–In 1998, the Oakland City Council approved an expansion of the Oakland Zoo into Knowland Park. Park users protested, but were persuaded by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by zoo CEO Joel Parrott to withdraw their opposition. The expansion proposed included a 7500 sq ft visitor center sited on already-disturbed land on the west side of the ridgeline. (Click here to see the 1996 Master Plan and click here to see the 1998 Memo of Understanding.)
–In June 2011 the Oakland City Council approved a vastly changed plan. Denying the appeals filed by environmental groups and without any publicly available financial information about where the money would come from to build it, the Council approved zoo executives’ plans to pave over parkland and build a 34,000 sq ft visitor center, restaurant, visitor and office complex on the ridgeline next to ecologically important natural wildlife and plant habitat in Oakland’s largest park. (Click here to see an image comparing the 1996 and 2011 plans.)
–The visitor center complex would now be reached by a planned aerial gondola ride requiring 60-foot towers, necessary because of the site’s remoteness from the existing zoo and the steepness of the terrain, which also raised fire hazard questions never fully addressed. (Click here to see the Zoo’s published gondola concept.)
–The expansion is proposed to feature a “California conservation” theme, displaying captive native California animals, including mountain lion, wolf and bear exhibits, effectively fencing out wild mountain lions, who now use this parkland for hunting, to build pens for exhibiting captives. (Click here to see a map of trees that will be cut down for this expansion.)
–The planned expansion development also includes a campground for 100 people located in a grove of heritage oaks, paving roadways, constructing additional buildings for night houses, concession stands, and widening, grading and resurfacing roads throughout the remaining parkland for emergency vehicle access.