Opinion: Preserve the San Francisco Bay
- Published Friday, December 16, 2005, in the San Francisco Business Times
Bay creates ripple effect that benefits region's economy
By Will Travis
The people were clearly ahead of the politicians 40 years ago when Bay
Area residents rose up to halt the rapid paving of San Francisco Bay.
But the bay we have worked so hard to protect and restore still
doesn't get the credit it deserves for making our region prosperous
By 1965, a third of the bay had already been filled in for development
or diked off from the tides, and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study
said it was feasible to fill the remaining shallow areas, leaving only
a narrow river. Unwilling to accept this fate, concerned citizens
convinced the California Legislature to establish the San Francisco
Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to protect the Bay.
Some business interests fought strenuously against creating a regional
agency. They argued that BCDC would stop growth, crush the economy
and thwart cities' rights to fill the bay. Instead the commission has
conserved the bay as a natural resource and enhanced it as the
region's most valuable economic asset.
Foundation for prosperity
That decision to save the bay laid the foundation for the economic
prosperity our region has enjoyed. The bay is essentially a national
park in our front yard where we sail, swim, fish, kayak and play.
BCDC's permits have opened hundreds of miles of shoreline to public
access. And while not all the tourists who come to the City by the
Bay leave their hearts in San Francisco, they give a significant boost
to our local economy.
This scenic wonder and international attraction co-exists with a
flourishing maritime industry, two of the five busiest ports in
California, and a growing ferry network that can lace together our
To attract the well-educated, innovative workers needed to make our
economy hum, employers do not pay appreciably higher salaries here
than other regions. Instead, they emphasize that the Bay Area is a
terrific place to live. The bay and its beauty are at the center our
region's extraordinary quality of life.
Government agencies too often speak about the bay in scientific terms
-- a language few people fully understand. We need to make the case
for the Bay in language most people do understand -- economics.
Homes near a shoreline park sell for more than those in neighborhoods
that are walled off from the bay. A hotel room with a bay view costs
more than one without. And people will pay more for a mediocre dinner
in a restaurant overlooking the bay than for a sensational meal in a
restaurant that is not on the waterfront.
A beautiful and healthy bay is an economic asset, and that is why both
"conservation" and "development" were included in the name of the new
All of us should acknowledge that the bay pays huge benefits to our
economy and our quality of life. And all of us should work to make
the bay better for future generations.
Will Travis is executive director of the San Francisco Bay
Conservation and Development Commission.
[BATN prefers NGOs with a less compromised agenda: so get out your
checkbooks and give it up for Save the Bay