Historic Burial Site Could Be Protected (CA)

SAN FRANCISCO, 7/26/01-The Trust for Public Land today announced that they have reached an agreement with Myers Development Company to buy 25.69 acres on the eastern side of San Bruno Mountain, wedged between Highway 101 and San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. The property, recently considered for commercial development, contains one of the oldest prehistoric Native American cultural sites in the Bay Area, a shell mound dating to 3,200 B.C.E. In addition, the property includes significant wetlands and habitat for two federally listed endangered species: the Mission Blue butterfly and the Callippe Silverspot butterfly. TPL has entered into a one-year purchase option agreement with Myers Development Company and must raise the $1,285,000 necessary to add the property to San Bruno Mountain State and County Park.

“It is especially rewarding for the Trust for Public Land to have an opportunity to once again expand San Bruno Mountain Park, a truly spectacular, wild place located in our own backyard. This agreement is the first step toward protecting the property, but we now need to work together to raise the purchase funds to ensure the property gets added to the park,” says Tim Wirth, TPL Bay Area Senior Project Manager.

“The citizens of the Bay Area became a bit richer today in the investment made by this agreement,” said Ron Weaver, Supervising Manager at San Bruno Mountain State and County Park. “We are fortunate in the willingness of a property owner to work creatively with various interest groups to add another element to this very significant regional landmark. San Bruno Mountain is truly one of the richest sites we have and San Mateo County looks forward to participating in its future.”

The property, valued at $1,285,000, wraps around the southeast base of the mountain. The original plan for the property called for dense commercial development including three hotels and an office tower. These plans drew sharp criticism, and an eventual lawsuit, from environmental groups (including the locally-based San Bruno Mountain Watch), which resulted in an eventual out of court settlement and an agreement by the new owners, Myers Development Company to exclude the 25-acre site from its larger development plans and make the property available for public purchase.

“At last, there is a real chance for the shell mound, along with rare and endangered species habitat, to be put aside and protected from any development or misuse. This understanding of the deeper value of place over money, has blossomed at this site with evidence of 5,000 year old human presence,” says David Schooley, Founder of San Bruno Mountain Watch.

The 5,000-year-old Native American village and burial site on the property is the largest and oldest in the Bay Area. Previous developers had proposed that the shell mound be covered with high-rise hotels, a conference center, and freeway ramps. Many Ohlone Indian descendents are pleased that the site, which contains possibly hundreds of burials, will remain undisturbed – preserving their ancestral and cultural significance.

“I am pleased that schoolchildren will be able to learn how our people lived in harmony and kept the land in balance. Hundreds of my ancestors are buried at the San Bruno shell mound. They buried all that belonged to the deceased and this meant that it should not be disturbed. We were taught not to even pick a flower from a grave. The Ohlone Siplichiquin shell mound holds the resting place of our ancestors and is sacred,” says Ohlone Tribal Leader Patrick Orozco.

According to Todd D. Saunders, Executive Vice President of Myers Development Company, “When we first became involved in the Terrabay Masterplan two years ago, we recognized that this particular property held special significance for a number of community groups and that to ignore this fact and pursue its development, would only invite further litigation. As a result, we committed early on to finding an appropriate preservation sponsor who would responsibly represent the interests of the groups who had fought so hard for the property’s preservation as open space. In that regard, the Trust for Public Land clearly demonstrated to us their commitment and dedication in working with us to find such a sponsor.”

Myers Development Company, headquartered in San Francisco, has developed more than $850 million of real estate in California and Hawaii since 1974. The company’s developments include office buildings and hotel, golf course, residential, shopping center, and industrial properties.

In 1983 the 1,314-foot San Bruno Mountain was the subject of the nation’s first habitat conservation plan. The plan allows for development on prime habitat for two endangered butterfly species in exchange for measures to improve the butterflies’ survival elsewhere. Many people and organizations have fought long and hard to protect San Bruno Mountain’s unique ecology. In 1990, TPL bought and protected 93 acres of the mountain in Buckeye and Owl canyons.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that works to conserve land for people as parks, gardens, playgrounds, and wilderness. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide including nearly 20,000 acres in the Bay Area including most recently, the purchase of Mori Point along the San Mateo County coast near Pacifica.