Public cost for grandiose Zoo expansion rising – Now Alameda Supervisors want to add to your parcel tax

It turns out the Oakland Zoo wants even more of your money to fence off your public park land.

In a move managed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the zoo is placing a parcel tax on the ballot for this fall that would, if passed, provide funds for the expansion development. See You may recall that at meeting after meeting and hearing after hearing, zoo and city officials assured everyone that this was “a done deal,” all paid for, private funds, etc. Well, it turns out they’ve deceived us again.

We have been trying for more than a month to get information about this measure through the county after we read a story in the San Jose Mercury News about it. As with the city, we have been stonewalled, with people telling us they knew nothing about it (or simply not responding at all, in the case of one supervisor) and denying they had any information. It is truly shameful when ordinary citizens cannot access information they are rightfully entitled to because public agencies are protecting their political connections.

The zoo is already tapping multiple buckets of public money, including funds from the city and from earlier county bond measures, as well as seeking state grants (see Jim Hanson’s great blog posts on this at It’s Your Zoo, You’re Paying (and Paying and Paying) for it   and Will Oakland’s Measure G Bond Fund Become Measure G(otcha)?). But zoo executives still want more—and want us to pay for it.

To even ask for more at a time when cities and counties are struggling to provide basic services, when schools and libraries are struggling to manage with limited funds, roads and streets are deteriorating, people all over the county are hurting and Oakland’s police radios reportedly don’t even work half the time when they are trying to stop crimes, just shows the complete arrogance of zoo executives. They think we should all add more to the public trough so they can build  their bay view offices, gift shop, restaurant and visitor center. The zoo has great programs and some great people working for it. But zoo executives seem completely out of touch. This plan is so wrong in SO many ways.

If this most recent grab of public money for a grandiose zoo expansion is to be responded to, you will need to get involved NOW. Will you help us fight this ballot measure? We have only 3 months to defeat it, and in campaign terms that is the blink of an eye. We need money FAST to mount a media campaign, and we need people willing to work on tabling, outreach, and advocacy activities. This may be a tactical move by the zoo to reduce the chances that we will appeal the legal case, but we simply can’t let them get away with this tax grab. There are too many other important programs that need that money.

Please email us and tell us how you can contribute to this effort. Start by sending a generous check TODAY to our treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605. Make the check to CNPS and put Knowland Park in the subject line. Or donate online using PayPal:  I know we all have lots of good causes we’d like to support, and you may feel tapped out, but the zoo’s actions make it absolutely urgent that we raise money for this campaign NOW. We have no time to waste—the zoo’s PR machine is undoubtedly already well in gear. Let’s show the zoo’s executives that this time around, the public won’t buy their deceit—and we won’t pay to destroy our own Park!

Let’s get going!

Ruth Malone is a resident of Oakland since 1983, a founding member and co-chair of Friends of Knowland Park and a longtime Oakland neighborhood activist. Since 2007, she has been working to educate and organize environmentalists, park users, and community members to protect the park. In her day job, she is a professor of nursing and health policy at University of California, San Francisco, where she helps students study the links between health and political, social and natural environments, and conducts research on the tobacco industry and its efforts to thwart public health efforts worldwide.

Ruth Malone’s Reflections Blog offers a combination of reflective essays and updates from the Protect Knowland Park Campaign, linking the fight to protect Knowland Park to broader environmental and ethical issues.

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