After the Gold Rush, the San Francisco Bay Area rapidly developed from a few small settlements to a booming urban area and international seaport. The Bay’s abundant natural resources, which had once provided the Ohlone with food, shelter and clean water, was threatened by human activity.

  Save The Bay founders Sylvia
  McLaughlin, Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick
In 1961, Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick founded the “Save San Francisco Bay Association,” now known simply as Save The Bay. They wanted to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to fill in the Bay shoreline, and began to drum up support for their goal by collecting $1 membership dues from friends and neighbors. They convinced thousands of people to support their cause, and eventually won.

Their fight, the first grassroots environmental movement in the Bay Area, convinced many people to look at the Bay in a new way. Tens of thousands of Save The Bay members forced the State of California to acknowledge that the Bay belonged to the public. In 1965, the state made it illegal to dump soil, trash, or other “fill” into or around the Bay. The State Legislature established the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), an agency that regulates shoreline development and ensures public access to the Bay.

Save The Bay members fought to close the garbage dumps ringing the Bay shoreline, and stopped raw sewage from flowing untreated into the Bay. They helped establish the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and fought proposals to divert more of the Bay’s fresh water from upstream. Today, Save The Bay is still working to protect the Bay from its biggest threats — pollution and urban sprawl. Save The Bay educates students and adults about the importance of the Bay, encouraging them to celebrate, protect, and restore it.

For more than 40 years, Save The Bay has convinced thousands of people, from kids and their parents to governors and senators, that the Bay is a valuable resource. Thanks to the efforts and determination of three (extra)ordinary people, our Bay will continue to be an incredible place that is worth saving.


Saving the Bay - KQED Documentary
Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

last updated 22 July 2007