Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lennie wins the Cox Conserves Hero’s Award!

(Below is a wonderful email we got to send out last week to folks signed up on our Action Alert list. -Brian)

Dear Friends!

We are so very delighted to announce CGF Advocate Lennie Roberts was awarded the Cox Conserves Hero’s Award today!!!

CGF is honored to have Lennie’s support, dedication, perseverance and generosity working on behalf of the open space, farmlands and natural resources of San Mateo County. All of us and the Bay Area itself would be a poorer place without her.

Without your support Lennie would not have been given this award. Thank you for your vote and for passing on the voting request to your friends and families.

Lennie, has generously donated the $5,000 winner’s check to CGF. Thank you, Lennie!

We have been told that clips of the award luncheon can be seen tonight on the Channel 2 10 o’clock news. Tune in!

Again, we thank you for all the ways you support CGF!

- The folks at Green Foothills

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Extinct" native plant rediscovered in San Francisco

While extinction is forever, rediscovery can be the one reprieve:
A San Francisco native plant thought extinct by botanists has been discovered near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The last, wild Franciscan Manzanita was believed to have perished in the 1940s when the city cemeteries where it grew were moved south to allow for neighborhood expansion.

But when construction crews recently cleared eucalyptus trees in the city's Presidio area, it exposed the only specimen known to exist in the wild.

While it appears that cultured varieties of the plant have been kept alive in nurseries, it's even better to have non-domesticated, wild individuals to re-establish the plant in its habitat.

Good news for the beginning of the week.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Watch out for "farmwashing"

There's an interesting article in the Washington Post about restaurants that claim to be serving environmentally-protective, locally-grown food but aren't:

....with business models built on sustainable food, the hype can get ahead of the execution. Even when intentions are good, there are questions about whether it is possible for a high-volume restaurant to practice everything it preaches -- if it also wants to turn a profit and serve customers what they want. Small family farms don't have the quantity or consistency of huge national suppliers. They usually can't compete on price, even at the height of the growing season. And although diners say they want to "eat green," many would not be happy if they couldn't get tomatoes on their burgers in December.

The phrase "farm fresh was ruined in the American grocery store years ago. The American restaurant business is perfectly capable of ruining 'farm-to-table,' " said New York restaurant consultant Clark Wolf. "It's called 'farm wash.' And the other term is 'B.S.' "

We'll have to do our best to avoid farm-washing here. The role of the market in protecting the environment and promoting local agriculture is potentially huge, but this means avoiding pitfalls like the one discussed in the article.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Action Alert: Midcoast LCP Update

Dear Friends,

The update of the Local Coastal Program (LCP) for the San Mateo Midcoast, which guides local implementation of the Coastal Act, is nearly completed at long last! After two delays requested by San Mateo County, the California Coastal Commission will consider whether to certify the LCP as consistent with the Coastal Act on Thursday, December 10, at their meeting in San Francisco.

This is an important time to speak up for protections for open space, protecting coastal resources, and maintaining the community character of the Midcoast communities of Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada, Miramar, and Princeton.

Why this is important
The LCP encourages sound land management and resource protection in the face of growing population pressures on the San Mateo County Coast. Strong LCP policies will help guide land use decisions that will ensure the livability and sustainability of our coastal communities.

What's happening
After two years of review and analysis, the staff of the Coastal Commission is recommending approval of the LCP Amendments for the Midcoast area with 72 suggested modifications to ensure that the LCP policies are consistent with the Coastal Act. The proposed modifications will ensure that the cumulative impacts of new development will not adversely impact coastal resources and/or public access to and along the shore.

Committee for Green Foothills strongly supports the Commission's staff recommendations including suggested modifications that would reduce the growth rate to 40 residential units per year, prohibit new private drinking water wells in areas served by public water agencies, require traffic mitigation plans for major new developments and retirement of lots for new land divisions, better protect the "Burnham Strip" open space in El Granada, and more effectively implement the transfer of the surplus Caltrans Devil's Slide Bypass lands to the county for a Linear Park and Trail.

CGF's letter, which includes more specific recommendations is below.

You can read the Coastal Commission's Staff Report, at: documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2009/12/Th18a-12-2009.pdf

What you can do
Please write a brief letter to the Coastal Commission and urge them to support the Staff Recommendation for Approval with Modifications. In the upper right hand corner, put Agenda Item TH18.a, and your name.

Letters need to be received by the end of Friday, December 4, in order to be included in the Commissioner's packet.

The Commission does not accept letters by email. Please fax your letter to:

Chair Bonnie Neely and Members
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Fax: 415-904-5400

Now is an important time to speak up for protection of the Midcoast. Please let the Commissioners hear from you - your voice does make a difference!

- The Folks at Green Foothills

November 28, 2009

Agenda Item TH18.a - Lennie Roberts
Bonnie Neely, Chair, and Members
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Re: San Mateo County LCP Amendment No. SMC-MAJ-1-07
(Midcoast LCP Update)

Dear Chair Neely and Members of the Commission,

On behalf of Committee for Green Foothills (CGF), I write in support of the Staff Recommendation for Approval of the San Mateo County Midcoast LCP Update with suggested modifications.

The San Mateo County LCP was the first County LCP certified by the Coastal Commission (in 1981). The San Mateo County coastal zone is 55 miles long and up to five miles wide; most of the coastal zone is rural. The Midcoast area comprises a relatively small portion of the county’s coastal zone that shares critical infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, schools) with the City of Half Moon Bay.

There was a tremendous amount and intensity of work involved in drafting and certifying the LCP, which included both the Land Use Plan (LUP) policies and the Implementation Program (IP). Although the LCP, as certified, was a far-reaching and comprehensive document, CGF has long been concerned that significant gaps in LCP policies and data needed to be addressed through a comprehensive LCP Update.

In the urban Midcoast area, the cumulative impacts of new development in the City of Half Moon Bay as well as the unincorporated communities of El Granada, Princeton, Miramar, Moss Beach, and Montara have raised significant issues of adequacy of the infrastructure to serve buildout without adversely impacting coastal resources and/or public access to and along the shore.

CGF commends the collaborative effort by Commission and County staff in working to resolve most of the significant issues that have been at issue regarding the Update’s conformity with the Coastal Act.

Of the few remaining issues under discussion as of the 11/20/09 Staff Report, CGF has the following specific comments:

a. Annual Growth Rate: CGF supports the Coastal staff’s recommended growth rate limit of 40 (approximately 1%) residential units per year. The County Planning Commission also recommended this limit, and it is consistent with Half Moon Bay’s annual limit on residential units. Over the past five years an average of 38 residential units have been approved annually, and County Planning staff concedes that the limit of 40 residential units should not have a significant impact on the current rate of development. CGF does not support or understand the rationale for exceptions to the growth limit for Princeton caretaker units or for second units, as they also contribute to the infrastructure demand.
b. Private Drinking Water Wells and Septic Systems: CGF strongly supports the prohibition of new drinking water wells and septic systems in the urban midcoast area. Allowing private wells within the boundaries of public water agencies threatens the economic viability of the public agencies, and places an undue economic burden on their customers. Moreover, locating individual wells in an urban area in close proximity to sewer lines and old septic tanks increases the potential for contamination of these wells. The groundwater basins are very limited in this area of the coast. Already some wells have failed, and in drought cycles we can expect many more to fail. Similarly, it makes no sense to allow private septic systems within the boundaries of public wastewater treatment agencies, unless there are no public hookups available.
c. Public Works Capacities: The County’s certified LCP already requires new public works facilities to be phased with each other and to be sized so as to serve, but not exceed, the buildout allowed by the LCP. Coastal staff is recommending that for public works expansion projects aimed at solving existing deficiencies for existing development (i.e. to serve existing development on private wells or new infrastructure to solve the wet weather flow problem), other public works deficiencies do not need to be solved first. If the public works project were sized to accommodate estimated buildout, the permit for the project could be conditioned to allow the phasing of new sewer or water connections, for example. CGF supports this approach as being consistent with Sections 30250 and 30254 of the Coastal Act.
d. Prioritizing Service Capacities for Affordable Housing: Although affordable housing is not a Coastal Act priority land use, San Mateo County has made affordable housing a County LCP priority land use. To ensure the continued reservation of public works capacity for Coastal Act priority land uses, Coastal staff is proposing that a second tier of LCP priority uses, such as affordable housing, be reserved. CGF supports this approach.
e. Traffic/Transportation Mitigation: CGF supports the Coastal staff’s recommendation that new land divisions require merger or retirement of the same number of existing lots as new lots created by the land division. CGF could support an exception to the traffic mitigation for conditional COC’s that are necessary to legalize lots (per the Witt and Abernathy decisions) that are also conditioned to ensure consistency with current zoning and other applicable LCP requirements, inasmuch as these lots have already been accounted for in the certified LCP’s buildout numbers. The County has not yet adopted a traffic mitigation fee structure for new development in the urban midcaost, similar to Half Moon Bay’s. Such a traffic mitigation fee would help fund necessary traffic and safety improvements.
f. Rezoning of Bypass Lands: CGF supports the rezoning of the former Caltrans Right of Way for the Devil’s Slide Bypass as Linear Park and Trail as an important step to ensure that these lands will become a trail and park system that will provide public access and a scenic non-motorized transportation route. The issues of access to private property and/or areas needed by Caltrans for staging and maintenance purposes could be addressed by the zoning standards. Given all of the infrastructure and buildout issues discussed previously, particularly as those issues apply to the former Right of Way area, CGF does not understand or support the zoning of any portion of the Right of Way for housing purposes.

Thank you for consideration of our comments. We urge your approval of the LCP Amendment with the suggested modifications per staff.


Lennie Roberts, Legislative Advocate
Committee for Green Foothills