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October 2011

San Pedro Creek Cleanup: Protecting Linda Mar's Natural Resource

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October 22 was a good day for steelhead trout and San Pedro Creek. Terra Nova High School science students (Oceana also had a volunteer) and volunteers from Pacifica Beach Coalition and San Pedro Creek Watershed Coalition collected about 350 pounds of trash from the creek floodplain and bike trail near the creek mouth. Some debris might have been left by visitors, but most of it washed down when the creek was high and was left in the grasses and bushes as the water receded.

Roger Macias and Ralph Larson of San Pedro Creek Coalition spoke to the volunteers about the uniqueness of steelhead trout, which are different from salmon because they can spawn and live in the creek for as long as they wish and then swim back to the ocean. Two other species of fish live in the creek, too.  

Volunteers inspected the creek behind the convalescent home and discovered a water dam of brush, wooden pallets, and litter that blocked passage of steelhead to and from the ocean. They were able to clear a small opening. City Public Works Department employees cut a downed tree and freed the blockage so the steelhead could again pass freely.  

A number of items like plastic gloves, food bags, and discarded property were found originating from the convalescent home next to the creek. Management at the home will be contacted so it is aware of the problem and can work to eliminate any escaping debris.  

Volunteers found 65 cigarette butts under one bench at the start of the trail, a clear sign of smokers using the bench as a smoking station and irresponsibly leaving their litter. At least 1,000 cigarette butts were collected, mostly from the trail, but some originating from upstream. Some 165 toxic chemicals (including, arsenic, cadmium, and acetone) leach out of cigarette butts into the environment.

The next scheduled cleanup for San Pedro Creek is January 28, 2012. Everyone is invited to join cleanup efforts by picking up litter on streets that drain into the creek. Most streets between Fassler and Montara Mountain flow to San Pedro Creek through underground storm drains and tributaries. 

L Y N N . A D A M S
Pacifica Beach Coalition, President
650.355.1668 Office
415.309.5856 Cell


Pacifica Sewer System Overhaul Estimate: $50 Million

Pacifica city staff estimates that approximately $50 million will have to be raised to overhaul the sewer system and sewage treatment plant over the next 20 years. The money will come from ratepayers both in yearly rate increases and three new bond issuances.

A large caveat to that estimate is contained in the report: "The current financial projections, assuming that annual (sewage treatment) plant operations and maintenance do not increase significantly, show capacity for additional debt financing." Translation: Who knows if this estimate is close to the mark, and we'll borrow more money if we need to.

The report projects "modest rate increases of 1 (to) 3 percent in years 3-6 (in a twenty-year plan.)" This projection assumes lots of new bond issuances, which will put the bulk of the bill on the city's long-term balance sheet. Years 1 and 2 of the plan (and that means starting this spring of 2012 with the first rate increase noticing pursuant to Proposition 218) are projected to raise $5.1 million through a higher sewer tax. Many Pacifica residents already pay well over $1,000 per year on their property tax bills for the sewer tax, and these first increases are not spelled out in the report, either in per capita or percentage terms.

The report comes as a requirement of the consent decree settling the lawsuit between Pacifica and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. It arrived in my email box on Friday afternoon, 10 minutes before City Hall closed, and will be voted on Monday, October 24, 2011 at the Pacifica City Council meeting, with no time given for any public reaction. This conforms to a long-term pattern of critical public matters being shoved through hurriedly without adequate public debate.

In 2009, Pacifica Riptide published my article detailing this pattern of concealment of the public's business, and it was later part of a San Mateo County Grand Jury report:


The bond obligations being proposed in the report are as follows: $20 million bond, 25-year term at 6.5 percent interest; $11.5 million bond, 25-year term at 6.5 percent interest; $10 million loan from "State Infrastructure Bank," 30-year term at 4.5 percent interest.

The Orwellian term "smoothing" is used repeatedly in the report to assuage potential fears about how much this repairing of an aging, inadequately maintained system is going to cost. Smoothing is a term also used to minimize the taxpayers' obligations for unfunded public employee pension liabilities paid to CalPERS. Somehow, "smoothing" is supposed to take all the edges off the depletion of your pocketbook on behalf of the public debacle being acted out. Prepare for the worst, fellow citizens.

Pacifica Historical Society: New Riptide Category, New Wiki

Welcome to a new category on our right sidebar: PACIFICA HISTORICAL SOCIETY. We dug through Riptide's archives from the past five years of our existence and found a bunch of fine items about PHS projects, personalities, and authors. So scroll down and visit our local historians to see what they are up to.

Pacifica Historical Society (PHS) has a wiki—a simple online database. Wiki software allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. The wiki makes it easier to document and share Pacifica history, from the Native American period to the present day. Help PHS preserve Pacifica history by sharing your stories and images. PHS welcomes additions and correction to existing pages, and suggestions for additional categories and pages. Email your contributions to Rick Della Santina: If you are interested in becoming a wiki editor, ask Rick for details.


Filoli Mansion: Formal Gardens, Orchards, Nature Preserve

DSC03642Artists Palette-Shelf Mushroom

Wood Rat Nest

Pacifica Beach Coalition member Cindy Abbott also volunteers at Filoli Mansion. She shares this information about Filoli and the photos above: Coastsiders in search of warm sun and the stunning beauty of a formal garden regularly make their way over the hill to Filoli, the historic estate in Woodside. Filoli, established as a private residence in 1917 and opened to the public in 1976 to promote cultural and horticultural endeavors, is a rare instance of the original land surrounding the estate remaining intact. The 654-acre property includes the largest heirloom orchard in private hands in the United States. The orchard tours, which resume in 2012, are a fun and interesting way to learn about the tradition of how Filoli is conserving not only rare fruits and trees but also preserving this defining landscape feature of Filoli’s country estate.

Another wonder is Filoli’s Nature Preserve. with more than seven miles crisscrossing six different types of native California habitat. Experienced nature education docents lead hikes through the preserve, describing wildlife, plants, endangered species, and the historical background of the area. The beauty of Filoli is open to the public and supported by a small staff and more than 1,200 Friends of Filoli who volunteer their time and financial resources.


Highway 1 Widening: Public Comments

Public comment for the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Assessment (Draft EIR/EA) for State Route 1/Calera Parkway Widening Project in Pacifica is now officially closed for the final environmental impact report.

The purpose of the proposed project is to reduce congestion on the segment of State Route 1 that extends approximately 2,300 feet north of Reina Del Mar Avenue to approximately 1,500 feet south of Fassler and Rockaway Beach avenues. All project documents are at and at Sanchez Library, Sharp Park Library, Pacifica City Hall, Pacifica Community Center, and other locations. Submit comments by U.S. mail, fax, or email to:
Yolanda Rivas, Branch Chief
Division of Environmental Planning & Engineering
California Department of Transportation District 4
Attn: Thomas Rosevear
111 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA 94623
Fax: 510-286-5600

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is lead agency on the proposed project. San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) is a co-sponsor, but the City of Pacifica supposedly is not a co-sponsor.