The Daly City Dunes - Threatened by Development

The Daly City Dunes, on the western end of San Bruno Mountain, are the last remnant of an ancient dune system formed 80,000 to 125,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era - when the northern San Francisco Peninsula was an island.  These dunes are unique on the peninsula since the San Francisco coastal dunes were formed by a different process and during a much later era (see Dune Geology).

This inland dune system in Daly City also has a diverse and healthy plant community containing typical dune scrub species, plus rare and endangered California native plants.  The San Francisco Lessingia (Lessingia germanorum), on the Federal Endangered Species list since 1997, is found only in two areas on the peninsula:  1) the Presidio, under the care and protection of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy;  and 2) in the Daly City Dunes (see Dune Plants).

Lessingia GIS MapLessingia populations mapped by San Bruno Mountain WatchSan Bruno Mountain Watch has surveyed the dune area and GPS-mapped locations containing significant populations of lessingia. The GIS map of the area (click map to enlarge) shows that San Francisco Lessingia is prevalent over much of the threatened dune area.

Parcels at the heart of these rare dunes are privately owned and are currently threatened with development (see Threat to Dunes). The recently purchased property is now slated for a school classroom extension, a new soccer field,  and up to twenty-five parking spots (see our April 2013 Advocacy Update). This construction would  require a large retaining wall and extensive grading.  The planned development, involving addition of street access, would fragment the dune area and make much of the remaining area vulnerable to more building and habitat destruction.

In the upper reaches of the dune area there is another important feature - an Ohlone Indian shellmound. This shellmound has been documented and registered with the State of California. Such sites are considered sacred, and there are laws governing how they are treated. It takes vigilance and public will to assure that the laws are followed, and that these sites are treated with the respect they deserve.  Although the Ohlone don't usually like to publicize the locations of these sites, in this case they have agreed to let us inform the public.

For San Bruno Mountain Watch, the reasons to preserve this unique feature of San Bruno Mountain are obvious:  preserving biodiversity leads to a healthier ecosystem; open spaces provide a sense of well-being; and future generations should be able to continue to enjoy San Bruno Mountain as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. We hope to convince the owners of the threatened parcels of the value of saving this rare treasure.  It would be a wonderful legacy gift to the people of Daly City and the Bay Area if they were to work with us to preserve this unique area.

In the meantime, we need to convince people of the dunes' value and to advocate for their preservation (see Saving the Dunes). Daly City, along with the landowners, will ultimately have to decide whether or not the dunes are to be preserved.