The Garbage Wars

The Garbage Wars


Lu Drake

When Paul became the Chairman of the BCCP that was the time that we did things.


Paul Goercke

I bought property in Brisbane in 1962 and I built in 1964 and 5. And Richard Burr, bless his heart, came by to visit me. Richard was an ex-planning commissioner. He and two others had been thrown off the Planning Commission because they voted against a 20 year contract that would have a 10 year optional extension, making it a 30 year contract. That 10 year extension was at the option of the Scavengers. It was gonna be their decision whether to continue or not.


The Scavengers appealed to the Brisbane City Council right away. The council voted 4 to1 and over-rode the planning commission. They went ahead with the contract and that started the big big fight. Richard Burr was let go and I’m not sure what happened to the other two commissioners, but Richard was the Chairman. They let him go because the Planning Commission serves at the pleasure of the Council.


The only councilmember who voted in Richard Burr’s favor was Ernie Conway who lived on Kings Rd. In 1965 Ed Schwenderlauf joined Ernie Conway, both were in opposition to the dumping. So now there’s a 3 to 2 council. The city attorney was Conrad Reische and he had been brought over from Bayshore Sanitary District, that’s right next to the Scavengers, and he was our city attorney and he kept ruling in favor of the Scavengers. So it seemed as if we had a plant here to keep things correct for the Scavengers. And so he said, “This is a legal and a binding contract so forget it, don’t raise hell.” Well we did anyway and that’s when Luman and I met through the Brisbane Citizens for Civic Progress. BCCP, the worst four letter word that the Scavengers could ever think of. The BCCP was already started and I became president of the BCCP and that’s when things really started in this town. During that year we were on television seven different times because of the different issues that were coming up. The city kept fighting the citizens in putting the garbage dumping issue on the ballot. After it was on the ballot, the irony was that they then had to defend the city against the Scavengers who filed a lawsuit. And this happened all during the late 60’s. Whenever the Scavengers lost an election they would take us to court and whenever they would lose in court they would come back to the city with another election. There was this constant, constant uproar going on here.


The first election, in 1965, was to vote on keeping the garbage dump from jumping over on the other side of James Lick freeway (Highway 101). The Scavengers were building dikes in the bay and they were just about getting ready to close the dikes. I think it was the Army Core of Engineers who went after them for not getting a permit to reduce the bay size. And their excuse was that they didn’t know they had to ask for a permit. But they went ahead anyway and they were given an ok.








Paul Goercke—Page 1

The night before the first election in Brisbane the three councilman who were in favor of the garbage dumping, did something you couldn’t do in this day and age because it’s illegal to make a decision outside of the city meeting—they set out a slip of paper the night before

the election that said “Don’t queer our city, vote no on this garbage thing.” and I was over at the Schwenderlauf’s that night and we got phone calls “Well that did it, I was on the fence until now, but now I’m with you guys.” And we won the election.


Now the irony was that, because of the election, the Scavengers sued the city and then the city council had to get a lawyer. They had to hire another attorney, because Conrad Reische had already told the Scavengers that everything was perfect with their contract and the city would never upset it. So Reische was now on the outside. And the city had to get special council and they brought in Caspar Weinberger.


Casper Weinberger became the defense attorney for the City of Brisbane to fight the San Francisco Scavengers who wanted to make the bay a giant garbage can. They wanted to fill the bay from Hunters Point to Sierra Point—that whole thing. The idea was to take down Candlestick Hill, the whole hill, which is still scarred, and fill the bay up all the way. And if you look at the 1965 general plan, there it is.


So anyway the net result was that we were in a horrible battle, every time the Scavengers lost an election they sued the city. And every time they lost in court, because Caspar Weinberger won that case for the city of Brisbane, they did several things, they appealed to the upper courts and they filed another election in Brisbane and they upped the ante from $20,000 to $100,000 a year.


By 1970 the Scavengers threw in the towel, they decided this wasn’t worth fighting over. So they just simply took the little knob on the end of Sierra Point that’s in the city of South San Francisco. And they made a deal with South San Francisco to fill that up completely, 29 acres, Sierra Point is about 105 acres and they had only done one lift and a half. They usually do a lift, cover with dirt, another lift cover with dirt, another lift cover with dirt, three lifts. And they only did one and a half. So it was a half finished dump.


Oh I have a really funny story about the dump. It’s these funny times that made all the environmental struggles worthwhile. There was a big big fire at the Sierra Point dump in 1969 or ‘70. I have an eight millimeter silent film that Ed Schwenderlauf made. All that methane and garbage burning. Anyway, Mrs. Burr called the Brisbane Fire Department and used a fake name. She told them there was a fire and they said they were too busy to go and put it out. And so she said, “Oh please, please save the dump, the dump is really important too me, please, please, I care about that dump.” She went on and on. And she sounded really sincere. We laughed and laughed. And I have another funny one for ya...


When we were having all these fights with the garbage company, it was getting rougher and rougher on them cause they were really put on the defensive so much of the time. One time there were two gals from Brisbane that went to Pyrolese Restaurant in North Beach to help as maids at a special party. There was Laura Johnson and I forget the name of the other one, but it was a pal, and the two of them went in as maids. And at this party, they were drinking more and more, and getting a loose with the tongue.






Paul Goercke—Page 2

Pretty soon it turned out that what they were in was a private gathering of judges, of state senators and state officials, and San Francisco officials and Scavengers. These officials got a little loaded up with liquor and they started a conversation with each other. And these gals were helping with the drinks and hearing all this stuff coming from these guys. So they came back to Brisbane after the party and Laura Johnson called up Luman to tell him all about the party and it turns out they had said things like “You know San Francisco has the best judges money can buy. Why aren’t you guys doing more for us?” That’s the Scavengers talking. “And we worked so hard, we put so much money into that place down there to keep it safe for us and to get all mixed up with that crazy village down there with all those idiots and queers.” So Laura Johnson and her friend remembered those phrases from hearing them there. Isn’t this absolutely unbelievable, bazaare? Well they thought, how can we use this against the Scavengers? So we put out a letter and we quoted them as having a meeting there at Pyrolees and getting angry and saying things they would never have said if they had known that they were going to be quoted. We said they referred to Brisbanians as those idiots and hillbillies. We used one of their words and a substitute of another word. So then the next thing came out in writing from the Scavengers and put all over town in a pamphlett or something and it said “We never never called Brisbane people hillbillies.” Which is true, you see. They called us idiots and queers. And we put out that

they called us idiots and hillbillies.


The Mountain and the Bay

Tuntex owns all of Sierra Point and they own all of the fill, all the Southern Pacific lands and why this is so important, this garbage story, in connection with the mountain, is that it all ties together.


During 1965 we had a visit from Warren Cramner from City Bank, in New York, owned by the Rockefellers and he told the council that they had a little plan to give San Bruno Mountain a haircut. They called it a haircut. They were gonna take50 feet, they said, off part of the mountain. Now before dear old Bruce Brugman became owner of the Bay Guardian, he worked for the Redwood City Tribune as a photographer. And he saw this machinery going on, on the mountain up here, so he went and took pictures of it.


Westbay Associates had dug an area the size of a football field, on the southern slopes of the mountain. And that’s when Bruce began to contact Luman and the Brisbane Citizens for Civic Progress and others. And he said, “Look you guys, this is a giant thing they’re planning up here, this is no little thing.” So it turns out they had a little plan—the largest earthmoving job since the China Wall. The Great Wall of China, you know, you can photograph it from the moon, you can see it. And this was going to be a little thing they were doing here. Gonna give the mountain a haircut. It turns out they were gonna take the mountain down and it was just gonna be a giant flat area up to the antennas—that little part up there, Radio Ridge, was gonna be left.


They weren’t going to take the Saddle down but they were going to develop the whole Saddle Area. The plan was to take down the mountain, by conveyor belt, over the freeway and over the Sierra Point dump. This is why saving the bay was important to saving the mountain, and vice-versa—it all fits together. 







Paul Goercke—Page 3

The barges were gonna come in there and take away all that earth and fill up 10,000 acres of San Francisco Bay down there at Redwood City—Burlingame all the way down to Redwood City—10,000 acres of the bay. And just think what this project’s effect would have on the weather. The whole ecosystem of the Bay Area would be totally different. And what was left of the mountain they were gonna put 100,000 people on that. There would have been nothing left. And all the fog from Daly City would roll right on over.


Luman began writing letters like mad and he would send copies to everybody, to the governor, to the mayor of New York and I mean he just flooded the area with his letters of complaint. And this had a lot to do with stopping the garbage. And saving the mountain had a lot to do with saving the bay. In 1967 we got very involved with Save The Bay, as Brisbane citizens. So it was a combination of things, and forces, that ended up with saving the bay first of all.


Now this is interesting. Ronald Reagan was governor at the time and he had hired Caspar Weinberger as his press agent in Sacramento. Lucy Conway and I went up there with 27,000 signatures to save San Francisco Bay, gathered by Save The Bay. So Lucy and I had 27,000 signatures, which is a pile of paper, to present to Governer Reagan. And we went to his office and they wouldn’t let us see him. They said, “No, you can leave them here but you can’t see him.” So we said, “Well, we’ll come back this afternoon,” because that’s when Reagan was gonna be in his office and we wanted to present the signatures to him personally. And they said we probably wouldn’t be able to do that, but we could come back anyway. So we left and we were walking down the hallway and all of a sudden I saw a whole bunch of people coming up the way led by Caspar Weinberger. Now Caspar Weinberger knew us cold by now, cause he was our defense attorney. So Caspar saw Lucy and me and he said “Hi Paul” and the governor was right behind him, and he said “It’s nice to see you here.” So Lucy takes the 27,000 signatures and says “Here Governor Reagan.” So we waylayed Reagan and handed him the signatures for the Save The Bay.


That’s all involved with the mountain because by saving the bay we’re also stopping the mountain’s destruction because that was gonna be the bayfill. You see how it all ties together? So it was a combination of things. And then about 1968, Dianne Feinstein was President of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco and Jean Fassler was President of the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County. We got the two of them to get together for a lunch down at Coyote Point. We had a big luncheon at the Polynesian Restaurant with the two of them. And the idea was to discuss, how does all of this effect San Francisco? And the beautiful thing that happened was that Burlingame and Brisbane joined forces and started holding city hearings about this bayfill and Burlingame said NO. They were the first city to join Brisbane in saying, “NO mountain cutting. NO filling in front of our city.”


Burlingame had just had that bayfill and development along the freeway. You know all those big hotels from Burlingame down to Coyote Point, that stretch of 101, and they didn’t like it. It made them mad and they didn’t want more development on the other side of all that. Burlingame had OK’d it originally but when they saw it they didn’t like it. They said, “This isn’t right and we don’t want more fill on the other side of that.”








Paul Goercke—Page 4

When Burlingame joined Brisbane in opposing the bayfill, the first thing you know, San Mateo began to say “Not so good, not so good.” And when we got San Francisco and San Mateo County politicians together, then San Francisco agreed. This was at the point where they were talking about the big development up on the Saddle. Crocker was gonna build those high rises and all those new residents were gonna pour down into San Francisco. The San Francisco Supervisors voted 11 to 0 that they did not want that Saddle developed. All those people would be messing up the whole Mission and Geneva Area. There would be overcrowding. San Francisco would have to provide services for all these people jamming their streets and they just didn’t want it. These events were surprizes.


In those years we were lucky, the environmental movement was just blossoming, it was in its adolescence. Oh my goodness, the word ecology wasn’t invented yet, when we were in all these fights. So the movement built up and built up and in the county here, of course, we had two supervisors who were very much with us in wanting to stop the bayfill. The third one was Baccioccio and he was on the fence. Well we had this business about the mountain and something about changing it into a park. It was a proposition and the county held hearings about whether to hold this election or not. It was a county election, because we had all these parks down in the southern part but no big parks in the north county. So that went through and Baccioccio took a stand with us and for this he received a great deal of persecution particularly from the developers. They took cement trucks and ran ‘em around city hall while they were holding the hearings. They had a demonstration going on out there all during this meeting, showing that the unions and particularly builders unions were death against this idea of saving the mountain, of saving San Bruno Mountain. I mean 100,000 people, that’s a lot of housing, that’s a lot of bucks, that’s a lot of earth moving, that’s a lot of cement.





























Paul Goercke—Page 5