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July 2010

June 2010

Serpentine: California State Rock's Dark Side


State Senator Gloria Romero recently introduced Senate Bill 624 to remove serpentine as California's state rock due to the presence of carcinogenic asbestos in the rock. Romero and her staffers say asbestos—and by extension, serpentine—is a bona fide health hazard. The bill has received unanimous approval from the state Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee. But the bill does not mention the importance of serpentine to California's biodiversity. For instance, it has been estimated that serpentine-endemic plant species represent 10 percent of the California Floristic Province's endemics. If you think Senator Romero overlooks serpentine's important role in California natural history, let her know at DISTRICT 24  and also tell your own state representatives in the Assembly and Senate. (from Jake Sigg's Nature News)


"We were the first state to have a state rock,” said State Geologist John Parish. “California leads the way.” But now some activists say that designation was a mistake. So what’s not to like about shiny green serpentine? Well, it turns out that one of the minerals in the rock is asbestos, which has been blamed for causing mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.  That makes serpentine not just a rock but rather a political hot potato. When serpentine gets broken up—for example, during construction or excavation—asbestos particles can go into the air and become a health hazard."

Pedro Point Headlands Volunteer Trailblazers


On the map below you will see the network that we have worked on since January, widening to make some trails accessible and closing duplicate spurs or steep ascents when necessary to aid habitat restoration on the cuts. For the sake of clarity, the trails have been given names (which can be changed at a later date with more input) so that we can pinpoint areas when talking with one another. Any of you who have helped up here know that this has been a big challenge. On June 27 we had an AWESOME work party (above) with 18 volunteers, including our youngest volunteer Jack, 10; our oldest volunteer (to date) Doretta, 80+; and birthday woman Deidra, who treated us to homemade birthday cake and lemon-pear bubbly! We had enough people to split into three teams:

Team 1 watered, weeded, and mulched around the 110 native plants that were planted for Earth Day. Susan Miller, native-plant specialist, thinks that all but 10 of the plants have survived. These can use water through the summer. If interested in watering them periodically, or even once a month, please let me know. I'll set up a watering schedule and arrange for a 50-gallon drum of water up there.  

Team 2 cleared and widened the middle ridge trail where it joins the arroyo trail, which was completely closed in for a pretty long stretch with pampas grass, pine, and coyote bush. It is now open if you want to walk a loop and not go out and back.
Team 3 forged to the northern edge of the headlands and installed signs on the bluff trail and north ridge trail to help people find their way to and from the "point" on paths we deemed most sustainable and gradual (whenever possible).
Once the work was done, all the teams joined back at the base and toasted with bubbly, enjoyed cake, sang happy birthday to Deidra, and reveled in a GREAT DAY.  
What's next?
  • widen western end of the arroyo trail
  • widen closed-in section of the bluff trail
  • water natives and check mulch
  • install more directional signage
NEXT WORK DAY, Sunday, July 25 at 10 a.m. Meet at Old Pedro Point Firehouse on Danmann Ave. to carpool up. Join us and bring your friends and family! Lots to do. Lots of memories to make, lots of fun to have. Let's do it together!


Pedro Point Headlands, Volunteer Coordinator
650.355.1668 Office
, 415.309.5856 Cell


Remembering Playland at the Beach: The DVD


You can buy a DVD of the documentary film Remembering Playland at the Beach from Playland-Not-at-the-Beach Museum, 10979 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $20. Or you can order it for $25 with a credit card by calling 510-232-4264, extension 24. The preview DVD sold at the Balboa cinema premiere did not include extras that are now in this full-length DVD.


Follow the Doe: Protect Pacifica's Deer


When a doe crosses the road, her fawns will follow, so please slow down and be extra cautious, especially along Rosita Road, Sharp Park Road, and other areas where deer come down from the mountains to reach the creeks and delicious ornamental plants growing in our yards. Another way to protect the lovely creatures that share our environment is to keep dogs out of San Pedro Valley County Park, which is clearly posted "No Pets Allowed" precisely to protect wildlife. If you see a dog in the park, call the ranger at 650-355-8289.

John Maybury photo

MPAs: Wetness Protection Program vs. Big Oil

Broad opposition to offshore drilling and support for smart ocean policy are part of California's Marine Life Protection Act, which expands its Marine Protected Area (MPA) system. In August 2009 the state Fish and Game Commission approved this network of protected areas for the north central coast, and is developing similar networks for the rest of the California coast. Resources:





Book Review: The Fragile Edge


By Julia Whitty

Rangiroa, Funafuti, and Mo’orea are among Earth’s 330 coral atolls. From space they look like pearl necklaces whirled onto a cobalt blue sea. First formed around volcanic mountains, they became, as the great mounts wore down, chains of living coral surrounding shallow lagoons that can stretch more than 50 miles: 500-pound spotted eagle rays leap and somersault; bluefin tuna, marlin, and blackfin barracuda hunt their prey outside the thin circlet of isles, while within the glassy waters of the lagoon, rainbow-colored juvenile sea creatures swarm, flying fish glide in long, glittering flights, terns drop like arrowheads. On the windy side of an atoll, which might be as little as a football field in width and nine feet in height, 15-foot swells break in a continuous roar against a protective berm. Down from the atoll, a shelf slides thousands of feet into the utter darkness of the sea floor.

Mainland environmental issues deeply affect the much more fragile atolls: pollution, lack of fresh water, overpopulation. rising sea levels, more powerful storms. When surface-water temperatures climb or fall, polyps die and the dead reefs crumble. As hurricanes scour the atolls, people still tie themselves to coconut palms. In Whitty’s rich, humor-filled language, the creatures that live there become palpable. Fat little poi dogs learn to team up to catch fish in the lagoons, or starve. Each page is a festival of detail. “On the outer edge of Tiputa Pass, gray reef sharks … spend the daytime hours schooling. At about one hundred feet underwater, we find shoals of ten or twenty gray reef sharks drifting in close formation. At one hundred fifty feet, the shoals coalesce into squadrons. Below two hundred feet, they become curtains of shark drifting slowly in the bottleneck of the deep pass.” Whitty’s prose rivals Rachel Carson’s, or Annie Dillard’s, or Gary Snyder’s, with much of the storytelling talent of Barry Lopez. This is a blue jewel of a book, and you won’t put it down. I finished it and, sorry it was over, immediately began it again.   


Wyndano's Cloak @ Florey's Books

Florey's Books at 2120 Palmetto in Pacifica presents award-winning author A.R. Silverberry's new book Wyndano's Cloak. Discover the magic of Wyndano’s Cloak: Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever. She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning. Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it. A tale of madness, friendship, and courage, Wyndano’s Cloak reveals the transformative power of love and forgiveness, and the terrible consequences of denying who you really are. Book trailer: 

Read an excerpt and learn about the author here: SILVERBERRY

Also look for an article in the June 23 PACIFICA TRIBUNE

SMCTA & Highway 1: A Very Controlled Meeting


In Pacifica City Council chambers June 22, an informative, scripted, and controlled meeting was held on the proposed widening of Highway 1. The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) presented information on its long-standing plan to widen Highway 1 from four to six lanes between the Fassler/Rockaway Beach and Reina del Mar intersections.

The preferred alternative plans, according to SMCTA consulting engineers, actually widen to eight lanes at the Rockaway Beach intersection, including two turn lanes. Many alternatives were listed on one sheet of paper for the first time, and visual diagrams of various alternatives were papered on the walls of the room.

Estimated commute time saved in building this "parkway" is five to seven minutes. The term "freeway" was mistakenly used several times by the moderator, an accomplished public outreach consultant. It didn’t fit the script and a public official was heard to mutter from the back of the room, "It’s not a freeway!"

A key question from the audience (on a form read by the moderator—no town hall style here, thank you) asked about Pacifica City Council’s responsibility in the coming process: What is council's role and how will it influence the process? SMCTA’s Joe Hurley replied that it was "too early to ask that question" but ultimately said that no formal requirement of the council is needed.

Public comment on the Calera Parkway Project closes July 22. Mail comments to SMCTA, P.O. Box 3006, San Carlos, CA 94070; fax to 650-508-7938; or email to (put "SR1/Calera Parkway" in subject line).

Opinion: Dear SMCTA—To Forgive Is Divine

When it comes to stopping the Highway 1 widening project (construction of a six-lane road between Vallemar and Rockaway), only one option is left: Three City Council members need to vote NO and send a letter to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) informing it that the city no longer sponsors this project. But there is a catch, a $1.3 million catch. In an earlier contract between Pacifica and SMCTA, an agreement was made that gave the city control over design of the project, and SMCTA fronted the money, stipulating that it would be repaid if the project were never built. This $1.3 million repayment has been cited as the main reason for council not to vote down this project, which begs the question, "Why not ask the SMCTA board to alter the contract to forgive the repayment?" My litmus test this November for council candidates will be this one single issue. It's way past time to end this nonsense.



Esplanade Apartment Owners Look for Bailout

By Joshua Melvin, San Mateo County Times, June 17

The owners of the apartment buildings perched on a crumbling Coastside cliff may have found a way to come up with the money to keep their structures safe from demolition and, for a time, Mother Nature. The owners on Esplanade Avenue are looking at using a little-known state rule that allows communities threatened by landslides, earthquakes or other geologic catastrophes to set up a collective that can apply for federal and state money but, more importantly, can raise cash by selling bonds, officials and owners said Thursday. That money could be used for the multimillion-dollar project to bolster the cliff, erosion of which forced the evacuation of the buildings at 320 and 330 Esplanade. The decision to have residents leave came because city officials and engineers could no longer guarantee their safety after massive chunks of the bluff disappeared into the Pacific Ocean. In both cases, renters had to find new lodging in a hurry, though some had anticipated the problems and chosen to leave. This may be the last and best hope for the owners, who have struggled to come to an agreement on and find the money for a long-term fix to erosion that is eating away the ground beneath the apartments. The emergence of this new possibility, known as a Geologic Hazard Abatement District, comes as options dwindle and time runs out. On Thursday, the city of Pacifica gave Millard Tong, the owner of buildings at 310 and 320 Esplanade, an extra 30 days to come up with a plan to save his apartments at 320 Esplanade, which have sat vacant since being evacuated in April, said Pacifica building official Doug Rider. The city had set a June 17 deadline for Tong to come up with a plan but granted an extension because he is working to secure financing through his insurance company, Rider said. The city is pushing for quick action on the structures in an effort to avoid having derelict buildings that could attract trouble. In addition to doubts about whether the Esplanade Avenue bluff, which is essentially compressed sand, can be permanently shored up, there are also questions over the challenges of bringing all the owners together. An abatement district must be authorized by 10 percent of property owners within its boundaries, and all owners within it have to a pay an annual charge, according to the California Association of Geologic Hazard Districts. That money goes to improvements or to repay bonds. Farshid Samsami, who owns 330 Esplanade, said a coalition of his neighbors support the idea. The process of founding the district has begun and could be complete in three to six months. "If we can get this going quickly enough, I think all the neighbors and all the buildings can be saved," he said. "I'm very, very, very positive about this." The district is a rare bright spot in the saga of the crumbling cliffs, which has already resulted in one lawsuit. The company working to buttress the cliffs, Engineered Soil Repairs, is suing Tong, accusing him of not paying $1.8 million in construction bills. The company installed boulders at the foot of the cliff to keep heavy surf and tides from tearing away more of the bluff. Tong's representative, Mike Jones, said he has not seen the lawsuit and can't comment on it. But, he added, "The plaintiff would be well served to engage the best legal counsel that they can."

Pride vs. Prejudice: Family Service Senior Peer Counseling Program Helps LGBT Older Adults

During Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in June, one nonprofit is renewing its effort to inform LGBT older adults in San Mateo County of a free resource that helps them stand proud and overcome prejudice. Family Service Agency of San Mateo County, a San Mateo-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children, families and older adults, provides free peer counseling to LGBT older adults age 55-plus through its groundbreaking Senior Peer Counseling Program. Launched in 2008, the Senior Peer Counseling Program trains volunteers to provide free one-on-one and group peer counseling to older adults in the LGBT community who struggle with a unique set of challenges particular to their sexual orientation and gender identity. The program—which serves the LGBT community and other clients in English and also provides counseling in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Tagalog—is on the cusp of renewing a one-year, $283,140 contract from San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division to continue through June 2011. As such, the Senior Peer Counseling Program is seeking LGBT clients to benefit from the counseling, as well as volunteers to serve them.

Family Service is seeking volunteers age 50-plus who are caring individuals to serve as peer counselors for the program’s LGBT component. Volunteers will serve older adults living in San Mateo County, should have access to a reliable car, and should be willing to make a one-year commitment. Following volunteer training sessions, peer counseling takes place at a mutually agreeable location for the counselor and client. To volunteer, please contact Geri Lustenberg at 650-403-4300, x4389 or

To qualify to receive free counseling through Family Service’s Senior Peer Counseling Program, LGBT older adults must reside in San Mateo County and be 55 years or older. Both individual and group therapy sessions are available. Family Service Agency of San Mateo County is a private nonprofit organization that for 60 years has helped Peninsula children, families and older adults transform their lives through the provision of programs and services including: child development and education; supervised family visitation and exchange; older worker employment and training; support services for older adults; and family loans. Nearly 20,000 people in need are assisted annually. For more information, please call 650-403-4300 or visit

Help Stop Caltrans Redwood Kill on Highway 101


Caltrans Releases Final Environmental Review for Highway Project That Will Degrade Ancient Humboldt County Redwood Grove

Conservation Groups Vow Legal Challenge, Seek 100,000 Letters of Opposition

GARBERVILLE, Calif.— The California Department of Transportation has released the final Environmental Impact Report for a controversial highway-widening project that threatens to degrade the ancient redwood grove at Richardson Grove State Park and could change the rural character of Humboldt County. The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity have vowed an all-out legal challenge of the project, and are seeking to have state and federal legislators pressure Caltrans to rescind the project.