Thursday, April 22, 2010

CGF Coyote Ridge hike in Morgan Hill Times

Just a quick note that our annual hike to Coyote Ridge got a nice writeup in the Morgan Hill Times:

....Last weekend, I was reminded of this there's-more-there-than-meets-the-eye lesson here in my own back yard.....How many times does mom need to remind us that the charms of a person or a place may not be evident at first glance? Our guided walk up Coyote Ridge was a reminder than mom knows what she is talking about. A number of phenomena converge here to create a community of rare and unusual interest.

We lunched among the flowers, taking in the beauty near and far. A small herd of tule elk lounged on the ridge below. A prairie falcon darted overhead. A golden eagle drifted across the face of the ridge below. 
In 1868, John Muir, in California for only a matter of days and on his way to Yosemite, walked along this very ridge and later wrote, "the landscapes of Santa Clara Valley were fairly drenched with sunshine. All the air was quivering with the songs of the meadow-larks, and the hills were so covered with flowers that they seemed to be painted."
The work of good people at the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (, the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy ( and the Committee for Green Foothills ( have allowed us to enjoy this setting much as John Muir did 140 years ago.

Sign up for our Action Alerts to be notified about this hike, other events, and calls to action to help the local environment.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cupcake Alert! Last two days!

(CGF sent this News Alert out earlier this week - buy some Sprinkles Earth Day Vanilla Cupcakes and support CGF.  More info here on what Sprinkles is doing for the environment.  -Brian)

Dear Friend!

Every year on Earth Day, Sprinkles Cupcakes donates to non-profits located within communities where their stores are located.  Once again this year CGF has been selected by Sprinkle’s to receive this donation.  With your help we can all have our (cup)cake and eat it too!

How it works:
It’s easy! All proceeds from “Earth Day Vanilla” cupcakes sold Monday, April 19 through Thursday, April 23 will be donated to Committee for Green Foothills! 

What you can do:
Buy “Earth Day Vanilla” cupcakes from Sprinkles store in Stanford Shopping Center April 19-23 (Monday – Thursday)(393 Stanford Shopping Center, near Plum Lane ).

Since it opened, the Palo Alto Sprinkles store has chosen CGF to be the recipient of their Earth Day proceeds. Sprinkles Cupcakes uses recycled boxes, shopping bags, gift boxes, plates and napkins in all of its bakeries.  They donate to local charities and give all daily leftover cupcakes to local food banks.

Last Year Sprinkles donated $2,100 to CGF because of you! 
As always, we can’t do it without you.

Thank you for your support of CGF and we hope you will take part by enjoying a cupcake (or two) to celebrate Earth Day!

- The Folks at Committee for Green Foothills

Friday, April 9, 2010

CGF letter to San Mateo County Supervisors supporting suggested modifications to the Local Coastal Plan

(CGF sent out the letter below regarding the Local Coastal Plan for San Mateo County.  -Brian)

April 9, 2010

President Rich Gordon and Members,
San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063

Re:  Board of Supervisors Meeting of April 13, 2010, Item 11:  Consideration of the Midcoast Local Coastal Program (LCP) Update

Dear President Gordon and Members of the Board,

Committee for Green Foothills urges your board to accept the Coastal Commission’s suggested modifications to the Midcoast LCP Update.  It has been over ten years since the County embarked on this important planning effort.  CGF commends the County and Coastal Commission in working together to resolve many issues that were initially identified by the Coastal Commission staff.

Regarding the issues that are discussed in the March 29, 2010 Staff Report, CGF has the following comments:

1.      Lot Retirement/Traffic Mitigation:  Retirement of lots as a condition of new subdivisions is an important and necessary mitigation measure to offset the cumulative impacts of new development on the coastside’s already inadequate highways.   There are not many lands in the urban midcoast that can be subdivided, and most of these areas are zoned for agriculture or open space.  Nonetheless, any new land divisions will have impacts on the already overburdened public services, particularly coastal highways.  CGF urges the County to institute a program to retire development rights on lots that are located within environmentally sensitive areas, including wetlands and riparian areas in Miramar and the Montecito Riparian Corridor, or in hazardous areas such as along the cliffs of Seal Cove, and lots that are underwater in the Princeton area.  CGF could support an exception to the traffic mitigation program for conditional Certificates of Compliance (CCOC’s) that are now required to legalize antiquated subdivision lots per the Witt and Abernathy decisions (and that are also conditioned to maximize consistency with current zoning and other applicable LCP requirements), inasmuch as these lots have already been included in the LCP’s buildout numbers.  CGF also urges the Board of Supervisors to adopt a traffic mitigation fee for new development in the urban midcoast, similar to Half Moon Bay’s.  This would help fund necessary traffic and safety improvements.
2.      Prohibition of New Private Wells:  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 places an undue economic burden on customers of the water districts, who must pay for costly infrastructure.  The small, isolated groundwater basins in much of the urban midcoast cannot support wells over the long term.  New wells near the Pillar Point Marsh could adversely impact this sensitive coastal resource.  Already some midcoast wells have failed, and in future 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.
3.      Growth Limits:  CGF supports the growth rate limit of 40 (approximately 1%) residential units per year.  The County Planning Commission recommended this limit, and it is consistent with Half Moon Bay’s annual limit as well.  Over the past five years, an average of just 38 residential units have been approved annually.  County planning staff has agreed that the limit of 40 residential units should not have an impact on the current rate of development.
4.      Grandfathering:  Although it has been County policy to “grandfather” projects where an application has been submitted to County Planning, the proposed modifications would still allow projects that have received a Building Permit to proceed under the existing LCP.   As of December 2009, there were some 143 applications that had not received a Coastal Development Permit.  These should be evaluated under the updated Midcoast LCP standards.
5.      Public Works:  The County’s existing 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.  The Coastal Commission’s suggested modifications require 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 Sewer Authority Midcoastside’s wet weather flow problem), other public works deficiencies do not need to be solved first.  If a proposed public works expansion project were sized to accommodate existing buildout, the permit for the project could, and should, be conditioned to allowing the phasing of new sewer or water connections, for example.  CGF supports this approach.
6.      Land Use Priorities:  CGF supports the Coastal Commission’s suggested modifications that will set aside water and sewer capacities for affordable housing, through a two-tiered approach that maintains the LCP’s existing capacities for coastal act priorities.
7.      Rezoning of Bypass Lands:  CGF supports the rezoning of the former Caltrans Right of Way that is no longer needed for the Devil’s Slide Bypass.  This is 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.

CGF urges the Board of Supervisors to accept the suggested modifications.  If there are outstanding issues you feel must be addressed, we suggest that you ask for an extension of time, not to exceed six months, so your Board of Supervisors can complete this planning effort that you and the Coastal Commission have invested a great deal of time and money in.

Thank you for consideration of our comments.


Lennie Roberts, Legislative Advocate
Committee for Green Foothills

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One study ignores the role of environmental protection in enhancing land value, but another study does better

I probably shouldn't completely condemn the study because I haven't finished reading it.  Still, I have problems with this Harvard study of Massachusetts land values that appears to conclude that environmental protections, such as ones that keep development away from floodplains and increased septic system requirements, caused an artificial land scarcity and forced up the cost of housing.  The problem is that what I've read doesn't address how environmental improvements reduce negative externalities that harm the land value of the broader community.  Keeping development out of flood plains and keeping septic systems from failing in particular are hugely beneficial to the broader community.  So is the increase in cost due to artificial scarcity, or is it just a reflection of increased environmental benefits?  Maybe this is addressed somewhere in the study, but I've missed it.

Much more promising is a Stanford study showing that conservation efforts didn't substantially reduce the housing stock in Silicon Valley:

It's no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area, where the median house price is $350,000, is home to expensive real estate. Developers have often blamed conservationists for the high costs by arguing that making land off-limits for new construction shrinks the area's housing supply and drives up prices.
But Stanford researchers say that argument holds little water. Only 51,000 more homes would have been built in the southern Bay Area's Silicon Valley if land had not been set aside by nonprofit groups and the government, they say.
In a study conducted by the university's Bill Lane Center for the American West, executive directorJon Christensen, sociology graduate student Carrie Denning and landscape ecologist Robert McDonald analyzed whether land conservation efforts in Silicon Valley – which has about 116,000 acres of protected parks, forests, waterfronts and wildlife refuges – have hurt housing development.
Their findings, published online in the journal Biological Conservation, suggest that land protection may not have much of an impact on the number of housing units available in the region. That's because most of the protected land isn't suitable for development, they say.


Monday, April 5, 2010

The Future of Freezing

Interesting website showing how drastically the decrease will be in the amount of land area below freezing over this century due to climate change.  You can adjust it to focus on California.  Currently it just shows February and March, but it gives an idea how much snowpack we'll lose in the Sierras, which will have a definite effect on water supplies in our area.  It also shows how the effect will be reduced if we take quick action to address climate change.