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July 2007

Ireland Kisses the Plastic Bag Good-Bye

The entire country of Ireland has started a program that charges grocery store customers the equivalent of 20 cents for a plastic bag. With this new law in place, millions of plastic bags are kept out of the lakes and rivers. For another million reasons, plastic bags are simply terrible for the natural environment. The Irish have since adapted to the new law and have bought canvas and other like bags for their grocery store needs.  San Francsico has tried to pass a similar law and can't because of a local political rift.  Could Pacifica pull off such a stunt? Check out this story on Plastic Bags


Toxics Report on Old Rifle Range Cleanup

I attended a public meeting regarding Dept. of Toxic Substances Control's Draft Removal Action Workplan for the former rifle range on Tuesday, July 24. Approximately 50 samples were taken in the 6 acre lot, and five samples were contaminated. Lead, arsenic, antimony, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons were found.

DTSC plans to scrape the soil in the contaminated areas and build a slope of contaminated soil against the hillside. They plan to top this consolidation area with 2 feet of clean soil and possibly plant natives. Water runoff will be directed to drain on non-contaminated areas of the property. They will post the consolidation area permanently and resample the site in a year. About 2/3s of the 6 acres will be open and available for use. However, a CCSF representative stated that it was uncertain how long the current fencing will remain in place since open areas in desolate places tend to attract use.

The Deed Restrictions would only apply to the consolidation area. The restrictions are that the site can't be residential and the slope must be maintained. A permit is required to move soil. Red-legged frog and SF garter snake are not near the worksite but nearby and exclusionary fencing will be installed to keep them out during construction. Their goal is to complete this work and certify the site as cleaned and contained by Sept. 30, 2007. The comment period expired on July 20 but was extended to July 31.

Pacifica and San Mateo County would like DTSC to remove the source of contamination (spent casings and fragments of clay pigeon targets), but DTSC has said it would be costly to do so and the consolidate and contain plan is effective and feasible. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Vreeland (738-9470) had asked that they make the consolidation site as small as possible and not leave the land a blighted site for Pacifica to deal with in the future. San Mateo County had written a letter to DTSC a year ago and still stands by their statement that the casings should be removed before certification. Vreeland might have the county's contact info.

I plan to write to them and ask what happens if there is slope failure after they certify the site and how will they determine which native plants to install. Also, I don't know where the 5 contaminated samples were taken. A drain pipe lies east-west across the property. Samples were negative downstream of the pipe, but it appears on a topo map that a channel or depression lies exactly above the buried drain pipe and during wet times may drain surface water from the property. 

Please forward this information to as many people as possible. The draft RAW and Fact Sheet June 2007 may be accessed at DTSC. Click "find a site near you" and type in Pacifica 94044, get report; click Community Involvement for the documents. Note: typing in San Mateo County is not as direct.

Thanks for your help.
Lou Sian

Up on the Roof: Kestrel Chicks Fledge, Fly Free


Went by there at 6PM and no one was in the nest! A baby flew to the top of a neighboring house from a tree and then we saw 3 more babies on top of the hotel! One of the parents flew up to the nest and found it empty so I suspect the last fledgling may have just exited. When the parent flew by, all 4 babies did their "feed me, feed me" call with the typical baby bird wing fluttering. So the parents have done an excellent job to have four babies successfully fledge. Now they have to teach them to fend for themselves!


Wayward Kestrel Chick Taxis for Takeoff



On Friday afternoon, July 27, one of the Rockaway kestrel chicks got loose from the nest and got stuck in an underground garage, unable to fly. While Tim Brand snapped pictures and his son Evan (above) kept the grounded kestrel chick company, Peninsula Humane Society animal control officer Sarah Henry arrived and quickly scooped up the stranded bird. 

She called the humane society's wildlife expert and they decided to release the chick right across the parking lot in the quarry area. So there are two chicks left in the nest and they'll probably be flying away in the next few days. Evan and Tim will make regular rounds and say that if any of the other chicks fall into the garage, they will just scoop them up and escort them to the field as they did with the first one today.

"We'll make refueling stops at Rock'n Robs, I'm sure," says Tim. "I'm disappointed that the fire department wouldn't come help. Oh well. At least we did the right thing. While we were waiting for animal control, one of the parents swooped in and gave the two still in the nest a mouse."



From Don Peebles' new book The Peebles Principles (which we would rename The Sour Grapes of  Wrath):

"Pacifica is a peculiar town: they like to say no just to say no."

"The concept Trammel Crow had proposed would have greatly benefited the city, but the no-growth side was blind to it."

"Their virulent antigrowth philosophy had almost bankrupted the city."

"Pacifica had a reputation for an antigrowth attitude that was extreme even by Bay Area standards."

"I even held a debate with a former mayor who was against the project because it would bring too much traffic to Pacifica."

" ... she even paraded around the city's annual arts and crafts Fog Festival, dressed as a big frog. The Pacifica Tribune ran a front-page photo of the frog hugging me."

" ... the opposition fought me literally to win nothing, rather than new opportunities for their community. They were blinded by fear of change, misinformation, and a distrust of developers."

"Without the cap on the number of rooms, we can develop time-share and condo-hotel units and, as business grows, expand the hotel by adding more rooms and suites."

"Ultimately the 'no' side will wake up and realize just what they lost, and will likely try to get me back to the table with incentives."


Unbalanced Priorities: Trillions for War, Zip for the Homefolks


What in the heck is going on here? I have read that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq will end up costing U.S. taxpayers 1 to 2 TRILLION dollars when all is said and done. It seems that endless funds are available for the war, yet thousands of families live in FEMA trailers in New Orleans and other areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Furthermore, FEMA is selling off about 41,000 used trailers for about 40 cents on  the taxpayer dollar. And many of those trailers are so full of toxic formaldehyde as to be uninhabitable.  This is clearly an embarrassing and shameful period in our country's history.


Update on Rockaway Flock: Sparrowhawk Siblings Nest Near Quarry, Number One Son Tests Wings


Kestrel chicks nesting in a tight space near Rockaway Quarry are probably about to fledge, says Tim Brand, who took this picture. In other words, they are about to fly. Tim says one of the sparrowhawk parents brought a mouse to the chicks, who devoured it "as fast as my son Evan went through a muffin from the farmers market."

Evan was particularly interested in Tim's find because recently Wildlife Associates visited his school classroom to introduce the kids to some feathered friends.

UPDATE: "We went by the nest this afternoon and one of the babies had flown over to a cypress tree! He was squawking furiously while hopping from branch to branch and strengthening his wings. The other three were in the nest looking rather nonchalant," says Tim.

If you ever find any wild animal in distress, remember to contact Peninsula Humane Society

Our Oceans Are Choking on Plastic


Of all the disturbing, eye-opening images brought up during Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" presentation last week, one stood out most vividly. Weisman was talking about the widespread transition to plastic packaging 50-some years ago and the accumulated environmental effect of the 120 billion pounds of plastic produced every year now. There is, he reported, a floating mass of plastic bobbing in the Pacific Ocean, composed of non-biodegradable petrochemicals. He said this flotilla of eternal junk is estimated to be some 800 miles wide, bigger
than Texas.

There are plenty of reports about the "Eastern Garbage Patch." It circles in the North Pacific Gyre, a slow, clockwise-spinning current in a vast swath of usually untraversed ocean between Japan and the West Coast of the US. What used to be one of the most pristine, remote, and desolate places on earth has become a swirling trash heap.

The problem is plastic. It floats, it blows, it doesn't biodegrade. Instead it photo-degrades, meaning as it floats in the currents, it's broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller particles but never
completely disappears.

It's no longer just a six-pack ring showing up around a seagull's neckĖœplastic pollution is affecting the entire food chain. Trace particles of petroleum-based plastics are showing up in zooplankton, the microscopic animals that form the basis of the aquatic food chain. From bottom to top, we're all eating plastic. And we're getting massive islands of garbage and endless schools of plastic bags in what used to be untouched ocean.

Read Death by Plastic

Shop Till You Drop: An Argument for Shopping in Pacifica


Pacifica offers its residents more green hills and open space per square foot than any Malltown USA. We have what other Americans are dying to get. So why do some people in town want to pave it, develop it, and monetize it? Why do they want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs we all enjoy? We have enough retail businesses and services right here in Pacifica to meet most of our needs. I would rather spend a few pennies more on items sold in Pacifica than to waste those pennies on foreign oil to get me over the hill to Big Box Land.


Cheap Printable, Paintable Solar Cells


Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. According to the lead researcher, "Some day homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations." The article abstract is available through the Journal of Materials Chemistry, with an illustration of the technology.

Science Daily

Science Journal 

Removing Ice Plant, Restoring Dunes Bring Back Rare Butterfly at L.A. Beaches


Restored dunes a boon for rare butterfly; El Segundo blue rebounds after ice plant replaced with the native vegetation it likes.

Deborah Schoch, Los Angeles Times

(07-19) 04:00 PDT Los Angeles -- Amid surfers and skaters, a tiny blue butterfly has scored a telling victory in its fight against extinction. The rare El Segundo blue has returned to two popular beaches southwest of Los Angeles where it has not been seen in decades. This is no mere academic sighting of a rare species. Scientists say they are surprised at the resurgence. Dozens of the rare butterflies are thriving, not in some rarefied fenced-off reserve but in public view at Los Angeles County beaches in Redondo Beach and Torrance.

Don't Plant a Pest

A new "Don't Plant a Pest!" brochure is available from the California Invasive Plant Council. The new statewide Aquatic Plants brochure is aimed at the growing interest in water gardening. It describes alternatives to pond margin and bog plants, floating and rooting emergent species, and submerged plants. Thanks to funding from the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Cal-IPC is distributing this brochure at NO CHARGE. We would especially like to distribute the Aquatic Plants brochure to agencies and other organizations that manage waterways in California, as well as local watershed groups. Please contact Elizabeth Brusati at for a sample brochure or to request larger quantities. A PDF of the brochure is available for downloading from The Invasive Plant Council