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April 2013

Medevac Chopper Lands on Highway 1 @ Pescadero

Alan Clarkson-Dodds reports, "This was going on around 9:30 this morning (Monday) as I was on my way down the coast water-testing for the San Mateo Environmental Health Department. I guess it's the only large piece of tarmac in the area. I believe that whatever happened, happened further up the Pescadero valley, and the ambulance brought the patient down to the Highway 1 intersection for pickup. Reminded me of back home in New Zealand; not an uncommon sight to see an aircraft in an unusual place. I hope the patient's day got better."

Mission Blue Butterflies Cling to Life on Our Coastal Hills

By Paul Donahue, Special to Riptide20130426_8269.2
On April 26 I joined Margaret Goodale and Diane Darling on one of their weekly surveys for the endangered mission blue butterfly on Golden Gate National Recreation Area's Milagra Ridge in Pacifica, one of the very few spots where this butterfly still occurs. Despite 10 mph winds and less than ideal temperatures, we managed to find one female of the species (above).
Females are brown on the upper side of the wings while males are blue.20130426_8226.2
Two of the butterfly's tiny whitish eggs on a lupine seed pod (above).
The butterfly's preferred food plant is silvery lupine (above). Distribution of this lupine is probably one of the limiting factors for the butterfly. Paler varied lupine is a more common species in the area, and an alternate food plant for the butterfly, but is not as well liked as silvery lupine. The lupines grow in more open areas of the coastal scrub covering the slopes. Other coastal scrub wildflowers are as follows: 20130426_8233.2
Cobweb thistle (above)20130426_8236.2
Coast man-root (above)20130426_8245.2
Common lomatium (above)20130426_8283.2
Wight's Indian paintbrush (above)20130426_8292.2
Cow parsnip (above)20130426_8302.2
California bee plant

Pomegranates: Ancient Persian Fruit Pops Up @ Oceana Market

Imagine my surprise when I went into Oceana Market for groceries and found a few round, red pomegranates in a straw basket. The produce guy said some enterprising farmer had stored the unique winter fruits and just now released them to the store. So I bought a bagful, plus a green plastic Cleverco deseeder for $3.99, stacked up next to the fruit basket. The device works perfectly and the little jewels of pomegranate are crisp, juicy, and sweet. Bravo, Oceana! But hurry on in, because I plan to buy as many of the pomegranates as I can fit in my Radio Flyer. The produce guy says he will get more pomegranates soon.

"Farmer John" Maybury

Worst Job in America: Newspaper Reporter

Get the Bad News Here

A recent survey of 200 occupations reveals that newspaper reporters are considered the bottom of the barrel in pay, working conditions, future prospects, job security, prestige, etc. No surprise. Newshounds may not get rich or famous, but they still love the journalism profession. I know; I speak from personal experience. None of us ink-stained wretches do it for the money, that’s for sure. Working in this field since the days of typewriters and carbon paper, I have discovered that other kinds of job satisfaction can be worth more than any amount of money.

John Maybury, Editor & Publisher

Surf Spot: Wall Street Journal Discovers Pacifica's "Mountainside" Eatery

Keith Bailey, left, and Surf Spot co-owner Derek Burns in the kitchen of the Pacifica eatery. (photo by Lori Eanes for The Wall Street Journal)

Built into a mountainside [Editor's Note: Rockaway Headland is not exactly a mountain, but I guess it looks like one to a New York newspaper reporter] along the ocean in Pacifica, Surf Spot keeps patrons coming back for its ahi tuna poke and pizza—along with a round of beach volleyball.

Chef and co-owner Derek Burns, 48, opened the restaurant with two partners last June with the hopes of combining his tastes for seasonal and global cuisine with a casual surf-culture atmosphere for locals and tourists.

Surf Spot offers "food [that] vacations are made of," says Mr. Burns, who adds that the menu was inspired by his travels in the South Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. "We wanted safe food for kids, like hamburgers and pizza, while giving the adventurer something new to try."

The menu features dishes including $7 Vietnamese-inspired sweet chili-glazed chicken wings and a $12 ahi tuna poke, a kind of raw salad popular in Hawaii. A local favorite is the $12 Ballpark Pizza, made with a beef hot dog, sauerkraut, onion, and mustard sauce.

In the back, the restaurant offers beach volleyball, hula hoops, and beach blankets.

Marlyn Hansen, 37, who brought her Pacifica family to Surf Spot for the second time recently, had a $9 pulled-pork sandwich while her children, ages 8 and 5, enjoyed a $9 cheese pizza. "The atmosphere is like a beach lounge. We hang out around the fire pit while giving the kids a safe place to play," she says.

Surf Spot is at 4627 Coast Highway in Pacifica [in front of Sea Bowl]. It serves lunch Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

(from an item by Sharon Massey in The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2013)

Edgewood County Park 2013: 20th Anniversary Celebration

Throughout 2013, the Friends of Edgewood celebrate their 20th anniversary and that of the designation of Edgewood County Park as a Natural Preserve. The Friends group was founded by many of the individuals in the Save Edgewood Park Coalition who struggled in the early 1990s to protect Edgewood. In 1993, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to preserve the park from development in perpetuity.

Edgewood Park is known throughout the Bay Area for its spectacular springtime wildflower displays. The Friends of Edgewood volunteer more than 4,000 hours annually to offer docent-led wildflower walks, host visitors in the new Bill and Jean Lane Education Center, and support the California Native Plant Society in weeding and habitat restoration efforts at Edgewood.

To celebrate this milestone, the Friends of Edgewood and San Mateo County Parks present 2013: Year of Edgewood. Special guided nighttime walks, guided access to sensitive areas normally off-limits, and walks led by distinguished naturalists, scientists, and professional photographers highlight these events.

All events are free, but donations are suggested and greatly appreciated. Because space is very limited, visitors must register in advance. To register or to get more information, please visit


Beach Watch volunteers perform shoreline monitoring under the auspices of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Beach Watch uses highly trained “citizen scientists” from all walks of life to conduct regular shoreline surveys spanning 150 miles of coastline from Point Año Nuevo to Bodega Head. The volunteers have conducted wildlife surveys during oil spills and other disasters. Since 1996, the nonprofit Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association has managed Beach Watch data and volunteers. Find out more about the sanctuary and its volunteer programs: Farallones and NOAA.

Terra Nova's "The Basilisks" Robotics Team Scores a Big Win

Robotics have long been the mainstay of factories and labs, but their surge in popularity is evident in our classrooms and homes, too. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics, a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire young people, is one reason for this popularity. FIRST brings together more than 65,000 high-school-age students annually to create local robotics teams. The teams build a robot – with the help of professional mentors – with the goal of competing at the FIRST Robotics Championship April 24-27.
Autodesk honors two 2013 FIRST teams: Team 6002 The Basilisks from Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California; and Team 4488 Shockwave from Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Oregon as its April Inventor of the Month. Both teams used Autodesk Inventor software to design their award-winning robots and successfully advance to the world championship.
The Basilisks, Shockwave, and hundreds of other FIRST Robotic teams receive free access to Autodesk software via the Autodesk Education Community, which provides students and educators with everything from personal design apps to professional-grade software. By leveraging the powerful modeling capabilities within Inventor, along with the knowledge of Autodesk employee mentors, both teams were able to finalize their robots while saving time and materials costs.

Photo above shows some members of Team 6002 The Basilisks and team mentor Kjersti Chippindale (far right).

Video animation of Team Basilisks robot (brilliant design, but the team could have used a little help with spelling of captions—a couple of glaring typos detract from the overall good impression):


Fun Grocery Shopping Is Not an Oxymoron

By John Maybury, Editor & Publisher

Shopping for groceries can be one of the more mundane aspects of existence, so why not enjoy the experience—celebrate the pleasures of good food and good eating.

That's why I seek out grocery stores like Oceana in Eureka Square, Pacifica Farmer's Market in Manor, Sun Valley Market in Park Mall, and Coastside Farmer's Market in Rockaway (in season).

I did try Fresh & Easy a couple of times when it first opened but didn't like its nonunion hiring policy, and frankly it didn't offer anything special except low prices. So when I heard Fresh & Easy was closing, I wasn't too surprised or unhappy.

Check out the online chatter about the fate of Fresh & Easy. Will Walmart, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's move in? I honestly don't care, because I am sticking with my hometown favorites. They offer much of the variety and fun of a Trader Joe's, plus friendly local service (and tax revenue for our city).

So if you want to save some time and gas, don't drive over the hill and don't mourn Fresh & Easy closing, just try Oceana, Farmer's, and Sun Valley, and make your grocery shopping fun again. SHOP LOCALLY!

Caltrans' Highway Widening Plan: A Freeway to Nowhere

Hwy1By Peter Loeb, Riptide Correspondent

This section of Highway 1 (above), from the stoplight in the foreground to the stoplight at the top of the picture, is proposed by Caltrans to be widened to more than twice its current width. The purpose of the proposed widening is to reduce traffic congestion. But the widened roadway would return to four lanes in width at either end of the widened section, creating bottlenecks in both directions. To allow for left-turn and right-turn lanes, the roadway could be as much as 10 lanes wide at each intersection. (The draft environmental impact report [DEIR] is unclear on this point.)

Pelagic Cormorants Prefer Pacifica

Pelagic cormorants on their nests on a sea stack off Rockaway Headland. These were about the brightest, most iridescent ones I've ever seen. On the upper bird, you can see bits of the white lower flank patch that they get in the breeding season. This species prefers the more vertical surfaces, while Brandt's cormorants prefer the flatter surfaces. The local double-crested cormorants nest in trees, often in eucalyptus.

Paul Donahue

Exposing Caltrans' Hidden Highway Deals: Follow the Money

2 ZBOOS Map 300 DPI  copy 2
By Todd Bray, Riptide Correspondent

Hidden away in the minutes of a 2008 Caltrans team meeting for the highway widening project is a comment from Caltrans employee Amir Sanatkat, who mentioned that Caltrans has an agreement with a property owner on the east side of Highway 1 just north of the Lutheran church to provide highway access for his 50-plus acres of zoned commercial and residential land once the highway is widened. (See Bob Pilgrim's annotated photo above.)

I made a public-records request to Caltrans to see the agreement mentioned in 2008, but the document Caltrans sent was dated 12 months later in 2009 (click link below to see the letter):

04-3819 ROW Letter dated March 4, 2009

This promise of access to Highway 1 once the highway is widened is not mentioned in the project's draft environmental impact report (DEIR). Furthermore, the DEIR states that the widening is not growth-inducing or tied to a specific project. Both of these statements are false, and this letter shows that, as do the minutes of Caltrans' Project Development Team meetings for the widening project.