San Bruno Mountain project may prompt lawsuit

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Sasha Vasilyuk

San Bruno Mountain project may prompt lawsuit

Sasha Vasilyuk, The Examiner
2008-01-04 11:00:00.0
Current rank: Not ranked
Brisbane, Calif. -

As one environmental group is reaching a settlement with Burlingame about the alleged spilling of sewage into the Bay, another group gave a 60-day notice Thursday to a developer of 17 homes on San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane.

Unacceptably high levels of sediment and silt have been seeping from a construction site, clouding water and harming wildlife in Brisbane Lagoon, San Bruno Mountain Watch, an opponent of mountain development, is claiming.

The group is asking for the developer Brookfield Homes to remedy the silt flow or be sued for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act violations.

The notice comes a month before the Brisbane City Council reviews the developer's plan to add 71 houses at the site. Mountain Watch Director Ken McIntire admits that the threat of a lawsuit is meant to influence the City Council and force Brookfield Homes to alter its project.

The Planning Commission recommended rejecting the plan to the City Council in the fall after protests from residents and the environmental group.

Since rains began in October, McIntire said he has been collecting samples of soiled water flowing from the site.

McIntire said a lab analysis conducted by an East Bay environmental laboratory showed that levels of silt in his samples reached as high as 900 parts per million, way above the 100 parts per million standards set by the EPA.

Amy Miller, of the regional EPA office, said the discharge level found by McIntire is indeed "extremely high." But she said developers are not required to adhere to any level of sediment flow, only to implement "best management practices."

City Councilmember Cy Bologoff said if the allegations are true, it will have a bearing on the council's decision.

Brookfield Homes did not return calls for comment.

Battle for the butterflies: More oversight of development on San Bruno Mountain

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Edward Carpenter

SAN BRUNO � The Parks and Recreations Department will investigate a potential conflict in oversight for work on butterfly habit restoration on San Bruno Mountain, following a complaint by a local environmental group.
The complaint came at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday, just before they voted unanimously to approve a $171,000 contract extension for Palo Alto-based Thomas Reid Associates through December 2007.
The extension � which could pave the way for the development of about 300 single-family homes on prime habitat for one of three endangered butterflies on the mountain � was approved in spite of a 2004 peer review that calls the company's data collection into question.
Oversight of the restoration has been left entirely to Thomas Reid, the same company that manages the plan, according to Philip Batchelder of San Bruno Mountain Watch. "The same company created the Habitat Conservation Plan implemented it and is the only organization that regularly reports on the outcomes," Batchelder said. Thomas Reid has been the only company involved since it created the plan in 1982, Batchelder said.
What's more, because of the "haphazard" nature of the data collected by Thomas Reid from 1982-2000, it is impossible to determine whether progress is being made toward saving the Mission Blue, Elfin and Callippe silverspot butterflies, according to a report prepared in 2004 by Travis Longcore, science director of The Urban Wildlands Group, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving species.
"In my opinion, that really wasn't a good methodology, if your objective was to go back after 20 years to say we have increased the number of butterflies, or we have increased the area of the butterflies," Longcore said.
Since that report, Thomas Reid has changed its data-collection method, but to what result isn't clear, said Longcore, who emphasized that too little funding hamstrings the company to a substantial degree.
Nonetheless, supervisors have asked Parks and Recreation to look into the matter and report back to them. Board of Supervisors President Jerry Hill and Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who represents the area, weren't aware of the Longcore report.
"We want [Parks and Recreation] to be able to verify and oversee the contract and make sure that the work is being done in an appropriate manner," Hill said.
Thomas Reid, of Thomas Reid Associates, said his company is working to improve its data collection and has already made some changes." I think the [butterfly] populations [on San Bruno Mountain] are robust and stable," he said, while acknowledging that the grasslands the butterflies depend on for feeding and mating are withering away.
San Bruno Mountain Watch isn't just trying to save the butterflies for the sake of the butterflies, but because they are an indication of the overall health of the ecosystem, Batchelder said. "The bottom line is that the habitat is in major decline; Thomas Reid Associates hasn't performed," he said.

Nature lovers fight for quarry

Publisher: San Mateo Times
Reporter: Todd Brown

BRISBANE - David Schooley pauses during a hike up Owl Canyon on San Bruno Mountain. He looks in the direction of the sprawling single-family homes of The Ridge along the opposite side of Guadalupe Valley before returning his attention to the plenitude of grasses and plants underfoot.

He points to some lupine, food source of the endangered Mission blue butterfly, which gestates among the plant's roots and lays its eggs on the leaves. Nearby is a patch of monkey flower, with its bright yellow petals, and a thatch of fragrant California sage.

Farther up the trail, mint grows among willows and wild cherry trees with green fruits.

"This is the way it was 1,000 years ago in San Francisco," Schooley says. "That's rare anywhere in the Bay Area."

Schooley, who celebrated his 63rd birthday Friday, is chairman and founder of San Bruno Mountain Watch ( Since 1969, the environmental advocacy group has fought with developers who wanted to transform parts of the range into housing, high-rise buildings and shopping centers.

The most recent threat that the group perceives is a plan to turn the floor of Brisbane's century-old quarry, adjacent to Owl Canyon, into 173 housing units.

On Friday, Mountain Watch board member Jo Coffey said the group has teamed with residents to organize a "Campaign Against Housing in the Quarry" to defeat a November ballot measure to approve the development, roughly a mile from the city center.

"To build (more) neighborhoods is going to change the character of this town irrevocably," Coffey, 64, said during the hike onFriday. "They're going to have to drive to do anything. It dilutes that sense of community that the town has. This is a suburb of Brisbane."

Schooley worried that any further construction on the mountain could open the floodgates and spur more homes near The Ridge, as well as Brisbane Acres, the open space that stretches above the central city and slopes down to Sierra Point.

"The first time I started wandering here," he said. "I couldn't believe there was this little beautiful wild habitat - right next to San Francisco and the Cow Palace and Candlestick and all that."

He said instead of more buildings, he'd like to see a nature preserve in the quarry, anchored by a learning center that could focus on the Ohlone Indians who left massive shell mounds on the southeast slope of the mountain.

More than that, he said his group wants the area to revert to native habitat and hopes to re-establish a natural corridor from Sierra Point to the Daly City border; a permanent quarry development would interrupt that continuity forever.

"Anywhere they put in housing and infrastructure is going to alter the movement of not just animals, but plants," Schooley said.

Nature isn't waiting for the November vote. Schooley said Elfin and Callippe silverspot butterflies already are returning to the topmost level of the terraced walls, where vegetation is creeping back "on all the ledges coming down."

Owen Poole, the agent who represents quarry owner California Rock & Asphalt, Inc., for the housing plan, said leaving the land to its own devices is "absurd."

"People are talking like it's a pristine site," he said. "This is a piece of property that is totally defaced, marred. This comes down to a very simple question: Do you want to have residential housing there, or do you want to continue it as a quarry?"

Although the quarry doesn't have a current mining permit from the county, he said he has no doubt it will get one if the housing plan is nixed.

"The state considers it an important resource," he said. "If the owner of the property wants a permit, the owner of the property will get a permit."

He disputed the idea that a development there would cut back drastically on the city's open space, saying only a fraction of 157-acre site would be built on and that the barren walls would be re-vegetated.

"It's never going to revert," he said. "The more housing we put there, quite frankly, the better maintenance there will be of that slope. The funding will be there to do it."

Yet he admitted of the planned foliage, "It'll grow quickly, there's no question about it."

What exactly will grow is another question. During the Friday hike, Schooley worried that residents of sprawling neighborhoods will be increasingly nervous about controlled burns needed to beat back scrub brush that could overtake lupine and other native species. A 2003 burn consumed 55 more acres than planned and came within 100 feet of nearby homes.

At the same time, Schooley said the habitat's original denizens have shown unexpected resiliency, including about 12 kinds of ants that are at war with South American invaders.

"They're fighting them off," he said of the frisky native insects, demonstrating their toughness by provoking them with a stick and, moments later, frantically blowing them off his hand.

"This kind of open space in the northern part of the county is rare," said Ken McIntire, 58, of Kings Mountain, who also joined the hike. "Once the housing is put in there, it's going to be there till the next major earthquake."

McIntire is set to become the executive director of San Bruno Mountain Watch next month when Philip Batchelder, 37, steps down to pursue a degree in environmental law.

McIntire said the value of open space to the region is worth more than the benefit of housing that probably would serve mostly commuters to San Francisco.

"The people really have a psychological need to be in contact with nature," he said. "We could fill the whole area with housing and malls. Then what's our quality of life? What's the value of our civilization?"

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers the North County. Reach him at (650) 348-4473 or

Trekking through history: Mountain hikes to explore: San Bruno Mountain excursion investigates ancient Ohlone village

Publisher: San Mateo County Times
Reporter: Todd Brown

For more than 5,000 years, a group of Ohlone Indians called San Bruno Mountain home. As hunter-gatherers, they ate shellfish, discarding the remains in piles known as shellmounds. They migrated seasonally to gather acorns and other foods, but kept a permanent encampment on the mountain's Bay side.

Two hundred and thirty-seven years after Don Gaspar de Portola's expedition brought the first Europeans to San Francisco Bay, the village of Siplichiquin is long gone, its inhabitants killed by disease or taken to Mission Dolores to serve as farm slaves for the Spanish settlers there. Yet bits of evidence remain.

"Unless you notice there are shells on the ground or know to look for fire-cracked rock along the creek, you would have no idea, really, that there was a village there for 5,000 continuous years," said Philip Batchelder, executive director of San Bruno Mountain Watch. "And yet you look all around ... and see what's happened in the last 200 years. It says an awful lot about our different relationship to the land."

Batchelder's group plans four summer hikes to explore the village remnants and the native flora the Ohlone relied on. The first trip departs Saturday morning from downtown Brisbane. The moderate, three- to four-hour hike will include a stop at the shellmound and a walk in Buckeye Canyon.

Environmentalists and contemporary American Indians worked together to maintain the ancient village, where Ohlone remains are still buried.

"When I stand on that hill - I could see the ancestors there, and they're summoning somebody for help," said Patrick Orozco, tribal chairman of the Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indian Council in Watsonville, with 300 members on its tribal roll. He believes the site could be as much as 10,000 years old.

"That mountain was something that meant a lot to the Siplichiquin people," he said.

Orozco and Mountain Watch co-founder David Schooley paired up to preserve the village. In 1997 developer SunChase G.A. California I agreed to protect the site, which actually includes two shellmounds, a main area and a smaller plot uphill that Orozco said may have been used by a shaman for ceremonies.

Myers Development, which built the Terrabay housing tracts on the mountain's South San Francisco side, also agreed to preservation. In 2004 the county and the Trust for Public Land bought about 25 acres on the eastern slope by Highway 101, where the village was. The site is now part of San Bruno Mountain State and County Park.

The land trust dates Siplichiquin to 3,200 B.C., which Batchelder said makes it the oldest of about 425 shellmound villages identified in the Bay Area. He said anthropologists found dozens of human burials at Siplichiquin, which they interpreted as evidence of hundreds of remains still unexcavated. (CORRECTION-THIS IS ONE OF THE OLDEST REMAINING SITES; THERE WERE OTHERS THAT WERE OLDER.)

Orozco said the Ohlone ate oysters, clams, abalone, crabs, sea snails and other shellfish. They piled the shells in heaps that, when ground down, are called midden.

Although few native oysters are found in the Bay today, Batchelder said the shore was suitable habitat for plenty of oyster beds before European settlement and the silting of the Bay.

Today, he said all that is left of the original Peninsula bay shore is the inland part of Shearwater in South City, a contaminated channel that runs by the Oyster Point interchange, and a bit of rock jutting out of Brisbane Lagoon.

"Ohlone" is a term for all the coastal tribelets in the greater Bay Area and replaced the Conquistadors' term "Costanoan," meaning people of the coast, in the '60s and '70s. The tribelets, with their own unique dialects, took their names from individual villages from Big Sur to the Golden Gate and from the Central Valley to the Pacific coast.

"A lot of the people today trace themselves back to the village they come from," Orozco said, adding that the word Ohlone might have come from an Ano Nuevo village at the San Mateo-Santa Cruz county border.

Ohlones are still fighting to be recognized by the U.S. government. Rather than identifying with a reservation, many have worked to preserve ancient burial sites uncovered during construction on Yerba Buena Island, in San Jose and elsewhere.

Orozco said his grandmother, Rose Rio, who shared ancient songs with him in their original language, inspired him to preserve his ancestors' culture.

"Her last words to me were, 'You have learned all that I have taught you. Now go. Teach our people the language, our stories, and this way they will know we are still here.'"

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers Brisbane, Colma, Daly City and South San Francisco. Reach him at (650) 348-4473 or

Where have all the butterflies gone? Last year, surprisingly large numbers of painted ladies migrated through Northern California -- this year, few have shown up

Publisher: San Francisco Chronicle
Reporter: Jane Kay

Wild fluctuations in California's winter and spring weather have hurt fragile butterfly populations, causing numbers to fall to the lowest in more than three decades and increasing the concerns of scientists about long-term declines linked to climate change and habitat loss.

UC Davis Professor Arthur Shapiro, considered one of the most prominent butterfly trackers in North America, said Monday he has found fewer butterflies this year than at anytime since he came to California 35 years ago.

"We have a severe depression of butterfly numbers at the lower elevations in Northern California, particularly in the Central Valley. We don't know if local populations are extinct or have dropped to low levels that we're unlikely to detect,'' he said.

Shapiro, an entomologist and professor of evolution and ecology, monitors 10 locations from Suisun Marsh to the Sierra Nevada and maintains one of the two largest butterfly databases in the world. The other is the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

At most of the study sites, he has seen half or less than half the number of species typically present at this time in an average year. Near Vacaville at Gates Canyon in April 2005, he found 21 species and 378 individual butterflies. But last month he counted 10 species and 43 individual butterflies.

Many species already appear to be suffering from a serious long-term decline because of several factors, including changes in climate and loss of habitat, he said.

"This short-term anomaly has really kicked the populations while they're down and may have accelerated their decline,'' said Shapiro.

Species hit hard this year include the sooty wing, the large marble, the mourning cloak, Lorquin's admiral, the small checkered skipper, the sandhill skipper, the field skipper, the buckeye, the eastern tailed blue, the silvery blue and the migratory painted lady.

This is what Shapiro thinks is happening with many species:

The temperature in the state didn't drop enough to give the butterflies a certain amount of chilling, the cue to end their winter dormancy, be it in the form of larvae, pupae, egg or adult. They remained dormant and died because they couldn't take advantage of the food available during the one week of very warm weather in February in the Bay Area and Central Valley. The few that might have emerged in March probably died in the cold, wet conditions.

Jessica Hellmann, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Notre Dame who researches butterflies throughout North America, has reviewed Shapiro's data and said it is critical in determining long-term changes in butterfly populations.

"We have similar observations for 2006 in California," Hellman said. "It is only because Art has 35 years of data that we can say 2006 is bad and is worse than it's been in a long time.

"Without long-term records, we can't quantify the growing influence of humans on biological diversity."

Hellmann and other scientists have published studies on checkerspot butterflies, showing, among other findings, that extinctions of two local populations were hastened by increasing variability in rain, a phenomenon predicted by global warming models.

Last year, the orange-and-black painted lady stunned Northern Californians by turning up in a migration of millions, if not billions. But this year, only a few painted ladies are known to have arrived, and earlier than normal, according to UC Davis scientists.

Painted ladies typically breed once in the late winter in the Mojave Desert, then in the Bay Area and the Central Valley and then in the Pacific Northwest, all in a year's time as the generations move north.

This year they appeared to have given up trying to breed in the southern deserts because of the unusually dry weather that didn't produce the plants that the butterflies needed in their caterpillar stage, scientists believe. They flew to Northern California earlier than usual and tried to breed with no apparent success, Shapiro said. He doesn't know yet whether they reached the Pacific Northwest.

"There doesn't appear to be any organized migration on the west side of Sierra,'' he said, adding that he has seen only one painted lady this year in the Sacramento-Davis area and has received reports of only three others in the area. But he cautioned that just because they're not here doesn't mean there aren't painted ladies elsewhere. This particular species typically expands in some areas while contracting in others, he said.

Six feet of snow still blankets parts of the Sierra, so Shapiro hasn't been able to count butterflies on the 7,000-foot Donner Summit or the 9,000-foot Castle Peak north of Donner Summit. Over the years, he has found the greatest number of butterfly species -- 115 -- at Donner Summit.

This year's anomalous late arrival of butterflies goes against the longer-term trend. Many species this year are running four to six weeks later than normal instead of the three weeks earlier that his long-term data show, he said.

Based on his long-term database, the analysis of 23 species over 31 years found that many of the butterflies are coming out earlier in the spring than in the past. Shapiro and one of his students, Matt Forister, correlated the earlier appearance with trends in the weather data in the Sacramento-Davis area.

For those species that had a statistically significant earlier appearance, the average shift was 24 days earlier. Any shift can disrupt the butterflies' survival. There's a synchronicity in nature, and many butterflies need to have certain plants available during a certain time in their life cycle.

Shapiro said that for many years he "pooh-poohed the evidence that butterfly populations were going downhill. But all that changed in 1999, when a whole bunch of low-elevation species showed an unmistakable drop-off, and the decline has continued.''

But he remains optimistic that the butterflies will survive. "Butterflies have been around for 40 or 50 million years,'' he said, "so they've been through it before.''

The painted lady

Painted ladies breed on desert annuals in Death Valley, then migrate north to breed again in the Bay Area and Central Valley.

This year, the dry desert produced few plants, and the butterflies apparently stopped breeding. Only a few have been seen in Northern California.

Hardest hit species of butterflies

Scientists blame the state's wild weather in 2006 for the worst year for butterflies in 35 years. UC Davis scientists are seeing half or less than half the number of species present at this time in an average year and far fewer individuals. The mild winter disrupted the lifecyles of some species, and the resulting change in the food supply affected others.

Butterfly species hit the hardest:

Sooty wing
Large marble
Mourning cloak
Lorquin's admiral
Small checkered skipper
Sandhill skipper
Field skipper
Eastern tailed blue
Silvery blue
Migratory painted lady

Source: UC Davis

E-mail Jane Kay at

Cougar sightings signal changes

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Kate Williamson


A mountain lion has been seen intermittently on San Bruno Mountain, injuring no one but clearly demonstrating the environmental change afoot on protected hillsides.

It's thought to be a young male. It's been seen in the saddle are," said Patrick Kobernus, a senior biologist with Thomas Reid Associates, which manages 3,000 acres on the mountain protected as endangered butterfly habitat.

The mountain lion was first seen on the mountain in October 2004 during a project to pull out gorse weeds, according to San Mateo County parks and recreation planner Sam Herzberg. A sign to warn visitors was erected then, but otherwise the event passed unheralded.

It was seen again in the fall of 2005. Both times, it has been seen in an area highly use by visitors and families, but no attacks, or even other sightings, have been reported. People have seen tracks and scat containing rabbit from the animal, Herzberg said.

Kobernus and Herzberg speculated that it might be coming and going from the Crystal Springs area west of Interstate 280 and crossing Colma's cemeteries, where food offerings to ancestors attract animals. It is not known whether it is related to the animal killed last month in a car accident on I-280.

It is not the only new visitor to the mountain. A black-tailed mule deer was seen there three months ago, perhaps the first deer seen on the mountain since the 1960s, Herzberg said. Formerly, the land was home to hers of cattle, and to tule elk before that. A bobcat was also seen recently, according to Philip Batchelder, executive director of the environmentalist group San Bruno Mountain Watch.

The visitors highlight changes coming to the mountain. Some would like to see a return of grazing animals, Batchelder said. Without them, and without the fires that used to rage across the mountain, brushy growth possibly fertilized by nitrogen from car exhaust has been overtaking the native grasslands vital to the endangered butterfly's survival, Kobernus said.

But that cannot happen without approval of a change to the habitat conservation plan, which governs the mountain under the federal Endangered Species Act, Kobernus said. The changes would give Thomas Reid Associates more than $300,000 a year to manage the mountain beyond the roughly $140,000 they get at present, through a development agreement in Brisbane that would trade the money for the loss of approximately five acres of butterfly habitat to home development.

The changes have been waiting more than two years for the county to study the process and approve $130,000 in funding for TRA to work on the plan revisions after a first draft was rejected by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Kobernus said. But the county is set to commit those funds this spring, county officials said.

Politics, music to rock Brisbane

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Kate Williamson

South San Francisco, Calif. -

It will be a rollicking week in both politics and music for fans of San Bruno Mountain, as officials consider a housing proposal for a hillside quarry while conservationists prep for a bluegrass fundraiser.

Tonight, the Brisbane City Council will chose whether to hear and accept a proposal to develop 183 housing units in the Guadalupe Valley Quarry, which some view as a bad neighbor for its tendency to generate extensive dust so close to the village and sensitive mountain ecosystems.

San Bruno Mountain constitutes more than 3,000 acres of highland open space ringed by South San Francisco, Colma, Daly City and Brisbane, and is home to four species of endangered butterflies and a host of other native plant and animal life.

The proposal by California Rock & Asphalt Inc., David Johnson and Bradley Johnson has been controversial from the get-go, with residents and activists protesting that, while they'd like to lose the quarry, they're not keen on a permanent residential development in its place.

Tonight's discussion will involve whether to change the city's general plan to allow residential use of the quarry, a necessary step toward annexing the county-governed land and allowing the project.

In so doing, the council must consider that residential-only use runs counter to current development theories promoting mixed-use projects, according to a staff report. The council will also vote on an agreement related to putting the project on the ballot, a requirement for quarry development.

Meanwhile, the community action groups Friends of San Bruno Mountain and San Bruno Mountain Watch will host local bluegrass band The San Bruno Mountain Boys in a donations-requested show March 25 to support a new greenhouse for native plant restoration. The Friends' old nursery in South City's Orange Park was demolished as part of park rehabilitation, Mountain Watch Executive Director Philip Batchelder said. The groups already have approvals for the new Bayshore Boulevard site donated by the Universal Paragon company.

"We're shooting for $15,000 to get it up and running," Batchelder said. "We're [also] going to need a lot of volunteer labor to help build it."

The San Bruno Mountain Boys are a 20-year-old occasional band put together by San Francisco resident Doug Holloway, who said the membership has firmed up in the past five years. He named the band after the mountain because bluegrass bands are often named for mountains, and San Bruno Mountain is a precious habitat that needs preservation, he said.

Council OKs quarry housing EIR: Brisbane project's environmental impact report gets city's thumbs up

Publisher: San Mateo County Times
Reporter: Julia Scott

BRISBANE -- The City Council took a big step Monday night toward seeing housing built in a steep quarry pit, a project that has stirred great controversy among residents.

By a vote of 4 to 1, with Clark Conway dissenting, the council approved an environmental impact report (EIR) that analyzed the effects of building housing or other options in the bottom of the still-active quarry, an eyesore carved into the side of San Bruno Mountain that generates dust and erodes wildlife habitat.

Due to a massive power outage caused by a fierce storm, much of Monday night's meeting took place under the glow of halogen lamps, as an audience of a couple of dozen people looked on.

The EIR labeled the housing plan an "environmentally superior alternative" for the site, in comparison to other options: a business complex, a greater number of homes than currently proposed, or allowing the quarry to continue operating until 2043, when its reserve would be exhausted. In approving the EIR, the City Council certified that it had been provided with the best information available about the feasibility of developing the site.

In 2001, the quarry's owner, California Rock & Asphalt, put forward a proposal to cease operations and build a housing complex, with 129 single-family units and 54 townhouses. In 2004, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the plan, and the City Council began holding public hearings on it the following year.

The 144-acre quarry began operation in 1895. Its steep walls, cut into horizontal steps, are 1,100 feet high in some places.

Conway, who has spoken out against the housing proposal in the past, found the EIR inadequate because it did not give equal weight to an analysis of other alternatives for the site that had been proposed by the community, such as a nature education center to complement the nature trails that wind through San Bruno Mountain.

Although such a project would be difficult to fund, Conway said it should still be considered. But Owen Poole, speaking for the applicant, said it would not be nearly as profitable as building housing on the land.

"It's a private property and the owner is not willing to entertain those (alternatives)," said Poole.

"He's maneuvering the EIR to find housing as the best alternative," said Conway.

Brisbane residents have disagreed over what to do with the quarry, but they have always opposed a housing project. In 2001, then-applicant SummerHill Homes withdrew its proposal under a wave of opposition. California Rock & Asphalt later stepped in.

That was the year the city passed an ordinance giving Brisbane's 3,800 residents the right to approve or veto any housing project proposed for the quarry, which will come into effect if City Council approves the necessary housing permits. The property would also need to be annexed from the county.

Dozens of Brisbane residents have testified at public hearings on the quarry plan since September 2005. They have expressed serious concerns with everything from traffic congestion and feral cats, to the homes' safety if an earthquake hits, to the impact on native butterfly habitat on San Bruno Mountain -- concerns they believed the EIR did not adequately address.

At a public hearing in early February, former Councilman Lee Panza said he did not think the that an earthquake-simulation exercise conducted by a city-commissioned geotechnical firm, which consisted of throwing large boulders down some of the steepest slopes of the quarry, effectively simulated the level of devastation a high-magnitude quake could produce above the houses lying at the bottom of the pit. "The experts are saying it's safe, but the mechanics of a progressive failure are much too chaotic to model with a computer program," said Panza.

The EIR stated that the effects of an earthquake could be reduced to "less than significant" levels, provided the developer took a number of steps, including re-grading parts of the rock wall, removing loose fill from the pit of the quarry, and adding a 130-foot "catchment basin" -- essentially a moat -- to the bottom of the quarry slopes to stop falling rocks from reaching the homes.

Several species of federally listed endangered butterfly depend on the mountain's flora to survive, such as the Mission blue and the San Bruno elfin.

At quarry hearings, representatives of local environmental group San Bruno Mountain Watch expressed concerns that construction at the quarry site would introduce invasive plant species.

Here, too, the EIR said the problem could be mitigated if several native plants were replaced, a trampled watercourse rebuilt and pets and people were prevented from walking through sensitive areas.

Many other residents raised other concerns throughout the public hearing process, and Mayor Cy Bologoff said that he had heard them all.

"I don't have a problem with putting the project to the people for a vote. It's their right," he said. "The developer with have to live with the result.

Staff writer Julia Scott can be reached at 348-4340 or at

Opposition remains to quarry housing plan

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Matthew Artz

BRISBANE Most residents want to replace the 600-foot quarry carved into San Bruno Mountain that kicks up 2,268 pounds of dust into the air every day and acts as a barrier to native butterflies.

They just aren't sure that a proposed 183-unit housing development is the way to go.

Today, the City Council begins a series of public hearings on the quarry project proposed by Western Pacific Homes. Should the council certify the Environmental Impact Report and issue permits, Brisbane voters, under a 2001 ordinance, would then vote on the project.

"There are no easy answers," Mayor Cy Bologoff said. "This will definitely impact our community"

The 129 single-family homes and 54 townhouses proposed would bring about 500 new residents to a town of just under 4,000. It would be the second major mountainside development in the past two decades. In 1989, the city approved more than 500 housing units atop a ridge, Councilmember Steve Waldo said.

"With housing, the county gets the property taxes and we have to provide more services," said Paul Bouscal, a Brisbane resident and member of San Bruno Mountain Watch. He and other opponents of the plan have dominated public comment at hearings before the council and the Planning Commission.

But opponents face a dilemma: Their proposed alternative � nature trails and an environmental education center� is for now infeasible and the more viable options, housing, a light industrial park or renewed quarry operations� aren't attractive to them. The property is currently zoned for light industrial uses.

Bouscal, who favors housing over the light industrial option, said the San Bruno Mountain Watch hoped to raise an endowment to buy the 144-acre property he said is estimated at $50 million.

Quarry operations have ceased and the site has most recently been used to recycle concrete, Bologoff said. He added that the council planned to hold several public hearings on the issue and didn't expect a ballot vote until 2007.

The environmental report, completed last year, concluded that housing would pose fewer adverse environmental impacts than a light industrial park or renewed quarrying.

Councilmembers, though, want assurances that the development would be immune from major rockslides and could withstand a powerful earthquake.

"Whether it is safe or not is a question," Waldo said.

In 2001 the council approved an ordinance giving residents the right to vote on any housing project approved for the quarry. The housing developers have offered public amenities to the city and school district, and backed a proposal to re-create a wetland if the development is approved.

Correction: The developers are not officially supporting the wetlands proposal.

San Mateo Supes Support Endangered Species Act

Publisher: Bay City News
Reporter: No Byline


In a unanimous vote, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution Tuesday in support of the Endangered Species Act.

The 33-year-old act "provides for the conservation of species that are endangered or threatened with extinction and the conservation of the ecosystems on which they depend," according to Supervisor Jerry Hill.

Since it was passed in 1973, the act has worked as a "safety net" helping to protect many species on the brink of extinction, Hill said. "This community has demonstrated time and again its commitment to protecting the environment."

The San Bruno Mountain Park houses several endangered species including, the San Bruno Elfin, Mission Blue, Callippe Silverspot, and Bay Checkerspot butterflies, according to the San Mateo County Web site.

Another threatened species, the San Francisco Tree Lupin Moth, once inhabited San Bruno Mountain Park, but urban development decimated the population, according to the county Web site.

The Endangered Species Act has "done more to preserve the quality of life in San Mateo County," said Brent Plater, staff attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity.

Hill stated that "over 200 species in the Bay Area alone, many of them residing in San Mateo County refuges such as Montara Mountain, Edgewood Preserve, San Bruno Mountain and the wetlands of Rockaway beach and those adjacent to Belle Air Elementary School in San Bruno, are officially designated species of concern."

While many support the Endangered Species Act, U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, has spearheaded legislation that looks to modify the act.

Pombo's bill, which was passed by the House in September, would revise various sections of the Endangered Species Act "relating to determinations of endangered or threatened species, recovery plans for such species, and the role of states and private property owners in protecting such species," according to the bill.

"The Endangered Species Act is not perfect, but gutting such a vital protection is not the answer," Hill said. "Protections are working."

Plater said there is other legislation currently in circulation that follows a similar path as Pombo's bill, but that Pombo's is "the most drastic."

"He has an ideological belief that endangered species should not be protected," Plater said.

More information on endangered species in San Mateo County can be found on the Web site,

Taking a walk through history

Publisher: San Mateo Times

By Rebekah Gordon, STAFF WRITER

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- NATIVE AMERICANS AND their supporters have been walking the Bay Area since Nov. 7 to raise awareness that their ancient burial grounds could be beneath our feet.

Trekking their way north along El Camino Real on Friday on the Peninsula, they gathered at the base of San Bruno Mountain at one of the area's largest untouched Native American burial sites, called shellmounds. The site will soon find itself next to the mixed-use Terrabay development.

The Sacred Site Shellmound Peace Walk began Nov. 7 in Vallejo at a shellmound in Glen Cove.

"We're educating a lot of people, and that's the most important thing," said Johnella La Rose, 47, a walk coordinator. "Everybody can relate to their grandmother's grave."
A core group of 25 have been a part of the walk nearly every day. On weekends, the group grows to about 75, La Rose said. They have been joined by Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists.

Native Americans who once lived here were primarily Ohlone and buried their dead in mounds of shells from mollusks they fished from the Bay.

La Rose said an estimated 475 shellmounds stretch as far east as Sacramento and south to San Juan Bautista.

"Tribes all over the country are looking at protecting their natural resources and cultural resources, which are burial sites," said La Rose, who descends from the Shoshone Bannock natives in Idaho and Utah.

Many shellmound sites in the Bay Area already have been built on, she said. While Colma's cemeteries remain untouched, "it's perfectly OK to build on 5,000-year-old grave sites. It's a really sad situation," she said.

La Rose and Perry Matlock, 43, are both members of Indian People Organizing for Change, one of the walk'ssponsors. The group has received food donations
and spends their nights in sleeping bags at churches, elementary schools, offices or private homes.

The group walks 15 to 19 miles a day, said Matlock, who took a month off from work as a trade show installer to participate.

After leaving Vallejo, they crossed the Carquinez Strait to the East Bay, hitting sites in Berkeley and Oakland. They went south through San Leandro and Hayward to an untouched shellmound at Coyote Hills Regional park in Fremont and then crossed through San Jose and Santa Clara before heading north.

At each shellmound site they visit, the group offers up prayers to ancestors.

They will pass through San Francisco to join the International Indian Treaty Council's sunrise gathering at Alcatraz on Thanksgiving, and conclude the walk by participating in a shellmound demonstration at Emeryville's Bay Street shopping center Nov 25.

The group hopes to work with city councils and developers to keep sites preserved or move bodies buried on development sites to nearby graves.

Matlock described shellmounds as one of the few physical manifestations of Native American culture that remains in the area.

"Basically, we want peace for the shellmounds," Matlock said. "We don't want it excavated anymore."

Staff writer Rebekah Gordon can be reached at (650) 348-4331 or

Quarry issue back before City Council

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Christine Lias

BRISBANE - The contested issue of whether to build more than 180 housing units in a former quarry is scheduled to be back before the City Council tonight after a two-month hiatus.

The council will specifically address questions and concerns raised in September from the environmental impact report. At least one member of the council, Cy Bologoff, said he expects it will be a long night and could be carried over to another meeting.

"The council has a lot of questions," Bologoff said.

So does the public. One of the more vocal opponents has been the nonprofit San Bruno Mountain Watch, which fights development on the mountainside. Executive Director Philip Batchelder sent a city a 16-page letter, written by his attorney, outlining questions raised during the Sept. 12 meeting.

He also predicts the meeting will require a sequel, Batchelder said. The council has yet to approve the environmental report, and action is not scheduled for tonight's meeting.

At issue are plans, years in the making, to build 129 single-family homes and 54 condominiums on land owned by California Rock and Asphalt Inc. Twenty-eight of the units will be sold as affordable housing.

The "One Quarry Road Residential Project" would entail the discontinuation of quarry operations and reclamation of land. Along with housing, the project calls for a soccer field, new walking trail, habitat restoration and $7.2 million gift to the city for "community benefits."

Bologoff said he still has not made up his mind whether to approve quarry housing, he's just trying to get through the environmental report. After the council approves that document, and a subsequent construction report, the item will be placed before voters. That action could happen as early as June.

Councilman-elect Clarke Conway said he opposes housing in the quarry. Four years ago, while previously on the council, he proposed that any quarry development require an official ballot vote. Conway said he would be present at tonight's meeting to "get up to speed" with the current debate before replacing lame duck Councilmember Lee Panza later this month.

Steve Waldo, elected Nov. 8 to fill the remaining two years of an empty seat, said during campaigning that he favors a citywide vote and, if approved, wants "reasonable assurance" from developers regarding future residents' safety.

City staff point to one example of a quarry reclaimed for housing: Monte Vista's 404 units being built at Leona Quarry in Oakland.


Brisbane residents unite against housing in quarry: Developer wants to build home on site in San Bruno Mountain

Publisher: San Mateo County Times
Reporter: Julia Scott

BRISBANE - When City Council members put together the city's General Plan in 1994, they knew that the steep, 600-foot quarry set into San Bruno Mountain soon would cease operation. With the city facing growth, the council made a prescient decision: No housing would be built in the quarry.

Eleven years later, a developer has submitted a proposal to build a 183-unit housing development on the floor of the quarry.Brisbane residents testified against a similar proposal in 2001 that fell through.

But on Monday night, the City Council held a public hearing on a new plan to construct 129 single-family dwellings and 54 townhouses on a portion of the 144-acre quarry property, surrounded by an amphitheater of deep-cut rock benches that have existed since the quarry's origin in the 1890s.

Twenty citizens gave their opinion on the housing proposal at the meeting. They all opposed it. But they agreed something had to be done about the quarry, which is now used as remixing facility for concrete. Residents have long complained of the dust the operation produces, which can drift over parts of the city.

"I think everyone in this room agrees we want to see the quarry go away. But I don't want to see it go to housing," said Clark Conway, Brisbane resident and former council member.

Unique ordinance

Under a unique city ordinance passed in 2001, Brisbane's 3,800 residents have the right to vote on any housing project proposed for the quarry. The vote will only take place if the City Council approves all the necessary permits.

On Monday, council members were asked to approve an environmental impact report that looked at several scenarios for the site - the housing project, an office park, or leaving the quarry alone to continue operations. It concluded that the housing option was the most environmentally sound plan - provided that the developer, Western Pacific Homes, makes substantial efforts to protect the three endangered butterfly species that live on parts of the site and throughout San Bruno Mountain.

There is also the issue of a major landslide or earthquake, which could cause boulders to shake loose from the steep quarry slopes and substantially damage the homes below. To minimize a potential catastrophe, the developer would have to cut and rebench the quarry slopes and build a thick wall at the bottom of the mountain to catch any debris.

Councilman Lee Panza said he thought the environmental report did not account for all the dangers of living so close to the sensitive site. "Kids will get through those chain-link fences, and they will climb on those slopes," he said.

Different plan

A local environmental group, San Bruno Mountain Watch, has other plans for the site.

"We believe it can be substantially rehabilitated," said Philip Batchelder, a
spokesman for the group. "Either it should be left to heal itself, or it should be of broader value to the community."

That alternative vision includes a natural history museum, a research center, nature trails and a botanical garden. The group has approached the Peninsula Open Space Trust for help in purchasing the land. (PHILIP'S NOTE: I SAID WE ARE CONSIDERING APPROACHING OTHER ORGANIZATIONS FOR HELP, INCLUDING P.O.S.T.)

Citing the need for more information about the impacts of an earthquake on the quarry and other issues, the council put off a decision about the environmental report until the next public hearing on Nov. 14.

Mayor Sepi Richardson signaled her willingness to give the developer due consideration but wondered aloud whether the issue already had been settled to the public's satisfaction.

"If we voted in a General Plan not to have housing, why do we even want to go there?" she said.

Brisbane City Council delays vote on quarry

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Christine Lias

BRISBANE - A contested City Council decision to convert an existing quarry on San Bruno Mountain into more than 180 residential units has been delayed for another two months.

Council members Monday night failed to act on an environmental impact report for the proposed development at 1 Quarry Road.

Community Development Director Bill Prince said the council had several unanswered questions and will revisit the issue Nov. 14.

"We don't consider it complete," Mayor Sepi Richardson said Tuesday of the environmental report.

The council did, however, receive an earful from concerned residents and environmental groups such as the San Bruno Mountain Watch, which has publicly opposed any development.

Among the many issues raised was the fate of the mission blue butterfly, which is classified as an endangered species and calls San Bruno Mountain its home. Ted Sayre, a geologist with Cotton, Shires & Associates consulting firm, discussed the threat of falling rocks and the potential damage a major earthquake would inflict upon future homes.

Jo Coffey of San Francisco, a member of San Bruno Mountain Watch, cited five land-use policies specified by the Association of Bay Area Governments. She said the proposed housing development will need infrastructure, lacks public transportation and will be too expensive to purchase.

"It will significantly change the character of Brisbane," Coffey told the council.


Quarry conversion sparks debate: Critics complain housing plan lacks transit hub

Publisher: San Francisco Examiner
Reporter: Christine Lias

BRISBANE -- The Brisbane City Council will hold the first of what could become many public hearings tonight to discuss converting a quarry into more than 180 residential units and more than 100 acres of open space.

A group of environmentalists called San Bruno Mountain Watch are against it. The Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club is voicing concerns as well.

At issue are plans years in the making to convert land now occupied by the California Rock and Asphalt Inc. and build 129 single-family homes and 54 condominiums, 28 of which will be sold as affordable housing to low-income residents.

The "One Quarry Road Residential Project" would entail the discontinuation of quarry operations and reclamation of land. Along with the housing, it calls for a soccer field, new trail, habitat restoration and a gift of $7.2 million to the city for "community benefits."

"We support the city looking at in-fill development, but it has to be done in the right place," said Melissa Hippard, director of the local Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. Hippard said she has concerns with the number of residents--and the number of vehicles--such a development would bring to Brisbane.

"You would put a dense population of residents reliant upon their car" without a transit-oriented hub such as a Caltrain station or BART stop, Hippard said.

The grass-roots San Bruno Mountain Watch, which has been vocal in its opposition, has posted a simple message on its Web site. "Massive building in the heart of the mountain? No way! Save it for something much, much better. Let it heal."

The project first surfaced in spring 2001 with a draft environmental impact review and subsequent response, comments and finalization. The Brisbane Planning Commission, after months of discussion, unanimously approved the plans January 27.

The site is currently part of unincorporated San Mateo County and would require annexation and approval by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Brisbane Community Center, 250 Visitacion Ave.

It will be broadcast live on cable Channel 27.

CEQA Complaint: Bayshore Condo Project

Publisher: San Bruno Mountain Watch
Reporter: No Byline


Attorney At Law

5 Manor Place

Menlo Park, California 94025

(650) 322-5652

Attorney for Petitioner










Real Parties in Interest.





1. On August 1, 2005, the City of Brisbane approved Use Permit UP-1-02, Design Permit DP-1-02, and Use Permit UP-1-03 for a 30-unit residential condominium complex at 3710-3760 Bayshore Boulevard (project), and adopted a negative declaration for the project.

2. Members of the public submitted evidence demonstrating that the project would have a potential significant impact on the environment. Among other things, the evidence showed that the project site was characterized by landsliding, erosion, and seismic instability, and that the project itself could destabilize slopes above it.

3. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the lead agency must prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for a project when there is substantial evidence that the project may have an adverse impact on the environment. The evidence in this case goes well beyond this low threshold. The City violated the law in failing to require an EIR for the project. But that was not all. The City also violated CEQA by deferring the formulation of mitigations until after project approval, by failing to adequately describe the project and its mitigations, by proposing mitigations that are not supported by substantial evidence, and by failing to prepare an adequate mitigation monitoring plan.

4. The Petitioner requests this Court to issue a writ of mandate setting aside the City's approval of the project and its adoption of a negative declaration.


5. Petitioner San Bruno Mountain Watch is a non-profit California corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection, and restoration of San Bruno Mountain and its unique resources. Mountain Watch informs and educates the public regarding environmental, cultural, and historic issues relating to San Bruno Mountain. Mountain Watch has 2,100 members. Mountain Watch members are interested in the survival and recovery of wildlife species, including endangered and threatened species, and are interested in protecting their habitat. Mountain Watch acts in the belief that the San Francisco Bay forms an integral part of the broader San Bruno Mountain setting, and advocates for maximal preservation of historic, bayside open space. Members of Mountain Watch, including citizens, taxpayers, property owners, and residents, live, work, travel, and recreate near San Bruno Mountain, and value the natural resources that would be impacted by the proposed project.

6. Respondent City of Brisbane is a city organized under the laws of the State of California.

7. Respondent City of Brisbane Planning And Community Development Department is a department of the City of Brisbane. Respondents will be collectively referred to as the City.

8. The true names and capacities, whether individual, corporate, or otherwise, of DOES I through X are unknown to Petitioner, who therefore sues said Respondents by such fictitious names. Petitioner will seek leave to amend this petition when they have been ascertained.

9. Real parties in interest Charles Ng, Judy Ng, and Best Design and Construction Co. are listed in the initial study as the project's sponsors.

10. The true names and capacities, whether individual, corporate, or otherwise, of DOES XI through XX, are unknown to Petitioner who therefore sues said real parties in interest by such fictitious names. Petitioner will seek leave to amend this petition when they have been ascertained.

11. The project consists of 30 residential condominium units in a two-building complex. The project site of approximately 127, 070 square feet is situated on a very steep northeast facing slope on the flanks of San Bruno Mountain fronting on Bayshore Boulevard. It rises steeply from Bayshore Boulevard at an average slope of 66%. The buildings would be stepped into the hillside, requiring thousands of cubic yards of cut and a series of retaining walls.

12. Proposed site development is constrained by steep to precipitous slopes, landslide hazards and anticipated strong seismic ground shaking.

13. The applicant has hired two geological consulting firms who have prepared a number of reports that conclude that instability of the hillside requires mitigation, including more detailed geologic and geotechnical studies. The final design of necessary slope mitigation measures is to be based on the results of a detailed geotechnical investigation, including exploratory trenching and/or drilling. Establishment of access roads will be necessary for the subsurface exploration program.

14. Based on information, Petitioner believes and therefore alleges that the notice of decision approving the project and its negative declaration was filed on August 4, 2005.

15. Jurisdiction of this court is invoked pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure 1094.5; California Public Resources Code sections 21167, 21168, and 21168.5.

16. Petitioner has performed all conditions precedent to the filing of this Petition by raising issues known to it before the City during the review process of the project. Petitioner requested that the City not approve the project, and has performed all conditions precedent to the other causes of action.

17. At all times mentioned herein, the City has been able to deny the approval of the project, and to require an EIR. Despite such ability, and despite Petitioner's demand for denial, the City has failed and continues to fail to perform its duty to deny the approval and require an EIR.

18. If the City is not ordered to withdraw its approval of the project, and real parties in interest are not enjoined from developing the project, the land and environmental values subject to and affected by the project will suffer immediate, irreparable, and permanent damage.

19. If the City is not ordered to withdraw its approval of the project, and if its decision is not stayed pursuant to CCP section 1094.5, subdivision (g), the land and environmental values subject to and affected by the project will suffer immediate, irreparable, and permanent damage.

20. Real parties will not be prejudiced by an injunction, or alternatively issuance of a stay pending judgment because they will have future opportunities for their project if such operations conform to the law.


First Claim for Relief

21. Pursuant to Public Resources Code section 21100 and CEQA Guidelines 15064, an agency must prepare an environmental impact report whenever there is substantial evidence in the record or it can be fairly argued based on such evidence that a project may have significant impacts on the environment. (Pub. Res. Code, � 21100; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, � 15064.)

22. Under CEQA Guidelines 15065, an agency must prepare an EIR if a project's effects are individually limited, but cumulatively significant. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, � 15064.)

23. There is substantial evidence in the record that the project may have significant adverse impacts on the environment in a number of ways, including but not limited to, impacts from landsliding, erosion, seismic events, the proposed geologic and geotechnical investigations, and the implementation of mitigation measures for slope instability impacts.

24. Because the record contains substantial evidence that the project may have significant impacts on the environment, the City should have required preparation of an EIR. The City violated the law and abused its discretion in approving the project and adopting a mitigated negative declaration. (Pub. Res. Code, �� 21082.2, 21100.)

25. Under CEQA, a lead agency may not hide behind a negative declaration's failure to undertake an analysis of a project's potential significant and cumulative impacts. (E.g., Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296, 311.) In this case there is substantial evidence that the negative declaration failed to undertake the studies necessary to support its conclusions, relating to a number of issues, including but not limited to, landsliding, erosion, seismic events, and slope instability impacts.

Second Claim for Relief

26. A negative declaration must contain an accurate description of the project. That description must contain any and all mitigation measures included in the project to avoid potentially significant impacts. (CEQA Guidelines, � 15071, subd. (a), (e).)

27. The courts have repeatedly emphasized the importance of an accurate and stable project description. (E.g., County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 185; San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 713.)

28. In this case, the description of the project and its mitigations is inadequate under CEQA, because the mitigations for slope instability impacts have not been formulated and are not yet known.

29. The failure to describe the project and its mitigations violated CEQA and constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion. (Pub. Res. Code, � 21168, 21168.5.)

Third Claim for Relief

30. The adequacy of mitigation measures for a project must be supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. (E.g., Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376, 422.)

31. In this case, the mitigated negative declaration proposes future studies and investigations to determine whether slope instability impacts can be mitigated, and, if so, what those mitigations will be.

32. This procedure violated CEQA, because the proposed future mitigations are unknown and therefore are not based on substantial evidence. It constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion. (Pub. Res. Code, � 21168, 21168.5.)

Fourth Claim for Relief

33. It is unlawful under CEQA for an agency to defer the formulation of mitigations until after project approval. (Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296; see CEQA Guidelines, � 15126.4, subd. (a)(1)(B).)

34. In this case, the City approved the project and adopted the negative declaration without first formulating mitigations for the unstable slopes above the project.

35. Instead, the City approved the project conditioned on a number of future studies and investigations intended to determine how to mitigate slope instability impacts. This procedure violated CEQA and constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion. (Pub. Res. Code, �� 21168, 21168.5.)

Fifth Claim for Relief

36. When adopting a mitigated negative declaration, the lead agency shall also adopt a program for reporting on or monitoring the changes which it has either required in the project or made a condition of approval to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects. (Pub. Res. Code, � 21081.6, subd. (a)(1); CEQA Guidelines, �� 15074, subd. (d), 15097.)

37. In this case, the mitigated negative declaration required numerous mitigation measures as conditions for approval. However, the proposed mitigation monitoring program only addresses two of those mitigations. As such, it is a wholly deficient under CEQA and its adoption constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion. (Pub. Res. Code, �� 21168, 21168.5.)

WHEREFORE, Petitioner prays for judgment as follows:

1. For Writ of Mandate ordering the City to set aside its approvals of Use Permit UP-1-02, Design Permit DP-1-02, and Use Permit UP-1-03, and its adoption of a negative declaration, and to prepare an EIR for the project as required by CEQA and its regulations.

2. For a permanent injunction enjoining real parties in interest, their agents, employees, representatives, and all persons acting in concert or participating with them, from engaging in any physical activity at the project site pursuant to the City's approval of the project until such activity has been lawfully approved under California statutes and regulations.

3. Alternatively, for a stay of the City's decision approving the project pending judgment pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5, subdivision (g).

4. For reasonable attorney's fees under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5.

5. For costs of suit.

6. For such other and further relief as the Court deems proper.

Dated: August ___, 2005

Attorney for Petitioner


I, Philip Batchelder, declare as follows: I am a member of Petitioner San Bruno Mountain Watch and am authorized to make this verification.

I have read the foregoing petition and know the contents thereof. The same is true of my own knowledge, except as to those matters stated on information and belief, which I am informed and believe are true, and on that basis allege them to be true.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that this verification was executed on August __, 2005, Brisbane, California.


Philip Batchelder


I am a citizen of the United States and a resident of the County of San Mateo. I am over the age of eighteen years and not a party to the within entitled action; my business address is: 5 Manor Place, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

On August ___, 2005, I served one true copy of PETITION FOR WRIT OF ADMINISTRATIVE MANDATE, PETITIONER'S NOTICE REGARDING PREPARATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD by placing a true copy thereof enclosed in a sealed envelope, and postage thereon fully prepaid, in the United States mail at Menlo Park, California addressed as follows:

Attorney General, Resources Div.

455 Golden Gate Ave., Ste. 11000

San Francisco, CA 94102

Charles and Judy Ng

Best Design and Construction Co.

100-C Old County Rd.

Brisbane, CA 94005

City of Brisbane

City Hall

50 Park Place

Brisbane, CA 94005

I, Paul V. Carroll, declare, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on August ___, 2005, at Menlo Park, California.


Pioneer conservation plan falls short: Promised new habitat for butterflies has not materialized

Publisher: Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
Reporter: Robert McClure

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Under a skeletal roof, Doug Allshouse putters around flats of viola pedunculata.

(Photo: Environmentalist David Schooley, with San Francisco in the background, has led efforts to fix problems with the habitat protection plan at San Bruno Mountain, home to three rare butterfly species.)

To raise the native plants in a native climate, the retired grocer and other volunteers removed every pane of glass from a donated greenhouse.

Viola is critical to the survival of the callippe silverspot, one of three federally protected butterflies on nearby San Bruno Mountain, site of the nation's first habitat conservation plan.

Things aren't going well. A mysterious dormancy period makes viola tricky to raise.

"I'm waiting for Mother Nature to tip her hand and show me what to do," Allshouse said.

It's important work -- the butterflies need more of the plants in order to thrive. Each spring, male callippes patrol ridgelines looking for love. Afterward, females head downslope to lay eggs -- and the only plant that will do is viola.

The hilltops, with their commanding views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean, were given up with great remorse by developers. But the deal they struck with the government allowed houses to rise atop big fields of viola at lower levels.

Declared a "model" conservation plan by Congress when proposed in 1982, San Bruno is in a predicament today that does not inspire confidence in the national program it spawned.

Development continues on the north side of San Bruno Mountain.
The plan here has fallen short. Twenty-three years into its 30-year term, not only has it failed to create the amount of butterfly habitat that was promised, but management of protected lands is being done on the cheap.

The plan's managers say it is a success because the butterflies are still around and their numbers appear to be stable. But a 2004 study by UCLA called the methods used to count butterflies for the plan's first 18 years "haphazard" and labeled the results "spurious."

Money has been set aside to manage the mountain's preserved lands, but it is not enough to fight the waves of invasive weeds crowding out native plants favored by the trio of butterflies: the callippe, the San Bruno elfin and the mission blue.

The San Bruno predicament illustrates how habitat plans, which grant decades-long licenses to kill and harm endangered species, can be difficult to maintain because of unanticipated changes -- both biological and financial.

Despite the challenges, the mountain's allure hasn't faded for Allshouse, who is president of Friends of San Bruno Mountain. "The mountain is magical, and if you let it, it gets you hooked," he said. "It's almost like a spiritual entity."

Officially, the job of taking care of the mountain falls to Patrick Kobernus of Thomas Reid Associates, the environmental consulting firm that hatched the habitat plan and is responsible for making it work.

But Kobernus said he is forced to perform "triage" as dozens of invasive weeds take root -- some of them likely introduced by homeowners in developments bearing street names such as Callippe Court and Silverspot Drive.

"There's been a general lack of understanding of how difficult it is to manage invasive weeds," he said. "Once you set aside land, that's one thing -- but managing it, we're learning, is a much different thing."

The biggest problem is a lack of money. Homeowners pay $37 a year to help the butterflies. That generates about $140,000, but that is nowhere near enough to keep weeds in check on a 5-square-mile mountain.

For all its drawbacks, the San Bruno plan is better than many being approved today. About 90 percent of the mountain's butterfly habitat was preserved in the original deal. Many modern habitat conservation deals allow an acre to be developed for every acre saved, an analysis of the plans shows.

Another difference: This plan didn't come with a now-common "no surprises" clause, which promises developers that they will never have to pay any more money or give up any more land -- even if the population of the species in question plummets.

The plan has fallen short of its promise to replace at least a quarter of the butterfly habitat lost to development. The latest progress report lists 46 acres restored for the butterflies, while houses occupy more than 300 acres.

Environmentalists scoff at the restoration done. "They haven't done (a thing) out there," Allshouse said.

Because this plan must be amended -- the callippe butterfly won protection in 1997, and wasn't covered by the original plan -- Kobernus' firm and San Mateo County officials have a chance to fix some of the shortcomings.

More trade-offs, however, may be in the works. A developer who wants to build houses in existing butterfly habitat has proposed boosting the butterfly-protection assessment to $800 for each new house. If allowed, that would triple the total collected under the plan to about $420,000 a year, officials say.

Allshouse and other conservationists are wary. Habitat conservation plans "sound kind of warm and fuzzy," Allshouse said. "What you end up finding out is that (they) don't end up benefiting the endangered species at all. They just allow people to destroy their habitat."

Protecting the Mountain

Publisher: City College of San Francisco, Center for Habitat Restoration
Reporter: Philip Batchelder

San Bruno Mountain - Big Island in a Big City
San Bruno Mountain hides in plain sight between San Francisco
and South San Francisco. As the nation's largest
urban open space, and as the largest remaining portion of
the Franciscan ecosystem, the mountain is large and wild
enough to harbor hundreds of species of flora and fauna,
some of which live nowhere else. Ohlone village sites,
rare native bunchgrass meadows, extraordinary wildflower
displays, and deep canyons with a variety of plant communities,
including oak, bay, and buckeye woodlands; all this
can be found on the mountain in the midst of millions of
people. These treasures have faced numerous threats since Spaniards first drove out the Ohlone and began pasturing
cattle. The privately owned portions still face outright
destruction for development, while the State and
County Park suffers from fire suppression, the absence of
grazing deer and elk, exotic weeds, inadequate funding,
and mismanagement. The mountain's ecosystem, while still
breathtakingly beautiful, is under tremendous strain, and
its advocates are as busy as ever.

Defending the Mountain
The modern movement to protect the mountain began in
the late sixties as landowners proposed ever more ambitious
building schemes. Bette Higgins, David Schooley, and
others began organizing the Committee to Save San Bruno
Mountain, which would later become San Bruno Mountain
Watch. Other early defenders included botanists Elizabeth
McClintock and James Roof as well as countless local citizens
who participated in policy debates, elections, lawsuits,
marches, media activism, and direct action to curb
urban sprawl. The discovery of the rare Mission Blue, San
Bruno Elfin, and San Francisco Silverspot butterflies and
their subsequent listings under the Federal Endangered
Species Act were watershed events that dramatically altered
the course of the mountain's history.
Over the years, there have been recalls of local elected
officials, lawsuits against agencies charged with enforcing
environmental laws, rancorous public meetings, and a
stream of development projects. There have been spectacular
victories, such as the establishment of the State
and County Park, the preservation of Owl and Buckeye
Canyons, and the recent purchase of an ancient Ohlone
shellmound and village site for addition to the park. There
have also been heartbreaking defeats, such as the destruction
of Paradise Valley in South San Francisco and the construction
of Guadalupe Valley Parkway through the heart
of the mountain's wild space. The Parkway effectively destroyed
much of Colma Creek; as a barrier that butterflies are unlikely to cross, the road also severely fragmented the
butterflies' habitat, thus reducing the flow of genes that factors
so importantly in their long term chances of evolution and survival.

Habitat Conservation or Profit Conservation?
Perhaps the longest running battle concerns the so-called Habitat
Conservation Plan (HCP), a loophole in the Federal Endangered
Species Act (ESA) that allows for limited destruction of
rare species and their habitats in exchange for demonstrably
insufficient efforts to "create" substitute habitats and to
control weeds. David Schooley vehemently opposed the
Plan from the start and, with the rest of Mountain Watch
and with allies in the California Native Plant Society and the
San Mateo County-sponsored Friends of San Bruno Mountain,
is now at the center of a legal and policy battle over the
tenuous future of the HCP.

Had the Plan been developed in accord with the spirit and intent of the
Endangered Species Act: to enable the recovery and ongoing
survival of species facing extinction, San Bruno Mountain and
its rare species would likely be in much better shape today. Instead,
the HCP facilitated development, and 23 years later, Federal, State, and
municipal agencies are trying to untangle a knot of conflicting priorities.
Developers want to build, environmentalists demand sweeping improvements,
regional governments wrestle with the pressures of urban sprawl, and
new weeks threaten to overtake the mountian. Since the HCP's funding
is capped to guarantee builders that they won't ever have to pay more
than originally agreed, the solution being offered to the public is to
allow further destruction in order to get more money to pour into a Plan
that doesn't work.

Why doesn't the HCP work? The idea that a rare or endangered species
can be relocated is scientifically unfounded. Rare species are often rare
because their habitat requirements are specific. The habitat is defined by
a number of factors: soil type, hydrology, wind, fog, temperature, light, slope,
and the array of flora and fauna interacting in the area. Therefore, creating
new habitat for a sensitive species would be very difficult, very expensive,
and still might not work. for many rare species the complexities of feeding,
reproduction, predation, disease and other aspects of its life history are only
poorly understood. Also, the contractor hired to create habitat will need to
do extensive research prior to initiating the project and developing and
performing monitoring. Finally, it seems that new habitat should be developed
and species monitored in the area prior to destroying habitat elsewhere.
These vital steps were not undertaken for the San Bruno Mt. HCP.

If nothing else, the firm that has been retained to carry
out the provisions of the HCP, Thomas Reid Associates
(TRA) has got to go. TRA has had conflicts of interest
from the start. They helped craft the initial Plan, conducted
the official environmental impact review, won bids
to start the work after the Plan was approved, and have
had the contract renewed several times despite a very
poor level of performance. Every year they produce a
status report that cannot be taken seriously because of
the firm's vested interest in making the picture look rosy.
We have had to wait for over 20 years for scientific peer
review of TRA's practices to be conducted. Even though
the two reports that were finally produced focused solely
on TRA's butterfly monitoring, the results are powerful
indictments because so much of the Plan rests on TRA's
purported ability to track the fluctuations in butterfly
populations. The peer reviews concluded that the monitoring
data is largely useless due to poor monitoring design
and implementation. In fact, the first report said that
the ONLY conclusion that one can reasonably draw from
the data is that the species merely exist. To make matters
worse, almost all of the developers around the mountain
have used, in keeping with the protocol of the HCP, TRA's
data to underpin assertions about their projects' biological
impacts. It's time to hire a new environmental consulting
firm that will address the situation objectively and design
monitoring regimes that will be peer-reviewed from the start.

Adopted in 1982, the San Bruno Mountain HCP was the
very first of its kind; it has served as a precedent for over
one thousand other HCPs that are in place or under de-
velopment nationwide. The results of the current legal
struggle could have national significance, especially given
the current wrangling over the Endangered Species Act
(ESA) itself. The ESA has proven to be one of the nation's
most enduring environmental laws, having survived numer-
ous attacks by powerful developers and by mining and
logging interests and their government allies. The US Fish
& Wildlife Service, under political pressure to weaken
species protections while under legal pressure to uphold
resource laws like the Endangered Species Act, is deeply
divided. While many Service staff are earnestly trying to
implement science-based land management, the Bush Ad-
ministration has appointed Matthew Hogan, the former
chief lobbyist for the Safari Club (an extreme trophy hunt-
ing group), to head the agency, and several bills that could
gut the ESA altogether are heading toward votes in con-
gress. Allowing further destruction of severely imperiled
species on San Bruno Mountain would strike a substantial
blow to the Act. Conversely, Mountain Watch supports
all efforts to strengthen the ESA to gain stronger protec-
tions for San Bruno Mountain and for other natural treas-

Love the Mountain, and Fight for It
Fundamental to San Bruno Mountain Watch's struggles
are a variety of volunteer efforts, educational slideshows,
collaborations with local agencies and officials, guided
hikes, weed pulling parties, and other celebrations of the
mountain's intricate beauty. We attempt to address the
mountain's broad range of conservation needs along with
the public's need for education, recreation, and inspiration.
We're currently focused on:
� Educating people of all ages about their local environ-
ment, and the need to actively appreciate and protect
it. We offer slideshows, guided hikes, and supervised
service learning.
� Stopping further development in the Brisbane Quarry;
which has gouged into the heart of the Mountain for
almost 100 years, destroying vast rare species habitat
along the way.
� Preserving the privately-owned Brisbane Acres, which
comprise the mountain's most intact unprotected
� Preventing the issuance of a permit to kill the severely
imperiled San Francisco Silverspot butterfly
under proposed changes to the HCP.
� Raising the level of professional land management by
securing grants.
� Hiring skilled, knowledgeable, and dedicated weeding
� Upholding Federal and State clean water laws by
suing the Amloc dump in Colma for water pollution
� Enhancing our substantial historical archives and
expanding activities in our Mountain Learning Center
in Brisbane.
� Organizing volunteer weeding parties.

The mountain is an irreplaceable part of our human habitat,
it must be defended tenaciously; it should also be
enjoyed as the marvelous wild spectacle that it is. Opportunities
abound for people of all ages and interests to
protect and enjoy San Bruno Mountain. Strange and
never-ending as it may seem, weeding the mountain may
be the most popular activity. Besides rekindling what is
for many a long lost, visceral interaction with the land,
it's a fantastic way to learn about plants, land management,
and politics, to promote species diversity, to get
some exercise, to help care for our shared park resources,
and to work joyfully with others. Please join us.

For More Information and To Get Involved:
Contact San Bruno Mountain Watch,
Brisbane, CA 94005. Fax / tel 415-467-6631.

Joe Cannon: The Man, The Myth, The City College Professor

Publisher: City College Center for Habitat Restoration
Reporter: Caroline Christman

I took an hour one Thursday to talk to one of City Col-
lege's newest professors, Joe Cannon. Not only is Mr. Can-
non teaching classes here in ecology and botany, he is also
managing a project on San Bruno Mt. called the Colma
Creek Restoration Project. Joe's botany students have al-
ready visited and worked on this project. Most exciting of
all, anyone can be a part of the restoration of Colma Creek
by volunteering with the Heart of the Mountain group; their
program meets on the second and fourth Saturday of every
month from 10:00am to 12:30pm. Find out more by visiting

Interview with Joe Cannon
Caroline: When did you start working at City College?
What inspired you to become a professor here?
Joe: I started here in Spring of 2004. I first started working
in habitat restoration at the Presidio, at the time I wanted
to save the environment. It quickly became clear to me that
the problem was people. Habitat restoration was a vehicle -
helping nature and changing people's relationship to nature.
Education is the most direct way to address people's rela-
tionship with nature.

C: The ecology program at City College is small; do you
plan on introducing any new classes? Do you have a vision
for the future of an ecology or environmental science pro-
gram here?

J: Crima (Pogge) and I are going to a conference at De Anza
Community College to learn about creating environmental
studies programs. They have a pretty good program there;
they also have a pretty good program at Merritt College.
It's pretty amazing that City College has no program; this
will hopefully change.

C: You have many years of experience with habitat restoration,
what are some of the most positive events and some
of the most challenging events in which you have taken

J: The most positive event is the change I've seen in people's
lives that is due to volunteering (in habitat restoration
programs); volunteers develop a new relationship with the
environment. People show up for one program, and even-
tually they change careers and invest fully in habitat restora-
Also, things like the Presidio Native Plant Nursery had a lot
of bureaucratic resistance and many obstacles to program
growth, but some people such as Sharon Farrell and Pete
Holloran and myself had a vision for the program and
persisted, and it is now a large and well-established pro-
gram. There was also a lot of resistance from the public
to any land use change in the Presidio, which was very
challenging; and the National Park Service (NPS) often
resisted active restoration because it was too controver-
sial, too expensive. The NPS also put up a lot of resis-
tance to volunteers. They thought volunteers would dam-
age native plants and endangered species. They didn't
appreciate that volunteers could contribute a lot of ex-
pertise and knowledge. Now volunteers make up most of
the work force in the Presidio!

C: Where did you first begin working on habitat restora-
tion? Who did you work with? Did you have a mentor?
What did you learn from them?

J: I first worked on the Mission Blue Butterfly Project in
the Marin Headlands and on Milagra Ridge. I worked with
Sue Gardner, but she left almost immediately to start the
Site Stewardship Project, which she still runs. I took over
Mission Blue project and worked for 6 months to
finish the initial 3 year project. Site Stewardship now
works at those Mission Blue sites. Actually, it was soon
after this that City College adopted Wolf Back Ridge.
If anyone was a mentor to me it was Sharon Farrell, she
taught me a lot about working with people and the im-
portance of volunteers. She helped me move from a pure
science perspective to involving people in restoration.

C: I've heard rumors that a native plant garden is going to
be started on campus.

J: Our first project is going to be a primitive plant garden in
one of the bays on the East side of the Science Hall. This
has lots of teaching value for botany classes. A native plant
garden is a goal for the future, it may be in the second of
the Science Hall bays or, ideally, on this steep slope on
campus that is not slated for development. Volunteers have
been working there for years and the plan is to get a com-
munity-based botanical garden started there. That way stu-
dents can go out to the primitive garden and the native plant
garden and see the things we're talking about in class.

The Colma Creek Restoration Project
Colma Creek is located on the northern portion of San
Bruno Mt. on San Mateo County and CA State Park land.
This riparian corridor is one of the few remaining relatively
intact on the San Francisco Peninsula, with an area of ma-
ture willow forest along the upper East arm of the Creek.
Riparian areas, along with marshes, are important stop over
points for many birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway;
they are also home to innumerable plant and animal species
year-round. The Colma Creek area is a favorite spot for
birders and hikers because of the wildlife diversity.

Heart of the Mountain, a volunteer group started by Pete
Holloran of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), has
been working to control non-native invasive plants in this
area for several years. The group has been successful in
involving many people from the neighboring communities in
habitat restoration. Now, with funding from Proposition 40,
more extensive work can be done. The Colma Creek Restoration
Project is being coordinated by Joe Cannon and
sponsored by The Watershed Project, a non-profit organi-
zation, will involve removing blue gum eucalyptus trees
(Eucalyptus globulus) and other non-native plants along the
headwaters of Colma Creek and replacing them with native

The first phase of the project will be tree removal and re-
moval of large patches of Himalayan blackberry (Rubus dis-
color), English ivy (Hedera helix) and Cape ivy (Delairea odo
rata); this will be performed by San Mateo County Fire
Crews. Volunteers will be involved in removing smaller
patches of non-native plants, following-up on ivy and black-
berry removal, and planting native plants grown at the
Friends of San Bruno Mt. Mission Blue Nursery (a San
Mateo County-sponsored group that does restoration on
San Bruno Mt) or at the Fort Funston Nursery (part of the
Golden Gate Recreational Area). The project goal is to
enhance this riparian area for wildlife and to create an uninterrupted
corridor from the headwaters of Colma Creek
down to Guadalupe Canyon Parkway.

One important aspect of the project, and one of the stated
project priorities, is that it will involve volunteers in weed-
ing, planting, and growing plants in the nurseries, and will
provide educational programs to foster knowledge of native
plants and ecosystem function. Volunteers will not be in-
volved in tree removal, but will be removing Himalayan
blackberry, cotoneaster (Cotoneaster pannosa), Cape ivy,
English ivy, sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), purple velvet
grass (Holcus lanatus), poison hemlock (Conium maculatum),
mustard (Brassica nigra), wild radish (Raphanus sati-
vus), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Addition-
ally, the Heart of the Mountain volunteer pro-
gram will continue to work on controlling other pioneer
populations of thes targeted invasive species.

Eucalyptus Removal

Why do the eucalyptus need to be removed to restore this
rare and valuable habitat? Eucalyptus trees are growing
along the headwaters of Colma Creek, which disturbs this
riparian ecosystem in several important ways. Eucalyptus
grow quickly and can form dense stands in areas with
enough moisture, such as along a creek or in an area with
fog. They are allelopathic, producing chemicals that can
retard germination of many seeds and inhibiting growth of
other species. Additionally, eucalyptus release oils that
coats the soil making it hydrophobic, or unable to absorb
water. In the shade beneath the eucalyptus you will not find
the native plants that usually grow on the forest floor in
California, rather, other invasive plants such as English ivy,
Cape ivy and Himalayan blackberry dominate this area.
Most native plants cannot tolerate the conditions below the
eucalyptus because of the shade, the oils, and the change in

The change in hydrology is the most important factor in
this restoration project. Eucalyptus achieve great height
very rapidly, they accomplish this by competing successfully
for available moisture. They have both a deep tap root and
a layer of intricate surface roots, this allows them to absorb
water from the soil as it rains or as their leaves collect and
drip fog, and their tap root can tap into the water table,
especially where it is close to the surface along creeks. This
means that much of the water that would be in the soil, in
the creek or in other plants and animals is instead being
used by the eucalyptus. Also, they are large and lose more
water to transpiration than a smaller tree; this is water that
would otherwise flow into the water table or the creek.
Much research has been done on eucalyptus water use and
have shown that eucalyptus reduce water yields in an area
and use more water than most other trees, which in turn
means that less water is able to reach Colma Creek and the
wildlife that depend on the creek.

The Colma Creek Restoration Project will remove about 3
acres of eucalyptus and non-native understory plants from
areas adjacent to Colma Creek. This will be done after
bird-nesting season (March15-Aug 15) to ensure that no
nests are destroyed. Eucalyptus stumps will be cut and
painted with herbicide to keep them from resprouting. Silt
fences and weed-free straw will be used to control erosion
during the first few rainy seasons. These cleared areas will
then be replanted with natives to form several different
plant communities.

Planting Natives
The primary plant community that will be established in the
areas up slope away from the creek channel will be coastal
scrub, with dominant plants such as California sagebrush
(Artemsia californica) and coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis),
this area will also have patches of grasses such as blue wild
rye (Elymus glaucus) and herbaceous plants such as gum
plant (Grindelia hirsutula) and coyote mint (Monardella vil-
losa). Mature coastal scrub forms dense cover and will dis-
courage reinvasion of the area by non-native invasive plant
species. Rushes (Juncus patens, J. phaeocephalus, J. balticus,
etc.) and sedges ( Carex densa, C. obnuta, C. subbracteata,
etc.) will be planted along the creek with small trees such
as pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica) and American dog-
wood (Cornus sericea ssp. sericea) and herbaceous plants
such as seep monkeyflower (Mimmulus guttatus) on the
banks. A wet meadow area will be recreated above the
road using, grasses such as California oat grass (Danthonia
californica) and meadow barley (Hordeum brachyantherum).
Native annual species will be directly seeded on to the restoration

Where will nurseries get the seeds for propagation? Native
seed has been collected by the dedicated volunteer Leroy
French and by the Heart of the Mountain volunteers. Seeds
are all collected on San Bruno Mt., and from within the
Colma Creek watershed as much as possible. Collecting
seeds in this area ensures that the plants are adapted to
local conditions. To protect resources, no more than 10%
of the seeds from any 1 population or individual plant are
collected in a season. Some plants that spread using root-
like structures called rhizomes can be divided at the base;
most of the plant is left intact in the soil, a small part is re-
moved to the nursery and grows there until it can be
planted during the next rainy season. For plants such as
rushes and sedges this is much easier than collecting seed.
All of the plants need to be planted during the winter and
early spring when it is raining so that they can become es-
tablished before the dry summer months.

The Colma Creek area of San Bruno Mt. is truly beautiful
and teeming with wildlife. Volunteering on this project
would be a great way to learn about native plants and the
wildlife found in a riparian corridor, from salamanders to
migratory birds. To find out more about how to volunteer,
visit: .

Saving a slice of heaven in Brisbane

Publisher: San Francisco Chronicle
Reporter: Geoffrey Coffey

Brisbane Acres, a privately held plot of native grasslands, rises between the town of Brisbane and the state and county park of San Bruno Mountain. A walk here is like viewing a page from the California history book -- steep, hoary stands of melic and fescue athwart canyons of buckeye and oak, punctuated by johnny jump-up, silver lupine and broadleaf stonecrop, the larval food plants of rare and endangered butterflies.

Carved into jigsaw-puzzle pieces by an "unrecorded subdivision" in the 1930s, with titles now held by hundreds of individuals, the Acres live in a state of bondage. Houses already cover 20 of the original 111 parcels (all on the lower slopes), and developers have mapped routes for roads and building throughout the remaining 120 wild acres. Opinions among owners about what the future of the Acres should be diverge radically. Some would like to preserve their land as open space, while others want to build. One owner proposed turning his 1-acre parcel into an Indian casino.

The near-vertical pitch of these slide-prone grades would appear to discourage the average builder -- but the Bay Area real estate market is anything but average. Already, the narrow, private roads on the lower, comparatively gentle slopes "typically do not meet fire-code standards," according to the city of Brisbane. Some of the proposed new streets are merely drawn on paper, others follow the mad path of Virgil Karns, an eccentric landowner who once rode his bulldozer up and down these sheer ridges in his spare time.

Below the water tower, near the intersection of Beatrice and Margaret (two of Virgil's former dozer runs), a footpath splits off from the road. Perhaps an old Indian trail or a corridor for wildlife, it plunges through poison oak and fords a seasonal stream, then climbs into an old-growth forest of gnarled oak, dwarfed madrone, fruiting toyon, ocean spray and blooming Ceanothus. The sounds of the city grow faint beneath the epic silence of these woods as they stood centuries ago.

The Eastwood manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa) stretches its red serpentine branches for the light that pushes through openings in the canopy. This tree-like shrub grows 6 to 8 feet tall from a large basal burl, from which it will readily re-sprout after fire. Specimens so regenerated can live for hundreds of years. But flames have not touched this landscape within memory, and the manzanitas look tired. They crave a good burn.

After another switchback, the path rises into grassland, where the rare and endangered Diablo Helianthella (Helianthella castanea) waves its golden sunflower blossoms and the aromatic hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) grows in 1,000-square-foot patches. Thick 3-foot clumps of California fescue (Festuca californica) hold the hill, while the silvery clusters of melic grass (Melica californica) dance with the purple owl's clover (Castilleja exserta), goldfields (Lasthenia californica), and many other spring wildflowers. Wherever the trail passes an exposed slab of greywacke, the slate-colored foundation stone of the mountain, look for the broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), a spreading succulent that clings to cracks in the rock. Each exquisite rosette of slightly reddish green pushes up thumb-sized flower stalks, whose yellow clusters shine against the grey stone. This plant feeds the caterpillars of the Bay Area's federally protected San Bruno elfin butterfly. Home gardeners and commercial landscapers, take note -- it also makes a wonderful accent in any exposed stone landscaping, and a handsome addition to a rock garden.

Noteworthy among the many other standouts this month is the coast larkspur (Delphinium decorum ssp. decorum), a gorgeous dark-blue flower with a nodding 2-foot habit and a prominent spur. The Mendocino Indians prized larkspur for its narcotic properties, but please note this genus contains toxic alkaloids that have killed cattle, so no experimentation is advised.

Glorious in bloom, these lands and their many animal inhabitants lie in limbo.

Heeding calls from citizens who value the wilderness over the subdivision, Brisbane began buying parcels of the Acres in 1997, using money set aside annually for open-space acquisition and with grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Commission.

This program has stewarded 23 parcels (with six more currently in escrow), covering more than 30 acres, into city-owned open space, including one contiguous block of the canyons and grasslands southwest of the water tower and another in the prime butterfly habitat of the upper Bayshore Ridge.

Nonetheless, dangers remain. Some would like to build dream houses here, capitalizing on that million-dollar view of San Francisco. In addition, growing populations of blue gum Eucalyptus, broom, fennel and other weeds escape from residential areas into untrammeled zones to degrade the native diversity and kill off local species. Brisbane's vegetation management plan spends $20,000 annually to combat exotic invasive plants, with the goal of total eradication.

But native plants also invade -- coastal scrub, for example, encroaches upon grassland when not checked by fire. Fred Smith, assistant to the Brisbane city manager, named scrub, along with development and weeds, as the top three threats facing the Acres today.

Fire presents a different problem. A controlled burn two summers ago in Wax Myrtle Canyon jumped its planned 5-acre boundary and spread to 75 acres, ending a stone's throw from residential housing. Judged by the rejuvenated landscape, this project was a tremendous success -- but the risk to human settlements raised some eyebrows.

Such are the paradoxes along the wildland-urban border. Proceed at your own risk and reward.

On San Bruno Mountain

Join Geoffrey Coffey and San Bruno Mountain Watch founder David Schooley on a hiking tour of the Brisbane Acres on Sunday. Tickets are $25, proceeds benefit SBMW. Reservations are required and subject to space limitations. Call (415) 467-6631 for booking and directions. Please note, this is a steep and strenuous trail.

Habitat Restoration Day, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Take care of the Acres and join the Brisbane community on Earth Day for a weed-pulling party to root out broom, fennel, cotoneaster and other exotic invasive plants. Free lunch, T-shirts, tools, training and a wildflower walk at noon. Meet at the City Hall parking lot, 50 Park Place, Brisbane. A shuttle departs for the work site every half-hour beginning at 8:30 a.m. Volunteers should wear sunscreen, gloves, long pants, long sleeves, a hat and heavy-duty shoes. The work will go on until 4 p.m.

Writer and landscaper Geoffrey Coffey can be contacted at

�2005 San Francisco Chronicle