Leading Bay Area environmentalist Sylvia McLaughlin dies at 99

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco Bay Area environmentalist Sylvia McLaughlin, who along with two friends founded Save the Bay, has died. She was 99.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates says McLaughlin died Tuesday at her Berkeley home.

McLaughlin along with friends Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick launched their pioneering environmental organization in 1961 to protect the San Francisco Bay Area shorelines from development.

The three feared the Bay could become just a shipping channel if all the infill plans around the Bay became reality.

“Sylvia and her friends just wanted to stop the Bay from being destroyed,” Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis said in a statement.

Because of the women’s activism, the California Legislature in 1965 created the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate development and shoreline access.

The wife of a mining company executive on the UC Board of Regents, she used her charm, to make her case to protect the Bay.

The San Francisco Bay Area “is a national treasure, and yet we’re losing it,” she told the Contra Costa Times in 2005.

Bates said McLaughlin should be on a Mount Rushmore of Bay Area environmentalists if there was one.

McLaughlin was born on Dec. 24, 1916 in Denver, Colorado to George and Jean Cranmer. She was the third of four children and the couple’s only daughter.

Her father was responsible for creating the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Her mother was a trained violinist and classical music patron. McLaughlin, who graduated from Vassar College in 1939,married Donald McLaughlin in 1948 and moved in with him and his mother in Berkeley.

Donald was the president of Homestake Mining Company. When McLaughlin and two friends, Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick, formed Save San Francisco Bay Association, the three organized residents and temporarily stopped more infill plans for the Bay.

McLaughlin was also responsible for the creation of a new state agency, the Bay Conservation & Development Commission, to regulate shoreline development and infilling.

The agency was the first of its kind and is a worldwide model for managing coastal zones.

Citizens for East Shore Parks President Robert Cheasty said McLaughlin is a beacon for young people to see what a life well lived is all about.

Cheasty said it’s not only what McLaughlin did but also how she did it.

She never got rude or arrogant or full of herself, he said. She was always kind and humble.

Her giving and kind spirit was similar to Mother Teresa’s, Cheasty said.

Sylvia encouraged people to “find their best angels,” he said. McLaughlin was around when women wore white gloves to meetings but she was tough too, Cheasty said.

“She had a fist of steel under that white glove,” he said. In addition, she could bring diverse people together, such as business leaders and tree huggers, to advance the effort to protect the shoreline, Citizens for East Shore Parks Executive Director Patricia Jones said.

In 2012, Eastshore State Park was renamed McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in McLaughlin’s honor.

McLaughlin is survived by her children Jeanie Shaterian and George McLaughlin (Andrea), her stepson Donald McLaughlin Jr. (Martine Jore), ten grandchildren and step-grandchildren and ten step-great-grandchildren.

On Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m. a memorial service will be held for McLaughlin at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley and a restoration event in McLaughlin’s honor will held in the future.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that gifts be made to

Save The Bay or Citizens for East Shore Parks.

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