Monday, December 3, 2012

As the Bay Area attempts to dry off after a rain-soaked weekend, the question arises: how should our land use decisions plan for the likelihood of increased severe storm events? For example, when and to what extent should new development be permitted in a floodplain? How close to riverbanks and creeks should buildings be situated? And what happens -- and who pays -- when a development creates increased flood hazards for homes and businesses further downstream?

Upper Penitencia Creek in eastern San Jose is one of the few waterways in Santa Clara County that follows a mostly natural course, does not have concrete embankments, and has an almost continuous riparian forest along the stream corridor. The creek contains habitat for steelhead trout and western pond turtle as well as various other species of fish and other animals. Moreover, Upper Penitencia Creek is very flood-prone, recently experiencing 7 floods in a 20-year period. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is currently engaged in a flood control project in the Upper Penitencia Creek watershed to protect the over 5,000 homes, schools and businesses located in the floodplain, as well as to provide environmental benefits for fish and wildlife.

Notwithstanding these issues, the City of San Jose is currently considering approval of a development of up to 20 townhomes right next to Upper Penitencia Creek, on what is currently zoned agricultural land. The project is situated in a FEMA Zone A floodplain; the project proposes to guard against the danger of flooding by raising the level of the buildings, but this would simply mean that floodwaters would be deflected and sent downstream to flood other property there. Part of the development would be located within 100 feet of the riparian corridor, in violation of the city policy that states that situating buildings and impervious surfaces adjacent to a riparian corridor can result in loss of wildlife habitat, disturbance to wildlife from excessive noise and night lighting, loss of groundwater recharge, and increased erosion and sedimentation.

CGF and other environmental organizations are advocating for further analysis of the risks and impacts of this project both on Upper Penitencia Creek and on downstream residences and businesses. We will continue to press for responsible policy decisions regarding situating development in floodplains and close to rivers and creeks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jumping In With Both Feet - Welcome Liz!

CGF welcomes the arrival of Liz Snyder as our Interim Executive Director. We hit the jackpot!

Says Liz, “For 50 years, Committee for Green Foothills has worked to preserve our foothills, mountains, farms, forests, and coasts. When I think of those 50 years of hard-won victories, I feel a debt of gratitude to all of the staff, Board members, advocates, and supporters that have come through these doors. Without them, much of the natural beauty of the Bay Area would be a thing of the past. I am incredibly excited to be joining the CGF team, and am honored to have the chance to contribute to such important work."

Liz Snyder, CGF Interim Executive Director
Liz is a food activist, anthropologist, and author. She has a master’s degree in nutritional anthropology from Oxford University, where she studied the complex interrelationships between the food marketing industry, nutrition education efforts in our schools, and their profound and unexpected effects on our relationship with food. Liz is the founder of Full Circle Farm, an educational, organic farm on school land that connects the district’s 14,000 children directly to the source of their food.

As a founding member of the Bay Area Children in Nature Collaborative, Liz is also working to engage schools and parents in increasing kids’ access to healthy, outdoor environments.

Liz’s most recent endeavor is Little Bee Pops—bringing healthy, sustainable summer treats to parks and Farmers' Markets in Silicon Valley. Liz will be with us until May 2013 (when the Little Bee Pops season kicks in again) while we search for a permanent ED.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Support Bay Trail and Bike/Pedestrian Bridge

Update on November 20: The Board of Supervisors voted today to fully fund the Adobe Creek Bridge and to partially fund the Ravenswood Bay Trail. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Supervisors to express support for these two great projects!

In addition, the Supervisors voted to fund two additional projects. The Stanford Perimeter Trail runs from the Stanford Shopping Center along El Camino to Stanford Avenue, then down Stanford Avenue to Junipero Serra and the entrance to the Dish Trail, then along Junipero Serra to Page Mill Road. Much of this trail already exists, but the proposal funded today will widen and expand the existing trail and will complete the gaps where no paved trail exists today. The other project funded today is the Matadero Creek Trail, which will run along the Santa Clara Valley Water District right-of-way on the banks of Matadero Creek.

 For more details about these projects, click here.

On Tuesday, November 20, at 9:00 a.m., the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will decide which of 15 trail projects should be funded from the Stanford trail mitigation fund. Committee for Green Foothills supports prioritizing two of these projects: the Ravenswood Bay Trail and the Adobe Creek Bridge. These projects will provide regional connectivity and will be environmentally beneficial in multiple ways: reducing automobile traffic, providing access to the open space and wetlands of our Bayfront, and encouraging increased biking and hiking. Please contact the Board of Supervisors and urge them to fund the Ravenswood Bay Trail and the Adobe Creek Bridge.

What’s Happening:

This will be the final stage in the long-drawn-out process of the Stanford trails mitigation. As mentioned in previous Action Alerts, there is a $10.4 million fund to be used to mitigate for the loss of trails and recreational resources due to Stanford’s development under their 2000 General Use Permit. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has the responsibility to decide how this fund should be used. The County asked for proposals to be submitted for trail and recreation projects within a certain geographical area near Stanford. The only requirement is that the projects must mitigate the loss of recreational resources for Stanford residents and facility users.

Fifteen different projects have been submitted to the County. Many of them are worthwhile; others do not provide mitigation value; but the two projects that will provide the most benefit to both Stanford residents and facility users and the community as a whole, are the Ravenswood Bay Trail and the Adobe Creek/Highway 101 bridge.

The Ravenswood Bay Trail is the “missing link” between University Avenue and the Ravenswood Nature Preserve in East Palo Alto/Menlo Park. Currently, the Bay Trail runs all the way from Alviso up to the Ravenswood Nature Preserve in an unbroken off-road trail that allows residents to enjoy the open space and wetlands near the Bay, get exercise and commute via safe, off-road bicycle trails. Once the Ravenswood Bay Trail link has been constructed, this trail will stretch for 26 miles up past the Facebook campus to Redwood City, as well as crossing over the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay. Thus, this short (0.6 miles) link will provide a huge benefit for regional connectivity. In addition, the East Palo Alto neighborhood, a disadvantaged community, will receive much-needed recreational resources.

The Adobe Creek/Highway 101 bridge will also provide a benefit that is greater than meets the eye. This overcrossing of Highway 101 at Adobe Creek in Palo Alto will create a safe, year-round crossing between the residential Palo Alto/Stanford area and the Baylands Nature Preserve.  It will connect to the Bay Trail and will enable commuting to the businesses on the east side of 101, including Google, Intuit and LinkedIn.
These two projects would not deplete the entire $10.4 million fund, so there will be plenty of funding remaining for other projects. However, CGF believes that these two projects are the most important and should be given top priority.

If you would like more detail on these and the other projects submitted to the County, click here: County website on trail proposals.

Why This Is Important

It is not often that over $10 million is made available specifically for trail projects, and it is important that this money be put to the highest and best use. With 15 projects competing for these funds, it is important that everyone who cares about trails and access to open space speak up on this issue.

What You Can Do

Let your voice be heard! Email the Supervisors, come to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, November 20 and speak, or both! 

Tuesday, November 20 at 9:00 a.m.
Board of Supervisors Chambers
County Government Center
70 W. Hedding St., 1st floor
San Jose, CA 95110

To email the Board of Supervisors, use this email:

Or email the Supervisors individually:
Supervisor Dave Cortese:
Supervisor Liz Kniss:
Supervisor George Shirakawa:
Supervisor Mike Wasserman:
Supervisor Ken Yeager:

For your convenience, when you click on the above emails, the following sample text will automatically appear:

Dear Members of the Board of Supervisors,

I urge you to fund the Ravenswood Bay Trail and Adobe Creek Bridge projects. These projects will provide regional connectivity and will be environmentally beneficial in multiple ways: reducing automobile traffic, providing access to the open space and wetlands of our Bayfront, and encouraging increased biking and hiking. Please do what’s best for our community and prioritize funding for these two projects!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

San Jose to increase protection of riparian corridors

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 9, voted to begin developing a new ordinance that would increase protection of riparian corridors. The ordinance would be based on the existing San Jose Riparian Corridor Policy Study, which presents guidelines for how far new development should be set back from the banks of rivers and streams.

Riparian corridor protection is important not only to preserve the quality of water and the wildlife in the rivers and streams, but also to protect the habitat on and near the banks. In our water-scarce area, riparian corridors are vital to the survival of plants and wildlife. In addition, when development encroaches too close to the riparian corridor, the resultant erosion and increased sedimentation has impacts on flood control, thus also impacting downstream homes and businesses.

Committee for Green Foothills, along with other environmental organizations, urged the San Jose City Council to prioritize the development of a riparian corridor ordinance. A big thank-you to the Councilmembers for recognizing the importance of riparian protection!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Over 300 Celebrate Half a Century of CGF Work

'Thank you for your care, passion, and love for the environment! You’re an inspiration for so many and you make a huge difference. Looking forward to your vision leading to the future and growing from the past. Congratulations!'

- Mary Ann Ruiz

So wrote Mary Ann Ruiz in our 50th Anniversary Annotated Guestbook this past Sunday as over 300 of our closest friends came out to celebrate half a century of CGF advocating for the protection of open space, farmland, and natural resources in our region.  

Thank you to the remaining founders, past and present board members, elected officials, and many faithful supporters who spent the afternoon together at Runnymede Farm in Woodside in honor of CGF's 50 year body of work. 

We were honored by the attendance and the many accolades and kind words we received:

Assemblymember Rich Gordon
  • Congresswoman Anna Eshoo presented CGF (see video excerpt of speech) with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
  • Assemblymember Rich Gordon gave CGF a Resolution recognizing our community service on behalf of the California Legislature Assembly (right: with CGF President Margaret MacNiven and Vice-President Matt Burrows)
  • Supervisor Dave Pine presented a Resolution on behalf of the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, and
  • Supervisor Liz Kniss' Office bestowed on CGF a Resolution on behalf of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
Author Lynn Stegner
Speeches by Jon Christensen, Executive Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and  Lynn Stegner (see video excerpt of speech), author and daughter-in-law of CGF founder Wallace Stegner, inspired the audience with its look at CGF's past, present, and future.

CGF VP Matt Burrows
Our Golden Celebration had much to offer, whether it was previewing CGF's new promotional video narrated by Doug McConnell, exploring the sculptures of Runnymede Farm along three different loops dotted with student docents, learning of CGF’s rich legacy and dedication to open space preservation at our history corner, striking a pose in our photo booth, bidding on some beautiful art at the Inspired by Nature silent auction, or toasting CGF for its 50 years of advocacy.

CGF's event also featured a wonderful array of local family-owned businesses' goods:

So by all accounts a good time was had by all.  But in the end, it is the comments of our guests who sum up our 50 years best:

'Congratulations on this great milestone. CGF has made a difference for which everyone in the community has benefitted for generations to come.'
- John Ward San Mateo County Board of Supervisors 1975-1986

'Committee for Green Foothills is the gold standard for environmental and community organizations. Here’s to the next fifty years!'
- Sally Lieber

'Hard to believe that 50 years went by so fast. Here’s to several more centuries of making the world a better place for all of us!'
- Jerry Hearn

“Dearest Committee for Green Foothills – thank you, thank you, thank you - for your wonderful gift of fighting for open space , happiness and joy- we live in a wonderful place thanks to you and we must be good - no GREAT stewards of our land and water. Happy Birthday year!!"
- Sincerely Kirsten Keith – Mayor of Menlo Park

Dear CGF, happy birthday and please keep watching for us.
- Mark Anderton
Gary Gerard, founding member
I am so proud of my Mom (Betty) and Dad (Gary)!!! Yesterday at a lovely gathering in Woodside at the Runnymede Farm, they both were honored as founding members of The Committee for Green Foothills (my dad came up with the name for the group). Betty and Gary (along with Lois Crozier-Hogle, Ruth Spangenberg, Wallace Stegner, Don Aitken, and Tom Jordan) played integral roles in defeating developers who in 1962 aimed to build a 70,000 unit community in the Palo Alto foothills (near Page Mill Rd and highway 280). This would've forever changed the landscape and life as we know it in our little hamlet. Thank you SO MUCH to all the folks who led the charge to protect the open space and habitat we all love so dearly. If you truly love the outdoors and these beautiful foothills and shorelines of ours, I strongly urge you to support this organization. They greatly appreciate your contributions. THANK YOU!!
- Steve Gerard

“What a great privilege to be among so many torch bearers.Thine in faith,"
- Lynn Stegner

Photo Credits:  Don Weden