History

For more than half a century, Save The Bay has given San Francisco Bay a voice and shown that Bay Area residents can work together to make positive changes in their communities.

Save The Bay History and Accomplishments

After the Gold Rush, rampant filling of shallow areas reduced San Francisco Bay’s size by one-third and destroyed 90 percent of the Bay’s tidal marsh. By 1961 there were plans to fill 60 percent of the remaining Bay, leaving only a narrow channel for navigation. The public had access to fewer than six miles of shoreline, and the Bay was choked with raw sewage and industrial pollution. 

In 1961 three East Bay women—Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick—saw this Oakland Tribune illustration that depicted San Francisco Bay as a narrow shipping channel by 2020. To combat the rampant filling, they made phone calls, wrote letters, held meetings, and collected $1 each from thousands of Bay Area residents to create the "Save San Francisco Bay Association," and began a successful movement to save the Bay from destruction.

By mobilizing citizens, the group won landmark victories for the Bay, including:

  • A legislative moratorium against filling the Bay
  • Closure of more than 30 city garbage dumps along the shoreline
  • A halt to the practice of dumping raw sewage into the Bay
  • Establishment of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) a permanent state agency to regulate shoreline development and increase public access. BCDC was the first-ever coastal zone management agency and model for most others around the world.

 

The Bay Today

 Thanks to more than 50,000 Save The Bay members and supporters, the Bay is cleaner and healthier than it has been in half a century.

  • Sewage is treated and industrial pollution is significantly reduced.
  • More than half of the Bay is ringed with shoreline parks and outdoor spaces linked through nearly 300 miles of Bay trail that is open to the public for walking, biking, and viewing wildlife.
  • Large bay fill projects have been stopped, and several large-scale wetland restoration projects are underway.

Read about our achievements over the years, get inspired, and join us.