THE EXAMINER: Daly City Dunes parcel could be transferred to San Mateo County for preservation

Daly City Dunes parcel could be transferred to San Mateo County for preservation
The Examiner
June 18, 2014
Brendan P. Bartholomew

With the support of some conservationists and Native Americans, a local landowner hopes to donate his piece of the historic Daly City Dunes to San Mateo County. If the county Board of Supervisors approves the transfer, roughly 3½ acres of environmentally sensitive land belonging to commercial property landlord Richard Haskins would be annexed into the San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, and permanently protected from developers. Located on the western edge of San Bruno Mountain, the land is down the slope from Hilldale School on Florence Street, above a row of houses on Bonnie Street and adjacent to Hillside Park.

Brendan P. Bartholomew 2014

The site contains ancient sand dunes that formed 80,000 to 125,000 years ago, when the ocean extended to the edges of the mountain. The dunes are home to the endangered Lessingia germanorum plant, a food source for sensitive butterfly species. An Ohlone shellmound is also located on the land, containing shells discarded by ancient Ohlone who brought their shellfish catches to the site. According to San Bruno Mountain Watch Executive Director Ken McIntire, the site might also contain the remains of Ohlone ancestors.

Confederation of Ohlone People Chairwoman Charlene Sul said that Ohlone remains have been found throughout the Bay Area, and it's possible the shellmound contains such remains. But Sul noted she would only support examining the site for the presence of remains if the land were in imminent danger of being developed, as testing the sand and soil would be intrusive.

"Once you start tests, you disturb the spirit," Sul said. "Not just of the ancestors, but also of the land and the environment and the species that are there."

Haskins, who with his brother inherited the property from their father, said Hilldale School offered to buy his parcels at one point, but he felt there was already enough development on the mountain. The land gift to the county would help ensure his heirs won't have to determine how it is used in the future, he said.

"My brother and I are both getting older, and I don't want to leave this for my kid to handle," Haskins said.

Not all of the site is owned by Haskins. Hilldale School recently purchased an acre of land directly above Haskins' property, and McIntire has been trying to prevent the school from developing its portion of the dunes. If the land currently owned by Haskins becomes part of the state park, that could make it harder for the school to develop its parcels, McIntire noted, because the county Parks Department would likely be involved in the process.

Parks Department Director Marlene Finley said there's "a perfect alignment of people" ready to collaborate on maintaining the dunes site if it becomes part of the state park. This includes San Bruno Mountain Watch, which has promised to remove invasive plant species and help restore the area, and local residents like Danny Camacho, who said he and his son frequently remove windblown trash from the site.

The Board of Supervisors has not yet set a date to vote on the matter, but Supervisor Dave Pine said he looks forward to seeing the annexation approved.

"People should be able to see what these lands looked like before we developed them," Pine said. "These dunes used to define the north county."