The Story Of
The Breakup of the CSSBM
And the Evolution Of the HCP
After my accident, around 1978, the Committee To Save San Bruno Mountain (CSSBM) was being pushed forward politically. There was a party across the street from the old City Hall in South San Francisco at the Lyons Club. I was so vague I didn’t understand what was really going on, or the problems of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and that our group was working in that direction. Things were rising to make the CSSBM famous—as the great savers of the mountain.
Anja Miller was on the Brisbane City Council and she did a lot of work for the party. She got the dinner, food, speakers and on and on—for the great CSSBM—how large we were. We had all the city councils and mayors from the towns surrounding the mountain and we had politicians from Redwood City. The Sierra Club mushroom man was there. I can’t remember his name, but he was a Kaiser doctor for a thousand years. He wrote an article for the Sierra Club and took a photograph of all of us. Everybody was there; Fred Smith, me, and all the people who soon created the phoney CSSBM. That picture was in the Sierra Club Loma Prietan newsletter—all of us smiling. Bette and Mimi were wearing the Save San Bruno Mountain Shirt we had just printed for the first time. And there I was smiling away. It was just after my accident. I was so happy we were all doing such good things. I was shining away with peace.
It was after that party that everything started fumbling away and dieing out. We started really fighting and having all these meetings and trying to get more contact, response and battles about the HCP.
It was after I moved back to Brisbane that the discovery of the Mission blue became an issue. There was questions as to what to do about the areas of the mountain that were still owned by developers and threatened with destruction. The state bond act bought only the Saddle Area. Now the plan was that the developers were gonna start building everywhere else. One day Larry Orsak, from the Xerxes Society, contacted some woman in Brisbane who heard about me and then Larry brought me closer to the butterflies; the Elfin and the Mission blue. I’d also received a letter from Dick Arnold. And then Larry took me, for the first time, to see the Mission blue and Elfin caterpillars and plants. It was just amazing. Here I’d been around the mountain for 10 years and never looked at a sedum.
Dick Arnold had discovered the Mission blue a few years before this, and Larry became very interested. Larry worked in the university studying butterflies. He’s from L.A. and he’s done a lot of research on butterflies along the coast. Larry is the creator of the Xerxes Society which now has chapters across the United States. He heard about the Mission blue on San Bruno Mountain and how it had just been declared rare and endangered.
We started going to fairs and telling people. In those days nobody really knew about rare and endangered butterflies—you know, in the Bay Area it’s houses and cities and all that kind of stuff. Nobody was aware of the consequences of growth and power and how it detracts from people’s ability to enjoy nature.
Then we started having meetings in Brisbane more frequently because the butterflies habitat was in areas where they were planning to build. And everybody was wondering what do we do with rare and endangered butterflies on private property—on the grasslands of the Northeast Ridge (NER) and South Slopes (SS)—areas we’d all been working so hard to save.
Tom Adams was still working as our lawyer for free. He had also begun to question, “What do you do for rare and endangered on private property?” He was aware of the 1973 Endangered Species Act and Tellico Dam Snail darter and all those worries. I thought we should be testing everything. But what kept coming up was the idea of a compromise. We’d worked so hard and saved the Saddle Area. Now the NER and SS were private property with rare and endangered and what do we do about this?
So our meetings involved Tom Adams, Fred Smith, Sylvia Gregory and Jim Keegan came sometimes, but not always. The idea of compromising was worrying Larry Orsak, me and a few others. How do you compromise rare and endangered? I was learning more from Larry Orsak about the butterflies and rare plants which I hadn’t been previously aware of. He showed me the first list of rare and endangered plants cataloged the California Native Plant Society (CNPS).
The whole feeling kept leaning toward compromise. For Larry and I it seemed quite wrong. It means allowing to kill. Allowing to destroy rare and endangered habitat because it’s private. The stronger feeling for me was that we should make a greater effort to have those areas purchased by cities, states, counties, governments and the Trust for Public Land. But by now there was contact with the lawyer from the enemy side, Lindell Marsh, and the politicians. Tom Adams was going to Washington DC. So the formation of this so-called the Habitat Conservation Plan began quietly. We didn’t know about the HCP, us local folks, until it was more formed.
After my accident, it was a vague time for me. There was a meeting down the Peninsula with the Sierra Club about the the Habitat Conservation Plan, what should the Sierra Club do? Larry, Tom, Fred Smith and Sylvia Gregory were there. Reid Associates was there. Thomas Reid came up to me, all sugary and friendly. He had already been hired by Visitacion Associates. They were deciding who, from the county, was gonna be involved with the HCP. Craig Dremann, a native plant seed collector, who later wrote the the Habitat Conservation Scam, was at the meeting. He was hurt by the whole thing. Tom Adams was being so sweet at that meeting. He was already in good contact with the county.
Larry Orsak and I sat together at that meeting and the Sierra Club’s final decision was that they’re not gonna say yes or no to the Habitat Conservation Plan. Which means they’re letting the whole thing happen. That was their decision. Then they followed Tom Adams phoney stuff and followed the whole agreeing with the HCP. It’s illegal. That’s when I knew they were goin in the wrong direction.
I had hoped that the Sierra Club would question the HCP that Tom Adams had created. Then the meetings went on but the question became stronger and harder between all of us. Larry Orsak got even more involved because he was really concerned about the whole effect on the United States with this big loophole they were creating in the ESA.
Development on the SS and NER was the first plan for destruction of endangered species habitat since the ESA came into effect. It’s allowing to destroy any rare and endangered habitat and attempting to recreate those things. I was questioning. Where would the butterflies go? Where would Thomas Reid Associates recreate rare and endangered habitat? What kind of a dangerous precedent are we setting with this HCP stuff?
I knew that the Mission blue habitat would not work in the Saddle area? The Saddle area is naturally scrubland habitat and the butterflies need open grassland. So how are we gonna remove gorse from the Saddle and create Mission blue habitat? It makes no sense.
Eventually the HCP formed itself between Tom Adams, his phoney CSSBM, the county and Visitacion Associates. Around that time I was hired by the City of Brisbane for the Public Works. I wanted to work for the City because I had the opportunity to remove broom from the canyons and do garden work in the parks. The public works fellow, Emile, he died. He was a nice guy, a huge guy. I’d see him in the rain lying down on the street, cleaning out the gutters. He was an original Brisbanian. Emile knew the mountain.
This was at the same time Reid Associates was hired to study the Mission blue. I’d be in the park planting some shrubs and Tom Reid would come with his group and stand right next to me. And he would have around 10 students from the university with nets to catch butterflies. They’d go off over the mountain to catch the butterflies and try to identify the males from the females. Then they’d mark butterflies and a week later they’d come back to see where the butterflies went and how long they last.
At this time I still had some hope. I was thinking maybe something could be done. Maybe it’s possible to recreate butterfly habitat. I hadn’t yet comprehended what a horror the HCP was.
Around 1982, I became even more worried about the phoney data Reid created. And as he was creating this sham, we sent out information to groups that were studying butterflies at universities in England and all over the world. It became more and more clear that this was as phoney as it could be. And I still thought the CSSBM was legitimate cause some of us kept doing the important stuff. We were leading hikes, having meetings and making checks on the mountain. And we were watching the formation of the HCP and the moves of the county and Reid and Visitacion Associates.
In 84 or 85 it became clear something had to be done. We were still having meetings, fighting and questioning. And then everything became a fight. The whole flow was not clear to me. Tom Adams and Fred Smith were moving away from us. They were not as open to us. We had a meeting at Fred Smith’s house and Tom was there. Dan Marlin was with me and Arden Tevestoff, she died.
The three of us from the legitimate CSSBM, listened to Freddy responding to my questions about the destruction of and the recreation of rare and endangered habitat, and the results of that around us. And the three of us felt that Fred and Tom were not telling us the truth. There was a bad energy, it felt wrong and I knew it.
We had been very carefully looking at and checking things before we agreed on anything. I just got this sense that Fred and Tom were into the HCP all the way. They’d done more than they told us. Arden and Dan and I, we left Freddy’s house and that’s the first time I started saying no. I disagree to this idea of destroying the Mission blue habitat and trying to recreate it. It’s just not working. We sent out a information to 100’s of universities and asked, “What do you think about the so-called Habitat Conservation Plan?” And a 100 universities responded saying that they disagreed with the HCP and disagreed with this change on rare and endangered act. That’s when the battle between Tom and Freddy and me really began.
In the middle of the battle, at the worst part of it, I sent Tom Adams a post card. He wouldn’t talk to me. So I found the postcard in Berkeley. It was a man and woman sitting in the sunshine in those folding chairs they have out by the beach and they were having coffee or wine or something and behind them there was one of those huge blimps crashing to the ground. And my message was think twice. And he’d know what I meant. The whole meaning of the CSSBM and his being the lawyer I had chosen, was dieing. The things that I had worked on and given all my life to, he was not even looking at. He was destroying the mountain, the vision, the rightness, the rare and endangered, the whole thing, collapsing right behind him.
And this is the time Tom Adams began to incorporate, which I didn’t know how to do.
So I rushed down that very day and filed a fictitious business statement. To show that I was the leader of the CSSBM. It was all I could think of, to counteract this phoney incorporation. Then I started to fight back from the powers of Tom and Freddy. I wrote press releases saying that Tom Adams is fired because our group is split in half. They’re going in the wrong direction and we won’t accept it. They’re incorporating what we created under false pretenses and therefore I fired Tom Adams as our lawyer. I was saying the HCP and incorporation stuff—this whole game was a scam.
Then there was that newspaper, The Progress, that no longer exists. and there was that guy Don Shoecraft who got nasty and started doing negative things. He lived in South City or San Bruno and then he moved in right next door to Fred Smith. All the nastiness started when I was saying the HCP was all wrong and that I was firing Tom Adams and I got that to the press. That was about the time Craig Dremann wrote the book about the HCP Scam. He was going work for Reid Associates. And then he was cancelled by the county.
The phoney CSSBM was only four or five people. Then Del Shembari changed his mind. He began to realize that the HCP was not working. In the beginning he followed the HCP because he didn’t understand it that much. He went to the meetings with Tom Adams. Sylvia Gregory made the calls for those meetings. I think they were at Ellie Larsen’s house in San Bruno.
Fred Smith’s 2nd wife went to those meetings. They’re divorced now, of course. At one point Fred’s wife and I ran into each other on the bus. And at the time she was having troubles staying with him. I had a talk with her about the HCP. She felt sympathetic and I had a feeling she was not that happy with Fred or with the HCP, by then. Somewhere in the middle of the HCP stuff, when Fred was the Mayor of Brisbane, they split up. Fred’s first wife separated when they had a son.
When I first met Fred he was living in South San Francisco. His kid was 10 or 11. When he first moved to a place in Brisbane he lived with one of his girlfriends in those brown boxy apartment buildings. Then he bought the house where he is now, behind the library. He’s got a girlfriend from Berkeley now.
Tom had to make sure that the CSSBM, with its legitimate reputation, was in his hands. But with me holloring and questioning everything this would have been a problem. Because of the politics, the HCP needed to be fully accepted on all sides as proper. The meetings for the formation of the HCP were in Redwood City. The first meeting included, Fish & Game, Tom Adams, Visitacion Associates and the county. I tried to go to those meetings, I walked right in and they said I couldn’t stay—the meeting was closed. That meeting was supposed to be open to the public and they shut me out. After the HCP was enacted, they had a few more meetings, and that was the end of the phoney CSSBM.
Then, for a number of years Tom Reid didn’t have even a single public meeting. During that time we were doing our best to spread the word. We did press releases and questioned this change of the ESA and we had meetings in Brisbane with 20 or 30 people. We did bulletins and were still questioning what to do. Alice Howard from UC Berkeley came to some of the meetings with Larry. And this is where the idea of going to court against the HCP was formed. So we created Friends of Endangered Species (FOES).
The HCP was really on its way. We did a legal fight and we needed money. I put in thousands of dollars. Alice Howard mortgaged her house. Larry Orsak got money from the Xerxes Society. So it’s thousands of dollars. The trial went up to the State Appellate, but our lawyer, Michael Freund was not as sharp as Tom Adams and the legal battle against the HCP took a long time. Finally the three judges couldn’t decide whether or not it’s scientifically clear the HCP would not work. So might as well give it a try. And our FOES lawsuit lost.
Tom Adams and Fred Smith ruined everything. And I’d have been in a position of power if I had stayed with them. If I’d agreed with the HCP and gone along with it, I’d probably have a nice, sort of famous situation, somewhere in San Bruno Mountain Park.
Today this group came from San Francisco for the hike and they had no idea about the HCP. So I had to explain it and this makes me think even now, the HCP is spreading all over the United States and nobody knows. The press doesn’t respond. And people think the HCP is legitimate. They think, “The HCP is a very important environmental move.” And you see the destruction of the United States and the ESA.
During the big HCP battle, I went to all the environmental groups in the city, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy. They came to some of our meetings and they wanted to help, but they couldn’t because it was too battley. The Conservancy wants to save land, but if they get into something that’s too battley, they back away.
Sherman Eubanks and I were gonna have dinner, but then he had his stroke and he wasn’t around and I never contacted him. I’d initially found him at a meeting in San Francisco and all the enemies were there. Southwest Diversified was there for the Northeast Ridge. They were all unfriendly and Sherman and I saw each other and he said. “Hi, Oh we’ve known each other for so many years.” We were shaking hands, and everyone else was shocked. But by that time Sherman had sold everything, everybody else owned it. He didn’t have to worry anymore. He’s got lots of money now. It was in the air that he was trying to do things nice about rare and endangered species, the best he could. But he’s probably very angry too, to lose so much money that he could have gotten from developing the Saddle and the mountain above Brisbane. They were gonna put a hotel and restaurant at the summit. Imagine that, a fancy restaurant on the top of San Bruno Mountain. Sherman the bulldozer of the shellmound—who went to UC Berkeley for Engineering. He’s pretty smart. He can chop mountains off for bayfill.
After we lost the Foes suit I started the Bay Area Mountain Watch (BAMW). Then, around 1989, I wanted to get away from being in charge of BAMW so Lorraine Burtzloff and Dana Dillworth took over. And the started moving in another direction. Neither of them ever went up on the mountain. They were more concerned with the flatlands around San Bruno Mountain.
My concern has always been the mountain and we started having big fights and I broke away and started the Bay Area Land Watch. Brian Gaffney incorporated the BAMW as a political organization a 501 (c) (4), which is totally useless. You can’t get grant money since they don’t allow the foundations to write stuff off their taxes if you’re a 501(c) (4)....