Governor, Senator Glazer & Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan reach accord on protecting Tesla’s unique habitat
CONTRA COSTA – Thousands of acres of East Bay wilderness threatened by the expansion of an off-highway vehicle park will instead be preserved under an agreement reached Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature, state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) and Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) announced.
The agreement, if approved by the Legislature next week, will end plans to expand the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area into the 3,100-acre Tesla parcel in the southeast corner of Alameda County, which scientists have described as a biologically unique habitat and Native Americans have long considered to be a sensitive historical site.
That land will now become a new state park closed to motorized recreation. The state will reimburse the Off-Highway Vehicle fund for the purchase price of the land, its appreciation in value, and the money spent planning the expansion, which was opposed from the start 20 years ago by nearby residents and public agencies. That money will go toward the purchase and development of an off-road park at another location.
“This is a win-win for all involved,” Sen. Glazer said. “Our community and region gets to preserve this natural and cultural treasure while the off-road enthusiasts will keep their current park and receive funding to develop another park on land that’s more suitable to that kind of recreation.”
Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan said she was pleased that the agreement will end years of doubt about the fate of the area’s rich biological and cultural resources.
“We are incredibly thankful that the governor has seen Tesla Park’s value and included it in the ongoing protection of critical natural resources,” Bauer-Kahan said. “It has been my great honor to fight alongside Senator Glazer, the Sierra Club, Friends of Tesla Park and countless organizations and individuals to ensure this land will be protected and enjoyed by all of California’s citizens.”
Preserving the Tesla land was a major priority for environmentalists, including the Sierra Club.
“We applaud the decision by the California Legislature and Administration to preserve the important ecological value and biodiversity of Tesla Park by banning off-highway vehicle recreational use,” said Brandon Dawson, director of the Sierra Club California. “Sierra Club California and our local allies have advocated for decades to protect Tesla Park. This agreement represents a major victory for environmentalists across the state.”
“I want to thank Senator Steve Glazer and Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan for their persistence to protect this valued land,” Dawson said. “This would not be possible without their championing of the area.”
Nancy Rodrigue, a leading member of the Friends of Tesla Park steering committee and Livermore resident, said she was proud that years of hard work and persistence paid off.
“Tesla Park will now forever be protected with no motorized recreation. The future holds Tesla as a protected native landscape for hikers, history buffs, nature lovers, research and education,” Rodrigue said. “Saving Tesla Park has been a long, difficult, and now rewarding journey. We want to thank the many local officials, public agencies, community organizations and citizens who saw Tesla’s true value – its irreplaceable biodiversity and cultural riches. We are grateful for the tremendous work of so many, including Senator Glazer and Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan, for saving Tesla Park as a legacy for future generations.”
Senator Glazer has been a leading voice in the Legislature to preserve Tesla and turn it into a park for non-motorized use. He has carried legislation every year since 2018 to allow or require the Department of Parks and Recreation to end its plans to expand the Carnegie off-road park and instead preserve the Tesla land, either by selling it to a third party or keeping it under state control.
That effort began as a partnership with former Assembly Member Catharine Baker of Livermore. Baker helped rally local officials to the cause, but Glazer’s early bills, while passing in the Senate, were blocked in the Assembly despite Baker’s support.
Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan joined the battle to save the Tesla parcel after her 2018 election and was able to persuade her fellow Assembly members, including the leadership, to join the Senate’s effort to preserve the land.
With both houses of the Legislature united, Glazer and Bauer-Kahan were finally able to convince the Newsom Administration this year that the idea of expanding the Carnegie park was doomed to failure.
Their argument was bolstered by a Superior Court judge’s ruling that the State Department of Parks and Recreation’s 2016 environmental impact report and general plan for Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, which included opening the Tesla land to off highway vehicle (OHV) recreation, was legally invalid.
“I want to thank Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for their vision in seeing that this land was not appropriate for off-road vehicle use and for finding a way to preserve it,” Glazer said. “I also want to thank Gov. Newsom for taking a fresh look at this issue and agreeing to move in a new and better direction.”
The agreement will repay the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund $18.3 million for the estimated current value of the land plus $2.4 million that the fund used for planning the current park’s expansion. Another $11.5 million will be set aside for planning and construction of an alternative off-road park, while $1 million will go toward turning the Tesla property into a non-OHV park.
The Tesla land offers rare and valuable diversity such as Blue Oak woodland, mountain savannah grassland, scrub sage, and riparian woodlands. It is a richly biodiverse area that has drawn naturalists, ecologists, zoologists, and other scientists to that land for more than 100 years to study nature and natural systems.
It has been known by generations of scientists for its extraordinary biodiversity, including numerous threatened and endangered species. It is a critical linkage wildlife habitat corridor, a California Native Plant Society botanical priority protection area and Audubon important bird area. Native Californian archaeological and ceremonial sites and the historic town site and coal mine of Tesla are also located on the 3,100 acre Tesla site.
Information released by Senator Steve Glazer