Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CGF Comments on Palo Alto Foothills and maximum house size

(CGF sent the following letter to the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission regarding maximum house size in the foothills. -Brian)

September 22, 2009

Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission

Dear Members of the Planning Commission;

Yesterday, the City Council directed the Planning Commission to provide the City with options on house size limits for the foothills open space areas. The motion as expressed by Mayor Drekmeier was clear – they are not asking whether size limits would be a good idea, but rather stated they want size limits and they want the Commission to provide them with options. The Committee for Green Foothills submits this letter to provide some initial ideas that we hope might be useful for the Commission.

Intent and reasons for house size limits.
The Council discussion indicated that they view house size limits as a workable proxy for limiting a myriad of environmental impacts. Visibility is only one of those impacts. Climate impacts are another. In previous testimony, we pointed out that total area of wildfire defensible space perimeters increase with the size of monster mansion sizes, thereby increasing the amount of habitat modification that becomes necessary. Other impacts – traffic, safety, construction and maintenance, and use of toxics also tend to be inversely correlated with house size.

In addition, monster mansions do not fit the generally-accepted understanding of what a single family residence is. No one could reasonably claim that Buckingham Palace is a single family residence for an older couple, despite the fact that an older couple does reside there. Buckingham is a staffed structure, and so are the large structures that are modern monster mansions. While an occasional residential nanny can be found in normal-sized homes, their use and presence is incidental to the residence. Massive monster mansions are taken care of by staff, and much more often by live-in staff as compared to normal-sized residences. In other words, these structures are of a size that they commonly involve a different use than single family residences, and therefore are appropriately excluded.

Components of house size limits.
Several factors should be included in house size limits.

The size limit should be for all structures on the property. Applying the limit to one residence while allowing unlimited construction of other buildings will create a loophole that frustrates the intent of size limits. The house size limit - or if one prefers, a "structural size limit" – should simply be an upper ceiling on development in addition to the existing Floor-Area Ratio.

Size limits should be generous and should allow an additional bonus for exceeding environmental requirements. Choosing a number always involves drawing a bright line within a grey area, but that is inevitable. We suggest a bonus of an additional 2,000 square feet for structures that substantially exceed environmental requirements (understanding that this does not remove other requirement like meeting floor-area ratios). We suggest the following maximum size limits without a bonus and with a bonus (assuming all other requirements are also met):

• Lots less than 10 acres: 4,600 square feet total house/structural size limit. The 2,000 foot bonus would then equal 6,600 feet, a very large structure that is 10% larger than the R1 size limit.

• Lots of 10 acres or more, up to 15 acres: 5,600 square feet limit, with a 2,000 foot bonus allowing 7,600 feet.

• Lots of 15 acres or more: 6,600 square feet limit, with a 2,000 foot bonus allowing 8,600 feet.

Consider exemption of agricultural structures from size limits: agricultural structures support the open space uses of the foothills. The problem is that barns often turn into car garages or second residences. We welcome discussion of this issue to see if it can be exempted without a significant level of abuse.

Grandfather existing uses/structures: obviously, no teardowns should be required as the result of size limits. Limited modifications for existing structures that exceed size limits should be allowed, so long as no net increase in size occurs. Complete tear-down/rebuilds should conform to the size limits, however.

Request for notification.
The Committee for Green Foothills requests notification of any meetings or working groups that discuss this issue. We would be very interested in contributing to the discussion

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

Monday, September 28, 2009

Comments to Water District about environmental recommendations

(CGF sent the following memo to the Water District Board of Directors to encourage environmental improvements related to erosion and habitat issues. -Brian)


Date: September 21, 2009

To: Water District Board of Directors

From: Brian Schmidt, Committee for Green Foothills

Re: Suggestions for Agenda Item #9: EAC recommendations and staff response

The Committee for Green Foothills has the following suggestions for the Board concerning staff responses to the EAC recommendations. The staff responses are at Attachment 3 of Item 9, on page 1 of 5.

1. Joint EAC/Staff recommendation on ends policies: staff now recommends this be incorporated into broader revisions of ends policies in the fall or winter.

CGF response: no objection. In addition, however, we request that the Board direct or authorize staff to release portions of the staff-proposed revisions for the workshop as soon as practicable prior to the workshop, so EAC members can review how the joint recommendations have been revised by staff.

2. EAC suggestion that the Board increase the priority and funding for environmental enhancement related to erosive forces: staff recommends consideration during the forthcoming budget process.

CGF response: we request a decision to take some kind of action on this recommendation. We are concerned that the staff recommendation may lead to no action ever being taken on this recommendation, to either support or reject it. The issues raised by funding are also broader than the budget of any single year. Please see the addendum for more information.

3. EAC recommendation that staff prepare a Stream Restoration Strategy following completion of the Habitat Plans: staff recommends the Board request a proposal for strategy preparations following completion of the two Habitat Plans.

CGF response: we support the staff proposal. In addition, however, we request the Board direct staff to consider the ideas and recommendations of the EAC Erosive Forces Subcommittee report, "Technical Support Document for Recommendations Re: Erosive Forces in Streams and Stream Restoration", dated March 20, 2009.

Addendum: reasons for increased budgeting for environmental enhancement and erosive forces.

There are three reasons for increased budgeting for environmental enhancement in the context of erosive forces. First, the environmental enhancement pillar of the Water District's work has been underfunded compared to the older, better-financed pillars of flood control and water supply. Second, a future reauthorization of the Clean Safe Creeks bond or similar action would need to draw upon a broader base of public support that environmental enhancements can appeal to.

Third, the staff response to earlier and more detailed versions of erosive forces programmatic recommendations is that budgetary limits constrain their adoption, and decisions on those issues fall to the District Board:

• Staff response to recommendation for more data gathering: "The level of data gathering and analysis and other future programmatic activities will be dependent on budgetary capacities."

• Response to recommendation for creating detailed habitat goals: "Future investments [in habitat goals] will be tempered by fiscal capacities and willingness of other partners to help fund…."

• Response to recommendation for new approaches to easement/land acquisition: "to fully implement [easement recommendations] would likely require a large up-front investment….possible when funding is available."

• Response to recommendation for more hydrological monitoring: "….activities will be dependent on budgetary capacities."

The District Board's budgetary constraints on these programmatic suggestions requires Board action. We encourage the Board to support increased funding, even if it is not feasible in the next year or two.

Friday, September 25, 2009

CGF News Alert: Success and progress in Palo Alto, San Jose, and the Water District

(The following News Alert went out today to our Action Alert subscribers. -Brian)


We want to let CGF supporters know about recent advances in local environmental protection: protecting Palo Alto foothills from sprawl, the takeout bag ban in San Jose, and increasing Water District support for environmental protection. We thank all of you for your generous help with your time and your donations, and we'll be sure to keep you informed about next steps where we can use your help.

In Palo Alto, the City Council reviewed extensive revisions to zoning which controls development in the foothills that extend from Page Mill Rd. all the way up to Skyline Drive. CGF Advocate Brian Schmidt was the only environmental group representative on the advisory committee and while city staff made certain improvements over an outdated ordinance, Brian encouraged them to go further. By decisive votes, the City Council rejected the proposal for inappropriate second residences on these parcels, directed planners to develop maximum house size limits, and even started considering the issues of giant basement developments that are the latest aspects of monster mansions. CGF will continue to work on these improvements that have been suggested.

In San Jose, the City Council took the first definitive step for the strongest take-out bag ban for any major city in the US, banning plastic and requiring paper bags be made from 40% recycled content. Contrary to media reports, a fee on paper bags isn't required but will be considered in the future. They will consider other options in an EIR, which actually gives us a chance to push for a few improvements. Councilmember Liccardo, one of the two leaders on the issue along with Kansen Chu, thanked CGF and other groups from the dais for our work on the issue.

Finally Santa Clara Valley Water District considered recommendations for environmental enhancements and erosion control from the District's Environmental Advisory Committee, where CGF Advocate Brian Schmidt is the chair of the committee. While they didn't take final action on the recommendations, the Board of Directors were very receptive and appreciative of the recommendations and will return to consider them further at a later date.

Thanks again for all your help and support of our work. Each of these advances requires that CGF be present for follow-up work, so we'll keep active and keep you informed.

Thanks for speaking up for environmental protections! Your voice does make a difference!

- The folks at Committee for Green Foothills

Monday, September 21, 2009

Old mercury contamination still a problem in our area

A nationwide news service report discusses the ongoing problem of mercury contamination in our area. We at CGF have been promoting the idea of extended producer responsibility legislation for mercury, that would require new producers or importers of mercury in California to either retrieve their own mercury or clean up sites the report discusses. This really should happen.

A few highlights from the article are below:

Abandoned mercury mines throughout central California's rugged coastal mountains are polluting the state's major waterways, rendering fish unsafe to eat and risking the health of at least 100,000 impoverished people.

But an Associated Press investigation found that the federal government has tried to clean up fewer than a dozen of the hundreds of mines — and most cleanups have failed to stem the contamination.

Although the mining ceased decades ago, records and interviews show the vast majority of sites have not even been studied to assess the pollution, let alone been touched.


"Tens of thousands of subsistence anglers and their (families) are consuming greater than 10 times the U.S. EPA recommended dose of mercury, which puts them at immediate risk of neurological and other harm," Shilling said.


Mercury from mine waste travels up the food chain through bacteria, which converts it to methylmercury — a potent toxin that can permanently damage the brain and nervous system, especially in fetuses and children.

The federal government calls methylmercury one of the nation's most serious hazardous waste problems, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is a possible carcinogen.


"Mercury tops the list as the most harmful invisible pollutant in the (state's) watershed," said Sejal Choksi of San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental watchdog group for the bay. "It has such widespread impacts, and the regulatory agencies are just throwing up their hands."

In the 19th and 20th centuries, California produced up to 90 percent of the mercury in the U.S. and more than 220 million pounds of quicksilver were shipped around the world for gold mining, military munitions and thermometers. Much of the liquid mercury was sent to Sierra Nevada gold mines, where miners spilled tons of it into streams and soil to extract the precious ore.

"There's probably a water body near everybody in the state that has significant mercury contamination," said Dr. Rick Kreutzer, chief of the state Department of Public Health's Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control.


The CDC says high levels of mercury can cause brain damage and mental retardation in children when passed from mother to fetus. Brown's son, Tiyal, has been diagnosed with autism. The CDC has found no link between mercury and autism, but agency spokesperson Dagny Olivares said in an e-mail, "Additional information is needed to fully evaluate the potential health threats."

At most abandoned mercury mines, especially ones in remote places, nothing gets done at all.


A separate cluster of derelict mercury mines near San Jose has been called the largest source of the toxin in the San Francisco Bay's south end, where warning signs warn fishermen of the "poisonous mercury" polluting the water.

A solution to California's mercury pollution is nowhere near at hand, state and federal regulators say.

"It took a hundred years to occur," said the EPA's Meer. "And it may take a hundred years or more to solve."

Source: AP News

Friday, September 18, 2009

Action Alert - Support San Jose's plastic bag ban

(The Action Alert below went out to our San Jose members. -Brian)

Dear Friend,

This Tuesday, September 22, San Jose's City Council will decide whether to have the best control of plastic bag litter and paper bag pollution of any major city. Seven of eleven voting City Council members have already supported a ban on plastic take-out bags and a requirement that paper bags be at least partially-recycled content. Please contact the City Council to help get us to the finish line on this groundbreaking proposal, and make it even better!

What's Happening

A County Commission proposed a fee on both plastic and paper take-out bags to reduce pollution and fund cleanup of bag pollution. While fees have the advantage of giving customers a choice, they are controversial in some circles, so many local cities are considering bans on plastic bags with some limited exceptions. Because paper bags also have environmental liabilities, San Jose has proposed requiring they have at least 40%-50% recycled content. Other Santa Clara County cities will soon be making their own decisions on these issues.

Why this is Important

Litter from plastic bags defaces our streets, lines our streams, and smothers both the San Francisco Bay and a significant part of the Pacific Ocean. Many local streams, including Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek, have so much trash that they have been listed or are considered for listing under the Clean Water Act as "impaired" waters due to trash. Paper bags are little better with even greater energy costs and the economic support they support for destructive logging projects like the recent San Jose Water Company proposal to log the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The proposal will increase education about reusable bags, the real solution to the bag problem.

While over a dozen local cities will make their own decisions about bags, San Jose has half of the County population and can solve half of the problem at one stroke. Its proposal is even better than San Francisco's because of the recycled paper requirement and could be a model for the country.

What you can do

Tell the City Council you support the plastic bag ban and recycled content for paper bags. Please also tell them you want them to consider either a fee on paper bags or higher recycled content now, or by reviewing the issue two years in the future.

Please email your support to the Mayor and City Council (just copy and paste the emails below):

mayoremail@sanjoseca.gov; district1@sanjoseca.gov; district2@sanjoseca.gov;

district3@sanjoseca.gov; district4@sanjoseca.gov; district5@sanjoseca.gov;

District6@sanjoseca.gov; district7@sanjoseca.gov; district8@sanjoseca.gov;

district9@sanjoseca.gov; district10@sanjoseca.gov

by this Tuesday, September 22 at 9:00 a.m. Attending the meeting to voice your support is even better, if you can go.

Please let us know that you have written or fax us a copy (650) 968-843

For more information, see the Committee for Green Foothills letter, Coyote Creek as the #2 Litter Hot Spot according to Save the Bay, and San Jose City Council Agenda Item 7.2.


- The Folks at Green Foothills


Committee for Green Foothills

Our mission is to protect the open space, farmlands, and natural resources of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties through advocacy, education, and grassroots action.

Shopping online? Visit the portal www.Maatiam.com, click on the link to CGF, and then to one of over 80 online retailers. At no additional cost to you, these retailers make a 2 – 5% donation to CGF, an easy way to support our work!

You have received this action alert because you are subscribed to Committee for Green Foothills' email alert list. To be removed from this list, please reply to this message with REMOVE in the subject line. To be added to this list and receive alerts about local open space issues, just send your name, address, and email address to info@GreenFoothills.org.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CGF Comments on an appeal to allow a Coastal Development Permit

(CGF Legislative Advocate Lennie Roberts submitted the letter below opposing an appeal of a decision denying a Coastal Development Permit in San Mateo County. -Brian)

August 24, 2009

President Mark Church and Members
Board of Supervisors
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063

Re: Item #6 on the August 25, 20009 Meeting Agenda: PLN 2003-00226 (Irizarry/Caron) Appeal of the Planning Commission’s Denial of a Coastal Development Permit and Certificate of Compliance (Type B) to legalize a 17,900 square foot parcel, and Use Permit, Coastal Development Permit, and Design Review Permit to construct a single family residence on a parcel within the COSC Zoning District (Burnham Strip), El Granada

Dear President Church and Members of the Board,

Committee for Green Foothills urges you to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to deny the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) and Certificate of Compliance (CoC), Type B, and to deny the requested variances and Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the proposed single-family residence. If you choose to approve the CoC, which we do not support, we urge you to include a Finding that the applicable date of recordation of the CoC, for purposes of compliance with the COSC regulations is after August 25, 2009. We further request that any approval of the CDP for the CoC be conditioned to require any development of the parcel to fully comply with the COSC zoning regulations including prohibition of residential uses, as well as with the Visual Resource Policies of the LCP.

Regarding the Certificate of Compliance, Type B: The key issue for this permit is what is the date of recordation of the subject parcel. Clearly, it is 2009, after your Board’s approval of the CoC, Type B, and not back in 1949, when the then-owner, Louise Souza, recorded a Grant Deed to the State of California for the center portion of her larger parcel for the construction of Highway One, leaving two unrecorded parcels – one to the west, and this one to the east. The Staff Report (page 7) correctly points out that the July 8, 1949 Grant Deed from Louise Souza to the State of California for the State Highway physically bisected her property, but did not in fact create a separate legal parcel. “No evidence has been presented that a new property description for these remaining portions was recorded.”

The Staff Report (page 10) further supports the conclusion that the date of recordation of this parcel has not yet occurred. “The very fact that a CoC, Type B, is needed is a recognition that subdivision requirements were not followed in 1949, when a de facto subdivision occurred. As discussed above, however, the fact that the parcel must now be legalized does itself establish that the parcel has not been “recorded” for purposes of Section 6227.b.6.”

The date of recordation is crucial to this issue, since the COSC Zoning District prohibits residential uses on any parcel recorded after 1981. There is no ambiguity with respect to the word “recorded” in Section 6227.b.6, which permits certain uses in the COSC Zoning District subject to a Use Permit including: “6. Division of land, except that no residential uses shall be permitted on a parcel recorded after 12/1/81.”

If the subject parcel had been recorded in 1949 as a separate, legal parcel, the Applicant would not be requesting a CoC, Type B today.

Approval of the single family residence would require multiple variances and exceptions to the zoning regulations, and would result in significant visual impacts. Approval of these variances and exceptions is unacceptable.

COSC Section 6228 (a) Development Standards requires a minimum of 2 acres for a building site; the Caron parcel is less than one-half acre.

COSC Section 6228 (d) Minimum Yards Requires a 50-foot setback from the front property line; the variance requested is for a 24-foot setback (Location B).

COSC Section 6228 (d) Minimum Yards requires a 50-foot setback from the rear property line; the variance requested is for a 39-foot setback (Location B).

The Planning Commission found that the property does not vary substantially from other parcels on the Burnham Strip, as there are two other undeveloped parcels that are as shallow or shallower than this parcel, and where application of the setbacks would also minimize or eliminate their development potential. Therefore, the variance findings cannot be made in this case.

The Planning Commission also found that there were significant adverse impacts on coastal resources, specifically visual resources. The proposed single family residence would result in significant visual intrusion into an area having natural scenic qualities, and would obstruct views from existing public roads, public water bodies, and public lands. These impacts cannot be mitigated, due to the parcels topography and location.

In conclusion, Committee for Green Foothills respectfully requests that you uphold the decision of the Planning Commission, and deny the CoC Type B, and also deny the CDP, Use Permit and Variances for the single family residence.

Thank you very much for consideration of our comments.

Lennie Roberts, Legislative Advocate
Committee for Green Foothills

cc: Lisa Grote, Director of Community Development

Monday, September 7, 2009

CGF Comments on Admin Draft County Habitat Plan

(Below are CGF's comments on the Santa Clara County Habitat Plan's Second Administrative Draft. They're imported from an Excel file so may be hard to understand the context, bu the first number refers to the Draft Chapter number (e.g., Chapter 9), and further numbers if any refer to chapter sections (9.2.1) and/or page numbers in a particular chapter (page 9-27). Then the comment follows. -Brian)

9 There is a systematic problem with Chapter 9 failing to distinguish between funding for enhancement and funding for impact mitigation. For example,.page 9-7 discusses the possibility of donated lands to reduce costs. Any sophisticated donor will require the donation be used for enhancement only. Funding partners such as the Open Space Authority and non-profits will similarly limit their contribution to enhancement components only. Whether the budget is sufficient to pay for mitigation is unclear, and needs a separate accounting for mitigation and funding for enhancement.

9 3.2 45 Open Space Authority section should contain language similar to County Parks language, that the value of the OSA contribution can be used only to offset OSA impacts and to provide environmental enhancement.

9 3.2 9-44 Committee for Green Foothills and other environmental organizations do not support using Parks Charter fund acquisitions to offset mitigations that would otherwise be required of County Roads and Airports. We note that this is an unstable source of funding as it expires in 2021 and environmental organizations that have supported the Parks Charter fund will oppose use of parkland to mitigate road and airport impacts at the time of reauthorization. Furthermore, County Supervisors approved use of Parks funding for road mitigation in 2008 by a 3-2 vote which indicate the close margin could be reversed by a future Board of Supervisors. At a minimum, therefore, the Habitat Plan should discuss what funding sources would be used in case Parks Charter fund acquisitions cannot be used for Roads and Airports mitigation.

9 3.2 9-44 Amount of land and monies from Park Charter fund for land acquisition are based on historical acquisition rates and the 2003 Strategic Plan, but the 2006 reauthorization reduced the percentage required to be spent on acquisition. I don't know if the 2003 Strategic Plan anticipated this reduction, but if not, the "conservative" estimates need to be reworked.

9 Costs of mitigation of impacts should be identified separately from the costs of environmental enhancements

9 Costs to mitigate impacts caused by each permittee should be identified for each permittee

9 Costs to mitigate impacts caused by private development operating under the authority of each permittee should be identified as separate total amounts for each permittee (separate from the costs to mitigate that permittee's impacts). If costs exceed development impact fees, that excess cost should be identified.

9 9.1 9-1 "Adaptive management" should be reinserted as a bullet point, either independently or together with "remedial measures"

9 9.2.2 9-7 fn 5 The best use of sites with haz mat present may be as wildlife habitat. Suggest changing to "will not be added to the Habitat Plan Reserve System IF CLEANUP WOULD BE LEGALLY REQUIRED."

9 9.2.11 9-56 Creation of an endowment fund from cost savings over estimated Plan costs should be mandatory until and unless a funding plan for costs in perpetuity has been approved by DFG, USFWS, and NMFS.

9 9.2.11 9-56 One of the conditions of approval of the Plan should be acceptance of the post-Permit funding plan by the wildlife agencies.

9 general All cost savings over estimated Plan costs should be used for adaptive management or for an endowment fund for permanent reserve management. No fees should be reduced until a permanent funding plan for reserve management has been approved by wildlife agencies.

8 8.6 8-24 Draft says Stay-Ahead "will only apply two years after the last local ordinance takes effect." A time-certain deadline is needed or delays in local ordinances could postpone Stay-Ahead indefinitely. We suggest three years from Habitat Plan approval and permit issuance.

8 8.6.1 to 8.6.2 8-28 The "Jump Start" provision conflicts with the Stay-Ahead concept unless the baseline for measuring Stay-Ahead starts at the same time as Jump-Start, in October 2005. Failing to do so means the negative impacts of since 2005 are ignored while positive enhancements are counted, and a false impression of net benefit created. If this is rejected, planners should indicate what degree of uncompensated impact degradation is expected between October 2005 and plan issuance.

4 4.2 4-2 There is a conceptual gap between the definition of "permanent" and "temporary" impacts, because temporary impacts are defined as lasting less than three years. "Permanent" impacts should be defined as "impacts that permanently, OR FOR MORE THAN THREE YEARS, remove or alter a land cover...."

5 Table 5-14 and elsewhere I may have missed where the Plan discusses mitigating for temporary impacts, but fn1 to Table 5-14 states impact estimates are based on permanent impacts only. Temporary impacts also require mitigation. We suggest mitigation should at a minimum be dependent on the amount of time of impact in relation to the permit term, so that a one-year impact requires zt leasts 1/50th the mitigation of a permanent impact.

4 4.4.1 4-44 parcels "anticipated to be permitted by the time of Plan implementation" and excluded from impact analysis provides no context for analysis and could be extremely large. Only previously-identified interim projects that are still under consideration (thereby excluding the now-withdrawn Coyote Valley Specific Plan) should fit this category. Absent such a change, there should be identifying information about what parcels and projects form part of this category.

4 4.4.1 4-44 Regarding permitted parcels and anticipated permitted parcels, there should be clarification that because these parcels are excluded from impact analysis, these parcels and any future permits issued are not covered by the Habitat Plan and take permits. This discusssion should specifically reference the Coyote Valley Research Park (note this is not the Coyote Valley Specific Plan) and any potential reauthorization permits for the Research Park.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CGF's San Mateo County Update

This month, the Committee for Green Foothills has been busy in San Mateo County - protecting our coasts and creeks from development and speaking out against new permits for offshore oil drilling permits. A quick update:

Coastal Commission Workshop with Local Governments:
A couple of years ago, the League of Cities formed a “Coastal Cities Issues Group” that has been pushing to re-set decision-making to favor local government. Currently each jurisdiction with land in the coastal zone must prepare a Local Coastal Program (LCP) that is consistent with the Coastal Act. The LCP must then go to the Coastal Commission for certification that the Land Use Plan policies and implementing ordinances are consistent with the Coastal Act. A similar process is followed for LCP Amendments, many of which are driven by development projects that may well not be consistent with the Coastal Act. Many local elected officials up and down the state are not supportive of the Coastal Act, and are continuously trying to find ways to either ignore or berate the Coastal Commission. There was a Workshop on August 12 in San Francisco between the 12 Commission members and 12 elected officials – 6 from coastal cities, and 6 from coastal counties. A very small amount of time was allowed for interested public members to be heard. Limiting the public in such a forum is contrary to the Coastal Act, which requires “maximum public participation” in any decisions affecting the coast. Many environmental groups wrote letters objecting to the workshop format, and the fact that the Coastal Cities Issues Group meets privately. CGF advocate Lennie Roberts wrote a letter and spoke at the Workshop, pointing out that San Mateo County has a strong Local Coastal Program that can’t be weakened without voter approval, and it takes constant education of elected officials that the public supports coastal protection.

San Francisquito Creek Protection: CGF opposed the subdivision of a parcel in the Stanford Weekend Acres area. The property already has two old houses on it, and part of the property is within the creek. The houses would be vastly enlarged, and the one in the back actually hangs seven feet over the creek – clearly not consistent with creek protection. The applicant was asking for an exception to the requirement for a 20 foot wide driveway to access the “flag” lot. Due to CGF and other opposition, the Zoning Hearing Officer denied the subdivision.

PXP Offshore Oil Lease: CGF signed on to a letter with 33 other environmental groups opposing the Governor’s inclusion in the state budget a provision that would override the State Lands Commission’s denial of a new offshore oil lease off Santa Barbara. The Governor’s intervention in favor of PXP would have allowed the first offshore oil drilling in state waters in 40 years, and would have made it impossible for the state to oppose federal leases in federal waters (beyond three miles). CGF has had a long-standing position of opposition to offshore oil drilling. We led the effort in 1986 to pass Measure A, the citizen initiative that prohibits onshore oil facilities for offshore drilling. CGF also opposed Lease Sale 30 back in the early 80’s, which would have allowed drilling off the San Mateo coast.

The alternative to allowing drilling in state or federal waters is an oil severance tax. California is the only state in the top 10 producing states that does NOT have this tax. Assemblymember Pedro Nava will be authoring legislation which would require the oil industry to pay a severance of 10% of the gross value of each barrel of oil pumped in California. This would produce an estimated $1.5 billion annual revenue to the General Fund, and help close the gap in our state budget. The legislation would prevent oil companies from passing this fee on to motorists. CGF is supporting these provisions.

-Lennie (with assistance from CGF Intern Shari Pomerantz)