Sherm & Dave
Have A Chat
I was born in the little town of Cambria and that’s near San Simeon which is owned by the Hearst Family. I was born in the same room my father was born in 26 years earlier. My mother came to Cambria to teach and all the single school teachers stayed at the Eubanks home in Cambria—that’s my grandparents. We all lived in San Simeon for the first 23 years of my life. I grew up in the castle from day one. My sister was fatally burned when she was three years old and she died, so I grew up as an only child. I was born in 1923 and the castle started in 1919. My dad was an electrician and plumber involved in everything up to the time the castle was almost finished. It was never finished. Hearst kept building on it most of his life.
I went to school in San Simeon. There were five kids in the whole school. My mother was the school teacher and that included 8th grade to grammar school. I went to high school in Cambria; it was the only highschool between Carmel and San Luis Obispo. And then I went to the University of California and then World War II broke out and I went into the army for three years and then came back and finished at Cal and graduated as a Civil Engineer in June 1, 1948 and on July 1, 1948 (almost 50 years ago) I went to work for a man who owned San Bruno Mountain and a lot of other land in California, Crocker Estate Company. It had a lot of subsidiary companies, the best known was Crocker Land Company. I’ve been involved in everything that happened on San Bruno Mountain for the last 48 years.
My 3 children have been on San Bruno Mountain but my grandchildren haven’t. I have two daughters and a son and both daughters are married. One daughter and her husband own some service stations and the other daughter married a doctor and they live in Fairfield. And my son lives in the East Bay and works for Chevron. My wife’s still alive and were all doing well. I’m 73 and quite active; I played 6 rounds of tennis a few days ago. Incidently, my horse voice comes from paralyzed vocal cords. So that’s why I’m sounding so funny.
My first job was to build a road from the Saddle area of San Bruno Mountain to the top of the mountain to put television antennas on top of the mountain. I supervised the construction of that road. There was already a dirt road from Daly City to Brisbane; Colma to Cross Ranch Road. We built a road from the intersection of Cross Ranch Road up to the towers; Radio Road. That was about 1949. The purpose of that was television was just coming into its being and so we had to find the highest point which was the summit area,1350 feet above sea level. So we built some towers up there and leased it to KRON TV, KTVU, and some others. We had 8 or 9 towers up there in no time, really.
We had a rancher by the name of Hansen who ran dairy cattle on the mountain and there was some gardening up there. You can check with Vince Marselli on that. I think one of his brothers did some farming up there, in the Saddle. Those were the only activities. The quarrying there by Brisbane started, I think, in the early 1900’s. It coulda been earlier than that, I’m not sure.
Charles Crocker aquired the property in about 1884 or prior to that. Volume I of the HCP has a historical review and it talks about when Crocker acquired the mountain and the title. The dates when it passed to Crocker Land Company and then to McKesson. And then it talks about the various developments that were proposed. It’s a good resource.
When I first came to work for the company in 1948 we didn’t have a good topography of the mountain and photogrammarty was just coming into its own. They needed a control place for physical and horizontal control on the mountain and so I established those. So when the aerial photographer came over they could identify brush points and trail crossings and things. And I could tell em the elevation and the coordinates of those points, so they could be converted into a topographic map. In the process of doin that I carried a transit over almost every square inch of San Bruno Mountain in about 1949.
The mountain was so big, it was natural that it should get annexed into three or four towns. On the south side of the mountain it was oriented toward South San Francisco and that’s where the development lands finally went. On the Guadelupe side, the watershed lands, it seemed to me that everything in the watershed should go into Brisbane. But Brisbane wasn’t even a city in those days.
We started the Crocker Industrial Park in about 1960 before Brisbane became incorporated. We built a sewage treatment plant because we knew we had to have one for the Park. Brisbane was discharging raw sewage into the bay. And so we got together with the Brisbane sewer maintenance district and said, “We Crocker will build you a sewage treatment plant and take your sewage for a fee as well as the projected sewage from Crocker Industrial Park,” and that’s what we did. It worked out fine. And then as the years went by the water pollution control board established higher treatment for the sewage. It was cheaper for us to build a line to San Francisco to the Southeast treatment plant in San Francisco, than it was to add on an additional facility to our sewage treatment plant. So that’s what happened and that’s what’s being done today.
We always wanted our industrial park to be something we could really be proud of. In those days the Crockers owned all the land and buildings; everything in the industrial park was leased to various users. Crocker’s thrust was that it made more sense to sell. So as of today Crocker doesn’t own anything.
February 1, 1973 Visitacion Associates opened and was a joint venture with Crocker Land Company and Amfac of Hawaii. We portioned out 1400 acres out of the 3600 acres of San Bruno Mountain and the purpose was to provide a partnership that would develop some of the developable land that was owned by the Crockers. And those 1400 acres have all been transferred into Visitacion Associates. Almost all of those acres have been sold to various builders. The Saddle was donated by Visitacion Associates, not Crocker Land Company. So anyway does that answer your question?
Amfac is no longer involved. They became interested in the early 70’s. We had put Amfac buildings in Crocker Industrial Park and I became quite well aquainted and heard of their desire to develop lands in the Bay Area and I thought they’d be good partners. We had the land and they had the know how. And so we formed a joint venture.
Around 1965 Amfac decided they didn’t want to be involved anymore and in 1986 another developer bought Amfac’s interest and so since that time we’re still Visitacion Associates but Amfac is no longer involved and of course McKesson bought Crocker Land Company in 1970 and so McKesson became the other partner for Visitacion Associates.
My feelings for Brisbane blew hot and cold for different reasons. We always thought Brisbane should incorporate and then we would annex. Things got started off and things were going good and we agreed to annexation of the industrial park. And then there came a period of time in which the City didn’t want any development on the mountain.
“You were among those who didn’t want any development.” And so, “We were very displeased by that Dave. I think you know that.”
The plan for shaving off the top of the mountain and filling the bay, that was another development that Crocker was in with David Rockefeller and his brother and sister, and Ideal Cement Company. We’d fill in maybe a thousand acres of tidelands south of the airport using material from San Bruno Mountain. South of the airport is where Ideal Cement Company owned their land.
We had marvelous plans where I think around 20 miles of shoreline would be easily accessed by the public where only half a mile existed.
We were gonna take material from the Southeast Ridge—the area above Brisbane between Brisbane and South San Francisco. We weren’t taking the whole mountain down. We were taking 250 million yards which would have lowered the elevation by several hundred feet up above 600 acres. It was on our own property, you see Brisbane doesn’t go all the way to the top of the mountain. We were gonna take that area above Brisbane almost over to the quarry. That’s what we had in mind. The name of the flagship we had was Westbay Community Associates. That was 1/3 Crocker, 1/3 Rockefeller and 1/3 Ideal Cement, the ownership. And so that area was in mind for a source of fill for the tidelands development. The BCDC came in and that plan was scrapped. Ultimately we dedicated the land on which we had planned the borrow site, at no cost, to the public domain, that’s roughly 600 acres.
I’ve always heard stories of a shellmound but never actually knew that there was anything in there and I still don’t.
I’ve been with some of the people from SF State and drilled down and they found the shells to be about 6 or 7 feet, which means about 5000 years of use. We’ve found a mortar and pestle, arrowheads and some bones.
Oh that’s interesting. “I’m kind of a frustrated archeologist myself, Dave.” I have a big collection of arrowheads I picked up on the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon. And as you can expect, there were thousands of indians out there. I got em buried in the attic. They haven’t seen the light of day for forty years.
I knew that the top of the mountain, that’s now the county park, was always in the minds of a lot of you people for the park. And that we probably couldn’t move ahead with development until we satisfied all of you environmentalists with a park. So I negotiated the sale and gift of San Bruno Mountain County Park, to the county. And that went ahead. But that was with the understanding that there be a development on the area north of Guadelupe Canyon Parkway.
That’s when the environmentalists got involved and we went through hearings with San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. And they decided the Saddle should be in open space. But they did say we could build on the Northeast Ridge and South San Francisco. But the open space designation killed the heart of the development which was to be on the Saddle Area. The big development would have been the Saddle, but that wasn’t to be.
So we donated 25 or 30 million dollars worth of land to the State of California for a State Park and we sold about 5 million dollars worth to the state. So the state park is roughly 300 acres and that was done March 8th, 1980. And then 10 days later we were informed that the federal government was gonna establish an endangered species habitat for the Mission blue and Callippe Silverspot. That was a shock and that was on the Northeast Ridge and the South San Francisco properties on which the county said we could build.
We thought you guys were up to some skullduggery. We were very unhappy about it. But that set in motion what to do about it. Which was to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
We thought we would get together with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and come up with a plan that made them happy and the environmentalists happy. A plan we could all live with. And that’s what we did. In 1983 we signed the San Bruno Mountain Habitat Conservation Plan. And that’s enforced today. I think the ESA had been relied on unfairly by the environmentalists to do nothing more than stop development.
“I don’t enforce or reccommend you should do the dam HCP funding for the endangered species that your trying to save. I really don’t think so Dave.”
Most of you don’t either. You know it doesn’t work. And as far as endangered species, have you ever seen a San Francisco Garter Snake?
Yes, it’s almost 23 years ago, up at the base of Devil’s Arroyo, near the back end of the industrial park, down at the base of the little canyon, in some moisty area where it’s wet all year long—riparian habitat.
Well you’re the only person alive to see one. The HCP? I think it’s doing what it’s intended to do and that is they’re taking an allowance from the landowners and using it to eradicate gorse or something like that. So it’s going the way it was intended to go. It’s a good plan from everybody elses point of view. What do you think of it?
Well, I have serious worries about Reid Associates and efforts that have not been properly done. We’re in contact with some of his employees at all times. We’ll see what happens. But our group has been carefully taking photographs of his attempts to remove gorse. Were still having doubts about his removal of gorse and his attempts to recreate Mission blue habitat.
Almost all the gorse is in the Saddle, isn’t it? There’s not too many Mission blue in the Saddle anyway. Mission blue habitat was on the Northeast Ridge and South Slopes. I know Tom Reid quite well. I know Victoria Harrison too. I’m good friends with all of em.
Chat # II
Dave’s trip with the mountain
I’ve been here for almost 30 years and I remember some of the canyons that did not have trees or heavy scrub. It was grassland and it’s worrisome, now they’re like forests.
I explored the canyons so that I could locate verticle and horizontal control for aerial photographs and so to the extent that I had to find certain trees or shrubs or paths or so on to show in the photographs. I explored it from that point of view. I’d have the aerial photographs in hand and I had to determine the elevation of the horizontal and verticle control of them so we could get topography on the whole mountain. That’s almost 50 years ago now. I wouldn’t remember rocks or foliage or that sort of thing cause I was never in one place long enough.
Most of the people I knew who were familiar with the mountain lived in Brisbane. You know Dick Schroder use to own the hardware store and Frank Walsh. Vince Marselli would be very knowledgable about the mountain. I use to work with Vince and Guido Marselli, Vince’s brother, was very knowledgable, particularly about Guadelupe Valley Sewage Treatment Plant. Guido and Vince both visited city hall almost daily.
We were involved with the people from Daly City and San Francisco when we built and developed Serramonte Shopping Center, but most of them passed away also. You know, like Clyde Gellert and his brother Fred. Volume 1 paragraph number 2 of the San Bruno Mountain Habitat Conservation Plan, there’s a historical review. There’s quite a bit of language on the history of the mountain.
Radio Road, when you made that, that was being done for the radio? The Nike Base?
That was being done for television and radio. There was TV there until we built a road to the top of the mountain. Channel 2 and 4 were the first ones up on the mountain and one of my first projects when I was a young engineer out at Cal was to design a road and supervise it’s contruction to go from the Cross Ranch Road which is through the Saddle from Daly City to Brisbane, and to take it from that point on up to the top of the mountain, which we did. And then they were gonna build the towers on the top of the mountain. That was done in 1948 and 1949. That was my first work on San Bruno Mountain.
The Nike Base? I think that was the early 50’s when Nike was a big thing with the army. They were gonna condemn a lot of land for Nike Base and we got into a deal with them for a dollar a year with the understanding that when Nike was no longer needed the land would revert to us, which is what it did. So Nike went out of style, it was obsolete not too long after it was created. We no longer own the sites, of course.
Did you ever camp out on the mountain? Were you ever into camping in other places? Did you like hunting? How do you feel about wildlife? The Endangered Species Act?
I had my fill of camping the three years I was in the army. I did some hunting down home on the Hearst Ranch but there really wasn’t that much wild game on San Bruno Mountain.
The thing that bothers me is the Endangered Species Act takes in micro-organisms and everything else that are no earthly good to anybody. I don’t enjoy those kinds of species but I do like deer, wild turkey, boars and stuff like that. We don’t have those on the mountain though.
I lived on the Hearst Ranch and there was a lot of wildlife so I just grew up with a lot of wildlife, ducks and deer and turkeys and rattlesnakes. There use to be a bounty on mountain lions of 25 dollars. This goes back maybe 65 years and for that reason I never did shoot a mountain lion but I saw em brought into the ranch headquarters, a half a dozen or so.
Tell me more about your feelings about the Endangered Species Act; about the worry over endangered species; about the destruction of the rainforests and habitats around the world? A lot of fragile areas are disappearing. Endangered species are an indicator that whole ancient ecosystems are coming apart and that’s something science is very worried about.
I guess it serves a purpose but it goes far beyond what it ever intended to do in the first place. I know you use the ESA as a reason to stop development but that goes far beyond the intent of the federal government in the first place, I believe.
I don’t have any worry about endangered species. I’m not concerned about rainforest destruction and all that. That belongs to generations many years from now. The Endangered Species Act takes care of most of the important animals. I think losing some of the species isn’t gonna make a difference one way or the other to future generations.
Ya know Dave there’s atleast 2000 acres of publicly owned land on the mountain, that we use to own and that’s gonna stay in perpetuity. And in addition to that there’s a lot of acreage in the subdivided lands that is going into conserved habitat in perpetuity. In respect to the whole mountain I think the public has benefited tremendously by with the Habitat Conservation Plan and our philanthropy.
You know we gave away most of that Saddle worth almost 30 million dollars. And people seem to forget those things. There’s in-excess of 2000 acres up there and I think the plants and wildlife indigenous to San Bruno Mountain will not only remain but thrive because of the work of the Habitat Conservation Plan. And we committed thousands of dollars to help maintain those things in perpetuity, but I don’t think anybody knows that.
If you get on an airplane within five minutes you get out of the Bay Area and you hit a lot of open space that’s remained that way for thousands of years. And San Bruno Mountain’s 2000 acres are gonna cultivate all those things that you like.
About the shellmound, you know this supposed study by Miley Holman? Who has that study?
WW Dean, they’re the ones who had the copy. South City didn’t get one and I was not given one. I even called up and asked. They said no, they were gonna keep it. It’s been very secret and South City has been very angry that they haven’t even heard about the study.
We owned the property and I never did get one either. You know that site number 40 that’s over in Terrabay Commercial property, didn’t you say that you or somebody had put down auger holes tryin to see what they could find, what did they find?
Well that has not been made public but apparently it does involve bones, human bones, the indians bones and other things, indications of how deep the site is, of the use of man and places of fire. But I’ve still not received a copy of Miley Holman’s study.
Call the owners, SunChase. SunChase G. A. California I, Inc. that’s the title to the commercial property. If SunChase said you can go dig into that, you could dig it all up and give it to a university or something. Is that something you would do?
I would leave it as it is. The idea is to maintain a place where indian people lived for thousands of years for people to understand the place and the way they lived in a certain area.
Well how would you maintain it?
Well it would have to be carefully worked with as best you can to make sure that native plants are there. And there’s a creek there, a year long flow of water and it’s right next to the bay and the native things are right there. There are Buckeye trees and so people would get the ideas about how the indians lived in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Would you have interest in that as part of a park?
Not me, because weve already given 2000 acres to the park service. They could carefully have archeologists dig it up and put it in some local museum. That way somebody could see the stuff. You’re sayin it’s there, somebody else is sayin it’s there. But you can’t see the bones or the arrowheads or anything. I think the same native plants are a hundred feet away on conserved habitat land. I don’t even know who Miley Holman is.
He use to work at the university, at SF State and now he’s a private archeological worker.
What steps do you want to take to see that it’s preserved?
There’ll be a careful study and you can even find out what kinds of plants or trees use to be there and we could carefully replace the native plants right along the creek and right around the shellmound. And in other areas were removing non-native things, plants from all over the world to maintain native things on San Bruno Mountain. So that would be done on the shellmound.
Would it take into account the Habitat Conservation Plan?
Well they talk about it but they don’t do it very well. Do you remember Bette Higgins? What did you think of her?
Bette was an environmentalist and she had another girl working with her, Mimi Whitney. They were well intentioned, well meaning environmentalists who met with us in the early years, in the early 70’s I think. I think one of em lived in Brisbane and one in South City. And I met with them a number of times about the park on San Bruno. They came around and said, “I don’t want you to build, put your development some place else, we don’t want it on the mountain.” Bette and Mimi came in to see me.
Frank Calton worked for me at Crocker Land Company, he’s a good man Dave. He’s retired now, he’s a civil engineer from Cal also and a very capable guy and he was in charge of the mountain for a while. He came to work as a civil engineer for Crocker Land Company and we put him in charge of marketing our industrial parks, you know we had them all around the Bay Area, we had two in Hayward, one in Fremont, one in Vacaville, we had so much work going on that we needed some very capable people to design it market it and build it. And he was the guy.
Chat # III
Sherm’s trip with development
When Charles Crocker died in 1888 they formed a company, called Crocker Estate Company, to administer his estate. After that we started a number of subsidiary companies for various functions. For example in Merced, we owned a big cattle ranch. So in Merced City Water System, there was Crocker Land and Water Company.
San Francisco Universal Land Company had our buildings and we had a few other companies like Crocker Aetna Company which owned the 38 story highrise we have here and where I am right now.
Crocker Land Company got it’s name by a name change from Crocker Huffman Land and Water Company. We changed to Crocker Land Company for the purpose of developing our industrial parks like the one in Brisbane and others. And holding for our lands to be developed like San Bruno Mountain and Merced properties. Crocker Land Company got its name sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s. I was here at that time and suggested the name change, so I know that was done somewhere between 1948 and now.
I love the outdoors just as you do. I graduated from highschool in 1941 and that’s when World War II started. I chose civil engineering and went to University of California, at Berkeley. In 1942, I went into the United States Army and stayed there until January of 1946. Then I came home, went back to Cal and finished up.
I took all the mandatory classes for a degree in civil engineering. And engineering at Cal is tough. It’s one of the best schools in the United States for civil engineering. There was a lot of work involved with it, surveying, materials testing, mathematics, physics and chemistry. And I worked throughout college as a janitor in some private doctors offices, near the university. I worked after hours and on weekends.
I was entitled to the GI bill. That was pretty nice, it was about 70 dollars a month which would just cover the room and board at Delta Epsilon Fraternity where I joined. I got a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. I didn’t go for a Masters, I was anxious to get out and get started, because I was already 25 years old when I graduated. I married a girl from Stockton who went to Cal the same time I did. I got out of Cal in June of 48 and got married in September of 48.
In highschool I dreamed of building things, dams and highways and bridges and large scale projects. And that turned out to be what I did really. After I graduated from Cal I went to work for Crocker Estate Company. At that time, engineers were in short supply because during World War II there was a stoppage of all development.
Then development started up in a big way and so there was a big need for civil engineers and there was lots of opportunities. The job that looked the best and turned out to be the best was with the Crocker Estate which had a lot of land, a lot of money and the desire to proceed with development of some of its properties. I’ve never been sorry that I made that choice. I’ve been with Crocker Land, and now McKesson who bought Crocker Land, since I graduated from college.
After I got out of the service in 1946, I worked at the Hearst Castle. There was always a lot of construction going on there. Then the Hearst Family wanted to build a new airport, so I became the field engineer for that, at San Simeon, and worked on that until I went back to Cal in September of 46. So that was my biggest job other than the one I’m in now.
My interest in development began at the Hearst Castle and continued on through the university. My hobbies? Tennis and water skiing and boating.
We’ve sold all our property on San Bruno Mountain except a ten acre commercial property down near the northwest corner of Bayshore and Guadelupe Canyon Parkway. So I’m presently just working on that and on a cleanup of all the various parcels that have to be conveyed under the Habitat Conservation Plan. I’m still working just on San Bruno Mountain. I’m also on several Boards of Directors for companies that have land in Reno Nevada. But that’s just as a director rather than as somebody working on development.
I looked for Frank Calton’s address last nite Dave, and I couldn’t find it. I think they moved to this place and I told you I thought the name Quaker was associated with it. I don’t know whether it’s Quaker Bay or Quaker City or somethin like that, near the town of Folsome, up in Sacramento County.
I hired Frank. He went to Cal too and graduated in civil engineering. He’s a lot younger than I am. He came to work for us as a civil engineer and he possessed a lot of fine qualities. And he became in charge of industrial parks and in charge of our Vacaville purchase and development up there. Did you know that we owned about 2000 acres up by the Nut Tree in Vacaville? We sold that to Chevron about 15 years ago. Frank was in charge of that operation for us.
Then there came a time when Crocker Land Company was absorbed into McKesson. For about 8 or 10 years McKesson decided they didn’t want to be in the land business any more. Crocker Land people left, Frank left. And we’re involved in the residue, you might say, of San Bruno Mountain, that is, getting rid of our last parcels of property there. But I’m just here two days a week.
I remember Elizabeth McClintock from 30 or 40 years ago. I’m kinda past history. The current people you should be talkin to are Straussburger, SunChase, John Oshner who use to be with WW Dean is now with Centex Homes of Concord. They’re the biggest home builders in the United States.
Your worried about growth? What would you do with these new people coming on Dave? Do you have any children?
I think we need to be more careful and concerned about population growth. And move things in a right direction. I don’t have any kids of my own. I have all the kids I take for walks on San Bruno Mountain. And that’s hundreds of em.
I bet. I read about you all the time. This last time I read about you, was this little article that came out about the South San Francisco SunChase holdings and the possible shell middens on the Terrabay property. It said that you want SunChase to donate the shell midden to the park.
That’s probably not likely. But at least we can start with that as a chance.
Well Dave, instead of goin to the newspapers, you ought to go to talk to the developers.
We talked to the Committee to Save San Bruno Mountain to make sure they were happy and we thought you were involved there as well. Well it turns out you splintered off from them I think, into Bay Area Mountain Watch. One of the problems the developers have with environmentalists, is not knowing who to talk to, cause there’s so many environmentalists with different feelings.
This is why I’m suggesting you talk to Straussburger about that South San Francisco indian shell mound, if that’s what it is, to see what they might want to do about it. I have some thoughts on it. When you talk to him you might suggest that he give me a call and we can chat a bit about it and I can bring him up to speed on the environmental groups and that sort of thing, probably better than you can. We’ve corresponded quite a number of times and met in person a number of times.
I suggested John Oshner and I don’t know whether you’ve talked to him at all. Their office is in Concord, I’d look up Centex Homes. They’re familiar with all of the things that you’re concerned about. Centex’s purchase of property in South City involved that particular site that you’re interested in. You know that shellmound 40 or whatever it is. Anyway it’s just a suggestion. Talk to the landowners instead of the newspapers and I think you’d get a lot more satisfaction that way.
Oh, and some constructive comments I have about the papers that you sent me is that it should be dated. Most of the articles aren’t dated and secondly the articles should be attributed to somebody. It just says it’s by Bay Area Land Watch and you don’t know who that is whether that’s Schooley or Arnold or whoever it is. So I don’t know the background of the writer and I’m usually inclined to throw that kind of stuff away. Your articles should have information that shows who wrote it and the date it was written. See, some of this stuff is 15 or 20 years old.