Moving Franciscan Manzanita: Not Cheap

Franciscan Manzanita.jpeg
© California Academy of Sciences
The most expensive bush since Reggie Bush?
Readers may recall the irony of scientists discovering an "extinct" Franciscan Manzanita, a plant no one had seen for 60 years in the wild, right in the middle of land about to be leveled for a highway project.

At the time, we were told it cost Caltrans some $80,000 to move the sprawling bush from Doyle Drive to a safe and undisclosed location. But today the Chronicle notes that the tally was far more than that: $140,000 to uproot the aging plant and $35,000 in "support" services from "geological, botanical and climate experts." By the way, the company that moved the manzanita told SF Weekly the normal tab for such a job would be around $15,000.

If indignant taxpayers want to shake their fists a bit more, SF Weekly reported back in January that Caltrans is also on the hook for 10 years of care for the Franciscan Manzanita -- at an estimated $65,000. (This number, like the others we were told at the time, could grow).  

Caltrans landscape architect Dave Yam told us that providing funds for watering, weeding, and expert botanists' fees if one ever has to be rushed out to administer to the plant at a moment's notice was the "right thing to do."

But it also warrants mentioning that the quick, generous, and environmentalist-friendly response to the discovery of one of the world's rarest plants in the middle of a highway construction project, while expensive, was a money-saver in even the short run. Quite simply, it kept litigious environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity from filing suit or calling for time- and money-draining environmental reviews of the billion-dollar Doyle Drive project.

In the end, the several hundred thousand dollars that continues to support the Franciscan Manzanita probably doesn't cover the cost of breaktime coffee for the Doyle Drive reconstruction.

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