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Comment Archives: Stories: Blogs

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

Don't worry about the bigger zoo folks. Lotsa trickle-down gonna come from this development. Gonna get Deep East Oakland chugging along just fine.

0 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by Hobart Johnson on 11/19/2014 at 5:51 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

Thanks again for your excellent reporting on this important issue.

I was there for the duration last night, and I wanted to counter Dr. Parrott's statement about his opponents "lying about a Zoo lawsuit." He was so full of indignation and anger as he spoke. But in fact, it was the Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan who first mentioned the possibility of a lawsuit by the Zoo, when she asked for a final Council vote on the Zoo expansion just last week at City Hall. Parrott was sitting right next to me, so I am surprised that he didn't hear it, too. It is part of the public record. Maybe his PR guy could look it up for him?

Yeah Joel, we get it ... it isn't just about a snake! Nor about the Zoo expanding into property that doesn't belong to them. It is about the destruction of a viable and rare wild space, that is currently freely accessible to anyone, and bulldozing the best of it and then creating a pay wall to get back in. Thank god for that little snake, about to be ground into paste by Zoo bulldozers, that allowed the State and Federal Agencies to get into the mix. Otherwise, the very best open space in our beautiful Knowland Park would already be gone!

I was also amused, in a bitter, bitter way, by the Zoo's claims that they would have regularly spaced openings in their "keep 'em outta their own Park!" perimeter fence for wildlife ... so as not to also destroy that important wildlife corridor. We know the Zoo cares so much ... at least about captive animals and fundraising using the bad examples of habitat destruction and animal deaths in other places (how bout right here at home, Dr. Parrott?). But they neglected to say just which animals would be able to "pass thru" ... snakes? rabbits, coyotes? lions? deer?

And if those animals, why not human animals? And if big animals can get in, could they also get OUT? Some of those big caged kitties would not be so much fun to see in our backyards. For those with short memories like Dr. Parrott, there was an Oakland Zoo lioness who escaped from her enclosure into a Zoo full of visitors several years ago.

How noble to spend all of this money so that folks who cannot walk can finally see that extinct CA wildlife in a quasi-wild setting. Now picture all of those poor handicapped folks, having to travel by gondola in a wheelchair to that "ADA accessible" site, being stranded at the top during our next big quake! At least the more able bodied could walk down.

And speaking of gondolas, the proposed many thousands of feet of gondola wire, the many gondola towers and even the perimeter fence will be "thank you kindly" new perches for raptors, so that they could now more easily prey upon those going going GONE Alameda Whipsnakes. This not so rosy scenario was presented in a thoughtful critique by a PhD ecologist, Dr. Smallwood, who poked many holes in the overly optimistic paid biological assessment by the Zoo's whipsnake gal, Karen Swaim.

Here's the full report:…

Swaim, like Parrott, was also quite indignant and angry in council. "I am the expert here!!!" she thundered. For a price.

Yes, an EIR was necessary, and thank you to Councilmember Kalb for saying so.

This nature be damned land grab by the Zoo will not be forgotten. Our former beloved local institution is now wrapped in infamy.

I can't wait for their further pleas for public monies to feed their starving lions ... and maybe now grizzlies, too.

And BTW, after hearing this BS several times now, the Oakland Zoo is NOT the only institution doing lead chelation therapy on condors, not that that has anything to do with the Zoo destroying existing nature right here at home. It's merely a distraction. The LA Zoo has been doing lead chelation therapy on condors all along. The new Oakland Zoo vet hospital is now also able to do this, and that's very nice of them. But it came with a price ... having the Ventana Wilderness Society guy shill for the Zoo in Robocalls during the Measure A1 fiasco. The advantage to treating condors in Oakland is that it is a bit closer to where the condors live, so less transport time for these bizarrely micromanaged anachronisms from another era. That's another sad chapter in our checkered history of first driving animals to the edge of extinction, and then throwing a bunch of money and care and PR at them, to show how very much we care about wildlife.

Cue the crocodile tears.

Shame on all of them.

Debbie Viess

20 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Amanitarita on 11/19/2014 at 5:13 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

Thanks East Bay Express. Having been there in person last night, it was amazing how few people that did not work or benefit from the zoo were in support of this. I counted less than 5 people of the community.

As I got called to the speaker's line, I could not help but notice a sleeping mayor elect. I guess if you already know how you are going to vote, you might as well sleep through the public comments.

Thanks to Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan!…

13 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Tom Cieszynski on 11/19/2014 at 5:08 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

I am proud that two of our council members had the bravery to stand up to the political pressure by the formidable power and money of the zoological society: Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan rocked it last night. They listened to constituents and did their homework about the environmental travesty that this land grab will create. The animals that already live in that space will have to try their luck elsewhere – never a great situation for them. Dan Kalb stated that the Oakland CC made a mistake in the past, not requiring a full EIR. He voted no because it was wrong to proceed further along the same path. I can't say the same for the other Council members. If you're not brought up with good environmental education or conservation values, these issues just don't seem that important and are difficult to understand.

23 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by batya_lee on 11/19/2014 at 1:21 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

When the City Council fails to listen to their constituents, a referendum is the only way to restore democracy. Allowing a private corporation to skirt a full EIS/EIR to cover up the other existing and viable options to this project, is malfeasance at its' worse. Oakland will be forever scarred by this irresponsible land grab by a corporation only interested in increasing its' Disneyland type experience, for MONEY.

From the Zoo's own website: “One elephant every fifteen minutes is killed for their ivory, and one rhino every nine hours for their horn,” said Gina Kinzley Lead Elephant Keeper at Oakland Zoo. “Wild elephants and rhinos are suffering at the hands of human greed every day."

HUMAN GREED IS DESTROYING KNOWLAND PARK, and the Zoo is spearheading the effort!!! Why save rhinos and elephants when the Zoo is destroying the animals living in their own backyard?

19 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Dar McCray on 11/19/2014 at 12:27 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

Too late to referend it - by several years.

3 likes, 13 dislikes
Posted by dto510 aka Jonathan Bair on 11/19/2014 at 11:59 AM

Re: “Oakland Zoo Expansion Passes City Council, Knowland Park Project to Move Forward

Please keep us posted on where to sign petitions or whatever else is needed to get the referendum on the ballot.

18 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mary Eisenhart on 11/19/2014 at 11:58 AM

Re: “Liquor License Mixup Prompts Mockingbird to Go BYOB

How can The New Parish operate a nightclub on a type 47 license if they don't get 51% of their gross receipts from food sales?

3 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by RobertLauriston on 11/18/2014 at 11:25 AM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

It is so important for the physical and mental health of city dwellers to take solace in the serenity and beauty of nature. In our busy lives having a wild and natural place nearby makes this possible. We must preserve what is left of urban open space both for our sake and for the sake of the special plants and animals that thrive there. How ironic that the Oakland Zoo would destroy California native habitat in order to showcase California native species that have become extinct because of destruction of habitat. Please expand the Zoo within the 99 acres of Knowland Park already within the Zoo's domain, only half of which has been used!

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Kitty Whiteside on 11/17/2014 at 9:21 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Thank you EBX and Sam for again writing a thoughtful, honest piece about the pending terrible threat to Oakland's biggest and wildest open space. With the Oakland election now past, this vote may indicate the direction in which some officials will move. I hope that the remaining old-guard re-consider how the zoo misled them in the past, bringing them to this difficult decision. I hope that the councilors will come together, think independently in terms of the best vote for the entire city, and listen to the voice of Oakland voters. 75% of likely Oakland voters clearly stated that a zoo expansion is OK, but not on the valuable sensitive habitat of the Knowland Park ridge. The zoo should not destroy such a priceless ridge for a restaurant with a view. It is not right.

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by eliserose on 11/16/2014 at 7:44 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Well, my head is spinning from some of this Zoo double-speak. Let's see: This project will BENEFIT the Park and the Alameda whip snake, by bulldozing their best habitat. Really, Nik?

Somehow, despite the fact that the Zoo was already in charge of maintaining
the park against invasive plant species, they will really, now, no kidding, do it for real, because now it is part of a mitigation agreement.

The mitigation is mandated by the USFWS because the Zoo intends to destroy the very best habitat of this rare snake. But far more lives are at stake in Knowland Park than just one threatened reptile.

Current human impacts upon the ground are slight, and we have gotten along with the wildlife population and the plants and fungi just fine up until now. We walk with respect for the land and its inhabitants. Bulldozers on the other hand wreak destruction, and will forever ruin a unique and already perfectly viable habitat: no human input necessary, other than chasing that scotch broom, something the CNPS actually HAS been doing up there for years! Yeah, they actually walk their talk.

But the Zoo can't make any money offa wild and free Knowland Park. The great views (now free to all), the precious grasslands and rare maritime chaparral (now available, free, to all) and the rare plants and wildlife, including charismatic megafauna that some actually pay to see in Zoos, ALL already exist in that Park, right along with we East Bay hikers and bikers, dog walkers and botanists, kids and the elderly.

You don't destroy existing nature to create a nature fantasy, and THEN claim to be teaching conservation! Not by example, you sure aren't.

Do the right thing. Expand into your existing footprint, or closer to the new vet clinic. Take less, so that others can continue to walk freely in this special place, and the creatures and plants and fungi that already live there won't have their lives and homes destroyed.

Does the Oakland Zoo ONLY have empathy for captive animals?

This is about greed, not conservation. The Zoo can pay for a big bus for every public meeting on this issue, to bring in their many docents and zoo employees and consultants, who tell their various touching stories, none of which is relevant to the main issue here: building in the WRONG place!

NO ONE is saying don't expand. What we are saying is don't expand into the best part of Knowland Park when there are alternatives. Those alternatives have NOT been thoroughly investigated, because the Zoo already decided what it wanted: the very best land for themselves.

I am a former zoo supporter, a trained zoologist, a mycologist and an activist too, and I say shame on the Zoo for their hypocrisy.

We speak for the powerless and the voiceless, and we will NOT give up!

See you on the 18th at the Oakland City Council.

Debbie Viess

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Amanitarita on 11/16/2014 at 5:00 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Mr. Dehejia claims that "the conservation easement does not deny public access to the 22 acres outside the perimeter due to the terrain and steep slopes of the area." So, here's the thing about "spreading misinformation": no matter how far and wide you try to spread it in the hopes that people will believe it, it just never succeeds in becoming truth.
Here's the truth: the 22 acres outside the perimeter fence that the zoo wants to use as part of its conservation easement would be required to be off limits to the public as part of the condition of the easement. There will be signs posted to that effect, also required as part of the easement.
As to whether the land itself is too steep and inaccessible for public access, I'm in my late 60s and have hiked it a number of times with others, including the East Bay Express reporter who wrote about this back in September. Much of it is beautiful closed canopy oak/bay woodland which is not high quality Alameda whipsnake habitat. It's a nice place to walk in the summer when it's hot up in the highlands, and I've enjoyed looking at the native plants that occur in abundance in the understory. As to the claim that the public will have hundreds more acres to hike, not all acres are equal. 100% of the maritime chaparral will be permanently off limits to the public, for instance. The California Native Plant Society has been taking docent-led trips into the chaparral responsibly for the past few years to learn about this extraordinary plant community which is part of our natural heritage. Zoo management spent the same years arguing with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that the chaparral isn't really a rare plant community. Eventually they had to stop making this claim.
Bottom line: Don't be distracted by false claims of how public access has hurt the park when the zoo is proposing to grade, pave, and fence the most sensitive areas in the park. If Zoo management moved the proposed project off the ridge and off of the sensitive habitat down next to the vet hospital and/or within the existing zoo footprint, we would not lose public access and the Alameda whipsnake wouldn't suffer the impacts of development. And that's the truth.

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Laura Baker on 11/16/2014 at 12:40 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and public discourse is certainly healthy. However, misinformation spread by those who may not be familiar with the project and its biology can lead to wrong conclusions. (1) The Zoo project first and foremost is biologically important for the park and for the Alameda Whipsnake. The proposed conservation easement will protect the highest quality habitat for the snake as determined by the state and federal agencies. (2) The conservation easement and public access can co-exist peacefully as they do in other parks (state parks, east bay regional parks, or national parks). In fact, conservation areas with restricted human access are essential for protecting sensitive natural resources vulnerable to uncontrolled disturbance. With more than 320 acres of public access, the park will provide benefits to both hikers, dog walkers, and others while providing expanded benefits for those visiting the Zoo. And the conservation easement does not deny public access to the 22 acres outside the perimeter due to the terrain and steep slopes of the area. (3) Two environmental reviews were conducted, multiple biological assessments for state and federal, and 3 unanimous approvals by City Council including a 4-0 approval by the Council CED Committee this past week. (4) This project has gone through years of open, public discourse, even mediation and a lawsuit. The Zoo has developed an important project that will benefit the site biology, schools, conservation science, and much more.

0 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Nik Dehejia on 11/15/2014 at 10:29 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Before I begin let me summarize the arguments of the zoo that plead for zoo expansion.
- It is good for the kids
- It is good for the environment
Well you must agree with me that kids don’t understand the complete consequences of supporting the expansion of a business in spite of wild land. Oh yeah as a kid I was fund of going to the zoo too, but I was unaware of the fact that those animals had been abducted from their wild habitats and that their land was eventually confiscated and sold to big cooperate businesses. The irony of this proposition is that it includes both. A natural park will be sold to bring in animals from another disturbed environment …or breeding programs, recently harshly but honestly exposed by the Danish zoo. Children do not know that their future is ruled by big companies and that they will have no choice to go to the park or to the zoo. Pay for the zoo they will! Do you really want your children to grow up wondering how nature used to look like, how it was to have free space? And to you politicians I have one request. I hope you got into politics with some ideals, not pure for power or to serve capitalism. I ask you to go back to that time and wonder what you really wanted to do with it once you got people’s vote, once you got power and please vote accordingly on Tuesday. If you look into your hearts you will see that neither the children nor the environment profit from this proposition.

14 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Karen Wilders on 11/15/2014 at 12:05 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Zoo execs and attorneys are expert at making a very misguided development seem right when reason and ethics scream wrong!

14 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Delia Taylor on 11/15/2014 at 5:51 AM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Thank you for following up your original thorough coverage of this controversial development project with this timely post. In both pieces, you've provided a lot of solid information to a public that has been largely kept out of the loop about the project up to now.
I think one correction should be made though: the zoo isn't required to use parkland for its 53-acre mitigation obligation resulting from siting the project on sensitive ridge habitat--this is just what it wants to do (for one thing, it won't cost the zoo anything to use public property to meet this obligation). The decision to allow or not allow this public park land to be used for this purpose ism as you said, up to the City Council. As representatives of Oakland residents, I hope City Council members stand up for their constituents (who a poll shows favor protecting this land from a zoo development by 75%) and refuse to allow the best 77 acres of Knowland Park to be ruined forever--for the public and for the wildlife that depend on it now.

25 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Karen Smith on 11/14/2014 at 3:58 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

Hopefully the Oakland City Council will be willing to push back on the East Bay Zoological Society's remarkable insistence on the unnecessary destruction of a rare surviving native eco-system. The EBZS is a private corporation that appears to have secret motives (profits for developers who want to build on the ridge top?) for not locating their expansion project on a more logical eco-friendly site. Since the EBZS receives City of Oakland funding, it seems that the City Council should be willing to play hardball and force the zoo to complete a full Environmental Impact Report and locate their expansion where harm would be minimized. As to profits for any secret developer partners of the EBZS, it's hard to understand why most City Council members should consider the well being of these greedy vultures at all.

23 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Robert S. Nelson on 11/14/2014 at 3:54 PM

Re: “Oakland Zoo's Proposed Expansion Into Knowland Park Heads to Final Council Vote

I'm an Oakland resident who doesn't live very close to the park, but I strongly support protecting it. This is a rare and precious place, not just for people but for animals, grasslands, woodlands, and soil, and to do what Joni Mitchell sings about in "Big Yellow Taxi" (taking the trees and putting them in a tree museum, and charging people to see them) is just a shame. I plan to be at the city council vote on Tuesday to stand up and say "no" to the conservation easement, which would not only allow this destructive plan to go forward, but would take away even more of the park from the public. Mitigation is needed because this is a damaging project. The city council can definitely vote no on this bad plan -- and should.

24 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mara Schechter on 11/14/2014 at 3:32 PM

Re: “Crime and Wealth and FBI Stats

If you crack the data things are not so clear...

Of all US reporting jurisdictions in 2013 Oakland is 41st in violent crime RATE, and 451st in property crime RATE and in cities over 50k residence we're 2nd, and 22nd respectively. Once again SF has the highest rate of theft in the state of California while still managing to earn a slightly lower property crime rate than Oakland -63/1000 (Oak) vs 57/1000 (SF).

Last the FBI explicitly states comparing jurisdiction to jurisdiction is impossible because unlike the name of the report "Uniform Crime Report" it just isn't. New Orleans, SF, Oakland, and Chicago all report crime differently.

In the case of SF they do it so "differently" than Daly City that the DC side of the DC/SF boarder shows magnitudes greater crime in DC than SF. How can that be if there's no physical border? For whatever reason SFPD is clearly suppressing crime reporting.

Basically using these reports to rank cities is a complete fail, but using them to compare one city's year to year criminal activity is useful.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Matt_Chambers on 11/13/2014 at 5:03 PM

Re: “Lori Droste Edges to a 16-Vote Win in Berkeley Council Race

Congrats to Ms. Droste on her election.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by DanKalb on 11/13/2014 at 2:49 PM

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