April 04, 2022


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And where is the soil coming from? Soil is fundamental to terrestrial life. Biodiversity in soil--notably microbial diversity but also plant, animal, and fungal diversity--usually dwarfs the diversity of organisms on the surface and in the atmosphere above. So let's not forget the potential negative impacts to the locations from which imported soil is extracted. And what about the materials and energy used to "mine" and transport the soil? The total impacts of urban development are usually overlooked in environmental accounting.

Owen Brizgys makes an important point. The cost of the reclamation plan is never discussed in the DEIR, and the cost does not make financial sense. The DEIR says 970,000 cubic yards of soil will be imported, and there will be 161 truck trips a day for four years. The DEIR says the average cubic yards (CY) per truckload is 12 CY. 970,000 CY of soil divided by 12 CY of soil per truckload = 80,833 truckloads over four years. What is the cost of that many truckloads? Even if a very large bulk rate discount is negotiated, the cost still has to be a few hundred dollars per truckload. Owen is certainly better informed than I am about this cost, but any way you look at it, it's an enormous amount of money just for the soil. Then there are all the other costs of the plan — improving the old quarry road and other improvements and changes to the whole site, heavy equipment, contractors and employees, design and build processing and reports, and so forth and so on. Even at the low end of Owen’s estimate, we’re talking $50 million for a reclamation plan, with no development plan in sight. That makes no sense. It’s not a financially feasible project. And creating a toxic waste dump for contaminated soil would never be approved, especially by the California Coastal Commission. Using contaminated soil would have to be done illegally. The closer we look at this reclamation plan, the less sense it makes.

Great points, Owen, and the total is 2.4M yards of soil within the four-year reclamation period.

This would not be happening in Woodside.

What is being proposed here is turning the Quarry into a contaminated soil dump site for Bay Area developers.
If you or I wanted to improve our backyard and import 1cubic yards (cy) of soil it would cost us about $100/cy in place. If Larry Ellison wanted to do this on a larger scale, create a Japanese-style landscape of new hills and plantings, he could hire project management and get it down to $50/cy.

So to import the 1,000,000 cy of soil to create a planted oasis would cost between $50-$100 million.
Is the City of Pacifica naïve enough to think that is what the developer is proposing -- improving the City of Pacifica with tens of millions of his own money?

Bad news – it’s not. What is being proposed here is turning the Quarry into a contaminated soil dump for Bay Area developers. It COST money to import clean, healthy soil for planting, but it's PROFITABLE to accept contaminated soil and store it forever. It's called a landfill or dump. And that is how this project makes sense to the developer. Coastal Pacifica will become the soil dump for all of the Bay Area. There will be limited testing, lots of complicated paperwork, kabuki theatre, regulatory gymnastics, and possible malfeasance to turn the Quarry into a contaminated landfill. Other better-funded and sophisticated cities of SF, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties would never allow this, but the developer knows exactly where he could get away with something like this.

Anyone who uses the quarry knows it doesn’t need any reclamation – there is nothing wrong with it! Hundreds of people use it every weekend day. Would it be nicer to have some improved trails -- sure. Some of the pampas grass gone – sure. But if you hike Mori Point or Aramai Point, you’d know nothing over 18” naturally grows in this zone of the coast – what you see (less the pampas grass) is its natural, rocky beauty. Would it be improved with 1,000,000 cy of soil contaminated with lead, Chromium VI, PFAS, Thallium, Benzo[b]fluoranthene, DDT, hydrocarbons, VOCs, radioactivity, and everything else listed in the report? Well, that’s all allowed by the EIR! The City of Pacifica seems anxious to let it happen.

Promise a few housing units and be allowed to create a future Superfund site, next to the Pacific Ocean!

Again, would not happen in Woodside. Wish I had more time to fight this thing.

SB9 and SB10 represent a destructive, unsustainable urban mindset intensified to the level of societal mental illness. Can the dogged, three-brass-monkey lack of consideration of human population, resources, and ecological well-being on which we all depend ultimately be explained in any other way?

Both SB9 and SB10 are applicable in the Pacifica Quarry.

SB9 allows Coastal Development Permits to completely avoid a public hearing.

SB10 allows Pacifica City Council with a 2/3 vote to override the requirement of a local ballot measure to approve housing.

According to Dan's two links, SP 9 does not apply in the quarry, both because it's not zoned single family and because it's in the coastal zone.

"The original parcel being subdivided must meet the following criteria:
The parcel must be within a single-family residential zone"

"... the new laws do not supersede the Coastal Act, and the requirement for ministerial approval does not automatically apply in the coastal zone."

Finally an industry person asked me recently about two quarry items that he believed were not accurate. As I'm not an attorney, I thought I'd do a little research and put this out there:

Assertion #1. That SB9 can't be used in combination with Planned Developments.
Here's a land use attorney's take on that:

Assertion #2. That SB9 is not applicable in the Coastal Zone.
The Coastal Commission has published a memo related to SB9 in the Coastal Zone at

They missed about 10 animals on the DEIR, including this one:

I wonder what the national optics of letting a Dutch zillionaire make a fortune on land where Native Americans were enslaved to quarry the same limestone he now wants to cover up with 2.5M cubic yards of fill? He is a special envoy to the Queen (diplomatic post), and roughly 7% of the 1730-1814 slave trade came out of Netherlands 1730-1814.

Newsom has a $100M plan for Native Americans to buy and preserve their ancestral homeland. Paul Heule is $6.6M into this project. He should cut his losses and try to break even. Wonder what July's FPPC campaign contribution docs will show.

Anyone wishing to read the Quarry reclamation documents can read them at:

Some red flags: On the Draft Environmental Impact Report:
page 59, "The Quarry has been active since the mid-1700s when Spanish soldiers quarried lime for the Presidio in San Francisco, California."

What is not mentioned is that the Spanish carried spears and didn't actually lift any rocks, instead the actual quarrying of this site was done by enslaved Native Americans from Pruristac (Linda Mar) who were rented to the Presidio by the Spanish missions. It looked something like this:

As written, the Reclamation Plan is an inspiring document. No kidding. And it's very educational about the Quarry's natural resources. The number of non-native plant species that have settled there is remarkable, but it's also remarkable that some of our natives have managed to hang on. The proposed work to remove the invasives and replace them with natives is practically heroic ... such a contrast to humans’ usual approach and impact. The wildlife protection measures are heartwarming. If a Red-legged Frog is observed, “the animal will be transported to a suitable relocation site within Calera Creek.” If a San Francisco Garter Snake is spotted (and that would be a huge event), “work will be halted until the animal leaves the Project Area of its own volition.”

I know it’s just a document, and it may not be matched by reality. And I know it’s happening not because of humankindness but because of a developer’s desire to make money. But it provides a tantalizing image of how we could live more harmoniously on our planet.

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