A magnificent area of oak woodlands offering stunning views of San Francisco Bay and its surroundings has been saved from development.
The Richmond City Council on Tue., Jan. 24, voted unanimously to adopt the Richmond Hills Initiative, which preserves 430 acres of unspoiled oak forests and savannas, streambeds, wetlands and vernal pools in the hills above El Sobrante Valley.
We applaud our friends in the Save the Richmond Hills campaign for their skillful strategic work and leadership. Their work over many years has finally brought a win for quality of life and ecosystem integrity in the Bay Area, as well as a gift to future generations.
Forests Forever staffers Emma Chikamatsu, Andrew Jenkins, Travis Rios, Tanner Schaap, and especially Outreach Coordinator Christian Bucknell played key roles in the effort.
On Nov. 10 Friends of the Richmond Hills submitted about 5000 signatures to the Richmond Registrar of Voters. The Richmond Hills Initiative aimed to head off large-scale subdivision developments proposed for the area. Such projects would have destroyed oaks; introduced sprawl, noise, and air pollution; posed risks of erosion and siltation to area waterways; and threatened landslides on steep slopes.
Once submitted, the initiative could have gone before the voters. But the council on Tuesday— recognizing strong citizen support for the measure in the form of thousands of petition signatures— cast its vote to avoid the delay and expense that would have been incurred in placing it on the ballot.
The Richmond Hills Initiative accomplishes its preservation goals by amending the Richmond General Plan, enacting large-lot rural zoning that can only be modified by the voters of Richmond.
The measure will protect rare and endangered species, help sequester carbon in vegetation and soils, safeguard wetlands, and provide for recreation, small-scale agriculture and similar compatible uses.
The parcel is directly adjacent to the 2429-acre Wildcat Canyon Regional Park (pictured at right).
In total Forests Forever collected 2180 (over one-third) of the initial 6425 signatures. To qualify requires 4390 valid signatures.
"We really could not have done this without the perseverance and commitment of Forests Forever," said Sarah Willner of the Richmond Hills Initiative campaign. "You really rocketed up our signature count, a weekly injection of optimism into our effort."
Surrounded by private and public lands, the area includes nine streambeds and their riparian zones, as well as vernal pools, oak forests, and pasturelands.
In addition to Forests Forever, the measure was endorsed by Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, the California Native Plant Society, and the California Wildlife Foundation.