Previously, Oakland Zoo executives asked the Oakland City council to grant a conservation easement in Knowland Park. Zoo executives plan to build a zoo expansion on top of the habitat of a threatened species (the Alameda whipsnake) and two rare plant communities. State and federal wildlife agencies determined that the development will cause serious and permanent habitat destruction, and so they are requiring an enormous amount of mitigation (53 acres). Easement land will be closed to the public forever.

On December 10th, the Oakland City Council gave final approval to the easement at the second reading of the ordinance, with a vote of 5-2. Council members Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan voted “no.”

The Friends of Knowland Park considered their options and surveyed their members before deciding to proceed with a referendum to put the ordinance to a vote of the public. FOKP secured a resolution of support for the referendum from the California Native Plant Society, East Bay Chapter and the Sierra Club, San Francisco Bay Chapter.

FOKP announced the referendum drive at a press conference on the steps of City Hall on December 16th. Volunteers have been actively collecting signatures and recruiting new signature gatherers, but they need our help.

Getting the referendum on the ballot will require collecting more than 20,000 signatures of registered Oakland voters by January 9th, a huge challenge. FOKP has been told by consultants that the referendum drive will need the help of paid signature gatherers, in addition to volunteers, to succeed.

Controversy over the decision to give away more parkland seems to have galvanized the public. “We’ve had so many people calling to ask how they can help,” said Beth Wurzburg. “This referendum will send a message to the City that they can’t give away our public parkland without the consent of the people of Oakland.”

If you can help collect signatures or want to sign the petition, please write to knowlandreferendum@gmail.com. If you can donate money, please go to the FOKP website
 Contributions are not tax-deductible. And please tell your friends and colleagues in Oakland about the petition drive.

The Knowland Park Team