We presented our case at a full-house City hearing on August 18. It was based on our written appeal to protest the Oakland Tree Services decision to grant Zoo management (East Bay Zoological Society) a tree “removal” permit. The permit allows the Zoo to cut down 48 protected Coast live oaks and put 428 more oaks and other native trees at risk during the planned zoo expansion into Knowland Park. Save Knowland Park volunteers spoke to six major issues in the Zoo’s permit application. Others in the audience spoke eloquently of the importance of protecting the dwindling number of Oakland’s namesake trees.
We appreciated how attentive the hearing officer (Judge Joel Golub of Contra Costa County) was, as he gave everyone adequate time to make their point and asked appropriate clarifying questions during the hearing.
We must now wait to hear if he will uphold or deny the City’s approval of the Zoo’s tree removal permit. The hearing officer’s decision will be announced soon; we’ll let you know when we know.
KGO-Radio News interviewed SKP Coalition member Jim Hanson of California Native Grassland Association about the tree removal permit and the better alternative to build closer to the Zoo.
ZOO PERIMETER FENCE VIOLATES ENVIRONMENTAL RULES – SKP FILES COMPLAINT
Zoo management recently started installing an 8-foot-high chain-link perimeter fence to isolate the proposed new “California Trail” exhibit site and cut off public access to this public parkland.
With this first step of construction barely begun, we are shocked and profoundly saddened at the level of outright and unauthorized destruction, despite Zoo management’s ongoing insistence that they would protect the park’s sensitive habitats. (See photos below.)
Any hope that we could believe their assurances was dashed as soon as they started construction.
Zoo management is ignoring the conditions of their environmental permits and is plowing (literally) ahead. They are making no apparent effort to comply with the legal requirements of their building permit, including specific instructions that crews must hand-carry tools to ensure careful passage in certain environmentally-sensitive areas, and can disturb only a limited area of ground on either side of the fence.
Instead, Zoo construction crews, using mechanized vehicles, are tearing up established areas of rare native bunchgrasses and wildflower species that are also designated habitat for the threatened Alameda Striped Racer (Alameda whipsnake). To date, 30-foot swaths of fragile soils have been turned into loose powder, and very old stands of native grasses and forbs that have grown for centuries are being destroyed, and they are irreplaceable. This additionally puts the steep hillsides at risk for erosion, which was never an issue before. Save Knowland Park volunteers are photo-documenting the damage as best we can.
We sent a formal complaint to Darin Ranelletti, Oakland Deputy Planning Officer (in charge of the Zoo’s “California Trail” expansion project) with copies to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife that approved this project under an agreement that certain environmental promises would be kept. We’re asking these regulatory agencies to step in to review the obvious park destruction (both inside and OUTSIDE the designated project area).
We have asked the City to stop work until permit conditions can be properly enforced and the Zoo shows evidence they have the secured (non-taxpayer) funds to pay for restoration of the parkland they have damaged.
We are also urging the Zoo Board of Trustees and Zoo Foundation Board to halt this unnecessary and unauthorized park damage. Trustees of the East Bay Zoological Society (EBZS) include representatives from a number of Bay Area corporate institutions, including Clorox, PG&E, Wells Fargo, and Kaiser Permanente.
The stunning irony is that while Zoo execs are aggressively pushing forward with construction of this $61 million expansion project, partially funded by taxpayers, the Zoo Board of Trustees discussed at their July meeting that they are at least $8 million short of funds to complete the project. They have decided to build only the restaurant, interpretive center/offices and gondola to start, and wait until later when they have more money to add the animal exhibits. In effect, the Zoo is moving ahead with destruction of wildlife habitat and public parkland for a construction project they cannot complete.
NOTE: In our last update, we said we could find no evidence of an approved fence permit, and we had submitted a letter to Rachel Flynn, Oakland Planning and Building Director. Ms. Flynn has since responded that her department decided to void the fence permit they’ve had listed on the City website since January, and they issued a fence-building permit to the Zoo under a different category not normally used. That permit was made effective 7/16/2015 to allow the Zoo to start fence construction.
Most recently on 9/4/15, during one of numerous in-person follow-up visits to the City Building Permits office, one of our SKP volunteers learned that the Zoo has submitted an additional permit application for a new “temporary access road” in the park, previously not mentioned. This additional road project is a new concern, though the size, location and reason for it is currently not available to the public. With your ongoing support, we will find out and respond.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Add your voice:
Careless and blatant Zoo violations of required environmental protections must be stopped.
- Use this link to find your state and federal elected representatives.
- Click their names to get to their online contact form… sending even one note is better than none.
- Customize this sample message:
Dear Representative ______,
Please enlist the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce environmental protections in Knowland Park and stop the Oakland Zoo from violating their permit conditions. Require the Oakland Zoo to correct the damage and restore the habitat before they proceed with further construction. Thank you.”
As we continue to press forward, we are grateful for your tax-deductible donation to help support our all-volunteer efforts to save Knowland Park and limit the damage to this amazing place.
Thanks, everyone, for your support.
Save Knowland Park Coalition