Alameda County – Almost two years after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill, the latest attempt to protect a 3,100-acre Tesla Park site near Livermore from being used as an off-road vehicle recreation area was Thursday , July 8, continued in a state Senate committee in Sacramento.
The National Resources and Water Committee voted 6-1 to send Tri-Valley MP Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s AB 1512 to his next station, the Grants Committee, where it would need to be approved before going to the entire Senate Vote is presented.
The bill was passed in the Assembly on June 1st at 57:20.
“AB 1512 is trying to resolve this decade-long dispute which I would like to stress has cost taxpayers significant resources to fight for this land, and we just have to settle it and put an end to it,” Bauer-Kahan told the panel.
As at a meeting of the assembly committee in May, Brandon Dawson, acting director of the Sierra Club California, told the Senate that “preserving Tesla Park is one of the top conservation priorities for the East Bay area.”
“There is overwhelming support for Tesla Conservation not only from university professors and scientists, Native American leaders, ranchers, conservation and conservation groups in the community, but also from government agencies like County Alameda, City of Livermore, East Bay Regional Park District, ”said Dawson.
Dee Rosario, chairman of the board of directors of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), said the passage of the bill was necessary to preserve native vegetation and wildlife habitats, as well as the historic Tesla city and mine complex and sites important to indigenous peoples.
“This rich history is important to us now and to future generations,” said Rosario.
If finally passed by the strong Democratic legislature and signed by Newsom, Bauer-Kahan’s bill would forever preserve the portion of the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area known as the Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area, about 15 miles east of Livermore , including non-motorized public recreation. The bill would put $ 9 million in the Off-Highway Motorized Vehicle Trust Fund and would not affect the areas already approved for off-road operation on Carnegie grounds.
California State Parks owns both locations and has long wanted to expand the off-road area from the Carnegie area to the Tesla Park area along Tesla Road.
Environmental groups fought the idea for years, suing in 2016, claiming that more off-road driving would threaten endangered species, birds and plants, and would scarring land that was once inhabited by Native Americans.
However, off-road proponents said an extension would accommodate four-wheel drive vehicles and provide motorized access for the disabled. The existing Carnegie site is excellent for motorcyclists, they said.
Bauer-Kahan’s previous land preservation bill seemed successful in 2019, but Newsom vetoed the bill as it would have obliged the EBRPD to sell the Tesla property to a conservation group. Newsom said the property should remain the property of California State Parks.
In January, Sacramento County Judge Shelleyanne WL Chang ruled on the side of Alameda County and other organizations, including Friends of Tesla Park, that an environmental impact report and general plan that supported the creation of the expanded off-road area ruled against the California Environmental Quality Act violated. She declared it invalid. That gave Bauer-Kahan and Tri-Valley Senator Steven Glazer another chance to propose laws to stop the expansion.
During Thursday’s committee meeting on the bill, Amy Granat, executive director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association argued that Bauer-Kahan’s legislation was more aimed at “those with wealth and political connections” who wanted to take land and opportunity away from ordinary Californians.
Granat said many of those who visit Carnegie grounds for motorized recreation are from the Central Valley, including “traditionally less-favored communities, over 40% of which identify as Hispanic between the ages of 25 and 48”.
“This problem is no different from those with wealth and power who are trying to privatize an adjacent beach to their beachfront homes and denying access to the average citizen,” said Granat. “This act will take away children and their families who paid for the park with their hard earned money the opportunity to have fun and spend a day in a state park doing what they love to do … While the needs are the well-to-do take center stage In AB 1512, the needs of everyday life in California are discarded. “
During the meeting, 21 people from numerous land, nature and wildlife conservation groups and cultural heritage organizations called for support for the bill. Three callers who supported off-road and motorcycle groups asked the panel to vote no.
Six Democrats on the committee voted, with the sole dissident, Republican Senator Brian Jones, to approve the bill.
Should the bill be presented and passed by the entire Senate by the end of the legislature, the question arises whether Newsom will decide to sign this time.
While this bill is similar to the one Newsom vetoed, it contains a trigger for mandatory conservation within the State Parks division, rather than requiring a sale, which Newsom declined.
The bill that Glazer drafted to preserve Tesla Park as well was put aside in favor of Bauer-Kahan’s bill to find its way through the system.