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In The News

Urban History
Foster City: a story of filling the bay

S.F. Chronicle, 6/14/09

1800s - San Mateo County's thriving shoreline tidal marshes support vast numbers of ducks, fish and seals. Its shoals produce oysters to feed San Francisco's booming Gold Rush population.

1898 - Frank Brewer purchases a marshy bay island east of San Mateo, erects levees and dries out 2,200 acres to grow hay for dairy cows.

1940s - Parts of Brewer Island and adjacent marshes are sold to Leslie Salt Co. and the Schilling estate.

1958 - T. Jack Foster buys Brewer Island and several square miles of marsh for $200,000. Foster dredges the wetlands for six years to form 230 acres of lagoons and pumps 18 million cubic yards of mud and sand onto the island, raising it slightly above sea level.

1960 - To finance the development of Foster City, Foster persuades state Sen. Richard Dolwig, R-Redwood City, to pass a bill creating the Estero Municipal Improvement District, authorized to issue more than $85 million in bonds through 1967.

1961 - Regional "save the bay" movement opposes Foster City and other bay developments. Filling and dikes already have reduced the size of the bay by one-third and destroyed 90 percent of its marshes.

1964 - Foster promotes his development as "the island of blue lagoons" and a "new world Venice." Bumper stickers appear saying, "Fill the Bay with Dolwig."

1965 - The Legislature imposes a moratorium on new bay fill and creates the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate bay development.

1971 - After eight years of controversy during construction, Foster City's lagoon is polluted and residents pay the highest property taxes in San Mateo County to cover bond debt. Over developers' objections, residents incorporate and establish a city council.

2009 - Land subsidence and projected sea level rise put all of Foster City, built on 4 square miles of former bay wetlands, at risk of inundation, threatening 30,000 residents and businesses.

Learn more at www.saveSFbay.org/redwoodcity.

 

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