Friends of Lake Merced
2084 -- 16th Avenue
San Francisco, California 94116
February 11, 2002
Ms. Rebecca Evans, Vice President
Commission on the Environment
11 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Thank you, and the other members of the Commission, for coming to Lake Merced to hold your meeting December 18. I'm sorry it wasn't a little earlier, with a little more daylight to see the lake, but I'm sure that you are aware of the deplorable condition of Lake Merced.
Much of the demise of Lake Merced is the direct result of overdrafting the Westside Basin aquifer, particularly by wells in the immediate vicinity of the lake. We were surprised when Michael Carlin reported to you that the recently drilled well at the San Francisco Zoo had received a CEQA review.
We have done a little homework, and have found that Michael is technically correct. However, no environmental impact report has been prepared for that well. Rather, it was included in a negative declaration petition for the entire Zoo restoration project, that petition being approved by the San Francisco Planning Department.
The attached review describes in more detail the issues we identified when reviewing that application. I would, however, like to highlight one or two of those here:
- The well is called a 'replacement well,' even though the projected pumping rate is more than twice that of the well being 'replaced'.
- During the course of the preparation of this application the condition of the aquifer changed from "leaky and potentially discontinuous" to a "50-foot clay unit that separates the aquifer."
Data supporting any of these conclusions is absent from the Planning Department files. We have contacted Karen Kubick, now with the PUC and then Project Contact Person, and Paul Maltzer of City Planning, the Agency Contact Person, requesting supporting data. We have simply been told that as there is no data in the file, the Planning Department doesn't have any. When we asked for assistance in locating that data, and suggested that there should be some such supporting data, we received no reply.
- The effect of pumping from local wells was significant at the Olympic Club in the earlier report. However, the negative declaration reports that "The proposed Zoo replacement wells would tap only the Lower Colma and Merced Formations and would not have a noticeable impact on the water level of Lake Merced."
We have also requested that the well drilling logs be released to the Water Committee of the Lake Merced Task Force. That request has been made both with the Planning Department and with the Zoo. Consultation with the City Attorney's office indicated that there should be no legal barrier to releasing this information. Still that data has not been provided.
In short, this seems to be just one more example of what can at best be called indifference by city agencies with regard to the environment. Lake Merced, and residents of San Francisco and the north Peninsula, are paying the price for the demise of this incredible resource.
I hope that the Environmental Commission will pursue these issues, and assure that a process is developed and enforced that better protects the environment. Specifically, we would like you to address the following issues:1) What is the role of the Planning Department in protecting environmental interests when approving new projects, and is that role being satisfactorily pursued?Please let me know if there is anything that we can do to help.
2) How can the City support environmental impact and improvement by making available to the community all relevant data?
3) Finally, and perhaps most important, what can the Environmental Commission do to raise the priority of recycled water in the City's environmental protection program?
Supervisor Tony Hall
Patricia Martel, General Manager, PUC
Elizabeth Goldstein, General Manager, Recreation and Parks
John Mann, Deputy Director, San Francisco Zoo
Paul Maltzer, San Francisco Planning Department