Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay – The San Francisco Examiner

In 1961, Oakland Tribune reporter Ed Salzman dutifully continued what he considered to be a dubious assignment to Sausalito to cover the possible closure of a visitor center with a working hydraulic model of San Francisco Bay.

In the end, he wrote the most important story of his 40-year career.

The April 23, 1961 article described what the bay might look like in 2020 if development continued at its current pace. She got three East Bay women to form the environmental protection organization Save San Francisco Bay Association, now called Save The Bay, and to celebrate its 60th anniversary with programming will be announced in June.

Ed Salzman calls his 1961 report to the Oakland Tribune on the possible development of San Francisco Bay the “most important” story of his 40-year career. (Courtesy Luana Luther)

“I’ve covered presidents and governors and all kinds of big shots, but when you look back, I don’t remember those stories at all. But I still remember that story very well because the rescue of San Francisco Bay is still ongoing, ”said Salzman, 89, of Oregon, who is also the former editor of the Sacramento-based magazines Golden State Report and California Journal.

Salzman was “stunned” by the shallowness of most of the bay it filled and received a report from the US Army Corps of Engineers, which still operates the Bay Model Visitor Center, and shaded a map in the flat areas of the bay . What was left, he said, “was nothing more than a river or a shipping canal.”

Printed in the Oakland Tribune in 1961 and showing what a filled San Francisco Bay might look like in 2020, this map prompted three East Bay women to start an environmental movement.  (

Printed in the Oakland Tribune in 1961 and showing what a filled San Francisco Bay might look like in 2020, this map prompted three East Bay women to start an environmental movement. (

He brought the card to bleacher artist Frank Kettlewell, who made a print-quality version that would become part of a full-page distribution of Our Shrinking Bay overseen by publisher Dick Fogel.

Esther Gulick, Kay Kerr, and Sylvia McLaughlin, whose husbands were scholars and executives at the University of California at Berkeley, started alarmed after reading the story in the newspaper and launched a fundraising and public relations campaign to help Bay Fill to stop.

The Oakland Tribune devoted a page to the

The Oakland Tribune dedicated a page to “Our Shrinking Bay” with Ed Salzman’s story based on a report by the US Army Corps of Engineers from the Bay Model. (

“They literally called all of their friends and asked their friends to call their friends,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay. He added, “We often remember that in the beginning of the three women they had very few benefits that we do now. There were almost no environmental laws. The coast was almost entirely owned by private companies.”

While the people of each town had their own ideas of what to do with the bay and women were largely absent from power, the ladies, as they were affectionately called by those who followed them, fought an uphill battle .

“Everything they did – it changed the future of the bay,” said Lewis.

Barry Nelson, Lewis’ predecessor and first managing director of Save The Bay, goes further: “You can credibly claim that your movement to stop the Bay Fill was the birth of the modern environmental movement around the world. It was certainly the first coastal protection movement in the nation, ”Nelson said, mentioning that Earth Day wasn’t introduced until 1970 and that groups like the Sierra Club focused on preserving wilderness rather than nature in urban areas.

The women first sent a newsletter to members who paid an annual fee of $ 1 for their volunteer organization.

“It was groundbreaking. You charged a dollar. People laughed at them, but they had $ 2,500 in no time, ”said Larry Goldzband, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a regional agency established as a result of Save San Francisco Bay’s efforts with the passage of the McAteer was founded in 1965 – the Petris Act. In 1969, BCDC became permanent under Governor Ronald Reagan.

Today, with most of the coastline protected or already developed for nature, the group’s original mission has been accomplished, although Lewis said, “Every now and then we have a struggle like 15 years trying to stop Cargill from doing it to build on salt ponds. “Earlier this month, Save The Bay and others won when the company announced it would not appeal a federal judge’s decision that the Redwood City ponds adjacent to the bay be projected by the Clean Water Act. In 2012, Cargill and its developer partner proposed building 12,000 homes on the 1,365-acre site, which met significant public opposition.

In six decades, Save The Bay's mission has expanded to include regional planning and the fight against pollution and climate change.  (Courtesy Mike Oria / Save The Bay)

In six decades, Save The Bay’s mission has expanded to include regional planning and the fight against pollution and climate change. (Courtesy Mike Oria / Save The Bay)

Save The Bay has also made progress in terms of public access. In 1961 there was only six miles of access along the entire coast. Today there’s a “chain of coastal parks,” said Lewis, as well as the 500-mile Bay Trail (a new connector was created in Berkeley and Albany in McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, named after the co-founder of Save The Bay) and the Golden Gate National recreation area.

For Lewis, Save the Bay’s role in collaborating on issues – with fellow advocates, policy makers, citizens, regulators, and businesses – has resulted in success, including the establishment of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in the country 1980s; Preventing San Francisco International Airport from filling the bay for expanded runways in 2000; and Measure AA, a package tax of $ 12 per year for 20 years to fund coastal protection and restoration projects, which was exceeded by 70 percent in 2016.

Calling the Story of Save the Bay “Our region’s story of coming together to make this a better place for people and wildlife, cities and nature,” said Lewis that the group worked closely with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, the supervisor of San Francisco, Aaron Peskin, Contra, worked together with Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, San Mateo Supervisor Dave Pine, and Senator Scott Wiener in finding regional solutions to regional problems.

And, according to Lewis, the most important legacy of Save The Bay could be that its success in protecting the bay has been to provide affordable housing for everyone and an efficient, environmentally friendly transportation system across the Bay Area.

“Not only is Save The Bay loved for all of the obvious aesthetic and environmental reasons, it also gives us hope and encouragement that we can act as a region to solve regional challenges like adapting to climate change,” said Lewis of Protection the infrastructure on the coast – moving in some cases – and by restoring as many wetlands as possible over the next few decades.

Since Lewis started work in 1998, Save The Bay’s staff has grown from seven to 23, the budget has increased nearly five times, and its mission has changed by preventing the bay from shrinking because of it due to the sea, the level rise does not increase.

Focusing not only on the coast, but also on greening the inland cities, Lewis said, “We have a really bright future. There is a lot of exciting and challenging work to be done, and with the new federal administration we can achieve a lot more in the years to come.

“We have a huge volunteer program that is restoring coastal wetlands and teaching children in schools,” said Lewis, adding, “None of this was envisaged by the ladies. But they weren’t wrong not to imagine it. They have done what it took to be effective, and we’re doing it now. “

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