Phil Rambles

Phil Rambles, Phil Price blog.

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    Wed, 24 Mar 2004

    Fifteen (more!) minutes of fame for us!
    The San Francisco Chronicle just published a nice article about Berkeley creeks (available online from, right here ) that has photos of us and our yard, and a quote from me. (In spite of the fact that Juliet is the creek expert, I'm the one who got the quote and the credit for restoring the creek in our backyard. You need to click on the thumbnail photos to get usable-size versions.

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    Thu, 07 Aug 2003

    Finally, a victory for the good guys!
    What a difference a week makes. Just as we were gearing up for a big push to try to get my employer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, not to pursue their ridiculously anti-environmental plans (see below), the Lab suddenly and unexpectedly capitulated! They've amended their plans to leave out the parking lot altogether (not just, as I expected, to find another place at the Lab for it).

    I'm not sure whether the decision was due to the substantial public outcry they were already facing, or from the realization that the Regional Water Quality Control Board was very unlikely to let them use a creek as a dump site, but it doesn't much matter, it's a big win for the good guys. Such a relief not to face a big battle! Although in truth, the opposition was already so large that it might not have taken a lot of activism on our part in order to keep it going. For example, the Sierra Club had just voted to oppose the project, the Berkeley City Council seemed likely to oppose it further along in the process, and environmental groups of all kinds were lining up to object.

    Hooray for everyone who objected early and often...and a grudging thanks to LBNL for accepting the fact that their parking lot plan was wacko in the first place.

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    Fri, 25 Jul 2003

    My employer is behaving badly
    My employer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), in conjunction with UC Berkeley, has just begun the Environmental Impact Report process for a project that - if built as planned - will completely bury a small creek valley in order to build a parking lot. In fact, although LBNL does want the parking lot, that's not the main motivation: really, they just need a place to dump over 2000 truckloads of dirt (that's not a typo) that will be generated by excavating for a new building, and disposing of it on-site will save them a lot of money and a lot of hassle. Where can you dump 2000 truckloads of dirt? In a valley. It doesn't seem to bother them that the valley is a thriving creek corridor that includes several coast live oaks, supports lots of bird life, and is threaded with paths made by the Lab's black-tailed deer. Moreover, it provides wildlife corridor linkage to Tilden Park open space areas.

    In short, the project will: (1) completely bury roughly 300 (or more) linear feet of open creek; (2) result in the removal of numerous coast live oaks and riparian vegetation; (3) actually fill in (i.e. bury) a riparian corridor with 2000 truckloads of dirt; (4) cut away an extremely steep slope for building construction - an inappropriate building site in the first place - thus generating the dirt fill in the first place; and (5) construct a new parking lot, thereby promoting more vehicle use, traffic, and air pollution

    I'm very familiar with this particular creek, having noticed it many times on my daily ride home from the Lab, where I've worked for the past ten years. When the weather conditions are right, I can feel a steady flow of cool air pouring down the valley, creating a local cool zone that is very noticeable as I pass through it. Because the valley opens onto the road right at a hairpin curve that holds drivers' attention, most employees have probably never noticed this steep-sided valley and its seasonal creek...but I have, and I don't want to see it destroyed. In fact, I'll quit rather than be a part of an organization that will fill in a creek.

    I've taken a few photos of the site. As you can see see this is a beautiful and ecologically valuable creek valley - and, contrary top LBL's statements, it is very well vegetated (by the way, the creek is called "Cafeteria Creek" on the Lab's maps, and although it's dry for a few months in summer and fall, it has running water for much of the year).

    Much more information on the project is available at the Lab's web site, where you want the 6-16-03 "notice of preparation" -- most of the other documents there are for another project (NOTE that this project is NOT the nano-technology foundry building - this is yet another building proposal!).

    To add to the problems, the building site itself is an extremely poor choice: it contains a grove of Coast Live Oaks, and is extremely steep -- that's why so many truckloads of dirt need to be excavated. If you're unhappy with the Lab's plans for the building in addition to the plans for the parking lot, I encourage you to write about that, too. If LBNL committed to cleaning up and re-using sites currently available for building (i.e. not new open space), this project would be totally unnecessary!

    At this point, the Lab is "scoping" the Environmental Impact Report...that is, they're figuring out what should be included. It's vital that they consider reasonable alternative sites; much of the problem is that their proposed building site is on a very steep slope requiring extensive excavation; there are much better building sites at the Lab.

    If you object to this proposal, as I do, please get in touch with me and/or contact the following people:

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