For Immediate Release, June 26, 2007
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Ralph Kanz, Friends of Oakland’s Endangered Species, (510) 482-3979
Development Disturbs Endangered Plant Habitat in Oakland Hills
Mitigation Measures for Development Project Ignored
OAKLAND, Calif.— Yesterday members of the group Friends of Oakland’s Endangered Species documented surveyors working on the Crestmont Project in the Oakland Hills apparently illegally disturbing habitat for the endangered Presidio clarkia (Clarkia franciscana), an extremely rare flower that grows only in the Oakland Hills and the Presidio of San Francisco. These actions violate the “Conditions of Approval” from the City of Oakland for the development. If any Presidio clarkia were harmed by the disturbance it would also be a violation of state law, since the development does not appear to have a required “take” permit from the California Department of Fish and Game. The “Conditions of Approval” for the Crestmont Project require that the developer obtain a take permit under Section 2081 of the California Endangered Species Act “prior to the issuance of the Final Map or permits for any grading or commencement of land disturbance activity.”
“We demand that the City of Oakland immediately revoke the approvals for the Crestmont Project,” said Ralph Kanz with Friends of Oakland’s Endangered Species, a group formed in response to the city’s mismanagement of endangered species habitats in the Oakland hills. “The City of Oakland continues to allow developers to violate mitigation measures designed to protect endangered species and has consistently failed to enforce required mitigations. The destruction of rare plants and endangered species habitats must end today.”
The city has illegally allowed housing development and subdivisions in the Crestmont Drive area near Redwood Road to proceed without adequate environmental review of the impacts on special-status plant species occurring there, particularly Presidio clarkia. The city has not obtained permits to destroy the plants under the California Endangered Species Act, failed to review the impacts under the Act, ignored recommendations of the Open Space, Conservation and Recreation element of the city’s General Plan, erroneously determined there were no impacts on special-status species at the sites, and failed to perform adequate surveys for special-status plants.
One year ago the Center for Biological Diversity sent the City of Oakland a warning letter regarding ongoing destruction of endangered plant species in the Oakland Hills during vegetation management and development projects — destruction that violates both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. Development on sensitive habitats and careless vegetation management activities in the Oakland hills are destroying some of the last populations of rare plants like the Presidio clarkia and the pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida).
“The city of Oakland ought to be proud to host unique plant species and should be championing their conservation, rather than promoting development that eliminates irreplaceable plant populations,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The planning department must comply with environmental laws that mandate protection of endangered species. We intend to hold the city accountable.”
The Environmental Impact Report for the Crestmont Drive project fails to disclose that the city has not enforced mitigation measures to protect this state and federal endangered species during construction of two previously approved projects. The city continues to allow development in sensitive habitats in the Oakland hills without any consideration for cumulative impacts to listed species, and has failed to implement mitigation measures that are required by law under the California Environmental Quality Act. California law requires lead agencies for projects to ensure the implementation of mitigation measures to reduce environmental impacts. Unfortunately for threatened and endangered species residing in Oakland, the city rarely obeys the law.
The nearby Oakland Hills Tennis Club expansion project, approved in 1988, required that the Presidio clarkia on the site be protected. The mitigation measures provide that “the project sponsor shall develop a management plan for the ongoing protection of the plant population and its potential habitat.” Although the project was completed and the building is occupied, no management plan was ever prepared; some of the land with potential habitat was sold, and homes have since been constructed on it. An adjacent site also supports a population of Presidio clarkia, as well as a population of the state endangered San Francisco popcornflower (Plagiobothrys diffusus). Again the project approval from 1997 required the preparation of a management plan for the endangered species, including the removal of a stand of invasive French broom. The broom was never removed, continued to grow and thrive, and today both threatens the endangered species and creates a serious fire hazard.
Presidio clarkia is a beautiful, lavender-pink native flower that grows only on serpentine soils in the Presidio of San Francisco and the Oakland Hills. Only seven remaining fragmented populations of Presidio clarkia have been documented in the Oakland Hills, in the Crestmont area near and in Redwood Regional Park.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.