In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Monday, December 5, 2011


1.   Birds of Pacifica's Winter Shore field trip Sunday 11 Dec
2.   Are you a frog-loving federal employee?  Contribute through Combined Federal Campaign
3.   Speak up for historic preservation in SF - Dec 8
4.   SFPUC fails to support cost to study restoring Hetch Hetchy
5.   Date change: Dec 12, not 9, for WALC's Exhibition at Heron's Head
6.   Artist paints lichens on New York City buildings/Landcruiser in herbarium for type specimen?
7.   2012 Friends of Edgewood Wildflower Walk Docent Training
8.   Feedback: corporations or politicians most in need of education?
9.   The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history
10. California Fish & Wildlife Strategic Vision to guide legislation; you can weigh in
11.  Best holiday gift ever: Adopt-an-Acre/local pollination researcher wins $23k grant
12.  Jepson Herbarium Workshop for 2012
13.  Another Christmas gift idea: bird-friendly coffee
14.  A journey always begins in a place called Here, by Mark Strand
15.  Penguins turn to life of crime


Birds of Pacifica’s Winter Shore

Come learn about the birds that are commonly found along our shore at this time of year - learn the difference between a Western Snowy Plover and the Sanderling.

Through late fall and winter, twenty or thirty species of birds can be readily found along Linda Mar Beach and the rocky shore of Rockaway Headland. We'll begin at the south end of Linda Mar Beach, observing first the array of bird species at the mouth of San Pedro Creek. From there, we'll make our way north to the area frequented by the threatened Western Snowy Plover. With a little looking, we should be able to spot several of the banded individuals in among the fifteen or twenty plovers found on the beach most days. For those up for walking over the rocks, we'll continue along the shore of Rockaway Headland, looking for the Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, and Black Oystercatchers that frequent the rocky shore habitat.

Bring binoculars if you have them, and shoes appropriate for sand and rocks.
All ages welcome!

Leaders: Paul Donahue and Edwin Geer
Sunday, December 11th, 1 - 3 PM
Meet in the parking lot by the south bath house and restrooms at Linda Mar Beach, opposite the west end of Linda Mar Boulevard.

Sponsored by the Pacifica Shorebird Alliance.
Our Mission: -To engage and educate the public about the protection of local coastal birds and their eco-communities.


2.  Are you a frog-loving federal employee?

If you are a federal employee, postal worker or member of the U.S. military, you can now donate to SAVE THE FROGS! through your Combined Federal Campaign. Our CFC Number is 77557, and you can find us in the CFC directory.



On Thursday, December 8, the Planning Commission will consider comprehensive revisions to Articles 10 and 11 of the Planning Code recommended by the Historic Preservation Commission, in addition to a series of controversial amendments introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Attend the Planning Commission hearing:
Thursday, December 8, 1:00 p.m. (Agenda Item #9)
City Hall, Commission Chambers, Room 400

Why: To voice concern over Supervisor Wiener's proposed amendments that would impose special burdens on historic preservation in San Francisco.

Please email the Planning Commission: If you're unable to attend the hearing, please email the Planning Commissioners at:,,,,,,,,,


SUPPORT the Historic Preservation Commission's recommended revisions
to Articles 10 and 11:

• Urge the Planning Commission to adopt comprehensive revisions to Articles 10 and 11 recommended by the HPC,which are the culmination of an exhaustive, collaborative process that spanned over a dozen hearings.

OPPOSE Supervisor Wiener's amendments that would impose unique procedural hurdles on the creation of historic districts:

• Although only 11 local historic districts have been created in 45 years, Supervisor Wiener would require 66% owner support before community groups can nominate a historic district.

• The HPC is recommending removal of the 66% threshold because it is out of step with recognized preservation practice today.

• Other procedural hoops proposed by Supervisor Wiener, including a mandatory written vote or survey of all property owners, would make the process more costly and time-consuming.

• No other zoning changes in San Francisco are subject to similar owner consent requirements; historic districts should be treated the same as other neighborhood planning initiatives.

OPPOSE Supervisor Wiener's proposal to develop a "San Francisco Interpretation of the Secretary's Standards":

• The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation already provide detailed guidance on urban design issues and the HPC has traditionally applied these standards quite flexibly.

• The Secretary's Standards are recognized as a national best practice by other major U.S. cities.

For further background, and to read Heritage's past comment letters, go to


4.  San Francisco PUC fails to support $9.8 billion cost to restore Hetch Hetchy
By Dan Aiello, Sacramento Statehouse Examiner
In a letter to Restore Hetch Hetchy's executive director, Mike Marshall, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) has rejected a request by the non-profit to hold a public hearing on the feasibility and benefits of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.

The refusal comes after poll results show mounting support by San Francisco's citizens for the restoration of the valley.

Currently, Hetch Hetchy Valley is one of nine locations used by the City of San Francisco to store water and it is the only reservoir located in a national park. The cost to restore the valley is a major source of contention, with the SFPUC and California Department of Water Resources citing a cost ten times that of RHH, but without study or documentation to support their estimate.

In a letter dated November 17, 2011 sent in response to a letter sent by RHH on October 17th, Anson Moran, the President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, rejected the idea of holding a public hearing on the restoration of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley and described efforts to secure approval as "antithetical" to the charter of the city. However, the section of the city charter cited by Moran includes nothing that would preclude the SFPUC from restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley given that reasonable alternatives for water storage are available.

Multiple studies performed by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources, the University of California, Davis and the Environmental Defense Fund have all determined that utilizing Hetch Hetchy Valley as a water storage facility is unnecessary.

The SFPUC has estimated, without study, that restoration of the Hetch Hetchy valley will cost upwards of $9.8 billion dollars. Marshall disputes the high cost estimate of the SFPUC and DWR, offering his organization's own cost estimate of around $1.5 billion.
Spreck Rosenkranz, an EDF board member, said, "Restore Hetch Hetchy is right on the cost issue. The State report estimated the cost to be a range of $3 to 10 billion, but that included developing far more water than would be lost. The SFPUC has never engaged on the substance of replacement."

"We are deeply disappointed in the SFPUC's response," said Marshall in a press release issued this morning. "The SFPUC's mission includes environmental stewardship of the Tuolumne River watershed, yet it has never considered the adverse environmental impacts of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to Yosemite National Park, nor to the nine miles of Tuolumne River buried beneath the reservoir.

"We continue to believe that SFPUC's mission mandates a public hearing on the issue," continued Marshall. "San Franciscans pride themselves on their "green" reputation and we believe the City can and should become a better steward of the natural resources it controls," continued Marshall. "To suggest that the City Charter prevent the SFPUC from even considering environmental improvements to the system is irresponsible and, in fact, 'antithetical' to the will of many San Franciscans."

A July 2010 poll of San Francisco voters performed by David Binder Research, Inc. found that 59% of voters supported restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley if there was no increase in water rates and were evenly split (42%-43%, margin of error = 4%) if it required an increase in water rates.

The Water Enterprise Environmental Stewardship Policy of the SFPUC clearly states it is the purpose of the SFPUC "to establish long-term management direction for our owned lands and natural resources affected by operation of the water system within the Tuolumne River, Alameda Creek, and Peninsula watersheds. Environmental stewardship is a fundamental component of our mission, and a responsibility of all Water Enterprise employees. We are committed to responsible natural resources management that protects and restores viable populations of native species and maintains the integrity of the ecosystems that support them for current and future generations."

In 1913, Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley was clear cut and flooded for use as one of the reservoirs that stores water for San Francisco. Prior to its destruction, Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley was one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and home to thousands of plant and animal species.
Dan Aiello is a credentialed journalist covering California's legislation and events in Sacramento. He has worked for legislators and elected officials in California politics since 1985 and is a graduate of University of California, Davis, and continues to contribute regularly to the California Progress Report and the Bay Area Reporter.

The mission of Restore Hetch Hetchy is to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to its natural splendor while continuing to meet the water and power needs of all communities that depend on the Tuolumne River.

Downtown High School's WALC EXHIBITION is now on...
Monday, December 12th, 2011

We're hoping you can still make it out to Heron's Head Park (HHP) for this amazing event where you can see "Stories in Action: Eco Literacy at the EcoCenter". The EcoCenter will transform into the reading room where Downtown High's Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative (WALC) students will be reading their very own children's book creations to local elementary school students. These books were inspired by the students' semester-long committment to learning about environmental justice, activism, sustainability, and habitat restoration.

But the activities don't end there! The students will also facilitate activities throughout HHP to not only demonstrate the knowledge they have gained this semester, but to TEACH YOU what environmentalism means to them! Activities about environmental justice at Heron's Head Park, activism, restoration, and even a 379 foot Redwood Tree are sure to engage all ages in these important lessons programs have provided students. So bring your friends and family for this all ages event! Activities are scheduled to begin at 10am, but everyone is welcome to explore the EcoCenter and the Park beginning at 9am.

Additional Restoration Site for Upcoming 2nd Sat. Volunteer Day at HHP!!

Participate in creating even more impact to clean up Bayview's air and water this month. Heron's Head Park will still continue its regularly scheduled 2nd Saturday volunteer day, but in addition we have a special opportunity to restore a neighboring open space this month! Through a partnership with the SF Department of Parks and Recreation, their Youth Stewardship Program (YSP) is joining LEJ in efforts to foster community-based restoration at INDIA BASIN OPEN SPACE; same time as HHP's workday, 9am-12pm.

Artist Paints Lichens on NYC Buildings

If anything can survive on the caverns of New York’s high rises and row houses, it’s probably lichen.
(JS:  Ditto San Francisco.  Lichens can even be found growing on trafficked concrete sidewalks, a tribute to the tenacity and persistence of life.)

(The following is digested from Bulletin of the California Lichen Society Winter 2001)

Adapt or die   or
If you can't lick 'em, join 'em

Lichens Growing on an Automobile in Santa Barbara, California

by Shirley C. Tucker

What would a taxonomist do if his type locality for a lichen were on the roof of an automobile that was in daily use?  This provocative question came up when a colleague brought this car, parked on the university campus, to my attention, and I found about ten species of lichens, including a peculiar-looking Xanthoria, which didn't key to anything familiar, abundantly present on its roof.

The well-used 1982 Toyota Landcruiser, owned by Dr. Sam Sweet of the Biology Department at UC Santa Barbara, has its roof covered with lichens.  Acquired in 1986, the car had been driven daily only around southern California.  Dr. Sweet first noted the lichens in September 1994 after returning from a year in Australia, during which time it was parked in a driveway where it got sun for two hours a day.  It was never washed.

The odd Xanthoria, upon being sent to an international expert on the genus, was identified as the common Xanthoria polycarpa.  Its stressful wind-tunnel-like environment may have been responsible for the atypical growth form atop the car.  The disappointment occasioned by this determination was partially assuaged by relief that they didn't have to find space for a Landcruiser in the herbarium.

(Note:  The author thinks Dr. Sweet may have sold the car by now, complete with its rooftop biome.)


7.  2012 Friends of Edgewood Wildflower Walk Docent Training

Friends of Edgewood docents lead three hour, free walks for the public through Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve during the wildflower blooming season. Edgewood is located at FWY 280 and Edgewood Road. 

Our serpentine grasslands, especially, are very colorful in the spring.  Careful management of the Bay Checkerspot butterfly habitat has reduced non-native grasses to the point that a five-year permit to re-introduce the Bay Checkerspot butterfly is beginning its second year.

Our docent training for 2012 will begin Jan. 25th and continue to mid-April at roughly 2-week intervals.  Our Wednesday evening classes meet in Redwood City and our Saturday morning training hikes meet at Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve.  There is a $25 fee for training materials.  If you are interested, have questions and/or want to register, please email Mary Wilson at


8.  Feedback

Linda Shaffer:
Jake, I was delighted to see the comments from Robert Reich included in your Dec. 3 newsletter.  I do have one small quibble about your "headline":  Prof. Reich is trying to teach POLITICIANS basic economics.  Corporations understand political economy all too well!
Hmm.  To quote from Reich:
Back in 1914 Henry Ford decided to pay his workers three times the average factory wage because they'd use the money to buy Model-Ts. His profits doubled in two years.

But now that bargain has come apart. New data from the Commerce Department shows employee pay down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting the data in 1929. And corporate profits, the largest share of the economy since then.

Who has been actively driving down wages?  Politicians are only their servants, and they do their bidding because that's where they get their backing and campaign contributions.

I think Reich would be the first to tell you that corporations have become blind to this reality, and that is why he quoted Ford.  The bargain has come apart because corporate executives are focused on the short term; they must please stockholders, also focused on the short term.

Modern society is focused on the short term.  That is why it is so unstable and, increasingly, unworkable.
Yes, Jake.  Now read the rest of what Prof. Reich said.  Where does he suggest that corporations should just raise wages?  He doesn't.  He says the GOVERNMENT should act by extending  unemployment benefits, ensuring that workers get more $ of net pay by extending the payroll tax cut, and possibly even by creating a new WPA to create jobs directly.  (He also says the government should NOT succumb to the pleas to lower corporate taxes, which would make corporate profits even higher.)

Corporations cannot "actively drive down wages".  (For that matter, they can't just raise wages levels in the economy all by themselves either.)  Wages fall during recessions due to pressure from so many unemployed people looking for work, including all those laid off workers who eventually take different jobs at a lower rate of pay.  During better times, when employers have to pay more to keep their people from leaving, or to outbid other employers for new workers they want to hire, then wages go up. 

Yes, corporations must focus on short term dividends to keep their shareholders happy. That's how the corporate form of business works.  If shareholders aren't happy with one company, they sell its stock and buy some other company's instead.  Companies with non-competitive dividends can't raise funds to stay in business (their longer term goal).  I'd be the first to agree that for a variety of reasons, corporate lobbyists these days have far too much influence in legislatures, and that this is a huge problem which needs to be addressed.  If we want workers to get a bigger share of the pie and corporate profits to be a smaller share, we have to tell the government to change the rules.   It is unrealistic to expect corporations to unilaterally focus on raising wages, especially during times of high unemployment.

I stand by my assessment of Reich's target.  He is addressing politicians.

BTW, when Mr. Ford raised his workers' wages in 1914, he was able to do so because he'd just introduced the assembly line, which reduced the production time per car by a factor of 12.  And he doubled wages to reduce turnover (workers hated the assembly line and quit in droves), as much as for any other reason.  With production time per car greatly reduced, the company could easily afford the pay increase while still making hefty profits.   He also didn't have to pay as much attention to his stockholders when he did all this:  when the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903, there were only 12 stockholders; Ford and one other man between them owned 51% of the stock.
This is an argument that can become confusingly complicated very fast.  Perhaps we'll have to tackle this verbally when we get together sometime.

I shouldn't be arguing with a professional economist, but aspects of this subject are understood by laypeople--eg, corporations can, and do, actively drive down wages.  They do it by becoming multi-national and getting Congress to tear down barriers that also tear down standards--of labor and environmental protection.  We now compete with cheap labor all over the world, and with countries that have no environmental protection at all.  I understand the advantages of globalization, but we are experiencing its downsides, too.  We have lost what little control we had, and globalization is contributing to the malaise and hard times we're experiencing.

Because I'm wading into deep waters, I'll leave the rest to verbal communication, which is much better and more satisfying a medium in any event.  A parting shot:  corporations have to please their stockholders, yes.  Nevertheless boards of directors in the past always had a firm eye on the long term, and planned for it.  (That was largely true of govt, too, but that seems to be disappearing.)  Am I the first to tell you that vision timelines are becoming shorter and shorter?  That's the stuff of daily reading.  Hotshot CEOs aren't bothered much by bad moves, as they aren't accountable.  They just open their golden parachutes and go bopping off to the next high flier.
(This newsletter sent before Linda had chance to respond.)

On Dec 3, 2011, at 6:28 PM, mary keitelman wrote:
re item 13, Creating Nature?
for Stephen Kroppwho wrote in about native prairies in Illinois, there is the Markham Prairie, which was rescued. Obviously, a small thing, but beautiful.
Something that laypeople usually don't understand is the complexity of natural ecosystems.  Even ecologists don't fully understand.  We don't have the requisite baseline information, for one thing, even for above-ground components of the system.  When it gets to below ground--oy!--there are countless different species of animals, fungus, bacteria and other microbes.  All of the above- and below-ground components interact with each other and with the whole in ways not given to humans to understand.

So when we talk about 'restoration' it means different things, and it can  never be precisely defined.  For most of us, we try to maximize the diversity--ie, the greatest number of species of plants and animals that a given area will support.  We call it restoration, as it is the best we can do under the circumstances--and it is pretty good.

Ron Wellman:
Q: If Shakespeare's grave were ever opened, what might be found there?
A: four hundred years of additional plays written by "others".


9.  From A Word A Day
The US military pulls out of Iraq this month. And that marks the beginning of the end of a more than eight-year-long misadventure that resulted in hundreds of thousands dead, millions of displaced/refugees, trillions of dollars down the drain, and both countries -- the attacker and the attacked -- damaged.
The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

What a dreary topic this is. What do we have to show for all that? Nothing, except perhaps a little better knowledge of the geography of the region.

(JS:  This is a truism.  Why do I post the statement?  Because I can't help ruminating on the fact that one person, a president of the most powerful country in the world, one founded on a virgin continent, one which was governed by documents and laws created by the best founding fathers that a nation could ask for--that nation's president could take us into this war, and convince 530 elected representatives that it was a good thing to do, need to go further.

Actually, reading history reveals many such unnecessary and foolish initiatives, so maybe this isn't as egregious as I want to think.  There's a lesson for us all.  Will we learn that lesson?  No.  History is proof.)

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.
    …Harry Truman

It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders who question the prevailing order. But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home; to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own culture. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part, then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work: become a shoe repairman, a brain surgeon, a janitor, a cowboy, a nuclear physicist, a bus driver. -Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)


From Santa Barbara Resource Conservation District
Please take the time to read the appendix and provide comments. It will make a difference, here's why:

Because of how the process is structured, we have a large opportunity to make an impact.  The appendix is a list of examples of ways to achieve the strategic vision goals. They are going to incorporate most comments that are contributed in feedback into this list.  As stakeholders we did not narrow down the list, but rather the list includes virtually any idea that was thrown out.  If legislation is written from this document, it is likely to come from that list.

Your ideas have the potential to directly affect the legislation that comes from this effort.  Please take a minute to read through the appendix and send additional ideas to the committee. It will make a big difference!

Best Damn Holiday Gift Ever!
Make Aunt Agnes and Uncle Irving Really Happy, AND, Save the Planet at the same time! For friends who have all the socks and ties they'll ever need, Adopt an Acre is the perfect gift. Adopt an Acre of precious Rainforest, colorful Coral Reef or spectacular African desert habitat in your friend’s name to protect nature for future generations and ensure the survival of millions of species of animals and plants. Along with your personalized Adopt an Acre deed, select from our array of gifts: See's assorted chocolates, a nature print or box of nature cards. For more info and to order now go to SaveNature.Org.


SaveNature.Org Wins

Pollinator Conservation Grant

Director of Conservation and Science atSaveNature.Org, Leslie Saul-Gershenz received a $23,000 grant from the Disney Conservation Fund to protect key pollinators by collecting data to provide crucial information on digger bee nesting criteria.

This information will be distributed to land managers in order reduce the habitat impacts from land development. She will be conducting research to reveal the relationship between digger bee species and a wide-ranging nest parasite known to harm a number of pollinator species, as well as developing a way to deter the parasite from invading bee colonies.


The Jepson Herbarium
Workshops for 2012

The Jepson Herbarium has announced the public workshops for 2012. Programs planned for next year include wetland restoration, seaweeds of central California, and a late-season visit to the White Mountains. You can find the complete schedule and other information by clicking here.

The Jepson Manual, Second Edition, is now in press


13.  Christmas gift suggestion from Lee Rudin: 
If interested, please post. I have found coffee lovers delight in a gift of a pound of coffee, and they learn something too. A little over $10 for a full 16oz. (not 12 like store packages) makes 12 inexpensive useful gifts. (if you are a coffee addict) lee

What about a bag of great tasting Birds & Beans coffee!

For $115*, including shipping, we'll send you a carton with 12 bags of Birds & Beans, the good coffee. You'll get 4 bags of our Wood Thrush Breakfast Roast, 3 bags each of our Scarlet Tanager French Roast and Chestnut-sided Warbler Viennese/Medium Roast plus 2 bags of Baltimore Oriole, French Roast DeCaf. ORDER NOW

*Regular cost $156.85 - savings of over  $40! 

Great tasting coffee that is also great for the birds we love and the environment we all share. 
Offer only lasts until 5pm Eastern Standard Time on December 16th - delivered in time for Christmas. Sorry no substitutions in the 12 bag case.

Shade Management Criteria for "Bird Friendly" Coffee

The only way you can be certain that the coffee in your cup is Bird Friendly® is if the Smithsonian's seal is on the bag! By buying certified coffee you can become part of a truly sustainable chain from seedling to cup. Be part of the solution to a better life for all and enjoy the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.


A journey continues until it stops
A journey that stops is no longer a journey
A journey loses thing on its way
A journey passes through things, thing pass through it
When a journey is over, it loses itself to a place
When a journey remembers, it begins a journal
Which is a new journey about an old journey
A journey over time is different from a journey into time
An actual journey is into the future
A reflective journey is into the past
A journey always begins in a place called Here
Pack your bags and imagine your journey
Unpack your bags and imagine your journey is done

If you're afraid of a journey, don't buy shoes
~ Mark Strand ~
(Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More)

(I am fascinated by the tree in the image, which can't be anything but an ancient bristlecone pine.  But the landscape looks unreal, and I wonder if it was doctored by Photoshop.  JS)


15.  Penguins turn to life of crime:

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