay

It’s a dark time for environmental protection in America, but we’ve been here before and persevered. We’ve been mobilizing grassroots victories since 1961—before the EPA, before the Clean Water Act … before “environmentalist” was even a word. Today, our work is more essential than ever, and we won’t shy away from the fight.


Are you looking for a way to resist the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment? We need your support.