Residents want alternatives studied in San Francisco aquifer plan

January 21, 2010

About 30 people braved the cold and rain Wednesday night to tell the San Francisco Planning Department what it should cover in an environmental study of a plan to pump millions of gallons of water per day from under the west side of the city.

The most common requests from speakers were for a clear explanation of alternatives to the Groundwater Supply Project, and for the city to lay out where an equivalent water supply would come from if the planned extraction of groundwater had to be interrupted or abandoned for any reason.

Joan Girardot asked planners to include clear alternatives to the GSP in the environmental study, including alternatives that would include not building the system at all. Girardot also asked for an assessment of the current state of the Westside Basin Aquifer, to act as a baseline reference against which to compare future impacts on the underground reservoir. In addition, she asked for the study to explain what measures the city would take to mitigate the inconvenience that neighborhood residents might experience during construction.

Dan Murphy of the Golden Gate Audubon Society asked planners to provide an “adaptive management plan” in case the pumping proved to have a negative effect on wildlife or the health of lakes connected to the aquifer.

The Planning Department will continue to collect written comments until Jan. 30.

More information about the Groundwater System Plan is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

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City plans new network of wells on west side of San Francisco

January 20, 2010

San Francisco is planning a groundwater well system that would draw millions of gallons a day from new and enlarged wells on the west side of the city, mixing the water with existing supplies for residents of western San Francisco to drink.

The proposed project is part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s efforts to improve the safety and reliability of local water supplies.


Proposed Groundwater System Project

Six wells are planned as part of the project, from Lake Merced in the south to the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. Some new wells would be dug, while others would be modified to boost their pumping capacity. In addition, pipelines would be laid under neighborhood streets to get water from the wells to the recently renovated Sunset Reservoir at Ortega Street and 24th Avenue.

Neighborhood residents and businesses can weigh in on what kinds of environmental impacts the city should study before it launches the well project, starting tonight at a meeting in Golden Gate Park.

The Planning Department will hold a “scoping meeting” on the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center, 6101 Fulton St. at 37th Avenue. People will be able to tell the city what subjects it should study in its environmental-impact report on the project and how deep its analysis should be.

The department also will accept comments from the public in writing at the meeting or via mail, fax or email through Jan. 30.

More information about the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

Written comments should be sent to by mail to the San Francisco Planning Department, Attn: Bill Wycko, Environmental Review Officer, San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project Scoping Comments, 1650 Mission St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103; by fax to (415) 558-6409; or by e-mail to

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San Francisco lawyer, fundraiser Robert McCarthy dies

September 17, 2008

Robert J. McCarthy, a lawyer, lobbyist and political fundraiser who counted scores of San Francisco city leaders as his friends and clients, died of cancer Sunday at his home in the city’s St. Francis Wood neighborhood. He was 61.

— Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle

Back when first started covering the San Francisco Planning Commission (in the days when Frank Jordan was mayor of San Francisco) as a reporter, I noticed a big, well-dressed guy who seemed to make all the commissioners sit up and pay attention whenever he spoke. That was Bob McCarthy, and I came to see him around quite a lot at City Hall.

I guess Bob eventually noticed me, too, because on occasion he would pull me aside in the hallway and complain — gently — about something I had written. I know that later on, when I became neighborhood editor and then managing editor of the San Francisco Independent, he also noticed those rare occasions when one of  my reporters misunderstood a story or just wrote it in a way that required him to speak up in defense of one of his clients.

I’m not one to hang around politicians and lobbyists except as professionally required, and of course I frequently disagreed with Bob and was annoyed at the way he tried to spin the stories, but I always found Bob McCarthy to be an exceptionally effective advocate for his clients and an interesting guy. San Francisco will be a less interesting without him.

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Robert McCarthy dies – S.F. lawyer, fundraiser.

Last chance to comment on GGNRA management plan

August 1, 2008

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is revising its policies for managing the lands and facilities under its jurisdiction, but the period for public comment is drawing to a close.

This revision is important to anyone who uses the GGNRA in any way, as it is intended to guide the management of the park for many years. Friday, August 1 is the last day the GGNRA and the National Park Service will accept comments on the plan from the public.

Read the four alternative proposed management concepts, and make your comments before 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.

My understanding is that after the GGNRA selects a general set of guiding principles (the management concepts), it will undertake further study and gather additional public input to turn those principles into actual working regulations, policies and practices.

To do: Tuesday, Nov. 27

November 27, 2007

The Northern California Megaregion

Some issues affecting the Bay Area not only exceed the capacity of municipalUrbanist_megaregion_map002_thumb governments to handle, but go far beyond what we’ve traditionally conceived of as our nine-county region. But if the nine-county Bay Area isn’t always a relevant model anymore, what is our region? What kinds of structures do we need to plan for and govern this area? How do San Francisco and other central urban areas fit in? Where will the 10 million new residents anticipated by 2050 live? How does all of this affect our economy?

These are the issues the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association will address today in a lunchtime talk at SPUR’s offices near Union Square in San Francisco. SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, one of the leading thinkers about the concept of emerging megaregions and the Northern California megaregion in particular, is scheduled to speak, along with SPUR Economic Policy Director Egon Terplan, who should provide some insight about the function of a megaregional economy.

More details about today’s event here.


The November/December issue of the Urbanist, SPUR’s monthly publication, features an extensive article about the Northern California megaregion.

Maps from the Urbanist megaregion article.

Wanted: ‘spectacular delusional hubris’

October 10, 2007

“It’s spectacular delusional hubris to think that good sense will prevail.”

That’s Chico, Calif. developer Jon John Anderson, explaining that while he understands the problems that California’s love affair with destructive sprawl creates, he doesn’t think the state is prepared to straighten up and build right.


Anderson, quoted by John King in the Oct. 9 San Francisco Chronicle, continued, “People feel entitled to their fantasy.”

Anderson’s bleak assessment of California’s future came as part of the 2007 conference of the American Planning Association’s California chapter, in a debate over whether California is “ready for complex urban development.”

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