This weekend as we leafleted neighborhoods in the eye of Mayor Libby Schaaf's proposed clear cutting storm, we visited one area that broke our hearts more than any other – the houses situated along Skyline Blvd overlooking the vast Eucalyptus grove known as “Forestland.” A glance at FEMA map no. 6 highlighting proposed areas of clear cutting has this forest entirely engulfed in red, meaning that come August, the homes that overlook Forestland and which enjoy a spectacular view of rolling green hills blanketed by lush forest, will witness a radical transformation:
Where now stand thousands upon thousands of trees will be wood chips and stumps – a giant forest reduced to a giant mulch pile. Do the homeowners realize the scope of the devastation in store for them or the deliberate manner in which the City of Oakland plans to destroy what is no doubt one the very reason they chose to live there?
There are so many compelling reasons to be opposed to Schaaf’s clear cutting plan. It will destroy habitat and displace wild animals. By cutting down trees and spreading their chipped remains about shadeless hillsides, it will increase the risk of fire. It will compromise human and animal health, as 7,000 gallons of toxic herbicides known to be carcinogenic to humans , toxic to wildlife and to destroy the blood, kidneys, and liver of dogs are to be sprayed in wildlife corridors, in dog parks and other recreation areas, near streams and around homes. But another compelling reason rarely mentioned in the struggle to overcome this devastating plan is the one that should most concern the public officials like Schaaf who support it: the plan’s effect on the integrity of the setting people came to rely on when they purchased their homes and the devastating toll this plan will take on their property values. Indeed, even FEMA admits that several neighborhoods will undergo a “significant alteration of community character” when the clear cutting is complete.
Location, location, location is the first rule of real estate for a reason – not only does the setting in which a house is located to determine its appeal, it also determines its value, and hence, one of many bewildering aspects of this plan – the myopia of our elected officials who have failed to take into account the devastating toll this plan will take on the financial interests of the homeowners in the region and thus, public approval of their job performance. For who in their right mind would purchase a home surrounded by terrain that resembles the aftermath of a natural disaster – haphazardly scattered logs, an endless expanse of desiccated tree stumps and rows of staked caution tape warning people to avoid the hazardous chemicals?
Mayor Libby Schaaf has proven herself heedless of the health or economic interests of local residents, indifferent and unmoved by public sentiment which is deeply opposed to the plan, and unwilling to both meet with local homeowners leading the fight to stop the clear cutting or to give her constituents who contact her to express their opposition the simple courtesy of a response. While campaigning, Schaaf promised to be the “the People’s Mayor.” The people of Oakland believed her. She has betrayed them. Promises easily made may be easily broken, but here is one thing Schaaf ignores at her own political peril: the voting booth. Devastating the value of what is many of her constituents most precious asset – their home – is no way to maintain their favor.