FAIRVIEW OPEN SPACE
The Largest Remaining Parcel of Unprotected Open Space in the El Cerrito hills

ABOUT US

History of ECHO and Current News
           The El Cerrito Hillside Organization (ECHO) was formed in 2006 by a group of El Cerrito residents in response to a proposed development on the 15 acre parcel known as the Fairview Open Space.  This Open Space, which can be accessed at the end of Fairview Drive in El Cerrito (where Fairview meets Tamalpais Avenue), is located on the slope above and to the east of Ganges Avenue, and below and to the west and south of Arlington Boulevard.  To the immediate south of the Fairview Open Space is a portion of El Cerrito’s Hillside Natural Area.

            The Fairview Open Space is the largest undeveloped parcel of privately-held land in El Cerrito.  This hillside is visible from much of El Cerrito and the north-central Bay Area (including San Francisco).  Although privately-owned, this land has always been in a natural state, and has several features that make it particularly unsuitable to development.  These include:

            1.         The parcel includes two streams, which are upper tributaries of Baxter Creek.  One of these streams, named Fossil Creek, flows through a deep canyon.  Each of these streams hosts a vibrant riparian habitat.

            2.         The existence of the two streams, and the parcel’s location next to a section of the Hillside Natural Area, makes it a significant wildlife habitat, for animals such as deer, skunks, opossums and coyotes, and numerous bird species, such as owls and red-tailed hawks.

            3.         The hillside is located less than ½ mile from the Hayward Fault, and is a designated slide zone.  In light of the soil and seismic conditions of this unstable slope, any development poses significant risks to neighboring homeowners, as well as to the two creeks.

            In 2006, a developer acquired the property and proposed to construct more than 30 homes in the Open Space.  Members of ECHO sought to make the City of El Cerrito, and the prospective developer, aware of the risks, costs and community sentiment regarding development of the Open Space.  Ultimately these development efforts were abandoned.

            However, in 2016 a new risk to the Open Space has arisen.  Once again, a massive development was proposed for the hillside, including two roads and 38 houses.  This proposal included burying one of the two open creeks, so that the developer could put houses and a road on top of it.  The development proposal acknowledged that “mass excavation and grading” of the hillside would be necessary for the development. 

            See the developer's plans here:

            After concerns were expressed by the El Cerrito planning department, the developer withdrew its application with the City.  However, the owner and developer continued to seek a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the development, referring to the creeks as “ephemeral drainages”. 

           See the US Army Corps of Engineers letter here:

           Members of ECHO have written multiple letters to the Corps pointing out the problems with this proposed development. Over 40 letters were written.  Here are samples of letters to the US Army Corps of Engineers. 

           
           
            Although the immediate proposed development has been withdrawn by the owner, as long as the property remains in private hands, with developers willing to destroy the natural habitat and ignore the effects of building on a slide zone, this property remains at risk.  The members of ECHO believe that this land should be preserved in its natural state, both for the animals that make their home there, as well as the residents of El Cerrito and the greater Bay Area. 

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City of El Cerrito
Creek Protection Overlay District ordinances
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You can learn more about creeks and the benefits of riparian habitats at the State of California San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board Website

http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb2/

and in these documents published by that agency.
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Latest update 7/21/17:

Read the letter from Department of Fish and Wildlife to the owners of the property
here

3/12/17: Riparian Habitat Destruction
The owner of the property has clear cut two areas along the south fork of Fairview Creek.  This was discovered in process by one of the neigbors bordering the open space. Key people were contacted in El Cerrito and Stephen Pree, the environmental programs manager for El Cerrito, issued a cease and desist order immediately. But significant damage was already done.  Pictures are posted on this website. No permits had been pulled and this is a significant violation.  Stephen has inspected the site.  Also, Jessica Jacobsen of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) visited the site on Saturday morning.  She toured the decimated areas where there are mutilated Coastal Live Oaks and native willows cut down.  Debris was left in the creek bed and erosion was evident.  She was planning on visiting the home of the owner on Saturday.  The Water Board has also recorded the destruction.  Pictures have been sent to DFW showing men cutting down the habitat as well as detailed pictures of the areas. 

AT THIS TIME NO ACTIVITY IS ALLOWED ON THE FAIRVIEW OPEN SPACE.  NO CARS, TRUCKS OR CUTTING IS ALLOWED.  IF YOU SEE ANYONE ON THE HILLSIDE WHO APPEAR TO BE VIOLATING THIS ORDER, PLEASE CONTACT JESSICA JACOBSEN OF DFW AT 888-334-2258 OR 925-516-6467. 


Summer 2016: A different developer (same land owner) again submitted a Fairview Development plan to El Cerrito.  These plans were similar to the previous plans, 38 homes and covering the north creek.  El Cerrito Planning Department determined that these plans were incomplete and filed an 8-page response to the Fairview Development proposal on Aug. 11, 2016.  

ECHO and the Trail Trekkers met with the planning department and discussed our concerns.  Our notes from that meeting including the process for City review of a development can be read here .



Sign up to be on our listserve to get the latest updates on potential developments of Fairview Open Space by sending an e-mail to:

ElCerritoHillside-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

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