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Please Speak for Palo Alto Baylands Birds!

The Issue at Hand
Take Action Now
Who to Contact
Sample Text for Letter

The Issue

March 13, 2015

Dear friend,

On Monday March 16th, at 7 pm the Palo Alto city council will vote on a bicycle/pedestrian bridge across 101 near Adobe Creek, connecting the city with the Baylands. The recommended bridge (Submission A) has been selected in a design competition. If constructed, this winning design will create a new hazard to bird in flight by the Baylands, and is likely to cause mortality of ducks and geese, herons and egrets, shorebirds and shorebirds. Please join us in asking the city leaders to choose a design that would be harmonious with the Baylands, and safe for people and for birds, such as Submission C or a simple functional bridge.

In September 2014, when Palo Alto was considering design guidelines for the bridge, we wrote

"We hope that in addition to the identified opportunity ' showcase the city's commitment to innovation, aesthetics and forward-thinking' the city would also showcase its commitment to its natural heritage and to nature conservation as an intrinsic value"

Furthermore, we asked the city to "avoid using structures or materials that can harm birds" (transparent or mirrored guide rails, invisible guy wires, lighting that attracts birds at night, perches that attract raptors), and asked that design teams and the jury include a wildlife biologist with experience in bird-safe design.

Thus, we were appreciative when Palo Alto added 'Conservation' to the Guiding Design Principles. We felt that with this addition, Palo Alto could celebrate a design that is innovative, aesthetic, harmonious with the baylands landscape, and safe for humans and for birds.

Yet the city's jurors selected Submission A, which clearly did not take our concerns--nor some of the city's key guidelines--into account. Instead, Submission A prioritized an approach likely to harm birds in flight, emphasizing visual drama rather than a graceful transition to the low scale and open space of the Baylands.

Submission A team proposes to mitigate the risks of bird collision by hanging reflective discs to divert flying birds from the bridge. We question the effectiveness if this method, but mainly--we ask the city leaders to vote for a design that should avoid creating this deadly situation in the first place, and a design team that is sensitive and respectful to nature and integrates with it instead of mitigating the harm it aims to impose.

Why is it important?
Palo Alto's Baylands Nature Preserve is home to many bird species and an oasis to others as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway--the flight path between the Arctic and South America. The State of the Birds 2014 report warns us that populations of common species are declining rapidly, and reminds us that conservation is critical. Some species that are found in the Baylands have "won" a place on the watch list of this report. This includes birds that flock to the baylands, such as Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit and Willet. Dozen of other species flock to the baylands. We should protect them from unnecessary harm.

Submission A cables, wire mesh and protruding height introduces an urban presence to the baylands, and creates a hazard to the many birds that flock to the Baylands.

In contrast, Submission C (or a simple design) offer a low profile, harmonious with the Baylands and is respectful of nature. Such design is not likely to be hazardous for birds and will not impose an urban presence on the Baylands.


Take Action Now

1. Join us at the City Council Meeting, 6:45PM on Monday March 16th, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA (park under the building)


2. Email the Palo Alto City Council today! Please ask the City not to harm birds and not to bring an urban element into the baylands. We should bring nature to the city, not the other way around!


Who to Contact

Write to the Palo Alto City Council ( and bcc the SCVAS Environmental Advocate (advocate AT


Sample Text for Letter

Copy and paste this text:

Dear Mayor Holman, Vice Mayor Schmid and City of Palo Alto Councilmembers,

My name is [name] and I [resident of Palo Alto, work in Palo Alto, frequent visitor to the Palo Alto Baylands, travel on 101...]. I care deeply about the landscapes of the baylands, wildlife and birds [a couple of sentences about why you care?]

I urge you to apply the "precautionary principle" of risk management when selecting a bridge design and the team to deliver it. Palo should seek to avoid harm, rather than mitigate impacts of harm. The integrity of the Baylands ecosystem and landscape and bird safety and conservation must be given priority over aesthetic features that pose peril to wildlife.

Rather than representing a link to the natural beauty of the Baylands, Submission A presents a structural landmark more urban than natural, encroaching on our view and sense of open space.

Option C affirms Palo Alto's appreciation of its unique natural assets and its desire to create a harmonious nexus between the city and the Bay's landscape and wildlife. We respectfully recommend that you to select Submission C--or, alternatively, a simple, low-profile, functional bridge.

Thank you,
[your name, city of residence}


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