A plan for the early 1960s involved removing the top 200 feet of San BrunoMountain, and filling in “susceptible parts” of San FranciscoBay.Build, literally, on the Bay. Build on the flattened mountaintop.
Such was the drive for progress and development back before “environmentalist” had been coined as a term.The population was exploding around San Francisco, and Pete Seeger sang a song that added some satire to the pop charts: “Little boxes / On a hillside /Little boxes made of ticky tacky.”The “little boxes / all the same” referred to homes in Daly City, immediately south of San Fran.
The film “Butterflies and Bulldozers” centers on San BrunoMountain, the largest undeveloped urban land mass in the United States. It’s a very telling history that captures a sense of process.It chronicles decades of people’s involvement and dedication.
Wealthy people – characterized then as mere housewives married to “ruling class males” – organized to “Save the Bay.” Development pressure shifted but never let up.Lower middle class, grass roots types took up the banner to “Save the Mountain.”
Two men, perhaps the most central players, are still at it 40 years later.David Schooley, tended more toward working outside the system.Fred Smith developed a career path more on the inside.They worked together well and less well in an unending struggle to preserve a unique ecosystem. San BrunoMountain is a marker for what once was, before progress paved it.
The butterflies and the bulldozers symbolized in the title butt up against one another.Whatever the resolution for the San Francisco Bay Area or open spaces anywhere, it’s a long drawn process.