Monday, September 29, 2008

Some very good news to update

First, we had a wonderful Nature's Inspiration event on Sunday, celebrating Lennie Roberts' 30 years of service. Lots of people, beautiful setting, very nice things that were said - it couldn't be better.

More at the link....

In addition, last week the Santa Clara County Supervisors told County staff to begin a residential Green Building ordinance that will promote water conservation, native plants, energy savings, a lot of other approaches that fall in line with CGF's mandate of protecting open space and natural resources. The Supervisors supported CGF's position of requiring increasing amounts of "Build It Green" requirements for larger residences starting at 3,000 square feet, an incentive for reducing the number of monster mansions blighting our hillsides. We'll be closely watching the ultimate zoning ordinance.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Opposing the Bush Administration attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act

We sent out an Urgent Alert to supporters over the weekend, asking them to contact the Bush Administration and announce their opposition to proposed rules that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. We contacted the Interior Department as well, and wrote the following.

The Committee for Green Foothills represents over a thousand families in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in its mission of protecting open space and natural resources in those counties. We at the Committee oppose the proposed revisions to Section 7 consultations. These revisions will reduce the use of valuable expertise and bias evaluation of endangered species impacts against their actual import, as the action agencies will be inclined to downplay environmental impacts. For the above reasons, we oppose the proposed rule revisions.

Below is a copy of the Urgent Alert:

The endangered species of the Bay Area and of the rest of the country need your help. In its last months in office, the Bush Administration proposes to dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act by letting federal agencies considering actions that harm species avoid consultation and oversight from with expert wildlife agencies. This reverses 30 years of federal regulation designed to restrain federal agencies whose mission and political culture is focused on other things besides protecting species. Please use the website below to submit a comment opposing the proposed changes. Comments must be submitted by Monday, September 15, to be considered.

What's Happening

The Interior Department has proposed the change to limit "Section 7" consultations between federal agencies considering an action ("action agencies") and the expert wildlife agencies (the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service).

Why This is Important

Contrary to Administration claims, the action agencies do not have the same level of expertise about effects on endangered species as the wildlife agencies. In addition, the action agencies inevitably prioritize achieving their main missions over endangered species so they will often interpret evidence in such a way as to reduce its significance. Locking out the agencies with the most expertise and the most interest in protecting species will mean more species will fall through the cracks.

What You Can Do

In another change to previous policy, the Interior Department refuses to accept emailed comments on its proposed rule, but it will accept comments submitted on a government website. Tell them you oppose the proposed new rule and that the Endangered Species Act should be strengthened, not weakened.

To submit the comments, click on this link:

You will need to fill out the submitter information at the top of the web page, and then at the bottom of the page you can inform them of your comment opposing the proposed rule.

For more information, see the Sierra Club's Take Action webpage:

Thanks for speaking up for our coastal wetlands and environmental protections! Your voice does make a difference!

- The folks at Committee for Green Foothills

Monday, September 15, 2008

Earth to Google: Reduce, Reuse, Redeploy

(The following is a guest blog post written by CGF Intern Laurel Smith. We hope to follow up on these issues in the coming months. -Brian)

For the past 14 years NASA has controlled Moffett Field and kept it within federal jurisdiction, thus subjecting all new development to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NASA requires 7 million dollars each year to maintain the site, and rents space to agenda-fitting private businesses to carry the cash inflow. One such qualified business is Google, who is willing and able to dish out $3.7 million a year for a plot of Moffett land. Google and NASA began their relationship three years ago when the NASA Research Park was establishing new partnerships; today the two superpowers have a very strong bond as they collaborate on revolutionary projects such as Google Earth.

In June, NASA got Google’s signature on a 40-year lease that has the option of being extended up to 90 years. See NASA’s press release here. The lease grants 42.2 acres of “underdeveloped” land to the company, which will be used to build 1.2 million square feet of office space. Google already has 2 million square feet of office space in the area, and constitutes the biggest employer in Mountain View. The project will bring 4,000 new people to the city, and with that comes employee housing, fitness facilities, dining rooms, conference halls, childcare centers, and the potential for a bridge over Stevens Creek.

The project has been undertaken by William McDonough + Partners, an architecture firm known for their environmental sustainability. Construction will include 13 buildings, and will take place in 3 phases, starting in 2013, and following with stages in 2018 and 2022. All construction and permits will be overseen by NASA, who is acting as a city would if the project were taking place within municipal boundaries. NASA will be responsible for approving the design, and completing regular inspections of the project. Google will also be building parking garages, and outdoor recreation facilities and parks for all of NASA’s inhabitants to use. Further, the project will require basic amenities such as roads and a sewage system, which on their own take a heavy toll on the land and existing environment.

Primary concerns regarding this project are issues of environmental welfare, housing, transportation, and taxation. (See a great article from San Francisco Gate here.) Northern Santa Clara County currently has more jobs than available housing, and this imbalance can only tip further with the new Google campus. With 4,000 new employees in the area, speculation arises as to where everyone will live, what the new population will contribute to traffic, and what role the new roads and sewage systems will have on the fragile ecosystem. Google will be constructing and running the whole operation in what they claim to be a cutting-edge, environmentally sound way, but this may not be the most earth friendly option.

What Google seems to have overlooked is that there are millions of square feet of unoccupied and available office space within miles of the planned construction site. Just minutes past the Moffett exit along highway 237, one can’t help but notice the abundance of vacant office buildings decorated with “For Lease” and “For Sale” signs. These empty structures could easily be modified to suit the needs of Google, but instead the company has chosen to create anew. The company could spare itself the millions of dollars in Moffett rent, development costs, and mitigation efforts by purchasing the already existing space where roads, plumbing, and basic infrastructure are already in place. Such locations could then be maintained in the greenest way possible, and could be used to preserve Google’s progressive image. We might not be in a position to stop Google from pursuing the establishment of this new campus, but we can certainly put pressure on the company. Hopefully this will lead Google to mitigate more than is required by NEPA, and to thoughtfully consider a fuller realm of options in its future endeavors.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Winning the Los Gatos lawsuit!

Just a quick note - we learned today that Judge Nichols ruled in our favor on a lawsuit over Los Gatos' decision approving a development that harms Los Gatos Creek. Great news!

We'll have more about it tomorrow.