The Voice of the Coast

New Proposal for Devil's Slide
May 12, 1973

The following is the text of a letter on the subject of the Devil's Slide Bypass. The letter from the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club to the California Department of Public Works, was written by Olive Mayer.

The Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club and the Peninsula Regional Group are on the record as supporting a two lane limited access recreational road between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay airport, a winding, slow speed road.  Along this route would be a series of recreational stops, each offering a unique recreational activity. Because of the problem of the safety of Devil's Slide, the executive committee of the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club, voted, at its April meeting, to support the construction of a tunnel from Green Valley to Pacifica as an alternative to a recreational road or to the proposed freeway. This would continue the present two lane road but provide a bypass of Devil's Slide. We consider this the fastest solution to the problem of the safety of this road. We understand that this tunnel would cross an inactive earthquake fault (inactive during the past 10,000 years) and that cars would be more safe in an earthquake in the tunnel than they would be on existing freeways which border the San Andreas fault. Under no circumstances could we support grading for six to eight lanes along the presently proposed right of way, or a four lane parkway along the right of way as we consider it would be environmentally disastrous as well as socially and economically disastrous.

Judge Sweigert has ruled that the environmental impact statement coast route #1 must consider the impact on the environment of the whole highway length from Pacifica to Higgins Road, Half Moon Bay. He also ruled that the proposed freeway is a Federal Aid Primary Route and must conform to federal law for locational and design hearings. Since this freeway was conceived in a period with different community needs and lifestyles than we have today, we urge that the entire project be reconsidered and alternatives be investigated.
The Sierra Club believes that an excess of automobiles on the coast, from either commuter traffic or trucks, or from recreational traffic, will mean destruction of the coastal resources. Therefore, we believe the solution lies in a good system of public transportation. It is the automobile that can result in the greatest damage to the scenic and esthetic wildlife resources of the coast, to sand dunes, marshes, small beaches, scarce plant communities, etc. Public transportation confines people to the areas designated for them and designed for their use. The coast can absorb many thousands of people each day on foot, horseback, on bicycle, or coming on public transportation, but it cannot absorb any more automobiles without being destroyed. Even with existing access limited to two lane roads, Highway 1 and 92, many precious coastal resources are now being destroyed through overuse and inadequate recreational planning.

Sierra Club believes it is unnecessary to urbanize the mid-coast side of the San Mateo County because county reports indicate that expanding population can easily be accommodated in already existing communities well provided with community services. It is unnecessary to sacrifice a priceless scenic, esthetic, regional , recreational resource to create a new community. This coast is vitally  important to the quality of life to more than two and a half million people who live in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, as well as to the thousands of visitors who live in the central valley. Increasingly working people cannot afford long trips to Sierras for recreation, as the price of gasoline increases, the use of the coast for recreation will increase. The value of having agricultural and scenic resources close to home will become increasingly appreciated. Even today the peace, space and quiet and the spectacular vistas along the coast bring people relaxation. For fisherman, surfers and beachcombers the coast today brings a great deal of happiness.
According to San Mateo County Planning Department, even with existing access roads limited to two lanes, the coastal population can increase 5,800 to 15,500 people. ABAG has recommended, in its coastal plan, that growth on the mid-coast side be limited by limiting road access as well as the water and sewer systems. If the number of lanes of either route 1 or Highway 92 are increased to four lanes the population could reach 45,000. With this number of people living on the coast, with their accompanying automobile and truck traffic, the fragile and ecologically precious south coastside would be threatened.

The Sierra Club believes that the mid-coast side should be kept as a low density buffer zone between the highly populated counties of San Mateo and San Francisco,  and the fragile, precious south coast side with its seals , murries, herons, ducks, coastal dunes, marshes, estuaries, etc.  In the past 10 to 15 years increased automobile traffic on the south coast has destroyed many acres of coastal vegetation. All along Pescadero where there were once thick plant vegetation, there is now yellow rock. Many other places too have been seriously affected and could easily be listed.
In Yosemite Valley the National Park Service has come to realize that it must substitute public transportation for unlimited automobile access and mobility. Anyone in California who has known Laguna Beach or La Jolla in the past knows that the recreational resources and natural beauties of the area have been destroyed by urbanization.
The Sierra Club would be happy to work with the division of transportation of the department of public works in planning alternatives to the proposed freeway which would be least damaging to the coastal resources but would still provide public access in a regulated way, and which we believe could maintain the quality of the coastal experience for future generations. We should transmit this resource undiminished to our children and to our grandchildren so that they may enjoy the experience that has meant so much to us.

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