Initial Distillation

Robin Crabill

Initial Distillation



Rock collecting juxtaposed against all this political work was really interesting. I was writing, researching HCP’s, getting into using a computer and behind all that was my fascination with crystals.


I moved to San Francisco at the end of 75 and was getting to be more of a rock and mineral collector every year. I was working at the first new age crystal jewelry shop in San Francisco and the owner told me about crystals on San Bruno Mountain. I was living in Glen Park on the hill so I had a direct view of San Bruno Mountain looking south. Here was a place to find free quartz crystals. 


Around 1981 I read about the HCP in the Progress and called David and Bay Area Mountain Watch. The article was about the HCP standing up to BAMW’s challenge, beating off the challenge and actually becoming law. Other than the newspaper there wasn’t any way to learn about the mountain. There wasn’t the park display kiosk yet.


After I met David he took me to Devil’s Arroyo. I got poison oak needless to say. We camped up in Owl Canyon and I kept doing these hikes to look for crystals. I went to Serbian Ravine on the west side of the mountain. There’s a little knob south of the radio transmitters and you can’t get to it. Most of it’s grown over.


There was some very wet winters. I would go and see where the landslides were and that was my chance to look at the soil and occasionally I’d find crystals. In 1982, the whole Bay Area washed away and flooded. I was walking down all those ravines on both sides of Radio Road. I’d been going up on the mountain around 6 months, finding quartz crystals, when I met David.


Around 84 or 5, I really started getting tied in and writing for David. The first thing I wrote was a leaflet on the occasion of the official opening of San Bruno Mountain Park. There was a hundred people there, politicians and stuff, and we decided we would bombard them with this leaflet—a piece of writing that was fairly bombastic propaganda.


A little later, I created the $1 billion condo bux. People said if you added up all the developments around the mountain, it was 1 billion dollars at stake. That seems a little low.

I handed condo bux out at some hearings in South City. I gave it to all the council people. We handed a packet of leaflets and the buck was clipped to the top of it. It was a nice little bit of propaganda. I enjoyed creating propaganda. The crazy poem where everything’s lined up down the middle of the page, I wrote that.



Condo bux was done like my first leaflet, on an old manual typewriter, before I had a computer. I took the border from actual bills that were photocopied. The dinosaur is from Calvin and Hobbes. The writing is mine and the typing is from my terrible manual typewriter.


Joe Majer was an interesting guy. He did the topo map of the Buckeye Canyon shellmound. He rented the surveying equipment—the stick and tripod. Several of us helped him lay this out and then he drew it out with the elevations.

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He’s a union carpenter and a wanna-be archeologist. He would pay his own way to Egypt and do these studies. He’s sort of an outsider. He was not a grad student then, and I don’t know if he was planning to go to grad school but he did take some courses at S.F. State.


Joe was an outsider and he kept tryin to get all the archeology reports for San Bruno Mountain including reports about the South Slopes shellmound—Phase III of Terrabay. That’s gonna be under a parking lot. The reports were considered highly confidential and nobody could see them. Joe couldn’t even look at them because the state doesn’t want people digging up indian artifacts.


They think we’re gonna all dig up indian burial places. They said, “No access to these archeology documents.” You could ask him about that. I have a copy of his report and we refer to it since then as one of our little archeological studies that we did. It was our only archeological study.


This was 12 years ago, Bay Area Mountain Watch. I was there when we voted in Lorraine Burtzloff. We needed a president and she was one of the most active at the time. David was willing to let someone else have the spotlight, as always, so he says.


It didn’t work out with her. She drove people nuts. She’s a coiled spring. A fritzy, pulling person that drives people nuts. It was her personality. Everybody started quitting.


She chose to go off in a different direction and split off into a new group that goes up and down in membership and interest. Lorraine got into fighting the dumps and fighting the developer planning to build on the former dumpsites.


David felt he had to get the focus back to the mountain. And Lorraine walked off with the BAMW title, so we needed another name. I was aware that Brian Gaffney was incorporating BAMW. On the first incorporation papers they made me sign in as a director and I never wanted to be one.


They were telling David and the new Bay Area Land Watch to go through Earth Island Institute. That would save us from having to do incorporation paperwork and having to file. So we were under Earth Island’s umbrella. We used their tax number and they took 5% off the income from our contributers.


When I first got involved I was looking for a cause and enjoyed the role. I fought against the bulldozers. Usually the bulldozers won, so I would walk along behind em and pick the crystals out of the ground. I found all kinds of nice crystals.


I wrote the first BALW newsletter and Schooley was the co-author. We got an article in  Restoration Management Notes, which is a survey. It’s part of Restoration Habitat Industry professional journal.


We were disputing Tom Reid’s early claims of success on San Bruno Mountain’s HCP. Somebody told us about the journal and we put in a response. Schooley always kept huge chaotic files and I started reading everything about HCP’s. If there was an article refering to an earlier document, I would get that and I started making a HCP bibliography. Then I wrote flyers and the first of several articles on HCP’s. I thought we should get this out to environmental press and I’m not sure that exactly happened.


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Around 1989, I went back to graduate school to get a masters in library science and didn’t have much to do with Schooley and his group. Then I had a few brief years of relative calm before this baby dropped into my life in 1993. A year ago I moved to Marin.


I was collecting crystals on Sundays, on the sly at Reservoir Hill. That lovely place was very nice mineral collecting ground for quite a while. It was all carved up. They were starting to bulldoze for the Point Pacific development.


I found a crystal hunting place on a road which is presumably paved over now. It had very interesting crystals that I couldn’t find anywhere else. And I do know a fair amount about quartz. These crystals were white on the outside but clear on the inside. I guess you’d call it a phantom crystal in the world of minerals. People who collect minerals knew about this place. They keep track of what’s being paved over and frequently they don’t share the best places with others especially if somebody else is gonna dig up all the good specimans.


My nice friends told me about Pointe Pacific. One guy had a place where he was finding interesting crystals around the west end just down from the reservoir on Tank Hill. It’s still there. He took me there and we found some cool stuff, interesting, big veins, with facing crystals. I found some amythest, not a very deep amythest purple color, near Nine Fern Rock.


There was some amythest on the east side terracing for Pointe Pacific. I could practically see where it was from Guadelupe Canyon Parkway. Then they filled in some of those canyons with cluster houses. I found an intergrown white/purple crystal just east and downhill from the Saddle where it’s been dug into for quite a while. The San Francisco Gem & Mineral Society use to collect there in the 50’s, old timers have told me.


Actually, I’ve kept a folder of just rock info about San Bruno Mountain. The mountain is mentioned in a few state geology publications. There were some prospects for mines up there. A prospect is something that never pans out into a mine. I never found too much metallic minerals up there. Although when they started Village in the Park, east of Pointe Pacific, I went there and found some specimans that looked like pyrite.


That’s also where I found good amythest, as well as just a few pieces of needle quartz. Those crystals are very thin and very long proportionally. So from a mineral point of view Village in the Park’s an interesting kind of place. There’s all kinds of crystal habits, i.e. crystals shapes. There’s a ton of quartz in a lot of unusual forms.


There was the roadcut along Guadelupe Canyon that I found crystals. Why I didn’t go there earlier, I don’t know, but I went there around 81 or 82. It was of those wet landslidey years. I think part of the hill slid out into the road and I went up there and saw all kinds of crystals sitting on the ground bigger and different than I found anywhere else. They have little pockets in clear quartz with water and sometimes an air bubble that moves around.



Way back early in my tenure, they built the road connecting from the Cow Palace to Guadelupe Canyon Parkway, the Carter-Martin Extension. That’s where you see a big slump a little bit uphill towards the saddle.The weeds were coming in and I would take Schooley up there frequently and dig for crystals. He would take his camera, chop fennel, take pictures and get bored.




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I don’t know that many native plants but I do know some of the more common ones like lupine, all the gradeschool ones. I collected lupine seeds from all over the mountain. The ones I replanted I started at home in pots. Those plants were from that blue lupine that grows on the corner where they use to have the sign, “Welcome to San Bruno Mountain Park” it used to be further up the hill right around where the road turns. You’d see the sign, and this rocky cliff with a ton of blue lupine.



I was convinced they put the sign there so people would say, “Hey were here. It’s beautiful on San Bruno Mountain.” So what I was sprouting was the offspring of those seeds that are actually growing 200 feet away. I didn’t want to plant something from somewhere else. I wanted the seed to actually be from San Bruno Mountain; as close as possible.


I remember Schooley was trying to find HCP sites to compare before and after, to prove the HCP was bad. And John Hafernak (SFSU Biologist) waffled. Now he’s looking more standoffish. Mike Vasey’s playing political footsy, too. So there were a lot of hearings, a lot of silly things.


I did my first public speaking since high school. Schooley cajoled me to attend hearings and then signed me up, on the speakers list. And I don’t know what I spoke about—the shellmound in Buckeye Canyon or something. There was a fair amount of this.


We got a lot of signatures for the CalPaw state bond initiative around 1990. Lorraine was involved with that too. She was just brutal. She would extract signatures from the people. We use to work the SF Zoo, stand out there in the fog, and Stern Grove and any place where unsuspecting people who presumably liked nature, would sign.


That initiative helped buy Buckeye and Owl Canyon. Nobody ever said, “You, Bay Area Land Watch, You alone saved this.” There were some alliances with other groups. I don’t mean to sell out to all the other groups with their hands out from all the different counties. But there must have been some other alliances. We were talking with the Trust for Public Land about what could we do about this. Could we use you TPL as a front?


I moved about a year ago. I remember there were 6 boxes of eco-stuff and Bruno-stuff. Seems to me I kept 3 of the boxes and took em to Marin. The other 3, I gave to Schooley’s garage, cause all of a sudden I can’t find 3 files I thought I had. Things like those earliest documents and newsletters I wrote.


I talked to people on the phone and didn’t actually meet them in person, periperal scientists like Richard Arnold and all these entomologists. Talked to them when I was doing more with a newsletter, D. Benedictus, and he came out with a study on San Bruno Mountain moths and everybody wrote something then, in the newsletter, about it. And so I talked with him at the time. I did meet with that TPL guy. I was at the meeting. And I didn’t really keep up with most of these people. Bennet Johnston?


Don Schoolcraft wrote the article in the Progress about the HCP. I think it was 83 cause the amendment was 82 and then it went through the courts and then it took through the calender year of 83 to actually stand up. After the lawsuit, about which I know nothing, Mr. What’s His Name from the Biodiversity Legal Fund in Montana said, “That case was winnable.”




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That’s not nice to hear at this point—beating my drum here, relentlessly. Then I worked a lot on the database for the mailing list. We were IBM and now were a Mac based organization. I set up some of the filemakers name where you print out the lables and that sort of stuff. And they spun up another list which was kind of an action list. I drove myself nuts with that database. I can tell you that.


Lu Drake, he think’s I was at all these secret meetings and I took all these notes. He know’s all this gobbledy gook details about who owns what mudflat. California is the most blessed with HCP’s of all the states. It, incidently, also has the most endangered species in all the United States. It also has the most different kinds of habitats. The most different sorts of micro climates and eco-type-systems.


So I keep these reading lists, these bibliographies. Like the seed guy Craig Dreman’s Habitat Conservation Scam. You have to order it from him in Redwood City. I’m doin my best to publicize it. Which reminds me, I should add the latest book to the list. Jerome’s book is not on the reading list.



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