Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Green Foothills Golden Celebration is one month away!

We're counting down the days until Committee for Green Foothills' official 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday, September 23! We will be gathering at Runnymede Farm in Woodside, a spectacular 100-acre property owned by the Rosekrans family since 1930 and rarely open to the public. The afternoon will include:

  • Hiking through the hills of Runnymede to view the 115 sculptures by renowned artists such as Jun Kaneko, Viola Frey, and Andy Goldsworthy interspersed among the property's magnificent oaks, hills, creeks, trails, and forests
  • Taking a trip through history with CGF founders and longtime supporters in the "History Corner," where we will have photos and documents illustrating our historical campaigns and victories
  • Visiting the "Inspired by Nature" Silent Auction to bid on works by artists Dan Quinn, Linda Gass, Jacqueline Norheim, and Kit Davey, along with rare prints from Jane Gallagher and Deane Little
  • Enjoying beer, wine, hors d'oeuvres and camaraderie with local environmental friends and leaders under the trees
  • Hearing authors Jon Christensen and Lynn Stegner, daughter-in-law of CGF founder Wallace Stegner, as they lead a salute to our founders and Board members throughout CGF's 50 years
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime event that you do not want to miss! Tickets are available on our website, or by calling (650) 968-7243 ext. 314. 

Proceeds from this event support Committee for Green Foothills, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization preserving local lands and natural resources through environmental education, legislative advocacy, and community engagement. Thank you to the entire Rosekrans family for helping to make this event possible.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Santa Clara County Supervisors vote on parks and wineries

Parks: on Tuesday, August 21, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to preserve the longstanding policy of using the County Parks Charter Fund only for regional parks and trails of countywide significance. The Board considered a proposal to allow the Fund to be used for small, neighborhood-serving parks, but they ultimately decided to adopt the proposal made by CGF, the Friends of Santa Clara County Parks, Greenbelt Alliance, and many other parks advocates, to instead focus on serving parks-deficient urban unincorporated areas through the provision of parks and trails of countywide significance. We view this as a "win-win" because it both preserves the decades-long County Parks Charter Fund policy, and also proposes a solution for the problem of parks-deficient urban unincorporated neighborhoods.

Wineries: the Supervisors also voted today on proposed changes in winery regulations, deciding to allow wineries to hold unpermitted events of up to 50 people for all wineries, and 100 people for larger wineries who have met certain standards for parking, access roads, buffer zones from neighbors, and environmental health and fire safety. Wineries wanting to hold larger events would be able to apply for permits to do so. The Board also approved other proposed changes concerning commercial kitchens, promotional signs, bed & breakfast inns, and other issues. A contentious issue was that of amplified music; the Board approved an ordinance revision that would require permits for all outdoor amplified music in order to evaluate noise impacts on neighboring residents on a case-by-case basis. The Board adopted nearly exactly the position which CGF supported, only differing on the exception for 100 people at small events if wineries meet certain conditions. We are glad that the Board has struck an appropriate balance between promoting agri-tourism and protecting the environment.

Thanks to all of our members who contacted the Board of Supervisors to express their opinions! The Supervisors commented at the meeting about all the emails they had received -- it really does make a difference!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Santa Clara County to vote on changes to winery regulations

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be voting on August 21 on whether and how to change the County zoning regulations as they apply to wineries. Some of the winery owners are asking the County to eliminate permit requirements and other regulations to make it easier for the wineries to engage in agri-tourism activities like hosting events and weddings. Although Committee for Green Foothills supports this goal, we also believe that some regulations are necessary to protect the environment. We believe that the recommendations made by the County Planning Office, which has studied this issue extensively, create a reasonable balance between encouraging agri-tourism and protecting the natural resources of the County.

One of the biggest areas of controversy in the proposed changes is about the size and frequency of special events. Currently, wineries must apply for permits before holding any events of any size or for any purpose. Some of the recommendations in front of the Board of Supervisors argue that wineries should be able to hold events of up to 100 or even 300 people without a permit. CGF believes that these recommendations go too far; instead, we support the Planning Office’s recommendation of no more than 50 guests per event without a permit. (Wineries would still be able to apply for permits to hold larger events if they so desire.) We believe that, although the impacts of one winery’s events might be minor, the cumulative effect of every winery in the County potentially hosting unlimited events with hundreds of people could have very significant impacts on traffic, air quality, wildlife, and natural resources. Under the Planning Office’s proposal, these impacts would be evaluated during the permit process, and appropriate mitigations would be agreed on, which is why the permit process is so important. Without that process – without the opportunity for the County to ask whether holding events at a particular winery would impact the environment significantly – there is no way to mitigate any potential impacts. This is why CGF believes that only events of 50 people or fewer should be allowed without a permit.

To tell the Board of Supervisors to protect the environment by keeping the permit requirement for gatherings larger than 50 people, email them at

Parks Charter Fund in the news again

The Mercury News has published a new editorial on the Parks Charter Fund:
Mercury News editorial: Keep faith with voters on Santa Clara County Parks Charter Fund
Santa Clara County has been a good steward of its voter-approved County Parks Charter Fund for more than 20 years, holding fast to its mission of creating regional parks and assembling trail networks to connect neighborhoods across the valley. People are getting what they voted for: a stellar system of county parks and a web of trails that, with just a few more key links, will also be stellar.
Let's keep it on track.
On Tuesday the county Board of Supervisors again will look at policy proposals to make it easier to divert Parks Charter Fund dollars to neighborhood parks in urban unincorporated areas -- an idea raised by Supervisor George Shirakawa two years ago. But spending this money on purely local parks, with no countywide significance or interest, would break faith with the voters who repeatedly have renewed the Parks Charter Fund with its regional purpose. 
Go to this link for the full text: Mercury News editorial.

Also, please email the Supervisors and tell them to uphold the County’s longstanding policy of using the County Parks Charter Fund for parks and trails of countywide significance, not for small neighborhood-serving parks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Former County Supervisors call on current Board to put trails first

Former Santa Clara County Supervisors Susanne Wilson and Blanca Alvarado in today's San Jose Mercury News:

On Aug. 21, the current board will face a critical test of its leadership. It will review proposed policies for using the County Parks Charter Fund within urban areas, perhaps in ways not envisioned by voters. We urge the board to commit to the goal of a trail network linking communities and recreation opportunities -- and resist using the countywide fund to provide small neighborhood serving parks, as some supervisors have suggested.
Wilson and Alvarado are referring to the long-delayed Board of Supervisors decision on whether to amend the General Plan and the Parkland Acquisition Plan in order to allow the County Parks Charter Fund to be used for neighborhood-serving "pocket parks" in urban unincorporated neighborhoods. Committee for Green Foothills has opposed this proposal and will be  advocating next Tuesday for the Board to follow Wilson and Alvarado's suggestion of prioritizing trails rather than pocket parks to serve these urban unincorporated neighborhoods.

The county's highest priority should be completing the gaps in the urban trails network to improve connectivity, which multiplies the value of existing trails, and bring access to underserved areas.
Several of the most significant gaps in the network are in San Jose, including:
  • The Three Creeks Trail, which would provide a critical east-west link between the Los Gatos Creek, Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek Trails.  
  • The Coyote Creek and Penitencia Creek Trails, including connections to the coming Berryessa BART station.
  • The Five Wounds Trail, which would improve access to the Coyote Creek Trail and to the future Alum Rock BART station.
The county should collaborate with cities and other agencies to close these and other gaps and provide opportunities for residents of neighborhoods that have too few parks. Trails offer safe access to the wide array of parks and recreation areas located along them. And by making outdoor recreation more accessible and bicycle commuting easier, they will improve public health.
The trails serve as a metaphor for connecting people to people through nature. Our connection to the voters who are passionate about these trails cannot be misplaced through a change in public policy. This is what's at issue Tuesday. The current board needs to support the traditional scope of the voter-approved County Parks Charter Fund until voters say otherwise. 
For the full op-ed, go to

To tell the Santa Clara County Supervisors to follow Susanne Wilson's and Blanca Alvarado's urging and reject the proposal to use the County Parks Charter Fund for neighborhood-serving parks, contact the Board of Supervisors at

Monday, August 13, 2012

Video on the fight to save Cargill salt ponds

See the new video from Save the Bay, featuring Redwood City residents whose decades-long fight to protect San Francisco Bay is now focused on preventing agribusiness giant Cargill from developing over 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds in Redwood City. Copy and paste this link into your browser to see the video:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Coastal Commission rejects Big Wave project, approves Local Coastal Plan update

CGF is pleased to report that the Coastal Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to deny the Coastal Development Permit for the “Big Wave” project, a combined 8-building office park and 2-building residential complex for developmentally disabled adults on the coast next to Half Moon Bay Airport. The project’s massive, bulky buildings of up to 46 feet high would have been out of scale with surrounding development and would have obstructed scenic views of Pillar Point Bluff, Pillar Point Marsh, and Rancho Corral de Tierra, as well as impacting habitat for California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake. In addition, the site was fundamentally incompatible with the proposed use, since it was within a tsunami inundation area, right across the street from an airport, and located on a rural road with access through two bottleneck intersections. The project also failed to conform with the Local Coastal Plan in that it proposed impermissible private utilities, relying on an agricultural well for its water supply and an on-site wastewater treatment facility rather than connecting to the local water and sanitary districts.

Watch video of the statements made by the Commissioners on their reasons for denying the project:

At the same hearing, the Coastal Commission also approved the update of the Local Coastal Plan, thus finalizing a 13-year effort on the part of CGF and coastside activists. The updated LCP limits growth by reducing the number of building permits on the Midcoast to 40 per year, and directs growth to areas where there are adequate public services available by restricting construction of private wells. Trails and recreation also benefit from a requirement for dedication of trail easements along the routes of LCP trails for each development permit for a land division in the Coastal Zone. The updates pave the way for future construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail paralleling Highway 1, turning the abandoned alignment of Highway 1 into a recreational trail after the Devil’s Slide tunnel opens, and construction of safe bicycle and pedestrian crossings across Highway 1.

CGF applauds the Coastal Commission for protecting the San Mateo County coast!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Santa Clara County moves forward with trail project process

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted today to approve a process for selecting a project to be built with the $10.3 million in Stanford mitigation trail funding, originally designated back in 2000 as part of Stanford's mitigation for its planned development.

The County will now issue a request for proposals and will accept applications until September 10. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the proposed projects by October 9, 2012.

Thanks to everyone who emailed the Supervisors to ask them to move the process forward without delay. We will update you on the progress of this matter as we get closer to a Board vote on the proposed projects.

CGF Farm Tour: A Day Among Chickens and Artichokes

The CGF “Traditions and Innovations” Coastal Farm Tour last Saturday was a huge success! We’re all still talking here at the CGF offices about how much fun we had visiting Giusti Farms, TomKat Ranch, Fifth Crow Farm, and Pie Ranch. More than 50 guests joined us to hear the entertaining and informative presentations on sustainable farming practices, the benefits of rotational grazing, the struggle to preserve coastal agricultural lands, and much more. We saw many happy chickens foraging for bugs, harvested some wheat, and enjoyed delicious food from Pescadero Country Store and Pie Ranch’s famous pies!

It was a day of learning about the challenges faced in farming sustainably, and the partnerships between farmers and schools, nonprofits, and community leaders to ensure that everyone has access to locally grown produce. Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this a great day!

CGF is hosting a variety of events and gatherings this year in celebration of our 50th anniversary. Check out our website ( to learn all about upcoming events!