After a series of controversies spanning 16 years, environmentalists and developers have reached a deal to preserve the only north-south land bridge over Highway 24 — Gateway Valley, a critical wildlife corridor and link in a 20-mile swath of open space. Nestled between Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserves and the town of Orinda, Gateway Valley’s 1,354 acres of oak woodlands, wetlands, and perennial streams will be preserved as open space and managed by the East Bay Regional Park District and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
The Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon, and Save Our Open Space-Gateway Valley reached a final settlement with the current developer. Orinda Gateway, LLC, proposed a larger project two years ago but has now agreed to a consolidated development of 215 acres, eliminating plans for a golf course and reducing the project’s footprint. “We originally approached Orinda Gateway with some trepidation,” says Arthur Feinstein of Golden Gate Audubon Society. “Now, two years later, we are tremendously pleased with this agreement that preserves critical open space and wildlife habitat.” The final deal saves seven miles of perennial streams that flow into creeks that support steelhead trout, hundreds of bird species, and populations of the federally threatened red-legged frog and Alameda whipsnake.
The settlement also provides $1 million for the environmental groups to purchase and restore other habitat areas, if no litigation is brought against the housing development. “We would rather spend our money working collaboratively with the environmental community to enhance the regional environment than waste money on litigation,” says Michael Olson, the developer of Orinda Gateway.