City Didn't Pick Up Tab For Moving Rare Franciscan Manzanita

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© California Academy of Science
Ain't our money...
Earlier this week, the Chronicle reported that the city paid the princely sum of $175,000 to transport the only known wild specimen of the Franciscan Manzanita out of the Doyle Drive highway project's path and to an undisclosed location. Yesterday, however, we noted that it seemed highly unlikely that the funds to pay for this move came from city coffers.

Now, the deputy director for capital projects at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has weighed in. Lee Saage, the SFCTA's Doyle Drive project manager, told SF Weekly that the city is contributing $69 million toward this billion-dollar project. But he confirmed it didn't pay a cent toward moving the manzanita.

These funds, he reiterated, came from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and were derived from toll bridge revenues.

The $175,000 for relocating the plant came out of a $15.1 million contract for "environmental mitigation" established long before the manzanita's discovery, and funded by the MTC. And while, again, this isn't city money, there are some curious items included under "environmental mitigation."

For example, workers traveled along the entire two-mile span of the future Doyle Drive project, collecting tens of thousands of seeds from the plants now growing in the area. Roughly 45,000 plants will then be grown in the Presidio nursery. Following the completion of the highway, landscapers will place plants along the roadside at the exact locations where their forbears once grew; they will "maintain the precise DNA and genetic correlation to the location where those plants came from," says Saage. The price tag: $600,000.

Saage didn't seem so enthusiastic about this endeavor. But he felt the $175k toward moving the manzanita was a downright bargain. "Look, there have been dams in this country that have been stopped by some very tiny critters. It was entirely possible that discovering a unique plant species in the path of the project could have shut it down for an extended period of time," he said. "It could have been hundreds of millions of dollars. [Getting out of this for $175,000] was wonderful news."

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