April 19, 2007 Commission Meeting Minutes

Approved Minutes of April 19, 2007 Commission Meeting

  1. Call to Order
    The meeting was called to order by Chair Randolph at the MetroCenter Auditorium, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland, California at 1:14 p.m.
  2. Roll Call
    Present were Chair Sean Randolph, Vice Chair Halsted, Commissioners Bates, Bourgart, Fernekes, Gioia, Gordon, Jordan, Kniss (represented by Alternate Carruthers), Kondylis, Lai-Bitker (represented by Alternate Johnson), Lundstrom, McGlashan, Mossar, Moy, Nelson, Peskin (represented by Alternate Owen), Wagenknecht, and Waldeck.

    Not Present were: Resources Agency (Baird), Sonoma County (Brown), Speaker of the Assembly (Gibbs), Governors Appointee (Goldzband), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Hicks), Department of Finance (Klass), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Schwinn) and State Lands Commission (Thayer).

  3. Public Comment Period
    Barbara Salzman, with the Marin Audubon Society, spoke on the Strawberry School project. She said the Society is very proud of protecting wetlands over many years. She said the Society has a number of problems with the project.

    This is a seasonal and tidal wetland. The purpose of the project is to construct and build on seasonal wetlands. The removal of fill (2,637 cubic yards) from the tidal marsh would remove the topographic diversity that contributes to the complexity and value of marshes. This would degrade the marsh habitat for wildlife. She is concerned that this project has not been adequately reviewed. The Society believes this warrants the scheduling of a public hearing.

    David Lewis, Executive Director of Save the Bay, updated the Commission on Save the Bay’s pollution prevention campaign. Much of the pollution that is coming into San Francisco Bay is not coming from factories, refineries, or power plants that are regulated, but instead from all of us. Most of the pollution that is coming into the Bay comes from our streets and homes untreated through the storm drains.

    The theme of the campaign is “They don’t do it to us. We shouldn’t do it to them.” The campaign is directed to driving the people to Save the Bay’s website where there is information about what individuals can do to benefit the Bay.

    There are things that cities and counties can do in an effort to help as well, especially in the area of trash. A big issue coming up for review is with the Regional Water Board regarding the municipal regional storm water permit that regulates the cities in four counties. Save the Bay is pushing for much more significant restrictions on trash and aiming for a goal of major reductions in trash over the next few years.

    Nancy Okada said she lives in San Anselmo, California and she urged the Commission to put the Strawberry School matter on its public hearing agenda. She said she is concerned about some of the seasonal wetland at Strawberry School and she asked the Commission to deny a permit to proceed. This construction project will mean a destruction of breathing space for nature where both wildlife and the public can take a moment to see nature up close and personal.

    Tammy Edmonson, spoke on behalf of the Mill Valley School District. She said she is the Chair on the Strawberry Point School Wetlands and Field Restoration Committee. She said there are three components for this project. (1) To renovate the school’s grassy play field, a portion of which has in recent years begun to flood during the rainy season and it has therefore been designated a degraded seasonal wetland. (2) The second component of the project will expand and restore the school’s on-site tidal wetland, which is just outside the campus proper. (3) The third component is a design that has added some of the concerns by Audubon and their associates. It will take about one third of an acre away from the play field to create a new protected and enhanced seasonal wetland on the campus.

    The latter two components will serve both to mitigate for the filling of that degraded seasonal wetland in the play field area and as a centerpiece in the school’s environmental and wetlands education program.

    Because BCDC does not have jurisdiction over the seasonal wetlands she realizes this is not the forum to address the concerns in detail, but she does feel it is worth noting that every agency charged with protecting wildlife in the area has concluded that filling that seasonal wetland will have no adverse impact on any threatened, endangered, or special status species. Miller Fisheries concluded that the tidal wetland program will actually have long-term benefits for essential fish habitats.

    Commissioner Moy said he heard that there was a lack of public involvement in the process for Strawberry School. Ms. Edmonson said this project has been advanced for the past 7 years by the Strawberry Point community. The community has hundreds of volunteers who have worked thousands of hours over a period of years to raise the funds to accomplish this project without resort to public funds. There have been multiple public tours of the project, she has appeared before the Strawberry Design Review Board, there have been parent and student tours, local political representatives have been invited to tours, and have networked with Audubon.

    Commissioner Carruthers said BCDC has a regular procedure for administrative permits that turn out to be controversial. He said it is no reflection upon the staff, it will not reflect either support or opposition to the project if a hearing is held. It will, however, provide a legitimate and fully announced process for hearing what the elements of the controversy might be. Therefore, he feels it is inappropriate to get into a conversation today about this project when there is a legitimate process to approach a project such as this.

    Mr. McAdam said that Item 7 is the appropriate time where the Commission can address whether it wants to take this project up or not. The public comment period is the time where the public can actually get the Commission’s attention and speak about these issues and it is the Commission’s time to listen to the public on administrative matters.

    William Carmen said he is an environmental consultant and lives in Mill Valley. He said the tidal marsh restoration is on the land that the school district owns. It is a very small tidal marsh and the school would like to use it for educational purposes. They would essentially be doubling the size of this small tidal marsh, removing non-native plants, and enhancing it for wildlife use.

    The small seasonal wetland is actually part of the playground and was filled in years ago. It is not charged by groundwater and essentially fills up when water comes off the school playground. In the bird studies he has done, even at high tides when these seasonal wetlands are most valuable, the tidal marsh immediately adjacent to it receives significantly more bird use and more diverse bird use than the seasonal wetland does.

    Charles Smith, a parent of a student of Strawberry Point School and also sits on the Committee. He said this is a very small piece of land and, in fact, there has been some discussion as to whether it should be re-mapped because depending on which day of the week it is, they are either just over or just under the area that needs to be considered as degraded seasonal wetland, and therefore mitigated.

    This area is in the midst of a highly populated, densely used community which always has been intended for the school. Roughly 50 percent is marsh and the remaining portion of the school is either school buildings or asphalt, and then the area that used to be a play field and now cannot be used as a play field.

    He said this discussion is coming about because it is a pedantic way to deal with what he believes Audubon considers a slippery slope. This is not the forum for this discussion. The wildlife will benefit from this, as well as everyone in the neighborhood.

    Victor Romero, a parent of a student at Strawberry Point School, addressed the fact that there may be a possibility of the Commission withdrawing this as a consent item and moving it to a hearing. He said there has been plenty of opportunity for the public to be involved in the process, and they are still involved in the process. This project is at the end of the road with its JARPA application. There have been many hearings, the community has been notified, members of the public, and anyone related to the school or neighborhood. This is not something new. He believes this is yet another venue to try to stop the project from the project opponents.

    This is a win-win project for the community. The service area of the Bay is being increased which is of benefit to the environment.

    Leslie Thornton, Principal at Strawberry Point School, said the school is extremely focused on environmental education, as well as a strong physical education program.

    Most of the school’s work has been done in anticipation of the completion of this project. The PTA is funding an on-site naturalist to work with each class. She would like to work it out so that the children have a safe place to play, not on concrete, and that the wildlife has its proper habitats.

    Brian Powell, the landscape architect on this project, said the improvement plan shows greatly improved shoreline access which is a major goal of BCDC. The environmental consultant for this site said that the seasonal wetland has subsided, but there is also the catch basin that plugged up years ago during the management period of Smith –Hawken which has contributed to the standing water that was later deemed a degraded seasonal wetland.

    One of the speakers earlier today said that the school district is contracted with contractors to build this project, which is not true. The school district solicited bids to see what the fair market value of the project would be, but the school district has not entered into any contractual agreements to build the project.

    The school does need a new playground area because currently the only play area on this site is asphalt and the ratio of children per square foot of play area is very low. Due to the success of the school the school has to add portable buildings in the immediate future, and the asphalt space will have to be used for the new portable buildings. Of course, this will impact the play area.

    Gwen Hubbard, current PTA President of Strawberry Point School, said this has been the dream of the school and the surrounding community of Strawberry Point. Thousands of hours have been put into raising money for this project.

    When her daughter started school at Strawberry Point six years ago there were 120 children at Strawberry Point. Currently, there are 320 children at Strawberry Point School and with the current enrollment statistics there will be more children next year.

    She noted that this is a degraded seasonal wetland and is up against the asphalt. Children run in and out of the play area even though it is 2 inches deep in water.

    The PTA and the school community have tried to make this a good thing for both the children and all of nature surrounding the school site and urged BCDC to grant the consent needed.

    Ken Benny, Superintendent of Schools of the Mill Valley Elementary School District, said he originally intended to attend this meeting just to lend support to the project as the lead agency. The PTA provides funding, manpower, consultant support, and it is not unusual to hear so many parents talk about a project like this, even though the school district serves as the lead agency.

    This project has been in the making for 7 years and he assured the Commission that the District has done due diligence in making sure that it follows every step needed during the permitting process. The District has consulted with legal counsel specializing in land use and land use planning to be sure everything is progressing correctly.

    A legal bid process has been followed. There has been no contract awarded. The process followed allowed the District to see what the fair market value was and the Board did take action to hold off on any award of bids, until such time all permits were approved.

    District meetings are publicly noticed and at every meeting there is opportunity for public comments. This project will not only enhance the school, but the environment as well.

    Commissioner Bates asked how many times this project had been publicly noticed. Mr. Benny said it had been noticed two times.

    Commissioner McGlashan said as a point of information for his colleagues as far as the public process, in addition to what the school district has done, the county zoning administrator had at least one hearing on this matter, and the Planning Commission had two hearings before the school district took jurisdiction over. There has been a fair amount of public process to date on this issue.

    Helen Lindquist, said she agrees with Commissioner Carruthers in that controversial subjects like this should be set aside in an independent public hearing. She disseminated a letter where she raised several questions that have not been answered regarding this project. The school district took this project out of the County Planning Commission’s jurisdiction.

    One objection she has for this project is that putting a playing field in the wetland zone is not good for the plant ecology or the animals that live there. You get run-off from a playing field, and fertilizer is one of the things that cause algal blooms in the ocean.

    Another point is that having it right next to a playing field involving soccer, football, and other ball games, there will be balls in the marsh unless there is a high fence keeping them out, or you will have children running in to the marsh all the time.

    She said the architect who spoke earlier said this project will increase shoreline in the tidal marsh. However, tidal marshes are not the most wonderful things to walk in to because the plants would be destroyed and squish the organisms.

    The noise level would also be a factor and would discourage use of the marsh by the birds.

    There is already great public access to this marsh. It is on the south side with a foot path and road with good viewing.

    She believes this subject should be debated further at a public hearing to be noticed at a later date.

  4. Approval of Minutes of March 15, 2007 Meeting
    Chair Randolph entertained a motion to adopt the minutes.

    MOTION: Commissioner Kondylis moved, seconded by Commissioner Lundstrom to approve the March 15, 2007 minutes. The motion passed.

  5. Report of the Chair
    Chair Randolph provided the following update:
    1. Joint Policy Committee. As you may recall, the regional Joint Policy Committee, or JPC, is currently made up of seven representatives from each of three regional bodies: the Association of Bay Area Governments; the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. ON March 16, at BCDC’s request, the JPC agreed that BCDC should become a member of the JPC. Until the state law that established the JPC is amended, BCDC representatives will be limited to participating in JPC discussion, but will not be able to vote. Since the primary purpose of the JPC is to coordinate the activities of the regional agencies, this limitation should not be a significant obstacle to our effectiveness on the JPC.

      He thanked staff for working so hard over the last months to engage the other partners in the JPC and open the door to the full participation membership of BCDC. Eleven members of the Commission expressed interest in being one of BCDC’s seven appointees to the Joint Policy Committee. From those volunteers Chair Randolph proposed appointing the following: Vice Chair Anne Halsted; Larry Goldzband; Jim Bourgart; Geoffrey Gibbs; Charles McGlashan; Dena Mossar; and himself.

      MOTION: Commissioner Bates moved, seconded by Commissioner Carruthers to approve the appointments as recommended. The motion passed.

    2. Harbor Safety Committee The San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee has been voted “Harbor Safety Committee of the Year” by the other harbor safety committees in the United States, which cover the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes coastlines. This is due, in no small measure, to Commissioner Joan Lundstrom.

      Next BCDC Meeting. It will not be necessary to hold the regularly-scheduled meeting on May 3rd. Therefore, the next meeting will be held on May 17th at MetroCenter. At that meeting the following matters will be taken up:

      1. Hold a public hearing on an application to upgrade the facilities at the San Quentin State Penitentiary in Marin County.
      2. Hold a public hearing and vote on proposed revisions to the federally-approved coastal management program for the Bay.
      3. Decide whether to initiate the process of amending the managed wetland findings and policies in the Bay Plan.
      4. Receive a briefing on the status of the studies being undertaken to determine whether it is feasible to provide a pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
      5. Receive a briefing on the actions other California agencies are taking to deal with climate change.
      6. Considering a report on the progress BCDC is making in carrying out its strategic plan.

        Marion Otsea, who was a long-time member of BCDC, passed away on March 3rd. Mrs. Otsea served on the Regional water Quality Control Board for a number of years and chaired the Board in the early 1990’s. She was the Water Board’s representative on BCDC and later served as President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. To honor her contributions to BCDC, with the Commission’s concurrence, the meeting will be adjourned today in memory of Marion Otsea.

    3. Ex-Parte Communications. If any of our commissioners may have inadvertently forgotten to report ex-parte communications whether written or oral, they are invited to report on such communications now.
      1. Commissioner Gordon said he has participated in two meetings. One with John Bruno of DNB Properties representing the Redwood Sea Salt Works regarding their outreach plan and approach to the community for a project yet to be identified. The other with Max Keach, of Keach Properties regarding a development proposed in the Redwood Shores community of Redwood City to project in Area H which includes a school. The content of the meeting regarded the federal permit process.
      2. Commissioner McGlashan said since the last BCDC meeting he has had a couple of communications from citizens in Paradise Cay in the Tiburon area regarding Mr. Mosley’s operation in Paradise Cay Marina. He also had a discussion with county personnel regarding compliance with county permits on this same matter.
      3. Commissioner Nelson noted that he had a conversation with staff and a number of members of the public about Strawberry Point School immediately prior to the meeting today.
  6. Report of the Executive Director
    Mr. Travis provided the following report:
    1. Emergency Permit. On April 2nd, after consulting with Chair Randolph, an emergency permit was issued to Caltrans to install a temporary barrier and other safety improvements in the median of a 13-mile stretch of State Route 12 east of Suisun City in the Suisun Marsh in Solano County. There have recently been a number of fatal accidents on this section of the highway. The temporary barrier will be in place for approximately five years until the planning and construction of permanent safety enhancements can be completed.

      Commissioner Kondylis said one of the things that have been learned about the highway dividers is that the road kill is horrendous because the animals try to cross the road and they cannot see. She asked if this barrier will be a solid concrete barrier. Mr. Travis said the temporary barrier is K-rail and he has consulted with the wildlife agencies and they believe it will be okay. He does not have knowledge about the permanent barrier, but it will go through a full environmental review.

      Mr. McAdam said the primary animal of concern in this area is the tiger salamander. He is trying to work with CalTrans to have scuppers in so they can travel underneath the barrier.

    2. Personnel. As you may recall, all but one of the 11 new positions have been filled that were added to the staff this fiscal year. The last of those positions is a senior engineer and a highly qualified professional has been found to fill this important position.

      Rafael Montes has been hired to fill this position and will start working for BCDC in May.

    3. Program Changes. Attention was called to the staff report that was sent to Commission members on April 6th dealing with proposed changes to the coastal management program, and a public hearing and possible vote on this proposal on May 17th. However, to meet legal requirements it was necessary to send the report out in advance of the public hearing. Please bring this report to the next meeting.
    4. Regulation Changes. A memo was sent to the Commission transmitting newly-approved sections of BCDC regulations which deal with a port priority use area in Oakland. It was asked that the Commission members insert the revised pages into their reference copy.
    5. Application Summaries. Staff has included a new feature in the application summary sent you for the Bair Island project. On the cover page you will find an oblique aerial photo of the project site. The type of photo will be provided on all summaries in the future in the hope that this will make it easier for Commissioners to understand where the project is located and how it fits into its surroundings.

      The next Commission meeting will be on Thursday May 17, 2007 and Mr. Travis may be away that week because the California Chamber of Commerce has invited him to join them on a trip to Boston to look at their waterfront. Steve McAdam will serve as Acting Executive Director if he is away.

  7. Commission Consideration of Administrative Matters
    Mr. McAdam was available to answer any questions on the administrative listing that was provided to the Commissioners. A number of letters have been received, as well as comments from many members of the public at today’s meeting regarding the Strawberry School project.

    If the Commissioner would like a full public hearing for this matter a motion, second and majority vote would be necessary. The staff would deny the administrative application and have it reprocessed as a regular application and schedule a public hearing.

    Mr. McAdam explained that the Commission has delegated the ability to issue permits for certain activities in its regulations to the staff (Regulations 10601 and 10602). When staff reviews applications as administrative permits they look to make sure that the activities proposed as part of the project would fit within these categories.

    In this instance staff has reviewed the activities proposed in the application and believe that all of them fit within the categories.

    There are two types of jurisdictions at this site: the Bay jurisdiction which is those areas that are subject to tidal action; and the 100 foot shoreline band, which is an area of land measured inland 100 feet from wherever the Bay stops. In the Bay there are a variety of policies and authorities by which the Commission reviews projects. In the shoreline band there are two criteria that the Commission would use to issue or deny permits. The first is that the project must provide the maximum feasible public access consistent with the project. The second criteria is if the project is located in one of the priority use areas as designated in the Bay Plan, the use that is proposed has to be consistent with the designated priority use. In this case there is no designated priority use, so the only standard to judge the work that exists in the shoreline band is the public access criterion.

    Commissioner Carruthers said relative to public access the concern is whether or not maximum feasible public access is provided. Some question has been raised regarding the appropriateness of public access and it seems to him that this is part of BCDC’s concern. Mr. McAdam said if you look at the project in the Bay there are two activities occurring: habitat enhancement and restoration, which would be reviewed against the tidal marsh and tidal flats policies, and the Fish and Wildlife and Aquatic research policies; and the other small amount of work in the Bay is some levee improvements with the Shoreline Protection Policies; then you move to the Shoreline Band where land use is irrelevant. BCDC has no ability to protect habitat in the shoreline band but it does have the ability to require maximum feasible public access.

    Commissioner McGlashan believes it is appropriate to defer this matter to Administrative Hearing because the controversy and analysis conducted in Marin County regarding the seasonal wetland and the environmental attributes does not have much bearing on BCDC’s jurisdiction. BCDC’s jurisdiction is the public access, and his knowledge of this project is that to the extent feasible the parents and the school have done an outstanding job of facilitating appropriate public access around the new seasonal wetland that they would be building, as well as great improvements to the access and the environmental attributes of the tidal wetland area. He believes BCDC staff would be better able to analyze the details about whether the project is appropriate relative to public access.

    Commissioner Nelson said the Legislature has not given BCDC authority over seasonal wetlands. He asked staff what balance has been struck. Ms. Feinberg provided an overview of what the site looks like, as well as a map. The existing tidal marsh is very small. There is housing on two sides and the school on the third side. Letters from both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries have been received stating that the project will not have adverse impacts on any threatened or endangered species or special status species.

    The project proponent is proposing to install habitat fencing on the inward side of the public access pathway to separate the public and the school children from accessing the tidal marsh areas.

    Commissioner Mossar asked if the fence is adequate to protect the tidal marsh area.
    Ms. Feinberg said currently there is a 7-foot-high berm separating the school area from the tidal marsh area. She has been told by the applicant that it is at least 14 feet from where the play yard would be to the tidal marsh so a ball would have to be kicked 14 feet up over a 7 foot berm to get into the wetland.

    Commissioner Kondylis said even if the Commission wanted to take this up, with the exception of the public access, it would be off base to look at the use that is being proposed. The Commission could be sued if it were to take a position on this. Mr. McAdam said on the shoreline band it could be sued, but not in the wetland area.

    MOTION: Commissioner Carruthers moved, seconded by Commissioner Jordan to vote on whether to elevate this to a regular permit with public hearing.

    Commissioner McGlashan said he respects the wishes to talk about this but the infuriating thing about having a hearing on this matter is that the merits of the project will not be heard because it is outside the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission’s jurisdiction has to remain focused on the tidal wetland which is being restored. The Commission would end up spending a lot of time hearing testimony that has already been decided through the school district process and through the County of Marin’s process.

    He understands the desire to let people speak, but he doesn’t believe the Commission is doing proponents on either side of the debate any favors by allowing a debate over which the Commission has no jurisdiction.

    Commissioner Bourgart said he agrees with Commissioner McGlashan. He said he doubts that there will be any novel or startling new arguments to be heard if a public hearing is held. The staff has reviewed it and they feel this is the appropriate way to deal with it and he would defer to their judgment. He is also struck by the number of parents and school administrators who have chosen to be here today.

    He believes there has been a very substantial process with many opportunities for public involvement and comment and he believes it would be unfair to have yet another meeting on this subject when they are on the cusp of moving forward with the project. He recommends leaving this as an administrative matter.

    Commissioner Bates asked if the seasonal wetlands are with the Army Corps, and if so, what are their thoughts about this matter. Ms. Feinberg said she has spoken to the analyst for the Army Corps and they feel that with the new created seasonal wetlands and the tidal marsh enhancements that they will offset the impact to the existing seasonal wetland caused by filling for the play field. They will not issue a permit until after BCDC acts.

    Commissioner Lundstrom said the Commission does consider controversial administrative issue to go to a full hearing; however it must be used judiciously. She supports Commissioner McGlashan’s point of view.

    Chair Randolph said if the Commission had another formal hearing it would be hearing the same views from the same people who have been generous with their time today.

    Commissioner Lundstrom pointed out that there are people who may not be here today because it is not a public hearing. She will be voting in favor of the motion, mainly because of the concerns about how the public access is addressed.

    Commissioner Waldeck said pulling this away from staff is saying that the Commission does not have faith in the staff’s work in this particular project. Jenn Feinberg and staff have been available throughout this entire process. He doesn’t believe an extra hearing will flush any more information out.

    Ms. Feinberg said the entire interested parties list that was used for the local process has been used for BCDC’s process as well, so all of those community members were noticed about this meeting today.

    Commissioner Nelson said he will vote for the motion but he made it clear that it has nothing to do with seasonal wetland issues, over which BCDC has no jurisdiction. He believes it is important to strike the right public access balance.

    Commissioner Carruthers said he is aware that BCDC’s jurisdiction is limited. He clarified that his motion, in no way, is intended as a reflection upon the staff. It is a matter of public process and not a matter of doubt about the staff’s recommendations.

    Commissioner Jordan said the Commission does not want to be spending a lot of time on something it does not have jurisdiction over. This is a controversial matter and it is likely that the Commission will be faced with these kinds of decisions in the future and, hopefully, everyone will learn from the process. The public access issue is within BCDC’s jurisdiction, and there should be an opportunity to have all the information aired.

    Having a public hearing is never about not trusting the staff. It is about the process and giving people an opportunity to be heard.

    Commissioner Halsted said while she is inclined in the direction of efficiency and saving people’s time, she believes she will vote for the motion because there is an outside chance that the Commission could find some way to enhance the public access or to find a slightly better balance.

    Motion declined with 13 against, 6 for; no abstentions.

    The public asked for a clarification of what the Commission just decided. Mr. Travis said the Commission decided not to reject this matter as an administrative permit. There will not be a public hearing.

  8. Public Hearing and Vote on Permit Application No. 8-06 from the California Department of Fish and Game and Consistency Determination No. 1-07 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Bair Island Restoration Project in the City of Redwood City, San Mateo County
    Chair Randolph said Item #8 involves one public hearing and two votes on a wetland restoration project in Redwood City. Two actions are needed because part of the project site is owned by the California Department of Fish and Game, which has submitted a permit application for the work on its property, and the rest of the site is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has submitted a federal consistency determination for the activities on its property.

    Jenn Feinberg provided background on this project as follows:

    1. The proposed project would involve the restoration of 1,400 acres of former salt evaporator ponds to tidal marsh habitat at Inner, Middle, and Outer Bair Islands in the City of Redwood City, San Mateo County.
    2. Restoration activities on approximately 1,123 acres at Middle and Outer Bair Islands would occur on property owned by the Department of Fish and Game. Restoration on the remaining 277 acres would occur at Inner Bair Island on property owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    3. Work on Fish and Game’s property is the subject of BCDC Permit Application No. 8-06. Work on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service property at Inner Bair Island is the subject of consistency determination No. CN 1-07.
    4. The Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that all fish and game lands on Bair Island will be operated and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
    5. The project involves the excavation of 9 breaches, the installation of two flow restrictors at Corkscrew and Smith Sloughs, and the construction of ditch blocks and channel connectors.

      The project also involves the placement of upland material and the beneficial reuse of dredge material to raise the elevation of Inner Bair to extend to the San Carlos Airport runway safety area to protect the South Bay Authority’s sewer main and to establish elevations appropriate for tidal marsh restoration at the site.

      The project sponsors propose to provide the following public access as part of the project: (1) improvements to the existing Bair Island parking lot, including additional parking spaces, a public restroom, and an information kiosk; (2) a 1.8 mile public access trail; (3) interpretive signage, benches, and two observation platforms on top the levee at Inner Bair; (4) a kayak portage and observation platform at the flow restrictor on Corkscrew Slough; and (5)a pedestrian bridge connecting Bair Island Road to the public access trail on Inner Bair.

      The staff believes that the application raises five primary issues: (1) whether the project is consistent with the McAteer-Petris Act and San Francisco Bay Plan policies regarding fill; (2) whether the project would provide maximum feasible public access consistent with the project; (3) whether the project is consistent with the Bay Plan policies on natural resources including fish, other aquatic organisms and wildlife, tidal marshes and tidal flats, and sub-tidal areas; (4) whether the project is consistent with the Bay Plan policies on water quality; and (5) whether the project is consistent with the priority use designation for the site.

      Ms. Feinberg introduced Mr. Clyde Morris, Manager of the Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife, who presented the project as follows:

      Bair Island is the front yard of Redwood City. Voters rejected the development of it. It is part of the State Bair Island Ecological Reserve and it is part of Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

      This project will restore Bair Island to tidal marsh to provide habitat for endangered species, and other native wildlife, and enhance the public’s appreciation and awareness of the unique resources of Bair Island.

      This is part of the restoration to try and recover some of what has been lost. Ninety percent of the tidal wetlands have been lost in San Francisco Bay.

      Because the Bay has lost so much of the habitat, there are certain species, such as the California Clapper Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse that are only found in the tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay that have been lost. The purpose for the refuge to be involved in this restoration project is to restore habitat and recover these two species.

      If this restoration project were not done, the levees would break.

      The potential impacts are that it would triple the sedimentation rate in the Redwood City channel. The velocities at Pete’s Harbor Marina would be increased so much that it would either make it very difficult for ships to get into their slot at the marina, or the marina would be ripped out. The creation of endangered species would be delayed. Because the levees could not be maintained the public access would go away. And because Inner Bair Island has subsided two and half feet, when the levees breach, at high tide it would become a giant duck pond and at low tide a mud flat. This would increase the bird hazard for the airplanes at San Carlos Airport. Mosquito control would cost a lot of money.

      He wants to restore the site, as originally planned and put flow restrictors in, and restore the old meander of Smith Slough to the way it used to be. Breaches will be put in so that the flow will be forced to go out and re-scour out Steinberg Slough instead of going back through Redwood Creek and filling it with sediment, and past the marina. Dredge material will be added to prevent a duck pond at high tide. It will be planted with pickleweed and marshland plants so it will become a vegetated marsh. This will lessen the bird strike at San Carlos Airport as well. Public access will be improved. The installation of a new pedestrian bridge will be brought across from the parking lot and two parking places will be created for school busses. There will be viewing platforms installed.

      Dogs will be allowed on 6-foot leashes as an experimental basis. If too many of the dog walkers get off the trail and into the endangered species habitat it will be closed to dog owners.

      The only access to Middle and Outer Bair will be on refuge guided trips. A viewing platform will be installed for kayakers and boaters on Corkscrew Slough.

      Long-term conditions: restore 1,400 acres to endangered species habitat, reduce the mosquitoes, lessen the sedimentation for the Port, reduce dredging, improve the velocities for Pete’s Marina, improve wildlife and recreation, reduce the bird strike issues, and further protect the Redwood City sewer line.

      Commissioner Waldeck asked if BCDC has any jurisdiction over the dogs. Mr. Travis said BCDC does not have policies on dogs.

      Commissioner Gordon said currently on Inner Bair Island the public is used to making a full circle. The proposal reduces the amount of trail that the public currently uses because the public cannot make the full loop anymore. He asked what the process has been to inform the public and working with the public around this change. Mr. Morris said there have been public meetings. They went through the EIS/EIR process. There were scoping and stakeholder meetings, and there are monthly meetings of the Bair Island Task Force.

      It is true that there are less miles of trail, but the wildlife oriented aspects are being enhanced, as well as, the quality of public access. They could not allow the trail to loop all the way around for the following two reasons: (1) the Endangered Species Office of his agency would not allow public access to totally encircle the endangered species habitat that is being created in Inner Bair Island; and (2) since the Smith Slough goes through the two breaches being created, a draw bridge would have to be expanded, and this was impractical.

      Commissioner Jordan said this has been in discussions for many years. She said jogging, especially in a refuge area, is an incredibly wildlife oriented activity and turns people into environmentalists.

      Commissioner Mossar said there may be a lot of visitors currently because of the loop, but she is not sure how many visitors there will be with the idea of just walking out and walking back. She was distressed at the characterization of the human use and human access. She doesn’t see this project as an improvement over human access. There might be better parking and restroom facilities, but she does not think there is an improvement of human access.

      David Lewis, Executive Director of Save the Bay, said his organization is in strong support of the project and urged the Commission to approve the consistency determination and the permit. This project is not only a huge improvement and benefit for wildlife but for the public as well, notwithstanding the change of a loop trail to three quarters of a loop trail.

      Save the Bay has taken hundreds of people out to Middle Bair Island via canoe and they have planted thousands of native wetland plants on the levees to try and see what will work best there. They have also removed many linier feet of ice plants, fennel and other invasive plants.

      He underscored that the refuge staff has been creative in advancing the planning of this project and integrating the use of dredge material from the Port of Redwood City and dirt fill that they have been able to attract from construction projects. This will make the project less expensive over time than was actually anticipated.

      This is one of the places along the Bay where the most people can actually see the wetland because Highway 101 is so close by.

      He encouraged the Commission to vote for this project.

      Mr. Lewis read a brief statement from Ellen Johnck with the Bay Planning Coalition as follows:

      “The project fulfills at least two regional planning goals that are important to the Bay Planning Coalition; the long term management strategy for dredge material disposal goal to increase the beneficial re-use of dredge material and the Bay Lands habitat goals project and implementation strategy of the San Francisco Bay Wetland Joint venture.

      The Bay Planning Coalition Community Task Force support, and encourage, collaboration of all public and private parties to complete this project, and to meet regularly. They are making good progress and with BCDC’s support today we can keep this vital product moving forward.”

      Patrycia Bossak, the Bay Trail Planner for San Mateo and Santa Clara County, said the Bair Island Restoration Task Force has been meeting and they reached an agreement to support this project and the public access resulting from it. Even though the trail is going to be shortened this is a very important segment of the Bay Trail system and she is supporting the project.

      Additionally, since the existing access at Whipple Avenue will be closed, the Bay Trail will continue along the existing trail along Highway 101, on the adjacent levee, and along city streets.

      MOTION: Commissioner Carruthers moved, seconded by Commissioner Kondylis to close the public hearing. The motion passed.

      Staff recommends that the Commission approve the staff recommendations on BCDC Permit Application 8-06 and Consistency Determination No. CN 1-07 for the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore 1,400 acres of former salt evaporator ponds to tidal marsh habitat at Bair Island.

      The staff recommendations require that the project sponsors provide public access improvements including a kayak portage, observation platforms, a public access and pedestrian bridge, interpretive signage, a public restroom and parking lot improvements.

      In order to protect water quality, the staff recommendations include conditions that require the project sponsors to conduct methylmercury monitoring and to obtain relevant approvals from the Regional Water Quality Control Board prior to placing upland or dredge material on Inner Bair, or commencing any work within the tidal areas of the Bay.

      The staff recommendations also include a number of conditions intended to ensure that the project will not have an adverse impact on habitats and associated wildlife at the project site.

      Finally, in order to track the success of the restoration project, the recommendations include a condition that requires the development of a detailed monitoring and adaptive management program and restoration performance criteria.

      The staff believes that this project is consistent with the Commission’s laws and policies and recommends the Commission’s approval.

      MOTION: Commissioner Jordan moved, seconded by Commissioner Kondylis to approve staff’s recommendations.

      Commissioner Nelson thanked the staff, the service for their hard work on this project. He also expressed appreciation to members of the community who first decided that this wetland should once again be a wetland.

      Commissioner Jordan acknowledged the staff at the airport as well. She clarified that the trail has no connection to the Bay Trail and she was hoping that some day there might be a connection from the Redwood Shore Levee Trail on to Inner Bair Island. She asked if there was any hope for this in the future. Mr. Morris said it has been a part of the discussion, but is not part of this project. There is a move by the fellow members of Redwood City to build a connection bridge from the cities property out to the county’s property.

      Mr. Travis said there are two actions before the Commission. One is the permit and one is the consistency determination. The motion was to approve both of them. Staff will take the single action and bifurcate it and apply it to both of them.

      VOTE: The motion carried with a roll call vote of 16-0-0 with Commissioners Bates, Bourgart, Gordon, Jordan, Carruthers, Kondylis, Lundstrom, McGlashan, Mossar, Moy, Nelson, Owen, Wagenknecht, Waldeck, Chair Randolph and Vice Chair Halsted voting “YES”, no “NO” votes and no abstentions.

  9. Consideration of recommendations dealing with regional issues
    Mr. Travis said the strategic plan requires staff to identify and recommend to the Commission for action at least two critical issues upon which BCDC can jointly work with other regional agencies. The four following issues present the best opportunities for effective coordination with regional partners:
    1. Climate change. This clearly eclipses all others as an issue that demands an integrated regional approach. BCDC can play a key role in the development of a regional strategy for climate change adaptation. Working with partner agencies, an assessment can be developed of those areas at risk of flooding due to sea level rise, help assess the value of economic and natural resources at risk, and facilitate decisions on which areas are in the greatest need of protection. This assessment could help guide future growth to areas that are not at risk from future sea level rise and thus ensure that future development is more sustainable.
    2. Smart Growth or Transit Oriented Development. Smart growth is one of the approaches the Bay region can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global warming. The transportation sector is the largest single source contributor of carbon dioxide emissions in the region. Transit oriented development can provide us with the mobility needed without such heavy reliance on automobiles.

      In 2002 BCDC joined with the other regional agencies in adopting a Smart Growth Preamble and Polices to advance a regional livability footprint project. The other regional agencies are now implementing these policies through an effort called Focusing our Vision. As part of this effort, staff is recommending that the Commission approve a number of amendments to the Smart Growth Preamble and Polices that were endorsed a few years ago.

      The third issue that merits regional coordination is transportation planning. If not well planned, transportation facilities can adversely impact the Bay, but if handled effectively transportation planning presents an opportunity to more effectively use the Bay for the movement of goods and people, and to advance environmental sustainability throughout the region.

      The final issue to concentrate upon is dredging and sediment management. The Commission has long been involved in dealing with the challenges posed by dredging our shallow Bay and has been a champion of recycling dredge materials as a resource that can be used to improve the quality of the Bay estuary.

      To most effectively deal with these four issues, staff believes BCDC should build upon its existing partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to address transportation planning; should rely on the Joint Policy Committee to facilitate coordination of BCDC’s activities with other regional agencies in advancing smart growth and addressing climate change; and to continue to utilize the award winning long term management strategy state federal partnership to deal with dredging and sediment management.

      In addition to accepting these conclusions, staff recommends that the Commission formally adopt the amendments recommended by the Joint Policy Committee to the Smart Growth Preamble and Policies which were endorsed a couple of years ago.

      Commissioner Kondylis disseminated copies of the definition of Smart Growth.

      There were no public comments.

      MOTION: Commissioner Lundstrom moved, seconded by Commissioner Halsted to approve staff’s recommendation. The motion passed unanimously.

  10. Commission Consideration of a Cartographic Consultant Contract
    Mamie Lai presented the staff’s recommendation as follows:

    The staff recommends that the Commission authorize its Executive Director to enter into a $200,000 contract with Yuki Kawaguchi, Cartographer, to provide the Commission with cartographic and graphic services over a two-year period from July 10, 2007 through June 30, 2009. The staff further recommends that the Commission authorize its Executive Director to renew the contract for up to two additional years at a cost of $100,000 each fiscal year if the services continue to be needed, if funding is available in the Commission’s budget to support the contract, and the renewal agreement does not involve any substantial changes to the services provided.

    MOTION: Commissioner Kondylis moved, seconded by Commissioner Waldeck to approve staff’s recommendation. The motion passed unanimously.

  11. Consideration of Strategic Plan Report
    Mr. Travis said there are no changes needed in any of the deadlines and he offered to answer any questions.

    Commissioner Kondylis said in the Commission’s packet there was a Public Policy Institute Report. In the strategic plan there is an item dealing with fresh water inflow and the Commission’s goal is by June 2009 the staff will provide for the Commission’s consideration an update of the Section in the Bay Plan dealing with fresh water inflow. She asked if there was a connection between this and some of the recommendations in the Policy Institute on the peripheral canal. She is thinking that 2009 may be too late to discuss fresh water inflow. Mr. Travis said he will look into this and if there is a reason to expedite it, and the resources are available, he will address it.

  12. New Business
    Commissioner Waldeck said he has seen the Save the Bay trash demonstration and he thinks it would be a good thing to bring up to the Commission as an informational item.
  13. Old Business
    Chair Randolph said he was sorry to miss John Kriken’s presentation on the analysis and recommendations on shoreline access and shoreline design, however he was able to listen to the presentation at the Design Committee meeting last week. He was impressed by the presentation and he believes the Committee will be working with Mr. Kriken. He will keep the Commission apprised on the initial work..
  14. Adjournment
    Upon motion by Vice Chair Halsted, seconded by Commissioner Mossar, the meeting adjourned at 3:39 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Will Travis
Executive Director

Approved, as corrected, at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Meeting of May 17, 2007

R. Sean Randolph, Chair

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