“If we don’t allow this, the economy is going to die.” That was the common pitch to fill in more of the Bay for development in the 1960s. But the Bay Area has thrived without shrinking the Bay and become an even more desirable place.

Executive Director David Lewis heard an echo from the 1960s when San Francisco International Airport proposed a major Bay fill project back in 1998. With flight delays rising from El Niño storms, and a tech boom boosting air travel, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown pushed a plan to pave two square miles of  the Bay to move the runways farther apart.

David Lewis was brand new to Save The Bay, but he understood this fight was a must-win for local wildlife, and it wouldn’t be easy. “It was exactly what Save The Bay was founded to stop, but there hadn’t been a proposal this large in 35 years.”

Brown gathered  federal and state legislators to back the project. But David sensed he could turn the tide by publicizing the projects  scope and impacts on the Bay. “We decided to make clear it a regional issue for the Bay Area – not just a local one for San Francisco.”In contrast to the airport’s staged events where attendees  couldn’t speak, Save The Bay hosted educational events that encouraged conversation. “At San Francisco City Hall, we just took  the mic from SFO’s emcee and  turned it into a public hearing.”

Slowly but surely, Save The Bay and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission created enough pressure that SFO paid for an independent science panel to look at project impacts on the Bay before completing an environmental impact review. New San Francisco Supervisors were elected who were independent of Mayor Brown. David worked with Supervisor Aaron Peskin to put a measure on the November 2001 city ballot  requiring voter approval for large Bay fill projects in San Francisco,  which  won 75% support. With mounting public opposition, and mushrooming cost estimates, SFO terminated its runway project and focused instead on technology and flight management to limit delays.

It was a David and Goliath style victory for Save The Bay and its determined Executive Director. But David says Bay Area residents deserve the most credit:This win simply reaffirmed that the public loves the Bay and will stand up to protect it against threats.”

This year marks David’s 20th anniversary with Save The Bay. Will you donate today to support our work protecting this beautiful place we call home? 

Save The Bay

Save The Bay campaigns for a healthy Bay and a sustainable Bay Area in this era of climate change and growing population. We mobilize Bay Area residents to protect and restore the Bay for future generations, both as advocates in their community and volunteers on the shoreline. We work with scientists and policymakers to protect the Bay as our region’s most important natural resource—essential to our environment, economy, and quality of life.