Freelancers' Day Off
Senior Focus Volunteer Services Newsletter, Spring 2013

Thinking Tunnel: The Devil's Slide Story (VIDEO)

Devil's Slide Tunnels are finally open. So that people won't forget the tremendous citizen movement that defeated the bypass and replaced it with the tunnel solution, my friend Carol Berman posted my video Thinking Tunnel: The Devil's Slide Story on YouTube. Thanks to Chris Thollaug for funding this documentary, and to all who contributed their time and energy!

Peter Drekmeier


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Well, Mitch did get honored in a quiet way by riding shotgun in the '59 Caddy convertible with us, with a certain rock star following close behind in his LincVolt, in our secret locals-only Last Ride on Devil's Slide event on Sunday the 24th, day before the ribbon cutting. We had no idea these sweet rides and a video crew were being provided to us! Check out the video they produced, go to: or

There were plenty of dignitaries at the ribbon cutting, some who made significant contributions and some who either contributed nothing or likely actively disdained the project. That's politics!

A determined non-volunteer, I didn't get involved with bypass fighting until after the Caltrans-prolonged (which happened with every roadbed failure) road closure starting in the winter of 82-83 and CPR1 had formed. During that time, Lantos was Royer 2.0, getting emergency funds for the bypass and not listening to anything to the contrary. Caltrans jumped the gun by bulldozing pioneer roads for geotechnical drilling sites on Montara Mountain, including some in the newly opened McNee Ranch section of Montara State Beach, before it had the necessary approvals and permits to build the bypass. One of the last semi-natural places on the northern San Mateo County coast, this was my go-to place for getting away from the spreading cancer of development for a few hours most days.

Like Tyler, I have, even after two cullings over the years, half a file drawer full of bypass-related papers, most of which covers matters that never made it into any journalistic outlet for the public to see. It goes from the mid-80s through the process for the Adopted Alignment and the Martini Creek alignment, the initiation of legal proceedings against the bypass once it was approved, the unfortunate splitting of CPR1 during the early part of the lawsuit phase, and sporadic events and developments as the issue moldered in federal court up through the early 1990s. (I'm still not sure it would be a good idea to release all that went on as twists and turns resulted in schisms between former allies, and people burned out or flipped positions. It's extremely difficult to fight government when the political fix is in, and it takes its toll on the quixotic souls who try.)

For me, the new tunnels are disgustingly wasteful in terms of money, materials, and energy; unnecessarily oversized; sterile and ugly; environmentally destructive on many fronts, and a double-barreled, growth-inducing cannon that will blast the midcoast worse than it blasts Pacifica over time. It will only get worse as the abandoned road on the outside is further developed into a gross urban park with pavement to the max and lined with K-rail. (Is there anything less sightly on highways than that stuff?) But I've learned my lessons and have spent many years dealing with the cornucopian, pave-it-and-paint-it-green, urban mind-set that dominates in these parts among environmentalists and destructionists alike. Hey, it'll be a "good thing" if my now-renewed quest to find suitable office space south of the underground freeway succeeds, and I can avoid tunnel depression going to and from work.

Was driving back from San Francisco on 280 needing to do one errand in Colma, so I took the Eastmoor exit.

Way up to the right on one of the overpasses just before that exit is a small green highway sign that says Tom Lantos Tunnel, the Highway 1 symbol, and that it is nine miles ahead.

Yes! It was very cool to finally see resolution to all those years of effort. Walking through the tunnels was awesome.

It WAS interesting to listen to all the comments about the history of Devil's Slide, over the past couple of days. As one who was also involved, I obviously have my own perspective.

Who remembers Congressman Royer's press conference up on the then-closed Devil's Slide in 1980, where he stated his intentions to introduce "emergency legislation" to exempt the full bypass from further environmental review, and to obtain "emergency funding"?

How do I know this? I crashed his press conference by hiking through the deer trails to bypass the security. I interrupted Royer to tell him we would oppose what he was trying to do.

(That article, with photo, exists in the Pacifica Tribune archives. I have a copy.)

Had he succeeded then...

I looked for any reference to that event online this morning, and found none. Made me think I should do as Carl suggests, and digitize the docs I have from the 50s on up. Am thinking seriously of doing this when I get back home. Then anyone interested can see the timelines and milestones for themselves. See who said what, when, and what the public spin was.

Yes, we all have our memories. :O)

A couple of weeks ago, in another context, Mitch Reid was showing some papers about the bypass fight and the tunnel history. He had a copy of a letter from Olive (Ollie) Mayer to Caltrans dated 1975 in which she was advocating a tunnel at Devil's Slide. I was surprised and saddened to learn at the tunnel ceremony that Ollie had died just five days earlier.

You have to evaluate any documentary like this as a take on a story at a point in time -- in this case, just past the mid-90s. Some of the statements by the speakers chosen by the filmmakers did not hold true through the years since, but who is to say they were not sincere at the time? You can quibble about who and what is included, but if you want a different story, make your own documentary. Tell your own story.

There were any number of journalistic pieces on the highway past Devil's Slide over the years, many by area newspaper hacks who repeated spin from the Caltrans PR department as if it were authoritative. But there were a few by more thoughtful members of the press. One piece I liked was by longtime environmental writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Harold Gilliam. He wrote of the anti-bypass effort as being led by three women: Lennie Roberts, Ollie Mayer, and Nancy Maule. It must be hanging around in the Chronicle archives somewhere. Many hundreds of other people had been involved, of course. But at the time it was written, it was a good way to pull the story together and give the public an idea of the long-term dedication, beginning in the late 1960s, that drove the fight.

As I've said before, I've always thought of them as the Mitch Reid Tunnels. Thanks, Mitch.

And I have it on good authority that there's a plaque somewhere in the vicinity commemorating them as the People's Tunnels.

One of the things I liked best about the festivities was that the biggest round of applause was in response to the mention of Dana Denman and Shamrock Ranch. The person behind me said, "She gave the most."

My Riptide operatives tell me they actually spotted you there wearing a trenchcoat over a hoodie, but don't feel bad, the media tours I went on previously were much cooler.

Am I the only guy who wasn't invited to this thing?

Yes, thank you, Mitch!

I found it quite surreal to attend the tunnel opening ceremony yesterday, and your name was not mentioned? I was expecting to see you seated up on stage, to hear you being thanked by numerous speakers, and finally to listen to your "acceptance" speech. I'm extremely disappointed that the huge role you played and all your hard work on making the tunnel happen were not acknowledged.

Thanks, Mitch! The tunnels wouldn't exist without your contributions.

Pacifican Mitch Reid is still one of the unsung heroes of the Think Tunnel movement. Pacifica Riptide thanks Mitch for all his hard work to defeat the bypass and bring the Devil's Slide Tunnels to fruition.

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