Sunday, October 14, 2012

Help save open space in the Bay Area by protecting Knowland Park from development

Vote NO on new Tax Measure A1

Update: there is now evidence that Zoo officials have actually violated election laws in their zeal to promote measure A1.

I normally only blog about technical topics, but the destruction of a beautiful piece of open space in the Bay Area is imminent, and I want to at least do a little bit to help prevent this disaster.

In short: there's a tax measure on the November ballot, Measure A1, that would impose a parcel tax on all residences and businesses in Alameda County to fund the Oakland Zoo for the next 25 years.  The way the short text on the ballot is worded makes it appear as something geared towards animal care for a cash-strapped Zoo.  The sad reality is that the full text of the measure allows the Zoo to use these funds for a very controversial expansion plan that includes a 34,000 sq. ft. visitor center, gift shop and restaurant serviced by a ski gondola atop one of the last pristine remaining ridges in Knowland Park, an Oakland city park that sits above the Zoo.

Yes, it's as bad as it sounds; the beautiful ridge in the background:

that is today part of an unspoiled open space, would be closed off by a fence and a restaurant would be built atop of it,  serviced by a ski gondola that would reach it from the bottom of the hill.  Here are a few more pics from the same album as well as a great photo essay on the park from the AllThingsOakland blog, and some more history of the park.

Restaurant development disguised as animal care

The Zoo claims to be strapped for cash, yet they are spending over $ 1 million on a media blitz to get this measure passed, and only presenting it as an animal-care issue.  I am a huge animal lover and donate regularly to the San Diego Zoo, but unfortunately the situation with the Oakland Zoo is a different story: they see the 525-acre Knowland Park above the Zoo as their personal back yard, not as a resource that belongs to all of us.  It has been impossible, in years of negotiations, to get the Zoo to sign anything that commits them to respect the boundaries of the park in the future.  They see this tax measure as their strategic "nuclear weapon" to destroy the park, and in order to get it, they are willing to burn through cash they should instead be using for animal care.

I urge you to consider this as you go to the polls in November: all Alameda county voters will end up having a say on whether "nature preservation" in the East Bay is spelled "huge restaurant and a ski gondola on open space". By voting NO on A1 you will help prevent such madness.

More information

 Here are a few relevant links with details and further info

A final note: the citizen's group fighting to save the park can use all the help in the world. You can make donations or join the effort in many other ways; don't hesitate to ask me for more info.  And please share this post as widely as possible!