SF State evicts environmental program from Tiburon property

After five months of negotiations, SF State finalized its decision to evict the Tiburon Salmon Institute from its property at the Romberg Tiburon Center Monday.

SF State officials had been in negotiations with the Tiburon Salmon Institute since June, after thousands signed a petition protesting the abrupt eviction of the project from the Romberg Tiburon Center, according to the Marin Independent JournalRun by the San Francisco Tyee Club, the Tiburon Salmon Institute seeks to educate children about how salmons thrive and what they need to survive, according to the project’s website.

As of Monday, the institute has until Sept. 5, 2016 to vacate the site, ending a program that was started in 1973, according to Brooke Halsey, the Tiburon Salmon Institute’s executive director.

“We didn’t have any problems until Karina Nielsen came on as director (of the Romberg Tiburon Center),” Halsey said. “She didn’t like our program; that led to the discord we have now.”

Karina Nielsen was appointed director of the center in June 2014, according to the SF State website, and is a professor in the coastal ecosystems lab there. She was unavailable for comment.

“They said we weren’t compatible with their outreach and education, but we were squarely within their mission,” Halsey said.

The Tiburon Salmon Institute’s failure to comply with the center’s safety policies requiring the use of personal flotation devices by children working close to the seawall was a major part of the center’s concerns, according to the SF State website. Beyond that, recent inspections deemed the facilities housing the institute’s activities unsafe, the website said.

After the Tiburon Salmon Institute addressed SF State’s safety concerns by offering to pay to correct them, the program was still not allowed to use the classrooms or facilities that they deemed safe and were not allowed to correct those concerns, according to Halsey.

The Tiburon Salmon Institute is a federally owned property that existed before SF State did, according to Congressman Jared Huffman, whose staff hosted negotiations between the University and the Tiburon Salmon Institute.

“The Salmon Institute is not part of SF State,” Huffman said. “Congress gave it to the University for free, but it had to always be used for education of marine science.”

Huffman said he believes a lot of the concerns SF State put forth during the negotiations, such as safety permitting issues and personality conflicts, were unfounded. SF State has been trying to sell the site for a long time, Huffman said.

“I’m concerned, because a little community group is being jerked around by a big institution that ought to behave better,” Huffman said. “People in the community that I represent stand to lose this treasured environmental program.”

Halsey said she hopes to continue the program elsewhere.

“We’re looking to other organizations trying to find a home that wants us, where we can continue educating people about salmon migration,” Halsey said. “If we can’t find a home, we’re going to have to pull the plug.”

Latest comments
  • This is an incredibly inaccurate one sided re-reporting and is missing some major factors regarding documented saftey violations and legal issues regarding The Tiburon Salmon Institute. These problems predate the new directors tenure. The statements made here by the congressman are inaccurate and slanderous.

    I encourage this journalist to dig deeper not copy this factually inaccurate story from the marin IJ.
    Seriously what happened to journalistic integrity?

    The Romberg Tiburon Center is a community of researchers, graduate and undergraduates studying the San Francisco Bay and marine realm. It is an educational institution and is being misrepresented.

  • Halsey is known to withhold information that is inconvenient for him. Google “Brooke Halsey disbarment.” Re: the Tyee group existing longer than the Romberg Center (if that’s even true); who owns the land? Who did the government entrust with the property? SF State. If the Tiburon Salmon group doesn’t want to follow the rules of their landlords, then they have no business staying in the land where they’ve been squatting for years.

  • Like many responses online, one can be accusatory and sound like they know everything. Do Danielle and Marin Independent Thinker work at the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC)? If so there is a bias that is hidden from the wild accusations made in their posts. I take particular umbrage at MIT’s dredging up Mr. Halsey’s disbarment. It has nothing to do with this issue. I guess you follow the Drudge Report. Have you ever had a brush with the law? Should I look on the internet for your driver’s record or marital status?

    I am a member of the San Francisco Tyee Club, that had a salmon net pen rearing project at the former NOAA property before it was transferred to San Francisco State. The Tyee Club ran this project from the 1980’s until the Tiburon Salmon Institute (TSI) took over this project. TSI was formed before the property was legally transferred to SFSU. I view TSI as a legacy tenant rather than a nuisance to the “educational” endeavors of RTC. In fact, TSI is probably the only program at RTC that does educational outreach to the local community rather than being self serving ivory tower “scientists.”

    A great public institution like SFSU should foster connections with its local constituents. The vast majority of students who will study at SFSU come from the Bay Area. If programs like TSI did not do local outreach in “educating” grade school and high school students about the life cycle of the salmon, especially in our local creeks and rivers, then how would they know that RTC even exists? From a webpage buried in SFSU’s horrible website?

    I do not think that the Federal Government transferred the TIburon Submarine Net Depot to SFSU with the intent of narrowing its use to only SFSU projects and programs. As such Congressman Huffman’s intervention in trying to mediate this dispute is well intended, not some “outside agitator” trying to roil the waters.

    • It doesn’t have “nothing” to do with this issue since TSI’s creation was a result of Halsey’s community service as part of getting his license to practice back. It state’s on TSI’s own website that they were established in 2006, NOT the 1980s.

      • If you actually read my posting you will see that I never claimed TSI was founded in the 80’s. I said the Tyee Club ran the salmon net program then. I know because I was one of people who hand fed the smolts.

    • And I can’t speak for MIT, but feel free to look me up. Marital status doesn’t exist, and I got a parking ticket once because I was home sick and forgot to move my car for street sweeping.

    • Also, as far as education outreach:

      We do Discovery Day, Bay Area Science Festival Explorer Days, the Public Forum twice a year, and just this past Saturday some female masters students visited a local school to speak to 6th-12th grade girls about science at an event called “Expanding Your Horizons.” We do as much outreach as we are able to, but are limited in our ability to be open to the public, including for small children, due to our current limitations in our buildings and the amount of time that needs to be dedicated by researchers who have projects that must be completed and classes to attend. Safety is important to us, and we want to be sure all appropriate areas can be marked off when visitors from the general public are at RTC.

      Masters candidates also often serve as judges at science fairs in the public schools.

      *all of this is my own, not representative of RTC or SFSU as a whole, etc*

    • Hey Richard,

      I think the charges against Brooke, which include withholding evidence from the defense, suppressing evidence and lying to the trial court judge (1), are a little more serious than speeding tickets and shoplifting. Due to the importance of his job as well as swearing to uphold the Constitution I feel I can say Brooke is an unethical individual. And if he is going to go crying to journalists and get his side of the story in the press, I think the people reading those stories have a right to know he’s an unethical person.

      1. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2130530-181/3-year-suspension-for-coaching-witness

      • You know, I seem to remember a famous prophet saying: “Ye who without sin, cast the first stone.” I don’t think it was Mohammad.

        • Wow, just… wow.