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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it. -John Locke,

As to conforming outwardly and living your own life inwardly, I do not think much of that. -Henry David Thoreau

1.   Butterfly field trip Sept 30
2.   Health concerns of free-roaming cats
3.   Sugar-sweetened Beverage Tax needs your $ help
4.   Dry gardening ideas at CCSF on new website
5.   Someone needs help identifying Venezuelan tree
6.   Food for thought:  restoring Yosemite
7.   SFPUC help on your rainwater harvesting
8.   SF Planning wins 'Bright Ideas in Government' Award
9.   Becoming: Nowhere is it the same place as yesterday...
10. SF Parks Alliance promotes park bond
11.  We lead the world in automated telephone harassment :-)

California Native Plant Society field trip - free and open to the public
Fort Funston Butterflies
30 September, Sunday, 1 pm to 3 pm
Leader:  Liam O'Brien
Note:  Butterflies fly only in sunny weather.  If the sky is overcast at noon, we'll cancel and try again on Sunday, October 7, same time.

The dunes above Fort Funston's bluffs are heavily impacted - leveled and revegetated with iceplant decades ago by the Army, and more recently seeing heavy recreational use.  Nonetheless, patches of natives endure, and GGNRA has restored some areas.  When Liam surveyed the butterflies of San Francisco in 2007 and 2009, he found Fort Funston to be socked in by the marine layer more often than not.  He revisited relentlessly and found at least one jewel:  the first and only eastern tailed blue (Everes comyntas) he's seen in the county.  We'll try our luck and hope to have exciting discoveries.  Dune plants that serve as butterfly hosts include coast buckwehat (Eriogonum latifolium), deerweed ( Acmispon glaber), and grasses.  Even if we only see generalists, it'll be a great opportunity to learn our local butterflies and their habitat requirements.  Wearing sturdy shoes is recommended as the trails have some steep sections.  Meet at the west end of the parking lot near the hang glider launch pad.  Contact: Liam O'Brien 415-863-1212.


2.  Bird Conservation News
A study published in the peer-reviewed public health journal, Zoonoses and Public Health, has found that free-roaming cats pose a threat from "serious public health diseases" to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.  View article...


3.  Sugar-Sweetened Beverage tax - Fundraising appeal:

Dear supporters of a healthier Richmond,
As you may know, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage tax is now on the November ballot in Richmond. We are the first city in the nation to do so.

The one cent per ounce Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, The American Public Health Association, The American Medical Association, The American Association of Retired Persons and the United Nations.

Actor and human rights activist Danny Glover recently endorsed our campaign. The California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (our kid's doctors) has "strongly" endorsed the Richmond Soda Tax. 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC said that the one cent per ounce Sugar Sweetened Beverage tax could be "the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic." 

Reversing the obesity and diabetes epidemics is a high priority in Richmond . One third of our African American and Latino fifth and seventh graders are obese; an additional twenty per cent is overweight in each group.

If we don't intervene successfully many of these children will suffer the ravages of diabetes and heart disease. Without a successful intervention many will not live as long as their parents. 

The beverage industry has already made its presence known locally.

We can win this, but we need to raise funds for mailings, printing, robo-calls, lawn signs, etc...

No one is getting paid for this effort.

Can you help?

It would be a shame to fritter away this amazing opportunity for lack of a bit of cash.

If we pass the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax many others will follow suit.

Help Richmond make history!  The dominoes will start to fall!

No contribution is too small.
Let's do it for our children and our grandchildren.

To donate to the campaign:

Checks can be made out to Fit for Life and mailed to:

Fit For Life
1021 Macdonald Ave.
Richmond, CA 94801

or make a paypal donation by going to our website:

Please list your occupation, employer and address when making a donation.

Join the American Academy of Pediatrics and actor Danny Glover:
YES on Measure N, YES on Measure O
Less Soda, More Sports = Healthy Kids!


4.  Carmen Lee:
Hi Jake:  Check out this cool new site covering the work done by CCSF horticulture instructor Thomas Wang's students!


5.  Jeanne Halpern:
Jake, Do you  think one of your readers can help with this research question?  The writer, Giles Branch, is the grandson of GCK Dunsterville, co-author of the five-volume Orchids of Venezuela (1979), and continues the family interest in botany.  Since no research-oriented family members are still alive who can help him find out how to approach this very open question, I hope some of your readers can point him in the right direction.  What steps should he take to start answering this question:

"I have a small Venezuean tree I'd like to identify:  how would you suggest going about it?"

Please send any ideas to: 

Many thanks, Jeanne Halpern, who has known Giles since he was born.


6.  Restoring Yosemite

On Sep 25, 2012, at 3:04 PM, Randall Smith wrote: 
Per Item 3, restore Yosemite.  First off, it is Hetch Hetchy Valley, not Yosemite.
Hetch Hetchy Valley is in Yosemite National Park.  And what is San Francisco doing storing its water in a national park?

Secondly, this has been studied to death.  The proponents know very little about hydrology or are being disingenuous.  It will create more environmental problems than the one it purports to "solve".
Thirdly, Prop F is going to lose.

That may be, but it's not certain; in fact Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News last week said he thought it might win.  There are powerful interests that would like to see it defeated, and I expect you'll see an expensive No campaign.  All Dianne Feinstein and Willie Brown would need to do is make one telephone call and they'll have all the money they need to confuse voters.  If that happens, we'll have to wait for Feinstein to retire from the Senate.  I'm patient.
What are you talking about? It has been studied numerous times, most recently in 2006 by the California Dept. of Water Resources.  This also includes a review of PREVIOUS studies, including the one in response to 1987 proposal by then Sect'y of Interior Donald Hodel.

What that means is that, by pretending that this issue has not been studied before, you are like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand: "Don't confuse me with the facts..." 

You are right that there have been numerous studies regarding Hetch Hetchy, even some that were in response to moves to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley.  None of them were in depth, and most of them were designed to be preliminary to more in-depth studies.  Look into the studies proposed in Proposition F; you'll be surprised.

Before we can make the decision to restore the Valley it is necessary to know a) the feasibility, b) the costs, c) the trade-offs, d) the political, legal, regulatory hurdles, e) other factors that I don't know about.  The studies you cite are much more limited in scope and never pretended to address the issues voters would need before making such a large decision.

The present initiative to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley is the first really serious one.  Restore Hetch Hetchy was founded in 1999, so is in its 13th year, and the board and executive director are very serious people who have no intention of letting go of this issue until it's completed.  It's bound to prevail eventually, as Congress is not likely to tolerate using a grand national park for San Francisco's exclusive pleasure.  We pretend to be the environmental capital of the world, the greenest city.  In some ways that claim is justified; in other ways, wide of the mark.  We are the only city to store our water in a national park.  (And, don't forget, we use that same water to flush our toilets and clean our streets (!!), and we don't have separate systems for rainwater and sewage.)

At risk of making this response overly long, I paste a reply I made about a year ago to another reader:

I will grant you those powerful arguments about clean power** and the beauty of the gravity-fed delivery to the Bay Area--plus other arguments that are made in defense of the status quo.  I have not always been an ardent proponent of the reservoir's undoing, in large part because of the power of these facts.  I struggled for a long time before coming to my present position, which grows more intense as time goes on and as persuasive arguments roll in.  Restore Hetch Hetchy is doing an excellent job of marshaling arguments for this drastic and expensive move, and if you will keep an open mind and dig deeper you may be persuaded to reconsider.  I can mention only a few random points here--and not necessarily in order of importance.

1.  There is a lot of power coming from the turbines at Moccasin.  But if you look at our "needs" and our gargantuan power consumption on frivolous, wasteful purposes (Las Vegas comes immediately to my mind, but you can see plenty right here in San Francisco or anywhere).  I think "we're drowning Hetchy for this?"  In the total of our consumption--just considering California--Hetchy power is minuscule, almost like looking for a needle in a haystack, figuratively speaking.  Forming and carving the Valley's grandeur took eons to create; it took us overnight to drown it and seal it off from we, the people, who desperately need it for spiritual uplift in these tawdry, shallow times.  There are larger considerations than San Francisco's parochial concerns.

2.  The purpose of the reservoir is to store water.  We will still have the same water--Tuolumne River water, not Hetch Hetchy water, as SFPUC would have you believe--and the same amount.  The Valley's restoration means storing the same water, but somewhere else, not in a national park.  And wherever those storage sites are they will still be generating power.  Mind you, this IS a national park, and what is one city, San Francisco, doing using it for storing its water?  How do you think the other 300 million people feel about this?

3.  "The only reason for tearing down the dam is one of aesthetics."  I hope you wrote that in a hurry and that this doesn't represent what you really think.  When I look at Yosemite Valley or the Sierra grand sculptures, with its forests, meadows, streams, waterfalls--aesthetics is not what first comes to mind.  I won't try to articulate my feelings and thoughts because I don't have the eloquence that Muir could effortlessly summon, but it goes far beyond aesthetics.  Read Muir.  Read him often. 

4.  Humans have somehow managed to de-humanize us and to turn to dross nature's priceless gifts.  Use the grand Hetch Hetchy Valley to store water for San Francisco?  The very thought appalls.

5.  We are good at manipulation, and we know how to use language to persuade.  Keep an eye out for SFPUC's use of language.  For example, they tell you it's Hetch Hetchy water that comes from our taps.  No, PUC, it's Tuolumne River water.  Subtle, but important.  And they have the bully pulpit in their bimonthly water bills, which is drumming it into voters brains.

(** The commonly accepted cleanliness and green-ness of hydropower has been challenged.  I can send you an article about it on request.)

Only a stone could be indifferent to the pain John Muir endured when he lost the battle to keep this valley.  Read it, and pay close attention to his words.  This is often quoted: 

Hetch Hetchy is a grand landscape garden, one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life . . . while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music. . . . These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. . . . Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.
                                         John Muir

There's much more:
Click on Resources


Jerry Cadagan (this item from the archives):
Jake -- Regarding item 5 (SF lusting after more Tuolumne River water) there is an aspect of this issue that is not getting enough attention.  Sure, SF and its 26 wholesale customers might need a bit more water as populations grow.  But most water is not used for human consumption.  It's used for watering median strips and parks, washing cars, and irrigating golf courses, etc.  More and more of those purposes are being fulfilled with recycled water throughout the state.  But where is San Francisco when it comes to the use of recycled water?  Zip, Zero, Nada.  The State Water Board recently released an updated survey of municipal water recycling facilities.  It's at  -

SF sticks out like a sore thumb as the only county or city of any significance that does no water recycling.  And there are something like 5 or 6 municipal golf courses, lots of parks and all of Golden Gate Park that are being irrigated with potable (drinkable) water.

My good friends at SFPUC will tell you that they are thinking about it, working on it, studying it, hiring consultants to tell them how to do it --- and on and on.  The message to them should be "Do It!"

Jerry Cadagan

No more Tuolumne River water should go to SF until it enters the 21st Century and gets in to water recycling; and then they won't need more water from the Tuolumne.

Proposition F


7.  As part of the SFPUC's ongoing efforts to encourage rainwater harvesting, we will be starting a series of tips and tricks on properly maintaining your rainwater harvesting system this rainy season.  These tips and tricks will help ensure that your system provides the most benefit to your home, garden and the environment. 

Have you geared up for the rainy season?
Don't forget to inspect and clean your rainwater harvesting system at the beginning of the rainy season:

1.    Inspect and clean your roof of leaves and debris
2.    Clean your gutters and downspouts
3.    If you have a filter, clean it with warm soapy water or rinse well
4.    If you have a first flush diverter, check to make sure it is draining automatically
5.    Clean all screens
6.    Inspect access lids to ensure seals are tight
7.    Check your tank and base for any settling and cracking
8.    Ensure your system's overflow is traveling to a raingarden or an area drain

Keep your system running smoothly!  Don't let good water go to waste!


8.  SF Planning Wins 'Bright Ideas in Government' Award from Harvard University
Property Information Map announced as one of 111 brightest ideas in government
SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Planning Department was recognized for innovation in government today, as recipient of a ‘Bright Ideas in Government’ Award from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University. The university recognized the department’s new online tool, the Property Information Map, that lists information like zoning, permits, and property value, in an easy-to-use tool found on the homepage of the department’s site.

“On behalf of the team, we are certainly proud to be recognized for our efforts in demonstrating open government and improving access to important property information,” said John Rahaim, Director of Planning.

Officially launched in April 2011, the Property Information Map, found on, provides the general public access to a wealth of property information simply by entering an address. The site currently averages 1,500 unique visitors a day.

This resource pulls current data from a dozen city departments, listing basic information about a property to recent permit activity. Information includes:  parcel information, permit history, maps, zoning, height limitations, special uses, historic designation, architectural information, assessor’s tax records, land value, last sale prices, related Planning Commission documents, complaints, and appeals.

“Government innovation does not require endless resources and generous budgets,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in Government Program at the Ash Center. “As exemplified by this year’s Bright Ideas, some of our country’s smartest innovations can in fact reduce government’s size while serving our citizens more efficiently and effectively.”

This is the third year of the Bright Ideas program, an initiative of the broader Innovations in American Government Awards program. Programs were evaluated and selected by a team of policy experts from academic and public sectors. SF Planning’s Property Information Map was recognized in the category for Real-Time Data and Transparency.



Nowhere is it the same place as yesterday.
None of us is the same person as yesterday.
We finally die from the exhaustion of becoming.
This downward cellular jubilance is shared
by the wind, bugs, birds, bears and rivers,
and perhaps the black holes in galactic space
where our souls will all be gathered in an invisible
thimble of antimatter. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Yes, trees wear out as the wattles under my chin
grow, the wrinkled hands that tried to strangle
a wife beater in New York City in 1957.
We whirl with the earth, catching our breath
as someone else, our soft brains ill-trained
except to watch ourselves disappear into the distance.
Still, we love to make music of this puzzle.

~ Jim Harrison ~

(Saving Daylight)


10.  San Francisco Parks Alliance
Each election year, SFPA hosts supervisorial candidate forums that focus specifically on public space.  We are happy to note that we will be partnering up with Walk San Francisco and Friends of the Urban Forest in hosting these forums.  Our goal is to give you the opportunity to learn more about each candidate's knowledge of and positions on parks, recreation, walkability and urban forestry.

District 1 Forum
When:  Thursday, October 11th
Time:  6:00PM-8:00PM
Where:  Richmond Recreation Center (251 18th Avenue)

District 3 Forum
When:  Thursday, October 25th
Time:  6:30PM-8:30PM
Where:  Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center (1199 Mason Street) 

District 5 Forum
When:  Thursday, November 1st
Time:  6:00PM-8:00PM
Where:  Hamilton Recreation Center (1900 Geary Boulevard)

District 7 Forum
When:  Tuesday, October 30th
Time:  6:00PM-8:00PM
Where:  San Francisco Zoo's
Great Hall (1 Zoo Road, enter at 47th and Sloat)
Find your way to the Great Hall by viewing the Zoo Map.

District 9 Town Hall
When:  Wednesday, October 17th
Time:  7:00PM-8:00PM
Where:  Mission Recreation Center (2450 Harrison Street) 

District 11 Town Hall
When:  Thursday, October 18th
Time:  7:00PM-8:00PM
Location:  Minnie Lovie Ward Recreation Center (650 Capitol Avenue)

RSVP and submit your park, walkability and urban forestry questions by clicking on the button below:   

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