By Tony Sarpangala

When tree trimmer Ernesto Pulido was hired to prune trees at the massive parking lot across from the Civic Center post office, his crew accidentally disturbed some endangered Black-crowned night heron chicks, and allegedly, some of them died. In the aftermath of the incident, some people targeted Ernesto Pulido for his actions, and he told the mainstream media he had to move his pregnant wife out of his home because of the harassment.

What is missing from this episode is creative thinking to address the problem that is not new: black-crowned night herons have been roosting in the large ficus trees on the perimeter of the parking lot for years. When I lived on Alice Street between 2010 and 2013 I saw at least three baby night herons get run over by cars in the surrounding area, and I am sure there were more. Yes, not every juvenile bird can live to adulthood, but certainly there is something both the United States Postal Service and the City of Oakland can do to reduce the risk of night heron deaths. Shouldn’t the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Migratory Bird Act be invoked to force the Postal Service and the City of Oakland to create a safer habitat for these birds?

The excessive number of parking lots in Downtown Oakland has long been a land use issue because they are ugly. While some may argue that as Downtown land values increase, there will be infill development and the parking lots will be the first to go, I think more purposeful and creative planning could create an urban habitat that is not only better for the birds who depend on nearby Lake Merritt, but the human inhabitants as well. If transformed into a park, the large lot across from the post office could provide more green space for all of Oakland.

Where would all the post office vehicles go, officials will surely ask? Well, there is the large Alameda County parking garage directly across the street from the post office between Jackson and Madison streets, and there are other street-level lots in the area that could be turned into garages. Or half of the giant parking lot could be turned into a parking garage and the other half into a park.

As it is now, the night herons will continue to defecate onto postal service vehicles and juvenile birds will have higher death rates. With all this talk about tech development in Downtown, why doesn’t the City begin planning for a solution with its anticipated revenues? A community benefits agreement, maybe? Addressing the structural issues will prevent future deaths much more than threatening a contractor who was just following government instructions.

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2 Responses

  1. MER

    While I appreciate what you say, in the overall scheme of things, this is the last thing our city beds to spend time or money on. See. Big. Picture. Please. Schools, crime, etc.

  2. Peggy

    While I do enjoy these night herons, they are NOT endangered in CA.


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