City set to reduce wetlands protections

by Carolyn Chase and Eric Bowlby


 alifornia is a state with 91 percent of its wetlands GONE. For species protection, for water quality, and to avoid huge costs when floods hit, it is imperative that we have strong local protections for the last remaining wetland habitats.

This year's EPA Wetlands Award winner for Science Research, and professor at San Diego State, Dr. Joy Zedler, has written, "Every acre of existing wetland is needed to maintain coastal biodiversity."

But San Diego's proposed Zoning Code Update (ZCU) seeks to weaken local protections, making development in the floodplain and wetlands more susceptible to pavement and buildings. This flies in the face of numerous facts and considerations that one would think would guide responsible development:

· Twenty-eight out of the 85 species supposedly protected by the city's Multiple Species Conservation Plan depend on remaining wetlands for habitat.

· Development in floodplains and wetlands is a poor land use policy, with obvious potential flood disasters and subsequent lawsuits against the city.

· Increasing adverse impacts to water quality in our streams and estuaries result from paving of our wetlands and wetland buffer areas.

A prime example underscoring our city's failure to manage watersheds and protect wetlands and wetland buffers, both upstream and in the river valleys, occurred in the Sorrento Valley Business Park last month. A one inch rainfall, dropped by hurricane Nora, flooded streets, parking lots and some low-lying buildings.


Despite the Facts


 The ZCU aims to reduce mitigation ratios for freshwater, coastal, and riparian wetlands, and removes current language that limits allowable wetland impacts to essential public service facilities. Why? They say it's to "streamline" the permitting process they want local policy to be consistent with weaker federal policy.

In reality, it's because the Building Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce simply want more development in wetlands. Elected officials in San Diego at all levels cater to industry lobbyists. Eight local environmental groups have signed a written call to our elected officials not to adopt these proposals.

The only thing that will make a difference here is public outcry. A healthy economy and a building boom should not lead to decreased environmental protections, reduced water quality, reduced quality of life and increased costs passed along to taxpayers. We need environmental protections now more than ever, and your elected officials need to hear that! So here's what you can do:


Call, write and send faxes to the San Diego City Council:

Mailing address:

City Council of San Diego
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101

Phone, fax and email:






 Mayor  Susan Golding  236-6330  236-7228
 1  Harry Mathis  236-6611  236-6999
 2  Byron Wear  236-6622  236-6996  
 3  Chris Kehoe  236-6633  595-1481
 4  George Stevens  236-6644  236-6529  
 5  Barbara Warden  236-6655  238-0915  
 6  Valerie Stallings  236-6616  236-6529
 7  Judy McCarty  236-6677  238-1360
 8  Juan Vargas  236-6688  231-7918





Attend the San Diego City Council Hearing:

Tuesday, October 28th - 10AM
(Call City Clerk to confirm date/time: (619) 533-4000; the final agenda comes out on Oct. 21)

Eric Bowlby (savewetlands@ prepared the majority of these remarks on behalf of Surfrider Foundation, which is committed to preserving the natural living diversity and integrity of the coastal environment. The local Surfrider info line is (619) 792-9940; website: In addition to editing the SDET, Carolyn Chase is Chair of the San Diego Sierra Club political committee