Reduction in housing sets butterflies free to thrive 

BRISBANE — The final phase of the Northeast Ridge development in Brisbane has been cutby more than half to make room for an endangered butterfly in the area, but environmentalists are looking into whether more might be needed.

Changes submitted by developer Brookfield Homes will reduce the last phase of its 500-home development from 178 single-family homes to 88 to avoid land that has been identified as "prime" Callippe Silverspot butterfly habitat.

The Callippe Silverspot, declared endangered in 1997, is one of three endangered butterflies, along with the San Bruno Elfin and Mission Blue, to inhabit the San Bruno Mountain area.

Despite the reduction, San Bruno Mountain Watch is looking into whether the final development phase would still cut off a corridor the butterflies use to fly from one part of the mountain to another, said Ken McIntire, the group’s director.

By shutting off such a corridor, McIntire said, the butterflies would become biologically isolated, further hindering the development of the species — which is the worse off of the three, he added.

The Brisbane City Council last night was set to approve a contract for additional environmental review of the changed plans. If approved, LSA Associates would prepare the environmental impact addendum for the city, while Thomas Reid Associates, a firm that manages the San Bruno Mountain Conservation Plan, works on the amendment to the Habitat Conservation Plan for the development area.

More than 400 homes have been built in the Northeast Ridge development since 1996, said Clayton Holstine, Brisbane's city manager. The developer has agreed to pay $4 million to help manage the Habitat Conservation Plan, a 1982 plan to help monitor and help restore the butterflies’ habitat, as well as $3 million for a new gymnasium in the city.

Homeowners in the final phase will also pay upward of $800 annually to Habitat Conservation Plan management, Holstine said, a marked increase from the roughly $80 a year current homeowners pay and tripling the funding for management.

"We have 20 years of knowledge to assure the survival of the species, and that’s why we’re trying to get the funding in this last phase," he said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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