Conservation Analyst’s Report, July-August 2017

Comment letter submitted for Oak Knoll (Oakland)
The Oak Knoll Mixed Use Community is proposed for the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital grounds in Oakland (between Knowland Park and the Leona Canyon Regional Preserve). The US Navy formerly owned most of the 190 acre site, but when the Naval Medical Center closed in 1996 the City of Oakland and the Navy prepared a list of alternatives for local community reuse of the property. This analysis was the first Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

In 2016 the Conservation Committee submitted comments on the project’s Draft Supplemental EIR, and earlier this month we submitted a comment letter on the Final Supplemental EIR. We decided to focus our letter on improved protections and mitigations for these native plant resources: Oakland star tulip (Calochortus umbellatus), an Arctostaphylos (crustacea, tomentosa) Shrubland Alliance, and purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) grasslands. The project proposes to remove all 723 Oakland star tulip bulbs from the site and to mitigate this action by replanting and monitoring the bulbs.

On June 21st we attended a City of Oakland Planning Commission meeting about Oak Knoll. We urged protection of the Oakland star tulip in open space areas, and long-term monitoring of replanted bulbs. There were more than 50 speakers. Many expressed concerns about traffic safety and lack of affordable housing. City staff advised the commissioners to delay making a recommendation on whether to certify the Final Supplemental EIR.

We will stay in touch with the City of Oakland to learn when the Planning Commission and City Council make final recommendations for certifying the Final Supplemental EIR. This may happen soon, and we will inform our membership when we know more.

PG&E’s SF Bay Area Habitat Conservation Plan
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) prepared a draft Habitat Conservation Plan (draft HCP) which covers routine operations and maintenance (O&M) plus minor new construction projects and natural gas transmission system maintenance. This particular draft HCP covers current and future O&M activities across the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, or about 402,000 acres. The purpose of the draft HCP is to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) to permit some impacts to federally threatened and endangered species over a period of 30 years. The plan also provides guidance for “avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on threatened and endangered species that could result” from covered activities (Ch 1, executive summary).

This draft HCP is a 30-year “incidental take permit” for some federally-listed species in the Bay Area. This type of permit is a streamlined process which takes a comprehensive look at impacts and identifies measures to avoid and minimize take and compensate, where necessary, in a more meaningful way. HCPs are not written or implemented expressly for plants because federally-listed plants are not protected from take or destruction on private land, although these species are typically incorporated into the planning process.

This draft HCP covers 19 animal species and 13 plant species, of which the five listed below are located in the East Bay: pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida), Coyote ceanothus (Ceanothus ferrisiae), Contra Costa goldfields (Lasthenia conjugens), Contra Costa wallflower (Erysimum capitatum var. angustatum), and Antioch Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides ssp. howelii).We acknowledge PG&E’s forward-looking efforts to design a comprehensive permitting and mitigation process for federally-listed species, but hope they will be more inclusive in scope to ensure appropriate protections for the many near-critically endangered plants in the Bay Area. We recommended expanding the list of covered species beyond currently-listed plants, to include species that could be listed in the future.

The next steps in the process are public notice of the HCP’s approval and/or a response to our comments from USFWS, which will likely happen no sooner than September 2017. We will update our membership when we know more.

Many thanks to the Conservation Committee for thoughtful discussion; to Jim Hanson, Barbara Leitner, Jean Robertson, and Janet Gawthrop for help in producing this report; and to Vegetation Co-Chairs Nicole Jurjavcic and Megan Keever for information on sensitive natural communities.

Karen Whitestone
East Bay Chapter conservation analyst

Our organization’s Conservation Blog documents activities of the Conservation Analyst and Conservation Committee members for the protection of the native flora of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. It contains reports and official letters submitted by the chapter on projects undergoing environmental review, suggested speaking points our volunteers can use, information on native and rare plants as well as valuable habitat areas, upcoming meeting announcements, summaries of meetings, and updates on our advocacy effort successes.

Please “follow” the Conservation Blog and discover activities and advocacy you could get involved in throughout the East Bay.

Karen Whitestone
East Bay Chapter conservation analyst

Click here to access the CNPS East Bay Chapter Conservation Blog.

Note from webmaster: the Conservation blog is not currently being updated.  It is nonetheless worthwhile reading for information about past activities of the Conservation Committee.


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