Public Comment

Vote NO on EBRPD’s Measure FF

Madeline Hovland, People United to Protect Parks
Thursday November 01, 2018 - 11:45:00 AM

PUPP (People United to Protect Parks) is a group of individuals who oppose East Bay Regional Park District’s Measure FF parcel TAX because it will help fund ill-advised changes EBRPD wants to make in the parks that we love. Among those changes are removal of tall shade trees, “restoration” of native plants and trees (even where they never grew before), and increased use of toxic chemicals to keep weeds and other “undesirable” vegetation from thriving in unshaded areas where trees are cut down. 

Here’s why we urge you to vote NO on Measure FF: 

1. According to its recent financial report, EBRPD received $150 million from general property taxes in 2017. That amount is expected to increase every year as more residential units are built in the District. Measure FF projections are for close to $66 million over the 20 year period beginning in 2020-2021. We must make sure taxpayer money is not spent on changes the public does not want. 

2. EBRPD claims that 20% of the FF TAX, if passed, will be used to prevent hill fires. But EBRPD’s recent “fire safety” policies will result in decreased fire safety. For the past two years, EBRPD has been cutting down more tall, thick-trunked shade trees that store carbon and help prevent global warming. It claims this deforestation is in the interest of fire safety, although fire scientists agree that removing trees does nothing to curb wildfires. The Tubbs fire, the Thomas fire and the Lake County fire—in fact, just about all California wildfires—were not in forested areas. They started and spread in grasslands, shrublands and oak savannas, all of which happen to be primarily native vegetation that is easier to ignite and spreads faster than forest fires. 

All property owners in the EBRPD district will pay the Measure FF tax, even though many of them own property in flat lands far from EBRPD forests. Many residents in the flat lands also use the parks, but they have not been asked if they want to help pay for a landscape of stumps, and heavily thicketed chaparral or grasslands in the hills. 

3. More than 40% of the revenue expected from Measure FF and additional projects it leverages will be used in vain attempts to restore the hills landscape to what it was in 1772. In the past two years, EBRPD has been implementing new policies designed to please a small number of environmental nativists as well as the EBRPD bureaucracy. 

Some nativists actually believe, despite all scientific evidence, that so-called native vegetation (here before 1772) resists fire. Oak-bay savannas appear to be the nativist goal for East Bay parks. This landscape will be grassland and chaparral brush-covered hills, dotted with scrub oaks. (Scrub oaks, by the way, are a highly flammable chaparral species with branches growing close to the ground.) Fire rips through such landscapes even as it did before 1772 and later when people from the East Coast first settled in Berkeley and Oakland. 

Thousands of trees from far-off places were planted in the 1800s because people wanted them. Many different non-native species, including eucalyptus, were planted to alleviate the problem of recurring grass fires that would sweep down from the hills into residential areas in late summer when the grass grew tall and became dry and highly flammable. As the trees grew, their shade canopy prevented tall grass from growing under them. Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park and advised both UCB and Stanford, stressed the need to plant a diversity of trees (including non-natives) to “diminish the dazzle of sunlight on yellow hills.” 

Those early East Bay settlers knew from experience that grass and brushlands were much more flammable than trees. Let’s not allow EBRPD to reject that experience at the expense of our fire safety. 

4. EBRPD’s plan to restore native vegetation in the hills will require the increased use of toxic pesticides, applied several times a year, to kill weeds and other “undesirable” vegetation that will grow stronger, needing ever more toxic chemicals to keep them from overwhelming sensitive native vegetation. We are totally opposed to the use of pesticides. There is a great deal of evidence that toxic chemicals in pesticides such as Monsanto’s glyphosate cause cancer in humans, pets, and wildlife. 

Protect healthy forests. Protect pesticide-free parks for future generations. Demand that EBRPD change its policies before it wastes any more of your tax money. Vote NO on Measure FF.  

Historical information in this article is based on several sources. They include among others: George Pettit’s Berkeley, The Town and Gown of It, Howell-North Books, 1973; Beth Bagwell’s Oakland: Story of a City, Presidio Press, 1982; David Weber’s Oakland: Hub of the West, Continental Heritage Press, 1981; WPA publication, Berkeley, the First Seventy-Five Years, Gillick Press, 1941.