Isabel Station BART expansion (Livermore)
In May EBCNPS commented on a programmatic Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposed Isabel Neighborhood Plan project surrounding a proposed BART station along the Interstate 580 corridor. We may not hear back on our comments for some time, but it was a good opportunity for us to comment on a project relatively early in the process.

The BART station plan seems immovable.

The Isabel Neighborhood Plan encompasses a 1,200 acre area surrounding the proposed BART station east of the current Dublin station. The plan as a whole brings development right to the Urban Limit Line. The Neighborhood Plan concentrates environmental analysis on the half-mile radius around the proposed station.

The Livermore/Tassajara region is rich with documented vernal pools and alkali habitat. Even though large swaths have been built upon there is the potential for a lot of plants on undeveloped land and even in small pockets around previously developed land.

The Isabel Neighborhood Plan area overlaps both the Dublin/Tassajara and Springtown BPPAs. As a consequence this area is more likely to contain botanically valuable resources that are as yet unprotected. We hope that environmental documents being prepared for this project proposal will help us gain an understanding of whether the alkaline soils here support rare native plants.

We encouraged the City of Livermore to take advantage of this opportunity to evaluate native plant resources in the Neighborhood Plan area, and to meet their General Plan’s goals for conservation. In our letter, our chapter encouraged surveying for specific locally- and statewide- rare native plants, concentrating on alkali, vernal pool, and riparian or wetland habitats, all potentially present. We provided a long list of possibly rare plants, including: hairless popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys glaber); Congdon’s tarplant (Centromadia parryi ssp. congdonii), palmate-bracted bird’s beak (Chloropyron palmatum), lesser saltscale (Atriplex minuscula), prostrate navarretia (Navarretia prostrata), Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii); as well as many other unranked native plants that should be included on area surveys.

We also encouraged the city to consider creeks in the Neighborhood Plan for both restoration of riparian habitat and for outdoor recreation (trails, picnic areas, etc.). All remaining native plant occurrences in this increasingly rare habitat area should be preserved. Special areas should be considered for maintaining contiguous natural open space. In addition, opportunities for education might include a demonstration area on the importance of the native plants and examples of successful vegetation restoration.
The Neighborhood Plan’s preparation research documents show that Livermore area residents highly value access to open space, scenic views, and overall visual quality. A successful neighborhood needs physical access and visual connection to natural open spaces, and we are fully supportive of these objectives.

EBCNPS recognizes that lower density development is correlated with expanded destruction of native plant resources, so we generally prefer higher density development with public transportation expansion over other options. Similarly, we support reinforcement of Urban Limit Lines. We are generally optimistic and supportive of a BART extension insomuch as it supports preservation of valuable remaining native plant habit and open space protection, including maintaining urban limit lines.

Friends of Richmond Hills Initiative (Richmond)
The Richmond Hills open space near Wildcat Canyon and San Pablo Dam Road is being considered for large-scale subdivisions. The Richmond Hills Initiative, a proposed amendment to the Richmond General Plan, would protect this key part of the Richmond Hills by shifting development to areas already served by public transportation and utilities. The initiative would grant long-term protection to the land, preserving open space for low-impact recreation and agriculture. Any future changes would require a vote of the public.

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS supports this initiative because we believe it is the best chance to preserve the valuable plant resources within and near the Richmond Hills Initiative area. Part of the parcel covered by the initiative overlaps with the Sobrante Ridge Botanical Priority Protection Area (BPPA), one of the 15 areas in the East Bay identified by EBCNPS for its botanical richness and diversity. The Sobrante Ridge BPPA contains Northern Maritime Chaparral, a sensitive natural community. Rare and unique plant species found here include the state- and federally-listed pallid manzanita (Arctostaphylos pallida), bent-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia lunaris), western leatherwood (Dirca occidentalis), and – at its only East Bay location – Shreve’s oak (Quercus parvula var. shrevei). These sensitive native plants and plant community may exist in part of the initiative area or even beyond the BPPA into other parts of the initiative area. At the very least, the sensitive plants would be affected by any nearby development in the Richmond Hills Initiative area.

The East Bay Chapter of CNPS believes that the Richmond Hills Initiative presents a robust plan to protect open space and wildlife in the initiative area. EBCNPS joins the San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club in supporting this initiative.

From June through September, the Save the Richmond Hills group is gathering signatures for the initiative. They will be canvassing neighborhoods and public gatherings, as well as tabling in front of markets throughout the city of Richmond. If you’re registered to vote in Richmond, please sign the Richmond Hills Initiative petition and tell your neighbors about it. If you’re not a Richmond resident, please consider helping to spread the word about the initiative or volunteering. For the complete text of the initiative, where to sign the petition, and how to volunteer or help, please see: https://savetherichmondhills.org/ or find them on Facebook.

Karen Whitestone
Conservation analyst
East Bay Chapter, California Native Plant Society