Speak Up for Wildlife and Sensitive Habitats at Pillar Point Bluff


Harbor Seals at Ross’ Cove – By Kris Liang

On Wednesday, February 9, the San Mateo County Planning Commission will consider whether to approve the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the proposed 12-month Off-Leash Dog Pilot Program at Pillar Point Bluff, adjacent to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach. Please email the Planning Commission and the Midcoast Community Council, by 5 pm Tuesday, January 25 (link) and ask them to deny the CDP, as the Pilot Program does not comply with the Coastal Act and county Local Coastal Plan (LCP), and risks to wildlife in this environmentally sensitive area are too great.

What’s Happening

Many thanks to everyone who spoke up on behalf of wildlife at Pillar Point Bluff at the November 9, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting. Unfortunately, the Supervisors voted (4-1) to support off-leash dogs at Pillar Point Bluff, despite receiving over 200 emails and letters urging them to maintain existing requirements for on-leash dogs. We are especially grateful to Supervisor Carole Groom for casting the dissenting vote.

The Supervisors voted to adopt the CEQA document and recommend the off-leash dog pilot project to the Planning Commission.  On Wednesday, January 26, the Midcoast Community Council will make recommendations, and on February 9, the Planning Commission will vote on the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the Pilot Program. This is our best opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the diverse wildlife and habitats that otherwise do not have a voice.

Why It Matters: Pillar Point Bluff is a Local Biological Hotspot

As we have pointed out, Pillar Point Bluff and the adjacent Ross’ Cove Beach and rocky tidepools support more sensitive habitats and special status species than any other comparable County Park area. Rare coastal prairie grassland, seasonal wetlands, and coastal scrub provide habitat for the federally protected California red-legged frog as well as many songbirds and raptors. Marine mammals, including harbor seals, elephant seals, sea lions, and sea otters can often be spotted at the foot of the bluffs at Ross Cove; all are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Off-leash dogs can be a threat to many wildlife species and their habitats, as well as to other dogs and people. The killing of a harbor seal pup by an off-leash dog that ran down from the bluffs in 2018 was horrific. This alone is reason enough to require all dogs to be leashed.

People who are fearful of dogs are “recreationally displaced”, in contravention of Coastal Act requirements for maximum public access to shoreline destinations such as Pillar Point Bluff.   Many on-leash dogs become aggressive if off-leash dogs approach them; many owners/handlers have let us know they can’t visit this coastal park due to unpermitted unleashed dogs.  We need better enforcement of existing rules, so everyone can enjoy this park.

Quarry Park, also proposed for the Off-Leash Dog Pilot Program, is just 2 ½ miles away. This community park, in a former quarry and eucalyptus forest habitat, is more suitable for off-leash dogs, however, we suggest a few trails should be reserved for on-leash dog trails so all trail users can be accommodated. Other nearby off-leash parks include Half Moon Bay’s Coastside Dog Park (7 miles), Pacifica’s Esplanade Beach (11 miles), and Fort Funston (17 miles).

What You Can Do

Please email the Midcoast Community Council and Planning Commission by 5 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, January 25, and ask them to deny the CDP for off-leash dogs at Pillar Point Bluff. The LCP only allows resource-dependent uses within and adjacent to sensitive habitats. The Coastal Act requires maximum access for all people, consistent with public safety; off-leash dogs don’t comply with this fundamental mandate.

Thanks for speaking up to protect wildlife, sensitive habitats, and full public access!  Your voice does make a difference!

P.S. For more information, please see the joint letter to the Board of Supervisors from Green Foothills, Sierra Club, Surfrider, Sequoia Audubon Society, and Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

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