As you know, the zoo’s plan to use the most environmentally sensitive areas of the park that are located on the ridgeline is now running into trouble. Because the destruction of wildlife habitat is so severe and permanent, the wildlife regulators are requiring the zoo to make up for it by setting aside more than 50 additional acres of land. So, the zoo wants to take (for free) even more of our public Knowland Park (land that is already protected as parkland under the Deed of Transfer). This land would have all public access removed from it. This fiasco, as the Sierra Club said, has “gone from bad to worse.”
All of the major problems with the expansion are the direct result of zoo executives’ demands to build on the ridge. Building on the ridge creates a domino effect of interconnected problems: fire and public safety issues, loss of threatened Alameda whipsnake habitat (the best and most of it), loss of rare maritime chaparral due to fuels management requirements, huge mitigation obligations due to destroying habitat, loss of public access to valued parkland, and the enormous expense of construction at such a remote site.
All these major problems would disappear by just moving off the ridge: There is plenty of room to expand and improve—and get all the benefits touted by expansion supporters (education, camp facilities, new exhibits, views, flat land, even a gondola ride)—on available land nearer to the existing zoo facilities. The City Council doesn’t have to shoot down the expansion and improvement of the zoo to be able to say no to giving away more of our publicly owned parkland.
We’ve just learned that the City Attorney is planning to meet with the City Council in CLOSED SESSION in early October to discuss the plan to place an easement on the land, which would involve the loss of public access. The public will not be allowed to listen to the information presented—a complete violation of the public’s right to participate, to hear the City’s interpretation, and to comment so that the City Council hears all of the critical information, especially the fact that citizens do not want to be barred from 52 acres of their own parkland. Once again, the zoo and City are conspiring to hide information about this project from the public.
SO…we are at true crunch-time, folks—things are moving fast and we need EVERY SINGLE PARK SUPPORTER’s help right now to flood the City Council with cards and letters and phone calls to let them know we won’t stand for having our parkland stolen from under our noses. Our strongest weapon is public pressure, and individual personal messages are the strongest means of applying public pressure. We have to generate a tidal wave of public outrage against the zoo ridge project, with postcards and letters flooding the offices of the Oakland City Council, Mayor, City Attorney and Planning Department.
How can you help? Scroll down to see what we need from you…
Postcard & Letter Campaign: LET’S DO THIS
Here’s what we need:
Our goal is to get every single Knowland Park supporter to send a postcard (34 cents) or letter to your City Council rep, and to enlist at least 5 others—friends, family, or even strangers—to do the same. Are you part of a book club, church group, moms’ carpool, or other group that you could reach out to?
Or can you host a postcard-writing party or help with outreach within the next week or two? If you can get a group together, we’ll get you the postcards and instructions with ideas for short messages, and we’ll pick them up afterward and mail them for you—that will also help us keep tabs on how many we’ve generated.
We need BIG volume now. We’ll also be working at farmer’s markets and other community events, so PLEASE contact our volunteer coordinator, Elise, at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know if you can help out! Your ideas and suggestions are welcome…just drop Elise a line.
If you can’t manage that, please take just a moment to write a note of your own. It doesn’t have to be long. Stick a stamp on it and send it. Taking the time to write a “snail mail” note demonstrates to politicians a greater level of concern than merely sending an email—although if that’s absolutely all you can manage, then please do that.
Councilmembers’ names and addresses, and the key details for messages, are on our website right here.
And scroll down to the bottom of this message for answers to two frequently asked questions.
“I Can’t Hear You…” Why Your Note Matters So Much!
Only MASS outrage will get through to these representatives. We can’t just say something once, or have just a few people speak up.
We’ll never forget our Councilmember, Larry Reid, sitting back in his chair when we went to speak with him way back years ago, before this mess of a project was rammed through. Smiling faintly, he put his hands behind his ears, wiggled his fingers at us and said “I can’t hear you,” indicating that the roar of public outrage over the proposed zoo project had not reached sufficient volume for him to respond.
Well, now is the time for ALL the Councilmembers to hear—loud and clear—that the public is fed up…fed up with this kind of secret backroom dealing…fed up with giveaways to developers even if they are cloaked in fuzzy-animal stories…fed up with going deep into debt to fund pet projects that don’t pan out and leave the whole city to pay the bills far into the future…and fed up with wrecking real, thriving ecosystems to build fake ones. Speak up for our park now—NOW is the time when it can make a difference.
1. What is the status of the zoo’s expansion plan now?
The zoo does not have all the financing it needs to build and operate the project, and it is still waiting for permits to begin construction. As a result of the regulatory agency findings of significant destruction of habitat, permits will only be granted on the condition that the zoo meets a 52-acre mitigation requirement. The zoo will be asking the City Council to approve them using more Knowland Park land to meet that obligation. Approval would mean making what is now free-access public parkland permanently off-limits to the public. Information about public hearings before a City Council vote has been unavailable. The lack of transparency in this process is part of the problem—the public has been effectively squeezed out.
2. What do Knowland Park supporters want?
We are working for a better, more broadly acceptable alternative to the zoo’s unacceptable choice to build on valuable public parkland. Fortunately, there are options that would both support a zoo expansion and preserve public access and wildlife habitat in Knowland Park. We ask the City Council to press the zoo to commit to a progressive conservation program that includes preserving, rather than destroying, nearby natural lands to teach authentic conservation to zoo visitors.
To see our Frequently Asked Questions sheet, click here.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Voice…
Thanks for everything you do. Keep doing it!
Ruth, Tom, and the Friends of Knowland Park Leadership Team