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.

 

Living in the Bay Area right now means you are acutely aware of the housing crisis our region is facing.

The local news headlines are a constant reminder of the staggering rates of displacement—particularly of low-income communities and communities of color—to the outer boundaries of the Bay Area and beyond. Crushing commutes are a constant topic of conversation. Unsheltered individuals are struggling more than ever to access services and find permanent housing.

But did you know that the housing crisis is also a threat to the Bay?
Image credit: Fernando Martí

The lack of infrastructure available to homeless encampments is resulting in staggering amounts of trash and other waste making its way into local creeks and the Bay. Long commute times and more people driving alone increases roadway pollution, such as oil and trash. These and other pollutants flow into the Bay and threaten wildlife.

We must aggressively address the housing crisis to protect the Bay and improve quality of life in the Bay Area. Through our work to advocate for Bay Smart Communities Save The Bay is engaging with local and regional organizations to Protect tenants from displacement; Produce more housing, with a focus on permanently affordable homes; and Preserve the existing stock of affordable housing.

While this work happens year-round, May is Affordable Housing Month–which is an opportunity for the entire region and organizations of all kinds to support and create affordable homes for all.

Here are five ways to get involved:

Engage – Get involved and join Save The Bay leaders as we attend events sponsored by The Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County; Community Council of Housing OrganizationsEast Bay Housing OrganizationsSilicon Valley @ Home Learn – Find out more about our Bay Smart Communities initiative to achieve sustainable and equitable communities. Read – Find out how housing and climate change are connected by reading California Senator Scott Wiener’s recent article in the New York Times highlighting the links between these important issues. Follow – Join the conversation on twitter as we turn over our feed to organizations around the Bay championing the effort for affordable homes. Use the hashtags #AffordableHousingMonth and #AffordableHomesForAll #savesfbay @savesfbay Attend – Find a regional event near you and take action in your community. Here are a few activities to consider. San Mateo County 

San Francisco

Santa Clara County

Alameda & Contra Costa

   

Save The Bay’s Education Team has begun to implement a new activity that’s only possible with a fusion of Bay-Saving values. Instead of throwing them out, Save The Bay staff collected their egg cartons for a great application of reuse! This activity, adapted from Life Lab, is called 6 of 1, ½ Dozen of the Other. This provides a new way for students to explore marsh ecosystems by interacting with each other and their environment.  Using their egg cartons (or “secret science containers”), students collect items using opposite descriptive words written on the bottom. Soft and hard, wet and dry, and living or nonliving are some pairs that they use. Once students collect their items, they switch with another pair and guess each other’s words! Mostly done with students grades 1-6, older students can participate and choose their own words. This hands-on and engaging activity satisfies California State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Thanks to our Education team, kids are getting out to experience our beautiful Bay, learning necessary science skills, and having fun while doing it!

Photo credit: Bill Clark
The East Bay Regional Park District provides Bay Area residents with access to public parks and trails along the San Francisco Bay Shoreline, an oasis destination that goes beyond the bustling urban development. Measure FF funds protection and enhancement of urban parks by extending the current annual parcel tax on property owners in parts of western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. It extends the tax of $12/year per single-family parcel and $8.28/year for multi-family units, raising approximately $3.3 million annually for the parks.

Cargill and its Arizona-based luxury housing developer DMB Associates withdrew their controversial bay fill plan in Redwood City back in May. They announced they would return with a revised development after working to avoid key federal environmental rules like the Clean Water Act from applying in any way to salt ponds in San Francisco Bay. If you ever wondered what the argument to support such an outrageous claim might look like, you’re in luck. Recently, the US Army Corps posted Cargill’s submittal on line. Click on that link with caution: at 37 megabytes and 369 pages, there is a lot more here to chew on than was found in the short, upbeat press release Cargill and DMB circulated for public consumption in May. In their May press release, Cargill/DMB stated that they wanted to “clarify certain aspects of the federal regulatory approval process.” No kidding. This document features Cargill’s lawyers’ blunt assertion that the salt ponds are unregulated and not part of the Bay. Central to the argument is the assertion that all the Bay water Cargill uses to evaporate and make salt – it’s not water at all. This water is instead called an “intermediate industrial product,” it’s “brine,” or sometimes it’s just “liquid.” Whenever Cargill refers to the ponds, it avoids the word “water.” Why? Because water sounds like something that should probably be regulated under the Clean Water Act. These key environmental laws are critical tools in limiting the pollution of our waterways and preventing unnecessary fill that destroys our wetlands, so important to the Bay. Those protections could jeopardize Cargill’s ability to fill and destroy these baylands. And so the new strategy is to get federal agencies to declare the ponds “exempt,” because Cargill is convinced it is above the law. This endless legal obstructionism is taking place behind closed doors and out of public view, where Cargill hopes its lobbyists and legal threats may have the most impact. And so I am sharing this obscure legal document with you today: because the Bay Area won’t stand for America’s largest private corporation escaping rules that apply to everyone else. Save The Bay is going to stay on the case, and we appreciate your help in spreading the word. UPDATE (9/27/2012): Cargill’s developer DMB confirmed the substance of this blog post on Wednesday. Contacted by a reporter, a DMB spokesman first claimed that Save The Bay’s blog post was “completely wrong” – and in the next breath confirmed that Cargill’s position is that the Redwood City salt ponds “are not subject to the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act.” The spokesman also reiterated that Cargill and DMB remain “very committed” to pursuing the Bay fill proposal. Authored by Stephen Knight, Former Political Director