by Enid Pearson
Parks are the most valuable and vulnerable lands anywhere. Park dedication protects parkland from government and developer confiscation. It saves parklands for recreational use. Measure E undedicates 10 prime acres (eight football fields) of Byxbee Park to construct a huge anaerobic digester (AD). We should not undedicate park land for some unknown future use like "option holding." If we do the public then has no control over what may be built there at the park entrance. Once undedicated, these 10 acres are gone forever.
Parks are Palo Alto's most valuable assets. The Baylands Park was dedicated in 1965. It included a small landfill expected to close in 1968. Palo Alto continued to fill wetlands, illegally, and then got approval. The state Lands Commission claimed these filled wetlands. Palo Alto agreed to lease them from the state, promising that when the landfill was completed, the area would become a park. That promise must be kept.
Our Baylands are an unprecedented asset. Right now, within 15 minutes of our frantic urban lives, we can be in a calm, serene park that renews and enhances our lives. Even our weather is modified positively by the Baylands. With the closing of the landfill, Palo Altans have the gift of a lifetime -- 126 acres of sculpted hills with miles of trails, rest areas, and unbelievable views. Don't let a big intrusive factory ruin this.
People are rightfully frightened by climate change and are searching for ways to reduce our impact. It's difficult to understand that we can have a big impact by saving and protecting open space, parks and undeveloped lands. It is easy to get seduced into false solutions. "Climate Change" is shamelessly being misapplied to sell us a waste processing factory in our Baylands Park, the same way high-speed rail was used to sell us "low cost" transportation. Like high-speed rail, this proposed project will have unforeseen environmental impacts and escalated costs.
Measure E is loaded with misleading information. We can't afford it. It's too expensive. The consultant ARI's feasibility study gives some insight. Dry anaerobic digestion costs from $111 million to $268 million, whereas our current regional plan would cost $77 million to $94 million. Our Refuse Enterprise Fund is in debt $24 million. Add the AD costs and refuse rates will continue to escalate along with the rest of our utility rates.
The proposed dry AD technology is experimental, risky and costly. In May 2009 and March 2011, an AD vendor, Harvest Power, said Palo Alto would be better off sending yard trimmings to an existing composter and that the proposed dry AD could handle only a portion of our sewage sludge, but not all. Dry AD has not been used anywhere in the world for sewage sludge. Proponents' economics ask us to take a costly risk to be the guinea pig for an experimental technology and to subsidize it with free park land.
Greenhouse gas savings are exaggerated. All the cases studied generate greenhouse gases. The differences are minimal, with one regional case saving 1,134 tons of CO2 a year over AD cases.
Truck trips are vastly exaggerated. Destroying our park for this is a travesty. The Compost Task Force found transportation green house gas emissions a minor issue. Our waste hauler will take yard trimmings six miles to our regional SMaRT station in Sunnyvale. Food scraps go 12 miles to San Jose. Less than three trucks a day would go from SMaRT to Gilroy.
Claims of AD profits to develop the park are false. California Proposition 218 allows only the actual cost of services -- not park improvements -- to be charged to rate payers.
Environmental issues have not been reviewed. To use this site, over 3.5 million cubic feet of old garbage would have to be dug up and spread on our remaining park, emitting huge quantities of methane, and incurring unknown costs. It would delay opening the remainder of our park for years. Noise, odor, dust, and truck traffic will have huge impacts on park users. Experts warn that food waste and sludge are notoriously stinky and require a 1,000 foot buffer that would engulf all of Byxbee Park, making the entire Park inhospitable for recreational use. These nuisances cannot be contained.
We already have an approved, cost-effective regional solution. We don't need to destroy our park. Since 1992, over 84 percent of our refuse has been processed regionally. That will continue. Less than 16 percent of our waste will be processed by this proposal. Our own waste hauler is building a regional food-waste processing facility just 12 miles away. Why spend scarce public funds and sacrifice park land for a redundant facility?
Vote NO on Measure E! Save Byxbee Park for Future Generations.
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