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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 

David E. Pesonen 


With an Introduction by 
Phillip S. Berry 

Interviews Conducted by 

Ann Lage 
1991 & 1992 

Copyright 1996 by The Regents of the University of California 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a method of 
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a 
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well- 
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the 
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for 
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected 
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and David E. 
Pesonen dated February 12, 1992. The manuscript is thereby made 
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with David E. Pesonen requires that he be notified of the 
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Dvid E. Pesonen, "Attorney and Activist 
for the Environment, 1962-1992: Opposing 
Nuclear Power at Bodega Bay and Point 
Arena, Managing California Forests and 
East Bay Regional Parks," an oral history 
conducted in 1991 and 1992 by Ann Lage, 
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1996. 

Copy no. 

David Pesonen, fishing trip, 1963. 

Photo by Julie Shearer 

TABLE OF CONTENTS --David E. Pesonen 

INTRODUCTION- -by Phillip S. Berry i 




Influences of Parents and Places 1 

A Boy's View of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath 4 

Father's Career with the Bureau of Reclamation 9 
Physics, Poetry, the Outdoors, and the French Foreign Legion: 

Youthful Interests 13 

Firefighting for the Forest Service, 1953-1954 15 

Forestry Student at Berkeley, 1955-1960 19 


UC's Wildlands Research Center and Stegner's Wilderness Letter 25 
Staff Member for Assembly Fish and Game Committee: Counting 

Deer Tags for Pauline Davis 29 

Working for Dave Brower and the Sierra Club, 1961-1962 31 
A Summer of Waiting and Writing, 1962: Security Clearance 

Problems for United Nations Job and Atomic Park Articles 34 

New Left Philosophies and Bodega Bay 38 

Public Power vs. Private Power and the Bodega Issue 40 

Sierra Club Representative to PUC Hearings on Bodega, May 1962 42 

Focusing on Seismic Hazards and Quitting the Sierra Club Staff 45 


FALL 1964 49 

A Visit to the Atomic Park 49 

Rallying Public Opinion: The November 10 Forum 53 

Saint -Amand and the Earthquake Fault 58 

Relations with PG&E 62 

Role of Udall's Department of Interior 65 

Keeping Bodega in the News: Memorial Day Concert and Balloons 66 

Growing Doubts about Site Safety and PG&E Pullout, October 1964 70 

Stance of Governor Pat Brown and Democratic Party Officials 74 

The Technical and Human Problems with Nuclear Power 77 

Pioneers of Sixties-Style Activism or Pragmatic Campaigners? 82 
Some Key Figures: Doris Sloan, Joe Neilands, Charlie Smith, 

Sam Rogers 85 

Attorney Barney Dreyfus and the Use of Lawsuits at Bodega 89 

Rose Gaffney: A Fearless Volcano 94 

The Role of the University of California 96 

Speculations on Conspiracies and Phone Taps 99 

Looking Back: The Disembodied Evil of Industrial Civilization 101 

Influences of the Bodega Experience on PG&E 103 

Personal Impacts of the Bodega Campaign 104 

Law School: UC's Boalt Hall, 1965-1968 106 

Defending People's Park Activist Dan Siegel 108 

The Partners and Clients in a Radical Old-Left Firm 112 
Peripheral Role in Black Panther Defense 116 
Defending Point Arena from a PG&E Nuclear Power Plant, 1972-1973 119 

The Svengali of the Antinuclear Power Movement? 120 

A Seismically Interesting Problem 122 
Unfavorable Publicity and PG&E's Swift Abandonment of 

Point Arena 123 

The Sierra Club, Ike Livermore, and Nuclear Power 126 

Defending Public Access to Beaches 129 

The Widener Case: Another Encounter with PG&E 130 

A Libel Case in the Interests of Free Speech 133 

A Corrupt Judge, a Sympathetic Jury, a Final Settlement 136 

Defense of Mount Sutro and the City of Davis 138 

The Disturbing Saga of Charles Garry and the People's Temple 142 

First Suspicion of Evil in the Temple 143 

Garry's Trip to Guyana, November 1978 146 

A Difficult Decision to Leave the Garry Firm 148 


Presumed Dead 152 

Genesis of the Idea for Initiative Effort in California 153 

A National Antinuclear-Power Network 153 

Ed Koupal and the Art of Signature-Gathering 155 

Assemblyman Charles Warren's Encouragement 156 

Early Efforts by Koupal, Duskin, and the People's Lobby 157 

Pesonen's Emergence as Leader of a New Campaign, 1975 159 

The Role of Creative Initiative in Qualifying the Ballot Measure 162 

First Meeting with an Extraordinary Organization: Funds 

and Personal Resources 162 

A Sense of Uneasiness 169 

Organizing in Southern California 170 

The "Defection" of Three General Electric Nuclear Engineers 171 

Leadership and Nature of Creative Initiative 173 

An Intense Political Campaign to Pass Proposition 15 177 

Safe Nuclear Power or No Nuclear Power? 178 

Effect of the Warren Legislation on the Campaign 179 

Inspiring and Assisting Efforts in Other States 183 

Jerry Brown and a Debate on Nuclear Power in San Francisco, 1976 184 

Serving on the State Board of Forestry, 1977-1979 188 

The Redwood Park Issue 190 

Chairman Henry Vaux and Board Members 192 

Regulating Non-Point Sources of Pollution 194 

Appointment as Director of the Department of Forestry, 1979 199 

Secretary for Resources Huey Johnson 202 

Restructuring the Department's Staff and Management Systems 205 

Women and Minorities in the Department 206 

Management by Objectives 209 

Renewable Resource Programs 211 
The Fire Fighting Organization: Acquiring Air Force Helicopters 213 

Dismantling the State Fire Fighting Program in Orange County 217 
Sources of Tension between the Director and Department Employees 222 

Relations with Timber Companies and the Legislature 223 

Inspecting Fire Services at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant 229 

Midnight Appointment by Jerry Brown, to the Wrong Court 236 
Swearing-in Ceremonies, Sacramento and Martinez 240 
Preparing for the Bench, Hearing Cases 243 
Two Politically Crucial Sentencing Decisions 247 
Putting Together a Political Campaign 250 
Serious Illness, Poor Press, Election Loss 253 

An Interim Position in Sterns Law Firm 259 
Hired by the Park District; Reorganizing the Staff 260 
Political Controversies and the Politics on the EBRPD Board 263 
Elected Board Members: Intrigue and Interference 267 
A Fatal Mistake and More Intrigue 269 
Leaving the Park District Position 274 
Conflicting Views of the District's Mission 276 
Negotiating the Acquisition of Ferry Point in Martinez 280 

Financing Acquisitions with State Grants and Revenue Bonds 284 
The Regional Park District and the Oakland Zoo 288 
Ardenwood Regional Park 290 
Relations with Park Field Staff and Unions 293 
Quiet Victories in Chabot and Sunol Parks 294 
Reorganizing the Interpretive Program 300 
Lack of Support from the Board for Promoting the Parks 302 
Working with City Officials and Environmental Organizations 305 
Parks for the People or "Nimby" Preserves 307 

Mediating the Dispute between the Sierra Club and the Sierra 

Club Legal Defense Fund 310 
The State Farm Sex-Discrimination- in-Hiring Case: Managing the 

Remedy Phase 319 



A. Karl Kortum letter on Bodega, San Francisco Chronicle. 3/14/62 330 

B. "The Battle of Bodega Bay," by David Pesonen, Sierra Club 

Bulletin. June 1962. 331 

INDEX 332 

INTRODUCTION- -by Phillip S. Berry 

The familiar chest x-ray taken anterior-posterior--"A-P, " fore and 
aft, straight on through the patient--is usually good enough for most 
diagnostic purposes. Less familiar is the oblique angle shot, not so 
frequently used but at times much more informative, particularly for fine 
and subtle distinctions. 

That my own thinking more often follows an A-P approach is probably 
one reason I have enjoyed so much my thirty-five-year friendship with David 
Pesonen, master of the oblique insight. Always catching subtleties others 
miss, Dave has that ability to see the unusual angle a talent much needed 
by those who start public movements or innovate in public policy. 

In the early 1960s serious questioning of so-called peacetime uses of 
nuclear power had barely begun, and Dave was one of those few who kick- 
started the movement to test the safety standards (which proved dismally 
insufficient), pop the balloons of the industry experts, and arouse a 
quiescent public to the dangers and incredible costs of generating 
electricity with atomic power. 

Starting with the Bodega Head fight- -which without him would have 
been merely a skirmish quickly lost by environmentalists and nuclear 
doubtersDave pioneered a movement which has ended with the nuclear power 
industry on its knees, the victim of its own inflated promises, dangerous 
oversimplifications, and stupendous costs. 

I wish I could say the Sierra Club was fully with Dave for all that 
battle, which started when he was a lower level club staff member seeking 
to forestall approval for a PG&E plant at Bodega Head, sited directly over, 
as later discovered, an active earthquake fault. The club was then in the 
process of change, and its leadership balked, taking the now (and to me 
then) incomprehensible position that nuclear power and safety was not a 
conservation issue. Dave quit his club job and continued on, with a few 
hardy allies, but clearly he was the real leader against the plant. He saw 
every angle to exploit and explored every weakness of his utility 

It was almost ten years later that the club board of directors, in a 
divided nine to six vote on my motion, adopted the position implicit in 
Dave's early views: nuclear power could be approved only when, 
overwhelmingly, safety is affirmatively demonstrated and the waste problem 
permanently resolved. Both these problems remain unresolved thirty years 

Dave brought to the Bodega Head fight, and every succeeding effort 
which spanned many conservation matters of great importance, an 
overwhelming sense of purpose, a keen mind, skill at guerrilla fighting, 


and a doggedness in the face of adversity which I still see as a foremost 
trait in my fishing and camping companion of many years now. 

Dave did much after Bodega. His fault finding continued with 
inadvertent help from PG&E, whose engineers seemed to have an unerring 
instinct for siting proposed nuclear plants directly over, or too close to, 
theretofore undiscovered but significant geologic faults. He quickly 
defeated two more plant proposals, bringing his total of nuclear "scalps" 
to a record level. 

Dave's years as California Department of Forestry chief and later as 
head of the East Bay Regional Park District were marked by the same ability 
to see and do things not obvious to others. His imaginative legal 
strategies to save old growth plus a buffer for expansion of Redwood 
National Parks succeeded brilliantly. The loggers' most forceful spokesman 
wrote in 1983: 

By the early sixties the Sierra Club was completing its 
transition from an organization primarily concerned with 
outdoor wildland enjoyment to environmental activism. The 
battle of the Sierra Club vs. the California Tree Farmer was 
begun. It was a battle in which the Tree Farmer was outclassed 
and out-maneuvered and he never won a single skirmish. Phil 
Berry and David Pesonen were both first heard in 1962 in 
testimony representing the Sierra Club calling for stricter and 
more rigid regulation; a song they continue to sing up to, and 
including, this very day. 

Who else but Dave would have suggested that the State Forestry take over 
the task of preserving the great elm trees lining Sacramento streets, 
simply to save energy through the cooling shade they provided? Who else 
would have audaciously proposed that the park district join an Interstate 
Commerce Commission proceeding to oppose a major rail abandonment, with the 
result, through eventual settlement, that the old right-of-way became a 
public park? A few examples, and I can give many more, wherein Dave saw a 
way through the complex maze. 

I wish at times Dave appreciated more my predominantly "A-P" 
approach. Then I might not so often have to correct his misreading of 
topographic maps. He might even give up insisting that we delay to make 
coffee when the fish are biting early in the morning. 

But may he never lose his trademark "obliqueness." It has served him 
and us, the conservation movement, very well indeed. 

Phillip S. Berry, Esq., 

Sierra Club, Vice President, Legal 

Oakland, California 
September 1996 



Best known for his highly visible leadership role in the battle to 
defeat a PG&E nuclear power plant at Bodega Bay in the early 1960s, David 
Pesonen has had a less visible but much longer thirty-five year career as 
environmental activist, manager, and attorney. Because of his importance 
to the history of the environmental movement, the Regional Oral History 
Office urged the California State Archives Oral History Program to record 
his work in state government; we then expanded the project to a full oral 
history documenting his varied life and career. 

David Pesonen 's first job as a graduate of UC Berkeley's School of 
Forestry was with the UC Wildlands Research Center, working on a Wilderness 
Report for the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission. His brief 
stint with the Center resulted in a lasting contribution to wilderness 
literature. Struggling to complete his section of the report, on 
wilderness as an idea, Pesonen enlisted the help of Wallace Stegner, a 
writer whom he did not know but whose work he admired. Pesonen 's request 
struck a cord with Stegner: the result of his entreaty was Stegner 's famous 
Wilderness Letter (to David Pesonen, dated Dec. 3, 1960). Stegner later 
said, "This letter, the labor of an afternoon, has gone farther around the 
world than other writings on which I have spent years." 

Not long after, David Pesonen was hired as conservation editor by 
David Brower, then executive director of the Sierra Club. One of his 
assignments was to represent the club at the May 1962 hearings of the 
Public Utility Commission on PG&E's plans to build a nuclear power plant 
north of San Francisco at the quiet harbor of Bodega Bay. He emerged as 
leader of what seemed to be a quixotic campaign by the north coast locals 
to defeat the utilities giant, and two and one-half years later his group, 
the Northern California Association to Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor, 
celebrated PG&E's abandonment of the Bodega plan. In his oral history 
David Pesonen recalls in detail the decisive moments, strategic decisions, 
publicity efforts, and inspired leadership of that first significant 
citizens' battle over nuclear power. Jazz concerts, picnics, "radioactive" 
balloon releases, picketing, legal action, Sacramento lobbying, expert 
scientific testimonyall were part of the success of the Bodega campaign 
and all influenced the many environmental campaigns to come later in the 
sixties and seventies. 

Motivated by the Bodega experience to become an attorney, David 
Pesonen attended UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School. He then joined the San 
Francisco firm of Garry, Dreyfus, McTernan, and Brotsky, a radical old-left 
law firm committed to political causes. During this period he continued 
his work in opposition to unsafe nuclear power, helping the Sierra Club 
defeat a PG&E nuclear plant at Point Arena on the northern California coast 
and running the campaign for the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative of 1976. 


This latter three-year effort was defeated by the voters but prompted 
strong legislation that accomplished most of its aims. It was another nail 
in the coffin of the nuclear power industry in California, as well as an 
early and imaginative effort to use the initiative process to further the 
environmentalist agenda. The oral history also gives his perspective on 
the Charles Garry law firm and Garry's involvement with the Black Panther 
Party and the tragedy of the People's Temple at Jonestown. 

In 1977, Pesonen returned to his forestry profession as a member of 
the State Board of Forestry, then chaired by UC Professor of Forestry Henry 
Vaux. In 1979, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to head the 
Department of Forestry, leaving at the end of the Brown governorship to 
become a superior court judge. Later he served for three years as general 
manager of the East Bay Regional Parks (1985-1988). His reflections on 
these two managerial positions illuminate the complex organizational issues 
and personal dynamics within two very different public agencies, as well as 
the environmental and resource management issues confronted, from fire- 
fighting to resource renewal, from land acquisition to interpretative 

The Pesonen oral history also contributes to legal and judicial 
history, with its discussion of his appointment and service as superior 
court judge in Contra Costa County (1983-1984) and his work as an attorney 
in private practice. 

The eight interview sessions were conducted from December 1991 to May 
1992, a total of fifteen tape-recorded hours. 1 David was familiar with 
oral history and the Regional Oral History Office because his former wife, 
Julie Shearer, was a longtime oral historian at ROHO. They had met and 
married during the Bodega campaign, which Julie covered as a reporter for 
the Mill Valley Record. Julie's recollections of Bodega and later events 
were a helpful source of information for the interviewer. Preparation for 
the interviews included research in the Sierra Club records and Joel 
Hedgpeth papers in the Bancroft, several ROHO oral histories on the Sierra 
Club and forestry, minutes of the Board of Forestry, records of the 
Department of Forestry, and a number of published and unpublished accounts 
of the Bodega campaign and the nuclear initiative campaign and other 

Interviews were held most often in David's home in the Elmwood area 
of Berkeley, with two sessions in his law office at Saperstein, Mayeda, 
Larkin, and Goldstein, in Oakland. He spoke informally, clearly, and 
candidly. He was modest about his accomplishments, displaying a notable 
degree of perspective in analyzing these seminal events and his role in 

'Interview sessions 5, 6, and 7 (Chapters VI-IX of this volume) were 
recorded for the California State Archives State Government Oral History 
Program's "Oral History Interview with David E. Pesonen", 1992. 

them. His transcribed words required minimal editing, and he made almost 
no changes during his review of the transcript. 

The selection of photographs illustrating the Bodega battle come from 
a post-victory scrapbook prepared for him by his grateful co-campaigners 
Jean and Karl Kortum, and Julie Shearer. David's longtime friend, fishing 
and camping companion, and fellow attorney and environmentalist Phillip 
Berry wrote the insightful introduction to this volume. 

In December 1992, David Pesonen married Mary Jane LaBelle of 
Berkeley. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between Berkeley, serving 
as a private judge and mediator, and his Oregon ranch on the Sixes River, a 
fine salmon and steelhead stream where he pursues his passions for fishing 
and growing things . 

The Regional Oral History Office, a division of The Bancroft Library, 
has been recording first-hand accounts of leading participants in the 
history of California and the West since its founding in 1954. This volume 
adds an important perspective to our on-going documentation of the 
environmental movement and natural resources management issues. 

Researchers interested in these topics may wish to consult Regional 
Oral History Office interviews with David Brower, Richard Leonard, Wallace 
Stegner, and Phillip Berry in the Sierra Club series; Henry Vaux in 
Forestry; Francis Heisler in legal history; and Joel Hedgpeth in the Parks 
and Environment series. 

Ann Lage 
Interviewer /Editor 

September 1996 
Berkeley, California 


Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 


(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 
Your full name ^^ >/ t '/ & 

Date of birth 

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A/Offal fiW<* . > 

Father's full name 





/*#. fa/fe . 

Mother's full name 

Occupation t^'trrX? 1 ^, ^oS 

Your spouse 


Occupation /^ <V 

Birthplace fa /&.'&' <! *^. 

Your children 

Where did you grow up? X/ 
Present community 



Areas of expertise 


Other interests or activities 

Organizations in which you are active 

[Interview 1: December 17, 1991 HI 1 

Influences of Parents and Places 

Lage: Today is December 17th, 1991, and this is the first interview 
with David Pesonen. We were going to start by looking back at 
family influences, boyhood experiences, that kind of thing. And 
I know your father, in particular, was a big influence on you. 
Do you want to start telling something about your parents? 

Pesonen: Well, my mother [Eleanor Sarah Barton] was more of an influence, 
as I look back on it now, than I thought when I was growing up. 
Both parents were a good influencequite different influences. 
In fact, how they got along, I don't know, but they did they 
loved each other. I think it's because my father [Everett Alex 
Pesonen] was such a kind and thoughtful person, and my mother had 
all those instincts, too, although she was much more volatile .- 

I was born in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 1934. It was 
during the Depression. My parents were married in 1932, and my 
father had just graduated from Michigan State in landscape 
architecture. My mother aspired to be a poet and a writer, and 
she was an English major. I don't know how they met, and if I 
did, I've forgotten. They weren't very wealthy. My father came 
from an immigrant family in upper-peninsula Michigan. His father 
had come from Finland to work in the iron mines. 

Lage: Was it a Finnish community? 

'This symbol (it) indicates that a tape or tape segment has begun or 
ended. A guide to the tapes follows the transcript. 

Pesonen: It was a Finnish community, and he had gone to Finnish school. 

He was the eldest of five- -five who survived, there were two who 
died in infancyand they moved to a farm when he was very young. 
So he grew up working the farm. Since he was the eldest, he was 
the one who could go to college. It's a holdover from peasant 
culture in the old country that the eldest inherited whatever 
there was to inherit. None of his siblings went to college. All 
but one are still alivethey're a very durable bunch of people. 
But, in any event, they had some timber on the farm. They sold 
the timber, and that helped to finance my father's education. 
And he worked. He taught school when he was right out of high 

So my parents met in college. There was a famous Finnish 
politician named Emil Hurja. I don't remember how to spell that. 
Hurja was one of the prominent people in the New Deal. He was 
very active in bringing Finnish immigrants to the United States. 
But he was also very active in promoting their careers and he 
took a shine to my father. 

Lage: Now, how did he meet him in Michigan? 

Pesonen: I don't know. He was a congressional aide from that area. I 
don't know for sure. But he got my father a job in the 
Department of the Interior, in the National Park Service. 

Lage: Did he know William Penn Mott? He was a landscape architect, 

too. [Former director of California State Department of Parks and 
Recreation and of the National Park Service] 

Pesonen: He went to school with William Penn Mott. 
Lage: Oh, he did? 

Pesonen: They were classmates. I think Mott was a year ahead of my 

father, but they knew each other in college. It just shows what 
a small world it is. In fact, I saw Mott just last week. In any 
event, my father got a job somehow as a minor designer in the New 
Deal administration in the Department of the Interior in Parks, 
and my father is a very good administratorhe's very good with 
people. He's got an equanimity about him that people like and 
are drawn to. So he moved up fairly rapidly in administrative 

For reasons I don't remember, when I was about a year old, 
we moved to Oklahoma City. He had some position with the 
National Park Service there--! don't know what it was. My 
brother was born there two years after I was born, on July 4th, 
in fact, 1936. I think we lived in Oklahoma for about a year and 

then moved- -the first place I really remember living was Santa 
Fe, New Mexico. My father had a position as a middle manager of 
some kind in the National Park Service in New Mexico. He 
traveled a lot, visiting parks, supervising the design and 
building of parks, supervising Civilian Conservation Corps crews. 

Lage: So this was all Depression era work in the Park Service? 

Pesonen: There was a lot of emphasis under the New Deal, I think really 
the result of--who was the Secretary of the Interior? 

Lage: Ickes. 

Pesonen: Ickes. Harold Ickes. Ickes was enamored of the idea of putting 
young farm boys and city boys to work rehabilitating the country. 
So there was a lot of that going on all over the country, 
including New Mexico. My parents loved New Mexico, and I loved 
Santa Fe. 

My mother's stepfather died while we were there, and she 
inherited some money which was supposed to go for my college 
education. Her dream all her life was to own a bookstore. So 
she bought the Viagra bookstore in Santa Fe with that 
inheritance. In those days, Santa Fe was a kind of bohemian 
center for artists and writerslater led to what Taos is still 
today. So she hobnobbed with all kinds of people who were in 
that artistic community and she just loved it. She was a 
bohemian spirit. 

Lage: Now you're still very young at this point. 

Pesonen: Yes, but I remember this. 

Lage: About what year would it have been? 

Pesonen: This would have been 1938 and 1939. 

Lage: So you were just four or five. 

Pesonen: I remember it very vividly. I remember the smell of pinon smoke, 
I remember the hubbub of people coming through the house all the 
time, visiting my mother's bookstore--! loved the smell of books. 
I just loved the whole scene. 

Then, in 1939, my father was appointed head of the Civilian 
Conservation Corps for all of the Hawaiian Islands. So we moved 
to Hawaii in late 1939 or early 1940. 


That was a big change. 

Pesonen: That was a big change. I remember getting on the ship at Fort 

Mason here in San Francisco. It was just a wonderful time. And 
my mother was delighted. 

Lage: Oh she was? I was thinking it might be a hard move for her. 

Pesonen: She loved people and she loved new places, and Hawaii was another 
bohemian center. A lot of expatriate-type people. We got to 
Hawaii in late '39 or early "40 and I loved the islands. I never 
had any shoes, climbed the mango treesit was just a playground. 

Lage: Which island did you live on? 

Pesonen: We lived in Honolulu. Since my father was a very high government 
official, my parents got invited to a lot of parties, and there 
was a lot of activity. It was a happy time. It was a happy time 
for me and my brother. We just loved to play, go to the beach--! 
learned to swim there. We lived about a block from Waikiki 
beach, and I went to the beach every day I think. I just loved 
to swim and play around. I don't remember that I did anything 
productive, but that's where I started school. They had a 
program at the University of Hawaii for a teacher's college where 
elementary school kids would be taught at the University by the 

Lage: Teachers in training? 

Pesonen: --teachers in training. So I went to the University of Hawaii. 
My brother wasn't in school yet then. All I remember is just 
that it was a lot of fun. 

A Boy's View of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath 

Pesonen: The next big thing that happened was Pearl Harbor. 

Lage: So you were there at the time of Pearl Harbor. 

Pesonen: I remember that very vividly. 

Lage: You have a good memory. 

Pesonen: I remember some things. Some things I don't remember at all. 
have a visual memory. 


And olfactory. 

Pesonen: Well, before I started smoking I had an olfactory memory, 
[laughter] I remember Pearl Harbor day just like it was 
yesterday. It was fifty years ago this week. 

I can remember waking up. We were thinking about Christmas. 
The tree was up, the presents were in, I was expecting my first 
electric train. The first thing I remember is going into the 
kitchen. We had a Japanese maid whose name was Matsuko. She was 
weeping and my mother was comforting her. The radio was blaring 
"The islands are under attack," and we could hear explosions. I 
got dressed immediately and went up on the roof to watch the 
action. We had a roof you could get onto- -the other houses you 
couldn't get onto so easilyso all the kids from the 
neighborhood came and sat on our roof. We all sat on the roof 
and watched. You could watch dogfights in the air, and the ack- 
ack, and the airplanes going this way and that, and bombs 
fallingit was very exciting. [laughter] 

Lage: I'll say--a kid's view of Pearl Harbor. 

Pesonen: But we weren't scared. It was all just a big show. 

Lage: It was all at a distance. 

Pesonen: It was a ways away. It was about ten miles away. There were 
aircraft going over Honolulu-- Japanese aircraft. The sky was 
full of actionlittle black puffs of ack-ack smoke all over the 
place and airplanes going this way and that. There seemed to be 
no pattern to it. Lots of excitement. 

Lage: You didn't, as a young person, have the sense of something 

building that other people who were there seemed to have had in 
the period leading up to Pearl Harbor? 

Pesonen: I seem to remember that my parents would listen to the Sunday 

night news. Even Drew Pearson had a radio program. Drew Pearson 
and a reporter named Gabriel Heatter my mother called him 
"Bleater Heatter." [laughter] He'd say "There's good news 
tonight," or "There's bad news tonight." That was how he 
introduced his program. And there was some talk of this 
impending buildup of Japanese antagonism, and then there was lots 
of news of the war in Europe, which was going badly for the 
Russians and for a lot of people. I didn't really understand it 
at first. I was seven years old then, but I did understand what 
was happening in Pearl Harbor. 

Well, after the attack was over--. My father, in fact, had 
been out at Pearl Harbor fishing earlier in the morning. He had 

left before the attack started. So he had just gotten home. I 
suppose if he had been out there 

Lage: You might have been feeling a little different. 

Pesonen: Then everything changed. They closed the schools. My mother had 
a job working for the Army Corps of Engineers, and immediately 
martial law was declared and people were frozen in their jobs. 
My mother couldn't quit. 

Lage: Couldn't leave her job? 

Pesonen: Couldn't leave her job and look after us. We didn't go to school 
then, so we had all day to just get in trouble. And we did. 
[laughter] We got bored after a while, I think after a couple of 
weeks, and we gathered all--I remember thiswe gathered all the 
wastebaskets in the house and piled all of the papers in the 
living room and set them on fire. We thought that would be very 
excitingthat would be a lot of fun. 

Lage: That might bring Mother home from work! 

Pesonen: Fortunately a neighbor was going by and came in and extinguished 
this thing. But Mother was at her wit's end- -what was she going 
to do with these two wild kids who had no school to keep them 
occupied. She couldn't leave her job; it was illegal. She'd be 
arrested. There was rigid martial law: lights were out all the 
time; there was black paper on the windows; we dug a bomb shelter 
in the front yard. 

My father had gone out to various camps to inspect the 
damage after the day of the attack and had brought home the wing 
of a Japanese zero that had been shot down and crashed near one 
of his camps. I was the envy of the neighborhood. I had the 
wing of a Japanese airplane, or a large part of the wing anyway, 
to play with in the front yard. 

We dug a bomb shelter, and then they dug big bomb shelters 
in all of the parks. We went through drills to go underground 
whenever these drills went offthey were always going off. You 
got so you almost didn't pay attention to them after a while. 

Lage: So they expected more attacks? 

Pesonen: They expected a real invasion. My father was enlisted into a 
businessman's training corps. I still have a picture of him 
somewhere in a uniform; he had a .45 automatic that he wore 
around his belt. They went out and marched him here and there. 
They never got into anything. [laughter] 

Lage: I don't understand the closing of the schools too well. 

Pesonen: Well, the schools weren't safe, and until they built bomb 
shelters, they wouldn't reopen the schools. 

Lage: And most women didn't work? What did they think would happen 
with all these kids? 

Pesonen: I have no idea. That was not my concern. [laughter] 
Lage: Of course not. 

Pesonen: Well, Mother was at her wit's end. She threatened to send us to 
reform school. We had no knowledge of what that was. I remember 
my brother and me packing our toys up in a little yellow box, and 
we went out and put it in the car. We got in the car, and my 
father started the engine, and he was going to take us to reform 
school. Mother just didn't know what to do with us. I pleaded 
with him to let me go back in and plead with her one more time, 
and she relented. Of course, she didn't have any idea what a 
reform school wasthis was just carrying the threat. [laughter] 
Reform school was one of those things that was like hell for 
Catholics. It was a place where you went and never came back. 

Lage: My mother used to threaten military academy to my brother, 

Pesonen: Finally, the schools reopened, and we went back to school. Of 
course, by this time my father's job had ended because the CCC 
[Civilian Conservation Corps] was a make-work program for young 
men, and the war took care of that. So there was no work for him 
in the islands. We stayed about a year. We lost our housewe 
were renting it and the military took it over or something. So 
we spent the last three or four months living on the far side of 
the island. 

My brother, who was very gregarious, had walked in on some 
neighborjust walked in and started talking. He had a way of 
doing that. He made friends with this family and they had a 
beach cottage on the other side of the island which they let us 
use while we were waiting to be sent back to the States. And 
that was a wonderful time. It was an isolated little house way 
out on the other side of the island. There was a little cane 
railroad that ran right through the front yard and a big empty 

My parents still had to go to work every day, so Bart and I 
just walked the beach. 


You didn't have to go to school? 

Pesonen: We didn't have to go to school. We just played on the beach. We 
would find little fish, and we'd find things on the beach. We 
just had a wonderful time. I remember one day we'd walked way up 
the beach and we were walking back and we heard a huge roar 
behind us and we turned around and just skimming the sand were 
five fighter planes in training on low-level flights. I mean 
just right at the surface. They were P-40s with the tigers 
painted on the front, over the cowling of the engine. We just 
fell flat on the sand and the planes veered up, and I can 
remember looking up and seeing the pilot laughing at us out of 
the cockpit. 

Lage: This combination of the idyllic beach setting and these war-like 
maneuvers going on. 

Pesonen: They were war maneuvers. 

Well, finally we were sent home, and we were sent home in a 
convoy on the Hunter-Liggett, I think, was the name of the ship. 
It was a transport and we were crammed into a very small 
stateroom with the bunks stacked up along the side. Two days out 
we stopped and just sat, waiting for another vessel to catch up 
with us. It was the battleship California, which had been sunk 
on December 7th and raised and patched. But it wasn't completely 
repaired. It still listed about ten or fifteen degrees and was 
very slow. They were bringing it back to the states to, I think, 
Bremerton, to be completely rebuilt and put back into service. 
So this strange convoy was finally assembled outside Honolulu: 
the battleship California, three or four troop ships like the one 
we were on bringing people back to the states, a tanker, two 
destroyers, and we were very slow. It took us about twelve or 
fifteen days to get back. 

Well, my brother got the mumps right out of Honolulu, and 
swelled up like a chipmunk. We were all stuck in this little 
stateroom and we thought we'd all get it. 

And then it got stormy and we had--I can remember the drills 
for submarine attack. Well, finally we did have an attack and 
the drills really went off. The drill was to go to your 
stateroom, put your life jacket on, and wait for further orders. 
I can remember all of us huddling in this stateroom as depth 
charges went off where destroyers were searching for this 
submarine that supposedly had been spotted. It's a sound you'll 
never forget. It must be horrible if you're in a submarine to 
have that sound, but it's bad enough in a surface ship, because 
it's this huge explosion that comes in at you from all parts of 






the room. The ship's hull must pick up this enormous explosion 
and then just implode it into each little space. And these 
explosions kept going off, one after the other. Finally they 
stopped and the order was given to get in the lifeboats. My 
brother still had the mumps, and it was freezing cold. I can 
remember sitting in a lifeboat with Mother holding my little 
brother wrapped in a blanket, and they swung the lifeboats out on 
the davits, and we were hanging out over the water. And then we 
just sat there. [laughter] 

What an experience! 

Finally it was all over, and the lifeboats were swung back in 
they had them all ready to drop in case the ship was hit with a 
torpedo and then it was back to normal life on the ship. 

How did people react? 

All differently. Mother was a little hysterical, 
was a wonderful, exciting experience. 

You weren't scared? 

I thought it 

No, I wasn't--! don't remember being frightened. I remember 
thinking "This is just a great adventure." The whole thing was a 
great adventure. [laughter] 

In general was the tone calm, or were people panicked? 

People were pretty calm, I think, generally in those 
circumstances. As long as there seems to be somebody in charge, 
and things aren't falling apart. 

You had a routine, you knew what you were supposed to do- 
People were frightened, I'm sure, and maybe suppressing their 
panic, but there wasn't a lot of hysteria. 

Father's Career with the Bureau of Reclamation 

Pesonen: We finally got back to the States. We got back to San Francisco 
and I think they put us up in the Mark Hopkinsone of the big 
hotels downtownfor a couple of weeks. My father then got a 
job, or maybe had it already before he left the islands, with the 
Bureau of Reclamation, in the planning of Millerton Reservoir 
outside of Fresno. 








You mean that was going on in the middle of the war? 

Yes. The Central Valley Project was launched in the late 
thirties and was really getting started in the early forties. 

It's surprising that it continued through the war years. 

Lots of things continued through the war years, including the 
Central Valley Project which was a huge public works project that 
reshaped California. My father was a Progressive a New Deal 
Progressiveand he thought it was wonderful. He believed in TVA 
[Tennessee Valley Authority], he believed in a lot of things 
which have become albatrosses, economically, now. And, of 
course, people didn't think about environmental consequences of 
big dams and great transfers of water and irrigation projects. 
It was all making the desert bloom. 

Right. It was the Progressive thing to do. 

And my father was certainly part of that. We lived in Fresno for 
about a year. I can remember we had Christmas there in 1943, I 

Was your father of an age where he was too old for military 

He was too old to be called, 
have been forty years old. 

Well, he was born in 1902, so he'd 

Fresno was fun, too. I mean, I just had--I enjoyed being a 
kid. [laughter] There were a lot of outdoor things. 

Was there hunting and fishing? Was that part of your upbringing? 

My father would take us to Kings Canyon fishing, and since he had 
a government job, he had a car, and he had a little money, and he 
had some leisure time, and he spent it with us. He spent a lot 
of time with my brother and me. In fact, the whole family- -we 
did a lot of things together. My mother didn't like to camp. 
She wasn't a bit interested in fishing. But she loved just 
looking at scenery. 

How did she like Fresno after Santa Fe and Hawaii and-- 

Well, I don't know. My mother was a pretty jolly person. Jeez, 
I don't remember her ever being somber or sour about it. She was 
a good mothershe took good care of us. That's all that I 
noticed, you know? I always had plenty to eat, and plenty of 
clothes, and felt loved, and my parents loved each other. They 


got along very well. I don't remember any family strife in my 
life, of any kind, until many years later. That probably was a 
very important influence. I was a secure person from the time I 
was born. 

Lage: Despite almost being taken to reform school. [laughter] 

Pesonen: Well, that was just a matter of asserting authority. You need 
authority, too, when you're a kid- -you need authority and 
authority figures. I don't recall any unhappiness as a child, or 
any sense of insecurity. These things that would cause like 
being there at Pearl Harbor and being in the lifeboats and things 
that would be traumatic for people who were already unsure of 
where they stood in the world would be frightening experiences, 
but if you are very secure about who you are and where you are 
and about your emotional support system, then you've got time to 
think of them as adventures. They come to you that way. And 
that's the way I look back on that part of my life. 

Then we moved to Sacramento. My father was promoted into 
some higher level position. I think he ultimately ended up as 
assistant regional director, but with responsibility for all of 
the fish and wildlife and park planning and recreational planning 
of the Central Valley Project. He loved that job, and I think he 
was very good at it. I never really quite understood what he 
did--I didn't pay that much attention to it--but he had to go out 
into the field a lot to these projects, like Shasta Dam, the 
Delta Mendota Canalall kind of things. And he would take my 
brother and me with him. We traveled a lot of the time, whenever 
it was possible, to go and see what was building, then, at the 
Central Valley Project. Some people now see it as an 
environmental disaster for California, but nobody saw it that way 

Lage: It was totally different-- 

Pesonen: And, of course, his job was to mitigate the environmental 
consequences to the extent that they were understood. 

Lage: They wouldn't have used those terms-- 

Pesonen: They wouldn't have used those terms, and there probably was an 

economic reason for it. I think in justifying the cost of a dam 
or another water project of any kind, there would be a component 
for electric generation, there would be a component for 
irrigation benefits, there would be a component for recreation 
benefits, and some of these projects probably weren't 
economically feasible unless you manufactured a recreational 
benefit to justify them to Congress for the funding. So, as I 


look back on it now--a lot wisera lot of what he did probably 
was window dressing from the point of view of the top manager of 
the Bureau. That wasn't the way he saw it. 


Lage: What was your father's perception of his work? 

Pesonen: Well, looking back on it, he was mitigating the inevitable side 
effects of the great social experiments- -the great social 
projects. A lot of people would look back on it differently now. 
I gave him, a couple years ago, a copy of the book Cadillac 
Desert which I thoroughly enjoyed, and that retrospective view of 
the wars between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of 
Reclamation over water development in the West just wasn't 
perceived then. 

There has been a whole social awakening in the environmental 
movement. Maybe somebody saw then, but even Aldo Leopold didn't 
see that- -didn't see it coming. We just know a whole lot more 
about selenium in water, about the effect of great transfers out 
of the Delta and the Bay. We were ignorant then. We're still 
ignorant, but we were more ignorant then. 

Lage: How did your father react to the book? 

Pesonen: Well, by the time I gave it to him, he was suffering from the 
early stages of senility, and I don't think he ever read it. 

Lage: Had you discussed these changing perceptions of the big water 
projects with him? 

Pesonen: I can't really, now. He doesn't have much memory left. He'll be 
ninety next year, and he's really fading fast. He was fading 
then. So you can't discuss those things with him now. 

Lage: Yes, but the environmental movement did start raising these 
issues when he was still well. Was he defensive about it? 

Pesonen: No, he wasn't defensive about it. He was really philosophical. 
He did what he thought was right and he had a lot of integrity. 
He's a cheerful person, and he doesn't torture himself with 
doubts about whether he did the right thing. He did what he 
thought was right and if it was wrong, it wasn't because he 
thought he was doing wrong. And so he doesn't have any regrets, 
or he didn't have any when he was capable of having regrets. 
That's the way history unfolded. He was very proud of what I did 
in the nuclear movement. I think he thinks --he's glad I've done 
what I've done; he's proud of me. I tried to live up to his 


expectations. He never pushed me in any particularneither 
parent pushed me in any direction. I always knew I was going to 
go to college, and I always knew I was going to be active in some 
socially useful way. That was just a given. It wasn't as though 
it was expected of me in a way that I was pressured. That's the 
environment I grew up in, that's what I expected to do. 

Physics, Poetry, the Outdoors, and the French Foreign Legion; 
Youthful Interests 

Pesonen: My first real interest was in being a nuclear physicist. I got 
fascinated with nuclear physics when I was a teenager in high 
school. I read everything I could about it. That's the way I do 
a lot of things. 

Lage : Now what year would this have been? 

Pesonen: That would have been 1951 and '52 and into '53 when I started in 
junior college. I get interested in things, and then I start 
reading all I can find about them. 

Lage: Do you know how that interest developed? Was it a teacher or-- 

Pesonen: No, I don't know how that developed. I think that's just the way 
I was. When I was just a kid I got interested in raising 
rabbits, and I read everything about rabbits, and I built rabbit 
hutches, and I had rabbits, and then I lost interest in rabbits. 
I built model airplanes, I built all kinds of model airplanes, 
and I spent a year or two doing that. My brother was the same 
way. He got interested in collecting butterflies. He had 
butterflies all over the place. 

Lage: Was this with the parent participation or just tolerance? 

Pesonen: With parent encouragement, or tolerance, depending on what it 

was. I got interested in nuclear energy, and I read everything I 
could about it. I wasn't a brilliant enough mathematician to 
really ever be a good physicist or a good mathematician. I was a 
mediocre math student. I was fascinated by all this stuff, but I 
wasn't brilliant. And I knew at some point that I would never be 
a great physicist if I went into physics. And there were 
conflicting interests. My mother was a poet, and I always had a 
literary interest. 

Lage: Did you read a lot? 

Pesonen: I wrote a lot. I always had an interest in the outdoors. My 

father was very active in the Unitarian Church in Sacramento. He 
helped to found it and keep it alive and raise money for it and 
was president of the board. He insisted that I go to Sunday 
school every Sunday, but he gave me a choice, I think when I was 
twelve--! had to go until I was twelve, and then I could decide 
for myself. As soon as I was twelve, I quit going to church, 
because I thought if there was a God he was living out at the 
river. [laughter] And I wanted to go out and play around the 
river. I loved the smell of willows and river water and river 
banks and all that decaying stuff that goes on around rivers. I 
loved rivers. So Sunday morning I'd go to the river and go 
fishing, and we'd play up and down the river. 

Sacramento's a great place for kids. There are two rivers 
there that come together, and they're both wonderful rivers: the 
Sacramento and the American. They're just interesting rivers. 
There's a lot of life in themthere was then, anyway. [pause] 

Lage: We have you in junior college with an interest in nuclear 

Pesonen: Well, I wanted to go to the University [of California]. I didn't 
really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wouldn't be a 
physicist. I toyed with the idea of being a writer, but I didn't 
see how I could ever make a living at that. I didn't know what I 
wanted to do. Then I dropped out of school. I couldn't get into 
the University because, despite this wonderful background of an 
English major mother and my father was a very good writer also, I 
flunked the Subject A exam. [laughter] I couldn't get admitted 
into the University, so I had to go back to junior college to 
make up my English requirements. We got bored--! had some 
friends there: Neil Jones and Bob Connelly. We hung out and 
played cards and pretty soon we started cutting classes. So, 
without my parents' knowledge, I quit school entirely and got two 
jobs. We decided we were going to go to France and join the 
French Foreign Legion. 

Lage: More adventure. 

Pesonen: And I got a job in a can company, the Continental Can Company, 
making tin cans during the daytime, and at night running the 
computers for the Department of Motor Vehicles. We saved all our 
money, and I told my parents I was studying at the library every 
night . 

That was 1953. I saved up enough money and my friend Bob 
Connelly, who's now chief of staff for the Assembly Rules 
Committee in the legislaturea very old, close friendhe took 


off ahead of me chasing a girlfriend of his who was working in 
Pakistan, and then he and I were going to hook up in Paris and 
get on to Algiers or someplace and join the Foreign Legion. 

Lage: Was that really an option? 

Pesonen: We thought it was. It was at least an excuse. So I told my 

parents what my plan was and confessed that I had not been going 
to school and that I had saved my money for this great adventure. 
I didn't tell them that I was going to join the Foreign Legion, I 
was just going to go to Europe and have my European tour. So I 
hitchhiked to New York--I remember my father taking me out and 
dropping me off and shaking my hand and wishing me well as he 
dropped me off with a little pack on Highway 40. I hitchhiked 
all the way to New York City and hung around New York for a 
couple of weeks. I had a ticket on the Holland-American lines 
for $200 to go to Europe. When I picked up my mail at general 
delivery, there was a draft notice. That saved me. [laughter] 

Lage: Saved you from what? 

Pesonen: If I had gone to Europe, I really was going to join the Foreign 
Legion. So I flew back to California and went down to the 
induction center on the appointed day, and they turned me away. 
They said "We thought you'd gone to Europe, so you're not being 
drafted." The Korean War was just over or just about to be over, 
but there was still a draft, and since I wasn't in school, I was 

classified 1A and ready to go. 
place for me. 

But they said they didn't have a 

Firefighting for the Forest Service. 1953-1954 

Pesonen: So I heard that the Forest Service had a job fire fighting up in 
the Mendocino National Forest, and I drove up to the headquarters 
in Willows and told them I wanted a job as a fire fighter. They 
had an opening up at a little place called Alder Springs, and 
there was one captain there named Julio Silva, and he hired me. 
He was in charge of the station, and I would drive the fire 
engines. I had driven trucks before when I was a kid. I had 
worked on a farmthe Waegell ranch- -through high school. So I 
knew all about machinery and I knew how to work it, felt 
comfortable with it. This was a logging camp which also had this 
crew there. Julio lived with his family, and I lived alone in 
another little house. 


When I had been there about a week, I drove down to Willows 
to get my physical exam for this job, and on the way back, I came 
around a corner and here was Julio coming down the hill in the 
fire engine. He said "Park your car, get in- -we've got a fire." 
So I hopped in and we went down the road about a mile and around 
a corner. Here was a huge fire just taking off up the mountain 
side. We couldn't possibly do anything with it. We called for 
all the help. This was my first exposure to fire- -I'd been on 
the job a week- -no training, just a healthy body and knew how to 
use a shovel. It turned out to be one of the great disasters of 
all fires in Forest Service history. 

That night one of the other fire engine drivers disappeared, 
so Julio had to go and drive that engine, and I was left alone 
driving our engine. There was a lot of confusion. By this time 
many forces had been brought in, and the fire was racing north 
into the timber. It was called the Rattlesnake fire. I think 
this was 1953, probably July or late June. 

Suddenly I heard that there were some people who had been 
killed. A crew had been sent down into a canyon to put out a 
spot fire and stopped to eat their lunch there, and the wind had 
completely reversed. In the valley on the west side, during the 
day, the heat from the valley causes the breeze to go up-canyon. 
But at night, when the valley turns cold, that process reverses 
itself, and its almost instantaneous. It'll happen within a 
minute or two. The fire had turned around and run down into this 
canyon, and there were nineteen people burned to death- -the crew 
leader who lived next door to us at our station, who was a 
forester, and a crew of eighteen missionaries from a little camp 
up in the Mendocino forest called the New Tribes Mission. These 
were born-again Christians who were training to go to Central 
America and convert the Indians or something. They made extra 
money by fighting fires for the Forest Service. 

So I was diverted from fire fighting to look for survivors. 
I spent the night driving little back trails in this four-wheel 
drive wagon--in a fire engine. And I found a couple of people 
who had escaped this conflagration. But the next day we found 
the nineteen bodies down in the brush. They were all completely 
burned. So that was my initiation to forestry and fires. 

Well, I stayed the summer and liked the work. We had a 
good, busy fire year. Julio and I went to a lot of little 
lightning fires and all kinds of fires and I loved the work. I 
loved taking care of the equipment, I loved sharpening the tools, 
I loved being out there, and I loved fire fighting. Also, I got 
paid well. 


Lage: And that first experience didn't turn you off? 

Pesonen: No, it didn't. In fact, Julio and I helped catch the guy who set 


Lage: Oh, it was an arson fire. 

Pesonen: Julio had spotted a car turning off into Grindstone Canyon when 
he was driving down before he had met me and picked me up. We 
went back to fire camp the next day, and as we were going through 
the mess line, an investigator came up to me and asked me if I 
had seen anything. I said "No, but Julio may have." Then he 
went and talked to Julio. The fellow who was dishing up my 
mashed potatoes or steak at that moment was a cook, and he said, 
"Well, they're describing my car." It turned out he had set the 
fire. They arrested him, and he was sent off to prison. 

Lage: Did he just get the job after-- 
Pesonen: He had set the fire to get the job. 
[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: I loved that summer, and fire season lasted until about the first 
of November, so I decided not to go back to school and just make 
a lot of money. You could make pretty good money then. You got 
a lot of overtime. If you went on a fire, you were on overtime 
from the time you went out of the station until you got back, 
even if it was forty-eight hours; even if it was a week. 

I went on one fire that was way back in the Yolla Bolly 
Wilderness Area above a place called Indian Dick--a little old 
ranger station that was way out in the wilderness. That fire was 
called the Yellow Jacket fire. I met some smoke jumpers on that 
fire who had jumped into that. It was a lightning blaze, and it 
had taken us a day to get in on horseback, and they were there-- 
they had parachuted in, and they had gotten a line around the 
fire. Then we stayed a couple of days and put the rest of it 
out cut down the burning snags and extinguished them, and did 
the mop-up. And I got to talking to these smoke jumpers and I 
thought "Gee, that sounds like a wonderful job." So I made plans 
to be a smoke jumper the next summer. 

I went back to Sacramento and went to work for the 
Department of Highways just temporarily until school started in 
the spring. I remember that job. It only lasted a couple of 
months, but I was drawing the plans for the freeways in southern 
California. [laughter] 


Lage: How you got into that-- 

Pesonen: Just the maps. I had taken drafting in high school, and I was a 
pretty good draftsman, so I had a draftsman's job. And I got 
very bored with it. I remember I made up a couple of little 
towns and put them on the map, that didn't exist. [laughter] 

Lage: A trouble-maker. 

Pesonen: The flyspeckers in the department caught it, and I either got 

fired or I was asked to quit. School was going to start anyway, 
so I went back to school in the spring, with the full intention 
of going to the University in the fall, but I still didn't know 
what I wanted to study--! didn't know what field I wanted to go 
into. Forestry appealed to me a little bit, but I didn't know 
very much about it. I was thinking about being an English major. 
I was thinking about still continuing in math. I didn't know 
what I wanted to do. 

Lage: Except be a smoke jumper. 

Pesonen: Well, that was just to make money and to have a little adventure. 
So I went back to school in the spring and I did very wellback 
to junior college, to Sacramento Junior Collegefinished up the 
year that I had let collapse when I went to Europe. Then I got a 
job as a smoke jumper at Cave Junction, Oregon, that next summer. 

Lage: Was that something that you just threw yourself into or did you 
have a lot of training? 

Pesonen: I'd never jumped out of an airplane before. So I went through 
the training. I was the only one who wore glasses. I had to 
have special goggles made with my prescription. I loved the 
training. It was very hard work, I mean, you really get in 
physical shape, but I didn't get along that well with the people 
there. I think I was kind of an arrogant young man. I had some 
problems with some of the other people in the station. I think 
it was just immaturity and arrogance. I thought I knew a lot 
more than I did. [laughter] And then I got hurt in the practice 
jumps. I made five jumps, and I loved hanging in the parachute. 
It's an experience beyond description; you are just up there. 
They were the old kind of parachutes; you couldn't steer them 
very well, and you hit the ground real hard. They would drop us 
over forested areas with clearings, and we had to steer this 
parachute and land in the clearing. I sprained an ankle on one 
of those jumps and so I was off for a while. You had to do seven 
practice jumps before they would send you out on a fire, and I 
wasn't able to do the seventh, so they got me a job on a trail 
crew over on the coast on the Chetco River, which I did for a 


couple of weeks. I didn't like it, and by this time my friend 
Bob Connelly had gotten my old job at Alder Springs, driving the 
fire engine. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I didn't 
like the trail crew job, so I just quit and got in my car and 
drove down to Alder Springs to live with Bob. It turned out that 
there was a new position there, a patrolman position. One of 
these young missionaries had the job driving a jeep around to 
inspect buildings and clean up campgrounds and do fire 
prevention, and we decided to find a way to get rid of him, and 
I'd get that job. [laughter] Bob didn't like him they lived in 
this little house together. I can't remember his name now. 

To make a long story short, we persuaded him to go to this 
remote wilderness ranger station called Indian Dick because he 
could have a horse. He had this pioneer imagery in his head. He 
had a hand-cranked clothes washer--he loved that. He loved all 
kinds of things that didn't need any electricity. The only thing 
he needed to have power for was a radio that picked up short wave 
broadcasts from the missions down in Panama describing how they 
were converting the Indians and singing this doleful, doleful 
music, and he'd play it loud, and it was just awful. One day, 
when he was in town, we took the aerial connectors out of the 
casing and painted them with rubber cement so that they didn't 
work. He thought it was a change in the atmosphere that was 
interfering with his reception from his pals down there in 
Central America. He strung wire all over that camp--from tree to 
tree trying to pick up that signal and it never worked, 
[laughter] Finally, we told him what we'd done when he left, and 
then I got that job. So Bob and I spent that summer working 
together, and we just had a wonderful summer. 

Forestry Student at Berkeley. 1955-1960 

Pesonen: That summer, I was on a big fire, and I met a forestry student 
from Berkeley. He said "Yeah, I go to forestry school. It's a 
great profession; you work outdoors all the time; there's lots of 
jobs." And so I decided that was what I'd do. That fall I went 
back to the University and registered in forestry. 

Lage: That would have been '55 or '56? 

Pesonen: That would have been '55. I think it was '55. 

Lage: So you were attracted mainly to the outdoor experiences, 
fighting- - 



Pesonen: Well, no, forestry more. Soils and silviculture. 
Lage: You had a sense, then, of what it was all about. 

Pesonen: Well, I spent a lot of time sitting on the fire line talking to 
this guy, and he explained a lot of it and said it was a 
wonderful field. I didn't know what I wanted to do. It sounded 
like the best of all possible worlds. 1 never really bought into 
the philosophy, of course; I was always a bit of an outsider. I 
took a lot of English classes and a lot of classes in other 
fields. I loved the University, and I just loved going to 

Lage: It was unusual to take a lot of the humanities classes as a 
forestry student, wasn't it? 

Pesonen: Yes. Most of my classmates were going to go to work for a 

logging company or the Forest Service. I remember when they were 
graduating, and we'd sit around the library and talk about the 
various recruiters who had come from potential employers, and the 
talk was all about what their retirement plans were like. 

Lage: Even at that age? 

Pesonen: Yes--which companies had the best retirement plans. I couldn't 

believe that anybody would care about retirement when you're just 
getting out of college. But I think they were very conservative 

Lage: Conservative in personality? 

Pesonen: Yes. Conservative personalities and very worried about security. 

Lage: It sounds more like the atmosphere today in a sense, where young 
people seem concerned, maybe rightly so, with financial security. 

Pesonen: I think so. They were people who had come out of the war and 

come out of a less-secure economy. Maybe it's because my father 
was a government employee, and we never worried about that sort 
of thing. It was a secure, middle-class family. That was the 
last thing on my mind. I wanted something that was going to be 
interesting and productive, and I didn't care about retirement. 
I wasn't sure I'd ever live that long anyway. [laughter] 

Lage: Did you find that there was a forestry student "type"? I know 
when I interviewed Henry Vaux [forest economist and former dean 
of the UC School of Forestry] he talked about a sort of a 
stereotypical type of forestry student, a little less people 
oriented and-- 


Pesonen: Less people oriented? 

Lage: Yes, less people oriented. Particularly in those earlier years 
than later. 

Pesonen: I don't remember that, but then I didn't think in those terms 
then. [pause] Yes, I think that probably they were 
introspective, or maybe not so introspective as... shy. It wasn't 
a very social group. There was a bond among men that do anything 
together, but it's not a deep emotional bond; it's a bond that 
fills an emotional void that doesn't have anything else to fit in 
it. It's like salesmen when they get together at conventions or 
something. A little camaraderie, but-- 

Lage: You didn't see a deep camaraderie among the students? 

Pesonen: No, and I didn't feel a deep camaraderie. Except that we had all 
gone through a kind of experience together, which was some kind 
of a bond. But I haven't maintained those friendships over the 

Lage: Were there women in your class? 

Pesonen: No. Well, maybe there was one. But it was an all-male world. 

Lage: That was very different from the University at large. 

Pesonen: It's very different from now. There are a lot of women in 
forestry. Of course, there isn't much of a forestry school 
anymore . 

Lage: It's very small now. 

Pesonen: It's very small, and it's been absorbed pretty much into another 
college. But then, still, it was a residual of the frontier of 
logging. There were lots of virgin forests left. 

Lage: Was the emphasis on logging? 

Pesonen: The emphasis was very much on growing wood to be cut. We took 

logging engineering courses. We took a lot of courses on how to 
cruise timber, how to scale timber, how to scale a log. It was 
very production oriented. 


Lage: Which of your professors do you recall as being influential? 
Pesonen: Well, Vaux was just a great influence on me, and John Zivnuska. 


Lage: Vaux was dean at the time? 

Pesonen: Vaux was dean; he also taught forest policy. Zivnuska taught 
forest economics. There was Ed [Edward C.] Stone who taught 
forest ecology. Those were-- 

Lage: So these are the broader subjects. 

Pesonen: Yes. I took a course from Starker Leopold in wildlife 

management, which was a wonderful course. Probably the most 
influential professor I knew was an English professor--Tom 
[Thomas F.] Parkinson. He had a great influence on me. 

Lage: Do you want to talk about that a little bit? 

Pesonen: Well, he was just a fine teacher. He made literature come alive 
for me, and poetry, and really fine writing. I loved to read, 
and I started writing poetry around that time. None of it was 
ever any good, but it was a good discipline because it is very 
economical. It stood me in good stead my whole life. And he 
encouraged that. Every word has to count in a poem; there's no 
waste in a poem. So I think I write very economically now. I've 
sent you some of the things, and I don't think you'll find any 
wasted words in there. 

Lage: That's interesting, thinking of poetry as a discipline for 
general types of writing. 

Pesonen: You look for ways to get as much meaning into as few words as 

possible. I practice that discipline a lot. I think it's been 
useful in my writing, too, because I write well and I write legal 
writing and stuff. So that was a great influence. 

Well, I never really thought I wanted to go into poetry. By 
the time I graduatedfirst, there was two years off for the 

Lage: Oh, you did end up in the army? 

Pesonen: I ended up in the army in 1957 and '58. 

Lage: So that was a break in the middle of school. 

Pesonen: That was a break. 

Lage: Was that a choice or were you drafted? 

Pesonen: I was still draf table, and I wanted to get it out of the way 

before I graduated. I didn't want to graduate and join the army. 



I wanted to graduate and go into whatever else I was going to do. 
I still wasn't sure I liked forestry as a career, so I 
volunteered for the draft. I knew I was going to have to go in, 
so I figured "I'll get it out of the way and then graduate and 
then I don't have to worry about it." 

I was just an enlisted man. I was sent to Texas after basic 
training, for a year, and wangled my way to Europe for a year. I 
got assigned to a little station down south of Ingrande near the 
Loire Valley in France, a beautiful place. There was this small 
station, and I had a lot of freedom to leave and go to Paris, 
and I went to Paris almost every weekend. [laughter] I loved 
France; I just loved Europe. I spent a year there. I met a girl 
in Paris, a New Zealand girl, and she and I started travelling 
together. We traveled all over. 

This was while you are still in the army? 

Pesonen: I was still in the army. 1 would take leave and go on vacation 

with her. That was a nice time. I had a good time in Europe. I 
hated the army. I hated the discipline; I hated the boredom; but 
it was a good experience. 

I came back in February of 1959, and I went back to forestry 
school and graduated in 1960. I didn't graduate with all of the 
people I had been through school with. 

The big event in forestry school is summer camp. You have 
to spend one summer up at Meadow Valley near Quincy, learning 
field techniques. It's the bond of the class. The class goes 
through school together; they'd been to summer camp together. 
Well, everybody I went to summer camp with graduated two years 
ahead of me. The class I graduated with, I hadn't gone to summer 
camp with. So I was always a bit of an outsider. That didn't 
trouble me. You look back on it now, and I didn't even think 
about it. 

Lage: So in retrospect-- 

Pesonen: It's never been clear what class I'm in. [laughter] 

Occasionally, I go to the Christmas reunion party--! did this 
year, as a matter of factand they make everybody stand up from 
each class. It's never clear what class I stand up with. 

Lage: Do you stand up twice? 

Pesonen: My summer camp class is the class of '58, and my actual 

graduating class is '60. I would have graduated in "59--I had 
the unitsbut I wanted to take more English. I wanted to take 


English criticism. I was really getting interested in a lot more 
English literature. So I took an extra year. 

Lage: So that's how you were able to fit in all of the humanities, by 
spending a little more time. 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: And you had your junior college classes. 

Pesonen: I had some of that. That was credited against my graduation 



UC's Wildlands Research Center and Stegner's Wilderness Letter 

Pesonen: When I graduated in '60, I didn't know what I was going to do. I 
didn't want to go to work for the Forest Service, I didn't want 
to go to work for a logging company. I interviewed with some of 
the employers, and it just didn't interest me. I guess that was 
when I started working for the Wildlands Research Center. 

Lage: That was in '60. 

Pesonen: When I was in school I had competed in some essay contests. I 

put myself pretty much through school. I got a little help from 
my parents, but I didn't ask for a lot of help. They were 
generous whenever I needed it. But I lived in a little room, and 
I hashed in sororities for my meals and for a little spending 
money, and I saved money during the summer. But one summer, when 
I went to summer camp I couldn't make much money- -although I did 
get a job part time working up there for the Forest Service. 

Lage: Even during summer camp? 

Pesonen: Even during summer camp. I worked weekends filling in in a fire 
station. So I earned my way through school pretty much. It was 
a lot easier to do then than it is now, you know. 

Lage: It was easier to live on a shoestring then. 

Pesonen: It was much easier to live on a shoestring. I had a reliable 
car, and I didn't mind living in a little room and using the 
library to study. I got by somehow. I never felt deprived. I 
never felt poor or unable to support myself. And I always had my 
parents to fall back on if I needed it, and I did occasionally, 
and they were always --my father was always generous, too. By 







this time my brother had died, so I was an only child. My 
brother died in 1952. 

An accident or an illness? 

No, he had cancer. That was the beginning of my mother's 
alcoholism. My brother was a much more outgoing person than I 
was, and he and my mother were more soulmates than Mother and I 
were. My mother was a very volatile, emotional, demonstrative 
woman, and that kind of turned me off for some reason. 

What was her ethnic background? 

Scotch-Irish. She was very neurotic in a lot of ways. She had 
been put up for adoption when she was about six because her 
mother had too many kids. 

She didn't have that secure family background that you had? 

Well, she loved her adoptive parents. It was a very strict 
family. Her adoptive father, for whom I'm named, David Wood, 
wanted to adopt her, but had a very strict Victorian wife who--I 
think Mother told me once that she was molested when she was a 
little girl and that was a taint on her. Somebody had fondled 
her and then her stepmother was always very disapproving of her 
after that. So Mother had a lot of emotional problems which were 
pretty much under control as long as my brother and I were 
growing up, but really got out of hand later, when- -she really 
began to drink and be very unhappy after my brother died. That 
was a great loss to her. And I didn't fill the void. I didn't-- 

You were out of the house- - 

Well, I wasn't emotionally responsive, 
brother had always been. 

either, in the way that my 

That was going on, so I didn't go home very much. I didn't 
like being around my mother when she was like that. Anyway, 
since I had done some writing in forestry school, they recruited 
me into the Wildlands Research project. 

You started talking about an essay contest. That's how this-- 

There were a couple of essay contests. One was called the Walter 
Lathrop Pack contest. I don't even remember what I wrote about, 
but I won the prize. And I did it mainly for the money, 


Not for the honors . 



I needed the money, 
significant amount. 

It was only $100, but back then $100 was a 






I guess because I had done some writing in school, they 
thought I was the perfect candidate to be on the staff of the 
Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission Wilderness Report 
under Jim Gilligan. [pause] We split the project up into 
various parts: we had an economic component, a philosophical 
component, and an inventory component-- 

We should probably just step back and say what the project was 
because only you and I might know. 

The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission was set up, I 
think, in '59, funded mainly by Laurance Rockefeller, to do a 
massive study of all recreation resources in the United States. 
They farmed out the projects to various institutions and the 
Wildlands Research Center, which was a non-profit spinoff of the 
school of forestrya grant application entity in effectgot the 
contract to do the report on wilderness. I think it was mainly 
through Jim Gilligan 's influence. He had written his Ph.D. 
thesis on wilderness. 

At Berkeley? 

No, the University of Montana, I think, is where he wrote his 
thesis. But he was the extension forester at Berkeley, and he 
was also on the staff or the board of the Wildlands Research 
Center. How he got the contract, I don't know, but he got it 
anyway, and I thought that was very clever. 

Were you interested in wilderness at that time? 

I was interested in wilderness as an idea, and I loved the 
outdoors and I always fished and-- 

But had you read Aldo Leopold and other wilderness philosophers? 

No, I don't think I had. The reading that I had done that had 
caught my interest was Wallace Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth 
Meridian, which my mother loved and then encouraged me to read, 
and all of Bernard DeVoto's books on the exploration of the West 
--Across the Wide Missouri. There was a trilogy that Bernard 
DeVoto did which was a wonderful history of the exploration of 
the West. And I had read all of those--! had read a lot of 
western history, which is wilderness, really, and that's where 
the idea grew up. Not so much from the philosophers of the 
wilderness like Aldo Leopold- -and I had read Thoreau, of course. 
So I started reading all of these things: Aldo Leopold and, well, 


there was lots and lots of stuff, I don't remember what it all 
waseven the Bible had a lot about wilderness. 

It was a hard time writing this thing. 
Lage: Now, what was your assignment? 

Pesonen: My assignment was to write about the wilderness idea. That was 

part of my assignment. I had other assignments, but that was one 
of them. And I struggled and struggled with that, and parts of 
it were okay. Parts of it were the history of the wilderness 
regulations by the Forest Service, which was pretty 
straightforward. But there was this notion of what wilderness is 
and what it means to people that confounded me. I mean, I could 
feel it, but I couldn't say itcouldn't get it articulated. 
That's what led to Wallace Stegner's Wilderness Letter. I 
finally put down what I was trying to say in a letter to Stegner. 
I chose Stegner because I had loved Beyond the Hundredth 
Meridian, and I knew he was a professor of creative writing at 
Stanford, and if anybody could do it, he could. I just picked 
him out because I knew who he was. 

Lage: Did you contact him directly, or did you go through somebody? 

Pesonen: I just contacted him directly. I just asked him to help me. I 
wrote him a letter. I may have called him up and discussed it a 
little bit with him--I don't remember whether I did or not. I 
did this all on my own. I don't think I even talked to Gilligan 
about--! might have talked to Gilligan, but I just sort of--. 
The idea just occurred to me. 

And finally, we got the Wilderness Letter. 1 Stegner sent a 
copy to [David] Brower. Brower by this time was the towering 
figure of the Sierra Club. He had launched its publication 
program, he had fought the dams in the Grand Canyon and Glen 
Canyon and lost one or two, but his main dream was to get the 
Wilderness Act passed. The Wilderness Act had been introduced in 
Congress each year and defeated by the mining and timber and 
development interests of the West. It was the big environmental 
legislative battle. It had been going on for several years. 
Brower saw the Wilderness Letter as a valuable tool in lobbying 
for the Wilderness bill. This was now 1961--late '60 or '61. 
The Wilderness Act wasn't passed until '64. 

'For a copy of the Wilderness Letter and Stegner's recollections about 
writing it, see Wallace Stegner, The Artist as Environmental Advocate, an 
oral history conducted by Ann Lage in 1982 (Regional Oral History Office, 


Lage: The campaign had been going on for several years. 

Pesonen: It had been going on for quite a few years. There was a whole 

history involved with that that we don't need to go into. It was 
started by Bob Marshall when he worked for the Forest Service. 
He got the regulations SI and S2, regulations that set aside, 
temporarily at least, parts of the National Forest as a kind of 

Brower immediately wanted to publish the letter. I said 
"No, it's my letter." [laughter] 

Lage: Was that your first contact with Brower? 

Pesonen: That was my first contact with Brower. I'd heard of him, but I'd 
never met him. We had a little argument about it, and Vaux 
mediated it. I felt a little possessory about that letter--it 
was my idea, you know? Brower wanted it for his own reasons. 
Vaux recognized that we couldn't own that letter; it was 
Stegner's to do with what he wanted. It was his words, and it 
was really his ideas, and I had just stimulated an event which 
was probably going to happen anyway in one way or another. So 
that's how I got to know Brower. 

Lage: It ended up with Stewart Udall [secretary of the Interior] using 
that letter as part of a speech. 

Pesonen: Well, I don't remember that. 

Lage: He read it at a Wilderness Conference, and then it became part of 
the proceedings. I don't know if Stegner sent it to him, or 

Pesonen: Well, the Sierra Club, by that time, had annual or semi-annual 

(biennial, rather) wilderness conferences. They were part of the 
campaign to pass the Wilderness Act, and they published their 
proceedings every year. I guess that's how it happened. 

Staff Member for Assembly Fish and Game Committee; Counting Deer 
Tags for Pauline Davis 

Pesonen: Anyway, we finished the report and the report incorporated the 
letter, and then I didn't know what I was going to do. I heard 
that there was a job opened as staff to the Assembly Fish and 
Game Committee. Well, here was everything I wanted: fishing, 
hunting, making policy, changing the world it sounded fine. So 
I applied and I was hired by the chairperson of that committee, 


an assemblywoman from Portola, up in Plumas County, Pauline 

Davis. I had no idea what I was getting into. The Fish and Game 
Committee was heavily lobbied by the commercial fishing 

interests, and my objective was to get some kind of legislation 
through to limit logging and its effect on streams. I talked 

Pauline into putting on some hear ings --some interim committee 

hearings --up the coast on logging and its effect on anadromous 

Lage: Now what had started you with that concern? 

Pesonen: Well, I think I had fished up there a lot, and I had seen the 
horrible damage some of those logging operations had done. I 
talked to people in Fish and Game and there were some people in 
the Department of Fish and Game that had written widely about the 
effect of logging on streams and lakes; they were concerned about 
that. Caught my interest, anyway. I talked Pauline into holding 
some hearings on that. 

It was not a pleasant job. It was very political, and 
Pauline was a very changeable woman. She had succeeded to that 
seat after her husband died. Her husband had been the 
assemblyman from that district before. He died and she ran for 

Lage: That was the way women became legislators in those days. 

Pesonen: That's right. She was a great big, huge woman with a high 

bouffant hairdo dyed bright redbright auburn, anyway, and very 
suspicious, very paranoid. You never knew where you stood with 
her. There were two kinds of people in the world as far as she 
was concerned. There were members of old pioneer families, who 
were good, and snakes-in-the-grass, who were bad. One week I'd 
come into the office, and she'd introduce me to a bunch of 
lobbyists: "I want you to meet Dave Pesonen. He's a member of an 
old pioneer family," [laughter] and I couldn't do anything wrong, 
and the next week I'd come in and the door would be closed and 
she'd be whispering and wouldn't talk to me, and I'd hear, 
"Mumble. . .mumble. . .snake-in-the-grass." You just never knew. 

Lage: And you worked directly for her? 

Pesonen: It was still a little office. She had a staff of two women 
secretaries, and herself, and me. The two secretaries and I 
shared an outer office. She was at war with the Department of 
Fish and Game, mainly over their hunting regulations for deer in 
the northeast part of the state. She didn't believe their 
statistics, so one day she made me go over to the Department of 
Fish and Game and collect all of the deer tags that had been 


turned in by deer hunters and re-do all the statistics by hand. 
Now here were these crumpled pieces of cardboard, you know, with 
entries written on a stub pencil in the headlights of a truck 
someplace out in the woods with deer hair and blood all over 
them, with how many points the deer had and where they'd been 
shot. Boxes and boxes of these things, and I had to just sit 
there and count them. 

Lage: What was her purpose? 

Pesonen: She believed that the public statistics and the raw data were 
phonied up. 

Lage: Did she want more deer hunting or less deer hunting-- 

Pesonen: She wanted more deer hunting; she wanted less doe hunting. Well, 
my numbers came out practically even with the figures of the 
Department of Fish and Game. Then she thought I was in cahoots 
with the Department of Fish and Game. It really became pretty 

I met some close friends there in Sacramento, people who 
remained friends for a long time. Dick Patsey, who's now a judge 
out in Contra Costa County, was on the staff of the 
Constitutional Revision Commission. Somehow he and I met and 
became very good friends, and we're still good friends. My 
friend Bob Connelly was still around, and we spent a lot of time 

Lage: Is he the one who put you on to the job? 

Pesonen: No, he didn't put me on to the job. I don't remember who put me 
onto the job. I think it was Vaux or Starker Leopold. 

Working for Dave Brower and the Sierra Club. 1961-1962 

Pesonen: One day Dave Brower called up and said that he wanted me to be on 
his staff, around early 1962. It was a chance to get out of this 
intolerable situation working for Pauline, get back to the Bay 
Area, live in San Francisco, work down on Bush Street in the 
Mills Tower with this towering figure, Dave Brower. It was 
ideal; it was perfect. I was single and I liked San Francisco. 
I've always had this ambivalence about cities. I think cities 
are a wonderful institution when they're right. I loved--who 
wrote The City in History- -Lewis Mumford. I loved that book. 
I've always been a bit eclectic in my interests. I wouldn't want 


to go out and just live out in the woods and be a hermit. I like 
what goes on in cities. I think cities are great institutions. 
And San Francisco in the fifties, in the early sixties, was a 
great city. A great city if you were a young, single person. So 
I accepted with alacrity. Well, Brower didn't know what he 
wanted to do with me. 

Lage: Did Brower know you other than from that one-- 

Pesonen: I think only from the Wilderness Letter and that whole incident. 

Lage: Interesting that he chose you on that basis. 

Pesonen: Well, Brower had a way of doing that. He always has. Of finding 
people he's real simpatico with, young people in particular, and 
cultivating them. In any event, I accepted. It wasn't clear 
what my job was. I was to edit books. I was to be the club 
spokesperson at the Board of Forestry meetings on revisions to 
the Forest Practice Act, a jack of all trades. Sometimes I'd be 
editing books, and sometimes it wasn't clear what I was supposed 
to do. 

Lage: But were you busy all of the time? 

Pesonen: Sometimes I wasn't. Sometimes I was a little bored. But it was 
enough to just be in the penumbra of Brewer's magic. 

Lage: What do you remember that you could-- 

Pesonen: Well, I remember that he was chimerical, and he was full of 

spontaneous ideas. He was not a good planner or manager at all, 
but people loved him because he is who he is . I remember him as 
wanting to be surrounded with young people, and having ideas. He 
was very much like Jerry Brown in a way. I remember--! was 
thinking one time when I worked for Jerry Brown that he was a 
successor to my experience with Brower. 

Lage: An interesting comparison. It seems to fit when you're-- 

Pesonen: David had big ideas, but he had a hard time reducing them to 
operations. He needed a lot of people to do that for him. I 
guess that's why he surrounded himself with people who could 
write, who could speak, who could think, who could plan- -because 
he's not a planner. 


Was the staff very large at that point? 


Pesonen: No, it wasn't very large. There was a small staff in the Mills 
Tower in San Francisco. The library was there; the whole office 
was there; the club was a much smaller organization then. 

Lage: Bob Golden was there? 

Pesonen: Bob Golden was there. I think he was sort of the chief of staff. 
I don't remember who was the head of finances --somebody had a 
financial role and-- 

Lage: Not Cliff Rudden. He wasn't there yet-- 


Pesonen: Yes, Cliff Rudden was there. These are names that are coming 
back to me now. Bob and Fay Golden. I haven't seen them for 
years. Cliff Rudden, Basse Bunnelle-- 

Lage: She was handling club outings. 

Pesonen: I think she was doing outings. Who was the editor of the 

Lage: Nash? Hugh Nash? 

Pesonen: No, Hugh Nash came later. This was Hugh's predecessor. Tall, 
angular, Ichabod Crane kind of person. 

Pesonen: I can't remember now. It'll come back to me. 

Lage: I think that was a period when conflict between Brower and the 
board of directors was beginning. Did you have a sense of that 
as a staff person? 

Pesonen: I was not so aware of that. 

Lage: You wouldn't have been privy to all that. 

Pesonen: No, I wasn't very privy to that. 

And I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. 

A Summer of Waiting and Writing. 1962; Security Clearance 
Problems for United Nations Job and Atomic Park Articles 



Did you think of it in those terms? 
all my life?" 

"Whether I want to do this 



Well, I didn't know what career I wanted. I didn't want to go 
and work in traditional forestry, which was essentially managing 
timberland for cutting. I had studied it, but I didn't practice 
it. When I was in forestry school, I worked two summers with 
Southern Pacific, marking timber and cruising timber, and it was 
wonderful, healthy work- -survey ing of property lines and--. 
Those were great summer jobs in college, but I didn't want to do 
that all my life. It didn't have any policy implications; it was 
remote and I liked the city. It's the ambivalence I've always 
felt about cities and the wilderness--! like them both; and it 
was too much of one thing. It didn't have any intellectual 
excitement to it. 

So it's intellectual excitement. It didn't have a particular 
social purpose, which you mentioned earlier- 
Well, I didn't see it as a bad social purpose. I wasn't against 
logging. I wasn't against cutting timber; it just didn't 
interest me as something I wanted to do with my life. It was 
very limited limited scope. There was no vision to it. So I 
still didn't know what I wanted to do. I think it was Vaux or 
Zivnuska who, while I was working for the club, told me about a 
position as a forestry advisor for the Food and Agriculture 
Organization of the United Nations in what was then Tanganyika. 
The prospect of going to Africa and being a lone forester in 
Africa was just so exciting; I immediately put in for it. The UN 
even then was a huge bureaucracy, and the paper work was 
horrendous. But while I was working for the Sierra Club, I 
continued to process this application to the FAO and to get 
letters of recommendations from Vaux, and Zivnuska, and other 

And I started flying lessons, because I understood that I 
would have a little airplane in Africa, and I could fly all 
around. I had started taking pilot's lessons when I was in 
Sacramento, and I had soloed by this time. I didn't have much 
money to pay for it, so I was going out to Petaluma to some 
little back-country airport which had old airplanes and doing my 
flying lessons up there. 

This UN thing just dragged on and on. Then along came 
Bodega, which was its own story--its own saga. While I was doing 





Bodega, which we'll come back to, it began to look like I was 
going to get the FAO job. 

Right in the middle of your Bodega campaign? 
Yes. And I quit the Club over Bodega-- 

We'll get into that more, too. 

--and took the summer to just sort out what I was going to do 
with my life and wait for this FAO thing to come along. Well, I 
was held up by the lack of a security clearance. There was an 
executive order that had been issued by Eisenhower that all 
American citizens working for the UN had to have security 
clearances. I have no idea why, but it was the heart of the cold 
war, and that was a reflection of our paranoia at that time. 

The paranoia that the UN was actually a Communist organization. 

Right. And I couldn't get a security clearance. I was held up 
because when I had been in the army I had been denied a security 
clearance. That's another long story. 

When I was in high school, good family friends were the 
Waegell family. They had a ranch outside Sacramento, where I 
worked on my holidays and summers, starting when I was in junior 
high school, I think, driving tractors, baling hay, digging 
fenceposts, doing everything it took to run a ranch. The 
Waegells were Communists. 

Communist farmers in Sacramento? 

Mrs. Waegell was an immigrant from England. She was a dyed-in- 
the-wool Marxist, subscriber to the People's World. The Waegell 
boys--two twins, Jim and George--and their younger brother, Jack, 
were about five or six years older than I was, and so they would 
head out to town and I would be stuck in the farmhouse kitchen 
with Mrs. Waegell. She would sit me down and read me the 
People's World: about all of the miseries in the world, about the 
racism, about the poor people, about wars, and the oppression of 
capitalism. And I ate it all up. [laughter] Of course, I'd go 
back to school and spout it. One of my girlfriends in high 
school, it turned out, had thought I was a dyed-in-the-wool 

Then I had had to apply for a security clearance when I was 
in the army, because I was in a headquarters company that did 
training maneuvers and had access to classified documents. In 
Texas, I was a clerk-typist for a corps headquarters, third corps 






at Fort Hood, Texas. I had put in for a security clearance 
because I had to for that position, and it didn't come through by 
the time I went to Europe, and I had to renew it when I got to 
Europe. One day, two security people showed up at this little 
office I had in Ingrande, France, and they closeted themselves 
with the warrant officer for whom I worked. Everybody seemed 
very serious about all of this. I wasn't very ideological, you 
know; the thing I always looked forward to was when Time magazine 
arrived at the PX every week. [laughter] 

Had you subscribed to People's World? 

No, I hadn't. But they had done a thorough background 
investigation on me. 

That's frightening. 

My parents' friends were interviewed, 
their hands on a real spy. 

They thought they had 

And when this girlfriend in high school-- 

This girlfriend in high school had started it, apparently, and 
then it had grown. You know the paranoia of the cold war. There 
was a dossier on me, which I now have a copy of, with names 
redacted so I don't know who all the people were, but it's a 
paranoid treatise. I was called down to Poitiers, which was the 
headquarters for that part of France, to the central headquarters 
of this security arm of the army, and put through an awful 
grilling about all of my background. 

Were they asking you about beliefs? 
actual action? 

Philosophical beliefs, or 

Beliefs, people--! don't remember it all. But it was a very 
unpleasant experience. I would have to take the train down 
there- -a couple of times I had to travel down there for this 
interrogation. At one point, I remember, I was put through an 
interrogation right out of a television show. I mean, I was 
stripped and one guy was threatening me, another guy was being 
nice to me--it was the old Mutt and Jeff technique. And they 
wrote up a statement of what my position was, and it was full of 
falsehoods, and I refused to sign it. I was kept there for a day 
or so, and finally I edited it down and signed some edited 
version of this thing, just to get out of there. I've never seen 
it; I don't know what it looks like, I don't know what it said. 

My father was a government employee, and his job could be in 
jeopardy if some of this rubbed off on him, and I got pretty 


worried. But that came back to haunt me when I was applying for 
this FAO job. Apparently they had resurrected all of this 
record, and I couldn't get the clearance. 

Lage: That is really bizarre, but probably not that unusual. 

Pesonen: Not in those days. So that summer was waiting for this thing to 
be cleared up- -that summer of '62. Since I didn't have anything 
else to do, I decided I would write up the Bodega story, and 
that's what led to that pamphlet, which you have a copy of, 
Visit to the Atomic Park. 1 I just closeted myself in a little 
old room over here on Durant Street over a garage and got a night 
job working for Joe [John B.] Neilands on campus making 
ferrochrome, which was an organic compound he had invented which 
supposedly had wonderful properties. It just required going into 
the lab and setting it up and starting this thing bubbling away 
and then tending it until the product came out the other end. 

Lage: Perfect for a writer. 

Pesonen: Yes, it was a wonderful job because all I had to do was go over 
there at night and tend it and make it work. But I got paid for 
all of that time, so I had plenty of time to write. I got into 
this story [of PG&E's plan to build a nuclear power plant at 
Bodega Bay] , which is another story, and just thought that I had 
stumbled onto one of the great evils of all time and that the 
story had to be told. I worked all summerwell, I hitchhiked to 
Colorado and visited an old girlfriend for a couple of weeks and 
then hitchhiked up to Canada with some people I'd met on the 
train coming back from Colorado, went up to British Columbia and 
just saw the country, and then came back and decided to write 
that story. I thought about all this all the way. I thought ' 
about that FAO job and about Bodega and turning it, in my mind, 
to something that had to be dealt with. Finally the FAO job did 
come through. 

Lage: You finally got clearance? 

Pesonen: It came through in the fall. I think, maybe, it was October or 
November of '62, and by that time, I had a leadership role in 
Bodega and had written the pamphlet . This great evil needed to 
be resolved and I wasn't going to leave it. So I reluctantly 
turned down the FAO job and never did go to Africa. Sometimes I 
wish I had; sometimes I wish I hadn't. 

Lage: Let's stop here and pick up Bodega next time. 

'David E. Pesonen, A Visit to the Atomic Park, a pamphlet reprinted 
from Sebastopal Times articles on 9/27/62, 10/4/62, 10/11/62, and 10/18/62, 
available in The Bancroft Library. 


New Left Philosophies and Bodega Bay 
[Interview 2: January 23, 1992 ]ti 







We want to get into the Bodega story today, beginning with a 
sense of where you were when you discovered Bodega. I have 
brought to your attention this newly submitted article by Thomas 
Wellock 1 where he calls you, "...part of the rising radical 
sentiment of the emerging New Left," and he refers several times 
to the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, which came later [in 
1964], and sort of implies that you were a harbinger of that. I 
wondered if you could tell me something about your political 
beliefs or activities at that time. 

Well, I don't recall that I was very political at all. I 
certainly didn't have any coherent political theory, left or 
right. I was a liberal and my parents were both Democrats. My 
father had favored Henry Wallace in the 1948 presidential 
elections, and Wallace was a populist and a liberal. 

Was there a lot of political talk around the dinner table? 

No, not very much. No, I don't think we talked politics very 
much. It just seemed like--. My parents were brought up through 
the Depression and there were a lot of people in those days who 
were brought up through the Depression who were very strongly 
Democratic and favored government intervention. What's called 
the New Left, which was a different movement entirely, as I 
understand it, was not a term that I knew anything about. 

It wasn't really in use at the time. 
a couple of years. 

He's putting it back on you 

Yes. I was very excited about the Free Speech Movement; I 
thought the University was wrong, but I never went to any of 
those demonstrations. I was particularly interested in the 
Bodega context because the University, in my view, as I wrote in 
A Visit to the Atomic Park, [1962] had caved in to pressure from 
PG&E and the Atomic Energy Commission with whom it contracted to 
run the labs [the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley and the 
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory], and [Glenn T.] Seaborg was a 
nuclear physicist who was chancellor at that time [1958-1961]. 

'Thomas Wellock, "The Battle for Bodega Bay: The Sierra Club and 
Nuclear Power, 1958-1964," later published in California History, Vol. 
LXXI, No. 2, Summer 1992. 



That made it fairly easy for him to pressure the marine biology 
faculty to mute their interest in Bodega Bay. So I thought the 
University was a culprit. 

So it made you sympathetic with the Free Speech Movement when it 
came around. 

Pesonen: Well, all the Free Speech Movement did was expose what I thought 
was a very closed, hierarchical, reactionary administration in 
the University, which I hadn't really exposed. So I thought the 
Free Speech Movement was just fine and the principle was a sound 
and traditional one: the right of students to have views and 
express them on campus. It wasn't a very complicated 

Lage: It wasn't something that came up while you were on campus, was 
it? That's not thought of as too lively a time, politically. 

Pesonen: It wasn't. It wasn't a lively time, and I wasn't politically 
active on campus. I didn't join any clubs--. I was too busy 
getting through school. I had to work; I worked every summer and 
I worked during school. I am a slow studier. I had to work hard 
to get good grades. I wasn't interested in extracurricular 
stuff; I was going to succeed in school, get out, and get on with 
my life. 

Lage: You seem to have a habit of mind, though, of being challenging. 

Is this true? In fact, Henry Vaux told me he remembers that from 
school as well as later, that you challenged ideas and authority. 
Do you think of yourself that way? 

Pesonen: Well, I think of myself as having a lot of confidence in my views 
and as being challenging. Yes, I get a certain amount of 
amusement out of it. It's recreational. 

Lage: The other thing that I think ties you into this New Left mold is 
your interest in citizen participation in government. Was that a 
view that you had before Bodega or did it come out of your 
experience with what happened at Bodega? 

Pesonen: Well, I don't think I ever articulated it until the Bodega case; 
it was just a given. It was one of those assumptions I had, that 
I hadn't formulated into a theory. I mean, I don't think that 
way. There are certain things that I just think are fair and 

Lage: So the situation just struck you as something that wasn't right? 

Pesonen: Yes. Then, I suppose, in order to explain my position, I had to 
articulate that view, because it is important to me to have a 




reason for what I do. If I don't have a reason, then I begin to 
question whether my position is correct. And, you know, I'm an 
advocate, too. But I think I try to advocate honestly, and I 
have to believe it first. [laughter] If I don't believe it, I 
don't expect other people to believe it, and I don't think I ever 
said anything I didn't believe. But, you know, your views change 
as you get older and wiser, too. I was young and the views I had 
were, today, very conventional. Very conventional views of 
civics. Just high school civics. It wasn't anything more 
complicated than that. 

Well, I sometimes think that our generation tended to believe 
what they said in the civics classes. Now kids are much more 
cynical. That's why we could have these idealistic bursts, 
because we really believed what we'd been taught, and then were 
horrified when it wasn't true. 

Exactly. We were surprised, disappointed, and angry that 
everything we had just accepted as a matter of faith was subject 
to question. It was very threatening to some people. 

Public Power vs. Private Power and the Bodega Issue 

Lage: One other thing that comes up is your father having been with the 
Bureau of Reclamation- -that this would affect your views of 
public power versus private power. 

Pesonen: Well, I did believe in public power. 

Lage: Was that something your father had talked about over the years? 

Pesonen: He had talked about it, yes. He was an idealist, and a very fine 
man. He was very proud of what the Bureau of Reclamation was 
doing with the Central Valley Project, and he believed in it. He 
worked hard at it, and he devoted his career to it, and he 
involved me and my brother. He took us with him on his trips, 
and he told us about California, and about how two-thirds of the 
water fell in the north part of the state, and two-thirds of the 
arable land was in the south part of the state, and it just made 
sense to move some of that water down where the land was . I 
never questioned that at that time. I have grave questions about 
it now, but it made a lot of sense then. 

We would go to Shasta Dam, we'd go to Friant Dam, we'd go to 
these big federal projects underway, and it was sort of a Woody 
Guthrie view of life. Here was electricity being made available 

at cheap rates to the public generally, financed by the public, 
not for greed, not for private profit. It just made a lot of 
sense. We look back on the Central Valley Project as an 
ecological disaster, but people didn't know those things then. 

Lage: But he was talking about power and not just water. 

Pesonen: He was talking about both. 

Lage: About public power and the benefits of-- 

Pesonen: Right. We lived in Sacramento, which was a public power city. 
In a bitter battle, Sacramento had purchased the distribution 
system of PG&E, I think in the forties or late thirties. So 
public power was the kind of power we had; we had the Sacramento 
Municipal Utilities District, and it bought its power from the 
Bureau of Reclamation, and it was cheap, and everybody lived 
better. It was that view of the world. 

Lage: Do you think that had any effect on your attitude towards PG&E? 

Pesonen: I don't think it had anything to do with my view of PG&E at 

Bodega Bay. I've been accused of that a lot, but I didn't see it 
as a public power issue. If the Bureau of Reclamation had been 
building that reactor out there, I'd have been just as dismayed 
about it. I might have attacked it in a different way, but I 
wouldn't have favored it. PG&E accused us of that, and there was 
a very right-wing publication in Berkeley called the Toxin. It 
was a real product of the cold war. It saw conspiracy theories 
everywhere and reds hiding under every bed, and we were accused 
of being fronts for a Communist takeover of private property; all 
kinds of stuff like that, and it just rolled off my back like 
water off a duck. It didn't seem to deter people anymore. The 
cold war, in some way- -McCarthy ism was overit took a long time 
for the carcass to realize it was dead and fall over, but it 
didn't have the sting that it might have had in the fifties. 

Lage: Nobody dug out that record of yours? 
Pesonen: My record in the army, you mean? 
Lage: Yes, the security report. 

Pesonen: You know, I seem to recall that somebody published something 
about that, but I don't remember. 

Lage: It wasn't a major thing. I don't find any trace of it. 
Pesonen: Yes. I don't know what difference that would have made anyway. 

Sierra Club Representative to PUG Hearings on Bodega, May 1962 

Lage: Well, shall we start chronologically, or at least drop into the 
Bodega Bay issue where you entered it, when you were with the 
Sierra Club? 

Pesonen: Okay, we can do that. I was working for Dave Brower, and my 

title was Conservation Editor. It sounds more lofty than it was. 

It was a jack-of-all-trades position, mainly because Dave Brower 
just wanted somebody like me around to do various things. 

Lage: Were you assigned mainly to the Bulletin? 

Pesonen: No, I didn't work on the Bulletin much. He was promoting the 

book program of the club then, it was just getting started. So 
he would get manuscripts, and he'd want me to review each 
manuscript and give him an opinion on them, or edit them if he 
had decided that the club would publish them. And since I had a 
forestry background and there was always some issue with the 
State Board of Forestry on forest practice rules, I would be 
called upon occasionally to testify for the club at the Board of 
Forestry. Then anything else that he thought I had a talent that 
he could address to the problem. Sometimes it had to do with 
what the library should buy- -it was a wonderful job; I did all 
kinds of things. The club was very small then. The staff was 
very small, and we were one-on-one with Brower, who was a very 
charismatic person. 

So one day--. You know, I didn't pay any attention to 
Bodega, I didn't know anything about it. I was a young, single 
guy, living in San Francisco and having a great time. I wasn't 
politically active or anything else. He handed me the Gilliam 
column that had been published, I think, in February of 1962, 
lamenting the loss of Bodega and the Kortum letter to the editor 
[see Appendix A], and some notice that the PUC [Public Utilities 
Commission] had reopened the proceedings as a result of this 
attention, and he asked me to go over and find out what was going 
on and to give him a report. So I did. 

I can't remember the sequence now, but it was right about 
that time that I went over to PG&E to do a little research and 
went up to the engineering department, just cold, and talked to 
some clerical person and said, "I'm from the Sierra Club, and I'd 
like to see your file on Bodega Bay." They handed me a file and 
I sat down at a table and I began to see all kinds of things in 
this file. 

Lage: It was a very trusting gesture on their part. 

Pesonen: It was a very small file. I didn't see the whole file. 

Apparently, 1 was not in the engineering department. I was in 
the land department, or it was a file from the land department 
that ended up in the engineering department, but it had the 
exchanges of correspondence between top management and the 
political arm of the company- -the public affairs department and 
the land departmenton rounding up political support for the 
plan from local service groups, from the Board of Supervisors, 
from the planning commission. It reeked of a kind of arrogance 
that it was a foregone conclusion that the local elected 
officials were going to do whatever PG&E wanted them to, and were 
going to say whatever PG&E wanted them to, and pass whatever 
resolutions PG&E wrote for them. It was that flagrant. It was 
so flagrant it was unembarrassed. [laughter] 

Lage: They believed it so truly 

Pesonen: They believed it too. It was in good faith, that was the problem 
with it. [laughter] Well, I made some notes from this file. 
Some of them were extravagant and direct indications that they 
had local government in their pocket. 

Then I went over to the PUC hearing [May 1962] and talked to 
the people who had come down from Bodega Bay: Rose Gaffney, and 
the Ruebels, and the whole cast of characters. Ray and Marion 
Ruebel ran the Chamber of Commerce in Bodega Bay and had a little 
real estate business. They were very wonderful peoplethey 're 
both dead nowyou know, just simple midwestern folk who'd moved 
out here to kind of semi-retire and sell a little real estate, 
and they had a little real estate office right there in town. 
They were outraged by the history, since '58, of PG&E's hiding 
the ball and not disclosing what kind of plant it would be, the 
destruction of the harbor from the road [the road to the plant 
site in Campbell Cove was built in the tideflats of the harbor], 
the threat of power lines going over Doran Park and being a 
scenic wall on the harbor entrance. You know, they'd lived there 
for its tranquility and its beauty. The fishing community was 
very upset that the traditional way of careening their boats on 
the gentle mudflats on the west side of the harbor would be taken 
from them by the riprap along the road PG&E wanted to build. 

And then there were some other little agendas of people in 
town who were going to get a good deal- -who were going to get 
some money from PG&E and build another marina and be in 
competition with the other, existing, marina owners. There was a 
lot of that kind of thing going on at another level that had 
probably helped to stir all of this up. As in a lot of little 
towns, people find amazing ways to dislike each other, and 
suspect each other, and feed their gossip mill. 


Well, I didn't pay any attention to that part, but this was 
clearly a group of people who had tried very hard to be heard and 
hadn't had an opportunity, or hadn't been listened to. 

Lage: There had been previous hearings. 

Pesonen: Oh, there had been a hearing before the Corps of Engineers on the 
road that had been held at the grange hall up in Bodega in, I 
think, 1960 or '61 [February 15, 1962], and that had been a 
riotous hearing from press accounts. There was Joel Hedgpeth, 
who had watched it from both the inside and the outside. Inside, 
because of his acquaintance with many of the marine biology 
faculty at Berkeley and his awesome archiving powers and his 
natural suspicious bent of mind. There was Karl Kortum who had 
grown up in Sonoma County and sailed out of Bodega Bay, and loved 
its beauty too. There were just a mob of people there. 

It became very clear to me that they didn't have a plan. 
They weren't organized. They were angry; their testimony would 
be focused on whatever was personally of concern to them, but 
there was no coherent theory as to what they were doing. So I 
thought, well, here's a role for me--to pull this together and 
give it a theme. I just emerged as a leader. 

I went back and reported to Brower, and he said keep on 
doing it. Well, then it started to hit the papers, and then his 
board started getting uneasy. 

Lage: Didn't you testify at the PUC hearing? 

Pesonen: I did testify. 

Lage: Was Phil Berry [Sierra Club activist] involved in the hearing? 

Pesonen: Phil didn't testify. Phil was a recent law school graduate from 
Stanford, and he came over and helped with the examination of 
some of the witnesses. 

Lage: You could examine witnesses from the floor? 

Pesonen: It was a weird proceeding. Anybody can stand up in the audience, 
and examine a witness. The hearing officer just says, "Okay, 
it's your turn; okay, it's your turn," and points at people in 
the audience, and they come forward to the podium. They are 
untrained, make speeches- -a lawyer would be horrified at the form 
of questioning, but that wasn't the kind of proceeding it was. 
So that went on, and I testified, and I also examined some 



Did you testify based on some of the things you'd found out from 
PG&E files? 

Pesonen: Yes. By this time we knew that we couldn't win this case before 
the PUC; we had to win it in the newspapers. So I set it up for 
the dramatic moment to come when I would disclose these quotes I 
had plucked out of this file that had been shown me at PG&E, 
about their, in our terms, having corrupted the local government. 
I was being examined by William Knecht, who was the farm bureau 
lawyerthe California Farm Bureau Federation had joined with 
PG&E as sort of a petitioner. Knecht was a lawyer for them, and 
he and John [C.] Morrissey both examined me for a little while, 
and then they had the good sense not to ask me the question, "How 
do you know that PG&E has corrupted the Board of Supervisors?" 
because they didn't want the answer. 

Well, 1 thought they might not ask the question, so I had 
planted the question with one of our cohorts in the audience, 
[laughter] Tony Sargent, who worked over here at the Lawrence 
Labs. When the PG&E lawyerswhen Morrissey and Knecht didn't 
ask that question, Tony came forward and asked the question. I 
brought out my black briefcase, and I put it up there next to the 
microphone, and I snapped the snaps on it, and it went "click" 
throughout the room. You should hear Karl Kortum describe it; it 
was a high moment of drama. I lifted the lid on this little 
black leather briefcase and pulled out these notes and then began 
to describe the circumstances: how I had gone over to the 
building at 245 Market Street and got in the elevator and pushed 
the button number eleven, or whatever it was, and went up and 
asked the receptionist if I could see the file. At that point 
there was a flurry like somebody had thrown a fox in a chicken 
yard at the PG&E counsel table, and people started running 
around, running out of the room, grabbing phones, and I don't 
know what else they did, but it clearly had them all excited. I 
described what I'd seen and got some quotes into the record, and 
that was a big moment of drama. That's all it was, I mean, it 
didn't go to the merits of the case very much at all, but it got 
some attention. 

Focusing on Seismic Hazards and Quitting the Sierra Club Staff 

Pesonen: As a result of that, as a result of that sort of sense of drama 
and sense of the need for coherence in approach to the case, and 
my recognition--! think I was the source of it to begin focusing 
on the seismic hazards-- 



That's when you decided to focus on seismic hazards? 

I saw that there was an issue there; there were some facts to 
support it; there was a reason. There was a geologist from the 
state Division of Mines and Geology. His name was Koenig--! 
don't remember his first namebut he had published a little 
paper in a quarterly publication that the Division of Mines and 
Geology put out on Bodega Head. The cover had a map of fault 
lines. We asked Koenig to testify, and he was very cautious in 
his testimony, but this was not a fabricated issue. This was 
real, and it was a serious concern. We weren't just exploiting 
it to stop the plantwe were doing that, too but we carried it 
on the merits. There was a serious question here, whether the 
plant should be built there. 

The PUC was the first place where we started to open that 
up, and it was my perception that that was something we should 
focus our attention on. Through that process, I just emerged as 
the leader. 

Through the process of these hearings? 

Is that when all this 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: But you are still with the Sierra Club? 

Pesonen: I'm still with the Sierra Club. 

Lage: And what happened with that relationship? 

Pesonen: Well, that fell apart later, but by that time I had applied to 

the Food and Agriculture Organization for that job in Tanganyika, 
and it was held up because I needed a security clearance and I 
was a long time getting it. I didn't see any future at the 
Sierra Club for me- -I didn't want to be Dave Brower's flunky all 
my life. 

Lage: I had the impression that the club, or some members of the club, 
were disturbed by the testimony at the PUC and that was the 
reason you left. Is that inaccurate? 

Pesonen: That, ultimately, was part of the reason I left. There came a 

point where Dave asked me to report to the executive committee on 
what to do next on Bodega Bay. Hearings before the PUC had 
concluded. The decision had not been entered. This was probably 
June of 1962. 


Those are the minutes I can't find. [laughter] 



Are they? 

Well, there probably weren't any minutes to that 






You think that was more of an informal meeting. 

I think it was an informal meeting. If I recall correctly, 
present were myself, Dave Brower, Lewis Clark, Dick [Richard M.] 
Leonard, I don't recall whether Ed Wayburn was there or not. It 
wasn't a big meeting. It was in Dave's off ice--right off the 
library there in the Mills Tower. I gave a report that wrapped 
up what we had learned from the hearings . I said there was a 
serious question whether a plant at Bodega would be safe because 
of its proximity to the San Andreas fault. I firmly believed 
that if we continued to pursue that issue we could stop the plant 
from being built, but if we didn't pursue that issue, we couldn't 
stop the plant from being built. If we restricted our public 
statements to lamenting the loss of another scenic part of the 
coast it would have no effect on the AEC's [Atomic Energy 
Commission] decision or the PUC's decision. 

At that point Dick Leonard- -if my recollection is correct, 
and it's not very bright in my mind, what's bright in my mind is 
the whole setting and how I felt; I was suddenly under siege and 
surprised by the antagonism I had generated with some board 
members- -Dick Leonard shook his finger at me and said, "Don't you 
ever mention atomic power or atomic safety. You can't do that in 
the name of the club. We are in support of nuclear power. It's 
an environmentally wonderful thing: it will mean that we won't 
have to build any more dams in the Grand Canyon." I think that 
was a genuine view on his part, and what I was saying was 
inconsistent with club policy. 

It's true. They had suggested atomic power as an alternative to 
hydroelectric for years. 

So I was in a position where the people who made policy had said 
that I couldn't, as an employee, make a public statement 
inconsistent with policy. 

But you don't recall that this was a formal vote of the executive 
committee or anything like that? 

No. I don't recall any formal vote. 

Did anybody step up and disagree with Dick Leonard? 

Well, no. They weren't so vigorous, although some of the other 
people present were more conciliatory toward me and the spot it 
put me in. Leonard was not friendly at all at that meeting. 


Lage: Somewhere I read, and I can't remember what I read this in, that 
he read you the so-called "gag" rule they passed in 1959 to keep 
Dave Brower from maligning public officials. 

Pesonen: Oh, well I had something like that, but I don't recall attaching 
much significance to that. That was not what was the matter- - 

Lage: The thing for you was the atomic issue. 

Pesonen: Yes. Now that you mention it, I do remember something about that 
gag rule, but that was just procedural. 

Lage: But it was important to Dick Leonard and others. 

Pesonen: It was important to them, but what was important to me was that 
Leonard was focusing on the substance of what I said. I wasn't 
maligning anyone. 


Pesonen: I guess by implication the AEC and the higher management of PG&E 
were being maligned, for doing something stupid [laughter], 
that's what I was calling it. I was calling the whole thing a 
threat to public health and safety as well as to a very beautiful 
place. But that wasn't the real issue. He did not want me 
talking about nuclear safety. That troubled me a lot, and I 
thought about that for a while, and I decided that I didn't know 
what I wanted to do, but that was not a tenable position for me. 
So I quit. 

Lage: Do you remember when you quit? 

Pesonen: I quit at the end of June, I think. I'm pretty sure that it was 
about the end of June. I didn't have any clear plan of what I 
was going to do. I was still waiting for this FAO job to come 
through. I had saved a little money, and I hitchhiked to 
Colorado to visit a girlfriend and I just kept thinking about 
this thing. I was gone for about a month- -spent a couple of 
weeks in Aspen. And then, on the way back, I met a fellow on the 
train who was going to British Columbia to go mountain climbing. 
I had never been to British Columbia, so I talked him into- -he 
was going to meet his ride in Salt Lake, and so I got off in Salt 
Lake with him and drove with them way up to Revelstoke, British 
Columbia, and then I hitchhiked back home. 

Bodega Head, Proposed site of PG&E Nuclear Power Plant, from 
A Visit to the Atomic Park 


FALL 1963 

A Visit to the Atomic Park 

Pesonen: All of this time, I was thinking about this problem; this Bodega 
thing was just eating at me, and it began to sort itself out. By 
the time 1 got back, the FAO position still hadn't come through, 
and I was broke, so I moved in with some friends down the street 
here and got from Joel Hedgpeth his complete clippings file on 
the history of Bodega going back to '58, and I just sat down and 
read every thing he'd clipped, and every note he made, and every 
letter he'd written with [Congressman] Clem Miller. From that, 
emerged what happened. If Hedgpeth had not done that, I think 
that plant might have got built. 

Hedgpeth was a meticulous keeper of records. Everything 
that appeared that had any direct or tangential relevance to what 
was happening at Bodega or in the field of nuclear power, he 
pasted up in bound volumes. [Joel Hedgpeth 's correspondence and 
clippings on Bodega are available in The Bancroft Library.] They 
were about two inches thick, two or three inches thick, of old 
newspaper clippings. There had been a very good reporter on the 
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Don Engdahl, who had covered the story 
well, who quoted these public officials saying really dumb things 
like ["Nin"] Guidotti saying, "It's so beautiful out there; it 
would be a shame not to build something on it." [laughter] The 
kinds of things that just skewered themselves. 

I made up my mind that this was so important a story that it 
had to be told, and I would write a manuscript about it. I had 
no idea who the publisher would be, I didn't really know who the 
audience was going to be. 


Lage: And you weren't hooked up with the association [the Northern 

California Association to Preserve Bodega Bay and Harbor] yet, I 
mean, officially? 

Pesonen: During that summer it was pretty quiescent. It never was a very 
formal organization, anyway. It had a name, but that's all. It 
didn't have a letterhead, it didn't have a formal membership. It 
was a small group of peopleJoe Neilands, Karl Kortum, Doris 
Sloan, Harold Gilliam, Tony Sargent, Phil Flint, the Ruebels up 
in Bodega Bay, and certainly Hazel Bonneke--her name was then; 
it's now Mitchellshe was a waitress at the Tides restaurant. 
She was one of the real active people, and still is, up there. 
She was active in the petition that's just been launched a few 
weeks ago to prohibit the State Department of Parks and 
Recreation from imposing entrance fees in coastal parks. But it 
was a very loose group, and it wasn't active that summer. We 
kept expecting the PUC to issue a decision any day, and so I was 
racing against the clock. I wanted the story told before the PUC 
made its decision. 

I rented a little room, and, as I told you last time, Joe 
Neilands gave me a night job in the biochemistry department lab 
running a lab procedure that he had set up as part of his 
research it didn't require very much of my time. I made some 
money; I had enough to support myself and pay my rent. I just 
buried myself in this material and writing this story: what was 
the University's role, what was the Atomic Energy Commission's 
role, what was PG&E's role, what was the role of the Department 
of Parks and Recreation and the county of Sonoma? How could this 
thing happen? 

By that time I was convinced that I was on to something that 
was, to me, almost a metaphysical disaster. It was so wrong it 
was just wrong in every possible way. It was scientifically 
wrong, it was morally wrong, it was politically wrong; it was 
just wrong. I didn't feel that I could just go out and say it 
was wrong; I wanted to prove it, and I wanted to prove it with 
evidence. This clipping file that Hedgpeth had pulled together 
over four years collapsed the story into one place so that, if 
you had read all those clippings over a period of four years you 
wouldn't have seen the story, but there was a pattern you could 
see what had happened when they were all condensed. 


So that was the basis of the article? 

Pesonen: That was the major source on which I relied. I also went out and 
interviewed a bunch of people . 








I finished the manuscript and I sent it to Karl Kortum to 
look at, and he was enormously impressed with it, and he sent it 
to his brother Bill, who was also very activeBill and his wife 

And they lived up in Sonoma County. 

And they lived in Petaluma. Bill's clients were mainly dairy 
farmers up there. 

He was a veterinarian? 

He was a veterinarian. He was afraid of the contamination with 
radioactive iodine of the dairylands. There had been an accident 
in Windscale, in England, in 1958 at a plutonium production 
reactor. It had had a fire in the plutonium and had released a 
huge cloud of radio- iodine, which had contaminated most of the 
milk in that part of England. From the press reports anyway, the 
milk had all had to be dumped. 

Between that accident 

Do you remember who made that connection? 
and Bodega? 

I made that connection. 
You recalled the accident? 

In all the research I did to prepare this manuscript I read a lot 
of other things. Hedgpeth's clippings told me what had happened 
at Bodega, but it didn't tell me anything about nuclear power or 
past nuclear accidents. 

Then there was a series of articles, and I don't remember 
how I came upon them, in the Massachusetts Law Quarterly by a 
fellow named James B. Muldoon, and I talked to Muldoon. I think 
Muldoon's dead now, but I remember carrying on a long 
correspondence with Muldoon. He was a lawyer, and his brother 
had been very high up in the Eisenhower administration. His 
brother had leaked to him a lot of information about nuclear 
power. In the late fifties, there had been a proposal for a 
nuclear waste disposal facility in Massachusetts, and Muldoon had 
taken it on. He had taken it on in the form of a series of 
articles in the Massachusetts Law Quarterly called "Alice in 
Nuclear Energyland," and they were ironic and funny but had a lot 
of solid material in them. He had done a lot of research, so I 
relied on Muldoon's articles and bits of pieces of things I found 
in pamphlets about an accident in Canada, and just sort of odds 
and ends of things that I could find. There wasn't a whole lot. 


There was a trade publication called Nucleonics, a McGraw- 
Hill magazine. It had a lot of good stuffit was addressed to 
the nuclear engineering field. I went over to the engineering 
library, and I just spent a couple of months researching this 
thing . 

So Kortum sent my article to Bill, his brother Bill, and 
Bill gave it to Ernie Joyner, who was the publisher of the 
Sebastopol rimes. Joyner was an old Texas populist who had come 
further west to own his own little newspaper. He was a 
curmudgeonly- -almost a movie charactersmall town newspaper 
publisher barely making ends meet. He had watched what had 
happened at Bodega with some concern from his populist point of 
view. Not nuclear power, he didn't care about nuclear power one 
way or another. He read the manuscript, and he was fascinated 
with it; he wanted to publish it in his newspaper. He called me 
up, and I'll never forget, he said [in Texas accent], "I want to 
run that. I read that thing, I want that like a duck going after 
a junebug." [laughter] Well, I didn't want it just published in 
some obscure country weekly where it would disappear; I wanted it 
to get wider circulation. If these people were that impressed 
with it, it must be pretty good. I mean, I thought I was a 
pretty good writer. 

That became A Visit to the Atomic Park. Well, by this time, 
Dave Brower was feeling that he had let me down by not standing 
up for me with the Sierra Club board. I had no money to publish 
this thingto get it printed or anything else, but he had some 
chits to call in with somebody who ran a printing plant in 
Berkeley. I made a deal with Joyner that he would let me 
proofread the article and he would print glossy galleys and I 
would use those, then, as the camera-ready copy so I didn't have 
to pay for it to print this pamphlet. If you look at A Visit to 
the Atomic Park, you'll see it is three columns wide per page. 
Those were the newspaper columns printed by the typesetter up at 
that little plant. And then Kortum was a very good photographer 
and had taken a lot of wonderful photographs, so I just spent 
evenings down at this fellow's printing shop putting this 
pamphlet together. I did a lot of the production on it, too. 

Lage: Somebody--! forget if it was the Wellock article or Brewer's oral 
history interview said that Brower wanted it to be a Sierra Club 
publication. Do you remember any discussion about that? 

Pesonen: I don't recall that Brower wanted it to be a Sierra Club 

publication. I don't think it could have been a Sierra Club 

Lage: That surprised me. 


Pesonen: Dave may have harbored some notion that he would like to, but he 
couldn't. So he helped me get it published by having this 
printer pay off some debt he owed by printing the pamphlet for 
free and not charging me for it. 

So I got it printed. I got a thousand copies printed for 
nothing. Typesetting by the Sebastopol Times layout by myself, 
and production by this guy who was paying off an old debt. It 
was just a barter. Then I went out and started peddling. I'd go 
to bookstores and I'd say, "You've read about this in the papers; 
would you stock a couple of these?" 

Lage: Did you get a good response? 

Pesonen: Sure. It didn't cost them anythingit was just on commission- 
sell it for a dollar, I get twenty- five cents, you keep the rest. 
It was not a profitable venture. [laughter] It wasn't done for 

Rallying Public Opinion: The November 10 Forum 




Well, by that time we began to wonder if the PUC was ever going 
to issue its decision. Finally, we concluded that the PUC was 
waiting for the election, which I think was on the 7th of 
November in 1962, and Governor Pat Brown was up for reelection 
and this controversy, I suppose they figuredthis is total 
speculation, I have absolutely no evidence to support this except 
for timing 

Except for timing, right. 

--that the commission had decided to hold off their decision 
until the election was behind them. You know, they're political 
appointees like anybody else, and it's not an implausible theory. 

I see they issued it on November 9th. 

Pretty close to that 

Ninth or 10th, yes. Within two or three days after the election 
the decision was issued. 

Confident that our conspiracy theory was right, that they 
were delaying the decision for political reasons, we organized a 
public forum in Santa Rosa. I think it was in October--! don't 
remember the exact date. 



I have November 10th. 




Maybe it was . 
been issued. 

That's right, it was right after the decision had 

It must have been planned--. 

It was planned well before. We put out some sensational 
publicity about it: oysters glowing in the dark in Willapa Bay up 
in Washington; radioactive debris was coming down the Columbia 
River from the Hanford plant. Some of it was pretty 
unscrupulous. [laughter] 

I was going to say unscrupulous. [laughter] 

Well, it was sensational. 

Sensational, but were these things that had happened? 

Well, everything had been said to have happened. [laughter] I 
doubt very much any oysters ever glowed in the dark. Not in 
Willapa Bay, anyway. And then we publicized Windscale and the 
dumping of the milk, to appeal to the dairy farmers. We got a 
big turnout. It was in some hall in Santa Rosa. 

What kind of people came? Were these just ordinary--. 

All kinds of people. Mostly dissidents and radicals, farmers, I 
think a whole collection of people from all over the county. 

From the inland areas too, not just right there--. 

Some from the inland areas. I didn't know most of the people. 
We put together this very boring panel discussion. Phil Berry 
was the moderator, or maybe I moderated it, but Phil was a 
principal speaker, about how hard it was to appear before the AEC 
and how unfair it was that the proceedings didn't allow you to 
testify, and they didn't consider environmental matters there 
had been no environmental legislation passed by that time, by 
Congress or by the state. 

We had a doctor from Washington University in St. Louis 
whose way we paid out here. He described a program to collect 
baby teeth to measure fallout of strontium 90 1 from all over the 
country. There was a rising concern about radioactive 

'A radioactive isotope of strontium with a half -life of 28 years, 
found in radioactive fallout. 


contamination from atmospheric tests of weapons. The atmospheric 
test ban treaty had not been adopted by then, so we were still 
blowing off nuclear weapons out in Nevada in the air or in the 
Pacific; so were the Russians, so were the French, and so were 
the English. It was a bomb a week it seemed like, with mushroom 
clouds sending up debris that was going around the globe on the 
jet stream. And there was significant, measurable fallout from 
this atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. There was a lot of 
press about it. 

Lage: So people were aware of nuclear matters? 

Pesonen: People were beginning to be aware of radioactivity as an 

environmental contaminant which could cause horrible diseases. 
And we played on that. I don't deny that we played on that. It 
was available to us, and it was not false, and we used it. 

Well, the meeting got pretty boring. At the meeting I 
handed out stacks of this pamphlet, A Visit to the Atomic Park. 
The show was taped by KPFK. Joan Mclntyre went up and taped the 
whole thing. I still have the tape of it--I haven't listened to 
it for twenty years, but--. 

Lage: Who's Joan Mclntyre? The dolphin lady? 

Pesonen: Yes, whales and dolphins. She's now married to somebody in Tonga 
or someplace in the South Pacific. But Joan was a character, and 
she taped the program and then edited it and did a broadcast. At 
the end of the meeting, a person whom I had mentioned in the 
atomic park, a guy named Alexander Grendon, had been sitting 
quietly in the back and demonstrating more and more agitation. 
His body language showed that he was in a great state of 
unhappiness over what was being said by the panel. He probably 
saved the day for us, because his position was Coordinator of 
Atomic Energy Development and Radiation Protection, an office 
that Pat Brown had created right in the governor's office as a 
campaign promise in 1958. 

The office had to do with development of nuclear power. Pat 
Brown was a great advocate of nuclear power. He had gone to the 
dedication of the Humboldt plant in 1958 and made a speech saying 
he was going to put California at the forefront of development of 
nuclear energy during his campaign in 1958. He made the speech 
in San Jose, I think, at the headquarters of General Electric, 
which was the manufacturer of these light water reactors. As 
part of fulfilling his campaign promise, he had created this 
office and appointed Alexander Grendon, who was a retired colonel 
of chemical and biological warfare. 


Grendon couldn't keep his mouth shut. So, he got up to 
speak. He didn't come forward--. I remember this just like it 
was yesterday. He didn't come forward to the podium and speak to 
the audience's face; he stood in the back of the room, and I'm 
sure the psychology was wrong, and I knew it was wrong at the 
moment, and I decided to use it to fire up this audience. He 
talked at the back of people's heads. And he was arrogant. He 
said, "You don't know what you're talking about. The AEC 
shouldn't have to spend time listening to what you have to say 
because you're not experts..." and he confirmed everything we had 
said [laughter], and speaking from the governor's office! 

Well, that was wonderful, because it enraged our audience. 
Lage: You say you used it, but I'm wondering how. 
Pesonen: I just let him go on. 
Lage: You let him dig his own grave? 

Pesonen: Yes. I didn't invite him to come forward. I just said, you 

know, "The floor's yours, Colonel Grendon." I made a point of 
calling him "Colonel Grendon," too. [laughter] He was 
wonderful. So that woke the meeting up. People said, "How can I 
help? Where do I sign up?" and they scooped up those pamphlets. 

Lage: So the educational presentations that you put forth didn't really 
capture their excitement? 

Pesonen: That wasn't really so terrific. The people were just dozing off 
and threatened to walk out. I thought the meeting was getting 
away from us. It was going to end in a whimper, until Grendon 
got up and saved it. 

Lage: So then were you ready to get these people organized? 

Pesonen: We didn't know what we were going to do; you know, we weren't 

very well organized. But we clearly had a solid, small amount of 
people who were determined to do something about it. 

Lage: Had you ever run a campaign before, of any kind? 
Pesonen: No. I had no experience. 

Lage: You seemed to think you knew what to do, though. I mean, from 

the way you talk, you talk as if you had a sense that they needed 
the organization, they needed-- 


Pesonen: Well, I'm giving myself too much credit. The idea of the meeting 
was Karl Kortum's I think, and a lot of the publicity was Jean 
Kortum's and Bill Kortum's. Bill was politically active in 
Sonoma County. Doris Sloan was a shrewd organizer. She'd been 
with the American Friends Service Committee for a long time, and 
the ACLU, I think. They were a little older than I was, and they 
knew something about organizing. 

We were all very innocent about it in those days. People 
are sophisticated these days. Even political campaigns were run 
without campaign organizers. You didn't have a campaign manager 
in the late fifties and early sixties. There weren't any 
computers. Presidents and governors still had whistle stop tours 
on trains. You've got to go back and reconstruct where we were 
historically at that time. That was thirty years ago. So, I 
didn't do all this myself, by any means. 

Lage: But you did have a sense it needed organizing, you said. 

Pesonen: Yes, and I had a basic talent about handling it when it was put 

together. But I'm not terribly creative about those things. The 
Kortums had run a successful battle against the State Department 
of Highways when it had planned to put the highway 101 freeway 
through the Petaluma area. The Department of Highways wanted to 
put it through the best agricultural land, and it also would have 
come very close to their house. They were successful in a 
campaign to get them to move the route of the highway further to 
the west and out of the best agricultural land and up on the 
hill. So they had a lot of skills from that battle. It was the 
first time the Department of Highways had been beaten in one of 
their freeway routing controversies. 

Lage: That was the beginning of a trend also. 

Pesonen: Yes. Well, the Kortums know how to make trouble- -big trouble. 
Karl's involved in the palm trees on the Embarcadero right now. 
[laughter] Karl's wonderful. I don't know if you've ever talked 
to Karl, but-- 

Lage: I haven't, although he contributed some to the Scott Newhall oral 
history, so I've heard his name batted about. 

Pesonen: He's a wonderful story teller, and he and Jean both are just a 
wonderful team, and they did a lot of this. 


Saint-Amand and the Earthquake Fault 

Pesonen: But anyway, after this meeting, within a couple of days after the 
PUC decision, or it was within a day or two of the PUC decision, 
and we were cranking up for the AEC hearings. We didn't know 
exactly when they were going to be held, but we knew they would 
come soon. And Joan Mclntyre had this program broadcast on KPFA 
and its affiliate in Los Angeles, KPFK, I think. And, Pierre 
Saint-Amand, who was a geologist for the Naval Ordnance Test 
Station in China Lake, happened to hear the program on the radio, 
and he was outraged. 

Lage: So he wasn't somebody whom you found? 

Pesonen: No! He found us. This historian who wrote this piece-- J. Samuel 
Walker--in the Pacific Historical Review* makes it sound like we 
went out and rounded Saint-Amand up, but that's not the case. 
Saint-Amand called me up--I don't know how he found me--and said 
he heard this program and he thought it was an outrage what was 
happening. He was Dr. Saint-Amand, a nationally known 
seismologist, and he knew something about the geology up there 
and would like to help. 

Lage: That must have been nice to hear. 

Pesonen: It was wonderful to hear. We didn't have any lawyers, we didn't 
have any experts. PG&E had everything. All we had was our 
voices. So I made arrangements to go out there with him, and by 
this time I had met Julie [Julie Shearer, Pesonen' s former wife 
and a colleague of the interviewer], I think. I think I'd met 
Julie by this time. She was a reporter for the Mill Valley 
Record and covered a little speech I gave over there. I don't 
remember whether Julie went with us when we went up there or not, 
the first time. Maybe not. Saint-Amand and his assistant, whose 
name I don't remember now, drove up in their big van, and we all 
went out there, and we spent the day just walking along the ocean 
escarpment on the west side of the head [Bodega Head], 
Saint-Amand was a character. He had a big beard and a funny 
Peruvian hat and-- 

Lage: Which must have blown off a few times. [laughter] 

1 "Reactor at the Fault: The Bodega Bay Nuclear Plant Controversy, 
1958-1964--A Case Study in the Politics of Technology," Pacific Historical 
Review (1990), pp. 323-348. 










It had a string on it which ran around his chin. He was a great 
story teller. He loved the site and found it technically 
intriguing to try to figure out what the geology was out there. 


And by the time we finished that day's walk, he said, "They've 
got a real problem out here." He said he would go to work on 
preparing a report, which took quite a long time to put together. 
He had to come back and make a couple of trips. 

Did he tie it in to the Point Reyes area, or did he-- 

Not the way the USGS did a year later, but the San Andreas is so 
visible on an aerial photo, I mean, you can't miss it. There's 
got to be something going on, seismically, out there. You'll 
notice that picture in A Visit to the Atomic Park of a locomotive 
on its side, knocked over in 1906. Twenty-one feet of 
displacement right there at Bolinas, or north of Bolinas. That 
was a big earthquake, and it wasn't very far away, and here this 
fault runs right through the harbor. So what happened then? 

You just got a certain verbal lead from him that there were 
problems there, but had no report. 

No, I think he wrote a letter. This Walker article cites a 
letter that he wrote shortly after that, before his report was 
done [April 19, 1963, Saint-Amand to Harold Gilliam, quoted in 
Walker article, p. 331). I don't remember that, but I'm sure it 

Walker says he wrote a letter to Stewart Udall's office [U.S. 
secretary of interior]. Maybe this was during the time when 
Harold Gilliam was working in Udall's office. 

I don't remember that, 

I just don't remember what that timing 

Because Udall seemed to be a key-- 
Udall was a very key person. 
Did you contact him at all? 

That was all done by the Kortums or by Gilliam, not by me. I 
don't think I ever talked to anyone in the Department of the 
Interior, and if I did, it wasn't for very much. I've never 
talked to Hal [Gilliam] about that. I'm not privy to his 
conversations, but it makes sense he would have spoken with Udall 


about Bodega. He was part of our organization. We had a plant 
right there in the secretary of interior's office [laughter]; 
that's not bad. 

Lage: We'll have to get this straightened out. 

Pesonen: It's the kind of thing PG&E used to do; we accused them of it. 

Lage: Right. Looks very conspiratorial. 
Pesonen: Well, it was. [laughter] 

That spring of '63, for me personally, was a slow period, 
had to have a job, and I got a job working for Henry Vaux and 
John Zivnuska in the UC School of Forestry on a report on the 
forest products industry in California. It may have been 
Agriculture Extension which was putting it together--! think 
Zivnuska was the lead author, and he had asked me to write a 
couple of chapters in it, do research and write some chapters. 


Were they aware of all of this controversy at Bodega? 

Pesonen: They were aware. I told them, "Look, I'm involved in this thing 
now, and I'm not going to let go of it. I may be spending some 
University time with University phones." They were very kind 
about it, very understanding. There wasn't any Free Speech 
Movement by this time, either. I think they just liked me, and 
they respected what I was doing, and they respected the way I did 
it. I was up front with them; if I was going to take this job, 
there would be times when I was going to be working on Bodega, 
and that was just the way it was going to be, or I wasn't going 
to work on that job. I'd make up for it. I'd put in hours 
elsewhere; I'd somehow keep the books straight, and I think I 
did, but I'm sure that I ran the University's phone bill up. 
[laughter] The University deserved it. And I had met Julie by 
this time and was courting Julie, so my personal life was busy 
and this employment was preoccupying, and Bodega was 
preoccupying. We didn't know what was going to happen. 

PG&E then submitted, to the Atomic Energy Commission, as 
part of their application for a construction license, a much more 
comprehensive analysis of the sitegeologic analysis and 
engineering analysisthan they had submitted to the PUC. Well, 
we had obtained the submission to the PUC and we had the AEC 
submission, and Sam Rogers, who was a biochemistry student who 
worked for Joe Neilands , took these two reports and read them and 
made a comparison. We found major discrepancies between what 






they had told the PUC about the site, and what they told the AEC. 
They were much more honest with the AEC. 

They didn't think the AEC would care as much, or do you think 
they'd found out more in the meantime? 

Well, the AEC had more expertise, so it was harder to pull the 
wool over their eyes. 

[tape interruption] 

Julie had told me something about helping you get a crucial 
report. Was that the crucial report that she got in her role as 

No. That wasn't it. 

It was a very crucial report, but another 

PG&E had to submit what was called a "preliminary hazard 
summary" report, which they filed with the AEC. It's hard to 
imagine now, with the Freedom of Information Act and all of the 
environmental statutes that have been passed by Congress and 
interpreted by the courts, what in fact was the fact then, that 
the AEC said we couldn't have a copy of it. We could go in to 
their office, and under a guard, sit at a table and read it, but 
we couldn't get our own copy. Well, of course, PG&E had a copy, 
and we'll come to that in the chronology here. 

But before that, Sam Rogers had gone over and read the 
exhibits that had been submitted on the seismic question. I 
think they were exhibits to this preliminary hazard summary 
report or part of the application, anyway. They disclosed facts 
about the proximity of the San Andreas fault which had been 
denied by PG&E at the PUC hearings and which had not been 
revealed in the seismic report submitted at the PUC. We saw 
this, two sworn statements that were in conflict, as another 
opportunity to try to get the PUC to reconsider their decision. 
So we prepared a petition. I wrote it, but Sam Rogers was the 
one who found it. I did the writing and the analysis and the 
compilation and prepared a long petition. I've forgotten what we 
called it, exactly, but it was a petition to reopen for false 
evidence, or some hysterical title like that [laughter]. We 
submitted it with a press release and filed it with the PUC. The 
PUC deliberated on it for a while and finally issued a decision 
denying our petition. 

But William Bennett, who was a Pat Brown appointee to the 
PUC and who had political ambitions of his own--he ran later for 
attorney general and I think he really wanted to run for 





governorissued a dissent and held his own press conference when 
he issued the dissent. The dissent seized on both the scenic 
issues and the seismic issues and was a very eloquent treatise on 
Bodega Bay and why there shouldn't be a plant there. I'm quite 
convinced that he saw this as the opening shot at his own 
political campaign. 

Why are you convinced of that? 

Well, I've talked to him since, and he's pretty well conceded 
that he saw this as part of his building a campaign. That's the 
way people campaigned in those days. There weren't any 
television, thirty-second spots. 

He could build on the interest in this issue. 

Thirty years ago you campaigned through the newspapers , and you 
campaigned on issues, and they weren't negative campaigns. We've 
forgotten how far political campaigns have descended since then. 

In any event, it was another occasion to keep the issue 
alive, keep it on the front page of the newspapers, keep the 
controversy hot. So we were very grateful. 

You did that quite well, 

really, over this extended period of 

Well, we had to work at it. I mean, you've got to make news, 
[laughter] But we found ways to make news. I don't think we 
ever made news that didn't have a real factual basis. Something 
happened, and all we did was see that it got plenty of attention. 
I don't think we ever manufactured anything. I think we ran the 
campaign with a lot of integrity. 

Relations with PG&E 

Lage: Does PG&E agree? 

Pesonen: No, they didn't agree at all. [laughter] They were dismayed. 

They had never run into anything like this before. This was the 
first time that anybody had ever had a sustained campaign that 
didn't quit. About this time, they tried to talk me out of 
pursuing this. 

Lage: Tell me about that. 


Pesonen: That was Hal Strube, who was in the PG&E public affairs 

department. He was the person assigned the responsibility to 
handle all the public relations and see that it ran smoothly. We 
were driving Strube nuts, and Strube made the mistake of 
cultivating Julie. Here was a reporter. He went around and 
talked to all of the newspapers, talked to the reporters; that 
was the way he did his job. He didn't know that Julie and I were 
romantically involved. So he thought that he had an ally in 
Julie, and Julie was a good spy. She said, "Well, I'd like to 
read that preliminary hazard summary report." So he lent it to 
her, and she called me up, and we ran over to the Sierra Club and 
turned on the Xerox machine and photocopied the whole thing, 
[laughter] That's the report that Julie was talking about. Then 
she gave it back to Strube and said it was very interesting. 
Then Strube learned a month or two later that we were getting 
married. [laughter] 

Lage: He must have been dismayed. 

Pesonen: Poor Strube. [laughter] He knew he'd been had. 

Strube then invited me to go out to the little reactor that 
they had out in Pleasanton. It was an experimental reactor that 
PG&E ran in conjunction with General Electric. It was a test 
reactor. They had hooked up a small generator that they had 
retrieved from an old ship and declared that this was producing 
electricity. Well, it never made any money, and it didn't 
produce much electricity, but it was a public relations coup: 
PG&E was now generating electricity from nuclear power in two 
places, Humboldt Bay and Pleasanton. 

Lage: Was Humboldt Bay a legitimate nuclear plant? 

Pesonen: Humboldt Bay opened in 1962, I think. 

Lage: Was it as big as what they planned for Bodega? 

Pesonen: Oh no. Humboldt Bay was sixty megawatts, and Bodega was planned 
to be three hundred megawatts. That's small by today's 
standards. They build them two thousand megawatts now; Diablo 
Canyon is two thousand megawatts. But Bodega was the biggest 
then, and Humboldt was as big as the only one or two other 
reactors that were operating in the West. 

Lage: So this was very experimental. 

Pesonen: Very experimental. Well, the theory wasn't experimental, but 
each design was a unique design, designed for its site. 


I interrupted you. Strube took you out to Pleasanton. 

Pesonen: Strube invited me to go out to Pleasanton and see the reactor. 

He thought maybe this would assuage my concerns. I agreed to go, 
and I asked Frances Herring to go with me. I think Frances is 
probably dead now; I haven't heard from her for years. She was a 
wonderful woman, and she was a friend of Barney Dreyfus, who had 
handled one of these little lawsuits we brought against the 
countyunsuccessful lawsuits and she worked at the Institute 
for Governmental Studies on campus. She was an older woman, a 
good writer and a really fine person, and she was very interested 
in the Bodega case, interested in it as a social event, I think. 
She went with me, and we went with Strube. 

It was a rainy day, I remember. This must have been in the 
early spring or late winter in '63, and I was living in a rooming 
house over here on Durant. The guy who ran the rooming house was 
a little technical wizard; he liked to play with electronics. He 
had made a little radiation detector that would fit in the inside 
of your coat pocket, and it made a little "beep" on exposure to 
radiation, and I took it along and stuck it in my pocket. We 
walked into this room out at Pleasanton where they were 
manipulating plutonium in one of these big boxes with the rubber 
gloves, and that detector just went crazy. It was tripping away 
in my pocket and I couldn't shut it up, and I was afraid Strube 
would hear it. [laughter] 

Lage: He must have. [laughter] 

Pesonen: There was a lot of debris around that place. It was dirty. So I 
was unimpressed. Nobody was being fried alive in this place or 
anything-- [laughter] 

Lage: I wonder what he thought would impress you so much about it? 

Pesonen: I don't know what he had in mind except that maybe seeing the 
awesome technology, and the care with which you had to walk 
through a radiation detector when you went into the room and when 
you came out, had to wipe your shoes and wear a smock, and stuff 
like that. 

So we dropped Frances off, and we pulled into the parking 
lot of the place where I was living, and Strube wanted to talk. 
It was driving rain outside, and he shut the engine off, and the 
windows got all fogged up. He started to tell me that he was 
very concerned about what was going to happen to my life ; that it 
would be very hard for me to find a job after this prominent role 
I had taken; that my politics was being questioned; that there 
was no future in what I was doing; and had I thought about that? 



Here was this slimy, PR type giving me a fatherly lecture about 
What's going to happen to my life? I was infuriated, and I was 
depressed. And I got the sense that he was on the edge of 
offering me a bribe. He never did, and I can't accuse him of 
that, but I had this overwhelming nausea, almost, that I was 
being offered something if I would stop doing what I was doing. 
I thanked him and got out of the car and never talked to him 
about it again, but I'll never forget it. 

But you did remain cool. 

Pesonen: Oh yes. I didn't say "I'm ." No, I didn't blow up for him or 
anything. I thanked him for the trip, said it was very 
interesting. But inside, I was--. I wasn't seething; I don't 
get angry that way, I was just very, very depressed that 
something like that would happen. It was sort of like being in 
the presence of evil, you know. [laughter] I don't like to 
think evil exists, and when I rub shoulders with it, it always 
depresses me because I'm a fairly happy person and an optimistic 
one. That stayed with me for a long time. 

Lage: Did it feel like a threat as much as a bribe? 
you. " 

Like, "We can ruin 

Pesonen: Well, it felt like both. It felt like both. And I was worried. 
I thought, "What am I going to do with my life?" I didn't have a 
career that was saleable, I was a forester and I wasn't working 
in forestry, I had taken on a huge corporation which had enormous 
influence. There were moments when I got worried. I would talk 
to Karl Kortum and say, "You know, maybe I'd better get out of 
this. What's going to happen to me?" I didn't have any support 
system. I didn't have any money. But I didn't quit, anyway. I 
put that out of my mind after a while. 

Role of Udall's Department of Interior 

Pesonen: By this time Udall was involved, the USGS was starting to issue 
preliminary reports of one kind or another. I'm fuzzy on the 
sequence, the details of those. They seemed to be very well laid 
out in this Pacific Historical Review article by J. Samuel 
Walker. There's a lot in that article that I had forgotten or 
didn't have in a linear way in my own mind. 

Lage: Well, it's been a while since it happened, after all. 


Pesonen: Well, I wasn't privy to all of what happened there. I wasn't 
supposed to talk to [Julius] Schlocker and [Manuel G.] Bonilla 
who were the two geologists from Menlo Park with the USGS. I 
felt it was not ethical for me to discuss with them what they 
were finding because I didn't want to appear to be influencing 
their assessment of the site. 

By this time, PG&E had started construction. Preliminary 
construction could be commenced without a construction license 
and without any environmental review; there was no requirement of 
environmental review then. What I learned from Walker's article 
is that there were informal efforts between the AEC and the 
Department of the Interior to do what the National Environmental 
Policy Act now requires them to do. 

Lage: I thought that was a very key thing when I read that-- 
Pesonen: That was very interesting. 
Lage: --that Udall-- 

Pesonen: Yes. They proposed a joint memorandum for evaluation of nuclear 
power plants generally. 

Lage: Right. To be sure they would comply with conservation efforts of 
the Department of the Interior. 

Pesonen: And the AEC said they didn't have jurisdiction to look at 
environmental consequences of what they did there. It's a 
mandate now, under federal law. The Calvert Cliffs decision by 
the District of Columbia circuit made that very clear. It was 
one of the early, fine decisions under NEPA. But at that time, 
NEPA didn't exist and so Udall was approaching this, and using 
Bodega as a case history, as a centerpiece, to do what Congress 
finally mandated all federal agencies do. He was ahead of his 
time, and Bodega was the precipitator of it. I don't think 
there's any question about that. 

Keeping Bodega in the News; Memorial Day Concert and Balloons 

Pesonen: Well, we had to keep cranking the publicity up, so that's what 
gave rise to the Memorial Day '63 balloon episode. 

Lage: Tell me about that. 


Pesonen: That was--. Whose idea was that? That was not my idea, 
was Pat Watters--that was Lu Watters's wife's idea. 


Lage: I haven't heard her name mentioned in all these things, 
about Lu Watters, but I don't hear about his wife. 

You hear 

Pesonen: Well, Lu's dead now, too, and they divorced a few years later, 
but they were living in Cotati, and they were very involved. 
Somebody had talked Lu into trying to play his horn again and--. 
Karl Kortum really thought this one up, Karl and Pat, and they 
put it all together. I just went and gave a speech. Karl had 
been a college student when Lu was at the height of his powers 
with the Down Club in Annie Place in San Francisco. Lu was the 
father of the revival of Dixieland jazz in San Francisco in the 
early forties, then after the war. So there were tens of 
thousands of people who knew who Lu Watters was and who didn't 
know anything about nuclear power or Bodega, or cared very much. 

So we put that whole thing together, and it was a wonderful 
day. It turned out to be a beautiful windy day- -the wind was 
blowing exactly the right direction. [laughter] 

Lage: For what purpose? 

Pesonen: To blow the balloons into places where people would pick up the 
cards and call the local newspapers. I was told, and it may be 
apocryphal, one of the balloons flew right into a hotel room in 
San Francisco, one of the balloons landed in the fountain at the 
Civic Center in Marin Countythey came down all over the place. 

Lage: Now, that wasn't your idea either, or was it? 
balloon release? 

Whose idea was the 

Pesonen: No. I thought it was a wonderful idea, but I didn't come up with 
the idea. Pat Watters came up with the idea of the balloons, I 

Lage: Because that was used a lot later. 

Pesonen: It's been used a lot by people since then. So we brought Turk 
Murphy's band out there. Lu talked Turk Murphy into coming out 
with his band, Bob Helm, Wally what was his namemost of those 
guys are dead now. By this time Don Sherwood had picked the 
thing up and was talking about it on his morning talk show [on 
KSFO] . 

Lage: Now, he was quite influential on public opinion. 


Pesonen: He was very influential. He was funny, and he was irreverent. 
There was another group called the Goodtime Washboard Three out 
here in Berkeley that put out a record called "Don't Blame PG&E, 
Pal, It Must Be San Andreas 's Fault." [laughter] 

Lage: That's a good one. And we didn't mention, I don't think, that Lu 
Watters recorded "Blues Over Bodega," or was that later? 

Pesonen: That was later. Lu hadn't recorded anything by this time. So 
there was a lot of attention. Sherwood was talking about it on 
his morning talk show, and then we had this big Memorial Day 
thing. Lots and lots of people came. We all drove out on the 
head, and PG&E had a public relations guy in a trailer out there 
and he just fled. We got all the balloons out, the band got 
their instruments out, and they started to play good old 
Dixieland, and we started letting these balloons go. They just 
soared off into the beautiful blue sky, sailed out over Sonoma 
and Marin counties and disappeared from sight. Each one with a 
card tied to it saying, "This balloon represents a radioactive 
molecule of Strontium 90 or Iodine 131"--molecule is technically 
incorrect, but it didn't matter--"If you find this balloon, call 
your local newspaper. It was released on Bodega Bay on Memorial 
Day, 1963." And they did come down in all different places. 

The thing just caught people's imagination, and they had a 
point to make, which was that they were going to build a nuclear 
power plant on an earthquake fault, or next to one- -certainly in 
a seismically dangerous place- -upwind from where millions of 
people lived. That was our strategythat really epitomized our 
strategy. We knew we couldn't win if the people in Sonoma County 
were the only ones who got concerned. We had to get the 
metropolitan San Francisco area up in arms. People had to feel 
personally threatened here. 

Lage: And, up until then, had they not been? 

Pesonen: Up until then it was some remote controversy way off up the coast 
someplace, it didn't affect them. This helped to bring it home. 

Lage: Did that event get a lot of coverage? 

Pesonen: It got a lot of coverage, and colorful coverage, and attention- 
gathering coverage. 


Pesonen: So, our political theory was to make the Bay Area feel that this 
was part of the Bay Area's concern. By this time, Save San 
Francisco Bay Association had been started, so there was a 


reviving environmental consciousness in San Francisco. We wanted 
to play into that. We found an atmospheric physicist at the 
University of Arizona, James McDonald, who was very well 
respected in his field. He came out and we got all of the 
meteorological reports and we dug out historic weather records 
and all kinds of stuff, and he put together a report. 

The idea really was triggered by Karl Kortum, who remembered 
a forest fire up there back in the early fifties or late forties 
in which the smoke had gone down the coast and come in the Golden 
Gate. So we had a theory that, if there were a major accident 
and a release of radioactivity, it would come into San Francisco 
Bay, the prevailing winds being from the northwest. This 
atmospheric physicist was able to establish a high likelihood of 
that based on his analysis of all the weather records. 

Lage: It would come down the coast instead of more inland? 

Pesonen: Right. It was going to come down along the face of the coast and 
then blow in the Gate. It certainly would come into the San 
Francisco Bay Area. He had wonderful diagrams with maps and all 
kinds of stuff, and we put out a nice, impressive-looking report. 
We released that, and that got people's attention. 

Lage: Now, was he someone you had to hire? 

Pesonen: No. I think we paid his expenses, but he read A Visit to the 

Atomic Park, and we talked, and he felt the way we did: that this 
was wrong. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as a totally 
disinterested expert. That is a fiction. 

Lage: On either side? 

Pesonen: On any side, that is a fiction. There are certain professional 
standards, and an expert will only go so far, but they will make 
as favorable a report as they can within professional standards, 
most of them, on behalf of who paid them or what they believe in. 

McDonald wrote his report because he believed we were 
correct, and I think that it's not a dishonest report. But there 
are a lot of uncertainties too. It depends on what time of day, 
what direction the wind is blowing. He just said it's possible, 
and it's not a low probability. 


Growing Doubts about Site Safety and PG&E Pullout, October 1964 

Pesonen: So we had this compilation of pretty good stuff. I think by this 
time we had Saint-Amand's report--! don't remember exactly when 
we got that- -but we had McDonald's report, we had Saint-Amand's 
report, we had several reports that even PG&E's people, some of 
them, were uneasy about. Don Tocher, I think, was very uneasy 
about the project. 

Lage: Was he with PG&E? 

Pesonen: He was one of their consultants. There were a lot of people 

involved at this point that I wasn't personally acquainted with. 

So it was building. You could tell PG&E was nervous. They 
did something that they had never done before, that I know of; 
they attacked us in the press. When they first did that, they 
put out a fact sheet: "Statements by the Northern California 
Association to Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor: The Truth." It 
had a question and answer format like that: falsity, truth; 
falsity, truth. Some of our supporters called; I know the 
Ruebels called, and they were very worried, "PG&E's come out and 
they've attacked us now. We're in real trouble," and I said, 
"It's the best thing that ever happened to us. I hope they do it 
more." Because all it did was give credibility to us. A little 
disorganized band of citizens, and the largest utility in the 
world is putting out lengthy statements refuting what they say. 
There's enough smoke there; there must be some fire in what we're 
talking about. 


Was PG&E taking out ads, or putting out press releases? 

Pesonen: Press releases. I don't recall any ads. You know, newspaper 

reporters are pretty cynical, and I think it changed the way the 
press perceived us. If we were worthy enough to get an attack 
from PG&E, then we were worthy enough for them to listen to us. 
When they got a press release from us, they paid attention to it; 
it wasn't just somebody blowing their horn out there. So we were 
able to get a lot of press, and we had a high level of 
credibility because PG&E attacked us. All of these things fed on 
each other. Everything is connected to everything else in 
something like this. 


I get a little fuzzy on how things unfolded then. It seems 
like the fall of '63 was pretty quiet. 

The report from Saint-Amand was the end of August '63. 







Was it? Okay, yes. That sounds about right. I remember when we 
got the report, I went to see the president of PG&E and I said, 
"We've got this report, you are in an embarrassing situation, you 
are going to lose this fight eventually. We'll be glad not to 

release the report if you'll just pull out." 
believe how naive I was. 

[laughter] I can't 

How did you relate with him? Had you ever met him? 

I'd never met him before. I didn't have any trouble getting an 
appointment with him. 

Was this Sutherland still? 

I think it was Sutherland. He had a staff surrounding him, and 

they all sat there and listened solemnly, 
believe I did that! Anyway, I did. 

How did he react? 

[laughter] I can't 

"Thank you very much, but we believe we are on the right track." 
Something like that. I didn't keep a diary then, and I wish I 
had, but it's funny when I look back on it. I didn't believe 
then, really, that they would pull out, but it would have been in 
their self-interest, but people don't act in their self-interest 
in big institutions. 

But I seem to recall that things were pretty quiet then. 
Julie and I got married in August of '63, and so I think we were 
setting up a household, and she was working, and I was probably 
starting to think about writing a book on this. I was getting 
worried because we'd kind of run out of things to keep this story 
alive in the newspapers, and there were no AEC hearings 

You weren't spending every minute on this, it sounds like. 

Pretty much. I don't think I had a job. I wasn't employed. But 
we just exhausted our--. By this time we had what we called an 
organization. We were raising some money, and I had a newsletter 
I was putting out and issuing press releases now and then. But 
it seemed quiet, and 1 was a little worried about that. And 
then, along came the Good Friday earthquake [in southern Alaska] 
in 1964. 

Well, the USGS people were out at Bodega schlocking around, 
following the construction, and there would be a little story 
here and a little story there. 


Lage: On September 25, '63, the USGS preliminary report came out that 
was strongly negative toward PG&E. 

Pesonen: Preliminary report, but you get one day's press on that, and then 
what are you going to say? 

Well, I think I was busy keeping track of all of these 
various reports and studies that were going on and putting out a 
newsletter to our members, and raising money from them, all of 
which we did by hand, you know. 

Lage: Most of the money you raised was from small donors? 

Pesonen: We had a few large donors. It wasn't a lot. I don't think we 
spent more than $20,000 on the whole campaign. 

Lage: Were your donors Sonoma locals? 

Pesonen: One was George Wheelwright who lived in Mar in County, on the 
ranch that is now the Zen Center, the Wheelwright Ranch. 
Wheelwright was very interested in what we were doing. He was a 
friend of Peter Behr's [Marin County supervisor and later state 
senator] . 

We had some public hearings. We had a public hearing before 
the Marin County Board of Supervisors, which Peter Behr chaired. 
We put together a meeting before a committee on the San Francisco 
Board of Supervisors, chaired by Leo McCarthy at that time. 

Lage: Did you get them to pass resolutions? 

Pesonen: Yes, or recommend resolutions, but mainly we used them as forums 
for more public attention, and they worked pretty well for that. 
They were just ways of keeping the thing alive until--. We fully 
expected we would be going to an AEC hearing. 

Lage: Was there a lawsuit somewhere along the way? 

Pesonen: There were a couple: against the Board of Supervisors for the way 
they had granted the local permits, but those were dumped. 
Barney Dreyfus brought those and did a nice job on them, but he 
knew that they were what the courts would have called frivolous, 
I think, today. They sanction lawyers for frivolous lawsuits 
today; they didn't then. 


There probably weren't so many of them then. 


Pesonen: There weren't so many of them then. There wasn't a need to 
sanction lawyers for them. And, in the larger sense, they 
weren't frivolous. 

I don't recall what happened with any great detail, month- 
by-month until the Good Friday earthquake. 

Lage: That was March 27, 1964. 

Pesonen: Yes, that is right. That is when it was. And that was a big 

deal, because it was a horrendous earthquake. Life magazine had 
a cover showing whole hillsides of houses sliding into the ocean 
in Anchorage, and there was a tsunami created by that earthquake 
which hit Crescent City. It came into San Francisco Bay, too, 
and damaged some boats, and the wave killed some people in 
Crescent City. Here was an earthquake 3,000 miles away that 
killed people in California. It gave credence to what we were 
talking about: the power of these big seismic events. 

Lage: Did that get immediately connected to Bodega? 

Pesonen: No, I made the connection. We issued a press release, "This 

demonstrates what we've been talking about." People were scared. 
People forget, but they were scared for a while. 

I was getting worried and optimistic at the same time. Our 
membership was losing interest. Nothing was happening. All we 
were hearing was press releases and press coverage. By this 
time, of course, Udall was involved, the USGS was involved, so 
this was big time! It wasn't just a little band of dissidents 
out here. 

Lage: When you say your membership, who are you 

Pesonen: Oh, the people who got this newsletter. They didn't send money 
in as much, and I could just feel that our support was dwindling 
just out of boredom by the length of this campaign. It had gone 
on for two years, by this time, unresolved. But I was encouraged 
by what the USGS was doing and what Udall was doing and the 
uneasiness we detected among PG&E's experts. They didn't sound 
real confident. They'd come out and say that it was okay, but 
they didn't ring with confidence. Finally the AEC said they were 
going to have preliminary reports from their regulatory staff and 
from the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and we 
anticipated those. When those came down, that was all she wrote. 
They came down in October [1964]. I think by this time I was 
getting ready to go to law school. 


So you were making plans for your future by this time? 

Pesonen: I was making plans for my future. 

What happened is pretty much what Walker says happened: the 
Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards concluded that the site 
was adequate, with sufficient engineering safeguards, and the AEC 
staff went through a philosophical analysis of what "unacceptable 
risk" means and said that they didn't exactly know what it meant, 
but they knew that this one was over the line. That gave PG&E 
the out that they needed to say that, "We've always maintained it 
would be safe, and this distinguished panel of experts, the 
Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety agrees with us, but the 
staff has some questions, and we've always maintained if there 
was the slightest doubt about public safety we wouldn't go ahead 
with the facility." That was the gist of their statement and it 
didn't fool many people, but it made them feel better, 

Lage: It made them feel that they had gotten out graciously. Do you 
think that all of the public attention was the key thing in 
raising the AEC staff-- 

Pesonen: Oh, absolutely. You wouldn't have gotten Udall interested; we 
had the Lieutenant Governor Glenn Anderson writing letters. 

Stance of Governor Pat Brown and Democratic Party Officials 

Lage: Now, how did you get the state people involved? 

Pesonen: Well, when there is enough public attention on this thing, you 
know, politicians come to you because they want to ride on your 
coattails, and we want to ride on theirs. It's a symbiotic 
relationship. We need the emphasis that they give, the 
credibility and prestige they bring to our campaign, and they 
want to be identified as something they see as politically useful 
to them. 

Lage: What about Pat Brown with all of his enthusiasm for nuclear 
power? At some point he comes out saying, according to the 
Walker article, "I don't like to see Bodega Head with a steam 
plant located out there in that beautiful place." 

Pesonen: But that is not all of what Pat Brown said. If I recall 

correctly--! don't want to dispute this writing without looking 
up the original document, but my recollection is that he 
regretted that beautiful site was being used for nuclear power; 
he was sorry about it, but nuclear power was important and the 


plant should go ahead. I don't recall that Brown ever came out 
against the plant. 

Lage: It was after the AEC had issued its report in October, I see, 
that he held a press conference saying nuclear danger is too 
great to take a chance. 

Pesonen: That was PG&E's position. 

Lage: Right. It was just before PG&E withdrew. 

Pesonen: They probably put him up to it [laughter]. It paved the way for 
their statement. I wouldn't be a bit surprised at that. 

Lage: Did the issue get involved in Democratic Party politics? Somehow 
Jean Kortum is mentioned with the CDC [California Democratic 
Council] and-- 

Pesonen: Well, one of the first talks I gave to get support was to the 

Democratic Central Committee. Roger Kent was chair at that time, 
and they had a meeting in Rohnert Park. I don't remember when 
that was. I think it was late '62 or early '63. I carefully 
wrote what I think was a very good speech about what was 
happening, and they allowed me to get on the program. I used it 
as a forum. I gave a lot of speeches, most of which I don't 
remember where they were, but I talked to a lot of groups. I 
talked to the Garden Club in Mill Valley, the Rotary Club in 
Sonoma. I was all over the place. 

Lage: Just like PG&E. 

Pesonen: Just like PG&E. [laughter] 

Lage: Did you get a good reception? 

Pesonen: I almost got lynched by the Rotary Club in Sonoma. They all got 

Lage: This was a lunch meeting. 

Pesonen: No, it was a dinner meeting. It was the Kiwanis or the Rotary, 
and a local banker was the moderator, and I think they had a 
debate. It might have been Strube and me. These guys had too 
much to drink, and they really started coming after me. 

Lage: Verbally? 

Pesonen: A couple of them got up and wanted to take their jackets off. 


Lage: Had you made statements that would provoke people? 

Pesonen: No. I just told my story, but they believed in PG&E, the nice 
guys from PG&E were part of the Kiwanis or the Rotaries. 

Lage: That's right, they were their fellow- - 

Pesonen: They were their fellow people, and I was attacking their 

integrity, I guess. And it meant tax revenue for a depressed 
agricultural economy. Lots of tax revenue. So I was a threat to 
their bourgeois values. This banker stepped in and calmed things 
down. He said, "Look, we invited this young man to come and talk 
to us. He is our guest. We have an obligation as gentlemen to," 
there are no women in Kiwanis, so he could say, "we have an 
obligation as gentlemen to treat him with courtesy." That 
chained them, and they all settled down and went home. 

Lage: Now how was your reception at the Democratic Central Committee? 

Pesonen: Very good. Roger Kent was very helpful. He was helpful 

throughout the matter, behind the scenes. He may have had 
something to do with Udall being involved, too. Roger was a 
wonderful man. 

Lage: Do you remember other things that he might have done? 

Pesonen: I think he opened doors for me. He was a person who peddled 

influence. He had a lot of influence; he was widely respected, 
and he had been active in Democratic politics for a long time, 
and he was from a prominent Marin County family that was very 
wealthy. I think he even gave me a little money. It was more 
Roger than the central committee. I don't remember who else was 
on the central committee. 

Lage: And did Jean Kortum work in political circles? 

Pesonen: Yes, Jean was very active in San Francisco politics and 

Democratic politics. I don't recall if she was ever on the 
central committee. She was very close to Jack Morrison, who was 
mayor [of San Francisco] or became mayor right around that time. 
She worked on Morrison's campaign. She was part of what would 
now be called the old-line San Francisco liberal establishment. 
Jean's very smart. Jean did a lot of the hard work on this. She 
set up an appointment for us to go and talk to Jerry [Jerome] 
Waldie who was speaker of the assembly at that time, out in 
Antioch. She had a lot of contacts and was creative and worked 
hard and she had good public relations sense. She's the one who 
put together that collection of clippings that we distributed to 


show how much attention was given to this, which was a political 

Lage: To interest the people in politics? 

Pesonen: For people in politics. 

That's the story. 

Lage: What have we not covered? We've gotten PG&E out. 

Pesonen: There are hundreds, thousands of anecdotes. 

Lage: I'd like some of the anecdotes. 

Pesonen: Well, you know, I don't remember any. 

Lage: If you remember them. 

Pesonen: It's hard for me to dredge them up on my own. They have to be 

precipitated by a bottle of wine and story telling and then they 
come. I think that I am the kind of person who--. One of my 
strengths is to see the big picture, but I lose the details. 

Lage: Well, it has been thirty years. 

Pesonen: Yes, and I remember this one better than a lot of things I've 
been involved in, because it was a big part of my life. It 
really shaped my life in a lot of ways. 

Lage: Well, if they come back to you at some point, throw them in. 
The Technical and Human Problems with Nuclear Power 

Lage: One thing you didn't tell here, which you told me the first time 
we met, was how you delved into some of the technical matters and 
what your background for that was. 

Pesonen: Yes. I felt it necessary, when I said something about nuclear 

power, that I knew what I was talking about. So I spent a lot of 
time reading a lot of technical material. I had had the brief 
hope to be a nuclear engineer when I first got out of high 
school. I was kind of dazzled by nuclear power, too, but it 
became clear to me that I did not have the mathematical 
proficiency. I wasn't going to be a brilliant nuclear physicist, 


but I found the subject fascinating and I had read about it long 
before Bodega. 

How did it work? I've always been interested in how things 
work. When I was a little boy, I used to take clocks apart and 
try to put them back together, and I always fixed my own fishing 
reels, and I was always taking things apart and putting them back 
together. I've just always been interested in how things work. 
I was very interested in how nuclear power worked. It was a 
fascinating topic and very interesting physics. It was the big 
breakthrough in science. 

Lage: So you were part of the same group that was affected by this 
feeling that atomic power might be the saving grace? 

Pesonen: Yes. At first I did believe that. I wasn't against it. So I 
got interested in how a nuclear power plant works and how you 
keep it safe and what does it do? 

Lage: Did you get a more jaded view of nuclear power aside from the 
site at Bodega, with the faults and all that? 

Pesonen: No, I didn't get a jaded view about nuclear power. I never 
thought it wouldn't work. I thought there were some real 
problems. The waste disposal problem was very serious, and 
whatever was necessary to protect against a major meltdown and a 
release of this intensely radioactive materialfission 
productsinto the environment. I became convinced that it 
wasn't safe, not because of the physics of it, but because of the 
kind of people I ran into who were in charge of it. [laughter] 
The same kind of people who ran the plant at Chernobyl, you know? 
They believed so strongly in what they were doing that they would 
cut corners. 

Lage: Now, where did you see that happening? 
Pesonen: Well, Bodega was the best example. 
Lage: The way they handled the reports? 

Pesonen: They would sort of deny what was plain on its face to me. I 
didn't trust them. It wasn't any emotional antipathy toward 
nuclear power as a physical means of making energy. 

Lage: There's a lot of, and I suppose it's in the Wellock article but 
other places too, talk about the anti-technology theme as if 
there was just sort of a dislike of technology. 


Pesonen: Well, I didn't share that. I'm sure a lot of people who 

supported what we were doing were part of that anti-technology-- 
the Luddites of the world. And I'm not a Luddite. 

Lage: Later, did you come to oppose nuclear power in a broader sense? 

Pesonen: Mainly because of the waste disposal problem. I don't know the 
answer to that. I don't know that anybody does. And also 
because I think the design of the generation of plants that we 
are involved with is inherently unsafe. I gave a speech, in 
fact, in 1974 to the American Nuclear Society where I said that. 
I said, "You could make a safe nuclear power plant, but you're in 
too big a hurry to make a profit from a design which was invented 
by Alvin Weinberg to run submarines with about five megawatts of 
power, and that's pretty safe because it's small. There's not 
enough heat there to melt the whole works down. But you move up 
to 2,000 megawatts, and you've got too much residual heat there 
and you can't get rid of it if something goes wrong." 

But there are entirely different designs some that use 
thorium, some that use graphite for a moderator. The Canadians 
have a reactor that's almost impossible to melt down. They're 
called CANDU reactors. But there are other designs that have 
inherent feedback safety mechanisms: as they start to run away, 
they shut themselves down. 


Pesonen: I still feel, on one level, that nuclear power could be made 

safe. It may have to be at some point. I'd like to see it made 
safe, but the industry used the 1954 Atomic Energy Act as a way 
of appropriating a technology which had been developed for a 
different purposescaling it up, but without changing its 
fundamental design: a water-moderated, enriched uranium reactor 
that is controlled by boron rods that are mechanically operated 
is inherently unsafe. So you have to have emergency core cooling 
systems and huge containment structures and all kinds of other 
safety devices that are extraneous to the operation of the 
reactor; which are only designed for safety, to work in 
emergencies and not to work at all until there is an emergency. 
And, like the fire extinguishers in most houses, they don't work 
anymore- -or the smoke detectors- -and even when they are needed, 
they don't work very well. It's not a particularly good analogy, 
but it will do for the moment. I know enough about reactors from 
what I read back then that I am sure there are inherently safe 
designs. But the industry was in too big a hurry to get out 
front, competitively. The profit motive drove them, not so much 
to cut corners, but to avoid the heavy capital investment and the 
research and development investment into safer design theories. 


Lage: It seems very much kind of the engineering, seat-of-the-pants 
approach. They found a system at fault, so they devised a-- 

Pesonen: Yes, there was some of that at Bodega, but we're talking about 
nuclear power, generally. And I've always felt that. On some 
other level, I think that there is a societal problem that we are 
going to run out of resources sooner or laternot just energy, 
we are going to run out of a lot of things, and a substitute 
source of energy for fossil fuels will just delay the day when we 
are going to have to reckon with the size of our population and 
demand on the planet. But that's a different issue. 

Lage: You probably hadn't worked all of that out at Bodega. 

Pesonen: But that's not a technical question. In a nutshell, that's how I 
feel about it, and always have. 

Lage: You haven't changed over time? 

Pesonen: No. I haven't changed over time about that. 

Lage: Did you have any feed- in to the Sierra Club as they were working 
out their position on nuclear power after Bodega? 

Pesonen: Some, but not too directly. That really happened around the 

Diablo Canyon fight, and I was in law school when a lot of that 
happened and I didn't have time to get involved in it. 

Lage: And it happened later, too. 
Pesonen: It happened later. 

Lage: Did you know Fred Eissler, who seemed to sort of carry the flag 
in Diablo? 

Pesonen: Yes. Well, Fred was involved with Bodega, too. 
Lage: Oh, he was? How was he involved in that? 

Pesonen: To some extent. He was one the board--! think he was one of the 
dissidents on the board who wanted the club to support us, and he 
was in a minority. He was down in Santa Barbara. He wasn't 
close enough--. 

I was not that involved with the Sierra Club. You know I 
worked, for a short time, for Ed Wayburn [Sierra Club president 
during the 1960s. ] 


Lage: Now when did you do that? I saw a notice in the minutes that 
they had gotten some money to hire you as an assistant to-- 

Pesonen: Assistant to Wayburn, who was president then. 

Lage: And that was in '63. 

Pesonen: That was in '63. 

Lage: Did you go back and work for them then? 

Pesonen: I did for a while. Not for very long, because I was still 
working on Bodega then. 

Lage: I was kind of surprised, given the split about Bodega, that they 
would hire you right at that time. 

Pesonen: Well, they thought I was pretty effective, I guess. I did a lot 
of other things for the club, besides nuclear power, and I could 
write, and I could speak well, and Wayburn needed help. He was a 
physician; he had a practice. But it became very clear that it 
was an embarrassment to him for me to be his executive assistant 
and do what he needed and comply with club policy on nuclear 
power and then put on my other hat and go speak out on Bodega. 
It just got too confusing, and it just wouldn't work. He didn't 
have that much for me to do. [laughter] I suppose you could 
spin out a conspiracy theory that this was a way to try to keep 
me quiet. If somebody had that notion, it didn't work, 
[laughter] I don't think Ed was party to any such idea. And I'm 
not suggesting that was a fact. 

Lage: From the minutes I read [looks at notes] it sounds like they had 
gotten a specific donation. Maybe just to hire somebody for Ed, 
but I wondered if they had gotten a specific donation to hire 
you? [Sierra Club Board of Directors Executive Committee 
minutes, October 5, 1963.) 

Pesonen: I would be interested to know where the donation came from. 
Lage: I would too. That's not in the minutes. 
Pesonen: I don't remember that. 

Lage: There are still some ends I think we need to tie up, or some 
reflections, but we can begin with that next time. 

The Hole in the Head, nuclear reactor under 
construction at Campbell Cove, Bodega Bay. 

Photo by Karl Kortum 

Harold Gilliam and David Pesonen at Sierra Club Offices, 1962. 

photo by Karl Kortum 

Karl Kortum, Joe Neilands, and David, after the PUC hearings, March 1962. 

Kortum photo 

^P*feMpf jJfe 

Bob Helm, clarinet; Bob Neighbor and Lu Watters, trumpets; Turk Murphy, 
trombone- -Memorial Day 1963 concert and balloon release at Bodega. 

Photos by Karl Kortum 

David Pesonen, Joel Hedgpeth, Lu Watters, at a Bodega event. 
"Regarding Dave Pesonen, it was a disastrous break for PG&E 
when this talented and determined Finn appeared on the 
Bodega scene blessed with the energy of a dozen pack mules!" 
(Lu Watters, 1964). 

photo by Karl Kortum 

Finding the Fault- -USGS team in the reactor hole. 

Photo by Karl Kortum 

David Pesonen with Rose Gaffney, a rancher on Bodega Head whose land was condemned 

by PG&E. "Before the man even sat down in my house, he told me that PG&E's powers 

of condemnation were greater than those of the State of California" (Rose Gaffney, 
ca. 1964). 

photo by Karl Kortum 

Jean Kortum and David on a lobbying trip to 

Photo by Julie Shearer 

Protestor at a 
demonstration at 
PG&E's San Francisco 
headquarters, 1963. 

Joe Beeman, 
Willie Brown, 
John Burton with 
protest placards, 1963 

Photos by Karl Kortum 

"Saved: Bodega Head" 

Hazel Bonneke [Mitchell] and David after the 


Photo by Julie Shearer 


[Interview 3: February 12, 1992] ii 

Pioneers of Sixties-Style Activism or Pragmatic Campaigners? 

Pesonen: I am probably finding out more about the Bodega campaign from 
this interview than you are, because these articles are coming 
out now that have done a lot of research that I never did, 
uncovering things I didn't know about. I didn't know there was 
an FBI investigation or a J. Edgar Hoover dossier on us until I 
read the Wellock piece. 

Lage: Oh really? 

Pesonen: No, I had no idea about that. There were people who suspected 
that there was some kind of FBI investigation of the 
"subversives" running this thing, and I just brushed it off. It 
wasn't worth the psychic energy to go play with that idea when I 
had other things to do; it was just not my temperament. But it 
is an interesting fact. It was all speculative until I saw the 
authority in that paper form. There are lots of little odds and 
ends and tidbits from the two articles: the one in the Pacific 
Historical Review 1 and the Wellock piece 2 . They both did a 
pretty fair job. 

1 J. Samuel Walker, "Reactor at the Fault: The Bodega Bay Nuclear 
Plant Controversy, 1958-1964--A Case Study in the Politics of Technology," 
Pacific Historical Review, 1990, pp. 323-348. 

2 Thomas Wellock, "The Battle for Bodega Bay: The Sierra Club and 
Nuclear Power, 1958-1964," later published in California History, Vol. 
LXXI, No. 2, Summer 1992, pp. 192-211. 


And I got confirmation of some things in the Sierra Club 
that I suspected but didn't know about. I didn't realize how 
vehement Dick Leonard was . 

Lage: You didn't get that impression from him? 
Pesonen: I didn't get it personally. 

Lage: I think maybe Phil Berry did. He might have been present at the 
meetings; maybe you weren't even present. 

Pesonen: Well, yes, he was much more active in the club than I was. I was 
never very active in the club; I am not much of a joiner, 
actually. I'll talk to Phil about that. 

Lage: Today we are going to go over what we missed about Bodega and 
wind that topic up. Did you have a chance to look through the 
scrapbooks that Julie mentioned? 

Pesonen: I'm not sure what Julie means by the scrapbooks. I've got about 
eight volumes of newspaper clippings. 

Lage: Maybe that is what she was talking about. That would take you a 
while to review. 

Pesonen: That is a huge undertaking. 

Lage: I thought maybe we had one scrapbook of pictures. 

Pesonen: No. There is a little book of commemorative parties we had when 
PG&E pulled out, but that was a gift to me at that party. It is 
not historical in that sense. 

Lage: Are the eight volumes going to go to the Bancroft sometime? 

Pesonen: They could. They are all bound up in binders with all of the 
newspaper clippings for years . 

Lage: Think of what a source it would be for somebody. Joel Hedgpeth's 
Bodega papers are there. 

Pesonen: Well, Hedgpeth is a real pack rat. In fact, I got that out of 
the Wellock article, that there was correspondence between 
Hedgpeth and me that I had forgotten all about, that Wellock very 
selectively quotes from to support the thesis he has got that we 
were precursors of a technique of agitation that ripened and got 
mature in the sixties, and we were the pioneers of it. I don't 
share that thesis, and I think he had to get a little selective 
in his choice of materials to support it, but-- 

Lage: Well, you wouldn't necessarily have to say you were doing this 
consciously, but do you think that you did bring new techniques 
that were precursors or were elaborated on later? Or maybe even 
served as a model for later? 

Pesonen: I don't know. It certainly was no conscious plan on our part. I 
think it was happening all across the country and it was 
happening in various ways depending on what the issue was. Right 
here in the Bay Area you had three very prominent establishment 
women spearheading the "Save the Bay" campaign simultaneously 
with the Bodega campaign, and using many of the same techniques. 
They were much more decorous and polite about it, but they were 
appealing to the same instincts in the public: the emergence of 
an environmental consciousness. I thought we were operating on 
parallel tracks. 

We had different problems, and we had to respond to those 
problems in different ways. We had a huge corporation which had 
a great deal of political influence and was conscious about 
fostering its political influence; it had ties to the University 
through the Sproul family; it had been around a long time; it was 
a monopoly; it made sure that it gave charitable contributions to 
a lot of people; it had a conscious corporate policy of having 
its field personnel active in social clubs and service clubs in 
the rural areas. This was still largely a rural state. This was 
before reapportionment, when each county had a state senator. 

Lage: The Rotary Club in Sonoma County had some political impact? 

Pesonen: The Rotary Club in Sonoma County could swing the vote of one 
state senator. They couldn't now; there have been enormous 
political changes in this country. But we had to respond to the 
environment that we operated in, and we knew that we would never 
prevail if we relied on rural sentiments. They were very 
conservative. It was inherent and natural to accept a whole set 
of values that are traditional capitalist values. Small 
businessmen admire big businessmen. [laughter] And believe them 
and believe they do right. 

Lage: And that it is good? 
Pesonen: And that it is good. 

Lage: The statements of Nin Guidotti [Sonoma County supervisor] are 
just classic. 

Pesonen: Sure. 


So we had to respond to that environment and we had to pull 
that issue into the urban Bay Area. The balloon event on 
Memorial Day, 1963, is a classic because it visually and 
dramatically caught the attention of the urban community, 
reminding it that its destiny was tied to what was happening way 
out here, fifty miles away in a little rural county up north on 
the coast. Until that kind of thing took place in the mind of 
the urban public, or at least some opinion leaders in the urban 
public, we didn't have a chance. Whereas the Save the Bay 
Association had the bay right here in the middle of the urban 
community, and they could use different techniques. But if the 
situation had been reversed, I think they would have used the 
same kind of techniques we did. 

So we didn't see ourselves as pioneers of any technique. We 
tailored what we did to the needs of that campaign. 

Some Key Figures; Doris Sloan, Joe Neilands, Charlie Smith, Sam 

Lage: I don't think we talked about Doris Sloan. Did-- 

Pesonen: I don't know how much we talked about Doris, but Doris was a very 
important factor in the campaign. Everybody was important; it 
was very much a team effort. Maybe that was just a reflection of 
my style of leadership. 

Doris had been active in the Sierra Club in the newly 
organized--! don't know if it was officially organized, but it 
was a nascent- -Redwood Chapter. She was a young, active woman 
with a lot of energy. 

Lage: Did she live in Bodega? 

Pesonen: She lived in Sebastopol. She had been married; I think she had 
recently been divorced. She had four small children. I don't 
know how she got the energy to do all of this stuff. She was 
very active in the American Friends Service Committee. I don't 
know how she supported herself. 

Lage: She is a scientist now, at UC, isn't she? 

Pesonen: After Bodega, she went to the University and got a master's 
degree in geology and she is now an instructor. 

Lage: But at the time she wasn't? 










At the time she didn't have the scientific background. But she 
was very bright and sensible and has a low threshold of anger 
over the way PG&E was steamrolling through the county. There may 
have been some other connections that got her stirred up. I 
don't remember how I got in touch with her, I just remember that 
very early on, Doris was involved and she really got involved 
after that meeting in Santa Rosa in November of 1962 when 
Alexander Grendon stood up and made a fool of himself. 

That fired her imagination? 

It fired the whole audience up, as I described in our last 
session. After that, Doris was full time. She wasn't being 
paid, but we gave her a title: Sonoma County coordinator. She 
was the eyes and ears of what was going on in Sonoma County. If 
we had to appear before the board of supervisors or the planning 
commission, Doris would make the appearance. I didn't have time 
to go do all of that. We were constantly in communication about 
what was happening and strategies. I don't recall that we ever 
had any disagreements about what to do. Somebody would have an 
idea; we would toss it around, and if it was good, we would go 
with it. 

It sounds very informal, 

Did you have formal meetings of the 

We never had any elections; we didn't keep any minutes. It was 
very informal. It was a network more than an organization. 

Were there certain people that you were always careful to check 
with before something was decided on? 

Oh sure. Well, there were lots of things I did on my own. 
Pretty soon after you network long enough with people, you get to 
know what their reaction is going to be. We were in almost daily 
contact, so people shared information, and we had enough of a mix 
of talents that without there being any real discussion about it, 
things would just fall into place, depending on who could do 
what, where they were, when they had the time, and what abilities 
they had. 

Did you have any trouble keeping people stirred up? The people 
at the top, shall we say? 

Not the inner group, no. We stayed stirred up. We didn't work 
on it all of the time. It is not a nine-to-five job. We 
responded to needs. 


Now, you didn't get any salary? 


Pesonen: No, I didn't get paid at all. 

Lage: You were supporting yourself on the side? 

Pesonen: I was supporting myself on the side. After the first year of the 
campaign or so, Julie and I were married and Julie was working, 
so Julie gets a lot of credit for this. She carried this 
worthless husband [laughter] through the whole thing. We lived 
off of her salary. 

Lage: Well, she was pretty committed to it too, it seems. 

Pesonen: She was very supportive. She was a tireless worker. She had a 
lot of good ideas, too. But she had a regular job. She worked 
for [UC Agricultural] Ag Extension, and I was either writing or 
agitating or doing whatever I was doing. Sometimes I would pick 
up a little money on the side, maybe some kind of little 
consulting job or something, but it was mainly a gratuity. 
Somebody was trying to help me out and justify it to themselves 
that it wasn't a gift. I don't even remember what that was, it 
was so little. 

Lage: You said you worked for Neilands. Or was that earlier? 

Pesonen: That was earlier. That was when I was writing A Visit to the 
Atomic Park. 

Lage: Was he involved in the inner circle, too? 
Pesonen: Neilands was very much involved. 
Lage: Tell me about him. 

Pesonen: Neilands is an interesting guy. Neilands was more ideological 

about this. He was very much a public power advocate. He comes 
from an old radical background and we sometimes had some 
disagreements with Neilands about what direction the campaign 
should take. 

Lage: Did he want to take it in a more ideological way? 

Pesonen: He wanted to take it in a more ideological direction. I firmly 
eschewed that. I thought that would be the death knell. We had 
to keep it completely unideological. We were going to save 
Bodega Head. It was a bad project, it was full of risks, and 
that was it. We weren't interested in taking over PG&E, we 
weren't interested in promoting public power. There was a 
movement then for Berkeley to buy out the PG&E distribution 


Lage: I remember that. Was that at the same time? 

Pesonen: Neilands was very active in that campaign. His bugaboo was the 
Raker Act. The Raker Act had been passed as a compensation for 
the damming of Hetch Hetchy during the progressive era, and the 
Raker Act required that San Francisco buy out the PG&E 
distribution system and become a public power city. There are 
seven or eight cities in the state that have their own electric 
distribution system: Alameda, Glendale, Anaheim, Sacramento had 
bought out the PG&E system in the late forties or early 
fifties Santa Clara, Ukiah. There are little communities around 
that as a holdover from the progressive era had developed their 
own electric distribution systems. They didn't generate 
electricity; they wheel power across PG&E lines. PG&E was 
required to distribute it, and they bought Bureau of Reclamation 
power. Then the Reclamation Act gave preference for the sale of 
federally produced electricity from federal dams to municipal 

Well, Neilands wanted Berkeley to have a municipal system. 
And he had an ally, a guy named Charlie Smith. Charlie Smith was 
a great advocate for public power and Berkeley's buying the 
distribution system. They wanted to bring that issue in and 
bring enforcement of the Raker Act to compel San Francisco to 
comply with that federal statute. I wasn't opposed to the idea; 
I just didn't think that it ought to be mixed up with the Bodega 

Charlie Smith was helpful because in those days there were 
no fax machines ; there were no xerox machines ; there were no 
computers. So our printing was done either on old offsets or 
mimeograph. Charlie fancied himself as a pamphleteer in the Tom 
Paine tradition. He had a mimeograph machine in his basement. 
It was like stepping back into the revolutionary times. He would 
wear a sandwich board [laughter] and print up these pamphlets--he 
even had a folding machine, I remember, that would fold them 
three waysand stand out on the corner down here at Shattuck and 
University and hand out these pamphlets on anything; on all kinds 
of things: world peace, stopping atmospheric testing of weapons, 
buying out the PG&E system. He had ten or fifteen issues that he 
was a pamphleteer on. He would spend his Saturdays and Sundays 
pamphleting. It was his recreation. 

Lage: What kind of work was he doing? 

Pesonen: He worked for the Department of Highways; he was an engineer. 

The Department of Transportation now. He was a nice guy, and he 
did all of our production for free, which was a big saving. We 
couldn't afford to go to a print shop and mimeograph all of those 


newsletters and press releases and stuff, 

Charlie was a lot of 


He and Neilands were the champions of public power. 
Neilands gave some money. He was a full professor at the 
University and was very kind to me by giving me that job in his 
lab at night while I wrote that pamphlet. I have kind of lost 
touch with Neilands over the years. 

He is interested now in animal rights. 

He is very much interested in animal rights now, I understand. 
That is just from what I get in the paper. I haven't talked to 
him about it. 

Lage: I hear Charlie Smith's name periodically, 
what connection. 

I can't remember in 

Pesonen: I think he still lives in Berkeley. Once Bodega was over, there 
was not a tight bond among all of us. A tight bond and a close 
friendship continued with Doris Sloan and the Kortums. Sam 
Rogers, if he hadn't moved away, I think we would have stayed 
good friends, but he is teaching up in Montana, I think, and we 
kind of lost track of each other because he lives so far away. 

Lage: Who was Sam Rogers? 

Pesonen: Sam Rogers was a grad student who worked for Neilands. Rogers 
was the one who spent the time and dug out the contradictions 
between the seismic geologic and engineering reports submitted 
with the AEC license in late '62 with those same kinds of 
material that had been given to the PUC. And he found just major 
inconsistencies. It was his work that was the foundation of the 
petition we filed in early '63- -I don't remember when we filed 
exactlywith the PUC to reopen the whole proceedings that led to 
Bill Bennett's dissent from the decision of the PUC to deny that 
application. I think I mentioned that last time. 

Attorney Barney Dreyfus and the Use of Lawsuits at Bodega 

Lage: Then there was a lawsuit you mentioned that you said would now be 
considered a frivolous lawsuit. That followed? 

Pesonen: That was right about the same time. I think it was in the spring 
of '63. 







Did you see it as a frivolous lawsuit at the time? 
delaying action? 

A sort of 

I wasn't a lawyer then. No, I didn't think it was frivolous. I 
thought what the county did was a major violation of the law. It 
had to be wrong some way or another for the board of supervisors 
of Sonoma County, without a public hearing, to grant a permit to 
build this massive industrial facility on a beautiful site. 

It would be illegal now, wouldn't it? 

Sure, today there would be an environmental impact report, there 
would be ten thousand permits- 
Lots of public hearings? 

Lots of public hearings. There would be all kinds of stuff. But 
that didn't happen in those days. So we persuaded Barney Dreyfus 
to file that suit. And it wasn't a frivolous suit I don't think 
it was frivolous. It was a creative piece of lawyering. 

That is a good way of putting it. 
come in on it? 

Now, how did Barney Dreyfus 

We were looking for a lawyer to do something. We knew we had to 
file some lawsuits that were vehicles for getting some attention, 
for one. 




In a way that was new, too. 
common thing. 

The environmental lawsuit was not a 

Not yet. It was not a common thing yet. It was pretty much my 
idea that we had to file some lawsuits because there was 
something that was wrong. I was not a lawyer and I didn't know 
exactly what was wrong, but it just felt wrong. 

It should be illegal. 

"Where there is a wrong, there is a remedy" is what they tell you 
in law school. That is not always the case, but I believed it 
anyway at that time. We were looking around for a lawyer. We 
knew that we weren't going to get any big conservative law firm 
to represent us. Barney's firm was Garry, Dreyfus and McTernan 
at that time. They were probably all old members of the 
Communist party; they were all idealistic radicals from the 
thirties. Barney was a very elegant lawyer. 


How old a man? 


Pesonen: He was probably in his fifties then. Charlie Garry had not 

become famous through the Black Panthers yet. He was a criminal 
defense lawyer. And McTernan did civil law, probate and other 
things. Their clientele was the radical community; the old left 
community in the Bay Area. They had all been very active in the 
National Lawyers' Guild, which had been a target of the House Un- 
American Activities Committee. Barney had been president, and I 
think Frank had been president, and I think Charlie Garry had 
been president at one time. At least Garry had been president of 
the Bay Chapter which was the biggest chapter outside New York 
City of the National Lawyers' Guild. The Lawyers' Guild was a 
left-wing bar association; I don't think there is any doubt about 

They were the people who were used to taking risks and used 
to trying to be creative. You had to be creative if you were 
going to protect yourself. Barney had been called before the 
House Un-American Activities Committee, and I think Frank and 
Charlie had been and had distinguished themselves very well. 

Barney was very reluctant to take the case. 
Lage: Who approached him? 

Pesonen: Doug Hill- -Doug and Mary Ann Hill were very helpful in the 
campaign. I don't remember how I met them. Doug was a law 
student and they came to a meeting one time. I think we had a 
meeting in Berkeley and word got out. They showed up and Doug 
got very interested in the campaign. Doug was more interested in 
the printing and the communications side of it. He and I, I 
remember, spent all night one night running an old offset machine 
he bought someplace to print the pamphlet about the earthquake 
hazards and bind it ourselves. We did everything ourselves, 
typed it ourselves, typed the plates; we did it all, the two of 

Doug was active in the Lawyers' Guild, and he somehow found 
Barney. I didn't know anything about that world. I was not 
active in left-wing causes, and I didn't know what the Lawyers' 
Guild was. Barney was very reluctant. Francis Heisler was 
helping us, but Heisler was not really a lawyer. 

Lage: He didn't practice? 

Pesonen: Heisler was a unique character. He was a Jewish refugee from the 
holocaust. He looked like Albert Einstein. He had white hair 
down to his collar, a very kind, elderly face; he was the 
spitting image of Albert Einstein, every classic picture of 
Einstein. And he was a Talmudic type. He lived in another 


world, and he would file lawsuits. I am told he was a pretty 
good lawyer back in Chicago, but he had kind of semiretired and 
was living in Carmel. He would write letters and do things for 
us, but he wasn't in a position to file any lawsuits. 

So we called a meeting down at a hotel near the San 
Francisco airport. Heisler was coming through San Francisco on 
his way to Chicago, and he agreed to meet with Barney and try to 
talk Barney into taking the case. I still have a photograph 
someplace of Barney sitting back on a couch in some motel down 
there by the San Francisco airport and Heisler with the light 
coming in the window, shining off the top of his head, with four 
or five other people--! think Neilands was there, I was there, 
Doug Hill was there, maybe Doris was there, Jim Goodwin--! can 
just see that picture. Heisler very eloquently described what 
this case and the whole thing was about. It was a breakthrough, 
historically, and Barney had a professional obligation to take 
the case even if we didn't have any money. To Barney's credit, 
he finally, after a long time, said he would do it. My heart was 

Nowadays, you go out and get the Sierra Club Legal Defense 
Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund, or some other lawyer. Even 
the big law firms have pro bono operations that will do these 
things. But those days were different. You couldn't get a 
lawyer. I told Barney we would try to raise a thousand dollars, 
which today wouldn't get you in the door at a law firm; wouldn't 
get you a cup of coffee. And he put on it a young, very bright 
lawyer in the office, Don Kerson. Don Kerson really handled the 
legal work; drafted the complaint and went with Barney to make 
the appearance. Ultimately, we paid Barney the thousand dollars. 

I got kind of disenchanted after maybe six or eight months. 
It didn't seem like Barney was doing enough. I made a terrible 
mistake, which didn't have any permanent consequences. I got a 
call one day from Melvin Belli, and Belli said he wanted to work 
for us. We were getting a lot of publicity, and we were getting 
a lot of ink and attention, and I think that if there is anything 
that is mother's milk to Melvin Belli, it is the press, 
[laughter] So he invited us over to his office on Montgomery 

Lage: That wonderful office that you can peer into from the street? 

Pesonen: It is full of antiques, and he sits there and pontificates. So 
we had a big meeting over in his office. 



Pesonen: Belli was working with the Anti-Digit Dialing League. 
Lage: What was the Anti-Digit Dialing League? 

Pesonen: Well, Pacific Telephone at that point had announced that it was 

going to abandon the old prefixes for phone numbers, Klondike and 
Thornhill. You used to dial the first two letters and then five 
numbers. You just remembered phone numbers by the word prefix. 
I have forgotten what they were now. But people were very 
attached to them. 

Lage: They had kind of neighborhood ties. 

Pesonen: They were very sentimental. There was also the campaign to save 
the cable cars going on at that time, so the city was full of 
this sort of nostalgic turmoil. And Belli was one of the leaders 
of the Anti-Digit Dialing League. That was winding down, and I 
think he wanted another utility to take on to get some more ink. 
We had a long meeting with him, and he said we were doing a great 
job and he would like to handle it. Apparently he called Barney 
to see how Barney would feel about it, and Barney told Charlie 
Garry, and Garry was furious. He just exploded. He called me 
in, and he just read me out like I have never been read out in my 
life. Here they had put their firm on the line; they had done 
this for free; they had taken great risks; they had done it out 
of eleemosynary instincts and out of belief in the cause; and 
here I was going around behind their backs to some other lawyer. 
Charlie liked ink too, you see. [laughter] The only thing we 
were going to steal from Charlie if we went to Belli was the 
opportunity to get your name in the papers . 

Belli never followed through with it. He is a flake. That 
probably shouldn't be on the tape. 

Lage: That he is a flake? Well, you can take it out, but I think 
people know. [laughter] 

Pesonen: But Barney was a wonderful man. He had a great sense of dignity, 
he was very bright, and he never lost sight of the objective of 
what he wanted to accomplish. He never exhibited anger. He was 
always kind. He was widely respected throughout the bar, even by 
the most conservative people who hated his politics; they adored 
him. He had a nice, wry sense of humor. He was just one of 
these people you adored. 

Lage: Did he take a larger role in the campaign? 

Pesonen: He never took a role outside the lawyer's role. He'd give me 

advice now and then if I asked for it, but he didn't try to put 




himself out in front and make strategy, 
what our roles were. 

Did he get committed to the cause? 

He was very clear about 

Oh sure, he thought we were on the right track, and he was 
delighted when we won. He was one of the first people that I 
called when we got word that PG&E was pulling out. 

But the lawsuit itself, did that have much of an effect? 

Oh, that was a flash in the pan. We got one day's press out of 
that and that was gone. We filed two or three, but they were 
little procedural kind of lawsuits. Hold a hearing instead of 
going ahead. They were attempts to compel some process to take 
place. We never filed any lawsuits to substantively stop the 
plant. We had no authority for that. 

That is one little byway in this whole story. I suppose 
Wellock would find in it support for his thesis that we were 
precursors of a radical movement. We certainly drew on people 
from the left because they were and still are to some extent, 
although times have changed a lot in the last thirty years in 
that political landscape, the people who had seen oppression. 
They were the people who organized the freedom rides in the civil 
rights movement; they were people who wanted social change. 

And they weren't afraid of PG&E, I would think. 

They weren't afraid of PG&E. They weren't afraid of anything. 
They weren't afraid of rednecks in the South who gunned them 

So there was a ferment in the country going on, and I guess 
it was just natural that we would come along and be part of it. 

Rose Gaffney; A Fearless Volcano 

Lage: I don't think you have really described Rose Gaffney on the tape. 
I think you told me about her when we had our first meeting. It 
might be nice if you could talk about Rose. 

Pesonen: I described Rose in A Visit to the Atomic Park, if I recall 

correctly, as looking like Bodega Head. She was a big, huge, 
homely woman with a great big bulbous nose and a wrinkled face. 
She just emanated energy. Her life story, as I understand it, 


and I don't remember where I heard it- -part of it I heard from 
her, but she was kind of private about it--was that she and her 
family were immigrants from Poland who had come to Canada around 
the time of the First World War, maybe before. She must have 
been a pretty attractive young woman, and she ended up, for some 
reason, as a housekeeper for a family in the Napa Valley. She 
got pregnant and had to leave there to have the baby- -I never 
heard what happened to that child- -and went to work as a 
housekeeper for the Gaffney family who were dairy farmers out in 
the Bodega area. She married one of the Gaffney boys and 
survived all of the Gaffneys and inherited the ranch. 

Lage: Which was on Bodega Head? 

Pesonen: It was on Bodega Head. It occupied most of the headlands. It 
wasn't a very productive ranch. 

Lage: I doesn't look like very rich country. 

Pesonen: It isn't very rich. It is sandy and windswept. There are very 
few nutrients in that sand. But she loved that landscape. She 
would just prowl it. She knew every little rock and every little 
spring. She found lots of arrowheads; she had an arrowhead 
collection which she said should go to the University, and it was 
collected from all over. People would bring her arrowheads from 
the Sierra or from the Sonora Desert. She'd stick them all in 
her big box of arrowheads and claim they were all from Bodega 
Head. [laughter] 

She was just a fiercely independent person who was devoted 
to that land in an emotional way. It was all she had. She 
leased it out to people that ran a few cows on it, and that was 
her source of income. 

Lage: And she lived out there? 

Pesonen: She lived in a little house right by Salmon Creek. There is a 
cluster of houses down there by the creek, and I guess it had 
been the old farm house. She lived there alone, but she was a 
mountainous woman and absolutely fearless. She wasn't afraid of 
anybody or anything. She was smart in a cunning sort of peasant 
way. She figured things out her own way, but she was always 
figuring things out; she never stopped thinking about things. 
She got it in her head that the original land grant from the 
Spanish to whoever was the predecessor in title of the Gaffney's 
had some restrictions that would impose a public trust on all of 
that land . 


Interesting that she would have thought of that. 


Pesonen: She had a probate lawyer here in the Bay Area who represented her 
in the condemnation action, and he tried to develop that theory 
as a defense in the condemnation action, but it didn't work. But 
she collected all kinds of papers, and she started reading 
history and reading Bancroft's history of California. Anything 
she could get her hands on that would buttress this theory of 
hers. That is all she would talk about after a while. In some 
way it was tied to her sense of oneness with that landscape. She 
was such a colorful person. She was absolutely fearless. She 
would stand up in the middle of a meeting and start to let loose. 
She had a big booming voice. She wasn't unarticulate; she could 
be very articulate, and she could be very emotional about it and 
it would come across some way that there was this powerful 
personality boiling inside this huge, shapeless woman- -she wore 
these old cotton dresses that had no shape to them at all that 
just sort of draped down to the floor and old beat-up shoes. She 
smelled terrible; she never took a bath. 

Lage: Did she have much money to defend herself from the condemnation? 

Pesonen: No, she didn't have any money. No, I think her lawyer was going 
to get paid out of the sales price after the condemnation went 
through. That is usually what happens. She had enough to live 
on, and she had an old car. She kept her house in pretty good 

My recollection of her is odd. It is not like a lot of 
people. A lot of people you remember particular things they did 
or you remember their character, but I just have this big image 
of a kind of volcano of a woman that just seemed to be present 
all of the time. (laughter] 

The Role of the University of California 

Lage: Is there anyone else we have missed that we should talk about? 
We haven't talked about the University very much, only alluding 
to the University's role, which seems interesting. 

Pesonen: What I knew about the University, I got second-hand from 

Lage: So he sort of researched it? 

Pesonen: Well, he knew all of the people. He was a marine biologist 
himself. I knew Starker Leopold [wildlife biologist, UC 
professor and administrator], and I was very disappointed in 


Starker when he testified that the University was not interested 
[in opposing the power plant at Bodega, near the site for a 
proposed UC marine station] at the Public Utilities Commission. 

Lage: He had such a reputation for integrity. 

Pesonen: Yes, and his father's [Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County 
Almanac] reputation permeated the environmental movement. In 
those days, the Bible of the emerging environmental movement was 
A Sand County Almanac. Starker basked in that glow of his 
father's wonderful writing. I don't know why Starker did what he 

Lage: You had known him when you were a student, probably? 

Pesonen: I had known him as a student. He had been one of my professors. 
I had taken wildlife biology from him or wildlife management. I 
knew him from the wilderness study, the ORCC study, and some 
other things. I don't remember how I got to know him. I first 
met him when I was a student of his . 

Starker just terribly disappointed me. I expected him to 
come over and stand up and say this facility is going to dump hot 
water and radioactivity in a place that is the greatest site for 
a marine lab on the Pacific coast; it is going to destroy an 
irreplaceable resource. He said none of those things. He hedged 
and he prevaricated, I think. He disappointed a lot of us. 
Hedgpeth was furious. He fulminated all over the place about it. 

So there was a lot of curiosity over why this had happened. 
Why would a man of such integrity, of such scientific purity, in 
a way, take a position which was so bureaucratic and so 
politically influenced? 

Lage: He was vice chancellor at the time? 

Pesonen: I think he was a vice chancellor by then. We had a lot of 

speculation, but I didn't have any inside information. It was 
speculation that PG&E, through the [family of former UC President 
Robert Gordon] Sproul connection, through [former chancellor and 
then chairman of the AEC] Glenn Seaborg, who knows through what 
channels, through the Hearst family, maybe, who knows, had 
persuaded the University to pull out. 

We got our hands on that report by the committee headed by 

Lage: The faculty committee? 


Pesonen: The faculty committee. Ralph Emerson was a marine biologist on 
the faculty and the committee had been asked to go and find an 
alternate site. They had surveyed the coast and came back with a 
report that contained a sentence that frankly stated, this is not 
an exact quote, but it is pretty close, "A unique and 
irreplaceable site for study of marine biology is being 
sacrificed for power production." That is pretty strong words 
for an academic report. We got our hands on that report, and 
after it was all over, I went and interviewed Emerson and I made 
a chapter in a book that I wrote but never published that 
contains what I found about it. 

Emerson was very reticent to talk about pressures having 
been put on him, but he pretty much conceded that pressure from 
the administration had been put on the faculty to mute his 
criticism and not participate in the Public Utilities Commission 
hearings or anything else, that would jeopardize the plans. I 
don't think there is any real doubt about that now. 

Lage: Did you ever have any conversations with Seaborg? 

Pesonen: [laughter] 

Lage: It must be a good question! 

Pesonen: Oh, Seaborg despises me. Seaborg still despises me to this day. 
When I was appointed general manager of the East Bay Regional 
Park District, he wrote a bitter letter to the board of directors 
castigating them for appointing me. That was only 1985. 

I only recall seeing Seaborg once, and that was in about 
1965, after Bodega was over--maybe it was December of '64. PG&E 
had pulled out in October, the American Nuclear Society and 
Atomic Industrial Forum had their annual convention in San 
Francisco in December of that year at the St. Francis Hotel. I 
went over there to watch and listen and have fun. And I got into 
the elevator with Seaborg. You know, he is about six feet, six 
inches tall, a great big man. I stood next to him in this 
crowded elevator and I said, "Good afternoon, Dr. Seaborg. My 
name is David Pesonen. I don't know whether you know me." He 
looked down at me and he said, "I know who you are." The 
elevator doors opened and he stepped out on the mezzanine and I 
was going someplace else, and I never saw him again. And that is 
the only exchange of words I have ever had with Glenn Seaborg. 

Lage: Were his feelings about you based on what you had written? 


Pesonen: It was probably from what I had written and the fact that I am 

sure Bodega was what he thought was the crown jewel of his career 
as chairman of the AEC. It was going to be the first plant that 
was going to break the economic barrier. Here I came along and 
in his eyes sabotaged it. Sabotaged it for extraneous reasons as 
far as he was concerned, out of probably what he perceived as 
ulterior motives. I don't know what went through his mind. I do 
know that he took it very personally, and he has demonstrated, to 
me, that he has taken it very personally. I have no animosity 
toward him. He was doing his job as he saw it, and he is a 
prominent and properly distinguished man, but I didn't care. I 
don't care. It is too bad. I think it is his loss. We could 
probably have some nice visits. 

Lage: It is too bad he carried those feelings for so long. It 

surprises me. I guess I have heard very positive things about 
him in other settings. 

Pesonen: I'm sure he is a fine person. But anyway, that has been my only 
contact with Seaborg. I have written about Seaborg in A Visit to 
the Atomic Park and other pamphlets and things. It is too ripe a 
fact that he left the University at the time this controversy was 
just getting started and went to be chairman of the Atomic Energy 
Commission, which had the promotional role for nuclear power, not 
to think there is a connection. In fact, the article in Pacific 
Historical Review makes that connection, and that is written by 
the historian for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not me. 

Seaborg resented the Department of the Interior intrusion 
into this process. He apparently demonstrated his resentment. 
That was all history; I didn't know about it. That went on in 
Washington and I wasn't part of that. 

Speculations on Conspiracies and Phone Taps 

Lage: I mentioned Dave Brower's feeling that the reason PG&E was 

supportive of Point Reyes National Seashore back in '62 when it 
was authorized was that they wanted this open space downwind from 
Bodega. Would you agree with that? 

Pesonen: I never saw any evidence of it. It is a plausible theory. 
Lage: You did not originate that idea? That is Dave's idea? 

Pesonen: No, that idea didn't come from me. It kind of makes sense. But 
I think it takes too much away from PG&E. They are not incapable 






of some public spirit, even back then. Now, they are quite a 
different company; they are much more enlightened now. But they 
weren't completely unenlightened then. 

I think that one of their land agents was active in that campaign 
for Point Reyes, but he also had a life in his own community and 
was interested in the environment of Marin, so just as a private 
individual he could have been-- 

Sure. That makes perfect sense. I don't know if it was a 
corporate strategy connected with Bodega or not. I simply have 
no information about that. If Brower wants to speculate about 
that and has some information about it, I'd be interested to 
know, but I-- 

People I have asked who have been involved in the Point Reyes 
campaign just can't imagine it. It just boggles their mind that 
anybody could come up with that idea. 

It doesn't boggle ray mind, 
not . 

I don't know whether to believe it or 

Lage: It is an interesting thought. Now, what about the ideas of phone 
tapping or things like that going on? 

Pesonen: Well, until I read, last night, Wellock's piece where he has a 
footnote that cites a J. Edgar Hoover file on us, I never 
attached much significance to those speculations. I am not a 
paranoid person. Maybe I am still too innocent. 

My reaction to those kinds of things is twofold. One is 
that it may be true, but it doesn't make any difference. If you 
spend your energy brooding about it, it is energy you don't have 
to pursue what is important. 

Lage: It also deflects public interest? 

Pesonen: It changes the issue. I am very goal oriented in these things, 
and I am pretty good at keeping my eye on what is going to work 
and chasing wire taps does not work. It is very hard to prove, 
and if you do prove it, once it is over it is over. I suppose 
Watergate was an exception to that, but I didn't have the 
resources to chase that one down. 

Lage: It wasn't something that you felt at the time, it sounds like. 
You didn't suspect it? 


Pesonen: We were careful on the phone. We thought it was possible and so 
you just didn't say a lot. Sensitive things you just did not say 
over the phone. 

Lage: So you did think of it at the time. One other little thing: in 
A Visit to the Atomic Park on the frontispiece it is a dollar 
"Contribution toward a People's Park at Bodega Head." That 
struck me. Was that a common term at the time- -People ' s Park? 

Pesonen: I just made that up. We were the first ones to use that term. 
Lage: It got such prominence later. 

Pesonen: In Berkeley, yes. Much later. I don't think there is any 

Looking Back; The Disembodied Evil of Industrial Civilizat ion 

Lage: What ever happened to this book on Bodega? It sounds like 

everything we are talking about is probably written down in the 

Pesonen: Some of it is. I started to write the book as soon as this 

campaign was over in ' 64 . I had applied to law school and been 
admitted and then went to Preble Stolz who was the admissions 
dean at that time. 

I had met Preble in the Bodega campaign. He was a friend of 
the Goodwins, whom I had met also through the campaign, and they 
are now the godparents of Julie's and my kids. Preble was a 
friend of theirs. I went to Preble and I said, "Look, I want to 
write this book and I can't do that and go to law school. Can I 
put this off for a year?" So he agreed to put my admission off 
for a year without my having to take the LSAT and do everything 
over again, and I just started to write. 

Well, I also went fishing, and I wrote most of it. I made a 
mistake in writing it. I wrote it as though I were a third party 
observer. I tried to keep my own role out of it pretty much. 
And that is not possible; it doesn't work, because I was too much 
a part of it. I was too central a figure. So I wasn't satisfied 
with it. It didn't strike me as having artistic integrity. It 
was not a true story. So I didn't publish it. I had an advance 
to publish it, an advance from-- 

Lage: You couldn't revamp it and make it an "I" book? 


Pesonen: I thought about revamping it, but now my ideas are different and 
it would be a different book. So the manuscript is around. In 
fact, I pulled it out the other night and tried to read it again. 

Lage: Now, when you say your ideas are different and it would be a 

different book, is that something worth commenting on? I think 
it is interesting how your view of things changed with the 
passage of time or maturity or whatever. 

Pesonen: Well, it is multi-leveled. I tie my perception of it now, and I 
would use this as a centerpiece of an introduction to the new 
book if I wrote it : I was driving out there one night in my old 
Ford, and it was turning evening--! can remember this so 
intenselyand I couldn't figure out why PG&E was continuing to 
insist on building this plant. The was probably in spring of 
'64. By this time we had Saint-Amand' s study, we had all kinds 
of information that this was a terrible decision. It was a 
terrible decision technically, it was just bad. It was so 
stupid. Here was this great, well-run corporation pursuing this 
idiocy and getting beat up in the newspapers every day. Their 
dogged determination to go ahead; it didn't make any sense to me 
and I was constantly trying to figure that out. 

I had almost like a mystical insightin my mind it is all 
connected with that glowing evening landscape with the eucalyptus 
trees on the hillsides that I was up against some kind of evil. 
Not evil people a disembodied evil of some type that was out in 
the world. And it was scary. I wasn't angry; I was overwhelmed 
by this sadness that there could be such evil in the world that 
was immune to reason, immune to sound argument. We weren't 
agitating; when we put something out, we studied what we were 
talking about. We had a respect for facts. 

Well, that idea has stayed with me. It is almost a mystical 
feeling. What I would like to do is convert that to an argument. 
If it is possible 


Pesonen: It wouldn't be an original thought with me in some ways; Dave 

Brower has talked about it and a lot of people have written about 
this sort of moment in history of the planet that is industrial 
civilization. I suppose Henry Adams felt the same things when he 
wrote The Education of Henry Adams. There is an aspect of that 
that is going on in my mind. That industrial civilization is 
very dehumanizing and destructive, ultimately, and has no sense 
of history and no sense of the future. This nuclear power 
development is a centerpiece of that. The reason so many people 
in the Sierra Club and elsewhere and most of the public was 




supportive of nuclear power was that at some visceral level we 
knew we were using up the resources of the world to support our 
comfortable way of living, and we had to buy some insurance 
against when they ran out. 

We are totally dependent on petroleum. We farm with it, we 
heat with it, we get around with it, we couldn't live without it 
in our current way. And nuclear power looked like the salvation 
of civilization when it runs out of oil. And I'm sure it is 
still seen that way by a lot of people. In fact, there is a 
resurgence of interest in that. And I want to say something 
about that. What I want to say, I have to sit down and write 
before I know exactly. Right now, it is a holistic image in my 
head that is related in some way to that experience I had that 
one evening driving out to Bodega. I am not very articulate 
about it right now because there are too many pieces to it all at 

It is a hard thing to express and then relate to the 

I can do it. I know it can be converted to an elegant argument, 
but I keep putting it off for some reason. 

It might not be the time. 

Influences of the Bodega Experience on PG&E 

Lage: My next question has to do with the influences of the Bodega 

campaign. Do you think Bodega made a change in PG&E, or did they 
have to be hit two or three more times? 

Pesonen: Well, it certainly started the process of change. I think Diablo 
Canyon finished it. They just paid too high a price for their 
old way of doing things. There was a change of personalities; 
some old dinosaurs left and new blood came in. They faced a 
different Public Utilities Commission under Jerry Brown. There 
was the influence of the Environmental Defense FundTom Graff 
and Zach Willy- -on their attitude towards energy conservation. 

Lage: On PG&E directly? 

Pesonen: On PG&E directly. They were able to persuade themit took quite 
a whilethat they could make money with energy conservation. 

Lage: So that was a new tack? 


Pesonen: That was a new tack and it was very creative on the part of Graff 
and Willy. The whole society changed. They couldn't stay the 
way they were, it would have been fatal to them. Their survival 
depended on their becoming more enlightened because they were 
dealing with a more enlightened, more active public, a much more 
active regulatory climate, much more regulatory and 
environmentally funded legislation. They live in a different 
world now. They could either go down with their old ideology or 
adapt. They were smart enough to adapt. But Bodega certainly 
gave arguments to people within the company who were pushing for 
change . 

No organization is monolithic. There will be disputes 
within about what direction they should take and they take time 
to get resolved. I am sure that there were people who were more 
enlightened than some of the old guard. I don't know a lot of 
these peoplebut I know enough about institutions to know that 
this had to have happenedthat argued for swifter change, and 
they could argue from events like Bodega that it is in the 
company's self-interest to change. Whereas if they had won at 
Bodega, the power of the old guard would have been reinforced. 
They would have said, "Look, we can beat these people back." 

Lage: I was surprised that one of these articles, I think the Wellock, 
shows that they made the approach to the Sierra Club over at 
Nipomo Dunes and Diablo right during this Bodega campaign and 
that was Ed Wayburn and 

Pesonen: Yes, they learned that they had to do their political homework in 
a different way. They couldn't go just to the Rotary Club and 
the Chamber of Commerce, they had to go to these organizations 
like the Sierra Club which could cause them trouble. That is why 
they have got Diablo now: they did it right. They did a terrible 
job of engineering, but they did a pretty good job of 

Personal Impacts of the Bodega Campaign 

Lage: You had said last time that this campaign shaped your life in a 
number of ways. 

Pesonen: It made a public figure out of me, and I've been a public figure 
in some sense ever since. I am not really a public figure type 
of person. I am a pretty private person, but it thrust me into 
the public eye, and it was a bigger event than I thought it was 




to a lot of people. It had a lot of significance to a great 
number of people and for a lot of different reasons. 

For the people involved in the association? 

No, the public generally. Newspaper reporters knew who I was. I 
still run into people on the street who say, "How are you doing, 
Mr. Pesonen?" and I have no idea who they are. I run into people 
now who remember Bodega- -people introduce me at cocktail parties 
and stuff because of Bodega. That is the identification. They 
don't remember Point Arena, which I think was a swifter, more 
elegant victory in a lot of ways, against a much bigger plant, 
with a tougher geologic question. But we had honed our skills by 
then. PG&E had also wised up to what they were in for if they 
didn't pull out early. But that was a very elegant little 

Shall we talk about that before we talk about law school? 
you are feeding right into it? 


Pesonen: It came after law school. 

So I just became a public figure in many people's eyes. I 
continued to live in the Bay Area; I continued to be active in 
one way or another in environmental matters. I became a lawyer 
who was pretty successful successful in my lawsuits, not 
successful financially, but I was a good lawyer. I got cases 
that tended to get public attention, and I knew how to use the 
press if it furthered the objective that I was working on. I 
understood how the press worked, and I learned it in Bodega. I 
learned a lot of lessons in it; I learned a lot about politics, I 
learned a lot about public relations, and I learned a lot about 
dealing with the press. If I needed to use those lessons to 
accomplish something I was working on, I did. I think people 
respect the way I think and act, and I think I have a lot of 
integrity. People recognize that and I trade on it. I don't 
know exactly what happened. I saw the world differently after it 
was over, and I continued to see the world differently. 

Lage: Did it affect your decision to go to law school, or did it have a 
part in the decision? 

Pesonen: It had a big part in the decision. And I'm glad I did. 
Lage: What was it that made you decide to go to law school? 

Pesonen: Power. [laughter] We felt very powerless at Bodega. That whole 
story about rounding up Barney Dreyfus --lawyers are a source of 


power, and if I was going to do any good in the world, I needed 
more power. 

Lage: You couldn't imagine an environmental campaign now that didn't 
have a lawyer signed on. 

Pesonen: That didn't have lawyers involved, absolutely! And I didn't know 
what else I wanted to do. Law sounded like a way to get power 
that could be used in a lot of different ways and used for good. 

Lage: Had you considered law before? 

Pesonen: I had thought about it, and I remember thinking it was awfully 
stuffy and I wasn't sure that I wanted to be involved in 
something that was so stuffy. But that changed over time, 
particularly in Bodega, when I realized that it didn't have to be 

Law School; UC's Boalt Hall, 1965-1968 

Lage: How did you find the law school experience? Was it stuffy? 

Pesonen: It was hard for me. I am a slow reader; I am not a quick 

thinker, and law school was hard. I worked hard in law school. 
And Julie put me through law school. 

Lage: Wives are very handy. 

Pesonen: Julie was a good one. I didn't work much in law school. I 

worked in the summer, but during school I didn't work much; I 
studied hard. 1 liked it, but I wanted to get out. 

Lage: Were there any particular professors who helped shape your 

Pesonen: No, not particularly. 

Lage: Did you find them interested in public issues? 

Pesonen: No. They were a little suspicious of public issues. Law schools 
tend to be pretty conservative. I liked Jesse Choper, who was 
the professor I took constitutional law and contracts law from. 
He was a very good teacher, and he later became dean. He was a 
fine man, and he was a wonderful teacher. But he wasn't a 
political activist. None of them were. I set up the Lawyers' 
Guild chapter and became president of it, and I was class 


valedictorian, not because of academic achievement but because my 
classmates elected me. 

Lage: It is not from being first in the class? 

Pesonen: No, not at all. It has nothing to do with academic achievement. 
I suppose if I had been flunking completely I would not have been 
selected, but it was an elective process and I was recruited to 
it by my classmates. 

Lage: That is quite an honor. 

Pesonen: Well, I was older and I was irreverent. [laughter] That was 
during the Vietnam War, and there was lots of agitation on 
campus. I guess it was just my temperament and my irreverence. 
I was not awed by law school. I didn't think this was the 
Talmudic truth being handed down to us. I questioned it and I 
was a little bit sassy with teachers sometimes in class. I was 
never disrespectful, but I kept my sense of humor about it. 

Lage: Did you get involved in any of the political happenings on campus 
during those years? 

Pesonen: Yes, a little bit. Not much. On the lower campus I didn't get 
involved in those things. But we had a couple of events that 
sprung out of the law school itself. The law school always saw 
itself as detached from the rest of the University. It calls 
itself Boalt Hall; it doesn't call itself the school of law at 
the University of California. There is a psychology of lofty 
detachment in the law school that is very elitist. So what went 
on in the lower campus, that was undergraduates. 

Lage: I have never even heard that term: the lower campus. 

Pesonen: That was undergraduate high jinks that we weren't too involved 

in. Some of the students were, but I was just as elitist as the 
rest of them, I guess. 

When the Oakland police shot up the house that Bobby Button 
and Eldridge Cleaver were hiding in and Bobby Button was killed, 
on April 6, 1967, I think, there was a big protest about that and 
I spoke at that. 

Lage: What drew your attention to that? 

Pesonen: The National Lawyers' Guild and the fact that I had been with 

them. I worked the summer the second year I was in law school, I 
think, as a law clerk in the Dreyfus office, and I ultimately 


went to work there as his partner. And [Charles] Garry was 
involved in-- 

Lage: Garry was defending the Black Panthers. 

Pesonen: So there were these other connections. 

Lage: The times were just so different. 

Pesonen: Those were lively times. They had to happen, I think. 

Defending People's Park Activist Dan Siegel 

Lage: Julie said that one of your first cases out of law school was 
defending Dan Siegel on People's Park? 

Pesonen: Siegel was a year behind me at law school. He had been active in 
the Guild, but for some reason he sort of adopted me as his 
mentor. He was out here from New York and he didn't know a lot 
of people, and he was a very idealistic young law student. He 
had written a philosophical paper of some kind--I don't even 
remember what it was --but he was very interested in my comments 
on it. He wanted me to read it and we talked about it. As soon 
as I was out of law school and got admitted to the bar in January 
of '69, I went immediately to work in the Garry office. 

I think the People's Park event happened in spring of '69, 
and Dan was charged with inciting to riot for his speech on the 
Sproul Hall steps that ended with the words "Take the park." 
That led to several days of violence in town and a couple of 
people were killed, I think, and one guy was blinded. 

Lage: One person was killed, as I recall. 

Pesonen: It was national news, [Governor Ronald] Reagan called in the 

National Guard. [Alameda County District Attorney] Ed [Edwin] 
Meese came over and arrested hundreds of people. It was a huge, 
violent couple of days in Berkeley. And they needed a scapegoat. 

So Dan asked me to defend him, and I was delighted to do it, 
but I was also very scared because I hadn't tried a case; I had 
no trial experience . I knew better than to think that I could do 
that by myself, so I asked Mai [Malcolm] Bernstein to come in and 
join me. 

Lage: He is older? 


Pesonen: He was older; he was a partner in Bob Truehaft's firm. Doris 

Walker, Bob Truehaft--Truehaft, Walker and Bernstein in Oakland. 
That was another old radical firm, in the East Bay. Mai was the 
youngest partner in that firm, and he was a Harvard or Yale law 
school graduate. A very smart guy. He had some trial 
experience, and he also had the first amendment seasoning that I 
didn't have. I had the abstract learnings from law school, but 
he was a street fighter. He knew how to do it if he had to. I 
had enough modesty to know that it would be a big mistake for me 
to try this case by myself. 

Lage: And there was a lot of attention on the case, I remember. 

Pesonen: So I asked Mai to help, and Mai was delighted and the two of us 

did it together. Mai really took the lead, I think. I get a lot 
of credit for it, but I have to give Mai the main credit for that 
victory. It was a great learning experience. We tried it in a 
municipal court in Berkeley. It was not a felony; it was 
misdemeanor inciting to riot. The jury was a lot of the Berkeley 
blue rinse set. 

Lage: Older Berkeley women who must have been horrified at what was 
happening in their community. 

Pesonen: Not at all! 

Lage: They weren't? 

Pesonen: No. It was not a radical jury at all. 

Lage: That is what I mean. It must have been very disturbing to them. 

Pesonen: No, they were--. Berkeley is a unique town. The blue rinse set 
can be pretty radical in this town. I don't remember- -that is 
not the whole jury, but there were some older, distinguished 
looking women on the jury, and I think it was about a week- long 

Mario Barsotti was the judge. He was a Reagan appointee to 
the court. He was a very nice judge. I don't think he was a 
terribly bright Judge, but he was a decent judge. There aren't 
very many bright judges. If they are bright, they don't become 

Lage: We'll have to get more elaboration of that when we get to the 
later points in your career. 

Pesonen: They go out and make a lot of money doing something else. I was 
being a little bit facetious. But he was a decent judge and 


followed the law the best he could. The prosecutor, whose name 
escapes me at the moment, was a very uptight guy. He is now a 
Superior Court judge in Alameda County. But he was a young 
deputy district attorney at that time, and he so much wanted a 
conviction he could taste it. This was going to make his career. 
Of course, the press was there all of the time. I remember after 
we argued the case--. I put on a couple of witnesses; our theory 
was that this statement, "Take the park," was a metaphorical 
statement by Dan that we should, through political means, 
accomplish our ends, not physically go down and seize the 

Lage: And Dan testified to that? 

Pesonen: He testified to that, and we brought in people who had been in 
the audience on Sproul Plaza who understood it that way and who 
testified that they understood it that way. Well, the jury came 
back after deliberating half a day or a day with a note. The 
judge took us into the chambers, and he handed us this note from 
the foreman, and the note said, "Can we find him sort of guilty?" 

Mai said, "That sounds like reasonable doubt to me." The 
judge said, "Sounds like that to me, too." The prosecutor was 
furious, and he said, "No, it just means they haven't deliberated 
long enough." We said, "No, judge, you should go out and read 
them the instructions on reasonable doubt again." The judge 
agreed. We went out, and the judge read them the instructions. 
He said, "I have this note and I can't respond to it directly, 
but I can give you some of the instructions you have had." He 
read the reasonable doubt instruction again, which is very clear 
that if there is a reasonable doubtunless they feel he is 
guilty to a moral certainty, they must acquit. It was not very 
long after that that they came in with a "not guilty' . 

There was a party after that, but I kind of felt that there 
was some culpability on Dan's part; he knew what he was doing. 

Lage: He knew that the crowd was at that point? 

Pesonen: He knew that it was very likely that this would ignite that 

crowd. And I wasn't happy. We have remained friends, in a way, 
but it is not a cordial relationship any more. And I think that 
it is because he sensed that I disapproved of what he had done. 

Lage: Interesting that in your first case you had that dilemma, then. 

Pesonen: I was ambivalent about it. I wasn't ambivalent about--! was 
delighted to win. That is the lawyer in me; that is the 


gladiator. But there was another part of me that was not 
disappointed in the result, sort of disappointed in the person. 

Lage: Is this the same Dan Siegel who is now a lawyer for the Oakland 
School District? 

Pesonen: Yes, he matured too. He is a very good lawyer on civil rights 
and employment matters. He was with the city attorney's office 
in San Francisco for a while. He was in private practice for a 
long time. In fact, he appeared before me once when I was a 
judge out in Contra Costa County in a settlement conference. 
Then he left private practice and went in to the city attorney's 
office on civil rights matters and then became the general 
counsel for the Oakland School District about two years ago. 
Same guy. His brother is associated with my firm now. 


[Interview A: February 27, 19921 II 

The Partners and Clients in a Radical Old-Left Firm 

Lage: We are going to talk today about your work with Garry, Dreyfus, 

Pesonen: Well, after they represented us on the Bodega nuclear plant 
controversy and two or three small actions which had more 
political purpose than legal purpose, we impressed each other, I 
guess, and so I clerked for them when I was a second-year law 
student, for the summer in 1967. I went to a trial with Charlie 
Garry of some young black woman from Richmond who had been 
rousted by San Francisco police and then accused of some 
misdemeanor crimes of some kind to cover up what had happened. I 
sat through and helped Charlie do the trial. I was just 
fascinated with him as a trial attorney, and I asked him if I 
could go to work for them once I got out of law school. 

It may or may not have been a career mistake; I don't know. 
But I was full of excitement about these radical lawyers . I went 
to law school to try to do good things and have some impact on 
social change, and they were committed to that. At least they 
came across as committed to that. They were still a business and 
had to make a living. Barney Dreyfus had some independent 
wealth, I think, so he was able to spend more time on important 
political cases, although Charlie was temperamentally committed 
that way, and so was Frank McTernan. They were the three 
partners, along with Alan Brotsky who had joined the firm a year 
or two before I went to work there and who had a successful labor 
practice of his own before that. So it was Garry, Dreyfus, 
McTernan, and Brotsky when I joined the firm. 


At the time I joined the firm, the first Huey Newton [Black 
Panther leader] trial had just been completed, and Fay Stender 
was in that office. 

Lage: In the office of Garry, etc.? 

Pesonen: Yes, she was one of the associates in the firm, and she was 

writing the appeal brief that, in fact, resulted in the reversal 
of the first conviction. We were at 345 Market Street. It was 
an old building--it is gone now. Owned then by Bechtel who, I 
think, had long term plans to build what currently is one of 
their main structures in downtown San Francisco. It was a 
raggedy, old building and Fay and I shared a little cubicle 
space. She was hammering away on her typewriter writing this 
brief, and I just handled all kinds of cases. Little probate 
matters, little divorce matters. 

Lage: How did you get assigned to cases? 

Pesonen: The partners would get some old client who would come in who had 
some minor matter that had no political or other significance and 
they could make a little money on it--fender bender and small 
personal injury cases. I didn't get much supervision. They 
would just turn them over to me, and if I thought I needed help, 
I would wander in on them. There was no training plan. 

Lage: Is that unusual? 

Pesonen: Well, it is not unusual in small firms. In large firms there is 
a very coherent plan for training young associates under the 
tutelage of a partner. But that is not the way that firm 
operated. It was a sink or swim situation; I either succeeded or 
I didn't. I was pretty much on my own. And I liked that. I 
liked the freedom and independence of that, but I also had a lot 
more freedom to take in cases that an associate in a large firm 
wouldn't have. You would have to go through a clearing 
committee, and there would be a lot of analysis. I could just 
sort of take them on a seat-of-the-pants feeling about them. On 
the other hand, they were not big, complicated cases, either. I 
went to court, and I tried cases, and it was about that time that 
Dan Siegel called me up on the People's Park case we talked about 
last time. 

They were an interesting, wonderful mix of people. Barney 
Dreyfus was a man of just total class. He was a patrician; he 
was a gentleman. He was a wonderful writer, and he had a fine, 
dry sense of humor and very good judgement about people. He was 
the center of that firm. He was the emotional and stabilizing 


center. Charlie Garry was very volatile and impetuous in some 

Lage: What was Garry's social background? 

Pesonen: Garry had grown up in the Central Valley. His name was actually 

Lage: Armenian? 

Pesonen: He was Armenian, and Armenians were discriminated against. He 

became a tailor in San Francisco and active in one of the unions 
--I don't know what union it was and decided on night law school 
at Golden Gate or one of those. He started out in labor law, but 
it was more agitating and labor activism than it was law. How he 
and Barney got together, I never really heard that story. They 
were entirely different kinds of people. Charlie was profane and 
loud and impetuous and he couldn't write, could never speak a 
sentence in the English language. And Barney was just the 
opposite. Barney lived in a big house in Mill Valley and had 
four kids, I think, and his wife was quite an elegant woman. She 
is still alive, and she is a fine person. But they lived on a 
different social level. He and Charlie just had a bond of some 
kind that was unbreakable. Barney was a levelling influence on 
Charlie . He was the only one I ever saw who could back him down 
from one of his more unusual and dangerous positions. 

Frank McTernan was another stabilizing influence, although 
he was much less prone to intervene in disputes of one kind or 
another. His practice was different; he handled a lot of probate 
and estate matters. He was very good at it. 

Lage: Now how did he get tied in with this more political--? 

Pesonen: Well, they all came from an old radical background. They were 
part of the Communist Party in the forties and the thirties and 
the early fifties. They had all been subpoenaed at one point or 
another to testify before the House Un-American Activities 

Each community in the Bay Area had an old left-wing law 
firm. It was Newman, Marsh and Furtado down in the Fremont/ 
Hayward area; it was Garry, Dreyfus, McTernan and Brotsky in San 
Francisco; it was Truehaft, Walker and Bernstein in Oakland. 
They all knew each other and they networked and they were social 
friends. And their clientele were in the old radical left 

Lage: Until the sixties when we saw new action? 


Pesonen: Yes, and then they were kind of passed-by by the times. But they 
were successful. They had a steady business. A lot of their 
clients were business people who had small businesses of one kind 
or another and some of them were quite successful. They tend to 
be an educated group of people, and that was their market. 



You said Garry was not very articulate, 
famous for his court presence? 

I thought he was kind of 


I didn't say he wasn't articulate, I said he couldn't complete a 
sentence in the English language. Before a jury or when he 
wanted to be persuasive, he was a powerful speaker with a lot of 
emotional content, and that was his strength. There was enormous 
emotional content; he just believed in what he did and it just 
emanated--it came across. That was his gift with juries. I am 
not saying he wasn't a good lawyer, that he was stupid; he 
wasn't. He was a great man, but he just didn't--. Formal 
language was not his gift; emotional content and power were his 

He also knew his limitations. He knew when he needed to get 
assistance on more technical matters. That was just boredom. He 
was bored with the technical side of the law. But he loved it. 
He had a great memory for principles that had been announced in 
cases. He couldn't remember the case names. He would say, "Go 
find that case that was cited in 1948 that had to do with such 
and such," and you would look around, and you'd find it, and he 
was usually right. 

There was another lawyer in the firm, Don Kerson, who was a 
young lawyer who had worked on the Bodega stuff. He was a very 
bright, quiet, somewhat troubled person. That was about it. I 
think there was six or seven of us in the firm, and then there 
were a few people who came and stayed a little while and left: 
Bill Schuler, Bob Meyer. Bill Schuler isn't practicing any 
longer, and Bob Meyer is a solo practitioner down on the 
Peninsula now. He had come out of the U.S. Attorney's Office. 
Bill Schuler had come out of one of the big personal injury 

We had a nice time. We got along well. I never made any 
money. I was on a salary. I started out at $750 a month, which 
wasyou pay a housekeeper that now. But I didn't really care. 
I wasn't thinking about money. By two or three years, I was a 

Does that mean a share in the profits of the firm, such as they 


Pesonen: In the losses, too. [laughter] There were some months when we 

went without any partners' draw and paid the staff. But it was a 
very tight-knit group. They had known each other a long time, 
and they were very close. The firm ultimately broke up after 
Barney died. 

Lage: Which was when? 

Pesonen: I don't remember the year that Barney died. 

Lage: But was it while you were still with them? 

Pesonen: No, no. It was after I had left. It was probably 1982. I think 
he died in 1982. He was very prone to skin cancer; he had very 
light skin. He always wore a hat and he would get little cancers 
on his--. He was very fair. And I think he died of melanoma. 

Peripheral Role in Black Panther Defense 

Lage: The thing I've heard most about Garry is the defense of the Black 

Pesonen: The Black Panther mattermatter is too mild a word for itwas 

all going on--. The big invasion of the legislature with guns by 
Huey Newton and his crowd had come before I joined the firm. But 
that had put them on the front page of the papers and vaulted 
them and Charlie into prominence. That was a concerted effort-- 

Lage: Was Charlie their lawyer from the beginning? 

Pesonen: Yes, from his having defended Huey Newton. And he got very 

involved in advising the Panthers. Well, there was a concerted 
effort by law enforcement to infiltrate the Panthers, and by the 
Nixon administration, to do them in. I haven't read all of the 
books on it, but I have read about it. 

I was not that enamored of the Panthers . I thought they 
were a useful social force to wake people up, but I was a little 
troubled by all of the weapons. More than a little troubled by 
all of that. 

Lage: And was Garry not troubled by all of the weapons? 
Pesonen: I don't know whether Garry was troubled by it or not. 


Lage: Did they take him as an advisor well? 

Did they listen to his 

Pesonen: Well, you could tell that it was a volatile, fragile 

organization. I never liked Huey Newton. 1 thought he was 
arrogant and manipulative. But I didn't think he ought to go to 
prison, either. Kathleen Cleaver I really liked. She was a 
great woman. Eldridge Cleaver I always felt was a nut. 

Lage: How involved were you? 

Pesonen: They were in and around the office, and they knew who I was. But 
I didn't work on Panther cases very much. I didn't have occasion 
to. The only Panther cases I worked on involved the federal 
grand jurythere was a special grand jury set up to investigate 
organized crime, and its real focus was the Panthers. There was 
a strike team from the Justice Department in Washington that 
would come out periodically and conduct a grand jury proceeding 
to see if they could come up with an indictment against some of 
them. They called a lot of witnesses and gave them immunity when 
they refused to testify. 

My role with the Panthers mainly was representing witnesses 
who had been called before this grand jury. Particularly two 
young womenShelly Bursey was one of them, and I don't remember 
the name of the other, who were Panthers, but they ran the 
newspaper, or at least the production end of it. They were 
called, and they testified week after week. The grand jury 
convened each week the morning after the paper had to get out, so 
these young women they were only in their early twenties or 
their late teens- -were exhausted from putting the paper out all 
night. They never followed advice. I'd say, "Don't answer any 
question in there if you have any doubt about it; come out." I 
wasn't allowed in the grand jury room, I had to sit outside in 
the hall. 

Lage: So you advised them to come outside and confer? 

Pesonen: They had a right to ask to come out and talk to their lawyer if 
they were uneasy about a question, but they always forgot. 

Lage: They didn't have the legal mind? 

Pesonen: Sometimes they just didn't know how to . They weren't very 

bright, and they sometimes talked and sometimes said, "I take the 
Fifth Amendment." There was no pattern to it. So they were 
finally held in contempt by a judge who is on senior status now. 
A fine judge, but he really didn't have any choice under the law, 
and they were sentenced to jail until they talked. He said they 


had the key to the jailhouse in their mouths. One of them was 
quite pregnant by that time, by David Billiard. In fact, I think 
she is now married to Billiard. Ber daughter graduated with Kyle 
[Pesonen's son] from Berkeley Bigh. 

Lage: This daughter she was pregnant with? 

Pesonen: Yes. So there was a big demonstrationa lot of women and 
Panther supportersoutside the courtroom when they were 
sentenced; we knew it was coming. They were hauled off to the 
top floor of the Federal Building in San Francisco. There are a 
couple of holding cells up there. The marshals were not used to 
this, and they were afraid. They thought this crowd, which had 
all come up in the elevators and were banging on the doors , was 
going to do something 

Lage: Where were you when all of this was going on? 

Pesonen: I went in with my clients to see that they were comfortable in 
their cells and to try to keep things calm. So I went out and 
talked to the crowd and said that I would ride on the bus with 
Shellythey were particularly worried about Shelly because she 
was pregnant--! would go with her to county jail and I would 
watch what they did all of the time and go out and visit her when 
they transferred her to Santa Rita. That satisfied the crowd 
that somebody was looking after them. I talked them out of any 
further violence, and the crowd finally dispersed. The Justice 
Department lawyers were very impressed. [laughter] 

Lage: That you had this kind of power? 

Pesonen: I don't know whether I had much power or not, but they--. My 
style has not been ever very confrontational. On a personal 
level I got along pretty well with these two clowns who would 
come out from Washington every week to harass these two women. 
They joked about it and said they didn't know I was a bra burner, 
and I said, "I'm not." [laughter] 

Then it just kind of fizzled after a while. Christmas time 
came, and Shelly was still in jail. This must have been 1971 or 

It was Judge Zirpoli, Alfonso Zirpoli. I went back to Judge 
Zirpoli, and I made a motion to release them since they weren't 
going to talk, and they weren't going to stay in jail forever, 
and it was not right. And he turned them loose. 

I am sure there have been investigative reports of this 
Justice Department strike force. The Pratt case is one. I've 


forgotten Pratt's first name [Geronimo] . He is still in jail, 
and the allegations have some merit that he was set up and 
framed. I don't know anything about that, I never got to that 
level of involvement with the Panthers . What I handled were sort 
of peripheral things that didn't require a good trial lawyer, 
didn't get involved in policy. 

Then I got further and further away from any of the criminal 
work and finally just wouldn't do it. 

Lage: You didn't do it by choice? 

Pesonen: It was pretty much by choice. I didn't like the criminal work; I 
didn't like the atmosphere at the Hall of Justice in San 
Francisco, and I didn't feel comfortable with it. And I didn't 
feel like I was lawyer ing, you know? I mean we would handle an 
occasional small criminal matter of one type or another. Some 
little Chinese gambling ring busted down in Chinatown for playing 
Pai Gow or whatever they did. We had a few like that, but I 
didn't consider it my career direction. 

Defending Point Arena from a PG&E Nuclear Power Plant, 1972-1973 

Lage: Let's talk about some of the cases that you did take on. 

Pesonen: I was looking for big things to do. There was always a tension 
between me and the rest of the firm over the environmental issue. 
I wanted to do environmental law, and they thought that was kind 
of a white middle class perspective on the world and didn't 
really have to do with justice. 

Lage: Did all of them feel that way? 

Pesonen: No, Barney was much more sympathetic than Charlie was. They 

weren't hostile or antagonistic, but they didn't give me a whole 
lot of support either. 

The first big opportunity was the Sierra Club hiring me to 
handle the Point Arena nuclear power plant. I think I have 
talked about that. 

Lage: We really haven't talked about it. We referred to it, but not in 

Pesonen: I consider that a more elegant victory than the Bodega victory, 
but nobody remembers it. Because of my role in Bodega, people 


came to me all of the time whenever a nuclear power plant was 
proposed in California for advice. There was the Davenport 
plant; PG&E still had on its drawing boards a lot of nuclear 
plants down the coast. 

Lage: Where was the Davenport plant? 
Pesonen: Just off of Santa Cruz. 
Lage: And that was defeated? 

Pesonen: Well, it never got off the drawing boards, really, because there 
was local protest and there were pretty obvious seismic hazards. 

The Svengali of the Antinuclear Power Movement? 

Lage: You had also mentioned off the tape that PG&E had come to you 
when you were in law school about Rancho Seco? 

Pesonen: No, not PG&E. The general manager of SMUD [Sacramento Municipal 
Utilities District) . 

Lage: What was that? 

Pesonen: The general manager and the assistant general manager of SMUD had 
called me up and come all the way down from Sacramento to take me 
to lunch. We went to lunch at Larry Blake's, and I was all very 
flattered about this. I think I was in my first or second year of 
law school. Their agenda, it became very clear, was whether I 
was going to move in to Sacramento and help organize a campaign 
against their nuclear power plant. I had never even thought of 
doing that. 

Lage: So they really had a vision of you as a kind of the overall 
leader of the--? 

Pesonen: Svengali. Stop any nuclear power plant. Well, that wasn't my 
perspective; I wanted to finish law school. And I didn't think 
the Rancho Seco plant was such a bad idea. It was way south of 
town, there was no significant population around it, and downwind 
was toward the Sierra; there were no communities down there. It 
was just flat alkali hardpan ground with scattered Digger pine 
trees. It wasn't a very attractive site. It wasn't scenically 
useful at all. And it wouldn't use ocean water, it would get its 
water from the Folsom South Canal. It wouldn't use very much 
water, it would use cooling towers. So, given my view of nuclear 



power at that point, it seemed like a pretty good way to go. In 
any event, I didn't have time, and I didn't know anybody. I 
didn't have an organization; it just wasn't my agenda. And I 
told them that and they went away happy. They paid for the 
lunch. [chuckles] I never heard from them again, but I never 
got involved in that dispute. 

After Bodega, PG&E had focused its energies on the north 
coast for nuclear power at Point Arena, at a site just north of 
the town of Point Arena. Very close to a Coast Guard station; a 
Coast Guard Loran stationa navigational outpost. By 
coincidence, my cousin, Dan Pesonen, who was in the Coast Guard 
at that time, got assigned to this Loran station. 

Is that the name of the station, Loran? 

Pesonen: L-0-R-A-N. I think that is what it was. It is a navigational 
technique. 1 

He was an electrical technician, and he worked at this 
plant. So he became my eyes and ears as to what was going on. 
It was right next to the PG&E property. The first thing we did 
was start to organize in the town of Mendocino and the town of 
Point Arena. 

Lage: Now, was this after the Sierra Club took you on, or had you 
gotten involved--? 

Pesonen: This was when the Sierra Club took me on. I had watched this 
through law school. I had seen it developing, and I read the 
press accounts. It was clear the PG&E had done a very thorough 
job of saturating the community with pronuclear material: comic 
books in the schools, and speakers at all of the social clubs. I 
followed it, but I just didn't do anything about itcouldn't 
afford to. 

So I went to the Sierra Club--the Sierra Club, by this time, 
was opposed to it, but they didn't have any organization or 
organizational approach- -and I proposed that they retain me, 
through the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, which had just been 
set up a year or two earlier. John Hoffman was the executive 
director or whatever his title was--it was Jim Moorman at first, 
and then it was John Hoffman--! think I started working on it 
when Jim Moorman was still heading the organization. I knew it 

'Loran (derived from long range navigation) measures the time-of- 
arrival difference between two signals transmitted from two geographically 
separated ground stations. 


would be a big commitment of time, and so I went to Barney and 
said, "This is what I would like to do," and he said, "Sure, as 
long as you get paid for it." 

Lage: So you were hired as a member of the law firm? 

Pesonen: Yes. But they hired me. The firm infrastructure backed me up--I 
didn't use any of the people in the law firm. Then I had a long 
talk with Julie because I knew what kind of a commitment of time 
this would be and I wanted to get her approval. So we went for a 
long walk up in Redwood Park and I told her that this was what I 
really wanted to do. She gave it her blessing, so then I was on 
my way. 

The first thing I did was some community organizing. There 
were already people who had protested, and I helped them pull 
together an organization, but I had no official position in the 
organization. I brought [Pierre] Saint-Amand back to take a look 
at it, and he flew up in his own plane and took a look at it and 
said sure it was a lousy site, and he was going to work on it. 

Let's see, how did that develop? That was 1973, I think. 
Lage: I have the dates '72- '73. 
Pesonen: I may have started on it in '72. 

A Seismically Interesting Problem 

Pesonen: That was seismically a very interesting problem. The site was 
picked because it was on a high marine terrace which supposedly 
had been stable for a very long time and had no evidence of any 
fracturing through it. Quite apart from Bodega. It was in a 
Franciscan formation, not the Bodega granodiorite formation which 
also forms Point Reyes. The San Andreas fault doesn't run too 
far from that site. It runs inland. The Gualala and Garcia 
rivers run in the fault zone; that is why those two rivers run 
north south, right parallel to the coastline, and then just as 
they get near their mouth within a mile or two of the ocean, they 
cut off and discharge into the ocean. So if you look at a map, 
these two rivers are lined up like two match sticks in a line and 
that is the trace of the San Andreas fault. Then it runs north, 
and there is an extension, and then it goes out to sea. It goes 
out to sea north of this site that PG&E had selected. 


I got to looking at the maps and driving around the country 
and looking at the geology, and at some point I was given notice 
that the Atomic Energy Commission siting regulations on seismic 
hazards were being amended. They didn't hold public hearings on 
these things; they were technical meetings. The US Geological 
Survey was brought in very early to advise the AEC on its new 
regulations. And so I was invited to attend some of those 
meetings down in Menlo Park 


Pesonen: --which I did. At one of the meetings, one of the USGS 

geologists took me aside as we were walking back from lunch and 
told me that they had found some evidence that the site had been 
tilted in recent geologic times. He had done his graduate thesis 
on that area, and he had used the technique of using aerial 
photos, mainly, to measure the elevation of marine terraces. And 
he had found through some technique that he used that the marine 
terraces weren't level there. 

Well, the ocean is always level. So if the ocean was level, 
and the marine terraces that were cut by the ocean in recent 
geologic times were not level, that meant that the ground tipped, 
not the ocean, which was an enormously interesting fact for that 
site, because it said that the site was not free of major seismic 
disturbance. And it had been touted by PG&E as a place that was 
free of any major seismic disturbances. If there were any 
disturbances, they would be on the fault line which was about two 
miles away. The plant could be built to withstand shaking, but 
it couldn't be built to withstand tilting. 

Unfavorable Publicity and PG&E's Swift Abandonment of Point 

Pesonen: I took this information to a reporter on the San Francisco 

Chronicle whom I had gotten to know pretty well, and it took him 
a long time to understand it. 

Lage: Who was this? 

Pesonen: His name was Dale Champion, and I think he is retired now. I 
worked with Dale to educate him on what this meant for this 
plant. It would be the Achilles heel of it; this would kill it. 
There still wasn't much publicity on the plant, it was very early 
in the process. PG&E had done some trenching up there to check 
for fault displacement at the site. Champion finally figured it 


out and finally understood what I was talking about and did a 
very good job. He wrote a long article and had maps prepared and 
it hit the front pages of the Chronicle, I think it was December 
28th or 29th of 1973. It might have been '74--I would have to go 
back and look at the clippings. 

It was right in the Christmas holiday season, and it was a 
good story. It really laid out in good laymen's language what 
had been discovered by this USGS seismologist whom I had met in 
these rule-making meetings. When that hit the papers, I heard 
through some grapevine, I don't remember where it was, that the 
president of PG&E had been called to Washington by the AEC and 
that there was a high level meeting. A few weeks later, they 
announced that they were dropping plans for that plant. 

Lage: It is such a contrast with Bodega. 

Pesonen: Well, they knew I was involved, and there was this mystique about 
some power I could wield. [laughter] They knew that the facts 
were there. I would love the internal memoranda of the USGS or 
the Department of the Interior and the Atomic Energy Commission, 
but I haven't seen them. We have that article from the Pacific 
Historical Review on Bodega. I would love to have him write the 
same kind of piece on what happened at Point Arena because I 
don't really know what happened. 

Lage: Behind the scenes? 

Pesonen: I saw it from the outside. But I know what the result was. The 
result was a very swift abandonment. So soon that it never had a 
chance to build up to being a public issue. I take credit for 
that because I was the one who got in early and because of my . 
historic role at Bodega I was in a position to find out this 
information. I was approached by the geologist because he 
figured I could do something about it. He wasn't going to go to 
the newspapers. He couldn't do that in his position, but he knew 
I could. He was very professional about it. He never was an 
advocate. He just said, "Here are some facts that you may find 
interesting." I knew enough to know that when somebody in that 
kind of position told me that, that it was my responsibility to 
do more than just find some interest in it. 

So that was the first real environmental action that I took 
after I went with the Garry firm. It was successful, and I got a 
lot of praise for it, and I got a lot of satisfaction out of it. 

Lage: The role of the local organizers and the public doesn't seem to 
be great. 


Pesonen: Those things all fit together. If the proposer of a facility 

like that doesn't feel that there is a strong local opposition, 
if they figure they can roll over it--. Opposition worries them 
and creates a lot of uncertainty and a lot of opportunity for 
delay and expense. 

Lage: What first interested you in the Point Arena? 
Pesonen: Well, it was the "son of Bodega," in a way. 
Lage: It was where PG&E moved after Bodega? 

Pesonen: It was where they moved after Bodega. It was going to be a lot 
bigger plant. It was a two thousand megawatt facility. 

Lage: You said you weren't objecting wholeheartedly to nuclear power. 

Pesonen: I was real skeptical of nuclear power, particularly in the 
seismic coast. 

Lage: Were you getting more skeptical as time went on? 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: You said with Rancho Seco you thought it was okay. 

Pesonen: There were just a lot of practical reasons I couldn't get 

involved in Rancho Seco. I suppose--. I think probably because 
it was a public power facility, I was less inclined. It was not 
a scenic site, it didn't use ocean water, it wasn't in a seismic 
zone, and it was a public power agency. All of those things 
together made me less enthusiastic about taking that one on, plus 
my personal circumstances, which was the overriding factor. Now, 
here was an opportunity to make a little living, bring some 
little revenue into the firm. It wasn't very much; I think it 
was twenty five dollars an hour for all of this work, and I 
didn't charge for a lot of it--all of the trips up there, I 
didn't charge for all of that time. 

Lage: Because the work you were doing wasn't really as a lawyer so 
much. Did you have some lawyering, also? 

Pesonen: Well, I did do some lawyering in that case. Dow Chemical was an 
intervener in the AEC license proceedings to oppose the plant 
nominally. Their real agenda was to coerce--to get some leverage 
on PG&E to require them to wheel power that was generated by Dow 
Chemical plants over PG&E lines so they could sell cogeneration 
power. I brought a petition on behalf of Dow Chemical that I 
filed with the--I think it was still the AEC thenin that 


licensing proceeding, and it was a petition for Dow Chemical to 
be allowed to intervene. It was a nice, elegant piece of legal 
work in antitrust law, and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund was 
very impressed with it. But most of it was not lawyering. 

The Sierra Club, Ike Livermore, and Nuclear Power 

Pesonen: There was another element to that case that did involve the 

Sierra Club. As part of its political ground laying, PG&E had 
approached the Resources Agency under the Reagan administration, 
and the secretary for resources then was Norman "Ike" Livermore, 
who was a good environmentalist, a liberal Republican, old 
California family. His brother, Putnam Livermore, was very 
prominent in Republican fund-raising circles. Ike was a close 
friend of Ray Sherwin, who was then the president of the Sierra 
Club. Now, Ray Sherwin was a superior court judge in Solano 
County, and I worked with Ray--there was a lot of work with the 
club to get them to let me take the case, a lot of meetings. 

Lage: To get them committed to opposing the Point Arena plant? 

Pesonen: Yes, and to get some guidelines on what my responsibilities were 
because they weren't just hiring a lawyer, they were hiring a 
lawyer and an organizer. I wrote a pamphlet which was used as an 
organizing tool, which I have sent you, Power at Point Arena 
[July 1972, available in The Bancroft Library], I think is the 
name of it . 

The Department of Fish and Game had agreed not to oppose the 
plant before the PUC or the Atomic Energy Commission in exchange 
for PG&E paying for a lot of studies of the effect of the plant 
on the marine environment. It was a mitigation. And the quid 
pro quo for their mitigation was Fish and Game silence. Well, I 
thought that was illegal, and I brought suit in San Francisco 
superior court against PG&E and the Department of Fish and Game 
to invalidate this agreement because I knew there were staff 
people in the Department of Fish and Game whom I had talked to 
who were very skeptical of this plant but were under a gag order. 

Lage: This agreement was up front? Acknowledged? 

Pesonen: Well, it hadn't been publicized and it hadn't been published 

anyplace, but I found out about it and got my hands on a copy and 
brought this action in the superior court. We were on our way 
into the courthouse to have a hearing on this petition when PG&E 
decided they would abandon the agreement with Fish and Game. 


While that was pending, Ray Sherwin had lunch with Ike 
Livermore and had just agreed without talking to me that we 
wouldn't try to invalidate this agreement, we would get some 
other benefit out of them. I was furious. I felt they just 
yanked the rug out from under me on an approach that had 
political and legal significance. So I told Ray, "If you are 
going to do this, I can't represent the club. I've got to do 
something else because I can't have my clients going off and 
making cozy little side deals that undercut my lawsuits." And he 
apologized and agreed that it was wrong and called Ike and said 
he couldn't keep his word on that one. And it was all fine. We 
had lunch down here at what is now Skates, but it used to be 
another restaurant down there on the Berkeley waterfront. Ray 
drove all the way down from court in Fairfield. So that problem 
got taken care of. 

There were little anecdotes like that that sprinkled through 
this Point Arena case. 

Lage: Now, Ike Livermore tells in his oral history a little anecdote, 
quite fondly, actually, recalling that he picked up the papers 
one day, and David Pesonen had said, "Ike Livermore ought to be 
sent to jail!" [laughter] Do you remember this? 

Pesonen: No, I don't remember it. 

Lage: He seemed to think it was amusing. 

Pesonen: You know, we are pretty good friends, we've been on some pack 
trips in the high Sierra together. 

Lage: He indicated that, but-- 

Pesonen: Well, I might have said something like that-- 

Lage: It had to do with the site selection committee--the way that the 
state worked with PG&E to select sites. And he even agreed that 
probably that was outdated, outmoded. But he had participated in 
it, and I guess a site was selected; the state signed on to the 
Point Arena site. 

Pesonen: I think it did, yes. 

That is why the deal was done with Fish and 

Well, I don't remember saying that, but I could have. A 
little hyperbole never hurts, if you want ink. I certainly 
wanted ink on that case. You need it. Probably other things 
will occur to me about Point Arena, but I don't remember what 
they are now. 


Lage: Did you work very much with other Sierra Club entities on this? 

Pesonen: Well, I worked with the club's publications people putting that 
pamphlet together. 

Lage: Any local environmentalists or anything like that? The pamphlet 
acknowledges "the assistance of volunteer members of the energy 
subcommittee, Northern California Regional Conservation 
Committee. " 

Pesonen: Yes. That was a volunteer group. There was a young woman who 

headed it up named Joanne--! don't remember her last name now, I 
haven't seen her for years. They were kind of an advisory group. 
But I pretty much ran it. 

Lage: You ran the show; they didn't direct it? 

Pesonen: They didn't direct it, I directed it. You can't have committees 
run these things, you have got to have a leader, and a leader who 
has some confidence about his judgment. I knew I had this 
mystique about me from Bodega, and I knew that I had a certain 
amount of clarity of what the strategy should be, and I would 
call on them for help in implementing the strategy and for 
advice, and we would brainstorm together, but once decisions were 
made, I put the-- 

Lage: Did you notice during the Point Arena campaign changes in 
attitudes toward nuclear power in general, since Bodega? 

Pesonen: Well, by this time there was a lot of skepticism about nuclear 
power. It had really changed dramatically. 

Lage: And the club itself had changed. It hadn't been too many years 
before when they had the big fight over Diablo. 

Pesonen: Well, the big fight over Diablo started before that, in the club, 
that's true. The big public fight over Diablo started later. 
The internal club dispute over the deal that was struck (that's 
maybe too harsh a term), over the agreement [in 1966] that the 
club would not oppose Diablo in exchange for PG&E moving from the 
Nipomo Dunes, had occurred within the club and caused the rift 
which led to David Brewer's departure [1969). But I was not very 
much involved in that. First of all, I didn't want to get 
involved in an internal club dispute; I didn't see any point in 
that. There was nothing that I could add to that that would be 
constructive, so I stayed out of that controversy pretty much. I 
watched it with a lot of interest, but I had no role to play. 


It was complicated enough. 


Pesonen: It was complicated, and it was full of politics that I wasn't 

part of. I have never been much of a joiner. I had never been 
an officer in the Sierra Club; I wasn't anything but a member, 
paying dues, pretty much. But as a public controversy, Diablo 
construction hadn't even started yet. All of those problems with 
the switched plans and the Hosgri fault discovery; that all came 

Lage: Did you get involved in that later battle at Diablo at all? 

Pesonen: Not very much. I went down and talked to a group down there once 
during the Prop. 15 campaign, and I had a very interesting time 
when I was director of forestry with Diablo. It is a wonderful 

But anyway, that is Point Arena in a nutshell. 

Defending Public Access to Beaches 

Lage: Well, it seems like a story you could tell in a nutshellit is 

Pesonen: Yes, it was clean and I picked all of the meat out of it. 

The next case I handled, right about the same time, for the 
Legal Defense Fund, involved public access to some beaches in 
Humboldt county, north of Petrolia. There was a retired 
gentleman up there, who heated his house with driftwood that he 
collected off the beaches in his old jeep, and there was a 
rancher up there named Zanoni, who owned a beautiful piece of 
land north of Petrolia where the little coastal road runs right 
along the beach for ten or fifteen miles. 

He one day closed the fence off after this fellow had driven 
through, and then threatened him with a shotgun and said he 
couldn't go to the beach. Well, by this time Gion-Dietz had been 
decided and the Gion-Dietz doctrine had been established in 
California that the public had an absolute right to the public 
trust lands to mean high tide. 

Lage: Now, when was that decided? 

Pesonen: That was decided in the sixties sometime, late sixties or early 
seventies. The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund came to me and 
asked me if I would like to handle this case, and I did. And 
again it was another one of these things at twenty- five dollars 




an hour, but it did bring in a little money; I could justify it 
to the firm. 

That was a very interesting case. I filed suit against this 
rancher that he was illegally barring the public from crossing 
his land to get to the public land on the beach. He hired an 
old, very well-known lawyer in Eureka who went by the nickname 
"Moose". He still has an office right across the street from 
that big old wonderful Victorian building, the Ingomar Club. 
This case sort of kicked around in the Humboldt County Superior 
Court for a while, and we couldn't seem to get it off the ground; 
we took some depositions. I didn't have a lot of time to spend 
on it, but finally I got to the point where I proposed that we 
settle it with some easements recorded easements across this 
landbut we didn't know who to grant the easements to. We 
couldn't grant them to the Sierra Club, so I brought the state 
attorney general's office in, persuaded them to come into the 
case and be the recipient on behalf of the people of the state of 
the grant of the easements. So we laid out five easements and 
got them surveyed and Zanoni signed the deeds, we dismissed the 
case and we all went away happy. 

I was up there a couple of weeks ago, and I presume the 
easements are still there, but there are no signs; there is 
nothing to tell the public that they can get out of their car and 
walk across these little strips of land to the beach. 

That's too bad. 
of all of that. 

I thought the coastal commission had taken care 

Well, nobody did anything about it, I guess. I probably ought to 
write to them and suggest they let the public know they own a 
little piece of that land up there. That was fun. 

The Widener Case; Another Encounter with PG&E 

Pesonen: Then, because of all of my notoriety, one day this guy walks into 
the office named Don Widener. Widener laid out a story that just 
lit my eyes up. His case had languished. He had been a 
television producer for KNBC, the flagship station for NBC 
[National Broadcasting Corporation] in Los Angeles. He had 
started out as a little publicity writer. He had a brash, 
aggressive personality and fine eyes for muckraking, and was not 
shy about going out and trying to do things. He had talked his 
boss into letting him take a crew and do a little documentary on 
pollution in Tijuana. Tijuana Brass was the name of the film; it 


was just a short. And it got an Emmy, or it got a big award, so 
he was given some more resources, and he preempted a role for 
himself in NBC as a documentary producer. He had no training or 
background, but he could do it. He befriended movie stars to 
narrate these things and brought in a lot of audience for that 
station. Ed Asner narrated one of his films. And then he hooked 
up with Jack Lemmon, who was a superstar. 

Jack Lemmon and he did a film on ocean pollution that got a 
bunch of awards , and then he and Lemmon put together the film 
called Powers That Be, which was about nuclear power. It was the 
first feature-length documentary, that I know of, done by a major 
media source on the nuclear power controversy as it was bubbling 
across the country. 

Lage: When would this have been? 

Pesonen: The film was produced in '72, I think. In the film, Widener had 
read in a Look magazine article that there were problems with the 
Humboldt nuclear plant: that it was leaking radio- iodine, that 
the fuel elements were cracking. The material that they had 
originally used was either stainless steel or a zirconium alloy, 
and it would become embrittled in the high intensity neutron 
environment in the core. Radio-iodine is one of the by-products 
of fission, and there were rumors and reports of airborne 
contamination of radio-iodine. Widener called the company and 
made arrangements to interview a spokesperson at the plant. They 
were right in the control room, kept all the atmosphere. And he 
interviewed the engineer who had had a management responsibility 
before that plant, his name was James Carroll. In preparing for 
the interview, they talked a while outside, and then they went 
into this control room and Widener hit with the question and 
said, "Mr. Carroll, there have been reports of problems with the 
fuel elements in this plant. Can you comment on that?" Carroll 
looked right into the camera and said, "That is too long of a 
question. I don't think we can answer it." 

Widener took that little snippet of film and used it to 
introduce his whole documentary. After this shot of Carroll 
saying, "Too long a question, I don't think we can answer it," 
the film cuts to Jack Lemmon who raises one eyebrow and says, 
"Long questions, short answers. The main questions about nuclear 
power are accidents, waste, radioactivity." It was clearly a 
commentary intended to show Carroll, and PG&E by implication, as 
being evasive. 

Carroll heard about it at a conference in Chicago from 
somebody who had seen the finished film broadcast at prime time 
in Los Angeles and told him he looked very bad and looked 


evasive. Carrollthis is my theory, anyway--at that point in 
his career saw that he was rising into the executive levels of 
the company and had volunteered to be the spokesperson for the 
company in this interview. He was very upset and elected to 
write a letter of complaint to NBC which turned out to be a far 
bigger mistake than anything ever said on the film. He accused 
Widener of having secretly taped, off camera, a conversation in 
which Carroll had said these words, and then having dubbed the 
sound track into Carroll's visual, camera appearance. Carroll 
denied having said those words on camera. 

Lage: He accused him of not having had that on camera? 

Pesonen: Yes. That would have been a very unethical thing to do. My 
theory was, and I've never had it destroyed- -never had it 
questioned, reallythat Carroll submitted a draft of this letter 
to the public relations department of NBC, and they were worried 
about the Widener film. They still had plans to build a lot of 
nuclear power plants, and the prospect of a major network program 
with Jack Lemmon as the narrator getting national attention just 
when the nuclear industry was taking off was something of grave 
concern to the public relations department. So they approved 
this letter and helped him edit it. It went through four or five 

Widener said it was not true, it couldn't have happened, it 
has just destroyed my career- -he never got any more work with NBC 
after that. He was broke, living out of a suitcase. He was 
libeled; he was defamed by that, because the letter was sent to 
everybody who could in any way bring pressure on NBC. It was 
sent to the congressional committee that was overseeing 
journalistic ethics at that time because there were complaints 
about journalistic coverage of the Vietnam war. Spiro Agnew was 
vice president then; you remember he was taking after CBS 
[Columbia Broadcasting System] . The president of CBS had been 
subpoenaed before Congress about the way its reporters were 
reporting. They supposedly had dubbed some words of General 
Westmoreland when he was in Vietnam. On and on and on. The 
media were very worried that--. I mean, I can remember all of 
that controversy going on back, twenty years ago. The Nixon 
administration had a concerted strategy to suppress full coverage 
of what was happening in Vietnam. 

The Carroll letter came along right in the midst of this 
sensitivity and worry and concern on the part of the major media. 
And they are not courageous. These big networks are not 
courageous; they are a business. The days of Edward R. Murrow 
are gone. That kind of investigative reporting is seldom done. 
60 Minutes is more of a People magazine tabloid than it is 


investigative reporting anymore, 
my opinion, now. 


with some exceptions. That is 

Pesonen: Copies of the letter were sent to the manager of the NBC station 
for whom Widener had worked. They were sent to one of the big 
brokers of advertising accounts in New York. It was clearly a 
concerted campaign. Copies were sent to the Washington lobbyists 
for PG&E. 

Well, I didn't know all of that when Widener first walked 
in. I saw the letter, and I saw how damaging it was to Widener 's 
career. Widener had hired a lawyer in Los Angeles who became a 
judge and had to abandon working on the case, and the case was 
about to be dismissed for lack of prosecution, and he was 
worried. He knew it was about to be dismissed. PG&E had had it 
transferred to San Francisco on a change of venue motion of some 
kind that they had won. So it was just languishing over in the 
superior court in San Francisco. Widener had gone to four or 
five lawyers and they had said, "Well, you have got an 
interesting case," but they didn't want to take it. 

Lage: He probably couldn't even offer the twenty- five dollars an hour. 

Pesonen: He couldn't offer any money. He was looking for a lawyer who 

would take it on a straight contingency, and nobody was willing 
to do it. But I saw more than just the lawsuit in this. I saw 
this as a vehicle for a lot of things that I cared about. So I 
said I would take the case, but it was subject to approval from 
the partners of the firm. 

A Libel Case in the Interests of Free Speech 

Pesonen: I went to Barney and Charlie and Frank, and they were skeptical 
of it. I had a copy of the film and I showed them the film. 

Lage: Now, why were they skeptical? 

Pesonen: Well, libel is not a favored area of the law, because it is 

intended to suppress speech. I saw a great irony in this. Here 
was a libel case, which has usually been seen as a way of 
shutting people up, sanctioning them for speaking too freely and 
too vividly and untruthfully sometimes sometimes you skirt the 
truth when you get excited. As the Supreme Court said in the New 
York Times case, speech should be robust and wide open. So they 


were--. And libel suits historically had often been a tool of 
repression. So they were philosophically uneasy with a libel 
suit. I said here was a great irony: here was a libel used to 
suppress speech. I knew of no case, historically, where it had 
been used for the opposite effect, where a libel suit had been 
used to promote free speech. So I was very intrigued with it 
just as a philosophical matter, as a legal matter, and as a 
political matter. 

They finally agreed that I could take the case if I could 
raise twenty- five thousand dollars as a fund for costs. Widener 
didn't have that, so we went to the antinuclear community, 
nationwide. Barney had some connections, the publisher of 
Scientific American, and I went to some other people who may not 
want their names used, but I suppose it doesn't make any 
difference. Henry Kendall, who had been one of the founders of 
the Union of Concerned Scientists in Massachusetts, who was an 
MIT professor of physics, and who recently won the Nobel Prize, 
was a friend of mine and he put up some money- -he also had a lot 
of independent family wealth. 

Lage: Was he a friend through your inquiries into nuclear power? 

Pesonen: Yes. By that time we already had the first meeting at his house 
that led to Proposition 15. So he was a good ally and colleague 
in the antinuclear-power movement. He put up some money, and we 
got money from three or four other sources, mostly through 
Barney's efforts, and when the twenty- five thousand was in the 
bank, I told Widener, "Okay, we'll go with it." 

The first thing I did was move to get it back on the trial 
scheduling calendar and get some more time on it and defeat the 
pending motion from PG&E to dismiss it for lack of prosecution. 
So I got it back on track, procedurally, in the court. Then I 
noticed Carroll's deposition, and I took Carroll's deposition in 
my office, and I requested that he bring all papers that he had. 
That company is so arrogant, or was at that time, that they 
didn't look at Carroll's file. 

Lage: They just sent it along? 

Pesonen: He just walked in with it; he walked in carrying this little 

manila folder. And we sat down at a table and started. There 
were two lawyers representing him, one for PG&E and one for him 
personally. I said, "Did you bring some papers with you?" and he 
said, "Yes," and hands over this little file. I started going 
through it and here were all kinds of smoking guns. Here were 
the notes from the Washington lobbyist for PG&E saying that he 
had talked with the staff of the house committee which was 


involved in media ethics at that point I don't remember the name 
of the committee--and said, "He tells us we are all wet--they 
investigated thisbut the fact that NBC is scared is just what 
we wanted." All kinds of stuff like that. 

Lage: It is kind of amazing that they-- 

Pesonen: And all of the iterations of this letter, from the first draft 
that Carroll had drafted on his kitchen table, to the final 
version that went out to all of these high mucky-mucks. The file 
was full of revelations. And the two lawyers for PG&E and 
Carroll began to figure out that they made a terrible mistake. I 
just walked out of the room with the folder and went down the 
hall and copied it all and then gave it back to him. Any good 
corporate lawyer would have sanitized that file. 

Lage: And then could you have subpoenaed for more? 

Pesonen: It might not have been an ethical thing to do, but I never would 
have found out about it, and I never would have done anything 
about it. Sure, I could have subpoenaed that record, but by the 
time I had done it, it would have disappeared. So that was a 
very expensive mistake. And very bad lawyering on their part. 

Well, I had what I needed. I pretty much had the proof by 
that point that there was a malicious intent, there was knowledge 
of falsity, and there was falsity, and there was some sense that 
Widener had been damaged. Whether Widener really was damaged was 
the weak point in the case which the PG&E lawyer and Carroll's 
lawyer never figured out. 

Lage: They never attacked that? 

Pesonen: No. Because I think Widener was such a brash, impossible person 
who always went over budget, that NBC wouldn't have hired him 
again anyway. I don't know that for a fact. 

Lage: But they hired him for so many before that. 

Pesonen: Yes, but this was the third of a contract of three that he was 
contracted to do. I have no evidence that they would have gone 
into a new contract with him. I suspect that they wouldn't have. 
He was a thorn in their side. He was an agitator. A very good 
agitator, but he didn't fit with the corporate system. His 
expense accounts never added up. When he got his eye on a film, 
he just spent money, to hire airplanes, fly crews all over the 
world, and do whatever needed to be done to make it a good film. 
That just didn't sit well with corporate management. I think 
they were going to let that contract run out and not use him 


again. Although they might not have fired him, they might have 
given him a lower level job in the operation. But PG&E never 
figured out that they could weaken this case by showing that 
Widener wasn't really damaged even though it was a libel. 

A Corrupt Judge, a Sympathetic Jury, a Final Settlement 

Pesonen: So we took it to trial finally, in superior court, and it was 

about a six-week jury trial. Unfortunately, it was heard before 
a judge who had come back from semiretirement, Byron Arnold, a 
corrupt, old, former member of the board of supervisors, old-line 
San Francisco--a lot of business connections. And Arnold was 
hostile from day one. I should have challenged him and not had 
it go to him, but I was too naive and young, and I thought he 
would at least follow the law. It became clear to him as the 
trial progressed that I was going to win, and I was going to win 
big. He tried to dismiss the case before it got to the jury, and 
I brought in an expert on libel law from Hastings, an old guy who 
had just written a book on it, Laurence H. Eldredge, who was 
about Arnold's age, and he looked a lot like Byron Arnold. He 
had just published a textbook, The Law of Defamation. He came 
and argued it with me, and Arnold decided to let the case get to 
the jury. 

The jury came back after deliberating about a day with a 
unanimous verdict of $750,000 compensatory damages for Widener 
and $7 million in punitive damages. It was the biggest verdict 
ever for an individual plaintiff in the history of the common 
law, up to that time. 

Lage: What did you ask for? 

Pesonen: I asked for about that. I said a million in compensation for 
harm to Widener 's professional reputation and $7 million in 
punitive damages. They didn't give me quite the million. I 
hadn't put in much evidence on damages. I had Jack Lemmon 
testifying that Widener was one of the finest documentary 
producers he had ever seen and had a high reputation in the film 
community, all of which was pretty shaky. And I think the jury 
saw that Widener--. But they liked Widener, and they liked his 
wife, who sat in the courtroom throughout the proceedings and 
testified a little bit. 

There was just a flurry of dismay in the room at the 
verdict. Arnold got up off the bench and walked out of the 
courtroom without saying a word to anybody after that verdict. 


don't think he even said, "Thank you" to the jury. He was 
plainly emotionally upset. And of course PG&E immediately 
brought a motion for a new trial and to overturn the verdict, and 
Arnold granted them all. He granted judgment for PG&E against 
Widener--they had a cross-complaint that he had maliciously 
prosecuted this case against Carroll and that he had libeled 
Carroll. It was a frivolous strategy. But PG&E went out of 
there after Arnold got through with it with a clean sweep. I 
took it up to the court of appeal and-- 

Lage: So you ended up having to appeal it when you had won? 

Pesonen: I had to appeal. I had to appeal to get the right to try it 

Lage: I don't understand how the jury can make a decision and then the 
judge can overturn it. 

Pesonen: Under rare circumstances, if the judge thinks that jury has just 
run away and ignored the law, he can overturn their verdict. It 
is supposed to be a very narrow standard set up for the rare case 
when something goes awry, but it is very hard to control that if 
you've got a corrupt judge. And he hadn't followed the right 
standards, so when he granted judgment for PG&E, that was 
reversed, but the standard on a new trial is a broader standard; 
more flexible. And the court affirmed the new trial order so it 
was sent back for a new trial. 

By this time, PG&E had wised up, and they hired a very good 
lawyer, Ed [Edwin] Heafey, Jr., who had written the book on trial 
practices for CEB [Continuing Education of the Bar] . We spent a 
lot of time trying to get that case to trial again. He took 
depositions all over Hollywood and all over Los Angeles, from 
anybody in the film community about Widener's reputation. He 
spotted the weakness in the case, which was Widener's damages. 
We finally got sent back to trial before Judge Eugene Lynch, who 
is now on the federal court, and Lynch said that we ought to try 
to settle this case. We spent about a week on various motions 
and settlement discussions and finally settled it for $500,000, 
which was still a lot of money. 

Lage: Yes. Not seven million, but-- 

Pesonen: But it is not seven million. But if I had tried that case before 
a different judge at that time, I would be a wealthy man today, 
because I had it on a 40 percent contingency. 


Was the $500,000 punitive damages? 


Pesonen: No, we didn't characterize it one way or another. It was 

supposed to be confidential, more or less. Fifteen years ago, I 
don't think anybody cares now. So that is the end of the Widener 
saga. Well, not quite the end. 

Lage: This must have endeared you even more to PG&E. 

Pesonen: Yes. Well, Widener immediately went out and bought a new Lincoln 
Continental [laughter], and then he bought a big house up in Lake 
Arrowhead, and then he lost it all. I've lost touch with him; 
I've tried to track him down. I am told he is sort of living 
hand-to-mouth from one motel room to another, but he was always 
in Jack Lemmon's office all of the time. Jack Lemmon's secretary 
and I got to know each other, and she's lost track of him; she 
doesn't know where he is now. 

Lage: He never got back into the documentary film business? 

Pesonen: No. I don't know what he did after that. He didn't do much. I 
had dinner with him once at Lake Arrowhead about 1980 or so, but 
I understand he has lost all of that. 

He did do me one favor. In 1983--I think it was the fall of 
1983--when I was gearing up to run for reelection as a judge, 
Senator [John A.] Nejedly threw a big party for me at his hilltop 
place out in Walnut Creek, and Don Widener got Jack Lemmon to fly 
up and speak at it. That was pretty nice. I think I am not 
remembered for any judicial act I did in Contra Costa County in 
the two years that I was a judge out there as much as I am 
remembered as the guy that got Jack Lemmon to come to Contra 
Costa. [laughter] 

Defense of Mount Sutro and the City of Davis 



Any other cases we should talk about before we get into the 
nuclear safeguards initiative? We have the Mount Sutro Defense 
Committee v. Regents of the University of California. 

Yes, that was a good case, 
pretty good case. 

and the City of Davis case was a 

The Mount Sutro Defense Committee case came along right 
about the same time as the Widener case, and it involved the 
plans of the University's medical center to expand enormously in 
San Francisco: to add a whole new wing to the Moffitt Hospital, 
to build a whole new dental school. It is in a very compacted 





area, near Golden Gate Park in the Haight-Ashbury part of San 
Francisco, and the community was up in arms about the impact of 

I filed an action under the California Environmental Quality 
Act to enjoin the whole project because it was not consistent 
with the long range development plan of the University or CEQA. 
I tried that before Ira Brown. The University was represented by 
the general counsel for the regents and the firm of, it was then 
Howard, Prim, Rice & Nemerovski. Stewart Pollock handled the 
case; he is now a superior court judge in San Francisco. I tried 
it on a novel theory that I don't think Stewart figured out until 
we were near the end of trial. Lo and behold, a week after the 
Widener verdict, Judge Brown issues his decision granting the 
injunction and stopping the whole construction plan out there at 
the University. So within a week I had these two front-page 
stories of legal triumphs. 

Well, the University appealed immediately and brought a 
special kind of petition, a petition of a writ of certiorari, I 
think, which is very odd, or a writ of quorum nobis. I don't 
remember what the writ was. It was an unusual writ, and they 
finally prevailed in the court of appeal, and by this time the 
University had modified its design plans and modified the design 
of the dental school so that it sloped into the hill and did some 
visual cosmetics on this thing. But I met a lot of people in 
that case, and I represented a lot of community organizations and 
had quite a following in San Francisco. That is why I was going 
to be a superior court judge in San Francisco, because I had 
political support. 

Instead of Contra Costa? 

That is a whole other story, 

how I ended up in Contra Costa 

In a nutshell, that is what that case was about. 

But there is something to the unusual approach you used? You 
said you had used a certain theory that the other lawyer didn't 
catch onto. 

Pesonen: Yes, it was the theory that they had to do their environmental 
impact statement before they went to the legislature for their 
budget appropriation, and I persuaded Judge Brown that I was 
right. If I was right, it would have brought this state to a 
halt. [laughter] 


I love your comments after the fact. 





Knowing a little more about how government works now, it just 
would have been unworkable. The legislature would have amended 
the statute if the courts had interpreted it the way I thought it 
should be interpreted. But the language supported my 
interpretation, and the evidence, as it went in, was consistent 
with it. 

The City of Davis case involved an overpass called the 
Kidwell Road overpass which was to connect two tomato fields on 
both sides of Interstate 80, when Interstate 80 was being 
completed from the Dixon Road turnoff into the city of Davis, 
where Highway 113 takes off and goes north, the major 
reconstruction of that highway. The Solano County development 
department had proposed to Caltrans that they build this 
overpass, and they had promoted it as an industrial site; that 
people could work at this industrial site and live in Davis, 
which had good schools, good libraries, and a fine ambiance. But 
all of the taxes would go to Solano County, and all of the burden 
would fall on the City of Davis and Yolo County. There is a 
county line running right down Putah Creek, just a couple of 
hundred yards beyond this overpass. 

The Federal Highway Administration came in and opposed me, 
and Caltrans opposed me, and the contractor hired a big lawyer to 
oppose me, and I brought a suit in the federal court in 
Sacramento in front of Judge Wilkins. I tried it by myself and, 
to my surprise, Judge Wilkins issued an injunction, a temporary 
injunction. Construction was underway; they had piled the dirt 
up, and pile drivers were out there for the center piers. When 
the court issued that decision, I remember stopping by and 
talking with the project manager and I said, "Sorry, the court 
just told you you have got to quit." He wasn't too happy about 

After six or eight months, they issued a revised 
environmental statement, and the judge dissolved the injunction, 
and so I brought a petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals 
to reinstate the injunction and immediately they did so. They 
issued an injunction, reinstated the order until further 
proceedings. Well, there were no further proceedings until a 
full environmental impact had been done. Well, they never did 

Was that the grounds that you had? 
had not been--? 

That the environmental impact 

There had to be a full environmental impact statement. I showed 
that their intention was to build this industrial facility and 
that has a major environmental impact, and they had ignored it in 


their environmental statements. It was part of a scheme by the 
adjoining county to rip off the other county. That was why the 
City of Davis was my client. They saw what was happening: they 
were going to get a bigger demand on their public services and no 
way to pay for it . 

I charged $5,000 for that case; that is all I ever got. I 
think all I ever got was $2,000 for the Mount Sutro case. I was 
a lousy businessman. [laughter] 

Lage: So you charged just a flat fee on those? 

Pesonen: I charged a flat fee. 

Lage: How did the City of Davis happen to come to you? 

Pesonen: A city councilman was somebody I had met through the antinuclear 
movement, Bob Black, who later went on to the board of 
supervisors in Yolo County. I guess I told him I could do a good 
job, and I did. But I didn't make any money on that case. I 
didn't make any money on any of these cases, just a little bit on 
the Widener case. 

Only recently, only within the last couple of months, has 
something happened. I am not involved in it any more, but they 
have apparently satisfied the City of Davis or somebody that 
their environmental documents are okay, so after seventeen years, 
they are finally building the Kidwell Road interchange, which 
doesn't go to anyplace. 

Lage: There will probably be a new factory outlet center or something. 
Pesonen: There will probably be a new factory outlet there, sure. 
Lage: What was "in the matter of PG&E" at Humboldt? 

Pesonen: Well, starting in about 1975 or '76, there was a Forest Service 

geologist up in Eureka who discovered that there was some serious 
faulting in the vicinity of the Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant, 
which had always been erratic in its operation anyway. 

Lage: And it was an early one? 

Pesonen: It was the first real commercial sized plant sixty megawatts, I 
think. It was not a very big plant, but it was an operating 
nuclear power plant, and it was very valuable public relations, 
and it did produce electricity. They probably never made any 
money on it. It was an old General Electric pressure-suppression 
safety device, a very primitive design from a safety point of 




view. On the other hand, it wasn't very big, so it would be less 
likely to melt down. But it was a hazard, so we brought a 
petition before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission--! think that 
is what it was called then. That agency has gone through a 
couple of modifications; the AEC was abolished in "74- '75 and its 
regulatory role was split off from its promotional role, and then 
there was another change and I have sort of lost track of what 
they all were, but we brought the petition before whoever had the 
licensing authority over the operation--to shut it down, because 
of this newly discovered evidence of seismic hazards. That 
kicked around for quite a while and finally they shut them down 
in 1979. 

So this wasn't a law case? 

I mean, in legal court. It was an 

It was an administrative petition. I didn't see that quite to 
the end because I got appointed director of forestry before it 
was over. It was over in late "79, and I got appointed in April 
of '79 to the Department of Forestry. 

The Disturbing Saga of Charles Garry and the People's Temple 

Lage: Before we go on to the Department of Forestry and the Board of 
Forestry, let's talk a little more about the Garry firm and the 
People's Temple connection. 

Pesonen: Well, as the years went by, Charlie Garryfrom his celebrity 
around his involvement with the Panthers and his successful 
defense of Huey Newton on the retrial after the court of appeals 
reversed the first convictionbecame, I thought, pretty much 
enamored of his public image. Hungry for publicity, his judgment 
began to deteriorate, in my opinion. 

Lage: How old was he by this time? 

Pesonen: Oh, he was in his sixties. He wasn't bringing in much business. 
I was trying to bring in some business and pay my way and help 
pay the overhead; I was never a big rainmaker with big money- 
making cases. Al Brotsky was the real businessman in the office, 
and Barney, because of his reputation, brought in a lot of 
business, and Frank McTernan had a steady clientele, but Charlie 
began to be kind of a drag. He would get some criminal case from 
a drug dealer, who would give him five thousand in cash and he'd 
come down to us and say, "Here, I got this money." You could 


tell he was feeling a little defensive about it himself. He'd 
have rolls of bills stashed in the light fixtures. 

I began to get pretty troubled about it. But I didn't do 
anything about it. I had been with the firm eight or nine years, 
and it wasn't that bad. 

Lage: Are you pretty independent in a situation like that? 

Pesonen: Yes, we all had kind of our own individual practices. It was not 
a cohesive business. We managed all our business together, but 
we didn't make decisions collectively very much; we had our own 
sets of clients and our own kinds of cases that we handled, and 
we would refer cases back and forth among ourselves in the firm 
depending on the expertise of the various lawyers. 

It began to really trouble me when Charlie represented some 
guy who was involved in drugs and couldn't pay his fees, so he 
gave Charlie his Jaguar as the fee. Charlie just took the 
Jaguar. It was an asset that he just took for himself; we didn't 
collectively get the benefit of it. And he started to do things 
like that. It's not good business and not fair to the rest of 
us, we felt--I felt that probably more strongly than anybody else 
because I could see that I was never going to make very much 
money in that firm, and I was getting old enough that I was 
beginning to worry that I had kids now who might one day go to 

Pesonen: I was not making a lot of money, and I never expected to make a 
lot of money when I started there, but you change as you get 
older and you get responsibilities. So I just didn't see that 
there was any future for me there, but I didn't know what else to 
do. So the thought kind of nagged at me, and I put it out of my 

First Suspicion of Evil in the Temple 

Pesonen: I knew Charlie was involved with the People's Temple. The 

People's Temple was politically very celebrated in the city. 
This guy Jim Jones could turn out precinct workers by the 
hundreds for any local candidate for the board of supervisors, 

Lage: He was really relied on by a lot of the establishment. 


Pesonen: He was relied on by the liberal establishment. He had a lot of 
charisma, and he had a loyal following, and it seemed as though 
he was doing good things. He was a minister who talked the right 
line. And, of course, Charlie got involved with him immediately, 
because Jim Jones was always in the newspapers, and Charlie 
wanted to be in the newspapers. But I really didn't have much to 
do with it. 


So one day Charlie came to me and said that he would like me 
to handle some libel cases involving the People's Temple because 
I was the libel expert, from the Widener case. They were cases 
involving the parents of children who wereby this time the 
temple had moved to Guyana. Jim Jones had gone to Guyana, and 
there had been some articles appearing that things were not what 
they appeared with Jim Jones, that he coerced and sexually abused 
his followers. But it was all kind of hazy and full of 
unsubstantiated charges. It didn't look good, but there wasn't 
any proof. I discounted a lot of that; I figured it was just 
reactionary press going after somebody that was a progressive. 
But there was this sort of nagging question unresolved. 

When Charlie brought these four or five libel suits for me 
to handle, to defend the temple-- 

They charged the parents with being--? 

Pesonen: The parents had accused Jones of abusing their children and 

holding their children against their will. These were parents 
who had joined the temple when it was here, and when the temple 
picked up over night and moved everything to Guyana, some of 
these kids--some of them were little, they were ten, seven years 
old, little kids. The parents, by this time, had become 
disenchanted with the temple and had not gone, and they as much 
as accused Jones of kidnaping their children. Or they were 
people who had gone down to Guyana, to the encampment there, and 
then become disenchanted and left and were not sure, or came back 
for personal reasons and left their children there because they 
still believed in it. There were a lot of different reasons why 
the parents were separated from the children, and the parents 
were implicated in those decisions. It wasn't as though the kids 
were kidnaped and spirited away in the middle of the night. 

But the disenchantment had grown, and the parents had then 
accused Jones of holding the children against their will and 
against the parents' will and cutting them off from access; they 
couldn't get into this remote encampment back in the jungle. You 
needed a little airstrip to get there and then you had to ride 
through the jungle in one of the temple's vehicles. If you 
didn't have those arrangements, you just couldn't get in; you had 


to have permission. Jones would get on his shortwave radio and 
accuse the parents of having molested the children and that was 
why the children wanted to stay. They didn't want to go back to 
these abusive parents. It was a real mess. 

So the parents had brought libel suits against Jones for 
accusing them of this horrendous behavior toward their children 
by shortwave radio, and Jones, in turn, cross-complained (or 
Charlie wanted us to cross-complain) against the parents. One of 
these cases was filed in Los Angeles, and I went down to defend 
some motion on it. I took all of these papers and read all of 
these complaints and many of them were done in propria persona -- 
the parents didn't have lawyersand so they weren't very 
artfully drawn. Good pleading pleads what are called ultimate 
facts. Sloppy pleading pleads a lot of facts which are not 
necessary in the pleading. They may be necessary in the evidence 
at trial, but not in the pleadings. And there were affidavits 
attached to the complaints. They were very factual and very 
troubling. I didn't know where the truth was. People always 
exaggerate in pleadings to some extent. Until they are tested by 
a trial, you don't know what the truth is. 

I came back and I went in to see Charlie, and I said, 
"Charlie, there is an awful lot of stuff in here that really 
troubles me, and it can't all be fabricated, and I don't want to 
work on these cases; I don't think we ought to be involved in 
them. There is too much smoke here; there is something very evil 
going on down there. I feel it is very possible that there is 
something very evil about this place. No matter what the 
ideology, I don't think we should have anything to do with it." 
Charlie just exploded at me. He said, "It's paradise, I tell 
you. It's paradise. I've been down there. They sing and they 
dance and they have gardens. It is a pure socialist world. It 
is the dream we've all had. Everybody shares. They all live in 
barracks. They love each other; they sing and dance a lot." 

Lage: He was really taken in by it? 

Pesonen: He was completely taken in. I said, "Well, Charlie, I don't 

know. I have not been there, but I have read all of this stuff, 
and I do not want to work on it. Get somebody else." So that 
was the beginning of the real falling out between Charlie and me. 
He felt that I was turning conservative; he began to get kind of 
paranoid about me. The tension wasn't always there; we continued 
to work together and talk and have regular office meetings and 
things, but this was in the background. I wasn't completely to 
be trusted, and I didn't trust his judgment. 





Did Mark Lane get in on some of this? 
connection with this. 

I saw his name in 

Charlie was worried about Mark Lane. Mark Lane was a lot like 
Charlie. He was crazy too, in my opinion. Here was a great 
left-wing cause for him to identify with, and Charlie was afraid 
that Mark Lane was trying to steal the client away from him. A 
client that never paid any money. Their rewards were psychic, 
they were not financial. 

They didn't get paid? 

I don't think they got paid anything. 

Garry's Trip to Guyana, November 1978 

Pesonen: So Congressman Ryan finallyyou know, there were congressional 
investigations talked aboutand Congressman Ryan finally said 
that he was going to go down there and see for himself with his 
aide Jackie Speier, who is now a member of the assembly. Mark 
Lane was going to go down with them, and Charlie said he had to 
go, too. And there were a couple of reporters from the Examiner 
--one of them was killed. It was in November of 1978. 

Lage: And Garry went on that trip also? 

Pesonen: Garry went on that trip, too. About a year before that, 

Charlie's girlfriend who worked in the office, Pat Richards, 
called me in desperation and said Charlie was in Chicago, and she 
couldn't find him. She had gotten a message by shortwave from 
Guyana that they were all going to kill themselves, and could I 
do anything? 

Lage: A year before? 

Pesonen: I said, "Aw come on, they are not going to do that. Wait until 

Charlie gets back, he'll handle it." I had forgotten about that. 

So Julie and I and some friends were at a little resort up 
on the Klamath River on a fishing trip. It was right before 
Thanksgiving, I think, the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we 
were listening to the news at night on a little radio that didn't 
work very well, and these reports started coming in of some great 
massacre in Guyana. The radio would fade out and then come back. 
Three people killed, fifteen, the numbers kept growing. I didn't 
know what had happened to Charlie or anybody. Then the report 




came through that Congressman Ryan had been killed, and the 
reporter for the Examiner had been killed, and Jackie Speier had 
been badly wounded. 

So I got back to the office, and we still didn't know where 
Charlie was. Nobody had heard from within. Then, about a day or 
two later, we heard that he had escaped, and he was coming home. 
He arranged, somehow, for a press conference the minute he got 
into town. He set it up over at what was then the Franciscan 
Hotel at 8th and Market, which was across the street from our 
office. He got off the plane, got a cab, and came straight to 
the office. He was a ruined man. He had been through something 
so horrible, you could tell it. His face was changed, he looked 
ten years older. He was a mess, physically. 

And he told us what had happened. They had gotten there 
with Ryan, and everything was nice for a while, and then it 
turned sinister. Some member of the group had pulled a knife on 
Ryan, and Charlie and Lane had disarmed this person. There was a 
lot of tension. They had agreed to stay as kind of hostages if 
Ryan could be allowed to leave. So that was the deal that was 
struck, and Ryan and Speier and the reporters and the rest of 
their entourage headed for the airport. Unknown to Charlie--! 'm 
sure it was not known to Charlie; I'm sure he had nothing to do 
with it, or Mark Lane--there was this other plan to assassinate 
Ryan when he got to the airstrip. So they put Charlie and Mark 
Lane under guard in a couple of little cabins off to the edge of 
the compound, and then the killing started. And it wasn't very 
far away, and they could hear it. 

Where was Jim Jones during all of this? 
He was overseeing this mass suicide. 
Did he talk to Garry? 

I don't recall what Charlie said about that. It was as though 
Jones had completely gone crazy, and there was no real 
communication there. 

So Garry could hear? 

He could hear mothers giving cyanide to their kids, and Jones 
exhorting them over the loudspeaker. 

Well, they figured out what was happening. You didn't need 
to be a rocket scientist to do that. And the guard knew what was 
happening. They had a young man with a gun who was watching over 
them. And Lane, according to Charlie, persuaded this young guard 


that this was a great historic event and that somebody should be 
allowed to go back to the outside world and tell them what a 
great historic event it was, and that Charlie and Lane should be 
picked as these emissaries. So the guard pointed them out to a 
hole in the fence, and they escaped into the jungle and went as 
far as they could go. It was apparently a pretty dense tropical 
jungle. Then it started to rain and got dark. They spent the 
night huddled under a tree. 

It had some amusing moments. It is hard to think that it 
could, but Lane offered to carry one of Charlie's bags, which had 
nothing in it but a hair dryer, and Charlie doesn't even have any 
hair. [laughter] He had a toupee. But he carried a hair dryer 
for his toupee . And Mark Lane sat in the rain all night in the 
rain being eaten alive by insects, chiggers that dug into the 
skin, guarding this useless hair dryer. 

Well, when it got light, they found their way to a road, and 
by this time the authorities were coming in and picked them up 
and took them to the airstrip, and they finally got out of there. 
When Charlie got to the office, I remember, he pulled his shirt 
up and he was just covered with big red welts all over his body. 
His stomach was just full of these things. The biting insects 
had just eaten them alive that night, and he still had the welts 
all over him. And then he went across the street to this press 

Well, everybody in the world was there. I had never seen 
such a big press conference. There must have been a pincushion 
of a hundred microphones on the podium. I was so dazed by this 
whole event, the magnitude, the enormity, the awfulness of it was 
so profound, I don't remember a word Charlie said at that press" 

Lage: It is interesting that he had that need, immediately. 

A Difficult Decision to Leave the Garry Firm 

Pesonen: I went over and just watched in amazement that he would hold a 
press conference. I had tried to advise against it when we had 
this little office meeting. I said, "Charlie, this is not the 
sort of thing you want any publicity on. You don't want to 
increase the public identification of you with this horrible 
thing that has happened." 


Well, he had to do it, and he wouldn't listen to anything 
like that. A couple of days later, he and I had a talk, and I 
said, "Charlie, you need to--." I mean, my economic destiny was 
still tied to this firm, and I saw it just destroyed there. That 
was when I decided that I was going to get out. I was going to 
find a way to get out without embarrassing him or making a public 
rift out of it or anything else. I was just going to distance 
myself from this hopeless situation. 

I said, "Charlie, you need a public relations man. You need 
someone to advise you on when to say something and when not to 
say something. Sometimes the best thing to do is to not say 
anything." To my surprise, he agreed that he wouldn't say 
anything unless I cleared it first. 

Lage: I bet that didn't last long. 

Pesonen: That didn't last very long. He and Mark Lane began accusing each 

Lage: After what they had been through together? 

Pesonen: After what they had been through together. Each was blaming the 
other for not having seen it coming. I said, "Charlie, don't 
even get in a pissing match with a skunk." 

So a couple of weeks later, here he is back in the papers, 
and he has been over to City Hall, and he hasn't talked with 
reporters for a couple of weeks, and Connie Chang, who was the 
Examiner stringer at City Hall, caught him in the hall and wanted 
to get a quote from him about Mark Lane's latest charge. He 
says, "I can't talk to you, Connie. My partner tells me don't 
ever get in a pissing match with Mark Lane!" [laughter] He 
always got it wrong. 

Lage: Was he very shaken by this experience? 
Pesonen: He was very shaken. 

Lage: I would think, psychologically, the faith he had put in this 
group, and then to go through that experience-- 

Pesonen: He had put his wholehe was a true-believer personality. That 
is his personality profile. When he got into something, he was 
into it with his whole being. And he was a true believer in this 
dream he had of Guyana being the perfect socialist experiment. 
So he felt just mortally betrayed and humiliated. And Charlie 
didn't take humiliation very well. He had enough of it as a kid 
when he was an Armenian child, badly treated so I'm told, enough 







so that he changed his name even. He was very complicated. He 
had a complex psychology, but I'm no psychologist. He had great 
moments of generosity and great moments of wisdom and insight, 
but when he got involved in things like this, the Panthers or Jim 
Jones and the Temple, he lost all that, and he knew it. He knew 
it, and he was humiliated, and he wouldn't admit it. He couldn't 
acknowledge his humiliation. I don't know whether that was a 
defense mechanism that went back to his childhood or not. 

So I began to look around for office space, talk to people 
about who I might form a new firm with, and one day Huey Johnson 
called up and said, "How would you like to be director of the 
Department of Forestry?" It was the perfect way out. It didn't 
imply that--. I had been recruited and invited to take this 
responsible position in the government of a progressive governor, 
who was of interest to everybody. We were all fascinated with 
Jerry Brown. And it didn't imply any rejection or disapproval of 
Charlie or Barney or Frank or anybody else. I had approached Al 
Brotsky to see if he wouldn't work with me to reign Charlie in 
some way, and he agreed with me that it was an unviable 
situation, but the bonds among those men went a long ways back, 
and I was still an upstart, in a way. I was the youngest partner 
and not part of that old left world. 

A different generation? 

A different generation. Al was a much smarter businessman than 
the rest of them. Frank McTernan wouldn't hear of it. He was 
very offended that I would even suggest some disloyalty to 
Charlie. I saw that was hopeless, hopeless to work something out 
within the firm. It was only after I had tried to work something 
out within the firm, to get some limit, some reins on Charlie 
that I elected to leave. 

You showed a lot of loyalty yourself, it seems to me. 

Well, I had learned a lot from him, and he had been good to me. 
And he was a decent man. His bad judgment didn't mean he was 
evil, even though he got swept up in that terribly evil thing 
that happened down there. I wasn't judgmental about him that 
way. Life isn't black and white like that. And he was a good 
person, and he had tried to do a lot of good things, and his 
heart was in the right place, but his judgment was tragic. It 
was just a tragic fatal flaw he had. 

Although he probably, I would guess, didn't have anything to do 
with the course of events down there. 


Pesonen: No, I don't think he had anything to do with the course of events 
down there, except maybe that his prominent support for the 
temple had allowed Jones to accumulate enough power and hold on 
to enough people that he could inflict such a disaster on so many 
people. I suppose if Charlie had questioned them sooner, his 
paranoia might have exploded sooner. Who knows? I don't know 
what history would have done some other way. But Charlie was a 
person I worked with for ten years. I saw no point in increasing 
his anguish or humiliation. If I had said anything publicly, it 
might have been a one -day story, and it would have gone away, and 
then the people who knew me and knew him would remember an act of 
disloyalty, and an unnecessary one. 



[Interview 5: March 12, 1992] ft 

Presumed Dead 

Pesonen: I went to Washington, D.C., on the fifth of March, 1992, for a 
meeting on a topic completely unrelated to anything we are 
talking about, and beforehand I called J. Samuel Walker, who is 
not only the historian of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he 
is a teacher at Georgetown University of diplomatic history. He 
is an historian. I think I recall he is from Harvard 
[University] . That is where he got his education. He is a very 
nice guy, and he was delighted to hear from me because he had 
sent some of his graduate students out to do some of the research 
for that article that he wrote, and the report came back that I 
was dead. [Laughter] 

Lage: Somebody didn't want to get in touch with you, it sounds like. 

Pesonen: I said, "Well, maybe that is somebody full of wishful thinking at 
PG&E [Pacific Gas and Electric Company]." It might have been 
that they made those inquiries while I was really sick in 1984 or 
1983. It was December of '83 when I got really sick. The 
reports were that I might not live, and maybe somebody figured 
that they didn't hear anymore so I didn't make it. [Laughter] 

So we had a nice visit. That article is part of a book 
which is coming out. UC [University of California] Press is 
publishing it and it will be out this summer. He was not really 
aware of the Point Arena struggle for some reason, so I gave him 
a copy of-- 

Lage: That's interestingthat he wouldn't have followed through to the 
Point Arena-- 


Pesonen: Well, he had other things to do, I guess. Anyway, I gave him a 
copy of the pamphlet that I wrote for the Sierra Club on the 
Point Arena nuclear plant, and he is going to look into possibly 
following up and doing something more on that history. 

Lage: It makes a nice comparison. 

Pesonen: Well, it makes a nice comparison, but it also is part of the 
historic curve. 

Genesis of the Idea for Initiative Effort in California 

A National Antinuclear-Power Network 

Lage: We are going to talk about the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative 

Pesonen: That's a good story. That's a good long story. 
Lage: When did you get involved with it? 

Pesonen: I think I was in on the beginnings of it. The notion started 
kicking around among the people who were in the network of the 
antinuclear movement. 

Lage: Now tell me about the network a little bit. You haven't really 

talked about your relationship with other aspects of the movement 
in other parts of the country. 

Pesonen: Well, the network just grew informally. The Bodega Bay campaign 
was the beginning of it, but the nuclear industry was really 
starting to take off. Orders were coming in; it was very 
fashionable for utilities across the country to propose nuclear 
power plants. Bodega had kind of opened people's eyes--it had 
gotten a lot of national publicityto the fact that there were 
problems, some kind of a problem. So I got lots of inquiries 
from little citizen groups around the country: in New Jersey on 
the Oyster Point plant, I think it was called; plants in 
Michigan; and of course there were a couple of other plants 
proposed in California. There began to be a little body of 
literature in popular media. I just had a little address book 
with names and phone numbers of people who had called me. 

The first coalescing, I guess, of any kind of organization 
was the Union of Concerned Scientists, which was formed by Henry 






Kendall at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and a 
fellow named Dan Ford and probably some other people that I 
didn't know. They began to issue papers on various issues and 
testify in congressional hearings and in licensing hearings or 
public meetings of various kinds. It wasn't so much an 
antinuclear movement as it was very concerned about the safety of 
large nuclear power plants that were water-moderated, based on 
that Weinberg early design: pressurized or boiling water 
reactors, which were the two basic types of light water-moderated 
reactors. When they got big, up around a thousand, two thousand 
megawatts, there were serious untested safety measures that 
couldn't be tested. They were just too massive and too 

So the idea got developed, and I don't remember who 
originated it, for a meeting at Henry Kendall's house that would 
plan the future strategy of the antinuclear movement. I think 
that meeting took place in 1972 or '73. I didn't start my diary 
until after that, so I can't remember exactly when that was. But 
it was in the early seventies, and I went and Richard Spohn went. 
Richard Spohn was with CalPIRG, the California Public Interest 
Research Group, now called California Citizens Action, I think. 

CalPIRG was in existence already? 

I think it was. 

No, Spohn was with the [Ralph] Nader 

Oh, the Nader organization. It probably grew into CalPIRG. 

He was a southern California stringer for the Nader organization. 
Joan Mclntyre and maybe Dorothy Green were there. There were 
probably ten or twelve, maybe fifteen people there. It was a 
two-day meeting at Henry's house in Boston. What emerged from 
that was a plan to use California as the first place for a really 
well-organized campaign that was generic and not specific to 
individual plants. 

Using the initiative process? 

Well, that was the backup. We thought the first thing we would 
do was try to see if we could get legislation. The initiative 
process is very risky, very expensive. 

It wasn't as frequently used then. 

It wasn't as frequently used then, that's true. We knew about 
it, and it had been used before. 


Lage: The Coastal Zone Conservation Act was November 1972. ' 
Pesonen: And that was an initiative. 

Lage: Right. And then Proposition 9 was in June 1972. It was 
defeated. The Clean Environment Act. It was very broad. 

Pesonen: That was the [Edward] Koupal measure. It had some antinuclear 
components to it, but it also attempted to ban all compounds 
containing DDT, chlorofluorocarbons; it was very foresighted in 
that respect. But it was a catchall. That was put together by 
Ed Koupal. 

Ed Koupal and the Art of Signature-Gathering 

Lage: Was Koupal at this meeting at Kendall's house? 

Pesonen: I don't think Koupal was there, but somebody from Koupal 's 

organization was there. Koupal was a very interesting fellow. 
He had been a car salesman up in Roseville, and he somehow got 
sore at Governor [Ronald] Reagan and decided to try to recall 
him. He launched the first recall campaign against Reagan as 
governor, and it failed. But he developed techniques for getting 
signatures for initiatives, referendums, recalls. You have to 
get a lot of signatures, and he was organized about it. 

His theory, as I heard him say it many times, was based on 
how he sold cars. Two yeses and you get a sale. So he developed 
a very simple technique of setting up a table at a place of high 
pedestrian traffic and having one person behind the table, have 
the petition pasted down on the table facing toward the traffic, 
and have a shill or a barker out standing on the sidewalk and 
asking passersby two simple questions: one, do you want nuclear 
power to be safe? (This is by example.) He would say, "Do you 
want good government"--something you couldn't say "no" to--and 
"Are you a registered voter?" You've got these two yeses, and by 
that time you are leading the person over to the table and 
handing them a pen. It worked very well. 

So Koupal was clearly the master of how to get a lot of 
signatures, and I think somebody from Koupal 's organization was 
there. Koupal had decided that the next issue he was going to 
take on was nuclear power. It had a certain sex appeal to a lot 

1 Proposition 20 (November 1972) 


of people. Politicians and people in public office were uneasy 
about it, but they saw something growing. They felt that there 
was something happening here that they had better know something 
about. Some of the more courageous ones, or foolish ones, 
depending on your point of view, took positions against nuclear 

Assemblyman Charles Warren's Encouragement 

Pesonen: Anyway, this meeting ended up with a plan that Richard Spohn and 
I, I think, would go and see [Assemblyman Charles] Charlie 
Warren. We went to see Charlie and we spent a couple of hours 
with him. That must have been in early '73, and Charlie said, 
"There is just no way I'm going to get any kind of legislation 
through this legislature in this current climate." The labor 
unions were very much pronuclear, led by the construction unions. 
There just wasn't enough of a political base to make anybody in 
Sacramento courageous enough to take that on. Charlie would have 
done it if it had a chance, but he thought it was hopeless. 

Lage: Had he made up his mind about nuclear power at that point? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. Charlie, by that time, was pretty clear that nuclear 

power was too big a problem. He had been involved in some of the 
early protests on San Onofre, and he had read up about it. He 
was foresighted enough to see that there was something happening 
here and that there were a lot of problems with nuclear power. 
But he was a member of the assembly; he was elected out of a 
district somewhere down in Los Angeles, and he didn't have a 
groundswell in his district either. But he was an 
environmentalist, and he was in touch with the environmental 
community. Dorothy Green, active in both the women's and the 
environmental movement in Los Angeles, was very active I know, 
and I think she had his ear. 

He said, "I won't be able to get anything through this 
legislature until you bring an initiative." We had already 
thought that maybe an initiative was the fall-back position, so 
we went back and we started talking about how to put together an 
initiative campaign. I had never done one, Roupal had. And 
Alvin Duskin, who was an acquaintance of Kendall's I think 
Duskin was at that meeting, too--Duskin and Koupal teamed up to 
put the initiative together. 


Early Efforts by Koupal, Duskin, and the People's Lobby 

Lage: And Duskin was the clothing manufacturer in San Francisco? 

Pesonen: He was the clothing manufacturer, but he had run an initiative in 
San Francisco against high-rise buildings in the early seventies. 
It failed, but he became quite well known as an activist on 
environmental causes . 

So I kind of was left out of this process. I would talk to 
Duskin now and then, he would call me for my advice on something, 
but for some reason he didn't want me involved. I felt I was 
being excluded from the process, partly because I didn't have the 
kind of time he did and Koupal did, but also they got some money. 
I think they got some money from Kendall. I think they might 
have gotten twenty-five thousand dollars to get it started, which 
was a lot of money in those days. They put the campaign together 
and they got a crew of volunteers, and I kind of watched it from 
the sidelines. That had to have been before '73 because I was 
still in my office at 345 Market Street. 

Lage: So this was early on? 
Pesonen: This was very early on. 

I kind of resented this. I thought, you know, I am the 
father of this thing and I ought to have more involvement, and as 
I watched it, I thought they were making some mistakes. I had 
some part in the drafting; I saw it as a draft. Duskin would 
send me drafts of the measure, and then it would go through three 
or four iterations, and I would see another draft, and I wouldn't 
know what had gone on. 


Who was drafting it? Did they have legal input? 

Pesonen: Duskin and Koupal and some other people that they were involved 
with, whom I don't remember. 

Anyway, they started their signature gathering, and I think 
in those days you had to get something around 300,000 statewide 
to qualify the measure. And there is a time line; there is a 
statutory period within which you can get those signatures after 
the secretary of state gives title and summary and you get them 
printed up in the proper form. Occasionally, I would get reports 
on how the numbers were going, and they were disappointing. So 
at some point--. 


In the interval, we moved our office up to 1256 Market, and 
I distinctly remember getting a call from the local signature- 
gathering group in San Francisco. It was run by a woman whose 
name I don't remember, but she had been kind of delegated the San 
Francisco area or the Bay Area. A group of maybe eight or nine 
of the people who had been involved in the signature gathering 
came to my office and said that they were convinced that they 
were not going to make the deadline; the campaign was not well 
organized, the morale was low. Something had to be done, and 
would I step in and fix it and help them decide what to do? 

I saw immediately this was a prescription for friction 
between me and Duskin and Koupal. [Laughter] So I called Duskin 
and Koupal was a very difficult person to deal with. He had a 
huge ego and was very manipulative. He and his wife, Joyce, they 
were a team. They were street fighters. 

Lage: And their group was People's Lobby? 

Pesonen: It was People's Lobby. They had then started forming an 

organization called People for Proof, which would be the spinoff 
organization to handle the nuclear initiative. They said, "Oh, 
it's fine. We're going to make it. We'll get another infusion 
of money." And I didn't believe them, nor did their troops, who 
had come to me. I had not gone out and rounded this up, I just 
was watching at this point, but I was invited to come in by this 
dissident group of signature gatherers. A lot of street people 
and counter-culture types: long hair and beads and bangles and 
marijuana smoke in the air. 

Lage: These were the ones who were gathering the signatures? 

Pesonen: Yes. [Laughter] So we had a series of meetings around town. I 
remember one was in North Beach at some restaurant in the back 
room, and all of the people who had been involved in this effort 
would come to these meetings and the idea was to get some 
grassroots sense of how the campaign should be organized, and 
make the decision, which was a very critical strategic decision, 
whether to go all the way and not get enough signatures and start 
over, or whether to gracefully announce that we were suspending 
the campaign to take another look at it and start over. That was 
the strategy I wanted to follow. 

I said, "If you go right up to the statutory deadline and 
the secretary of state announces that you failed to get enough 
signatures, your credibility is in bad shape. It would be very 
hard to qualify another one because you go in as a failure. 
Whereas if you announce early on that you have taken another look 
at your effort, and you want to do some fine tuning on it and 


start over, and it has been a good training to get started on 
this one, you sound like you are in charge of what you are 
doing." [Laughter] So my view prevailed finally. There was a 
lot of debate about it. 

Pesonen's Emergence as Leader of a New Campaign, 1975 



Now, were you talking with Koupal and Duskin also? 
signature gatherers? 

Or with your 



I guess I was talking to them occasionally, but I had started to 
emerge as the new leader, and this dissident group grew to 
involve most of the people who had been working on the campaign. 

Well, I didn't know where it was headed and I wasn't getting 
paid for all of this, but it was important to me. So we finally 
made that decision. We issued a press release and held a press 
conference and said, "This has been a very instructive effort and 
we are going to make some changes in the measure and start over." 
So that's what we did. The drafting was done very collectively 
in these meetings. 

The drafting of the initiative? 

The drafting of the new initiative. But the basic form was the 
original. I can't take credit for completely rewriting it. But 
we cleaned it up some. The basic themes remained the same: the 
safe disposal of the spent fuel, the emergency cooling systems, 
and the Price-Anderson Act' insurance umbrella. Those all had to 
be changed, and those were the three main themes of the first 
measure, too. 

So we redrafted it, we submitted it to the secretary of 
state, we got a new petition, and I thought we would start with 
the same old group of people, but better organized. We got a new 
budget; Henry Kendall sent me five thousand dollars, and I set it 
up virtually on a card table in the basement of my law office. I 
hired a young man, Dwight Cocke, to kind of keep track of it and 
organize it. He worked down in the basement of the law office; 
that was our first official space. Dwight had been involved in 
the first effort, and he was a level-headed young man and 
understood Koupal 's technique. 

'Atomic Energy Damages Act of 1954, 71 Stat. 576 (1954) is popularly 
called the Price-Anderson Act. 


Lage: What role did Koupal take in this second effort? 

Pesonen: There was a big struggle at that point, a big power struggle over 
who was going to take charge of this new campaign. [State Board 
of Equalization Member William] Bill Bennett, I believe, saw it 
as a chance to resurrect his own political fortunes by being 
chairman with Roupal really running the show. Koupal and a woman 
named [Susan] Sue Steigerwalt and Richard Spohn were the people 
on the other side. 




I have started reading my diary on it, which is very 
piecemeal, but I do remember that there was a tremendous amount 
of intrigue and Machiavellian stuff going on, all of which 
frustrated me. But I knew that I did not want Koupal in charge 
of this campaign and that Koupal didn't want me in charge of this 
campaign. [Laughter] It seems too silly in retrospect because 
there was absolutely no money in it, and I wasn't doing it for 
any glory. I was doing it purely out of belief in what it stood 
for, but I suspected Koupal 's motives, and I suspected Bennett's 
motives, and I wasn't too sure about Spohn "s motives. 

Now, what did you suspect their motives might be? 

Well, it was just aggrandizement for Koupal. For Bennett, I 
believed he had been looking since the Bodega days for some 
striking environmental issue on which he could ride to the 
governor's office. It was a quixotic view of the world. I think 
Bennett's always had a somewhat quixotic view of the political 
world. You know, he is still on the State Board of Equalization, 
and he was on the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] at the time 
of the second part of Bodega. And he was a very fine lawyer, 
too. He won a great case when he was at the PUC. He actually 
was on the commission and a lawyer for the commission, I think, 
before the U.S. Supreme Court on allocation of natural gas. It 
was a great consumer victory. He was a fine lawyer, but he is a 
big, volatile, energetic Irishman with a huge ego, and his 
judgment isn't always the best. 

Koupal 1 s judgment --Koupal didn't believe in anything except 
he loved the business of collecting signatures. 

That's interesting, 

So it wasn't so much the nuclear power 

No, I don't think it was that. He just loved to kick ass and 
cause trouble, and he knew how to do it. 


A lot more fun than selling cars. 


Pesonen: Yes, a lot more fun than selling cars. And also, he always 

picked issues that were in the public interest. I'm sure his 
heart was in the right place, in some way. But his judgment 
about the long-term solid nailing down of sound policy I didn't 
have much respect for. 

So this struggle went on for five or six months, and 1 was 
very clear on what I wanted, and I finally prevailed. I 
prevailed at a big meeting. I think it was in early '75 held at 
the Sierra Club office, I think. I just wore them down. 

Lage: Was this over the question of leadership? 

Pesonen: It was a question of leadership, and it came to a vote as to 

whether Bennett would be the chairman or I would be the chairman. 

Lage: I see. 

Pesonen: And I won that vote. Bennett was the only one who voted against 
me. [Laughter] Koupal was not present. I had engineered the 
agenda for the meeting and the constituency who was there. It 
was not democratic. 

Lage: So you had gotten your people there? 

Pesonen: I had gotten my people there. Part of the problem grew out of a 
split between the north and the south. The real organizing 
strength was in the Bay Area, mostly in San Francisco. There was 
a lot of trouble getting some coherent organization going in 
southern California. Koupal was, by this time, living in 
southern California, and nobody could seem to pull anything 
together down there, but they had an organization, with a name 
and getting press attention, called People for Proof. That's 
what we had called ourselves, tooPeople for Proof. We couldn't 
have two Peoples for Proofs. It wasn't a very good name anyway, 
but the confusion of two of them without a single voice speaking 
was a prescription for disaster. So I became the chair of People 
for Proof, and then we decided to change the name to Calif ornians 
for Nuclear Safeguards, and then there was no more People for 
Proof. We sort of gobbled up the southern California People for 
Proof and then put the name on ice. 

Well, once that decision had been made, that I was clearly 
the chosen leader, then we could start putting our energies into 
a strategy, budget, fund raising, organizing, getting the people. 


The Role of Creative Initiative in Qualifying the Ballot Measure 

Pesonen: It was about this time that we heard about Project Survival, or 
it was called thenwhat was it called? 

Lage: Was that Creative Initiative? 

Pesonen: Creative Initiative. Dwight Cocke was contacted by them, I think 
in December of '74. They were interested in the nuclear 
initiative question, and they wanted me to come and speak to 
them. I knew nothing about them. I just knew there was this big 
organization down the Peninsula [south of San Francisco] that 
seemed mysterious and powerful. I didn't understand it. 

First Meeting with an Extraordinary Organization: Funds and 
Personal Resources 

Pesonen: So we made arrangements for me to go and speak to Creative 
Initiative in January of '75, I think. It was at Gunn High 
School in Palo Alto at the auditorium. I went down there by 
myself. I met Dwight and his wife or girlfriend there, Lori--I 
don't remember her last namethere were five or six of us from 
the organization Calif ornians for Nuclear Safeguards. Dwight was 
kind of in charge of the signature-gathering organization. I've 
forgotten who was in charge of raising money. I walked into this 
place, and here were probably five hundred people, all sitting 
quietly in their seats. All couples, all middle class or better, 
all professionals, well dressed, coats and ties, and I just 
didn't know what I was getting into. 

Lage: You weren't used to this? [Laughter] 

Pesonen: Most of our volunteers were, you know, refugees from the Haight- 
Ashbury of the sixties, all kinds of counter-culture people, 
mostly. And this was something entirely different. 

Lage: Had you gone down in suit and tie? 
Pesonen: Yes, I was dressed up. 

Well, I didn't know quite what I was going to say. I didn't 
have a prepared address. It was very clear that they had strong 
leadership. There was a fellow named [James] Jim Burch who was 


very much in charge and Amelia Rathbun, a big, powerful-voiced, 
red-haired woman. 

Lage: Rathbun? 

Pesonen: Her husband [Harry J.] was a law professor at Stanford 

[University] and had written the book on Creative Initiative. 
[Creative Initiative: Guide to Fulfillment, Palo Alto, CA: 
Creative Initiative Foundation, 1976]. 

But I really knew nothing about the organization except 
little snippets and bits and pieces of things which didn't make 
any sense to me. So I just started to tell them kind of my life 
story of my involvement with the nuclear power movement, starting 
with Bodega and then I opened it up to questions. And somebody 
asked me the question, somebody from the audiencemaybe it was 
Amelia herself who asked the question- -"What kept you going in 
light of all of these obstacles and setbacks?" I said, "Because 
I knew I was right," and the audience burst into applause. 

Lage: You gave the right answer! 

Pesonen: I gave the right answer. So they took a break for lunch- -this 

whole process took all morning- -and Jim Burch got up and laid out 
the agenda. He said, "Now we are all going to go outside and 
have lunch." It was a January day, but it was one of these 
wonderful January days we get occasionally, when it turns lovely 
and warm, and the trees start to show they are going to turn to 
blossoms, and you can sit out on the lawn and take your jacket 
off. It was just an absolutely beautiful January day, maybe 
seventy-five degrees, eighty degrees. It was just beautiful. 

The leadership of the group grabbed onto me, and we went 
with our bag lunches out onto the lawn. Here were all of the 
rest of these people scattered all over the place. Burch 
announced, he said, "You have heard David speak and you know that 
he needs help, and so now is the time to choose." And I could 
hear these code words, you know, these code phrases or code--. 
There was a common understanding about the meaning of these 
things he was saying. 

Lage: Like "time to choose?" 

Pesonen: Like "time to choose." As though they had prepared themselves 

for this. He said, "And those of you who have chosen, come back 
after lunch into this room," which was the main auditorium, "and 
those of you who are unsure go into the other room," which was a 
little tiny room, a little side auditorium. [Laughter] 


So I started questioning them at lunch. I said, "Well, you 
know, what are the origins of this group? Who are you?" They 
were very forthcoming, it seemed like, but I still didn't 
understand it. This was a sociological phenomenon of some kind 
that had coalesced, and I was trying to figure it out. What they 
told me was, in essence, that these were people who were 
dissatisfied with the direction of the world and felt that their 
lives were not being fulfilled by their work alone, and that they 
had an obligation to use their enormous energy and education. 
They were all engineers, lawyers, doctors, professional people of 
all kinds, people who owned their own successful businesses, 
pretty much centered in the Peninsula and pretty much very upper 
middle class, and people who had come from educated families. 

And they or many of them had found problems in their 
marriages. This was very strongly oriented towards married 
couples, and they had very clear ideas about the proper role of 
women and the proper role of men. They had this book that 
Rathbun had written that there were innate qualities that were 
male qualities and innate qualities that were female qualities, 
and that both sexes possessed both qualities but in different 
proportions and that they could be most effective in the world if 
they understood their proper distribution of these male /female 
qualities. It was very much oriented towards their spirituality 
around their sexuality. Not sexuality, but their gender. 

Bits and pieces of that started to come out, but the gist of 
it was that as they grew, and they grew by word of mouth and 
meetings in people's living rooms and so on, that when they got 
to a thousand couples, they would reach their critical mass and 
it was time "to go out," as they saidthis was their termand 
choose an issue in the outside world and concentrate all of this 
organized energy they had been able to figure out and put 
together by sorting out their various positions in the world, and 
direct all of that energy towards changing the world. They had 
watched a number of different issues develop, and they had chosen 
the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative as the issue that they would 
use to turn out and come out of their living rooms and go public. 

Lage: All of this unbeknownst to the people with the Nuclear Safeguards 

Pesonen: Absolutely unbeknownst to me. They had made this decision on 

their own without talking to us. But they weren't sure about it 
until they talked to the leader of what they perceived as the 
antinuclear or nuclear safety measure. When I had said, "Because 
I knew I was right," that somehow carried the message to them 
that I was the right person they were willing to work with. I 
had the integrity they were looking for. They were very 


suspicious of politics. They were very suspicious of the 
political process generally. They thought it was corrupt and 
full of compromise, and here was somebody they perceived as not 
like that. 

So we went back into this auditorium, and I sat down in the 
front row with Jim Burch. The program then was for our crew, 
Dwight Cocke and the other people who were with him, to 
demonstrate how you get signatures. They put on kind of a mock 
street scene on the stage. Somebody would walk by and we showed 
them Koupal's technique for getting signatures. And virtually 
everybody came back into the main auditorium. Only a few people 
didn't. But before this demonstration began, Burch got up and 
said, "Now, you heard David say they needed some money." And 
from nowhere it seemed, these attractive women, beautifully 
dressed, carrying big boxes, emerged from the back of the 
auditorium, came down the aisles passing these it was like 
church- -pas sing these boxes up and down the aisles. Money was 
pouring into them. Checks and cash and-- 

Lage: You must have been in seventh heaven! 

Pesonen: I couldn't believe it. We were broke. Calif ornians for Nuclear 
Safeguards was broke. I figured this campaign has failed also, 
like the previous Duskin/Koupal campaign. We were out of money. 
We needed money to pay the expenses of the people who were out 
gathering the signatures. We were running it on a shoestring, 
but it still costs money to run a campaign like that and we just 
didn't have it. It pretty well had dried up. And I'm no 
fundraiser. I don't like fundraising; I don't know how to do it. 
I'm sort of the big idea, strategy, leader-type person, but I 
don't know how to do a lot of these things, and I couldn't find 
anybody who did, either, or could do it well enough for us to 
pull through. 

So Creative Initiative came along at just the most critical 
moment. I'm convinced that that campaign never would have made 
it without Creative Initiative. They energized that campaign. 

Lage: So they gave you money. 

Pesonen: Well, so the boxes were then taken off into some remote place, I 
don't know, to count all of the money, and we started this 
demonstration on the stage on how to gather signatures, and maybe 
an hour went by. Suddenly somebody came over and whispered in 
Jim Burch 's ear, and he walked up to the stage and took the 
microphone. He interrupted the show that was going on, that we 
were putting on. He asked me to come up on the stage. There was 
a long silence, everybody had shut up; they knew exactly what he 


was going to say. He said, "Twenty thousand dollars." [pause] 
That's all he said. I mean, he didn't say, "We've counted the 
money and--" he just uttered the words, "Twenty thousand 
dollars," and the whole audience burst into applause. 

Well, I was overwhelmed. I was bowled over. A thousand 
dollars was a big chunk of cash for us. So we walked down off 
the stage, and he just handed this money to me. 

Lage: This cash? 

Pesonen: Most of it was checks. He just handed me a big fistful of 
checks. He said the cash was maybe three or four thousand 
dollars, and they were going to keep that to pay for this 
organization and to pay for their own organizing effort, and they 
were going to give all of the checks to me. I could have just 
walked out with all of that money. The checks were all made out 
to Calif ornians for Nuclear Safeguards. 

Lage : I wonder how much background they had on you? 
Pesonen: They had done some background on me. 
Lage: They must have. 

Pesonen: Yes, they had done quite a bit of background, but I don't know 
how efficient they were about it. And I really don't know what 
they ever found out. I guess what they found out was that 
everything I told them in my speech was true. I suspect that's 
as far as it went. 

Well, I said, "Jim, we can't do this." I said, "First of" 
all, we've got to comply with the California Fair Political 
Practices Act. 1 We have to know the employers of all these 
people; we have to report all of this money." This was '74. We 
were the first statewide initiative to have to comply with the 
Fair Political Practices Act. 

Of course, they didn't have all of their rules or 
regulations in order; they didn't have their forms completely 
settled. The FPPC [Fair Political Practices Commission] didn't 
quite know what it was doing either, but we knew that we were a 
controversial campaign, that we would be under a microscope, that 
any mistake we made could be very damaging to the campaign. So 
we had to be like Caesar's wife as the first measure to go 

'Political Reform Act of 1974 came into being in Proposition 9 (June 


through under this complex set of regulations. So we had some 
people helping us on this, but I didn't really know what we had 
to do, and I didn't want to screw up. 

So I said, "We have got to be very careful how we handle 
this money." I could have run off and gone to Mexico with it, 
you know. I said, "Furthermore, all of the names are going to be 
a public record, and I know you've got people here who work for 
GE [General Electric] or Westinghouse or are in some other way 
involved in the nuclear industry, and they may get retaliation 
from their employers." Well, they hadn't thought of any of this. 
They were really innocent in a lot of ways . 

So Burch went back and announced that we would have to 
publicly report any donation; that it could come to the attention 
of the employer, and if anybody wanted to reconsider their 
contribution, we would understand. He said, "Write a note and 
send us up your name." So they collected maybe ten or fifteen 
names, and Jim and I sat out in the sun on a garden railing and 
went through every check and found these fifteen names and pulled 
those checks out. They took those back. Then, a couple of days 
later, I gave the checks to the volunteer outfit that was 
handling our accounting. 

When our demonstration was over, Jim said, "Okay, now we are 
going to organize our resources." You know, we didn't have a 
lawyer; we didn't have a professional public relations person. 
There were lots of resources that a big campaign would have at 
its fingertips today, and we were doing it ourselves, a lot of 
that. I was doing some of the lawyering. 

We were unhappy with the secretary of state's title and 
summary and the estimate of the impact on tax revenues. We 
thought it was a biased summary of the measure. That had to be 
printed in bold type at the top of the petition, and it would be 
printed in bold type in the voter pamphlet. So I brought a suit 
in the Sacramento Superior Court to reform the measure. I sued 
the secretary of state, the attorney general's office, and I 
think it was the legislative counsel. 

Lage: Was that unusual? 

Pesonen: That was very unusual. It's almost never done, 
trial in Sacramento. I tried the case. 

And we had a 

Lage: And what was the outcome? 

Pesonen: We lost it. [Laughter] We got some publicity out of it. The 

state hired an outside lawyer, who is now on the federal court of 


appeals, on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who was very 
good, and he was a good liberal. A well-known lawyer in southern 
California, Stephen Reinhardt. He's a very good lawyer. But it 
is a very uphill battle. Here you are trying to ask a judge to 
rewrite a summary of a confusing statutethe initiative measure 
with no standards and up against three arms of government who 
are in business to write this kind of stuff. We took a petition 
to the California Supreme Court right after that, and that didn't 
work either, but it was worth doing. 

Well, so anyway that is a demonstration: I was managing the 
campaign and I was doing the lawyer ing for it, and we didn't have 
any money. So Burch gets up and he says, "All right. In 
classroom 3B all the lawyers go, and in classroom x all of the 
people who are in the business of public relations, and the 
people who are accountants go in this room." But that was all of 
the men. The women were to go into another auditorium and learn 
more about signature gathering and organize their signature 

Lage: The women had an innate ability in that direction? 

Pesonen: Women supposedly have this innate ability, and the men were the 
professional doers, in their view. 

So we broke up and we spread out into these various centers 
to get better organized, and I went into the room with the 
lawyers. There were thirty lawyers in there. All with private 
practices, some with government. Paul Valentine, who has a firm 
in Palo Alto, a very nice man, took the lead. Valentine said, 
"All right, the first thing we are all going to do is hold 
hands," and all thirty lawyers held hands in a circle. 
[Laughter] He said, "And now we are going to tell why we are 
here, why we have chosen." Every person in the room gave a 
testimonial to this great moment in his life when he had decided 
that he was not going to be selfish anymore; he wasn't going to 
be turned inward just to making money; he was going to give 
himself up to this movement. 

Well, I was just completely bowled over. I was swept away 
by this power that was at my disposal all of a sudden. It was 
such an overwhelming change from this shoestring operation that 
we had. Thirty lawyers from none. And I knew that going on in 
these other rooms were all of these accountants and public 
relations people, and we had some of our staff in those rooms. 
And then a room with two hundred women ready to hit the streets, 
dressed in their Saks Fifth Avenue finest. Well coif fed and well 
made-up. And they all were very pretty; they all were in their 
thirties and early forties; they were professional women; they 





all had college degrees; they were married to professional 
people. They just wanted to hit the streets. I couldn't believe 

It must have been like a dream! 

It was like a dream. I couldn't get it. I went home and told 
Julie about it; I couldn't absorb it all. I had a stack of 
checks on the seat in the car when I drove home by myself. It 
was six inches high with just a big rubber band around it. 

That's a great picture. 

Well, I was so overwhelmed by this and inspired. I was inspired 
that we had what I thought we needed now to get the campaign 
qualifiedget the measure qualified. All of my depression and 
fear that we were failing just was gone. This was a huge engine 
at our disposal. I thought it was naive; I thought it was likely 
to be disappointed in the long run, but I didn't care. I was 
going to use that resource. 

After the lawyers gave their testimonials, then what? 
you do with thirty lawyers? 

What do 

Pesonen: That's right. We had an abundance of riches and resources we 

didn't really need for lawyer ing. But we knew that there would 
be legal issues come up. Maybe on the campaign reform act, 
compliance with that. We just brainstormed for a little while, 
and then I left. I left early. I said, "You guys run it; we'll 
be in touch." 

A Sense of Uneasiness 

Pesonen: There was a part of me that was uneasy with this. 

Lage: You kind of took on a responsibility to them, in a sense? 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: To provide a vehicle. 

Pesonen: That was part of it; it was just suddenly a huge responsibility 

on me. I couldn't duck out of this quietly anymore if I got worn 
out or was brokeyou know, I wasn't in a lucrative law firm. I 
still had to make a living. And I was stealing a lot of time 


from the office for this, and they all knew it, and they 
supported me, but I was not earning my keep. 

But there was something else that I was uneasy about. I'm 
uneasy about any mass movement. There is a submergence of the 
individual in those things, and they can be very dangerous. 
There was a little tickle of uneasiness about that. Not very 
much, but I had some distance on it. 

Well, then the question was how do we really turn this 
resource to use. I didn't get involved in the day-to-day 
business of that, I delegated that to Dwight and to a guy named 
Richard Grossman, who did a lot of writing for us. There were 
some other people. It is all a big blur as I look back on it, 
and I can't remember who they all were. I'm sure if I met them 
now and they reminded me it would all come back, but--. 

Organizing in Southern California 




What did you do for southern California? 
didn't have people down there, did they? 

Creative Initiative 

Creative Initiative didn't have many people in southern 
California. It had some, and I'm glad you reminded me. That was 
one of the tasks we gave to them, to help build a southern 
California organization. Just go down there and do it. Some of 
them were in television advertising, so they had ins. They knew 
how to open doors, and they set up a southern California 

So you could turn things over to them? 

Pesonen: I could turn a lot over to them, and I could trust them to do it. 
They had some screwy ideas . They had kind of a pyramid scheme 
notion about how the world would work: if you got ten people to 
sign up, and they got ten people to sign up, you know, you would 
multiply this so fast pretty soon you had signed up the whole 
state. I can remember going to one meeting with them where they 
firmly believed that we would have, within three weeks, all of 
the signatures we needed because of this multiplying effect. I 
knew that was going to run into a rocky future pretty quick, and 
it did. The first group of ten they contacted, of course, were 
people like themselves. Those people then began to contact 
people who weren't like themselves and so on. 


But we got the signatures, and we got them fast. They set 
up tables everywhere. They were in every mall, they were on 
every major street corner, they were in southern California. And 
these were people who had personal money. These were people who 
made salaries of seventy-five, one hundred, one hundred fifty, 
two hundred thousand dollars a year. They were doctors- - 

Lage: But also must have had a lot of commitments at home, to jobs, 

Pesonen: They had made personal decisions that for the next year 

every thing- -many of them quit their businesswe had four or five 
doctors who simply suspended their medical practices for a year, 
lawyers who suspended their law practices for a year. They just 
put everything they had into this. And they paid their own way; 
we didn't have to reimburse them. So they'd fly back and forth 
to southern California all of the time. I kept seeing them on 
planes when 1 went down there to appear on television programs. 
There was never an expense voucher from them for this . Maybe we 
should have reported it to the FPPC [Fair Political Practices 
Commission], you know, as a contribution, but I don't think we 
did. I don't really remember what happened on that. 

The "Defection" of Three General Electric Nuclear Engineers 

Pesonen: It scared the hell out of the nuclear industry. The word got out 
pretty fast. There were three nuclear engineers who worked for 
GE, who were involved with Creative Initiative. The three 
engineers, Dick Hubbard, Dale Minor and Bridenbaugh, I think his 
name was--MHB. They were nuclear engineers building nuclear 
power plants . 

Lage: Had they been the ones that interested the group in this issue, 
do you think? 

Pesonen: No, no. They were drawn into it later. But they were troubled 
by what they were doing. They were all engineers with General 
Electric. General Electric in San Jose had its nuclear 
engineering center. In fact, that's the place where Governor 
[Edmund G.] Pat Brown [Sr.] had announced in 1958 that the state 
would become a center of nuclear development, and where he had 
promised to appoint [Retired Colonel] Alexander Grendon to this 


new position in his administration. 1 The reason he made that 
announcement in San Jose was that that was the center of nuclear 
engineering for General Electric. 

These young men worked for GE. They had been educated as 
nuclear engineers or chemical engineers. They all had a nuclear 
engineering background, and they had worked at the Hanford works. 
I remember I think it was Dale Hubbard's wife telling me about 
when they were a young couple, and this was his first job out of 
college, working for the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] at the 
Hanford nuclear works. The first morning they saw what looked 
like a milk truck pull up. They thought, "Well, how nice of the 
government to deliver milk." They had a baby. But what they 
delivered was empty bottles, because everybody in the town had to 
give a urine sample, which was picked up every day. The truck 
would come back at night to pick up the bottles to test for 
plutonium, cesium, strontium-90. 

Lage: They were guinea pigs? 

Pesonen: They were guinea pigs. That had planted some seeds of worry 

early on. So they went public. We had a long agonizing meeting. 
I remember we spent one whole day and an evening in a kind of a 
counseling session with them about what this would mean if they 
went public and they held a press conference about their 
opposition to nuclear power and their support for the nuclear 
initiative, given their background. 

Well, it was an explosive press conference. It just shook 
the whole industry. This was another public relations coup that 
Pesonen had pulled off; I'm sure that's how they saw it. But it 
was written up all over the place: "Nuclear Engineers Defect in 
Favor of the Nuclear Initiative." It went into the highest 
boardrooms, I'm sure. Westinghouse, Babcock-Wilcox, GE, PG&E, 
Southern California Edison, and all of the other peripheral 
industries that were connected with the nuclear industry. This 
really made an impact; it was a Time magazine story, all kinds of 

'The position was coordinator of Atomic Energy Development and 
Radiation Protection. 


Leadership and Nature of Creative Initiative 

Pesonen: That was an outgrowth of this Project Survival. They spun off 

this separate legal entity, Project Survival, but it was all made 
up of the Creative Initiative people. 

Lage: The Creative Initiative continued as a name and a group, and this 
was their nuclear fighting arm? 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Pesonen: It was very well organized. I mean, you would go to a meeting 

with them, and there would be thirty people in the room. If you 
go to a usual meeting that is called together by some 
neighborhood organization, the subject just sort of flows all 
over the place, and it never gets focused, and there are egos 
going on and all kinds of static. There was none of that, 
absolutely none of that when you went to one of their meetings. 
Everybody who said something said something on the point, they 
didn't say anything superfluous. You couldn't hear their ego 
echoing in it, you couldn't hear any other distractions going on. 
Their minds were clear and they were goal oriented. 

Lage: Was this the type of people that they drew, or do you think it 
was the training? 

Pesonen: I think it was the training. They were probably that kind of 
people anyway, but they had that training. And they were all 
nice people; I liked them, but I never felt completely 
comfortable, and I don't know whether they sensed that or not. I 
never joined. They tried to recruit Julie and me as members of 
Creative Initiative. 

The central leadership was a group of people who lived 
quasi- communally in Portola Valley in a place called the Hub. 
Jim Burch was quite well-off for example. He had been a very 
successful advertising executive for Batten, Barton, Durstine, & 
Osborn, I think, BBDO; he had the Standard Oil account, and he 
had made a lot of money somehow. He was a very fine person; I 
liked all of the people. 

But this dinner--! kept getting insights into them. Nobody 
ever sat down and told me the real story, I would just pick up 
clues. But they invited Julie and me to dinner at the Hub, the 
Rathbuns' house, maybe a month or two after the speech at Gunn 
High School. Their living arrangement was individual houses-- 





beautiful, big houses--in a circle at the end of a street with 
open space behind them and a communal building in the center for 
meetings, laundry facilities, a big cooking area if they wanted 
to get together and eat together. But they all had their 
separate dwellings, so they kind of never quite made up their 
minds whether they were going to be communal or individual. 
[Laughter] But the architecture and the whole design of this 
development was a reflection of their philosophy, and it had been 
built for the leadership of this organization to live there: the 
Rathbuns lived there, the Burches lived there, the Valentines 
lived there, Walt Hayes and his wife lived thereWalt was a 
lawyer from San Jose. There were six or seven families, but 
those are the ones I remember most vividly right now. 

Did you pick up a religious component of this group? 

Yes. In fact they were explicit about that. They were eclectic. 
They picked a little bit from Buddhism, a little bit from 
Catholicism; from Christian religions, Moslem religions, Eastern 
religions, they picked little bits and pieces and fitted it all 
together. I think that's what Rathbun's book is about. I never 
could get through it. You know, the Rainbow women were part of 
that, remember? 

Not [Reverend] Jesse Jackson? 

Not Jesse Jackson. It was before Jesse Jackson. They sang 
rainbow songs, and they went to Sacramento, and the women all 
wore colorful garb and marched around the capitol on the nuclear 
issue, by the hundreds. And they were all there on time. It was 
too disciplined for my taste. But I had to admire the way they 
mustered their energy and their focus, and when they said they'd 
do something, they did it, and they did it right, and they were 

So I was telling the story about this dinner. Julie and I 
went to dinner down there, and we all sat in a circle with TV 
trays. It was buffet style, and then we all sat down. Amelia, 
who was a very strong personality, said, "Now, tell us about 
yourselves." Now, this is supposed to be a dinner party. I 
thought we would get to know each other a little better and have 
some chit-chat and tell some stories and see if people like to go 
fishing or what they like to do. No, they were going to get 
right to the point: how is your marriage? [Laughter] What is 
your theory about raising your children? How do you resolve 
conflict in your marriage? 

I felt like a bug on the end of a pin. So did Julie. Julie 
was very uncomfortable; she didn't like it at all. She liked it 


even less than I did. And it wasn't impolite; it was as though 
by being invited into this very sanctified circle of the top 
leadership of this organization, they assumed that we would want 
to just succumb and be part of the world they lived in- -their 
mental and spiritual world- -and that we could all be quite frank 
with each other. I think I shot back with some kind of a 
question about them. I didn't really answer their questions. I 
think Julie and I were having a little problem with our marriage 
already by then, unacknowledged but enough so that we didn't want 
to talk about it. 

Lage: You feel pretty threatened when-- 

Pesonen: Well, I didn't feel threatened. I think Julie felt threatened. 
I just was surprised and a little shocked at the directness of 
it. And then I wasn't shocked. This was the way they are; this 
was how they had trained themselves to deal with the world, and 
it has given them this power to be direct and uncluttered in 
their approach to things and in the way they thought, and it was 
the power that was helping us get our initiative qualified. 
[Laughter] It was a big, beautiful contrast to the intrigue and 
small-mindedness of the Koupals, of the world that I had been 
dealing with. And with most people you deal with, you run into a 
lot of static. 

So I admired that quality of theirs, I just didn't 
understand its origins, and I was skeptical of its origins. But 
I've stayed intrigued by them. I've kind of lost touch with some 
of them although I still run into people twenty years later, on 
the street, in meetings. It must happen once a month, I'll run 
into somebody who was in Gunn High School on that day, and I 
won't remember who they were, and they will introduce themselves. 
I've had people come up in restaurants and introduce themselves 
and say, "I was there on that day in Gunn High School." 

Lage: So that was a big moment for them? 

Pesonen: It was a big moment for me, too. 

Lage: And they went on to do Beyond War, I remember. 

Pesonen: They went on to do Beyond War. I sensed, and I think some of 

them kind of conceded later, that they were very naive about the 
political process, and they were somewhat disappointed about the 
kinds of compromises we had to make in the campaign. There was a 
period when we believed we could pass the initiative, which was 
naive and unrealistic. I never really thought we would pass that 
measure, but after this Creative Initiative group came along, I 


thought, "Well, maybe we have a possibility." We knew it was a 
very long shot and we 

Lage: Did you get it qualified right away after they--? 

Pesonen: Oh, we got it qualified, yes. I think within a month after that. 

[tape interruption] 
Pesonen: Well, I don't know that my theories are-- 

Lage: Well, put it on tape, and we can take it out if, when you read 
it, you think it isn't valid. 

Pesonen: Well, they struck me as people who had bought completely into the 
American Dream early. They went to college; they got married out 
of college; they got a suburban home, and they were happy larks. 
They had a couple of kids; they had a station wagon in the 
driveway, and the wife was busy running kids back and forth to 
Little League and school, and shopping, and her coffee klatches 
and her minor community activity, and PTA [Parent Teacher 
Association). But something was missing; they felt something was 
missing. This wasn't what they thought life was going to be like 
after they got their career started. And they began to search 
for some answers. Out of that process, somewhere the germ was 
planted, and this organization started. There have been other 
movements responding to the same uneasiness and dissatisfaction. 
It is very idealistic; somehow their idealism was out of phase 
with the reality they faced. 

Lage: It also was a time in the seventies of encounter groups and 

counter-culture things, and this is kind of a respectable middle- 
class group that couldn't quite fit in to that counter-culture. 

Pesonen: I think that's true also. 

Lage: But they took on some of its attributes. 

Pesonen: I think a lot of people felt they were better off from it even 
when they left it. They got some clarity about who they were. 

The world really is a messy place, and it is always going to 
be a messy place. [laughter] You are always going to be 
disappointed if you've got very high ideals about it. I think a 
lot of them got wiser, came out of it wiser and better able to 
deal with it. 


An Intense Political Campaign to Pass Proposition 15' 

Lage: So you got the initiative qualified. 

Pesonen: We got it qualified. Then we had to launch a political campaign. 
That was a whole different kettle of fish, and that's where, I 
think, the disenchantment started to set in with Creative 
Initiative, because the political campaign was a very intense 
political campaign. The industry put more money into opposing 
that measure than had been put into any measure in the history of 
the initiative process in California. I think the realistic 
figure the reported figure was something like five million 
dollars and I believe it was really around seven. I don't 
remember how I came up with that number, but I was pretty 
confident of it at the time. 

Lage: They spent more than they reported? 

Pesonen: We all probably spent more than we reported. That was the first 
campaign under the new measure [the fair campaign practices 
measure]. But it was a lot of money. And it was a media 
saturation campaign, and we tried to counter that. We ran a real 

Lage: Did you hire a media firm? 

Pesonen: One of the Creative Initiative group gave us a lot of help on 

that. I kept quite a bit of control over that, but we had lots 
of television. We always searched for the free publicity: the 
press conference with some new announcement, or a talk show, or a 
debate on public television. I was in I don't know how many of 
those things. It seemed like every week I was going off to L.A. 
[Los Angeles] to tape some television program or some television 
debate or give a speech someplace or speak to a medical group. I 
was always giving speeches. And other people were, too. A lot 
of these Creative Initiative people were. 

Lage: So you felt comfortable turning them loose in that--? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. The doctors would talk to doctors' groups, the lawyers 
would talk to lawyers ' groups , the engineers would talk to 
engineers' groups. Everybody talked. 

Lage: That's very effective. 

'Proposition 15 (June 1976). 


Pesonen: Yes. But the campaign lasted about eight months, I guess, and it 
got very intense in the last four or five months before the 
election in June of '76. It got very intense at that stage. And 
money started to come in. We started really raising money. 

Lage: From small donors? 

Pesonen: From small donors, yes, big donors. Mostly small donors. Lots 
and lots. We had a whole direct mail campaign going, and it was 
working. We were solvent. 

Safe Nuclear Power or No Nuclear Power? 

Lage: You said you even began to believe that you might win. 

Pesonen: We began to believe that we might win. There were always 

problems that arise. I know that [environmentalist David] Dave 
Brower, who had founded the Friends of the Earth by then, was 
unhappy that we weren't--. 

We had compromised our position. The industry took the 
strategy to force us to say we were against nuclear power in any 
form. They knew that the public still pretty much supported 
nuclear power. I think the polls showed that about 60 to 65 
percent of the people thought that nuclear power was a very 
important source of energy and useful and valuable. If they 
could force us to the position of saying that this really was an 
antinuclear movement, that we would be on the defensive. We 
sensed that, too, so we took the position that all we really 
wanted was to make it safe. 

Lage: That's the way it was written, after all. 

Pesonen: That's the way it was written. Well, you know that's really 
duplicitous. In fact, I told an L.A. Times reporter--! 've 
forgotten his name now, but he was a good reporter who covered 
the campaign very well. We had a kind of a post mortem after it 
was over, and I said, "Yes, it really was kind of duplicitous." 
And that may have been our problem. People sensed that we were 
really against nuclear power, or most of the movement was. Most 
of the people involved were fervently against nuclear power. 
They were people who liked clear-cut positions, and they believed 

Lage: And did Dave Brower not want--? 


Pesonen: Dave Brower did not want us to just say we were for safe nuclear 
power; he wanted us to say that we were for no nuclear power. 
And so we had to sort that out with him. 

Lage: Did you work closely with the Sierra Club at all? 

Pesonen: The Sierra Club was very much involved, yes. Sierra Club 

chapters helped circulate petitions and pass resolutions. A lot 
of organizations-- 

Lage: Did you have a steering committee? 

Pesonen: We had a steering committee that was very informally set up. I 
headed it. I think Jim Burch from Project Survival was on it, 
Walt Hayes from Project Survival. By this time we had been 
joined by a very effective person, John Geeseman, who is now a 
lawyer practicing in San Francisco and was active in the 
[Governor Edmund G.] Jerry Brown [Jr.] campaign later. We sort 
of picked people based on their ability; I picked people very 
much based on their ability. 

Lage: But you didn't have a representative from the Sierra Club, a 
representative from Friends of the Earth, that kind of thing? 

Pesonen: Off and on. The steering committee was not ever formally 
designated, I think. 

Lage: What happened to the Nader group? 

Pesonen: Well, the Nader group was led by Richard Spohn, and Spohn had 
wanted to be head of the organization, and I had told him he 
couldn't. [Laughter] I didn't trust his judgment. He had done 
some really dumb things early on. But he did come around. He 
aligned himself with Koupal in that first struggle and then later 
we straightened that out. He just lives around the corner here, 
and we are good acquaintances now, but it was a little tense 
there twenty years ago. 

You know, I wish I had a better memory for this kind of 
detail. I just don't. I see the big, sweeping panorama of these 

Effect of the Warren Legislation on the Campaign 

Pesonen: In any event, in the latter days of the campaign, the last two or 
three months, this notion that the measure was too radical 


started to emerge, and Charlie Warren and Jerry Brown raised the 
idea of some more responsible legislation. The idea of a 
statutory response by the legislature didn't emerge until a few 
months before the election. 

Lage: Warren was having these extensive hearings, though? 

Pesonen: That's right. I forgot about those hearings. Warren had these 
big hearings, which were a valuable platform. I don't remember 
when he had those hearings. 

Lage: I can check the dates but I think they went on in 1975. 

Pesonen: Well, that fits now that I think back on it. 

Lage: Did they communicate with you? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. 

Lage: Was there coordination there? 

Pesonen: We were in contact with Charlie, and he and I would talk on the 
phone all of the time. We presented testimony at the hearings, 
and I followed those pretty closely. I had forgotten about that. 
I don't know how I would forget about that. 

That wasn't the central focus of my energy, but they were an 
important aspect of the whole collection of things that were 
going on. And they were very valuable hearings. He had a staff 
person, [Emilio E., Ill] Gene Varanini, who later went on to be 
on the energy commission [Energy Resources Conservation and 
Development Commission], I think, who wrote the report, wrote a 
very good report. 1 And there were reports coming out. Some 
group down at Stanford put out a report analyzing the measure and 
its economic effect, and we had to respond to these. There was 
just a lot of activity. That happens in any initiative; academic 
groups put out reports that purport to say what the real meaning 
of the measure is in terms of its impact on the economy or the 
resource or anything else. 

So then the debate emerged in our informal steering 
committee of how we should respond to the statutes. There were 
three bills that came out of the Warren committee hearings. I 
think that was the Assembly Natural Resources Committee 

'Reassessment of Nuclear Energy in California: A Policy Analysis of 
Proposition 15 and Its Alternatives. California State Assembly, Committee 
on Resources, Land Use, and Energy, 1976. 


[Committee on Resources, Land Use, and Energy]. Should we 
support them, or should we oppose them? They were pretty good 
bills, and they were patterned after many of the issues that we 
had raised in the nuclear initiative: no new plants until there 
was a certified solution to the spent fuel disposal problem, and 
it did address the insurance issue a little differently--! don't 
remember exactly how. They addressed most of the issues. 

Lage: I think one of the differences was they didn't deal with existing 
plants . 

Pesonen: Right, they just dealt with future plants. 

Lage: Whereas yours was going to cut back existing plants. 

Pesonen: No, ours was prospective only, too, I think. 

Lage: No, I think if it wasn't certified safe, then the level of 
production of existing plants was to be cut back. 

Pesonen: Oh, that's right. They had to phase back their power levels. 

Lage: Yes. 

Pesonen: Yes, that's right. The legislation didn't touch existing plants. 

Lage: No. And I think they didn't deal with the Price-Anderson Act 
quite so directly because they felt the state couldn't-- 

Pesonen: It would probably be preempted. But they did address a lot of 
the issues we had raised and that were at the center of the 
debate over the nuclear safeguards measure. So we had to decide 
what's our strategy when it comes to the bills? Do we support 
them? Do we support their being introduced? If they are 
introduced what is our position on them? 

I took the position that they were a big step forward, that 
there was a great risk we weren't going to pass the initiative 
and that we should support them, and that in any event it was a 
political matter. We had to support them because we had already 
elected our strategy: that we were going to be for safe nuclear 
power. If we had elected a strategy up front to be against any 
nuclear power, we could have taken the position with integrity 
that the bills were weak compromises and didn't go far enough and 
were misleading. But we couldn't take that position because of 
the strategy we had elected for our own measure, which was the 
same strategy, watered down in the legislation. It was just a 
difference in details. 


So we did announce that we would support the legislation, 
and they passed very quickly. 1 

Lage: Do you think the legislation passed because of the fear of the 

Pesonen: I am convinced that they wouldn't even have been introduced but 
for the initiative, and that's what Charlie told us three years 
earlier when we had gone to see him and asked him if he would 
introduce legislation. He had said, "I can't do anything without 
the initiative." Well, with the initiative bubbling as the 
central environmental question in the state at that time, he 
could hold hearings, and they would draw a lot of attention, and 
they would catch the attention of his fellow members of the 
legislature, and it would create the momentum for their passage. 

Jerry Brown was scared to death of the initiative. I think 
he was sympathetic to it, and he followed it all the time. He 
called me once a week, "How are you doing? What do your polls 
tell you?" He was very interested in it. But he saw a safe way 
out by this more responsible response, so he pushed it also. He 
and Warren, together, so you had the executive branch and the 
leadership of the key committee in the legislature, and all over 
the front pages of the newspapers every day was something going 
on about nuclear power and an agitated public and constituency in 
all of these legislators' districts. So it was easy to get the 
three bills through as the responsible alternative. Then 
immediately the governor took the position that it was not 
necessary to pass the initiative because the legislature had 
finally done the responsible thing. 

Lage: And what did that do to your campaign? 

Pesonen: 1 don't think it made any difference in the campaign. The people 
in the campaign felt that it undercut our support. I doubt it. 
I think most of the people who voted for it, for Proposition 15 
or against it, were unaware of those bills. I don't think they 
made up their minds based on that kind of analysis, not a 
significant number of voters did. We would have lost anyway; I 
am convinced of that. There is no question. What did we get, 40 
percent of the vote? 

'A.B. 2820, 1975-1976 Reg. Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 194 (1976) 
A.B. 2821, 1975-1976 Reg. Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 195 (1976) 
A.B. 2822, 1975-1976 Reg. Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 196 (1976). 







I think it was about that. [The vote was 32.5 percent in favor 
of Proposition 15.] Were people disillusioned, your Project 
Survival people? 

They were disillusioned. 

Because of the failure of the initiative? 

Yes. I think they believed it could win. 
were ever realistic about it. 

But I don't think they 

They didn't take satisfaction in seeing that the pressure 
probably led to some fairly decent legislation? 

I think some of the more wise ones did. But a lot of people just 
saw life in "you win or you lose" terms. I didn't. I was 
exhausted. I was glad it was over. [laughter] But I don't 
think there is any question that the bills did not affect the 
outcome of the measure, but that the bills wouldn't have existed 
but for the measure. So, when you go back and look back at the 
strategy we devised in Henry Kendall's living room four years 
before, it worked. And it worked just fine. I mean, our plan to 
a tee. It was just a very wasteful way to do it, but there was 
no other way to do it. At least, I didn't know of any other way 
to do it. We got what we wanted, or we got a lot of what we 
wanted. And it did stop any further nuclear development in 
California. There hasn't been any since. 

Inspiring and Assisting Efforts in Other States 

Pesonen: Now, in the meantime, this Proposition 15 had inspired other 

measures, similar measures in other states. In Oregon, Montana. 
Missouri; there were five or six states that had measures. We 
were on in June, and they were on in November. 

Lage: Did you get a lot of calls from those states? 

Pesonen: We got a lot of calls. More than that, we got requests for money 
because a very interesting thing happened: the curve of 
contributions to the Proposition 15 campaign just kept on rising 
as people began to hear and understand the issue and get our 
message. So the biggest day of funds we received, the most 
amount of money per day, came in the day of the election, 
[laughter] We ended up with a surplus of about one hundred 
thousand dollars. 


Lage: That's really unheard of. 

Pesonen: We paid all of our bills, and then we had all of this money. 

There weren't any restrictions, except that we couldn't use it 
for personal gain or anything like that; we had to use it in ways 
that were consistent with what it had been raised for. You 
couldn't give it back, you didn't know where all of the people 
were, and the money all got commingled. So we decided to give it 
to these other measures, and we had this continued steering 
committee. It was Calif ornians for Nuclear Safeguards. 

By this time it had taken on a more formal structure. It 
had a representative from CalPIRG, from the Nader organization, 
from the Sierra Club, from the Friends of the Earth, from ten or 
fifteen organizations, and some of the people who had been active 
in the Proposition 15 campaign: Roy Alper from CalPIRG, Dwight 
Cocke was there. And we would have meetings pretty frequently 
right after the election to decide how to spend this money. I 
think we funded a little research job. And of course once the 
word got out that we had some money, everybody came around 
looking for a piece of it, so we got rid of it pretty quick, 
[laughter] I didn't want to be in charge of piecing money out to 
too many worthy causes. We gave almost all of it to Oregon, 
Montana and Missouri. 

Jerry Brown and a Debate on Nuclear Power in San Francisco. 1976 

Lage: Julie told me about a debate that you had at the Zen Center [in 
San Francisco] to inform Jerry Brown about nuclear power. 

Pesonen: Well, that was before the measure. 
Lage: Oh, before the measure even came? 

Pesonen: That was--or very early on in the measure. I know it was before 
"75. I'm almost positive it was before "75. I may have to go 
back and look at that diary, which started in '75. 

Anyway, I got the word that the governor- -let's see. When 
was he elected? He was elected in '74, wasn't he? 

Lage: Right. At the same time that the Fair Political Practices Act 
was passed. 

Pesonen: Well, Jerry wanted to know more about the nuclear power issue. 

We got the word that the governor wanted a real presentation. It 


wasn't at the Zen Center, it was held over at the UC [University 
of California, Berkeley] Extension on Laguna Street in San 
Francisco. He contacted the organization which was very active 
in opposing the measureit must have been after the measure was 
qualifiedcalled, what was it called? 

Lage: Calif ornians for Economic Balance? 

Pesonen: [Calif ornians for] Environmental and Economic Balance. Yes. And 
there was a fellow who was very active in that, Michael Peevey. 
Anyway, he told them he wanted them to bring some people who were 
pronuclear who were good spokespeople, and he told me to round up 
two or three very knowledgeable people on the antinuclear side. 
So I got Henry Kendall- -Henry agreed to comewho else did we 
have? Henry Kendall was our principle spokesperson, and on the 
other side was a fellow named Bob Budnitz, who was a nuclear 
engineer who works out at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. 

It went on pretty much all day. It was set up in this room 
with a long table. The governor was there with his entourage: 
[Special Assistant to the Governor] Jacques Barzaghi and I think 
even [Chief of Staff] Gray Davis was there. 

Lage: Had you met the governor before? 

Pesonen: I think I had. I hadn't really spent any time with him. I know 
how I heard about it. He contacted me through Richard Baker, who 
was the roshi of the Zen Center. Richard was a personal 
acquaintance, not from Zen particularly, but his wife and Julie 
had gone to high school together in Minneapolis, and he had come 
to see me about the Bodega campaign when he was working for UC 
Extension before he even went into Zen. He was very interested 
in the counter-culture movements, and he had contacted me in the 
early sixties, and we had remained acquaintances because he was 
married to this friend of Julie's. He is a very interesting 
person, very charismatic kind of personality. 

The governor had gravitated to him, and he was at that time 
very close to the governor, supposedly. The governor had this 
entourage of people like [informal advisor to Governor Brown] 
Stewart Brand, Dick Baker; far out thinkers of one kind or 
another. I never was part of that world. I like to go fishing, 
and I'm too much of a country boy, I guess. I don't know. I 
never thought that way, and I don't think it has to do with self- 
image; I just don't think that way. [laughter] 


So at the end of this meeting, Henry Kendall gave the most-- 
I wish I had a tape of it--the most eloquent summing up, a 
powerfully persuasive statement. He is a very fine speaker, and 
he is a man of great integrity, and he looks like a New England 
physicist. He has this craggy New England face; he is very 
handsome, very well spoken, and he is very knowledgeable. 
Knowledgeable enough that he got the Nobel Prize last year with 
two other people for some obscure corner of physics. At the end, 
Baker sidled up to me and said, "The governor would like you and 
Henry to join us for dinner over at my house," and that was just 
right across the street I think. He lived in a spacious flat 
over the Zen Center. 

So there were maybe eight or ten people there, sitting 
around on the floor. The governor, Henry Kendall, me, the 
Bakers, Julie was with us I think Julie came over by thenand 
three or four other people. And we just sat and talked into the 
evening. The governor didn't say very much. Kendall did a lot 
of talking. The governor was just curious. 

Lage: This was after the debate? 

Pesonen: This was after the debate had gone on. I knew we won the debate. 

Lage: The other side didn't look too good? 

Pesonen: No, they were agitated, they weren't very organized, I didn't 
find them persuasiveof course, I wouldn't necessarily. But 
they weren't invited to dinner. [laughter] And we were. 

Lage: So the talk went on about nuclear power? 

Pesonen: The talk went on about a lot of other things, too. It became 
more of a social evening. 

Lage: Did anyone ask about your marriage? [laughter] 

Pesonen: No, it was just the opposite of Creative Initiative. That's, I 
think, the beginning of my relationship with the governor. 

Lage: But he didn't talk much? 

Pesonen: He didn't talk very much, no. He asked a few questions. He 

mostly listened. There was a lot of wine, everybody got happy, 
and it was a party. A party of people who were on an emotional 
high from this day. It had been a very significant day. I mean, 
you don't get your hands on a governor all day very often, 
particularly one who's kind of interesting like Jerry, and win 
him over to your position. So this was a victory that was 









pregnant with future possibility. And I didn't miss that part. 
I was not just in a state of elation over the success of that 
day; I saw this as an investment in access to power we needed for 
what we wanted to do in the future. I never thought it would 
lead to [the Department of] Forestry, but I'm sure that it did. 
But he liked me. I think he respected the way that I thought and 
talked. He never says those things to people, you know. You 
have to draw your inferences, and I may be flattering myself, but 
I apparently made a significant enough impression on him that 
day, partly because of the people I was associated with, that it 
led to other things in his administration later on. 

But I gather from what you said that he didn't make a commitment 
to sign on to Proposition 15, or an antinuclear stance. 

He didn't expressly, but his conduct constituted a commitment. 
But there was no policy discussion or--? 
No, no. He didn't have to. 

That's interesting. It's true you don't often get a day with the 
governor to talk about a broad issue like that. 

Pesonen: He was having fun, too. You could tell he was enjoying himself. 
He had this strange entourage, you know. That's when I first met 

Barzaghi, this Svengali that still hangs around with him. 
What's he like? 

Very cynical. I don't really know Barzaghi. He's mysterious. 
He's got this sexy French accent, this very lean, wolf like 
quality about him. He appears to be a deep thinker, and every 
motion, gesture, touch, turn of his clothes looks as though it is 
constructed to project the image of a deep thinker. He utters--! 
can't think of the words I want. His utterances all have a sense 
of mystery about them. They are ambiguous. It is not clear what 
the profundity is. 

The implied profundity. 

Yes. I'll think of the word after you leave, I'm sure. Cryptic 
is close. He will come up later, I'm sure. 

I think we have pretty well covered the Proposition 15 campaign. 
I think so. 

We'll go to forestry next time? 



[Interview 6: April 2, 1992] ti 

Serving on the State Board of Forestry. 1977-1979 

Lage: We want to get into your career in forestry, the California State 
Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry. Let's start 
with the state board. No, let's start before the state board. 
Had you been involved in any forestry issues before you were 
appointed to the board? 

Pesonen: Not very much. I was involved with the state Board of Forestry 
back in the early sixties when I worked for [Executive Director 
David R.] Dave Brower at the Sierra Club. That was part of my 
unshaped responsibility that he gave me. My title was 
conservation editor, but I did all kinds of things, and one part 
of the job was to represent the club before the state Board of 
Forestry in the very early years in my early years, anyway. And 
then after I went into law practice in 1969 I kind of kept an eye 
on it. I was asked by Henry Vaux to serve on a study committee 
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] 
on forest practices. That was probably around 1975 and we did a 
little report for AAAS. I had kept in touch with [Chairman of 
Board of Forestry Henry] Vaux, Hank Vaux, 1 and [Dean of School of 
Forestry] John Zivnuska over the years, but I wouldn't appear or 
sue the board or have any litigation involving the board. 

'See Henry J. Vaux, "Forestry in the Public Interest: Education, 
Economics, State Policy, 1933-1983," an oral history conducted in 1986 by 
Ann Lage, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley, 1987. 


Lage: You didn't have anything to do with the new legislation on forest 
practices in the seventiesthe Z'Berg-Nejedly Act [California 
Forest Practice Act of 1973] ?' 

Pesonen: No. I might have been consulted on the phone about something, 
but I wasn't an active participant. 

Lage: How did the appointment come about to the state board? 

Pesonen: Well, Hank Vaux was chairman by then, and I guess he consulted 
with [Secretary for Resources] Huey [Johnson]. There was an 
opening for a public member who would be acceptable to the 
environmental community. They knew who I was andwhether Vaux 
planted the idea with Huey or whether Huey came up with it 
himself I don't know. 

Lage: Did you know Huey? 

Pesonen: I knew Huey from his Trust for Public Land days. I just got 
offered the position. It was part time, and it sounded like 
something interesting. There were a lot of forestry issues 
involving the Redwood National Park that were in the press a lot. 
So I thought it would be kind of fun and a change of pace. 

Lage: Is that a paid appointment? 

Pesonen: I think you get $50 a day for attending one of those all-day 

Lage: You must have had additional work aside from your all-day 

Pesonen: There was a per-diem kind of thing. It didn't amount to a hill 
of beans. It was not a perquisite. I didn't take it for the 
perks. I lost money on the whole time away from my practice to 
come to these meetings. So I don't think there was any 
significant amount of money involved. 

Lage: I just wondered what kind of monetary arrangement they made. 

'A.B. 227, 1973-1974 Reg. Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 880 (1973). 


The Redwood Park Issue 

Lage: Well, when you came on the board, your first meeting was highly 
focused on the redwood park issue [May 1977]. Do you remember 
much about that? 

Pesonen: I remember that meeting, but I don't remember in particular that 
it was the first meeting. It was close to the first meeting. It 
was very early on, but I think I had been to one or two meetings 
before that. 

Well, the redwood park was the forestry environmental issue 
at that time. Congress had passed the Redwood [National] Park 
bill in 1968 but it was not an adequate park. The park covered 
Redwood Creek, but it only covered the narrow strip up the creek 
called the worm. On a map it just looked like a worm meandering 
up the creek. The surrounding watershed was vulnerable to 
continued logging. It was just plain that that park wouldn't 
amount to anything if the entire watershed didn't have some 
protection, whether incorporation in the park or limitations on 
logging different from the regular forest practice rules, which 
was under consideration by the Board of Forestry when I first got 
there. And there was a bill in Congress to extend the park 
substantially. [Senator Alan] Al Cranston--! think it was 
Cranston--and [Representative Phillip] Phil Burton were carrying 
that bill. There was a lot of interest in it, but it hadn't 
passed yet. 

In the meantime, Louisiana Pacific and Simpson [lumber 
companies]--! think those were the two principal companies, maybe 
Georgia Pacific, too--had filed with the department very large 
timber harvest plans to log in that watershed. It was very clear 
that their strategy was to get as much timber out of there as 
they could before we got it condemned by the federal government 
for addition to the park. So the problem was to figure out a 
legally sound theory for holding up those timber harvest plans 
until Congress could act on the expansion of the park and fund 
it. It wasn't very clear in the law how we could do that. 

Lage: You had to go by the prescribed forest practice law? 
[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: Well, it wasn't very clear how the board had authority to deny a 
plan. I think the director [of the Department of Forestry] had 
denied the plans, the companies had appealed to the board-- 











Because you only considered these issues on appeals from the 
decisions of the director, as I understand it? 

Yes. The question was whether we could deny the companies' 
timber harvest plans. I think [Board of Forestry member Phillip 
S.] Phil Berry and I spun out a theory that was not complete 
hokum to deny the plans for some interim period because there had 
been actual action by Congress. The bill had passed one house; 
it just hadn't passed the other house, and that was enough, we 
thought, to fit into certain language in the rules that gave the 
board authority. 

That was a big hearing; there were a lot of people there. I 
thought it was a lot of fun. It gave me an opportunity to 
explain what we were doing, explain the limitations on what our 
power was. And I took that seriously. It wasn't just fun. But 
it was very clear that the administration and a majority of the 
board wanted to protect that watershed because we were quite sure 
that Congress was going to pass the measure pretty quickly and 
fund it. You know, you got the usual arguments from the industry 
that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost forever. You hear 
that all of the time from the industry. 

You are still hearing it. 

You still hear it in the ancient forests controversy. I think 
their economics is shaky, but even if they are not shaky, the 
jobs are temporary and the park is permanent. I was an 
acknowledged environmentalist, and I was put on the board with 
that in mind. I was a public member; I wouldn't say I had a 
constituency, but I certainly had a sympathy for what the Sierra 
Club and Save the Redwoods League and other people wanted to do. 
So if, legally, we could do what we wanted to do, we would. If 
we couldn't do it legally, we wouldn't. 

You said there were a lot of people at the hearing, 
both sides? 

Were they on 

Both sides. It was a big hearing. 

Was it pretty intense? 

It was lively. It wasn't angry. 

Somehow I would envision a lot of anger at that point. 

I don't remember it as being an angry meeting. 


Chairman Henry Vaux and Board Members 

Lage: How about on other issues among the board members? Was the 

cooperation among the board members good? It seems like there 
was a balance of people. 

Pesonen: Well, it was, by the time I got on the board, dominated by Jerry 
Brown appointees, and I think the cooperation on the board was 
very good. I attribute that to Hank Vaux's style. Hank Vaux was 
a wonderful chairman, and he had a great skill at finding 
consensus among board members. He had a good, crafty sense of 
pace of how things were to be done, and of process. And he is a 
wise, thoughtful person and a very good leader. He was hard 
working, and I respected his abilities. I didn't always agree 
with him, but I never felt that he was unfair. 

Lage: He devoted a great deal of time to that, it seems. 

Pesonen: Oh, he devoted an enormous amount of time to it. It was almost a 
full-time job for him. 

Lage: I interviewed him on the Board of Forestry so we talked about it 
quite a bit. He seemed very process-oriented, to be sure that 
process was just correct so it wouldn't be challenged later in 
courts and--was that something you discussed with him? 

Pesonen: That's the way a lawyer thinks, too. But it's also the way a 
very skilled administrator thinks, and Hank was a skilled 
administrator. It's also the fairest way to do things. Process 
is an established set of agreements among people about how things 
ought to be done to assure that when the result is reached, that 
everybody who has participated in it feels that the result was 
fairly reached even if they don't agree with the result. That's 
one of the problems we are seeing now in the resource agencies 
under [Governor George] Deukmejian on a state level and under 
[President Ronald] Reagan and [President George] Bush on the 
federal level. To the extent that they can get away with it, 
they have very little respect for process. That's why you find 
in the [United States] Forest Service now, for example, rebellion 
among resource staff people because they think the process is 
being distorted. 

Lage: So was Vaux able to bring along those members of the board who 
were industry representatives? 

Pesonen: Yes. It was a very fine board. The leading industry 

representative was [Henry] Hank Trobitz who, for a long time, had 
been a principal of the Simpson Timber Company in Eureka. 


Trobitz was just a gentleman of the old-school. He didn't like a 
lot of things that were happening, but he didn't personalize 
things. He knew he was in the minority. [laughter] 

Lage: That's right. That would give you a certain position. 

Pesonen: He knew he was in a minority so he made his points and he made 
them well, and sometimes he prevailed if it wasn't a matter of 
fundamental policy. He was a decent guy. I liked him. I had a 
lot of respect for him. 

Lage: Any other on the board that were-- 

Pesonen: Well, there was Virginia Harwood, who was a Democrat. She and 
her husband. She was married to Bud Harwood of the Harwood 
Lumber Company up in Branscomb. Virginia was a smart lady, and 
she was put on there because she was one of the few Democrats, I 
think, in the redwood region. 

Lage: And she was a Brown appointee? 

Pesonen: She was a Brown appointee. She ended up with Trobitz more often 
than not, but she also was a nice person and didn't personalize 
her political disagreements and her policy disagreements with the 
other members of the board. And the other members of the board 
were pretty congenial. There was Phil Berry; there was myself; 
there was [University of California professor of Geology] Clyde 
Wahrhaftig, who's just a sweet old man and a wonderful guy. And 
he's a very sound scientist and teacher. Then there was a woman 
who was active in the Sierra Club from southern California, 
Cecile Rosenthal. Let's see, who else was on there? Richard 
Wilson, who is now the director of the department. 

Lage: Was he a Brown appointee? He was a Republican. 

Pesonen: He. was a Republican, but he was a Brown appointee, I think. 

Lage: What did you think of him? 

Pesonen: I liked him. He's very independent minded. He didn't fit as 
well into any of the two camps, if you can say there were two 
camps on that board although that's an exaggeration. I don't 
think he spent a lot of time on the board. He had things going 
on in his personal life. He had his ranch up there in Covelo, 
and there were certain issues where he cared a lot and certain 
issues where he just didn't care at all. 


What is his position now? 



Pesonen: He is director of the department. 
Lage: Of forestry? 

Pesonen: Yes. It's now called [the Department of] Forestry and Fire, 
was just appointed a couple of months ago by [Governor Pete] 

Lage: So I hope he's interested in forestry now. 

Pesonen: Well, he is. Very much. He got appointed during a turbulent 
time when the Grand Accord [legislation governing timber 
practices on old-growth forests on private lands] had been 
through the legislature and then was vetoed by the governor. It 
caused a great turmoil and in the wake of Proposition 130 and 138 
[both bond acts dealing with forest protection and forest 
harvesting] in 1990,' there was another initiative being 
circulated, that legislation is still held up in the legislature 
right now by [Speaker of the Assembly] Willie Brown, probably for 
reasons completely extraneous to the merits of the legislation. 
And it's divided the environmental community because of the way 
it was put together. It's a mess. And poor Richard Wilson is 
right in the middle of it. He walked into a hurricane. 

Lage: It's a wonderful title, Grand Accord, but it doesn't seem quite 
appropriate right now. 

Pesonen: Well, it's a grand mess right now. I don't remember who else was 
on the board, but they were a congenial board. Clearly it was 
the length and shadow of Hank Vaux's style. 

Regulating Non-Point Sources of Pollution 

Lage: Now, you worked on the best management practices for the non- 
point sources of pollution? What was that? 

Pesonen: Well, shortly after I got on the board, Hank asked me if I would 
handle a subcommittee, a citizens advisory committee under 
Section 208 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. 2 

'Propositions 130 and 138 (November 1990) 
2 90 Stat. 377 (1976). 






The Federal Water Pollution Control Act addresses 
essentially two kinds of pollution: point sources and non-point 
sources. Point sources are pipes that dump things into streams 
and water courses. Non-point sources are more diffuse: runoff 
from streets in cities, runoff from wildlands irrigation and 
other things. Under the act the development of rules for control 
of non-point sources to meet the goals of the act was delegated 
to the states in the first place. And in California, that would 
be the Water Resources Control Board. The Water Resources 
Control Board broke that subject up based on the source of the 
non-point pollution. Timber harvesting was one major source that 
they identified and then they delegated to the Board of Forestry, 
or they contracted with the Board of Forestry, the job of 
developing those rules which ultimately would have to be approved 
by the Water Resources Control Board, but they didn't have the 
staff or expertise, so they thought, to do the work. That was 
delegated to the Board of Forestry and I was appointed to be in 
charge of that process. 

We set up a committee called the BMPSAC--Best Management 
Practices Advisory Committee- -and it had all kinds of people on 
it, people who came from the timber industry, came from 
professional licensed foresters, the environmental community, 
people with interests from the North Coast Regional Water Quality 
Control Board. It was a committee of fifteen or twenty people, 
and we started developing the rules. 

Now, how did this relate to the subcommittee? 
advisory committee and then also the-- 

You had a citizens 

Well, the citizen's advisory committee was advisory to this 
subcommittee of the board. Of course, the idea was to get as 
much buy-in on whatever rules we come up with ultimately, so that 
they could then be adopted by the Board of Forestry and 
transmitted with their recommendation to the Water Resources 
Control Board for adoption in compliance with the act. 

Am I right in remembering that you were making the forest 
practice rules sort of take in this-- 

Yes. The notion was that once best management practices were 
adopted to comply with section 208, they would be folded in, by 
amendment, to the forest practice rules so that the forest 
practice rules would incorporate these best management practices. 

Lage: So you'd just have one set of rules? 
Pesonen: You would have one set of rules. 


Well, that never got completed while I was on the board. It 
was a much more lengthy and controversial topic than we thought. 
And it is. It's a very difficult subject to get your hands on, 
at least under the Z'berg-Nejedly Act as it then existed and the 
forest practice rules as they then were in place. And, of 
course, I sensed that there was a lot of obstructionism on the 
part of the industry. Industry representatives didn't want any 
changes . 

Lage: Was that evident on your advisory committee? 

Pesonen: On the advisory committee. Any change in those rules would be 

more restrictive. There was just no way out of it, and they knew 

Lage: And yet you were under federal mandate? 

Pesonen: Well, yes, but there wasn't much of a timetable on it. And I 

didn't understand the process well enough at the beginning, and I 
had an educational learning curve to go through myself. I had 
two learning curves. One was managing an administrative 
committee like that, which I had never had much experience with, 
and the other was understanding the rules in that level of detail 
and being able to justify that whatever amendments we were to 
propose had some sound analytical basis. That was just a lot of 
work. There were staff of the department who were stretched thin 
doing other things, so there wasn't a lot of urgency about it, or 
at least it didn't seem to move in much more than a glacial pace, 
and that may have been my fault. I was busy running a law 
practice and trying to do this-- 

Lage: My immediate reaction is that it's a tremendous thing to 
undertake as a private citizen-- 

Pesonen: It was. 

Lage: --more or less volunteering, doing your civic duties. 

Pesonen: It was a lot more than I thought it would be when I accepted Hank 
Vaux's flattering offer. [laughter] 

Lage: Were the other portions of this section 208 examination also done 
by citizen committees, do you think? 

Pesonen: I think it depended on the nature of the source that was being 
addressed. I don't know who was responsible for developing the 
rules for agriculture, for example, if anybody. I doubt it would 
be the Department of Agriculture. It might have been the 
Department of Water Resources. 


Lage: Did running that advisory committee help prepare you for your 
work in the department? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. All of that. Everything you do- -everything I do--it 
seems to me, feeds into the next step. I never stop learning. 
I've learned from mistakes more often than anything else. And 
I've made some big ones. Sure it was a learning experience. It 
was an exposure to so-called participatory democracy, a 
formalized form of participatory democracy, and it's a process 
that's used all of the time in government. 

Lage: More recently. More in the last twenty years. 

Pesonen: I think that's probably true. I'm not a student of that history, 
of that process, but it can be used as a way of seeing that 
nothing gets done as much as it can be a device to see that 
things get done that will get institutionalized and stay. 

Lage: That people will buy into it? 

Pesonen: People will buy into it. And it's just as effective for one as 

for the other depending on what the committee really wants to do. 
What I wanted was for our rules to be adopted, but I didn't have 
enough time to complete the process. 

Anything else we should mention on this? Who took it over after 
you left? 

I don't know. 

It did get done? 

Yes, I guess it did get done. 

At some point. 

At some point it got done. I think it's still kicking around. I 
think there are still problems getting it incorporated into the 
forest practice bills. But I didn't pay a lot of attention to it 
after I became director of the department. 

Lage: So it was more a responsibility of the board, rather than the 

Pesonen: Well, the department had some staff support for the BMPSAC and to 
the board, but I just had so many other things to do. I figured 
it was in good hands, and there was nothing to be added by my 
sticking my finger into it. I had bigger fish to fry. 








Lage: Is that relationship between the board and the department an easy 
one? I mean, here you have seen both sides of it. 

Pesonen: It depends on who the director is and who the members of the 
board are. 

Lage: Was [Lewis] Moran the director when you were on the board? 

Pesonen: I replaced Moran. He retired. I think his relations with the 
board were--I wouldn't say strained because he was--he was an 
old-time bureaucrat. I mean, he was a survivor. He was like 
[Charles] Charlie Fullerton at [the Department of] Fish and Game. 
They were real survivors. They didn't want to see too much 
change. They were too much a part of the organization; they had 
come up from the ranks. They were susceptible to what happens to 
anybody who is around too long in any organization: they had too 
many connections, too many friends, too many debts, too many 
skeletons in their closets, I suspect. And they get tired. 
Pretty soon they'd get their eyes set on retirement, and they 
just want to get there. As little trouble as possible is the 
best way to get there. So Moran didn't do very much. I think 
that that is what I was told, and that's what it appeared to me 
when I got there. On the other hand, he didn't actively obstruct 
what the administration wanted to do and the board wanted to do. 
He did his job, but he didn't have any great agenda for change. 

Lage: Before we get into the department, do you have any other--! think 
we have covered most of the thoughts I had on the board, but is 
there anything that you want to add or particular meetings that 
you remember or issues that--I mean, we haven't, by any means, 
addressed the full range of issues that you were involved with. 

Pesonen: Oh, no. There were lots of other issues, but the Redwood 

National Park thing was certainly the highlight, and that came 
right at the beginning, and then there was the 208 committee. 
There were lots of things going on all the time, but-- 

Lage: Well, the complete review of the forest practice rules sounded 
like that was a major undertaking, from my interview with Henry 

Pesonen: We had a few appeals that were controversial. The rules were 

under review in a number of respects. There was a major set of 
amendments to the rules for the Coastal Protection Act. 1 I have 
forgotten the exact title of those rules, but they were 

'S.B. 1277, California Coastal Act of 1976, 1975-1976 Reg. Sess., 
Stat., ch. 1330 (1976). 






amendments, major amendments, to the rules within the coastal 
zone and that happened while I was on the board and that took a 
lot of time and study. 

But I have to say that I probably wasn't as conscientious a 
board member, except on the 208 issue, as I might have been, as 
some other board members were. It really was an intrusion on my 
law practice. The kind of law practice I had was not one where I 
was a major partner in a good firm and had lots of time to be a 
figurehead. I had to work. I had to try cases. And I felt the 
board was an intrusion on that, and I continued to do it out of a 
sense of public responsibility. But I wouldn't look back on it 
and say that I was as conscientious a board member as some others 
might be. I mean, I picked up the agenda on the bus riding up 
there and I read it on the ride. I didn't spend much time in 
between times except on the 208 stuff. 

I'll bet any number of board members had to do that unless they 
were in a senior position, or retired. 

I think that's true of a lot of citizen boards. I have certainly 
found it to be true when I was manager of the East Bay Regional 
Parks District. The board members didn't pay much attention 
until they got to a board meeting unless they had a particular 
issue that they had been stirred up about by some constituents. 

So you had Henry Vaux, who put a tremendous amount of time into 
it, and he was able to get staff for the Board of Forestry for 
the first time. 

Pesonen: Yes, and I trusted Vaux to keep things going on the right track. 
I had a lot of confidence in him. 

Appointment as Director of the Department of Forestry. 1979 

Lage: Let's leave the board and go to the department. Now how did that 
appointment come about? Are you aware of how your name came up? 

Pesonen: I don't know how that came about. I know that I had been thought 
of as director sometime earlier when Claire Dedrick was secretary 
for resources before Huey. Moran was thinking of retiring, or 
maybe Dedrick was thinking of replacing Moran. This was probably 
two years earlier. I think it was right about the time I got on 
the board. It might even have been before I got on the board. 

Lage: Were you aware of it at the time, that you were being considered? 


Pesonen: Well, she called me up one day. I knew her. She had been with 

the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and I had known her from the 
antinuclear days. 

Lage: Had she been involved in that antinuclear movement? 
Pesonen: Somewhat. She and her husband. 


Pesonen: Let's see. When did Jerry Brown come into office? 
Lage: January of '75. 
Pesonen: Well, this was about-- 

Lage: And Claire Dedrick was hung in effigy by the lumber people soon 
after she came in. 

Pesonen: Yes, but she was his first secretary for resources. Initially, I 
think she wanted a younger, more active person as forestry 
department director. Moran was playing out his last days with 
the department before retirement. He knew that. So I spent an 
afternoon, and then we went to dinner with her, and then I didn't 
hear anything more from her. I guess she decided she would stick 
with Moran. 

Lage: As she stuck with Charlie Fullerton? 

Pesonen: As she stuck with Charlie Fullerton. And I didn't pursue it. 
[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: Well, how did it happen? Huey called me in, I guess it was March 
of 1979, and just flat out you know, he doesn't mince any words 
--just wanted to know if I'd like to be director of the 
department, and could I come right away? And it might have even 
been February when he called. I said, "Well, I have some things 
to wind down in my law practice." He wasn't happy about that. I 
didn't hesitate. 

Lage: You immediatelywell, you said earlier you were kind of ready to 
get out. 

Pesonen: I was looking for a big change, for a lot of reasons I have 

already discussed. So I told my partners about it, and they were 
not happy about it. I said I would have to wind down what I had. 
Huey was unhappy about that, but he was willing to wait. I am 
sure he had talked to the governor about it. He wouldn't have 


done such a thing without talking to the governor, and it might 
even have been partly the governor's idea for all I know. 

Lage: Because you'd had that meeting with the governor on the nuclear 
issue earlier? 

Pesonen: I knew the governor from that, and the governor had stayed in 
touch with me. There had been a campaign against some nuclear 
power plants in Kern County, the Wasco plant which was a huge, 
absolutely huge, nuclear facility proposed by the Los Angeles 
Department of Water and Power [LADWP] , to be built near the town 
of Wasco outside Bakersfield. There was a citizen's initiative 
to stop it, cut off its water supply. Without water it couldn't 
have any cooling towers, and it wouldn't be possible. They were 
afraid the water would be diverted from agriculture. 

Larry Levine was managing the campaign against that plant. 
I forgot to mention Larry in our last session about the nuclear 
initiative, and I should have because he was the hired 
strategist, the hired campaign manager, he and a guy named 
[Robert] Bob Jeans. Larry was the press manager. And he is a 
campaign consultant in southern California. He handles school 
board candidates and local congressional and supervisor 
candidates. He makes his living doing that. And he's a 
wonderful guy. We just really got to know each other and liked 
each other a lot in the Proposition 15 [Nuclear Safeguards Act, 
June 1976] campaign. And he was managing the campaign for the 
farmers in Kern County, and he was keeping me posted every day 
about how things were going. 

Lage: Interesting that you had the farmers organized against nuclear 
power . 

Pesonen: Well, the farmers whose water would be lost. And Larry could 

tell that story better than I could. It was a very interesting 
campaign. The governor watched it very closely, almost daily. 
He was calling me every other day, I think, to see how the vote 
was going to go because he had already positioned himself as an 
antinuclear candidate, and it was very important to him that that 
initiative succeed in Kern County. It would buttress his 
position. It would justify it. I can't think of quite the right 
word I want, but if it lost, he would see it as a blow to his own 
position. And it won. 

So I had been in touch with the governor as sort of an 
information source about the Wasco plant campaign through '75, I 
think, or through '76 or '77. So we knew each other. It was a 
first-name basis, and I knew Huey. And it just happened. I 
mean, I didn't go through a long interview process, I didn't file 


an application, I didn't send in a resume, I didn't do anything, 
it was just my reputation. 

Lage: Did you have a meeting with the governor and Huey to talk about 

Pesonen: It was just a done deal. When I said "yes" on the phone, it was 
a done deal. 

Lage: But before you got into the job, was there any discussion of 
where the department should go or-- 

Pesonen: No. I don't recall meeting with the governor before that at all. 
Lage: So it was just up to you? 

Secretary for Resources Huey Johnson 

Pesonen: It was just up to me. Well, no. Where the department was going 
to go was a matter of great interest to Huey, but I never 
discussed it with the governor before my appointment. 

That was April 1979, so it was just thirteen years ago. 
Well, anybody who goes into a position like that has to sort of 
get the lay of the land, you know? Who your staff is, what the 
history of things is, what are the underlying issues, how is the 
place organized, what's its real mission and what does it 
perceive its mission to be? I set out to just kind of keep my 
ear to the ground and go around and talk to a lot of people. I 
called a staff meeting right away, and I recall that staff 

The top level of staff was called the executive advisory 
group or something, EAC. In other words, anybody who was a 
ranger IV and above, a regional chief and above. And I held up a 
blank piece of paper and I said, "This is my agenda right now. I 
want to find out from you what this department does, how it does 

Huey left me alone at the beginning. He didn't come right 
in and say, "Here's what I want you to do with the department." 
He had his weekly staff meetings, and they were very episodic. 
It was very hard to figure out what Huey's plan was. 

Lage: Did you know that he had a plan? 


Pesonen: I wasn't sure he had one. [laughter] The staff meetings were 

Lage: This was with all of the departments within the Resources Agency? 

Pesonen: This was all of the Resources Agency heads: conservation, fish 
and game, water resources -- 

Lage : Parks ? 

Pesonen: --parks, State Lands Commission, Water Resources Control Board, 
and then there were a couple of little bodies of one kind or 
another, but they were all part of the Resources Agency. And 
there were maybe twelve to fifteen people in Huey's Monday 
morning staff meetings. There was never a written agenda. There 
was usually some issue in the legislature, something the governor 
had said. It was political, it was policies. Sometimes it was 
just Huey holding forth about the world in his swinging chair, 
and the rest of us sitting in these creaky chairs that he brought 
up from Mexico. 

Lage: Was this his chair that hangs from the ceiling? 

Pesonen: He had two swinging basket chairs from the ceiling, and if you 
met with him one-on-one, you each sat in the swinging chairs 
swinging back and forth. [Chuckles] Huey loved those chairs. 
But during the staff meetings, he'd take one of them down, or 
sometimes he'd leave it up, and nobody wanted to sit in it, but 
if there weren't any other chairs, if you were late, you ended up 
in the other swinging chair. 

And he had these other chairs which were real handmade 
creaky things from Mexico that were leather and strips of 
mesquite, I think. And they had worms in them. They were very 
uncomfortable, and they would creak and they'd squeak. 

Lage: So if people were restless-- 

Pesonen: If people were restless, there would be squeaking going on among 
all of these chairs all over the place and when you'd come in on 
Monday morning, there would be these little tiny heaps of sawdust 
around these chairs where these worms had eaten at them over the 
weekend. [Laughter] Every once in a while, one would collapse. 

You just never knew what Huey's agenda was going to be. He 
was kept on an even keel more or less by [Harold] Hal Warass, who 
was one of his deputies and who had been a deputy for resource 
secretaries for a long time for administration personnel dealing 
with the Department of Finance. And Hal Warass was a consummate 


bureaucrat. He was a wonderful guy. I mean, bureaucrat is not a 
pejorative term in my lexicon. There are people who have to make 
government work and understand how to do it and are very 
successful at it. Hal Warass is one of those people. He stayed 
on with the agency after Huey left; he'd been with Claire before 
Huey; I think he had been with whoever was resources secretary 
before her. 

Lage: I haven't heard anybody mention his name. I've interviewed 

[former Secretary of Resources Norman B.] Livermore [Jr.] and 
Dedrick and-- 

Pesonen: Well, he was a Svengali of the Resources Agency. He was very 

careful not to take a policy position. He made the engine run. 

Lage: So did he keep Huey on track? 

Pesonen: He tried. I had a lot of respect for Hal in the challenge he 

Anyway, so you try to glean what Huey wanted from these 
staff meetings. Sometimes he'd give you a direct order, but not 
very often. You were supposed to pick up the vibrations of what 
he wanted. 

Lage: Or maybe he just wanted you to go your own way? 

Pesonen: No, he didn't want you to go your own way. I think he was trying 
to figure out what he wanted to do for a while that I was there. 
He finally came up with a plan, and then we had to buy into that 
plan, and it was a good plan. It was the idea behind his 
Renewable Resources Institute [where Johnson is now director] , 
which focussed on Huey's central theme, which is still his 
central theme, and I think it always has been since he left Trust 
for Public Lands--maybe it was even before thatthat a society 
that is dependent on nonrenewable resources is doomed and that 
now, while we've still got time and nonrenewable resources to 
use, we should build a system that depends on renewable 
resources: wood, water, sunlight, wind. And certainly wood was a 
large part of that, for energy and building materials. So 
forestry was very important to him as part of this renewable 
resource notion; a society that recycled things, used things that 
grew again, planted for the future. Wood energy was a big deal 
with him. 

Part of that program was the chaparral management program 
which the Department of Forestry presented to him as a renewable 
resource program that we could manage for millions of acres of 
brushland in California, increasing water yield, wildlife yield. 


Lage: But not increasing wood supply, am I right? 

Pesonen: We wanted to try to make wood energy out of it: chopping it up 

and bundling it up. There was a little pilot program down in San 
Diego County to try that. It just wasn't economical. But using 
logging slash and other more concentrated forms of wood did have 
some possibilities, or appeared to. And I put that whole program 
in charge of a deputy for resource programs, Loyd Forrest. 

Lage: Forrest? 
Pesonen: F-0-R-R-E-S-T. 

[tape interruption] 

Restructuring the Department's Staff and Management Systems 

Pesonen: Where was I? Trying to figure out what Huey wanted. 

1 had one agenda for myself, and then I, of course, was 
going to carry out whatever program Huey had. First I had to put 
together my staff. And it took me a while to find out what kind 
of people I had inherited as deputies. 

Lage: Are the deputies ones that you can appoint on your own? 

Pesonen: Yes, they are called CEA positions, career executive 

appointments. They don't have any civil service security in a 
particular position. They have some civil service rights to 
return to a civil service position of some kind, but they are 
very high level. And they get paid well. I had three CEA 
deputies. I have forgotten exactly how Moran had that organized, 
but it didn't make any sense to me, anyway. He had one very 
close deputy. In fact, he had the office rebuilt so that you 
could close the doors of his office and this other deputy's 
office, and there was a door between the two of them. I'm told 
there was a very secretive little world in there. 

He had a secretary whose name was Josephine Guillino who had 
been there a long time, and I immediately developed a respect for 
her. She was a very tough, strong woman, knew where all kinds of 
skeletons were buried. She was very loyal, and she started 
helping me out. She liked me. She figured I was honest, and she 
said once she thought that was refreshing. [Laughter] I didn't 
have any hidden personal agendas; I just wanted to do a good job. 


So I ultimately restructured the top management, and that 
always sends reverberations of anxiety throughout an 
organization. And 1 let some of those people go. I brought in 
Loyd Forrest, 1 brought in [Robert] Bob Connelly as the chief 
deputy director. 

Lage: Where did you get these people? 

Pesonen: Bob Connelly had been in the legislature, working in the 

legislature a long time. He'd been at the legislative analyst's 
office, and he had worked on the staff of most of the important 
people in the legislature, Senator [Alfred E.] Alquist. Let's 
see, who else did he work for? He was an insider in the 
legislature. He also was a very close personal friend. He and I 
had gone to high school together, and he was probably my closest 
personal friend as well. He still is. And he's very bright and 
he's very knowledgeable. He's got good political sense. And he 
was sort of bored with what he was doing over in the legislature, 
so he came in as chief deputy. Then there was Loyd Forrest on 
resource programs, [Robert] Bob Paulus who initially impressed 
me, in charge of fire programs, and then there was an 
administrative person. 

Lage: But this was a reorganization? 

Pesonen: This was a reorganization. 

Lage: Moran hadn't divided it into fire and resources? 

Pesonen: It wasn't quite that clear a division. Some of the fire 
responsibilities were under the resource person. 

And that caused a bit of a stir, that reorganization. But I 
felt that it had to be done, and Hal Warass helped me carry out 
so it went smoothly: got it through the Department of Finance and 
got the positions authorized by the State Personnel Board. 
There's a lot you have to do with what are called control 
agencies in state government before you can do anything. It took 
me a while to get over my impatience with that process. Once I 
realized its purpose, then I figured out how to use it, and I 
didn't resent it anymore. 

Women and Minorities in the Department 

Pesonen: There was another problem: the department was under some 

sanctions or impending sanctions order from the personnel board 


for failure to appoint minorities and women in the fire side of 
the organizationwell, in the whole organization, but the fire 
side was 80 percent of it and that's where most of the problems 
were. Coming out of a civil rights liberal law firm, there was a 
lot of anxiety that I was going to start changing that, and we 
were under pressure from the personnel board. They were going to 
sanction the department and take over. 

Lage: Didn't they eventually do that? 

Pesonen: I think maybe they did, but I don't think they sanctioned them 

while I was there. I kept fending off the sanctions because what 
the sanction would mean was that they would take over personnel 
administration for the department. Then you lose your freedom 
and your flexibility in appointing people you think ought to be 
in certain positions, and I wanted that authority. I didn't want 
to lose it to the personnel board. So I had to promise to try to 
get serious about it and put a lot of pressure on the department 
about it. Well, I got a lot of heat for that. 

The first big executive meeting I had was at Lake Arrowhead 
and that was all the rangers, all the regional chiefs, all the 
top staff in Sacramento. There were thirty-five or forty people. 
I have a photograph of it, a big picture taken, and everyone's a 
white male and they are all in uniform. It looks like the 
military from the First World War or something. Here we all are 
with our stars on our collars and khaki uniforms and they are all 
pressed and shiny shoes, and there isn't a black face or a woman 
or a Hispanic there. And that had to change. It had to change 
all the way down the line. 

Lage: Was that addressed at the meeting? 

Pesonen: Yes. And you got the usual rationalizations, "They aren't 

interested; they don't want the jobs; we've tried; we can't find 
them; we've done everything we can; it's hopeless." And I didn't 
accept that, and I think they knew I didn't accept that. 

For example, I went down the hall to the supply room in 
headquarters. There was a supply room on that floorwe were, I 
think, on the ninth floor of the resources building- -and it was a 
big room where everybody in the office had to go to get all kinds 
of supplies, and it was run by two or three guys who didn't have 
a lot to do. It was full of pinups and naked girls and the kind 
of calendars you'd see in a little auto repair shop. And I said, 
"Take that stuff down." And there was an uproar. 

Lage: So it was really entrenched? 


Pesonen: I said, "Every woman in this office has to come in here and pick 
up materials for their department, and they've got to be exposed 
to that stuff. I didn't think of the term "sexual harassment," 
but now people would call it sexual harassment. It was just 
inappropriate. And they didn't like that at all. There was 
grumbling and growling all around the building: "Can't have any 
fun any more around here." [laughter] 

Lage: What about hiring? Were you able to turn that around? 

Pesonen: It was hard. It was hard because we met resistance all the way 

down the line. And the director doesn't do the hiring; you don't 
interview everybody for every fire fighter job. And you can't 
set quotas. Legally you can't set quotas. You just have to put 
the pressure on. There were systems for giving credit for 
minority or woman status on exam results. You could add a 
certain number of points, but the interview was, of course, a 
large part of each one of these assignments, and that's where the 
existing institutional mindset exerted its influence. 

Lage: But could you give points to your supervisors for having success 
at hiring minorities? 

Pesonen: I think now, today, knowing what I know now, having worked in a 
civil rights law firm, I would have done things somewhat 
differently; I would have hired some more help. I didn't get as 
much help from the personnel board on how to do this as I thought 
I would. The personnel board sort of told you what to do, but 
they didn't tell you how very well. That's my recollection, 
anyway. I don't want to be unfair to them, but that's the way it 
seemed to me. It seemed that I was kind of on my own. Now, I 
know that there are people who are really skilled in how to carry 
out affirmative action programs and who have developed a lot of 
techniques for making it work, including techniques for rewarding 
and evaluating and appointing authorities down the line. And I 
just didn't understand that well enough and I didn't get much 
help on it, as I recall. 

There's been a lot of improvement since then. I don't think 
that the department's under a sanctions order any longer, but 
that's been thirteen years. I know my son, for the last three 
years, has been a summer fire fighter, a seasonal fire fighter, 
and there are women in every station now, and Afro-Americans. So 
it is highly integrated now, at the lowest levels. It is still 
not higher up. And the budget crises over the last number of 
years have pretty much cut off much promotional opportunity, so I 
think it's probably at the upper level still pretty much the kind 
of organization that I saw. 





I did create one high level position to which I appointed a 
woman, Suzie Lange, who now works for the Department of 

What was that? 

That was press, publicity, special programs [assistant to the 
director, policy analysis, information, and legislation]; kind of 
a collection of things. But she was part of the executive level 
group. Otherwise, I didn't do very well. 

But you kept the personnel board off your back? 
something about a 1980 sanction. 

I thought I read 

Well, there was a sanction proceeding, but I think they softened 
it to give me a chance. I mean, I was new, and they knew I was 
new, and they were going to give me a honeymoon period on this. 
And we were successful in getting that. 

Management by Objectives 

Lage: You mention the bureaucracy, or the term "bureaucrat." Did you 

get a sense of what the civil service appointees were like in the 
department? Did you come to respect them or did you find them-- 

Pesonen: I respected a lot of them. I mean, it's a good department. It 
has a very clear mission. I didn't think it was very well 
managed in the sense that it was difficult in the budget section 
to really get a handle on how many positions and how much 
equipment we needed. It was all very subjective. That I found 
really frustrating. 

Lage: Is this mainly fire we are talking about? 

Pesonen: Mainly fire. In terms of organization reform, the fire side of 
the organization was so big, such a huge consumer of its budget, 
that's where I spent a lot of my time. And I started looking 
around for systems , management systems , that could be implemented 
where I could get a handle on what the department did down to the 
lowest level, where at every level they would have a plan for 
what they did, where they would have a way of justifying their 
budget. And I read a book called Management by Objectives and 


Results in the Public Sector. 1 I was intrigued by that book and 
I went over and talked to the commissioner of the [California] 
Highway Patrol, who had implemented such a system in the Highway 
Patrol. I then brought in some consultants and had all the top 
staff come, and we spent a couple of days going through a 
training session on this management-by-objectives. Well, it 
takes a long time to implement such a system, and it wasn't 
completely implemented by the time I left. In fact, I'm told 
that it was abandoned as soon as I left. [laughter] 

Lage: Was it resisted by the people in charge? 

Pesonen: Yes, they didn't like it because it took away their--look at it 
from two sides: from my point of view, they could never tell me 
why they needed a certain lookout, or why they needed a certain 
number of engines, or why they needed a certain station, or why 
they needed fifteen bulldozer operators in this ranger unit and 
two bulldozer operators in that. There was just no way I could 
get a handle on justifying the budget. 

Lage: They just felt they needed it. 

Pesonen: They felt they needed it, and of course they think in terms of 
their worst-case catastrophes and very large fires. And that's 
understandable because they are on the line. But I had to 
respond to the legislature and the Department of Finance and the 
Governor's Office and justify what I was asking for. We had to 
make cuts, the cuts had to be where they would do the least 
damage to the department's ability to do its mission. There was 
just no objective way to classify need to do that. 

Pesonen: So I started to concentrate on implementing this management-by- 
objectives system. I was able to get authority to hire some 
people: a guy named Bill who was skilled in computerizing this 
kind of information. Suzie Lange [assistant to the director, 
policy analysis, information, and legislation] was in charge of 
the whole planning process. And it was glacial. I mean, I'd 
push it, and I'd push it, and we would develop these plans at 
descending levels in the organization and massage them and roll 
up into the department plans . It was never sufficiently 
finished, but it could be used for the budget process. 

'George L. Morrisey (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley 
Publications Company, 1976). 


Lage: In a nutshell, could you describe what management by objectives 

Pesonen: Well, it's a way ofit's an intellectual process of setting 

out--at increasing levels of detail and descending levels in a 
line and staff organizationof articulating what your job is and 
articulating it in terms of measurable units. At the top level, 
you define a mission for the whole organization and that's a 
narrative statement: what are you about, why do you exist, why 
are you necessary? And then at the next level you break that 
down into sub-missions and finally you get down to what are 
called tasks or activities which can be very specific. You are 
going to inspect 150 houses in the first three months of the year 
for fire hazards in wildland areas. That's the lowest kind of 
definition. And if you don't inspect 150 houses, you explain 
why; why you only did 140 or maybe you would do 200, and you 
would revise it each year. 

At the top level you say the mission of the department is to 
efficiently, economically, and swiftly reduce to the feasible 
minimum the number of acres burned each year. The level of 
detail and the level of precision in measurement increases as you 
go further down in the organization. And you can structure all 
of this and lay it out graphically and revise it. If it is in 
place and it's used and people buy into it and understand it, I'm 
told it works in some organizations. It has its faults. 

Lage: Did it work in the Highway Patrol? 

Pesonen: The Highway Patrol seemed pleased with it. That has a reputation 
as a very well-run organization. There are surely other reasons 
for it being a well-run organization than simply the use of this 
management system. 

Renewable Resource Programs 

Pesonen: So a lot of my attention went into that. But then Huey came 
along with, of course, his program. Huey didn't care what 
management system I used. Huey had his own theories about 
management, which were very one-on-one, and he didn't have the 
patience to even listen to it. As long as it was my idea and he 
had confidence in me, I had his support. 

There were a couple of things that Huey got us involved in. 
One was the wild and scenic rivers designation for quite a number 


of rivers in California, which was a federal program. He wanted 
everybody in his department to throw their resources into that. 

Lage: Into designating the rivers as wild and scenic? 

Pesonen: Yes. Designating the Smith River, the Klamath, the American, 

parts of the Eel I think--! don't remember what all of the rivers 
wereparts of the Stanislaus, the Kern, parts of the Feather. 
But there were still administration regulations in the Department 
of the Interior to designate these rivers, and that was a very 
important program for him. Regardless of what department you 
were in, you were expected to help the state lobby for that 

Then there was --in each department you were to come up with 
a number of programs which would further this renewable resource 
idea. My department came up with--I don't remember them allbut 
chaparral management was one, wood energy was one; those were 
sort of the high visibility ones. 

Another major program that was under way and was a product 
of legislation that had been passed before I got there, which was 
really Vaux's baby, was the FRAP program, Forest Resources 
Assessment Program, and the first report of that. That was all 
done by the staff of the department. That was also under Loyd 
Forrest's responsibility. 

Lage: Now what did that involve? 

Pesonen: That involved a very comprehensive assessment of all of the 
resources in the state. All of the wildland resources. 

Lage: That must have been a major undertaking. 

Pesonen: That was a major project, and it was very well done, too. We had 
some really good people on that. 

Lage: Did this include private lands as well as public? 

Pesonen: Everything. It was a whole economic analysis of timber, 

brushland, water, wildlife resources, timberland, private and 
public, large and small, and how it would meet the needs of the 
future. The first report came out while I was director, and the 
second report just came out two years ago. It's a very valuable 
document. Nobody really knew what the forest resources were in 
California so you didn't know how much you could cut. You didn't 
know if you were overcutting or undercutting. You didn't know if 
you were growing enough to replace what you were cutting; you 


didn't know anything, including policies to increase sound 
management such as tax and regulatory policies. 

Lage: So you completed an evaluation of the entire thing? 

Pesonen: The first evaluation. I didn't do it; the staff did it. There 

was a very professional staff, but it was done while I was there. 

Lage: Did it get reflected in policy? 

Pesonen: Well, not a whole lot at that point. I think people were sort of 
getting used to using it and understanding it. The second one 
was prominently relied upon in the debates over the Grand Accord 
last year and two propositions which were on the ballot in 1990. 
Yes, it was the centerpiece of the debate in those campaigns. It 
came up with some very startling results. 

But that process was underway. It was long term. It needed 
to be nurtured and supported; when there were budget tradeoffs, I 
wanted to protect that program. 

Lage: Where did Loyd Forrest come from? 

Pesonen: Loyd had been in the department, and he'd also been in the 

Department of Finance. He was a career government employee. He 
had a forestry degree from [California State University at] 
Humboldt. He also was a very good administrator, a very well- 
organized administrator, and I had a lot of respect for him. 
Most of Huey's programs ended up under Loyd's portion of my top 
staff. And Loyd was a little secretive about it. I'd get 
reports from him about how they were doing by and large, but I 
didn't look over his shoulder a whole lot unless Huey wanted me 

Lage: And that worked? 

Pesonen: I told Loyd what needed to be done, and he just got busy and did 
it. And if he needed resources or help- -he was somewhat resented 
in the organization, I think. He didn't come out of the fire 
organization although he had some experience in it. But he was a 
calculating, hard-driving manager. 

The Fire Fighting Organization; Acquiring Air Force Helicopters 

Lage: Did most people in the top levels come out of the fire 


Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: Was there tension between the two parts? 

Pesonen: There was some distance there, which was another thing I had to 
deal with. 

Our biggest coup was to get all of these helicopters from 
the air force. It was one that Huey bought into reluctantly, and 
Bob Connelly was the one who pulled that off. As a state agency, 
the department was entitled to receive surplus military equipment 
for nothing. We learned that the U.S. Air Force had twelve huge 
"Huey" helicopters. They are the kind that can carry twelve 
people. It's the air force version of the main troop carrying 
helicopter that was used in Vietnam: a very fast, very 
maneuverable, large, reliable helicopter. We wanted to use it 
for the Chaparral Management Program with what's called a 
helitorch, where you dribble jellied gasoline around a big patch 
of brush and burn it off from the helicopter instead of having to 
build roads and manage the fire by hand. The idea was that you 
take a huge piece of territory that had a lot of brush on it and 
you would burn a mosaic in it each year on a plan so that 
ultimately, over a ten-year period it will all be burned. 

Lage: To keep down the fire hazard? 

Pesonen: To keep down the fire hazard, increase the water yield, increase 
wildlife habitat. 

Lage: Was this all scientifically accepted? 

Pesonen: Pretty much, yes. There was a professor at Berkeley, Harold 

Heady, who had been promoting it for decades. It was hard to do 
because there were occasions when fires got away from you, you 
know, if the wind conditions and fuel moisture were not right. 
So you had to have a lot of study to pick exactly the right 
conditions and a lot of training of the field people who 
supervised it. 

But you needed the helicopters, and we didn't have any 
helicopters. We had some helicopters that were on contract only 
during the fire season for dropping water, but we wanted our own 
helicopters, so Bob went to Washington a couple of times and 
pulled off this deal where the air force just gave us twelve of 
these big helicopters, which are enormously expensive machines. 

Anyway, of course, I had to budget for maintenance. We put, 
I think, six of them into operation the first year. 


Lage: And pilots. Did you have pilots? 

Pesonen: We had to get pilots for them. They were not free, really. 

Lage: Why did Huey have to be persuaded? 

Pesonen: Because Huey didn't think much of helicopters. He didn't have 

any interest in the fire side of the organization. That was just 
a bunch of paramilitary /military types. It didn't interest him. 
It had no resource magic about it. It was just a job the 
department did. He wasn't unsupportive; he was just bored with 

I was kind of intrigued with it, actually. I kind of 
enjoyed getting out in the field, and I loved the idea of having 
all these helicopters. [laughter] But, of course, our hidden 
agenda was to also use them for fire fighting because they could 
carry crews quickly, and they could carry a much larger bucket 
for a water drop. You know, they can fly over a lake and pick up 
the water and go drop it on a fire right away. How effective 
they are, I really don't know; nobody knows, I think. It's just 
too hard to measure that, but there was a firm belief that they 

[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: So we got the helicopters. We were afraid somebody would find 
out that we got these twelve helicopters before we got them and 
stop it. I thought Huey might try to stop it. I sort of kept 
him informed, but I didn't go out of my way to demonstrate my 
enthusiasm for them. And of course the air program staff was 
delighted because this increased their domain enormously. They 
got all these toys to play with. So we had to work out a plan 
for these big flatbed trucks to go down to Davis-Monthan Air 
Force Base in Arizona and pick them up, and instead of having a 
caravan of twelve helicopters coming up the highway, some of them 
came up Highway 99, some of them came up Highway 1, some of them 
came up Highway 5-- 

Lage: This was to keep it a little-- 

Pesonen: --keep them all spread out so nobody noticed. [laughter] 

Lage: Someone would think there is this attack on Sacramento. 

Pesonen: We put them in a hangar down in Hayward until we could get them 
assembled and checked out and a couple of them in the air. That 
was a lot of fun, pulling that one off. 


I probably, if I look back on it, was not as dedicated a 
soldier in Huey's army of the future as he wanted. 

Lage: Was this partly because the nature of your department was so 
heavily related to fire fighting? 

Pesonen: It was partly that, and it was partly that Huey just troubled me. 
I never really quite knew what he wanted. And I'm not sure he 
was quite clear. He may have had a big bubble of an idea in his 
head, but he was not very good at articulating it. And some of 
it was just impractical. 

Lage: Any examples? 

Pesonen: No, I don't want to do that. I liked him, and he amused me, but 
sometimes I just thought he was frustrating and silly and 

Lage: Could you tell him? 

Pesonen: No. Sometimes you'd give him gentle advice, and sometimes he'd 
listen. Sometimes he'd get mad. 

Lage: Maybe I've misunderstood what you've said, but I have the idea 
that he wasn't a good manager, but he seemed to feel his 

Pesonen: He had authority and ideas. He was not much of a manager. Huey 
was impatient with institutions, and my sense of it was that if 
any program was going to stick and stay after we leftbecause we 
were political appointees and I knew our tenure was limitedthat 
anything we were going to do that was going to last had to be 
institutionalized. You had to get the people in the organization 
to buy into it. It had to be lawful; it had to make sense; it 
had to have some payoff for the organization, and public support. 
You couldn't just take a bright idea and throw it down and say, 
"This is the way things are going to be," because it would 
evaporate as soon as you weren't there to continue the pressure. 

Lage: And you really didn't have a lot of time. I mean, you knew you 
were going to be out by '82 and you went in in '79. So that's 
just three years. 

Pesonen: Closer to four years. But the first year is start-up and 

figuring out where you are and getting the lay of the land in a 
big organization, and that was a big organization. It was the 
biggest organization within the Resources Agency by far. And it 
was very spread out. It had 500 separate field facilities. I 
never did get to see it all, I never got to see 10 percent of it. 


Lage: The number of personnel must have fluctuated a great deal in the 
summer, in the fire season? 

Pesonen: Well, you had seasonal fire fighters and certain seasonal 

positions, but the base staff didn't fluctuate very much. It 
started to get cut back because Governor Jerry Brown was very 
penurious about our department. That was one of the principal 
topics of Huey's Monday morning staff meetings: fighting with the 
Department of Finance for money for his resource renewal 

Lage: He preferred those, so was he less generous with funding the fire 

Pesonen: He wouldn't go out of his way to support that side of the 

Dismantling the State Fire Fighting Program in Orange County 

Pesonen: And then along came the Orange County struggle, which was in the 
wind when I got there. It was very clear that Jerry Brown wanted 
to go out of office saying that he had limited the growth of 
state government. He was going to be a no-growth governor. This 
was his post-Proposition 13 1 public position, that he was going 
to cut the size of government. Orange County was by far the 
largest ranger unit in the department. 

When the department was set up, Orange County was a rural 
county, and as it exploded in growththere was a program called 
the "Schedule A" program. It was authorized by statute, and it 
permitted the department to contract with local governments to be 
the local government fire service, and it would be reimbursed by 
the local government. There were parts of it that I think 
probably never really were reimbursed at the administrative 
level, but it was close to a bargain for a long time. 

Lage: For the county? 

Pesonen: For the county. The accounting was very complicated, but, on 
balance, it was a good deal for a lot of counties for parts of 
their fire service needs for small communities here and there. 
It wouldn't cover a whole county in most cases; it would cover a 
fire district or some small town or-- 

'Proposition 13 (June 1978). 

David Pesonen, director, accepting the Smoky Bear Award for the California 
Department of Forestry from Max Peterson, chief, United States Forest 


Lage: In the wildland setting? 

Pesonen: In counties which had a large wildland area. So it was very much 
used down the coast, in Monterey, in San Bernardino, in San Luis 
Obispo, and along the foothills, and in southern California. 

Well, there had been a ranger down there who had been the 
ranger in charge in Orange County throughout the entire period 
that Orange County was going through its explosive growth, 
starting in the fifties and on up into the seventies. When it 
was no longer a bunch of orange groves, the Irvine Company had 
come in, and there was Newport Beach and there was a lot of 
things. It's a big population center. It swings elections in 
the state now. 

This ranger, his name was Carl (I can't remember his last 
name now, sorry) was politically very astute and cultivated the 
board of supervisors and was very effective in building this fire 
organization until it had 500 employees. It was a big fire 
department . You would fly into the John Wayne Airport down there 
(or you did when I was director), and it's a major airport. The 
fire department for the airport was the Department of Forestry. 
All of these big trucks that run out and put foam on the runway 
when an airplane is in trouble and are trained in crash rescue 
and aircraft disasters, those were all Department of Forestry. 

Lage: And was that true of all of the fire fighting within the county? 

Pesonen: Except some cities had their own fire departments. But 

throughout most of the county, which was largely unincorporated 
and there were a lot of little communities which had just bought 
into this Schedule A system; it was just huge. There were a lot 
of employees, and if you could turn those over to the county so 
they were no longer on a state payroll, it would look like you 
had cut the state payroll by 500 positions. The public payroll 
wouldn't be cut at all if you counted the counties because the 
county would have to take those people on. 

Well, the Department of Forestry employees were unionized by 
this time, and there was a lot of opposition. There was a fear 
that Orange County was just the beginning of dismantling the 
Schedule A program which probably accounted for half the Jobs in 
the department, or at least a third of the jobs. It was a big 
part of the organization. If you cut out all of the Schedule A 
contracts, the opportunity for promotion within the department 
would be much less for most people. So Orange County was a way 
station for rising in the organization; there were a lot of jobs 
there. But it was very clear that Jerry Brown wanted that 
contract cut loose. 


Lage: Wasn't there some pressure from the local fire fighting union? 

Pesonen: Yes, well there was a dispute. That complicated it. That was 
one of the reasons for Jerry Brown's position. The Federated 
Fire Fighters wanted to unionize as many people as possible, like 
all unions, and they couldn't get their hands on Orange County. 
Here was a big plum. If there was a county fire department, it 
could be unionized by Federated Fire Fighters and taken out of 
local CDFEA, California Department of Forestry Employees 
Association, which was the union I had to deal with. It was a 
union of state employees like CSEA [California State Education 
Association] . 

There was a lot of heat about this. There was a lot of 
antagonism between the two union organizations. It was really a 
reflection of turf battles between the leadership. To the rank- 
and-file, I don't think it made a lot of difference, but union 
bosses had been there forever, and this was how they got paid: 
with the dues from these people. I was pretty cynical about 
that. But it was very clear that because of union pressures from 
the Federated Fire Fighters and because of this agenda to cut the 
state service, Orange County was going to go. 

And there was a widespread belief in the department that the 
reason I was appointed as the director was to carry out this 
anti-CDFEA, anti-state employee agenda. Well, I didn't even know 
about the issue when I got appointed. People started talking 
about Orange County, and I didn't really understand what was 
going on. So I finally decided I had better figure it out in a 
hurry. If there is that much talk about it, I'd better 
understand it. 

Lage: Did you get it from Huey? 

Pesonen: I got it from within the department, and I got it from the union 
representative for the Federated Fire Fighters who came to see 
me, possibly at the governor's suggestion. It became very clear 
that I had to see that it happened. And I had to see to it that 
it happened pretty soon. 

Lage: Did you get direction from above? Do you remember? 

Pesonen: [Pause] Yes. But it was as though they expected me to 

understand that Orange County was going to be turned over to 
Orange County and taken out of the department. I don't remember 
ever receiving a memo that so much as said so, but it was not 
necessary. I was visited by a lot of people, some that opposed 
it and some who favored it, but it was very clear that this was 
going to happen. Some things had gone on about it before I got 


appointed director. Maybe the governor had made some public 
pronouncements. There just wasn't any question it was going to 

Well, it wasn't as simple as just saying, "OK, the contract 
is over." There was all of this equipment, hundreds of pieces of 
equipment in fire stations where nobody had paid any attention to 
the title, or half the building would be owned by the state and 
half would be owned by the county, or the county would own the 
grounds and the state would own the building, or the county had 
bought the fire engine and then it had partly depreciated but it 
wasn't totally depreciated. There were benefits that many of the 
employees had accumulated over the years, vacation, sick leave, 
retirement, and those all had to be transferred without their 
losing anything. 

So it took three or four pieces of legislation to amend the 
Public Employees Retirement Act there were four or five bills, 
three or four bills anyway, that had to be shepherded through the 
legislature, and every time there was a hearing on them, the 
Department of Forestry employees would show up en masse and 
oppose them. [Laughter] And here was their director taking one 
position and the rank-and-file taking another, and I didn't have 
any choice; I had my marching orders. 

Lage: But you were the one who had to-- 

Pesonen: I was the one that had to take the heat from within the 

department, so it caused a lot of moral problems and a lot of 
tension between me and the field organization. They thought I 
was the governor's cat's paw, and I was. I had to be. I was 
carrying out the governor's dirty work as far as they were 
concerned. I just didn't have any choice. And it made sense to 
me, too. I saw the department as a wildlands fire department, 
and in Orange County it clearly was no longer a wildlands fire 
department; they had high-rise ladders, they protected the 
airport. They were a municipal fire department. 

Lage: It does make sense, looking back on it. 

Pesonen: Looking back on it, but from the point of view of these employees 
who were looking for job security, it was not good. 

So eventually it happened, and after it happened, there was 
a vote of no-confidence by the employees against me as the 
director. And I attributed a lot of it to the Orange County 
situation. And probably a lot of it to the fact that they 
realized that deep in my heart I was not a fireman. I was 


interested in the resource side of the organization. I didn't 
come across as a good old fireman. Never will. 

Lage: Even though you got them the helicopters? 

Pesonen: Yes, but that was just for part of the staff. The ground forces 
never cared that much about the helicopters anyway. In fact, 
there was tension between the air and ground forces. This goes 
on in any emergency response organization. 

Lage: Now, Vaux mentioned, in talking about that Orange County 

situation, that some people were worried about diminishing the 
fire response abilities because you had these 500 people that 
could be transferred, when needed, throughout the state. 

Pesonen: That was one of the arguments that was made within the 

organization: that since the Orange County organization, even 
though it was paid for by the county, the contract provided that 
it remained under the Department of Forestry's command structure, 
and all of those resources were available to be called on without 
going through an intermediate command structure, a separate 
command structure, to be called in and managed on large 

There may have been some diminishment of that, but there are 
mutual aid agreements all of the time among the various fire 
departments. If it doesn't work, you have things like what 
happened with this Oakland Hills fire, where the Berkeley fire 
station right behind my house here didn't know for two hours that 
it was supposed to go to the fire which you could see out the 
window here. There was a bad command structure: bad mutual aid 
and bad joint response system. 


Pesonen: But the department had developed a very fine integrated command 
structure called Instant Command System, which is in place now 
and was in place pretty much then. So I don't think there has 
been very much diminishment, at least nobody says anything more 
about it. The transition went smoothly, and the employees that 
ended up in Orange County get paid more than they were paid by 
the department and were unionized immediately by the Federated 
Fire Fighters. And then the Department of Forestry employees 
ultimately joined the Federated Fire Fighters after I left, so 
there is no tension between the two unions anymore because they 
are all one union. 


Sources of Tension Between the Director and Department Employees 

Lage: Well, what did this vote of no confidence mean to you or mean to 
the department? 

Pesonen: Well, I wasn't happy about it. 

Lage: Was that voted by the union organization? 

Pesonen: It was by the union organization, pretty much. 

Lage: Were there other labor negotiations problems? 

Pesonen: No. Well, we fought them on the budget every year, Bob Connelly 
and I, but that's management's responsibility. You are not going 
to give away the store. We had a budget constraint. The more 
money they got for salaries, the less we had for all of the other 
things we had to do. We were just in a management frame of mind; 
that was my job. 

I think part of it was the Orange County thing; part of it 
was their sense that I was what they perceived as a bit of an 
elitist. I was the first director who hadn't come up through the 
ranks . Moran had come up through the ranks ; everybody who had 
ever been director had come up through the organization, and I 
was this outsider thrust upon them, and I brought in a chief 
deputy who was an outsider. It's a very insular organization. 
And I wouldn't be surprised if my touch was not gentle all of the 
time either. 

Lage: Do you think the affirmative action measures were a source of 

Pesonen: Affirmative action had something to do with it. There were a lot 
of changes that were under way that were-- 

Lage: The management-by-objectives? 

Pesonen: I don't know how much that had to do with it because I don't 

think that ever got down to the rank- and- file. It was a bit more 
in terms of talk. The system never got developed enough to get 
down to the station level. 

Lage: What about fire prevention programs? Was that a concern? 

Pesonen: It was a concern, but I don't think it was a big policy issue. 
It was just something we did. 


Lage: I suppose the chaparral management must have been-- 

Pesonen: The chaparral management was justified partly in terms of not so 
much fire prevention as fuel reduction. 

Relations with Timber Companies and the Legislature 

Lage: How about approving timber harvest plans? Was that 

Pesonen: That was an ongoing issue. 
Lage: Were most of them just routine? 

Pesonen: Most of them were pretty routine. Occasionally some would come 
along where they were very controversial, mostly where they were 
close to communities and affected water supplies. The degree to 
which timber harvest plans are controversial is a reflection of 
the local population. When I was director, the north coast was 
just beginning to be invadedthat ' s the wrong word, but some 
people would use itby counter-culture people and retirees and 
other people who had come from urban areas looking for solace in 
the wilderness, or what they think of as a wilderness in 
Mendocino and Humboldt counties, southern Humboldt, anyway, who 
weren't tied at all to the timber industry and who weren't afraid 
of being political activists. So more and more there was 
opposition to timber harvest plans around the coast, in southern 
Humboldt and certainly in Mendocino. 

Lage: Now, were those plans that were developed by the companies and 
then approved by the department or denied? 

Pesonen: The timber harvest plans are always developed by the company 
forester who certifies that it meets the rules. Then it is 
inspected, submitted to the department and the department has a 
very short period of time to evaluate it, get comments from [the 
Department of] Fish and Game or the Regional Water Quality 
Control Board if necessary. And some of them were controversial. 
And I sometimes denied them, and the companies would appeal them 
to the board. 

One of the ones that stands out was in Mendocino County. It 
was in the headwaters of the water supply for a little community 
on the coast, and I think I turned that one down and it got 
appealed. I don't know what happened to it. 











There was one that I found a press release for having to do with 
the bald eagle near Round Valley. You denied the timber harvest 

Yes, but I think that kind of got worked out on that one. 
revised and then finally got approved. 


It got 

You know, it is funny that even though that was my main interest, 
there isn't anything there much that stands out in my memory from 
my term as director around timber harvest plans as much as around 
the fire organization. 

Because that side of the organization dominated? 

That's too bad that that was your interest but you weren't able 
to pursue it that much. 

Well, I always harbored the hopes that I would get it under 
control and then I could go really pay more attention to the 
resource section. It never happened. 

Did you get an impression of the private companies and how 
responsible they were and-- 

Well, yes. Every company has a personality, you know? Some are 
easier to get along with than others. Some have a very 
antagonistic view toward any regulations. There were some 
changes that went on while I was there. Hank Trobitz retired 
from Simpson [Lumber Company] , and they brought in a new manager 
who was very much a supply-side economist and very much a 
believer in no regulations and he fought us hard. 

I did a lot of just sort of learning, too. 
lot of tours and inspection tours. 

I went out on a 

Earlier there had been--I can't quite remember the details of it 
--but there had been the controversy about making the timber 
harvest plans substitute for the CEQA [California Environmental 
Quality Act] 1 requirements? 

Pesonen: That was pretty well resolved before I got there. 

'A.B. 2045, California Environmental Quality Act of 1970, 1970 Reg. 
Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 1433 (1970). 


Lage: Was that taken care of? 

Pesonen: Yes, it had been determined, legislatively, by the time I was 
appointed that timber harvest plans were the functional 
equivalents of CEQA's environmental impact statements. 

Lage: Did you work closely at all with different legislators? 

Pesonen: Well, I worked with those whose committees affected my budget and 
had jurisdiction over my budget or over policy legislation 
affecting the department. 

Lage: Did you have to go to testify frequently? 

Pesonen: I testified, and I would testify on the budget all of the time 
with staff assistance. 

Lage: Any legislators that were particularly helpful or understanding? 

Pesonen: Well, Senator [Alfred] Alquist was helpful, and a lot of that was 
because of Bob Connelly's skill and familiarity with him. 
[Assemblyman Meldon E.] Mel Levine, who is now a congressman 
running for U.S. Senate now, was helpful. [Assemblyman] Byron 
Sher was very helpful. He took a great interest in forestry 
matters. [Assemblyman Thomas M.] Tom Hannigan from Sonoma 
County. [Assemblyman Douglas H.] Doug Bosco, who then went on to 
Congress and then got defeated. I noticed he was one of those 
who bounced a lot of checks [in the current scandal involving the 
House of Representatives bank] . [Senator] Barry Keene in the 
senate and Alquist in the senate. Certainly Senator Robert 
Presley from Riverside County was very helpful. 

Lage: In what respect? 

Pesonen: Well, if there was bad legislation, he [Presley] was a good 

person to talk to to stop it. He was very well respected in the 
senate. He was a real statesman. 

I'm sorry, Ann. You know, I just don't have a distinct 
recollection of any large pieces of legislation that came out. 
There was always something happening. 

Lage: I can imagine. 

Pesonen: I mean, I was over in the legislature once a week it seemed like. 
It was very frustrating because I-- 


Was it putting out fires? 


Pesonen: Putting out fires. Just responding to inquiries or attending 
interim hearings orthere's an awful lot that goes on that 
doesn't have any product anticipated at the end of it. It is 
just somebody wants to do something, or they want to know 
something, or they want to talk with somebody. 

Lage: And you were the one? You couldn't send Bob Connelly? 

Pesonen: Sometimes they wanted the director. If they were on your budget 
committee or your policy committee, the director had better 

Lage: But some of that, you felt, wasn't that useful? 

Pesonen: Well, it wasn't whether it was useful or not, that's politics. 

Politics is people rubbing up against issues and each other. It 
was exploratory, or it was an excuse for them to get their per 
diem by holding a hearing. 

Lage: Did you really feel that frequently? 
Pesonen: Yes, sometimes. 

Lage: That's kind of discouraging if you feel you have a job to do 

Pesonen: Well, yes. I mean, the budget is not something that just happens 
when you go to a hearing. There is a lot of internal work 
developing it, and there was a lot of time spent on that process, 

Lage: Especially with the size of your department. 

Pesonen: With the size of the department, there was just a lot of time 
spent on that. You are in the budget process year round. You 
get one budget passed, and you are already building the budget 
for the next round. The budget passes in the summer; the 
Department of Finance wants your budget by the end of November 
for the next year so it can be submitted to the legislature in 
January so they can flyspeck it before they put it in the final 
budget, which the legislative analyst is constantly critiquing. 

Money is the mother's milk of a lot of things, but it 
certainly is what runs government and you spend, as a top 
administrator, an enormous amount of your time on it. At least I 
did. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time on it. Maybe I 
should have left a lot of that to staff people. But I took an 
interest in it. 


Lage: Did this type of job fit your--did you find that you liked it? 

Pesonen: Yes, I liked it. I like winning things. I liked making things 
happen. I found parts of it frustrating. It was very slow to 
make things happen and to institutionalize them. And I had a 
learning curve of how to administer a big organization. 

Lage: It was quite different from what you had done. 

Pesonen: Big difference. You know, you have to develop a style you are 
comfortable with that works. It was not an organization of the 
kind of people that I find myself congenial with. It was not an 
intellectual organization; it is a get-out-and-do, good-old-boy 
network, kind of organization. And there was a side of me that 
liked that. 

Lage: You like to go fishing. 

Pesonen: Yes, but that's a solitary pursuit. 

It intrigued and interested me. But I always felt the 
outsider. I never felt I was folded into the organization at 
some emotional level that some people reached. And I never 
particularly pursued that. 

Lage: You probably didn't work there long enough for that to happen. 
Pesonen: I don't think it ever would have happened. 

Lage: If you had the eight years of the Brown administration to be in 
charge, do you think- - 

Pesonen: I might have gotten more comfortable, but I was never one of the 

boys, and I never really tried to be one of the boys. I may have 

worn a uniform and some of the other trappings, but down deep 
that wasn't the kind of person I was. 

Lage: The director wore a uniform also? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. Not every day, but when I went to some of our functions 
and ceremonial things, I had a uniform. I had a uniform 
allowance . 

Lage: You mentioned- -maybe it was in your resume- -that one of the 

things you did was getting industry acceptance of the Z'Berg- 
Nejedly Act. 

Pesonen: Yes, I worked hard to--I should have said that earlier. One of 

my agendas was to reduce the level of adversarial feeling towards 


the Z'Berg-Nejedly Act, and I think I had some success at that. 
It was never complete. 

Lage: Where did the adversarial relationships come in? 

Pesonen: If a timber harvest plan which had some opposition to it still 

met the law, I approved it. I was very careful to know that the 
industry knew that I was going to follow the law and I didn't 
have an environmentalist agenda. I was happy to see the law 
changed, and I would work to change the law, but if I couldn't 
change it, I was going to follow it. I also spent a lot of time, 
like anybody would, like a lobbyist, in effect. There was an 
open-door policy. The timber industry representatives could go 
in and make their pitch anytime they wanted, and I didn't treat 
them like enemies. 

Lage: Was that a difficult transition for you? I mean you kind of came 
from being seen as an activist, whether you saw yourself that way 
or not, to becoming an administrator. 

Pesonen: That was not hard for me at all. I think that is the kind of 

person I am. I mean, there were times in my career in the past 
when there was no choice but to be a hard-charging activist to 
get the job done. But that was to get the job done, that's not 
because I'm inherently one who likes to fight. 

Lage: Well, Claire Dedrick, coming out of the environmentalist 

community had a really hard time, partly because she was so 
criticized by environmentalists when she tried to 

Pesonen: She was very insecure, I think. And she had a hard time. She 

really had a hard time. She was a womanthe first woman to head 
a resource agency which was a very white-male-dominated set of 
institutions. Fish and Game is terrible that way; Forestry is 
terrible that way. Jan Denton tells stories of when she went in 
as director of conservation over at the Division of Mines and 
Geology and a couple of other divisions there that were mostly 
institutionalized male organizations. They were having a 
terrible time. [Secretary of Agriculture and Services Agency] 
Rose Bird had a terrible time atwhere was itAgriculture. I 
didn't have that problem. 

Lage: You didn't feel that you were expected to behave in a certain way 
by the environmental community? 

Pesonen: Well, my reputation was pretty solid, number one. Number two, in 
those days the Department of Forestry was not the focus of a lot 
of the environmental controversies. 


The Z'Berg-Nejedly Act wasn't very old. We were still 
maturing. And I was determined to see that that process 
continued. Where there was going to be some serious resource 
damage and the timber harvest plan had a flaw in it, I'd turn it 

Lage: Did you feel like you made progress getting the timber industries 
to buy into it a little more? 

Pesonen: I don't know. I really don't know. [Laughter] I know they'd 
rather not have the Z'Berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act, and 
that's never going to change. They are in it for business, and 
it constrains their business. They are never going to get used 
to that. 

Inspecting Fire Services at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant 

Lage: One thing to mentionthis is skipping around a little bitbut I 
think you said earlier, "Bring up Diablo Canyon when we talk 
about the Department of Forestry." 

Pesonen: That is a wonderful story. The Diablo Canyon plant, which was 
the most controversial nuclear power plant in the country by 
thenthere had been terrible mistakes by PG&E [Pacific Gas and 
Electric Company]: they had reversed plans; there was the 
suggestion that they had known of the Hosgre fault and covered it 
up; and there were demonstrations going on all of the time. 
Mothers for Peace down there had organized that community. 

Jerry Brown, consistent with his early position on nuclear 
power, had his administration, through counsel hired in 
Washington, D.C., intervene in the licensing proceedings. Now, 
at that stage, the issue in the licensing proceedings was the 
adequacy of the emergency response plans . Part of an emergency 
response plan, of course, is a fire plan. 

I was not involved in that process at all. It wasn't part 
of my job and I just didn't get involved in it, but one day I got 
a call from the governor's office. They were furious because 
PG&E had filed a pleading in the proceedings in Washington to 
show that their emergency response plan was adequate and part of 
their emergency response plan was the Department of Forestry as 
the fire department. I knew absolutely nothing. I had not known 
anything about this . 





So I started calling. I called first--! went through the 
chain of conmand--and I called John Hastings, who was the 
regional chief in Monterey, and he didn't know anything about it. 
The ranger in charge of San Luis Obispo County was a guy named 
Tom Wadell, and I had never liked Wadell. He was a very 
reactionary, right-wing type, and he was always kind of sour in 
our meetings. I don't think he was very well liked in the 
organization at all. And he was very friendly with the manager 
of the PG&E plant of the project manager for the Diablo Canyon 
plantand he had entered into an agreement with them that the 
Department of Forestry would respond to fire emergencies in 
Diablo. It was just a letter agreement. 

Without clearing it? 

He never cleared it. He never went up through the chain of 
command. He figured San Luis Obispo County was his bailiwick; he 
was the ranger in charge there, and he could do this if he felt 
like it. And a lot of those agreements were made with local 
communities or little institutions or hospitals or things like 
that. He just saw this as another one of these little side 
deals. There was no budget for it; there was no money involved. 

You'd expect maybe even a little special training on how to deal 
with a fire at a nuclear power plant. 

Pesonen: One would expect so. 

So I said, "Well, we are going to go down there and do an 
inspection." So I put my uniform on, and I made arrangements to 
pick up John Hastings at the Monterey airport, and one or two 
other staff people on the fire side of the organization. We flew 
down to San Luis Obispo in the department's twin-engine 
Beechcraft Baron and we all landed at the San Luis Obispo 
airport, and there was Wadell and his entourage to take the 
director and the regional chief around. I insisted that I wanted 
to go inside the plant and meet the plant manager and discuss 
this contract and discuss what the emergency response plans were. 

Well, the word was out, and I had heard back already. This 
was my antinuclear agenda. Well, it had nothing to do with my 
antinuclear agenda. It had to do with the fact that the governor 
was on my back for having had my department undercut his lawsuit 
in Washington. 

So the first place we went was the little fire station at 
the airport. The Department of Forestry had a contract to 
protect the airport, and only one fire captain was there. We 
went in the kitchen and had a cup of coffee and ate some cookies, 


and I asked him if he knew about this. Well, he had heard 
something about it, but he didn't know what he was supposed to 
do. I said, "What happens if you get a call that there's a fire 
in the nuclear power plant over there? What are you going to 
do?" He said, "Well, I don't know. I guess I'll go over there." 

Lage: And see what's happening? 

Pesonen: See what's happening. A large part of the fire response 
organization in San Luis Obispo County was a volunteer 
organization: a local druggist, a gas station operator. You blow 
a whistle, and everybody would throw on their turn-out gear and 
jump on the truck, or they would go to the site in their personal 

So we went to one or two other stations, and there was 
clearly a lot of just bewilderment at the field staff level. 
They had had no training. They had been in the plant once or 
twice, or they had been around the grounds, but no significant 
training, no implementation of this agreement. 

Then we went out to the plant, and you had to go through a 
very elaborate security system to get into that plant. You had 
to park a couple of miles away and go through a metal detector. 
I had five silver stars on each collar of my uniform that sent 
the metal detectors crazy. Then we got into vans and drove out 
to the coast, and that is one awesome facility. When you come 
around a corner and see it, you get the same feeling you got when 
you first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey twenty-five years ago. You 
expect Strauss 's Thus Spake Zarathustra to come blasting out of 
the heavens. It was the mind-boggling, awesome, inhuman size of 
the facility. Then we had to go through another security system 
to get inside the plant grounds, and everybody was very nervous. 
The plant manager, it turned out, had been a witness for PG&E in 
the Widener case, and I had cross-examined him when I was a 
private lawyer. 

Lage: Did you remember him? 

Pesonen: Oh yes, and he remembered me, too. So here we were in entirely 
different roles. 

The plant had been tremendously controversial. The company 
was under a lot of bad press for it. Everybody was paranoid as 
hell about anybody looking over their shoulder. And they had 
made some terrible mistakes which had been very embarrassing. 
But they had to go through with this, and I was now in this 
official position. 


So we went through the plant, and they" had an emergency plan 
for the plant. I had been given a copy of it before, which I had 
read before I went down there and had along with me. The first 
thing I remember is going inside that place and thinking, "How is 
anybody ever going to find their way around in here?" There were 
pipes and huge five- foot-thick steel doors that would slam shut 
in emergencies, and the place was as big as several football 
fields, it seemed like, inside. I wanted to go up to the control 
room, which I had seen lots of pictures of--I had seen lots of 
pictures of nuclear power plant control rooms with these acres of 
dials and buttons and switches and people sitting around at 
counters and command centers and lights and buzzers and 

Lage: Another movie scene. 

Pesonen: Another movie set, and I wanted to go up there. Well, we got in 
the elevator, and the elevator had about six buttons on it, and 
each one had an odd number. It was like twenty- five, forty- six, 
one hundred and thirty-three, two hundred and ten, and I said, 
"What are those numbers that are on those buttons?" He said, 
"That's the elevation above sea level of the place where the 
elevator stops." I said, "Well, how is any fireman going to know 
that? It doesn't say "control room', it doesn't say anything. 
Even if you are going to use the elevator. Say you have an 
emergency at 213, how is he going to know what that is?" "Well, 
I don't know." Nobody had a very good answer for that. 

So there were lots and lots of things that a person who was 
responding to a fire there would have to know, would have to be 
trained in, for which there had been no training at all and no 
thought put into. And I kept asking these questions as we went 
around, and the plant manager was getting more and more 
embarrassed, it was very clear. 

So we spent a couple of hours in there, and I was 
fascinated. I had never been in a nuclear power plant, and while 
I was there I wanted to see as much as I could, just out of long- 
suppressed curiosity. I said, "Well, let's assemble in this 
little conference room," which was out by the gate, as we were 
leaving, and I started peppering this plant manager and his staff 
with questions. I remember I saidthey didn't even know it was 
a volunteer fire department--! said, "I noticed the security we 
went through to get here. You had to know the license number of 
every vehicle that is going to arrive, you had to put us through 
an elaborate check process, we had to get badges, you had a 
character with an automatic weapon watching us while we went 
through the gate." 

Lage: This is all worrying about terrorism, do you think? 


Pesonen: Oh, yes, they were very worried about terrorism or sabotage. 
That was the purpose of it, and it was heightened by the 
demonstrations and people who climbed the fence and sneaked into 
the grounds. 

Lage: I see. So they were worried about the antinuclear activists 
rather than-- 

Pesonen: Yes, but the purpose of all of this security was to protect 

against sabotage, but their sensitivity to it was heightened by 
these assaults from these demonstrators who were climbing the 
fences all of the time. 

Pesonen: "Let's say you have a fire here, and your own in-house brigade 
can't handle it, and you call on the Department of Forestry to 
respond and assist you. What do you think is going to happen?" 

He said, "Your fire engines with their crews will show up." 
I said, "No, that's not what's going to happen. What's going to 
happen is four or five pickup trucks and small cars with little 
"volunteer fire department' stickers on the bumpers are going to 
show up, and these guys are going to be in street clothes, and 
they are going to jump out and open the trunk of their car and 
start putting on their gear. And you're not going to know who 
they are. In the meantime your emergency is growing inside the 
plant. And what are your security people going to do? Are they 
going to let all of these people through without knowing who they 
are or where they come from? They are going to come out of the 
local gas station and the local drugstore and a shoe store. Who 
knows where they are going to come from. And there may be a 
terrorist among them. Are you going to let them all in here and 
open all of the doors?" 

Well, they hadn't thought about that. They didn't know it 
was a volunteer fire department. They didn't know that the CDF 
[California Department of Forestry] professional staff, like the 
captain I had met at the station by the airport, had no training 
and no plans. They just didn't have a plan. 

Lage: Was that usual, to use these volunteer- - 

Pesonen: Oh, that was very common. We had a lot of volunteer ism and they 
are integrated into the command and communications system of the 
department . 

Well, it was very clear that that plan was dead at the end 
of that meeting. So I went back to Sacramento, and I just wrote 


Wadell and I said, "Cancel that letter." He immediately went to 
the press, the San Luis Obispo newspaper, saying that this was 
Jerry Brown illegitimately using his administration to undercut 
PG&E's position in the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] 
proceedings, that it was a left-wing plot. There were headlines 
and editorials-- 

Lage: He didn't follow the chain of command too well. 

Pesonen: He never had. 

Lage: But PG&E seem to have seen the wisdom of your view. 

Pesonen: He was the only person I fired. 

Lage: Oh, you did? 

Pesonen: I fired him for incompetence. Of course, he grieved it. 

Lage: Now, when did you fire him in relation to this incident? 

Pesonen: Fairly near the end of my term. It was about six or eight months 
after that. I brought a disciplinary proceeding against him, and 
we settled it by his agreeing to retire. Although Wadell was 
part of management, he hired a lawyer who represented the union, 
[Ronald] Ron Yank, who is a labor lawyer in San Francisco. 

Lage: He lives right near here, doesn't he? 

Pesonen: Yes, he lives right in my neighborhood, and he's a friend of 

Lage: Was there another incident that caused you to institute 
disciplinary proceedings? 

Pesonen: I told him to implement another plan, to put a real plan into 

action. I said, "I don't mind the department being in support of 
PG&E if they have an emergency out there, but you've got to have 
a plan that will work," and he dragged his heels on that, and he 
was insubordinate. So I decided to that was the only head that 
rolled in my whole time I was there. I'm sure he believes to 
this day that I was carrying out my antinuclear agenda, which 
simply wasn't the case. 

Lage: It sounds as if PG&E could realize that it wouldn't work, that 
the plan was-- 

Pesonen: Well, I think without the lawyers in Washington when they filed 
this plan, they never would have known about it. I never would 


have known about it if it hadn't shown up in legal circles in 

Lage: That's a good story. Was there any other fallout on that? 

Pesonen: I don't think so. I don't remember any fallout. I think that 
was very close to the time 1 wasn't there any longer. 

Lage: OK. Any other thoughts about that time, or do you want to mull 
it over before our next interview? 

Pesonen: Well, let me mull it over. Julie suggested we talk about it 

because she remembers some of those things better than I do. We 
just haven't had a chance to do that. 

Lage: OK, we'll do that, and if you come up with some other incidents 

Pesonen: But that's the grand sweep of it, anyway. 

Lage: Yes, I think we've covered the overall general topics unless 

something else comes up like that Diablo that you can remember. 


[Interview 7: May U, 1992] it 

Midnight Appointment by Jerry Brown, to the Wrong Court 

Lage: Here we are, May 14, 1992, continuing our interview with David 
Pesonen. We decided that we had pretty well completed our 
discussion of the Department of Forestry, and we want to go on to 
the next stage, which was your midnight appointment to the court. 
All of those judicial appointments that Jerry Brown made at the 
very last minute got a lot of play in the newspapers. How did 
that come about for you? 

Pesonen: Well, I made application to be a judge. There is a process, and 
it's a lengthy one. It hadn't occurred to me to seek judicial 
appointment, but I was having lunch with Coleman Blease one day, 
who was on the State Court of Appeal in Sacramento and an old 
friend. And I had met Cole in the Bodega campaign. He was with 
the American Civil Liberties Union at that timehe was the 
lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union at one point- -and 
he had been appointed to the court of appeal by Jerry Brown early 
in Jerry's term. He was a very fine lawyer. He had a practice 
a private practice in Sacramento. His other partner is a 
federal district judge in Sacramento. 

In fact, during the Prop. 15 campaign I think I described 
earlier in this interview that we brought a petition against the 
secretary of state and the Attorney General's Office and the 
legislative counsel to reform the ballot summary statement of 
Proposition 15 as it would appear on the ballot and the petition. 
I used Coleman' s office as a base when we tried that case in 
Sacramento. So we went way back. 

So he had suggested it, and the idea kind of cooked for a 
while, and then I decided I would apply. I applied for the court 


of appeal and was approved by the Commission on Judicial Nominees 
Evaluation, I think it's called, and that's a commission that 
investigates all applications for judicial appointments. And I 
received a high rating from them; they do a background check. 
But then it sat. That was in the late summer /early fall of 1982. 

The problem with that appointment was that it was to have 
been a newly-created position on the court of appeal; there was 
legislation newly through the legislature to authorize more 
positions because the case load had increased and so forth. And 
it became very partisan over whether those positions would be 
approved or not-- 

Lage: Before the change in governorship? 

Pesonen: --before the change in governorship. And I don't remember all of 
the details of that because it got very intricate and there were 
some trade-offs. I think Republicans wanted some of the 
appointments in exchange for their votes, and I wasn't privy to 
those negotiations. Then, once the legislation was approved, 
there was a lawsuit brought by a prominent Republican attorney in 
San Francisco, alleging that the legislation had been improperly 
adopted, and the strategy was simply to hold it up until Jerry 
Brown went out of office and had no power to fill the positions. 
So in exchange for some tradeoffs that I don't know the 
background on, Jerry made a couple of appointments to the court 
of appeal to the positions that I might have gotten appointed to. 

It was very hectic then. 
Lage: He made appointments that were agreeable to others, you mean? 

Pesonen: They were agreeable to others, or they were politically more 
palatable to Jerry for some reason. 

Lage: Did you discuss this with Brown or others? 

Pesonen: He was not very accessible on this issue. His appointments 

secretary, Byron Georgiou [legal affairs secretary], was the one 
I talked to mostly. And then there was a kind of a rumor mill 
about it around the capitol. Tony Kline was one of the people I 
talked to, J. Anthony Kline, and he's on the court of appeal now. 
And [William A.] Bill Newsom [Jr.], who was close to the governor 
and is also a court of appeal justice. 

Lage: Were they all appointed then? 

Pesonen: They were all appointed by Jerry earlier, but they were in touch 
with the process and they were acquaintances of mine. 


Well, it became clear that the court of appeal was not a 
possibility, and I think Byron Georgiou suggestedor maybe 
Coleman Blease suggestedthat I resubmit the application for the 
superior court in San Francisco because one of the appointments 
to the court of appeal, one or two, would have been from the San 
Francisco superior court, so there would be openings behind those 

One of those appointments that was made before the midnight 
appointments was [Donald] Don Ring, whom I also knew, having 
tried a case before him when I was in practice, and we'd known 
each other by reputation and a little bit socially. I got a call 
one day, probably in November of "82 from Don King who said that 
he understood I was going to be appointed to the superior court 
in San Francisco--it might have been early December, but it was 
near the end of Jerry's termand that I was going to be 
appointed to Don King's position and that he would like me to 
come down to San Francisco and meet his court reporter and his 
clerk because those are positions that are at the discretion of 
the judge, and he wanted to take care of his staff and see that 
they had jobs after he went to the court of appeal. For some 
civil service reason, they couldn't go to the court of appeal 
with him. Also, appellate court justices don't have court clerks 
to keep their minutes and manage the courtroom. 

So I went down and I had a very nice visit with them, and I 
thought they looked like competent people, and I would get along 
fine. I gave them as much assurance as I could that if I got the 
appointment they would be my staff. I also visited the presiding 
judge, who was Ira Brown at that timehe's now retiredand whom 
I knew very well from having tried a couple of cases before him 
and a lot of motion work when he was the law and motion judge for 
many years. He was a very fine judge. 

The word was out around city hall that I was to be appointed 
to Don King's seat. I walked in on Brown in his chambers, and he 
said, "Welcome to our court." He knew about it already. It Just 
looked like a done deal. And then Jerry didn't make the 
appointment. He didn't make any of these appointments. And he 
procrastinated or vacillated or had some intriguing schemes to 
balance all of these appointments off, which of course are 
political plums. 

The days went by and there was no word. And there were a 
lot of people waiting. And the days continued to go by and there 
was no word. So finally, I thought it just wasn't going to 
happen. And at that time, Julie and I had a practice of every 
year, between Christmas and New Year's going up to Sea Ranch with 
the children, and we were going to do that that year. Instead of 


waiting around for this appointment, I decided we were going to 
go to Sea Ranch anyway, and I left word at the governor's office 
where I could be reached. 

There's a Department of Forestry fire station at Sea Ranch, 
one of these Schedule A stations, under contract, and I would 
leave word at the fire station where I could be found if we were 
out fishing or something, and they could get in touch with them. 
In fact, I think I had a little two-way radio. I really was very 
anxious about this because I didn't have a job, and I didn't know 
what I was going to do after Brown's term ended. 

I think it was about 3:00 A.M., it was a Thursday night. 
His term went to the third or fourth of January because of the 
way the clock runs in the constitution. It's the first Monday 
after the first Sunday or something like that. And so he had a 
few more days into the year of 1983 to make appointments than 
would ordinarily be the case. His term just didn't end at 
midnight, December thirty-first. I think it was January first or 
second at about 3:00 A.M. the phone rang, and Julie and I were 
asleep, and it was the governor on the phone. 

It was him personally, and he said, "I've been thinking 
about the San Francisco appointment," and he said, "I'm getting 
jammed in San Francisco." Those were his words, and he didn't 
explain what they meant. He said, "I've got a new appointment in 
Contra Costa County. You'd love it out there, the schools are 
great, housing's nice, the weather's wonderful. How would you 
like to be appointed in Contra Costa County?" 

I said, "I don't know anything about Contra Costa County. I 
don't have any political base out there; I don't know any of the 
people." The only person I really knew was one of the judges, 
[Richard L.] Dick Patsey, who was an old acquaintance and a good 
friend. I said, "When would I have to stand for election?" 

He said, "You have to stand within two years, because in a 
new seat you have to stand for the first general election that 
comes along, and that would be June of "84." 

So I would be in office and running for office immediately, 
which was not to my liking particularly. And in a politically 
unknown landscape for me. So I called Dick Patsey and rolled him 
out of bed around three-thirty, and I told the governor I was 
calling him. I said, "I don't know whether I'd like that idea, 
but I'll call up my friend Dick Patsey and see what he says." 

Dick said, "Call him back right now." He said, "You are not 
going to get reelected out here. It is a very reactionary 


county; you'll be perceived as a carpetbagger. The local 
newspaper is run by a flaming reactionary who will dredge up all 
your background with the Garry [Charles Garry, of Garry, Dreyfus, 
McTernan, and Brotsky] firm, and you're going to be in real 

So I calledand the governor had said call him right back. 
He gave me a direct number, and I called, and he picked up the 
phone himself. You could hear murmuring sleepy voices in the 
background. [Laughter] 

Lage: Was his a murmuring sleepy voice? 

Pesonen: No, he loves this. You could tell. The governor loves this 
high-adrenaline, emergency way of doing things. 

Lage: Maybe that's why he put off the appointments? 

Pesonen: It could be; maybe he gets a high out of it. [Laughter] 

So I said, "It's not going to work, Jerry. I'm not going to 
get reelected, according to Dick Patsey, and I'm concerned about 

He said, "Well, I've already signed the commission so there 
isn't anything to be done but make the best of it." 

Swearing-in Ceremonies, Sacramento and Martinez 

Pesonen: We cut short our trip at Sea Ranch and fled back to Berkeley 

Lage: Started your election campaign. 

Pesonen: Well, no. I had to get sworn in before the deadline. So he made 
a lot--I don't know how many, but lots and lotsof these last- 
minute appointments all about the same time, and so we were being 
sworn in en masse in Sacramento. Cruz Reynoso, who was on the 
state supreme court at that time and who later lost reelection 
himself, with [Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court] Rose 
Bird, and who was also an acquaintance of mine, was swearing in 
all of the new judges. We didn't even have an extra car at that 
point, so I took the Greyhound bus to Sacramento. It was cold 
and rainy and dismal, and I walked over to the capitol. I 
figured that there were so many judges getting appointed there 


was going to be a couple from San Francisco, and I'll find a ride 
home with someone. 

We were scheduled in fifteen-minute intervals, like getting 
your physical when you're drafted. Reynoso would administer the 
oath, and then he'd say, "Would you like to say a few words?" and 
there would be a small gathering of the bedraggled family and 
friends in the antechamber of the governor's office. I think 
there's a big conference room right after you go into the 
governor's suite. I said something milquetoasty about how 
pleased I was with the honor and so forth. Then I went and 
waited and watched who was being sworn in and from where, to go 
and nab somebody for a ride home. [laughter] 

The next batch included a municipal court judge in San 
Francisco. His name was [Joseph] Joe Desmond. Desmond took the 
oath and then was asked whether he wanted to say a few remarks, 
and he got up and said, "Yes, I'm just goddamned glad Jerry got 
around to it!" [laughter] I said, "That's my man," and I went 
up and told him who I was and told him my circumstances and he 
said, "Sure, come on. We'll go home." 

Well, his wife waited in the car, outside-- 
Lage: While he ran in and-- 

Pesonen: --while he ran in. He was a sole practitioner who had been 

around the criminal courts for a long time and was part of that 
old Irish mafia in San Francisco. The car was beat up, the 
windshield wipers didn't work, and the upholstery was coming out 
of it, and the windows were all foggy, and we headed out toward 
the [San Francisco] Bay Area on Interstate 80. I was sitting in 
the back, and he threw me an old, dirty towel and asked me to 
wipe the fog off the rear window. His wife had a big, grand, 
bouffant hairdo, and he had cigarette ashes all down his tie. 
They were something else, and he was a funny guy. 

We got about as far as Davis, and he turned around and he 
said, "What did you say your name was again?" and I told him. He 
said, "I heard of you. You're that anti-nuke guy." He said, "I 
was just talking to," and he mentioned the governor's brother-in- 
law who's married to Kathleen Brown and they'd had dinner--! 
can't remember his first name, Kelly is his last name, I think-- 
and he was an attorney for PG&E. He said, "I was talking to him 
the other day and he said, "Hell, Jerry's got to appoint Pesonen 
to keep him out of our fucking hair!'" [Laughter] 

Lage: That's a good story. 


Pesonen: Well, we had a nice, visit in the car, and he dropped me off in 

Berkeley. Then I made arrangements for the following work day to 
go out and meet the presiding judge in Martinez, where the court 
is. I called Dick Patsey and got directions. I think I had been 
to that court once, years before, on some little divorce case 
that I did when I was in the Garry offices, but I couldn't 
remember how to get there. 

Of course, it was all over the papers. It was in sort of a 
mass of Jerry Brown's last-minute appointments, packing the 
courts with his liberal cronies. That was the tone of it. 

Lage: Even though, as you tell it, it was more a question of delay 
rather than getting things together at the last minute. 

Pesonen: Right. But that's the way the story played, as I recall it, in 
the Contra Costa press and in the rest of the Bay Area press. 

Well, the presiding judge was William Channell, who was a 
very nice man and a real gentleman. He welcomed me to the court, 
and he was cordial and helpful and gave me a lot of tips on how 
to get started. He seemed to have all of the time in the world 
to spend with me, not the reception I feared at all. I'm not 
sure I was as cordially received by some of the other judges as I 
was by Channell, but nobody was hostile. 

There was another appointment out there at the same time. 
There were two of us appointed at the same time, [Theodore] Ted 
Merrill. He had been a criminal defense lawyer out there at--I 
think the firm was Thiessen, Gagen, McCoy and Merrill in 
Danville. We were sworn in at the same time in a big ceremony in 
the supervisor's chambers, and I asked [Senator] John Nejedly to 
speak for me and Jesse Choper, who was then the dean of the Boalt 
Hall School of Law. And Rose Bird called up and wanted to come 
because I knew Rose, too. 

Lage: Was this sort of routine, that you have people there to-- 

Pesonen: You have people there to say a few remarks. It's a ceremony more 
than anything else. A lot of people show up. 

Well, the first crisis was whether Rose Bird should show up, 
because she was not popular in Contra Costa County. I asked Dick 
Patsey and he said, "If you can keep Rose from coming, you ought 
to do it." I said, "Well, I can't do that. She wants to come 
and she is paying her respects to me--" 


She wasn't sensitive to the political implications? 


Pesonen: I don't think she cared. So I declined to suggest that Rose not, 
and she did show up and it caused a bit of a stir in the 
audience. Rose Bird was there, and it wasn't missed by anybody 

Lage: Was it commented on in the papers? 
Pesonen: I don't remember whether it was or not. 

Preparing for the Bench, Hearing Cases 

Pesonen: The ceremony went fine, and we took pictures and, you know, what 
they do in those things. Then I decided I was going to go to 

Lage: And be a judge-- 

Pesonen: --and be a judge. 

Lage: --which you hadn't been before. 

Pesonen: Which I hadn't been before. There is a school for judges, run by 
the state. But you don't go to it for like six months. I don't 
think I attended it until summer. 

Lage: Is that routine, to attend it? 

Pesonen: It's mandatory. But you get a lot of experience before you go to 
the school. I hadn't practiced law for four years, I hadn't read 
the evidence code for four years. I just took Jefferson's 
Evidence bench book, which was two big volumes of examples of 
evidence problems. The things that judges have to know most are 
the rules of order and the rules of procedure. They don't have 
to know the substantive law too much. It helps if they do, but 
the lawyer's responsibility is to bring the substantive law to 
the judge's attention. In trials, the judge has to be able to 
rule correctly on admission of evidence and process on the spot. 
So I just every night stayed up until two or three in the 
morning, reading Jefferson's Evidence bench book, and it was a 
wonderful experience. I mean, I learned a lot of law that I had 
never known before. I learned to figure out the hearsay rule, 
which had always confused me a little bit. 

I picked as my mentorit's a custom that a new judge can 
select an older judge to be an advisor on the spot. In the 
middle of the trial, if some difficult question comes up, 


including a question about your political career, how things are 
going to look or what's ethical or what's the appropriate 
procedure for a judge, you can recess, call your mentor and he'll 
drop what he's doing, even if he's in the middle of a jury trial, 
and help you out. 

Lage: So that's an official kind of mentorship? 

Pesonen: It's a custom in the court. I don't know whether all courts do 
it, but the Contra Costa court does it and I think it's a--it's 
not mandated by law, legislated, it's an outgrowth of history and 

I had--I picked as my mentor Coleman Fannin, who had been on 
that court a long time and was a quite colorful character. He 
came from west county and supposedly had good political sense. 
He had been a Reagan appointee to the court. He was a very close 
friend of Dick Patsey's, and Patsey recommended him, and I liked 
him. He was very helpful to me. He's a wonderful man. 

Lage: How large a court is it? How many judges? 

Pesonen: There were fifteen. I was the fifteenth judge. It was a new 

seat created. Up until that time, there were fourteen. I think 
it's up to eighteen now. 

I began to recognize that there were cliques within the 
court as there are with any institutions. There were people with 
lesser or greater competence, some people didn't like each other. 
There were cliques and alliances, probably not unique to that 
court and I'm sure at every other court. 

Lage: I had the impression that you were working sort of as an 

Pesonen: Well, yes, but there's a lot of business of the court that's done 
by the judges as a committee. The presiding judge presides over 
those meetings, too. We had regular meetings. Channell presided 
over the assignment of cases, assignment of staff, the budget- 
there was a courthouse budget, and we had to get it through both 
the Board of Supervisorspart of it through the Board of 
Supervisors. You know, your space allocations, what courtrooms 
you have. There is a lot of just housekeeping that affects the 
quality of life of the judges. 

Then the courts had local rules governing filing dates, 
assignment of cases for law and motion work, allocation of 
criminal cases, who gets what kind of jury cases; all kinds of 


things. I attended those meetings, and I was bewildered at how 
much business there is that is behind those closed doors. 

I began to feel that while our people were superficially 
friendly, there was always some trouble out there. 

Lage: Even among all of the judges? 

Pesonen: No. They didn't go out of their way to cause me any trouble, but 
they also didn't go out of their way to help me, because within 
weeks of my appointment, a colorful lawyer out there, who was 
well known, had filed a lawsuit to throw me out of office on the 
grounds that I had not been a resident of the county and that the 
constitution required that I be a resident of the county at the 
time of the appointment, and it was an illegal appointment. That 
got a lot of publicity. 

Lage: Now, did you move out there? 

Pesonen: I moved immediately. Julie and I separated right at that time, 
and I moved to Point Richmond, which was in the county. 

So I had this; my marriage torn apart, and I had the kids on 
weekends, and I was trying to be a new judge, and I got sued. It 
was called a quo warranto action, I think, a Latin term for suing 
on behalf of the public. 

Lage: And you, yourself, were sued? 

Pesonen: I was named and the governor was named, but I was the object of 
it, obviously. Maurice Moyal was that lawyer's name, M-0-Y-A-L. 
Maurice had a thick French accent; he had come from Nigeria or 
someplace. He had a divorce practice, mainly, and he was a 
flamboyant, colorful character. Not a very good lawyer in my 
opinion. I think he was outraged that Governor Brown had 
appointed somebody from outside the county. He didn't really 
care that it was Brown and my liberal background, it was just he 
wanted it kept in the community, in the neighborhood. 

So I didn't know what to do. 
Lage: Did you think the suit had grounds? 

Pesonen: No, I didn't think so, but 1 had to have a lawyer. I met a 

wonderful man, named David Levy, who had been in the county a 
long time and was respected by everybody as a thorough-going, 
gentle, intelligent kind of a person, and also a very good 
lawyer. He represented a lot of cities. That was one of his 
specialties. He was also a survivor of the Bataan Death March. 


He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was just the ideal picture 
of a patrician, gentle lawyer in the last century; an Abe Lincoln 
type. He volunteered to represent me for nothing. 

Lage: That was a show of support. 

Pesonen: It was a strong show of support. There was another judge who was 
sued at the same time. He was a municipal court judge in 
Danville, who also had- -he lived in the county, but not in the 
municipal court's district. That was an even weaker case. So he 
sued us both and it was all over the Lesher papers. 

Lage: Now the Lesher papers are what? 

Pesonen: The Contra Costa Times. 

Lage: And Dean Lesher is the publisher? [Lesher died in spring 1993.] 

Pesonen: Dean Lesher is the publisher and the ruling patriarch. He owns 
the whole thing, and it reflects his views. He's a very 
aggressive businessman, and it's been a very successful 
newspaper. But he's also an enormous reactionary. [Pause] 

So Levy and I decided that we would talk to Moyal first . 
And Moyal really just needed somebody to pay attention to him. 
Levy and I took him to lunch one day in an attorney's restaurant 
there in Martinez. He talked about his kids, and he'd had a lot 
of trouble with his kids; they had gotten in a lot of trouble 
with the law. We showed a lot of sympathy to him, and he dropped 
the suit. [laughter] 

Lage: As simple as that? 

Pesonen: Yes. It was about as simple as that. 

Lage: He decided you were an OK guy. 

Pesonen: He decided I was OK, and he dropped it. He didn't drop it 

against the other judge, because he didn't like him, but he liked 
Levy, and he turned out liking me. So we squirreled it away. 
The case went away, but the melody lingered on. 

Lage: It remained in the paper? 

Pesonen: That's right. So here I had come into office with a lot of 

adverse publicity, and Moyal 's lawsuit kept, it alive. So I was 
wearing this cloak of this controversial post from the day I went 
to the court. 


Well, I started being a judge. I started hearing cases. 
Civil cases and a lot of criminal cases. My sense is that the 
word started getting around that I was a pretty good judge and 
that I was fair. I wasn't a liberal wild-eyed crazy out there. 
I began to feel a lot of support coming from the bar. I was a 
judge they could count on to give them a fair shake. 

Two Politically Crucial Sentencing Decisions 

Lage: You were seeing a lot of criminal cases? 

Pesonen: None of them were real high-profile murder cases or anything, but 
some armed robberies and drug cases. 

Lage: Now, you said that's not often done with a new judge? 

Pesonen: I don't know whether it's done in other courts or not. If the 
establishment of the court wants to protect the new judge, they 
will keep him away from criminal cases because those are the ones 
that can blow up in your face, politically. You can make a 
mistake in sentencing, and the person goes out and commits 
another crime, and it's all over the papers that this judge 
turned this criminal loose on the community. They are 
politically risky. But that's what I got. I didn't get big, 
high-visibility, politically risky cases, but all criminal cases, 
to some extent, for a judge in these times when people are much 
less reticent about running against incumbent judges, are risky. 

I didn't feel that I wanted to be a law and order judge just 
to protect my job. I was going to continue to call them as I saw 
them. I called two cases against the advice of Richard Arnason, 
who was the dean of the criminal court out there. He felt very 
possessive about the criminal cases, and I would sometimes ask 
him for advice. The sentencing law is very complicated. The 
legislature had passed the determinate sentencing act 1 maybe 
seven or eight years earlier. It was a very complicated program 
and most of the judges didn't really understand it. Arnason 
understood it. 


It restricted your ability to-- 

'Uniform Determinate Sentencing Act, S.B. 42, 1975-1976 Reg. Sess. 
Cal. Stat., ch. 1139 (1976). 


Pesonen: It restricted your discretion in sentencing severely, but it also 
imposed mandatory obligations in sentencing with formulas for 
calculating the amount of time in prison based on prior offenses 
and the nature of the offense, whether a weapon was involved or a 
police officer was involved. There were a lot of factors, and 
they all worked different ways, and you had to study big manuals 
to figure out how to properly and legally impose a sentence. You 
had some discretion but not a whole lot. It was just 
complicated. And it was just another big area of the law to 
learn, and there weren't any computer programs. Now they have 
computer programs; you plug in all the records, and they tell you 
what the sentence is supposed to be. [laughter] They didn't 
have that then. 

Lage: You had a clerk. Was he helpful? 

Pesonen: The clerk didn't know. 

Lage: The clerk didn't do things like that? 

Pesonen: The clerk didn't know those things. A clerk wouldn't be expected 

Lage: But to research it? 

Pesonen: I had to research it. 

Lage: You had to do this yourself? 

Pesonen: Yes. But sometimes I really didn't know the answer, and I had to 
go to Arnason. Some were simple. 

As I look back on it, I made two sentencing decisions which 
were terrible mistakes. I probably would have done them the same 
way over again, but they did turn out to be political handicaps. 
One involved an elderly Hispanic man who shot up a Mexican 
artifact store and all of the pottery because he got into a 
struggle with the shop owner with whom he had a dispute, because 
the shop owner's son was harassing the assailant's daughter. It 
wasn't a robbery, and no one was hurt, fortunately. The whole 
community turned out for this old man to keep him out of state 
prison, including the bishop of the church. I got letters from 
all over the place about that he was a sweet, simple man who had 
never been in trouble. Thirty years before he had had a hand in 
a burglary or something, but it was when he was a young man and 
he now had his own children. This was one of these emotional, 
interfamily disputes, and nobody got hurt, fortunately; some 
merchandise got busted up. So I didn't send him to prison; I put 
him on probation. 


Lage: Now, was that within your determinate sentencing options? 
Pesonen: I sentenced him to community service, lots of community service. 

Well, that hit the papers: "Gunman Sent for Community 
Service" was the way the story went. In fact, later on, when I 
was still a judge, I was assigned to the Richmond court which 
handled non-jury cases, and there were a lot of domestic disputes 
out there. He showed up in my court representing one of these 
disputants and helping them mediate a domestic dispute, and he 
was really very good as a mediator. So in substance that was a 
success; politically it was a mistake. And I would do that again 
the same way. 

There was another one where there was a fellow who was 
involved with drugs, selling amphetamines, who had a record as a 
juvenile and now he was close to thirty years old and appeared to 
be finally getting his life in order. He had been back to school 
and straightened himself out. I gave him the benefit of the 
doubt, and he was back in jail within a few months on another 
drug charge. 

Well, here I had turned a chronic drug manufacturer loose on 
the community again, and I obviously didn't know what I was doing 
because he didn't make it. 

Those two cases were very frequently in the paper as 
examples of the kind of crazy, criminal-oriented judge that Jerry 
had appointed out there. So from the day I started, I knew I was 
running a political campaign, and I started putting one together. 

Lage: Two years in advance? 

Pesonen: Two years--a year and a half in advance. I was going to every 
[Contra Costa County] bar gathering, every political gathering, 
and of course my base would be in the Democratic party. So I was 
cultivating everybody. [laughter] 

Lage: You must have been pretty busy with all of this. 
Pesonen: I was pretty busy. 

Lage: You must have been pretty busy trying to learn to be a judge and 
run your campaign at the same time. 

Pesonen: I was pretty busy. I didn't have a very satisfactory living 

arrangement. I was trying to find a decent apartment in Point 
Richmond, and that was hard. I didn't have much money--! didn't 
have any money--a beat-up old car, a Peugeot diesel that rattled 


in the parking lot and made a lot of smoke. That was a strange 
time. And I had to be there on time; I had jury cases every day. 
I had a wonderful staff whom I still get together with every 
year. I really liked that staff, and they were very helpful to 

me . 

I was put into an old courtroom. It wasn't really a 
courtroom; it was the basement of a veterans hall, and it was 
just an auditorium, where the veterans group would come and have 
card games on Monday night, so Tuesday morning we would come in 
and the place would be full of stale cigar smoke and beer, 
[laughter] It had bare wooden floors, and people would come down 
the stairs, and the place would rattle and echo. It had no air 
conditioning, and it was hot out there so we'd throw the windows 
open. The jury sat in hard-backed chairs-- 

Lage: This was your courtroom? 
Pesonen: This was my courtroom. 
Lage: You didn't get moved around? 

Pesonen: No, I was in that courtroom as long as I was in Martinez. Unless 
some other judge went on vacation, and I got to go use a decent 
courtroom. But the basement of the veteran's building was my 
courtroom, Department 15. 

So it wasn't limousine treatment exactly. 
Lage: Did you like the work? Being a judge? 

Pesonen: I loved juries. I found it interesting, and it was challenging. 
It was not a simple job. It is confining. Your time is not your 
own. People think judges goof off a lot; judges work very hard, 
and to keep up with the case load you are spending a lot of time 
in the evening. 

Putting Together a Political Campaign 

Pesonen: And then I had the political campaign to put together on top of 
that. I got a lot of help from people. [William] Bill Gagen, 
who was a well-known lawyer out there, offered to help on my 

I think I made one very serious political mistake, and I 
might still be a judge if I hadn't done that. Contra Costa 


County had gone through, since the Second World War, enormous 
changes. It used to be the rust belt the industrial beltof 
the Bay Area. The whole shoreline from the Chevron refinery in 
Richmond all the way around to Antioch were steel mills and pulp 
mills, and there was a strong union base, strong Democratic base. 
But over the years, of course, those demographics had declined 
and the so-called Lamorinda area- -Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda-- 
Walnut Creek, Concord, and even starting out into the Delta and 
down the San Ramon Valley- -had developed and that was where the 
population shift had come, and it was much more conservative. 

So I picked Bert Coffey as my campaign manager. Coffey was 
an old-line Democrat. He was really out of touch with the rest 
of the county. His powerhe was kind of a legendary figure in 
running campaigns in west county, which was not where the 
population base was anymore. 

Lage: And you were running countywide? 

Pesonen: I had to run countywide. My finance chairman was a Republican 
lawyer in Richmond who represented the Mechanics Bank, Fran 
Watson. His firm had been the prominent firm in the west county 
for a long time, but it was in something of a decline. Watson 
didn't want to do it, I think. I think he did it mainly on 
Coleman Fannin's urging. So I focussed my campaign on people in 
west county, when the votes were not all in west county. But I 
didn't know enough about Contra Costa Counly to know that that 
was a mistake until I look back on it now. I think if I hadn't 
been something of a person who they wanted to keep a little 
distance from out there--. 

And I think the other judges felt I was vulnerable and 
didn't want to get too close. Judges like to keep their jobs. 
But politically I stood for a new, foreign substance thrust into 
their presence. It hadn't happened before like that. And being 
vulnerable, it just made them uncomfortable and in a way that I'm 
not sure they were even alert to. They didn't know why they were 
uncomfortable, or if they did they didn't articulate it to me, 
anyway . 

But I certainly sensed it, and I knew the reasons for it and 
I appreciated what the reasons were. I didn't resent them. I 
suppose if I had been a long-time judge who wanted to keep my Job 
long enough to retire, I'd be a little uneasy, too, about this 
youngster carrying all of this baggage. 

[Senator John] Nejedly was a strong source of support. I 
had known him in the legislature, and he knew of my forestry 
background, and we just liked each other. So a campaign 


committee started coming together. The rumor was that somebody 
out of the district attorney's office was being groomed to run 
against me and that he would have a lot of support from the 
right-wing money in this state. H. L. Richardson had left the 
senate by that time and I think he was running an organization in 
southern California whose job was to get rid of liberal judges 
and give their opponents money. 

Well, I was successful enough with this big party at 

Lage: Is that the one that Jack Lemmon came to? 

Pesonen: No, Jack Lemmon came to the second one. The first one was in the 
summer of '83, and it was a big party with lots of people. It 
was cheap to get in. The point was to get a lot of people there. 
Everybody likes to be at Nejedly's place; it sits on the top of a 
hill overlooking the whole Walnut Creek/ San Ramon Valley; it has 
a big swimming pool. 

It was a nice party. Quite a few people showed up, and it 
was well catered, and I made a good appearance. Julie came, the 
kids came, and so I didn't look like such a crazy. I began to 
look successful. I mean, I had money. I had put money in the 
bank for this campaign. 

Lage: Money that you raised? 

Pesonen: Raised through some direct-mail, some one-on-one solicitations, 
which is always delicate for a judge, because most of the money 
comes from lawyers. 

Lage: That would be delicate. 

Pesonen: It's always a problem. 

Lage: Lawyers who are going to appear in front of you? 

Pesonen: That's right. That's always a problem for judges, but I didn't 
see any alternative, and I figured that I could take money from 
somebody and still rule against them. Like [Speaker of the 
Assembly] Jesse Unruh said, "You drink their whiskey, take their 
money, screw their women, and vote against them." [Laughter] So 
I didn't feel compromised, but that's me. Maybe I was 
compromised. Certainly the appearance is always there. 

Lage: But you are not the only one who does it, are you? 
Pesonen: No. 


Lage: It's a standard procedure? 

Pesonen: Sure. [Superior Court Judge Demetrios P.] Agretelis is running 
for reelection in Alameda County right now and all of his money 
comes from lawyers. 

Lage: And then do lawyers feel that if they ask they pretty well have 

Pesonen: There is some of that pressure, yes. I'm sure there is. I feel 
it now, now that I am on the other side. But it's a fact of life 
that I didn't know any alternative to. I certainly had no 
personal money of my own. 

The word began to get out that I had put together a 
successful enough list of endorsements and that my reputation at 
the bar was good, that I was a good judge, that they decided not 
--this person was not going to run against me. By December, that 
was the way it looked: that I was going to have an uncontested 
election in June of '84. 

Serious Illness, Poor Press, Election Loss 

Pesonen: Then I got sick, and I ended up in the hospital for several 

months, and it looked like I was going to die. I was unable to 
function. I couldn't walk. That revived interest that maybe I 
was vulnerable after all. [laughs] 

Lage: The vultures started to circle. 

Pesonen: The vultures started to circle. So I lay in the hospital bed and 
read the papers, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. 
The filing date came and I had an opponent, [Richard] Rick Flier, 
who was a young attorney in the district attorney's office. 

Lage: Not the same one who had been going to run? 

Pesonen: Well, I wasn't sure who was going to run. His name had been 
rumored as one of the possibilities. 

There wasn't anything I could do. I couldn't get out of 
bed. My foot was in terrible shape and-- 

Lage: This was an infection? 


Pesonen: I had an infection that I let go too long. I was trying a very 
difficult case out in Richmond, and I wanted it over with, and I 
felt just terrible. I didn't go to the doctor; I would just 
collapse after a day in court and then go back the next day and 
feel pretty good in the morning and then collapse at the end of 
the day. By that weekend, at the end of that week, I woke up 
with excruciating pain in this foot. I was living alone in a 
little shack out there in Point Richmond that I had rented 
temporarily, didn't have a phone--the phone hadn't been installed 
yet--and it was out in the park, there were no people around, so 
there wasn't any way to get help. It was so painful, I couldn't 
walk. I had to crawl to the car and work the clutch with a broom 
handle . 

I stopped at one of these roadside phones and called Julie 
and told her what was going on and said I wanted some crutches so 
I could get to the hospital. She took me down to Kaiser, and 
they looked me over and decided it was gout. I was totally 
incapacitated by the pain, so I went back and stayed at Julie's 
house, and I kept going back each day and it got worse. They 
said, "Well, we'll give you another gout medicine, and then it'll 
work." The fourth daythe fourth or fifth day--I woke up and I 
had big red streaks up my leg and down my arms and I had a raging 
blood poisoning that had metastasized into my heart, and I just 
went into a coma. 

I was out for I don't know how long, and once I was an 
emergency case for Kaiser, they took very good care of me. 

Lage: But they weren't too swift on the original diagnosis. 

Pesonen: They weren't too swift on the original diagnosis. So I had to - 
have a lot of blood transfusions and major surgery on this foot 
to cut this infection out and then a lot of skin grafting. I had 
to grow my foot back. They were about to amputate it; they were 
real close to amputating it, and I said I didn't want to lose 
that foot. I couldn't go fishing anymore if I lost my foot. 

So they held on to it, and I finally got well. But I was 
campaigning in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks and rolling up 
and down the streets of Martinez in a wheelchair. It was just 
awful with an election impending. 

I raised a lot of money by just calling people and writing 
personal notes from my hospital bed. I think the sympathy factor 
must have helped. And from people you wouldn't expect. 
[Charles] Charlie Kennedy, who is a famous lawyer, well-known 
lawyer in San Francisco, for example, who had represented Carroll 
in the PG&E/Widener case, the second time around, sent me five 




hundred bucks and wrote me a note. There were a lot of people 
that had been opponents in my prior cases. And a lot of people 
in the bar. I wasn't getting rich by any means, but I was making 
some money. Then we had the Jack Lemmon party. But by then it 
was too late. 

Somebody told me, I don't remember who, that Richard Arnason 
had something to do with it. In any event, Bill Gagen took me to 
see Dean Lesher to see if I could, if not get the Contra Costa 
Times' endorsement, at least neutralize it. Lesher ushered us 
into his office, which is surrounded with art of old West, 
bucking broncos and buffaloes; it looked like Ross Perot's 
office, Remington paintings and- -he's a very wealthy man, and he 
buys all of this junk. We finally were ushered into his office 
and he's a huge, obese man. He's not in very good health, I 
think, and he's sitting behind a huge desk. 

Gagen had been his lawyer in a dispute over some properties, 
and Gagen 's a very engaging, very bright lawyer; he's a very fine 
lawyer. He's also a very engaging, likeable person. He's the MC 
[master of ceremonies] at most of these dinners, and he's sought 
after for that kind of thing. He's funny, and he knows 
everybody. He knows what's going on, and he's widely respected 
in the county and deservedly so. 

So he was my entree to Lesher. I just sat down, and Lesher 
looked at me for a minute, and he said, "I understand you're a 
carpetbagger." The first words out of his mouth. 

This was after your illness or during it? 

No, this was after the illness. It might have been before. 
Things blur a little bit when you go through something like that. 
I remember I was in good health when I went in there, so it must 
have been shortly before. It was early work. It had to be 

Well, the conversation kind of went downhill from there. 
Lesher didn't let on what he was going to do. 

Did you come right out and ask him to be neutral or was this 

Pesonen: No. Gagen made his speech, and he said, "You know why we're 

here. Dave's going to have, probably, opposition next year, and 
we'd like you to know him so that if you feel inclined to do some 
editorial work on this you'll know what you're talking about. I 
think you'll find he's a good judge." 



Well, Lesher was totally noncommittal. He wasn't openly 
hostile. I mean, he laughed when he said this carpetbagger 
remark. So the election was Tuesday, I think it was June 7, of 
"84, and on Sunday preceding the election there was this huge 
editorial in Lesher "s paper about the two cases where I'd made 
what he characterized as mistakes in sentencing, turned criminals 
loose on the community, that I had represented the Black Panthers 
who were advocates of violence and overthrow of our government 
and our way of life. It was a real hit piece. I thought, "I'm 
going to be real lucky if I get through this election." 

And I didn't. It was close, but it wasn't close enough. I 
think I got 49 percent. No cigar. Flier got 51 percent. So 
then I had to figure out what I was going to do. 

We keep referring to this Jack Lemmon thing but we haven't really 
said what it is. 

Pesonen: Well, we threw another party at Nejedly's house. 
Lage: Later on? 

Pesonen: Later on. For big money. I think it was $250 or something to 
get in and in those days that was big money. I contacted Don 
Widener, who was still in touch with Jack Lemmon, and he asked 
Jack if Jack would fly up there and appear at this gathering at 
Nejedly's, and Jack said sure, he'd be happy to. And he did. He 
made a wonderful little speech about the Widener case and what a 
great lawyer I was. He remembered I'd go to trial against this 
battery of lawyers from big corporations with my little paper bag 
lunch on the table. [laughter] 

It was very complimentary. Everybody wanted to go to that. 
It was the first time anybody in an election campaign in Contra 
Costa County had a celebrity like Jack Lemmon appear for him. It 
was very well attended. It paid for all of the literature and 
the advertising and the signs and all of the things you do in a 
campaign like that. 

But I was not optimistic. It was a high; it was a wonderful 
day, a beautiful, sunny, afternoon and Jack was in great form. 
Julie picked him up at the airport, and Widener and his wife came 
and that was it. 

Lage: Did you make enough so that you didn't end up with a debt? 

Pesonen: I didn't end up with a debt. I wasn't going to go in debt, 

either. I figured there was a good chance I was going to lose 
and I didn't have much money, but I was going to spend it all on 


the campaign and nothing more than that . 
through a decent campaign. 

I had enough to get 

Of course, we had to file reports with the Fair Political 
Practices Commission; there was a lot of administration of the 
campaign. Watson's office was very helpful on that. He had a 
staff person who was just marvelous. She kept charge of all of 
the money and all of the reports and I never had any problems 
with that. 

Lage: That's good, because that can be a bother. 

Pesonen: That was a volunteer effort. [Pause] 

Lage: So there you are, out of a job. How much time left? 

Pesonen: You have a lot of time. 

Lage: Six months? 

Pesonen: Six months. You have until the end of the year. So I had June 

until the first part of January to figure out what I was going to 

Well, the first thing I decided to do was take some time 
off. I was just very stressed out from all of this and depressed 
at the results. I didn't know what the future held. I got into 
a quarrel with the presiding judge at that point. He said I had 
to stay on and work just like nothing had happened and I told him 
I wasn't going to do it and there wasn't anything he could do 
about it. [laughter] 

So I patched that up, and I took some time off, and I took 
the kids and went on a pack trip in the mountains with Gagen and 
some other friends for a week. 

Lage: So you recovered pretty well from your leg. 

Pesonen: It was a horseback trip. I could walk around. I could hike. It 
still hurt; I was not fully recovered. It's still recovering. 
Seven years later, it's still getting better. 

So I started sending resumes out just like any other job 
hunter, without much success because just about everybody thinks 
that a judge wants too much money because you're coming in 
laterally at a partnership level or something, and most firms 
cultivate their youngsters or young associates for their 
partnership positions. It's very rare--it happens now and then-- 
but it was almost unheard of at that time that somebody would 


come in at a partnership level. So I didn't get too many 
favorable responses. I had a few interviews. In the meantime, I 
kept on kicking around and running my court. 

Pesonen: I finally got a favorable response from two firms, one in Contra 
Costa County from people who wanted to bring me in as a partner 
and it was a good firm. It was in Concord and it was a growing 
firm and it would have been a nice, stable position. 

The other was from Jerry Sterns in San Francisco. Sterns 
wanted to bring me in as managing attorneya managing partner-- 
because his office wasn't very well managed, he felt, and he 
wanted somebody to get it organized. It was a firm that had 
grown very fast; handled a lot of mass cases, a lot of asbestos 
work. The firm's specialty was aircraft litigationaircraft 
crash litigation on the plaintiff's side and he was very well 
known for that. He was a splendid lawyer. 

So I started there in January. Bought a house in Berkeley 
and got my life back in order. 



An Interim Position in Sterns Law Firm 

Lage: So we have you back in private life and working at Sterns, Smith, 
Walker, Pesonen, and Grell in 1985. 

Pesonen: Yes. Stern's office was not well managed. It needed a lot of 

Lage: Now, where was the office? 

Pesonen: In San Francisco. It was not easy to figure out where all of the 
money was. It was a little frustrating, but I took hold and 
started getting it organized and getting some systems in place. 

Lage: Did this make relationships difficult? 

Pesonen: No. 

Lage: You didn't have to stir things up? 

Pesonen: I wasn't there to stir things up. I was there to--. Sterns 
wasn't around much. There wasn't anybody in place to give 
guidance to running the firm. He was out trying cases off in 
London and around the world. He had an office in Hawaii; he 
liked it over there so he was not very accessible sometimes, and 
people felt a bit adrift. 

It had possibilities. He had one mass case which had 
languished. It hadn't really had the attention it deserved. It 
involved over a hundred families down in San Mateo County whose 
property values had been badly eroded from huge landslides in 
those '81 and '82 floods. Some people had been killed, hills had 
come down and wiped their houses out. He had gone down and 


rounded up a lot of clients down there, and the case just wasn't 
going anywhere. It was against everybody in the world. It was 
against the developer, the geologist, even the Archdiocese of San 
Francisco which owned part of one of the hills. They were 
claiming this was an act of God. [laughter] 

There were about fifteen defendants who had been involved in 
one way or another in the development of this housing tract. It 
was a very interesting case. It was interesting geology and 
hydrology. But mainly what it needed was getting it all together 
and moving it. So I got appointed lead counsel for the 
plaintiffs by the superior court in San Mateo County, and I 
pulled it together and got it ready to be settled. It settled 
right about the time I left, it turned out, in the summer of '85. 

Hired by the Park District; Reorganizing the Staff 

Pesonen: I hadn't been there very long before Harlan Kessel of the board 

of the [East Bay Regional] Park District called me up one day and 
said that the general manager, [Richard C.] Dick Trudeau was 
retiring, and would I be interested in applying for the position 
of general manager of the park district. That was just 
wonderful. So I did fill in an application, and I rounded up 
some letters of recommendation and I had some credentials that 
looked pretty good in comparison to some of the other candidates, 
I guess. 

Lage: Was this a nationwide search? 

Pesonen: It was a nationwide search. They had a search firm, one of these 
outfits that does executive searches. I went through a number of 
interviews. It was a partly political appointment, too. The 
board is all elected. 

Finally, I got appointed. The appointment was announced in 
July, and it took me some time to wind down what I was handling 
at Sterns' office, including the mass landslide case down in San 
Mateo County. So I don't think I started at the park district 
until the end of August. 

Lage: Now, in the course of all of this interviewing, what was your 
sense of what they were looking for and--? 

Pesonen: They were looking for somebody who could completely reform the 
organization. Trudeau had quite a different management style, 
from what I understand. Trudeau was at odds with the board. I 


think he was not happy about his retirement; it wasn't entirely 

Lage: He'd been there a while. 

Pesonen: He'd been there about twenty years. Seventeen years. 

Lage: And then, before that, he was assistant for public relations 
under [William Penn] Mott. 

Pesonen: Yes, he had headed public relations under Mott. But he was not a 
Mott. In fact, I spoke at the Rotary Club in Richmond one time 
while I was general manager, and they still thought that Mott had 
preceded me. For seventeen years they didn't know who Dick 
Trudeau was . 

Lage: Even though his background was in public relations? 
Pesonen: Yes, but his style was entirely different. 
Lage: Different from Mott's or different from yours? 

Pesonen: Different from both. [laughter] He liked to work behind the 

scenes, and the board and he were not comfortable with each other 
anymore. Trudeau was no help to me. He didn't want me to be 
appointed; he had his own candidate. I had some reason to 
believe and some evidence that he tried to stop it. But he was 
not successful in that. His influence with the board was pretty 
eroded by then. 

Lage: Was the board clear in what it wanted from you? 

Pesonen: No, it wasn't clear what it wanted. There was no job 

description, they didn't offer me a contract. It was just sort 
of serve at their pleasure and fix the place. Fix it. 

Lage: Just very vague. 
Pesonen: Yes. 

So it was a wide-open charter that I was handed. I didn't 
realize--. When I look back over my life, whatever mistakes I've 
made have usually been out of ignorance or naivete, more naivete 
than ignorance, but both, and I was not aware of how deep the 
divisions were in that board. 

The first thing I was expected to do was a major 
reorganization, which I undertook. I reoriented the lines of 
authority with a strong emphasis on natural resource protection 





and created a new section called land stewardship, which pulled 
together scattered functions that were at all different levels: 
some with the union, some in management, some out in the field, 
some in the office all having to do with geology, hydrology, 
fisheries, water quality, forestry. I put them all under one 
head and called it land stewardship. I brought in a new person, 
Kevin Shea, who had a natural resource background and a writing 
background and some administrative ability to head that up. He 
headed it up until he retired just last year. 

Did you get a sense that things were in sort of disarray? 

Oh yes. The organizational structure didn't make any sense. It 
looked like a history of patchwork cronyism. There were some 
people who were not very competent, who were just not doing 
anything. The head of public relations, as far as I could tell, 
hadn't done anything for years. 

My approach was to interview everybody and have a long 
interview, and the question was, "What do you do, how have you 
done it, and what have you done that is lasting?" I got good 
answers from some people and not from others. 

Whenever you move into a position like that, you seek out 
people you can trust, whose judgment you can trust, who have an 
institutional history. You get your education that way. 

He was forthcoming if 

Who did you find? 

Jerry Kent, who had been there forever, 
you knew what to ask him. 

He was assistant manager under Trudeau-- 

Under Trudeau. 

--under you, and is still assistant manager? 

Still assistant general manager. He handles all of the field 
operations. He has an immensely detailed memory of everything 
that's ever happened since Mott's day. 

Bob Owen was another person. And I brought in Bob Connelly, 
briefly--! created a position for him as a chief deputy general 


Now, he had been a deputy in-- 


Pesonen: He had been chief deputy director in the Department of Forestry. 
The district's relations with Sacramento were not very good. The 
district gets a lot of its money from grants and so on, and 
there's always legislation that affects the district. I thought 
Bob could handle that. Bob also had a lot of administrative 
skills, and the police department of the parks district was in 
disarray. It was just out of control. The chief was not doing 
anything. Overtime was enormous. It seemed to be erratic; 
whenever an officer needed to make a boat payment he'd run up 
some overtime. Its budget was out of control. 

Lage: But you could see these problems rather quickly. 

Pesonen: Yes. It took me five or six months to get some priorities on 
them. But I wasn't watching my backside with the board. 

Political Controversies and the Politics on the EBRPD Board 

Pesonen: There were some political controversies going on, the Berkeley 
Shakespeare Festival, for example, which wanted to move into 
Tilden Park. Mary Jefferds, who was on the board, would never 
make it clear whether she wanted the Shakespeare Festival there 
or not. She wanted to play both sides, and I made the mistake of 
talking to one of the participants against her directions not to 
talk to one of the people who was an activist in that campaign. 
She found out about it, and that was enough for her. 

Something came up where they decided that they wanted to 
have a vote of confidence. This was after I had been there about 
a year, and I didn't anticipate much problem, and to my 
astonishment, Mary Jefferds voted to get rid of me. By this 
time, I had offended Harlan Kessel enormously, which ain't hard 
to do. 

Lage: What-- 

Pesonen: Well, Harlan had an agenda. Much of this is such recent history 
I am a little uneasy talking about it, but-- 

Lage: Well, if they are things that are important that you don't want 
made public at this time, we can seal a portion. 

Pesonen: Well, there was an employee who was a black man, an elderly black 
man, who absolutely did nothing and was protected by Harlan and 
had been for many years. He was an embarrassment within the 


organization. You would give him a task, and he'd disappear for 

Lage: He was in the office, not out in the field? 
Pesonen: Well, it was sort of vague where his office was. 

And he wanted more money. He was also the chairman of the 
Hayward NAACP, and every year that Harlan came up for election- - 
every time Harlan came up for electionhe 'd get the endorsement 
of the Hayward NAACP, which consists of about six people, I 
think. Harlan began to put a lot of pressure on me to see that 
person was elevated to a much higher position in management. I 
kept resisting and delaying and stalling and finding ways not to 
do it. I knew that it would just infuriate the rest of the staff 
because they knew he didn't do anything, and he couldn't do 
anything. But Harlan kept saying how competent and wonderful he 
was and what a great job he did. He never did anything. 

Lage: Did you confront Harlan directly on this? 

Pesonen: Obliquely, I would. I wanted to hold on to Harlan 's support. 
But Harlan began to see that I was never going to do what he 
wanted me to do for this person. He wanted the guy to get a 
salary close to the general manager's salary. It was ridiculous. 

I think there were some other problems. I got crosswise 
with a woman who was very active in the park advisory committee. 
Afton Crooks her name was. She was with the University. 

Lage: Now, what was the park advisory committee? 

Pesonen: The park advisory committee is the group that--. It's really a 
device that the park board members have of putting people in a 
place where they feel they have some influence over the park 
district. The park advisory committee looks at the general 
plans; they hold meetings once a month in which they discuss 
various issues in the park and pass resolutions. Sometimes the 
board pays attention to them, sometimes it doesn't. 

But Afton was chair of the park advisory committee, and an 
issue at that time was the issue of mitigation in development 
projects. Apparently Trudeau had offended the park district, or 
offended its political constituency, the activist constituency, 
the Afton Crooks of the world. There was a small group of people 
who watched that park district like a hawk. Trudeau had made 
deals with developers down in the expanding south Alameda County 
area around Pleasanton, in which the park district would 
politically support, or not oppose, various kinds of developments 


in exchange for mitigation given to the park district: land, 
money, other kinds of things that were useful. 

Lage: Is some of this around the Sunol Regional Park? 

Pesonen: Yes, the Sunol park area is part of it. Trudeau, over the years, 
had cultivated and become quite close to some very prominent, 
wealthy developer people, or bankers or lawyers down in southern 
Alameda County. Some of these had backfired. The project was so 
offensive to the environmental constituency that watched the park 
district that there was no mitigation that was acceptable to 
them, so they saw this as a sellout by the management of the park 

One involved a huge gravel mining pit that still hasn't been 
started, in which the developer, De Silva, agreed to transplant 
tule elk in Sunol and give royalties off of his gravel to the 
park district for many years. That was a very controversial 

Lage: Were you put in the middle of these decisions, or were they done 

Pesonen: They were done deals, but the park advisory committee had 

proposed a resolution, a board resolution which would govern the 
conduct of the administration of the park district, that no more 
mitigation could happen unless it went through an elaborate 
process, which was so elaborate you never could get it through. 

Well, I didn't know enough about it to know whether this was 
a good policy or not, so I suggested it be put off for a year. 
And a lot of mitigation made sense. There were a lot of projects 
which the park district couldn't influence its political 
influence would be insignificant- -where the park district could 
get something from mitigation. 

So I didn't think that the suggested process was very 
helpful. In fact, the Ferry Point acquisition was, in effect, 
mitigation. Nobody's ever called it that. Everybody liked the 
project so much they didn't realize it was mitigation so the 
procedure was never applied to it. 

Lage: Yes, a blanket prohibition of mitigation seems a little 

Pesonen: It didn't go that far, but it made it almost impossible to 
approve a mitigation. 

Well, I got crosswise with Afton when I opposed early 
adoption of that policy because Afton was the real author and 


proponent, and she was very aggressive about it. 
like what I did on that. 

She just didn't 

There were a number of other things. Part of it was my 
style, too. I was not suited for that position. Mott had been 
able to get away with running the district when the board was 
window-dressing, but those times--. 

Lage: Was that the times, or was that Mott? 

Pesonen: I think it was both. I think part of it was Mott's style. Mott 
had political ability, sensitivity about dealing with elected 
boards, which I didn't have. You know, I thought I had been 
given a job to run the place. I didn't realize how much intrigue 
there was politically on the board. 

Lage: It sounds as if the board was closely involved with matters large 
and small. 

Pesonen: It was matters large and small, but I was not good at cultivating 
the board. I didn't spend a lot of time holding their hand, 
calling them up and schmoozing them; I was busy running the 
district. I spent a lot of time out in the field, I paid a lot 
of attention to field morale and what was going on in the field 
and-- . 

Lage: But the changes you were making in the organization must have had 
quite an effect on morale, I would think. 

Pesonen: Well, most of it was positive after it was over. There were some 
people at the top who shouldn't have been there any more, who 
left, but in the field, I strengthened the field organization, 
and lines of authority in headquarters were much clearer. I was 
accessible in a way that Trudeau had never been, and I treated 
people nicely. 

Lage: So often, when you do a reorganization like this, people are so 
insecure about their jobs or-- 

Pesonen: Well, there is always a period of insecurity until it settles 

down. It settled down, I think, fairly well. Other people may 
have a different perspective on that, but I firmly believe that. 

And there were some people who got hurt in it and never 
forgot it. 

Lage: Who stayed with the district? 

Pesonen: Some who stayed with the district and some who didn't. 


Well, but I didn't cultivate the board in the way that I 
should have if job security was foremost in my mind. While job 
security was certainly important to me, doing a good job was just 
as important, as I saw it, and maybe doing a good job involves 
schmoozing the board more than I did. I probably wasn't 
temperamentally, at that time, anyway, the right person. 

And then I made a terrible mistake which was what they were 
looking for. I had some enemies on the board after this 
beginning, but I still had four or five votes. 

Elected Board Members ; Intrigue and Interference 

Lage: How many people on the board? 

Pesonen: Seven. 

Lage: Seven. And Harlan Kessel, who had been a supporter 

Pesonen: --became an enemy. 

Lage: And then Mary Jefferds? 

Pesonen: Then Mary Jefferds. 

Lage: Was she really lost just over that issue of talking to--? 

Pesonen: She never said. That's my speculation. Mary was very difficult 
to read. 

Lage: Had you known her before? 

Pesonen: I had known her before. 

Lage: She has a reputation for being a good environmentalist. 

Pesonen: She had good environmentalist credentials, but by that time she 
had been on the board for fifteen or twenty years, a long time, 
and she was tired and sick, and she was mean-spirited. She and 
Harlan were just cruel to the staff. Every board meeting was an 

Lage: You mean, not just you, but they would attack lower staff 


Pesonen: Yes, they would attack anybody. Anybody who ever stood up before 
them and said something they didn't like, they would accuse them 
of being incompetent, of cheating, of lying. Every board meeting 
was a horrible ordeal of pointlessness and unpleasantness. They 
were a very unpleasant bunch of people. 

Not all of them. Ted Radke, who was president during part 
of the time I was there, was not that way, but he wasn't a very 
strong personality, and he couldn't control them. Jim Duncan, 
who was from Alameda, was a decent man. He was new to the board. 
In fact, I think he was elected about the time I came in, and he 
didn't have the political base to control them. 

Then they had another crazy, Lynn Bowers, who was really a 
nut, from Pleasanton. 

Lage: A man or a woman? 

Pesonen: A man. He's from Sunol, actually. Bowers was a developer, but 
his baby was Pleasanton Ridge, which had been messed-up 
politically, and I wanted to get that back on the right track. 

Lage: Was this Apperson Ridge, or are they two different places? 

Pesonen: Pleasanton. No, Apperson Ridge was the gravel quarry. 

Pleasanton Ridge is the big ridge that runs from Hayward down to 
Pleasanton. A beautiful area. Big. There was a lot of 
controversy because the ranchers up there wanted to develop it. 

Lage: And was Bowers on the side of developing it, or--? 

Pesonen: No, Bowers was on the side of making it a park, but he was 

developing around the edges of it. His scheme, I think, was it 
would make his other developments more attractive if he had a big 
park right next to them. 

Lage: But he seemed personally interested? 

Pesonen: I thought he was personally interested. He was a very strange 
guy, and he insisted on meeting with me once a week down in 
Pleasanton. We would go out and have breakfast and he'd have an 
agenda of things to talk about, some of them very detailed 
internal administration. I didn't trust Bowers, but Bowers and 
Kessel hated each other; so as long as Kessel wanted to vote 
against me, Bowers was going to vote for me. 

Lage: Tremendous intrigue! 
Pesonen: Yes. 


Lage : It doesn't seem like the way these elected boards should work. 

Pesonen: There is enormous intrigue in those things. The trading off of 
small ego strokes. 

Lage: I keep interrupting you. 
Pesonen: Oh, that's fine. 

It was very dif ficult--it became a very difficult job. And 
I began to feel insecure that I didn't have a unanimous board, 
and I couldn't figure out how to satisfy them. They just seemed 
to want to be unhappy. They're still unhappy. I'm told that 
poor Pat 0' Brian who came after me is in the same situation, 
except he was able, in the wake of my resignation, to negotiate a 
contract which costs them an arm and a leg if they fire him. It 
would cost them a lot of money to fire him, and that's a 
deterrent. I didn't have a contract. They had said, "Oh, you 
don't need a contract." I'll know better next time. 

So there was this problem with Karen Frick. We needed a 
staff person who could--Bob Connelly left. Bob Connelly saw, 
sooner than I did, that this was a hopeless situation. He went 
right back to the legislature. His words were, "It's a lot 
easier to work with eighty crazies than seven." 

Lage: So he saw what you were up against? 

Pesonen: He saw what I was up against, and he saw no future for himself 
there. He got offered a very good position by Willie Brown, as 
staff to the Assembly Rules Committee; it was a very good 
position and he was very good at it. And still he's essentially 
running the Rules Committee for the assembly, trying to keep 
Willie Brown out of trouble. Willie's a challenge, too. 

But Bob saw that there wasn't any way he could keep me out 
of trouble. Knowing me as well as he does, I think, he realized 
that I was doomed, and he would go down with me. I think he made 
a smart choice, a wise decision. 

A Fatal Mistake and More Intrigue 

Pesonen: Anyway, in the wake of Bob's not being there, we needed somebody 
to handle this legislative program in Sacramento. Janet Cobb, 
whom I had hired to run public relations and who's still there 


and who is just a dynamite woman, had a friend whom she had 
worked with before, Karen Frick, who had been on the staff at 
Senator Montoya's office and had done some political consulting 
around the Bay Area. She seemed to have the right credentials. 
We interviewed three or four people, but we hired her. Her 
office was right next to mine in this little executive suite up 
on the hill. 

Well, that was in the fall of '85, I guess, around December. 
I started taking Karen to some of these gatherings that I go to, 
the Association of Bay Area Governments, and other things, to 
introduce her to people. One night we were at a Christmas party, 
it got a little romantic. I thought she was interested, and I 
was interested, and we dated for a while. The dating didn't go 
very far. 

That was a fatal mistake, to even get involved at all, 
because it turned out that Karen was also dating Lynn Bowers. I 
began to hear rumors of that, and I thought, "This was a very 
stupid thing to do." So I broke it off, probably in January. 
There was never any sex in it. I told my friend Paul Halvonik 
about it one time, and he said, "You went through all this 
trouble and you never got laid?" [laughter] We may cut that one 
out of the transcript. It just didn't go very far, but it was 
public. We showed up with each other at these gatherings. 

Lage: Was the Lynn Bowers thing public, too? 

Pesonen: That became public, shortly afterwards. Bowers was married, and 
he was showing up at social gatherings with Karen Frick on his 

Well, what happened then was the staff, who feared Bowers- 
Bowers was one of the most brutal to staff of anybody on that 
board, and he could be really vicious, and he could also be 
devious in trying to get what he wanted through manipulation of 
staff. Nobody trusted Bowers. Here was my right-hand staff 
person showing up at closed staff meetings where we talked about 
how we were going to present something to the board, and suddenly 
nobody would talk because they began to feel that it was getting 
back to Bowers through pillow talk through Karen. It became an 
almost impossible situation. It was very hard to function around 
there when you had what everybody perceived as a spy right in the 
general manager's office; a spy to the most hated and despised 
and feared member of the board. 


Lage: That would seem to be a conflict of interest on her part. 


Pesonen: Well, it's not a legal conflict of interest. You know, 

government can't say what people's personal lives are supposed to 

be like, as long as they are not in violation of some law, and 

there was no law that governed this. 

And Karen started to kind of flout her connection with 
Bowers. I just didn't know what to do. I mean, there wasn't 
anything I could do. I was unable to do my job; it was eroding 
my fragile support on the board already. Finally, Janet and I 
talked about it. Janet was very close to Karen. Janet thought 
it was a crazy situation and impossible and we had to find some 
way out of it. Janet took Karen aside this was four or five 
months after we had been datingand persuaded her that it wasn't 
in her interests to stay on in this circumstance and that she 
should resign. She agreed. Janet called me full of exuberance 
and excitation at home that night, "Karen has agreed to leave." 

Well, I felt this huge load off my shoulders. At 5:30 the 
next morning, I get a call from Lynn Bowers. He said, "I want to 
see you this morning, right now," and he named a place down in 
Hayward, some little restaurant. I showed up there and Bowers 
walked in. He walked over and sat down at the table and he said, 
"I'm going to get you." He said, "Karen can't leave." He 
confirmed that he needed Karen to stay in that position of 

Lage: Oh, I see. He confirmed that he saw her as a source of 

Pesonen: Oh, absolutely. And he was furious that Janet, working on my 

behalf, had persuaded Karen to resign. And so she had reversed 
her position. He told me, "She's not going to resign." Well,, 
she hadn't told us that, but she must have told him that that 
night. He said, "You've just lost your fourth vote." He was 
going to join with Kessel and Kay Peterson and Mary Jefferds. 

I said, "Let's go for a walk." We went over to Lake Chabot 
Park and walked around. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and 
people were out fishing and riding their bikes and I said, "This 
is what I'm here for. I don't know what you're here for, but it 
appears that you've got some other interests, and I'll fight you. 
I may lose it, but I'm not going to go back and embrace Karen as 
part of the staff. It would be impossible to do the job." 

So I went back to the office, and there was no Karen Frick 
around. Of course, I told Janet and a couple of other confidants 
what had happened and Karen showed up about one o'clock in the 
afternoon, drunk. Not drunk, but she had been drinking, I could 
tell; you could smell it. And distraught. So I called her in 


the office, and I said, "This is totally untenable. It's not 
going to work. You're fired." This was against the advice of 
Ellen Maldonado, who was our legal staff, and I should have 
listened to her, but I was so upset at what Bowers had said that 
morning. He had sort of thrown this gauntlet down, and my 
reaction was not thought out. 

Lage: Now, why was it against the advice of your legal--? 

Pesonen: Well, she said, "You've got a basis to fire her, but you've got 
to make a record." I hadn't made a record that would stand up. 
This had all been talk and the grist of water cooler breaks. I 
hadn't sat down and formally, the way you have to do, and-- 

Lage: Provide warnings? 

Pesonen: Provide warnings, opportunities for correction. Nothing that I 
had told her either had to do with her performance. Her 
performance was falling off, and it could have been documented, 
but it wasn't documented. So--. Well, the reason I fired her 
was that I knew she wasn't doing her job; she was an 
embarrassment to me and my emotional reaction was: Bowers can't 
do this to me. 

About a month or two later, Ellen Maldonado walked into my 
office with bad news. Karen had gotten a lawyer, a very good 
lawyer in San Francisco, who had written a letter, a confidential 
letter, threatening to bring charges before the State Fair 
Employment Practices Commission alleging that she had been 
wrongfully fired in retaliation for spurning my sexual advances 
and that he would keep it confidential and he wouldn't file suit 
if we reached a quick settlement. 

Lage: Sounds suspiciously like blackmail. 

Pesonen: Yes. Well, but it's legal. So I immediately called the board, 

or notified the board, anyway, and got a lawyer for the board. I 
went and told the lawyer the whole story with Ellen along. 

Lage: What a difficult situation, with a board member involved. 

Pesonen: Bowers was still sleeping with Karen. Everybody knew it by this 
time. He practically admitted it. I think he was about ready to 
say he was going to move out of his house and leave his wife 
behind and go someplace with Karen. Or maybe by this time they 
had gotten an apartment. I don't remember. It was notorious, 
anyway . 


I told the whole story to this lawyer, who was a very good 
lawyer who Guy Saperstein referred me to. And he said, "What a 
mess." [laughter] "What a mess." And it certainly was. I 
can't claim that I'm not responsible for it having been such a 

Well, the matter dragged out and the negotiations dragged 
out on the settlement, and at first this guy demanded half a 
million dollars to keep her mouth shut and go away. She wasn't 
interested in reinstatement. She just wanted money. They 
finally settled, I think, for a very nominal sumthirty thousand 
dollars, I think, which is nothing in these days- -but the 
political ramifications were enormous. The board was very 
uneasy, very nervous, as this story emerged. 

Well, somebody tipped off a reporter on the Tribune and on 
the Hayward Daily Review and they started calling and saying 
"What's going on?" "Well, it's all confidential," we'd say. 
Well, nothing hooks the appetite of a reporter more than to say 
that there's a scandal brewing someplace and it's confidential. 
So this reporter, Julie I've forgotten her last name now--on the 
Hayward Daily Review, she was a good investigative reporter. She 
began to sniff out bits and pieces here and there, and the story 
began to leak, as it inevitably would. 

I remember one meeting before the board when the board was 
to approve the settlement, and it was a closed session, and 
Bowers was there. The lawyer we'd hired from Crosby, Heafey, 
Roach, and May was also there, and Bowers stood up and said, "I 
object to this meeting proceeding while we have this sex maniac 
present." I said, "Well, he's my lawyer, too, but I'll tell you 
what. If it makes your job easier, I'll go out and walk around 
the block while you discuss your options with our lawyer, and 
I'll come back." 

I did, and Bowers by that time, was quiet, and the board 
accepted the proposal that had been negotiated by our lawyer 
which was forty thousand dollars and total confidentiality and a 
provision that we would not say anything derogatory about Karen 
if we got a call from a future employer reference. 

That was satisfactory, but they didn't stay quiet and more 
and more inquiries came along. Finally, the Hayward Daily Review 
sued or threatened to sue, to open up the file. Ellen thought 
they might very well win because the park district was a public 
agency, so we decided to just open up the whole file. We did so 
at an open board meeting, and I made a little speech about how 
it's all behind us, and I made some mistakes, but let's get on 


with running the park district, and Bowers resigned. Bowers 
resigned right after that meeting, I think. 

Lage: Did that come out in the Hayward Daily Review! 

Pesonen: The newspapers had hinted at the relationship between Karen Frick 
and Lynn Bowers. I don't think they ever came out completely and 
said it. But they hinted that they were close acquaintances, it 
was--what is the word I'm thinking of, "close friends." 

Lage: Discreet language? 

Pesonen: Euphemism. These were some standard euphemisms for 

relationships, it seems. They're married now, Bowers and Karen 
Frick. So I am told, anyway. I don't have a lot to do with 

Lage: So he resigned? 

Pesonen: He resigned. He said he'd accomplished everything he wanted to 

accomplish. There was no reason for him to stay on the board any 
longer. Which nobody believed; at least I didn't believe it. So 
it was a very unpleasant time, but I thought, "Well, now we've 
got it behind us, we've sort of cleared the air. Let's get on 
with it." 

Leaving the Park District Position 

Pesonen: Right at that time, Guy Saperstein called up and said, "I've got 
this big sex-discrimination lawsuit that I need somebody to 
manage; would you be interested?" [laughter] It turned out to 
be the biggest sex-discrimination case in the history of the 
Civil Rights Act. I thought, "My reputation is really in 
trouble, and it's in trouble partly from my own doing. I'm not 
free of responsibility for that. I think I got trapped by some 
other people, but I walked into the trap. This is a great 
opportunity; it's a lot more money, it's an opportunity to--at 
least superf icially--redress the sense that I'm kind of a sex 
ogre, and I'm free of this board." 

Lage: Do you think they would have put it behind them if you hadn't 
left at that time? 

Pesonen: I don't know if they would have or not. There was talk that 

maybe I should resign. It hadn't come to anything, but it was 


Lage: Now there were only six members on the board. 

Pesonen: But there was an appointment made by the board to fill Bowers' 
seat. That was Joycelyn Combs from Pleasanton. I talked to 
Joycelyn, and she knew what had happened, and she knew about the 
Bowers /Frick thing. She would have been a support vote. But the 
taint was there, and the echo was there; the history was there. 

Lage: And you had the other problems that preceded it. 

Pesonen: And I had the other problems. I wasn't happy at the park 

district. I had never been happy after about the first year. 1 
always felt that I was being dangled a little bit by that board 
and being deliberately kept insecure so that I would respond to 
their personal needs. They all had little political agendas, 
where they wanted the staff to do something special for a 
constituent that would take away from some other program. I was 
trying to balance these needs among these board members. 

Lage: So it wasn't the setup that an outsider might envision, where the 
board sets policy and oversees the general manager, who then has 
control over the organization. 

Pesonen: It is nothing like that. It still isn't like that. 

Lage: So each one has their own little agenda and interferes at various 

Pesonen: Have you ever been to one of those board meetings? 
Lage: No. 

Pesonen: Go to one of the board meetings sometime. It is an 

embarrassment. It is an embarrassment the way they talk to each 
other; it is an embarrassment the way they insult each other, the 
way they insult their staff-- 

Lage: Did that include you, the insulting? 

Pesonen: It included everybody. Jerry Kent was the only one who had a way 
somehow of smoothing things over. 

Lage: Did he make special approaches to the board? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. He is capable of doing that, but he does it without 

leaving too many fingerprints. He's very skilled at that. He 
should be the general manager. 


Why has he not been general manager? 


Pesonen: He didn't want it. He was invited to apply when I got appointed. 
He knew what it was like. He knows he's insulated in the 
assistant general manager position from absorbing all of the 
abuse. He's cushioned from it. A smart decision on his part. 
Not a high visibility position, he's not the point person on whom 
the board focuses their dismay. 

So I started negotiating an agreement with Guy to come over 
to his firm and manage the Kraszewski v. State Farm case, which 
was only a gleam in everybody's eye at that time. It was a big 
consent decree approved by the district court. It didn't even 
have an office, it didn't have a staff, it didn't have a budget, 
it didn't have anything. And we were going after a couple of 
hundred million dollars from State Farm. 

Lage: Before we get into that, it seems to me there's more on the East 
Bay parks besides your relationship with the board. I mean, some 
of the things that happened in the parks. 

Pesonen: Yes, well, there were some good things that happened. 
Lage: Can we go a little bit more into that? 

Pesonen: Substantively? Yes. I think the district got much more 

professional in the way it managed its land and dealt with the 
grazing issue, with the water quality issue, with--. And the 
district continued to be aggressive with land acquisition, and it 
made, I think, by and large, wise choices. 

Conflicting Views of the District's Mission 

Lage: Was there a tension between whether to spend the money on 
acquisition or on management? 

Pesonen: Yes, very much so. 

Lage: Was that something the board was divided on? 

Pesonen: That was one of the big fights on the board all of the time. My 
overall slant, in thirty words or less, is that that board is not 
subject to very much public attention. It holds its meetings at 
remote locations in the middle of the day, so the only people who 
really see what goes on in those board meetings and even the 
press doesn't show up most of the time- -is a very small clique of 
extreme open space environmentalists. Afton Crooks is one of 
those, and there are a number of other people, and they all know 



each other. They don't want any money spent on anything but land 

There are parks which get a lot of public use. Tilden is an 
exception to the park district. Tilden is what a lot of Berkeley 
people think of as the East Bay Regional Park District, but it's 
an aberration. 

In the amount of use it gets and the amount of development it 

Pesonen: It was Mott's idea, and it's very highly developed. From the 

beginning, even before Mott, with a golf course and a merry-go- 
round and the swimming lakes and--. Tilden is where all of the 
high-visibility activity, where you take children and families go 
to picnic, is focused. Most of the park district is open space. 
Developers are buying up open space and building houses, and it's 
a race between the park district and the developers for the park 
district to get out in front and buy it while it's cheap. 

Hulet Hornbeck, who ran the land department for years and 
years under Trudeau, was the architect of a lot of that 

Lage: And that was the thrust acquisition? 

Pesonen: He left at the same time Trudeau did; he retired. He was 

replaced by his young assistant, Bob Doyle, who attempted to 
carry on Hulet ' s approach. Doyle was very popular with the 
board; his land acquisition was popular. But, you know, you had 
playgrounds falling apart and trails to build. So I was looking 
for a different balance, with some development in parks. 

There were a couple of board members, Kay Peterson having 
been probably the most vocal, against any tot lots, for example, 
a place where mothers could go and sit and read and knit, or 
fathers, for that matter, and have their kids play on a little 
play structure. They hated little play structures. They didn't 
want them any place. So if we put them in the budget, they'd 
take them out or there was a move to take them out. 

Lage: So they would review a plan that you might have for an individual 
park and object to certain-- 

Pesonen: They would object to those kinds of things; they'd object to--. 

Each budget cycle we'd go through this. I just didn't think that 
was a good balance. We had a lot of people coming to parks with 
no place go: there were no picnic tables. 


I think there was a certain amount of racism in it, too, or 
cultural bias, anyway. Because, you go to parks like Garin 
[Regional] Park down near Hayward on a sunny Sunday afternoon, 
and the place would be jammed with low- income people, a lot of 
Hispanics, a lot of black people, and no place to have a picnic. 
You knew these people lived in daily living circumstances which 
probably weren't very comfortablelittle apartments with no open 
space, nothing outdoors except a concrete ramp where you park the 
cars and the kids play stick ball. 

My philosophy was that the more you could get people into 
parks --whether it's true or not there's no way to prove it the 
more you could get people released to get out into open space, 
into parks, and have enough room, they'd be better citizens. 
That's an old notion in the United States. It goes back to 
Jefferson. Nobody knows whether it's true or not, but I believed 
it anyway. 

So I wanted facilities. These were not people who put on an 
Audubon Society backpack and went off into the remote parts of 
the park; it just wasn't their lifestyle. It would be nice if 
they did, but they weren't going to do it. They were tied down 
with industrial, blue-collar jobs all week and three or four kids 
running around, and they just wanted to get out and away and play 
their radios and drink some beer and cook some hot dogs and ribs 

Lage: And have their tot structures? 

Pesonen: --and have their tot structure and just get some release. The 

board was very much opposed to that. So I thought it was a kind 
of elitist position on the part of the board members. 

On the other hand, you did need to buy land while it was 
cheap, so I wasn't opposed to land acquisition, I was all for it, 
focused on various parks. But what often happened is that 
somebody who was close to one of the board members, who already 
lived in a nice place on the edge of a piece of open space, found 
out that they were going to lose their free open space and would 
put pressure on the board to buy that land when it wasn't part of 
any plan for development of the park. In effect, they were 
protecting some already privileged person or group of people. 

Those things would come along, and you never knew when one 
of those requests would walk in the door and be turned into a 
political push by the board, with accusations that we were trying 
to sell out to the developers by not buying it immediately. They 
were always accusing the staff of bad faith. It was just a 
constant problem. 


Harlan was one of the worst. He had some friends up in the 
hills who wanted the horse ranch up there near the entrance where 
you go over the hill on Redwood Road, a very expensive piece of 
property. It didn't really fit in the park at all. Harlan would 
come up with these notions that this was the gateway to the park 
lands, and we should buy it. He had a friend who had a building 
up there; he wanted the park district to buy the building and 
find some use for it. 

Lage: And these didn't fit logically geographically with the park? 

Pesonen: Many of them were isolated from the park. But they were doing a 
favor for somebody. They were very expensive. So some of the 
land acquisition was not wise. Some of it was good, very sound. 
And land is expensive, and I was all for acquiring as much land 
as possible in Pleasanton Ridge, for example, or along the 
shoreline, or wetlands. 

The park district had a general plan for that, a master 
plan. Many of these acquisitions were outside the master plan. 
The board would go through elaborate public hearings, adopt a 
master plan, and then just completely ignore it. 

Lage: Completely ignore it and pick up little pieces of property? 
Pesonen: Pick up little bits and pieces here and there. 

Lage: You would almost have to go out and develop your own 
constituency, it seems, to challenge them. 

Pesonen: Well, that was the problem. It was a very elitist, small 

constituency that was, in effect, running the political agenda, 
for the board. It offended me; it offended my sense of what the 
park district was all about. You can't have a general manager 
who is offended by the policies of his board. I suppose I could 
have gone out and tried, sub rosa to generate some constituency, 
and that's what Mott was good at. 

Lage: I can't imagine his putting up with that from his board too well. 
But maybe it didn't happen when-- 

Pesonen: No. But times were different, too. You know, Mott's board were 
businessmen who--. You know, like [Paul] Harberts, who ran the 
sporting goods store in Berkeley and people like that that come 
to a board meeting, and they nod their heads. Like corporate 
boards. Corporate boards don't tell management what to do; they 
collect their stipend, and they go back and run their own 
businesses . 


But Harlan didn't have a job; Mary Jefferds didn't have a 
job; Kay Peterson didn't have a job; Lynn Bowers didn't have a 
job that anybody could figure out--he had some kind of a 
business. So you had four board members who essentially spent 
full time messing around with the district. The more tractable 
members of the board, like Jim Duncan and Ted Radke, did have 
full-time jobs, and they couldn't spend the time that Harlan and 
Mary and Kay Peterson, for example, could do. 

Those people were in that building all of the time, sneaking 
up and down the hall, visiting with some top staff person, 
shutting the door, telling them what to do. Then the staff would 
come back and report to me and say, "What do I do? I've got 
directions from you to do one thing, and now they are telling me 
that I should do something else." It would be one board member, 
one out of seven, but it would be a board member who could maybe 
swing a couple more votes at the next board meeting. 

Lage: Very untenable. 

Negotiating the Acquisition of Ferry Point in Martinez 

Lage: What about the Ferry Point acquisition? That's mentioned as one 
of your accomplishments. 

Pesonen: Well, Ferry Point I look upon as one of my triumphs. The park 
district and the city of Martinez jointly operate a park in 
Martinez, which is on the other side of the Southern Pacific 
Railroad tracks from the main town. It's a very nice park with a 
marina and lots of open space, and it's very popular. 

But the Southern Pacific trains stop right at the Martinez 
station, and they block the street that gets to the park. 
There ' s a switching yard down the line a little ways towards 
Crockett, and a lot of switching goes back and forth with cars 
that are serving those refineries around the bay. So it has been 
a constant irritant to Martinez that the railroad was cutting it 
off from its waterfront. 

In 1983 or '84, the two railroads, Southern Pacific and 
Santa Fe Railway were purchased by one company. It became the 
Santa Fe Pacific Railway. The plan in that merger was that the 
two railroads would merge their operations. Well, both lines run 
through Martinez: the Santa Fe line inland along Highway 4, the 
Southern Pacific lines historically right along the bay. The 
plan further called for consolidating all rail traffic on the 


Southern Pacific line and abandoning the Santa Fe line. The 
inference which you expect from that is there would be a lot more 
traffic along the bayrail trafficless access to the bay, and 
more interference with Martinez's use of the park. 

So the park district joined with Martinez in intervening in 
the Interstate Commerce Commission proceedings which were 
required to approve the merger, and that kind of languished. We 
got a lawyer in Washington who didn't do much. So I started 
looking at this case something about it came across my desk and 
I thought, "You know, there's some leverage here to get something 
out of these railways." So I got the park district and Martinez 
to join together and hire a firm in San Francisco to file a 
petition with the ICC asserting that the environmental review of 
this merger was inadequate under federal law. 

That started to work, started to get their attention. And I 
pushed that, I got personally involved in that to some extent. I 
realized that it had to be, to some extent, a political campaign. 
I organized all of the mayors of the cities along the bay from 
Richmond all the way around to Martinez--! didn't have to work on 
Martinez because their city manager was with us, a very effective 
city manager, Jack Garner. We started getting some press 
attention, that there was going to be a Berlin Wall of freight 
cars cutting people off from the bay and slogans like that, and 
getting lots of coverage and then collecting the clippings and 
sending them off to the ICC. And getting the budget to pay these 
lawyers to file a very serious petition that the environmental 
review was inadequate. 

I went back to Washington and met with the environmental 
staff for the ICC. They were very helpful to us because, under 
the Reagan administration, their budget had been cut and they 
felt cast adrift and abandoned and unlistened-to by the 
commission itself. So they were happy to help us because it 
enhanced their own role within the agency. We had a very fine 
lobbyist in Washington named Dave Wyman who helped me with this. 

I think I made at least two trips to Washington, one with 
Peter Langley he' s running for mayor of Martinez now he and I 
went together. 


Pesonen: I took a personal interest in this because I saw that there was a 
chance to get, in effect, mitigation an enormous mitigation for 
access to the bay. 


We finally put together meetings with the top management of 
Santa Fe and Southern Pacific, and we made an agreement that in 
exchange for the park district withdrawing its opposition in the 
ICC, the railroad would grant seven easements for pedestrian 
bridges across the rail line to the bay, would sell Ferry Point 
to the park district at fair market value and would give it an 
option, and would make concessions in their operations in 
Martinez that were very favorable to the city, including 
transferring some property to the city. It was a good deal. 

Lage: You didn't get them to move into the inland tracks? 

Pesonen: Practically, that didn't make sense. There was a tunnel on that 
that wouldn't accommodate the double-decker container trains that 
they planned to use the line for. There were some practical 
reasons why the inland track was the one that should be 
abandoned. We didn't have the leverage to force that anyway; we 
couldn't have persuaded the commission to compel that. 

But we could, possibly, persuade the commission to give us 
some environmental mitigation, and we always had the threat of 
going to federal court and holding the whole thing up, which was 
our real leverage because this was a junk-bond-financed 
transaction where there were enormous interest, carrying charges, 
going on all the time, and if we hold the thing up for a month it 
costs them fifty million bucks in interest. They were willing to 
buy you off early for a lot. It was a very useful device. It 
can be used for bad purposes, and it can be used for good ones. 
We happened to be using it for good ones, in my opinion. 

That deal was conditioned on the ICC approving the merger, 
and to everybody's shock and astonishment, the commission turned 
down the petition to merge, and so we were back to square one. 
The commission further ordered Santa Fe Pacific to sell one of 
the railroads to somebody else. That went on for about a year 
and Santa Fe finally decided to sell the Southern Pacific Railway 
to Denver and Rio Grande, which is about one-tenth the size, and 
SP is now owned by multi-billionaire Phillip Anschults in Denver, 
who owned the Denver and Rio Grande. 

So we went to Anschults and went back to Washington and 
talked to his lawyer and talked with the Santa Fe Pacific people 
in Chicago, and we put together another deal. 

Lage: But you didn't have the leverage of holding ? 

Pesonen: We had the same leverage because the purchasing railroad was 

outside the company we had been dealing with, but Santa Fe still 
needed ICC approval for this sale. So we resurrected our threat, 






and this time the connection was a little more remote. Denver 
and Rio Grande and Southern Pacific had to persuade Atchison, 
Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway to sell us Ferry Point because that 
was owned by the Santa Fe Railway. And Santa Fe wasn't being 
sold, and it wasn't merging, but it was part of the larger 
company that had a financial interest in getting rid of Southern 

So, in the interest of furthering their need to divest 
Southern Pacific at a favorable price, we were able to put 
pressure on Santa Fe to give us a good deal on Ferry Point. 

When I left the park district, I had a fairly sizeable 
severance package, and one of the things I insisted on was that I 
stay on as a consultant to the park district and get paid for it, 
to complete the deal at Ferry Point. I worked on that for the 
last four years. 

Oh, it's still ongoing? 

We closed the deal in December of 1991. The park district now 
owns that Ferry Point land. 

And did you get the other mitigations, the access? 

We got the other mitigations, too, including in the city of 
Martinez and the railroad crossings. They didn't build the 
bridges, but we have the easements. 

So the park district has to build the bridges. 

The park district has to build the bridges if they ever want it. 
So far the economy has been so bad there hasn't been any increase 
in rail traffic on that line. 

But that's a good story, 

Now, was that one that was universally 


That was universally accepted. I went up to the park district 
back in December when the board approved the purchase, and 
everybody was laudatory. I was asked to give a little talk to 
the board; we all went out and had our picture taken together. 
Mary Jefferds is gone by now, Kay Peterson is gone, Lynn Bowers 
is gone, but Harlan was still there. Harlan and I were in the 
same photograph that was published in the Log, the park district 
monthly newsletter. Harlan was very complimentary. 

Well, that's nice, to have some good feeling after a few years. 
Let's stop here. 


[Interview 8: May 28, 1992] II 

Financing Acquisitions with State Grants and Revenue Bonds 


We had a few more topics to cover on the East Bay Regional Parks. 

Pesonen: Yes, there were a number of issues we didn't talk about last 

The issue of budget and finance that comes with all public 
agencies is always foremost. I mean, when I was at the 
Department of Forestry, we were in the budget cycle year-round. 
To some extent, the East Bay Regional Parks District was the same 
way. The park district had an annual budget approved each 
December for the next fiscal year (which was the calendar year) . 
The district was fairly well endowed and it had--it was a 
beneficiary of some property tax legislation that had been passed 
right after Prop. 13, and I confess I don't remember the details 
of it, but I remember that the district was fairly well-off 

Lage: After Prop. 13 they made some kind of corrective legislation that 
allowed them to tax--? 

Pesonen: Yes. But given the appetite of the board for land acquisition 
and the pressures on land in the East Bay, that wasn't enough. 
The district was very successful at acquiring land with grants 
from the Department of Parks and Recreation out of state park 
bond money. Most of the state park bond issues which had passed 
in prior years authorized a portion of those bond proceeds in 
fact mandated that a portion of those bond proceedsbe used for 
regional and local parks. So they were earmarked for that. 

Lage: Was there a lot of competition, then, for that money? 


Pesonen: There was some competition, but the East Bay Regional Parks 

District was the most aggressive, the most well organized, the 
most politically-connected in Sacramento, and it got the lion's 
share of those monies. Probably its biggest competitor was the 
Santa Monica Mountains Trust, because the people who ran that 
organization also had a lot of political influence. It was not a 
regional park district, but it was an open space organization. 

Lage: Was this related at all to Republican/Democrat party politics and 

Pesonen: No, it was regional. It crossed party lines, pretty much. Even 
a very, very dyed-in-the-wool reactionary conservative like Bill 
Baker from Danville, who was far to the right on every issue, was 
helpful to the park district. And then the park district had in 
its area a lot of people who had been in the legislature. There 
was [Assemblyman John] Jack Knox, who had been speaker at one 
point, lived in Point Richmond, very helpful to the park district 
even after he left the legislature. Senator Nejedly, John 
Nejedly, was always willing to help. The district had a 

Lage: Was this done through the legislature or through the parks 

Pesonen: Sometimes it took legislation to get some of this bond money 

transferred over to the park district, sometimes it was earmarked 
from the terms of the state park bond measures. There were 
various ways to do it, and there was a long history of experience 
with that. The district had a full-time development officer 
whose job, in part, was keeping track of all of those bond 

Well, it still wasn't enough. So the result was that much 
of the tension on the board that I confronted was what you'd 
expect in any public agency where the elected officials have to 
fight over a dwindling pie with increasing demands. They were 
constantly jockeying back and forth. It was very hard to plan 
acquisitions in an orderly way. Even though the district was 
well endowed, was well-off financially compared to other park 
agencies, it wasn't well-off compared to its own appetite, the 
appetite of its own board. 

Lynn Bowers, who was probably the most vocal voice on the 
board for the Pleasanton Ridge acquisition, which would be very 
expensive, kept talking about a districtwide bond issue. I was 
skeptical that we could get the two-thirds vote in Contra Costa 
County. It had to be across the board in both counties, and you 
needed 66 2/3 percent, and that was very hard to get. 


Lage: Did you need that in each county or ? 

Pesonen: No, in the districtwithin the district which encompassed 

virtually all of both counties except a couple of eastern parts 
of Contra Costa and one school district out there and a school 
district in southeastern Alameda County, none of which were 
heavily populated. So basically the whole population of both 
counties was in the district. 

So I called a big meeting, I think it was in the spring of 
1987, and brought in some experts: a lawyer, Steve Meyer, from 
the firm Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Robertson, and Falk in 
San Francisco, who was an expert on local government financing. 
It was an all-day session with the board. We made presentations 
on ways in which the district could raise more money. 

The district had never, to my knowledge, since its founding 
in 1936, I think, issued any revenue bonds. There was discussion 
of use of these various devices that local governments frequently 
use: Mello-Roos bonds; certificates of participation, which is a 
way of selling buildings and leasing them back-- 

Lage: Like Oakland has done with the Oakland Museum? 

Pesonen: Yes, Oakland has done a lot of that. It didn't work very well in 
Oakland's case. [laughter] You have to have a revenue-producing 
structure to make it work, and a public building like a city hall 
is a revenue-producing structure in a way, in that the city pays 
its rent. 

I began to favor revenue bonds, and we put together a bond 
issue which, I think, was $16 million, which was a lot of money. 
I mean, you could buy quite a bit of land. And it made up the 
deficit between the appetite of the board for immediate 
acquisition and what was available, at least in the short run. 

Lage: Now, can this be done without an election, these revenue bonds? 

Pesonen: Yes. Revenue bonds can be issued without an election. That's 
why we went that route. 

Lage: Now, the revenue bond, then, is paid off on what basis? 

Pesonen: It's paid off from the district's regular tax revenue, but it 
doesn't increase the tax base of the taxpayers. 


But doesn't it obligate the taxpayers down the line? 


Pesonen: Yes, it obligates them down the line, but it doesn't increase 
their taxes. The district had a sufficient cash flow and a 
sufficiently sound tax base that the underwriters and the bond 
rating companies gave it a really high rating. 

The idea was to buy the land early, when the price was still 
lower, and save the district money in the long run by not having 
to buy more expensive land when development pressures would push 
the price up. It seemed like a modest amount. It was still an 
enormous struggle to get it through the board. There was a lot 
of history in the district of not going into debt for land 
acquisition; a pay-as-you-go history. 

Dick Trudeau had very much favored the pay-as-you-go history 
and he had successfully squirrelled away, I suppose, a reserve 
fund, a very large reserve fund. The district was totally 

Lage: So you had a good financial basis. 

Pesonen: But that fund was being depleted pretty fast by the land 
acquisition needs that the board saw. 

Lage: Did Trudeau keep a ceiling on those land acquisition needs? Was 
he able to keep the board in hand better? Keep their desires in 

Pesonen: I wasn't there then. I'm not a firsthand observer of that. I 

heard later that part of the reason he left (I'm told it was not 
entirely voluntarily although he was retirement age) was that he 
wasn't aggressive enough about land acquisition. But he left the 
district, when I took over, in very sound financial condition 
with a substantial reserve. What Trudeau had seen happen and was 
in fact what was happening while I was there was that reserve, if 
we responded to the board's demands, wasn't going to last very 

The board was getting divided by its geographic ambitions. 
Harlan Kessel would say, "We've got to spend more money in my 
ward," and Ted Radke would say, "Well, we spent enough in your 
ward. We ought to spend some in mine," and that sort of thing 
was going on. There wasn't enough to spend, enough to satisfy 
them in both their wards- -or in all seven wards that made up the 

So we did get the bonds issued, and that was a breather; it 
was only a breather. 

Lage: And what was purchased with those? 


Pesonen: Well, you know I don't remember specifically, but that went into 
a fund and then each year the board would have a land session in 
which there was this huge laundry list of potential purchases, 
and the board would set priorities with some criteria. The staff 
would make recommendations and by and large the board went along 
with them because it was our job to know roughly where the board 
would end up. They tinkered with itwith the priorities--to 
some extent, but by and large it came out the way the staff 
recommended it. 

It was a big event each year, the land session. Since it 
was concerned with purchasing property, under the Brown Act it 
could be a closed session, so the public was not invited to 
those; they were not permitted into those meetings. 

Lage: So the public didn't know the priorities? 

Pesonen: Yes. And there were some good reasons for it. If a developer 
out there knew that the board had put a very high priority on 
purchasing his property, it would give him leverage in 
negotiations over the price. 

That land session was one of the big events with the board 
each year, and the board came to it like jackals coming to the 
kill. This was what they really loved, was buying land, and they 
loved that session. It was a real high for them. It gave 
reality to these acquisitions. 

Lage: Since it was a closed session, it sounds as if the public 

pressure aspect is removed a bit. Or did that come in in some 
other way? 

Pesonen: Public pressure on that board never depended on attendance at 

these board meetings. That was outside the formal proceedings in 
which business was conducted. So those board members came into 
those land sessions knowing what their constituents wanted, and 
what they wanted, and what they wanted to be able to tell their 
constituents they'd gotten. It didn't matter whether it was a 
closed session or not, the pressures were still there. 

That was the first major bond issuance by the district since 
it had been founded, and it was a lot of work getting it 
approved; getting the board persuaded to do it and then 
developing the kind of information that the bond rating agencies 


The Regional Park District and the Oakland Zoo 






Part of the pressure that was on the district was from the 
Oakland Zoo. The Oakland Zoo had fallen into poor condition. In 
fact, it had been decertified--! don't know the exact 
terminology, but the American Zoological Society or whatever 
organization it is that reviews zoos and certifies them as good 
or bad, had threatened to remove the approval of the Oakland Zoo 
because the cages or the animal compounds were in poor condition, 
they were old-fashioned, they were unhealthy. The zoo society 
had hired Joel Parrott when the former chief director had 
retired. Parrott had been the veterinarian there. He was a very 
dynamic person. He loved the animals, and he was very aggressive 
about going out and raising money for the zoo, to rebuild it. 
He's come a long way. He's done a fine job with that zoo. 

Well, Kathy Neal, who was Elihu Harris's wife, was on the 
Oakland Zoo board. I'm not sure that's the exact title of the 
organization, but it's a quasi-public body. 

Now, Mott was connected with that, too, wasn't he? 
resigned by this time? 

Or had he 

He had resigned by this time. The zoo had fallen into poor shape 
under Mott's tenure, but I don't know what the reasons were. He 
may not have had much choice given the finances that he faced. 

So [Assemblyman, now Oakland Mayor] Elihu Harris began to 
look at the bounty enjoyed by the park district as a place to 
subsidize the zoo. That caused consternation on the board. 

Was all of the board opposed to that? 

Pretty much. Mary Jefferds was probably the most strongly 
opposed to it. Harlan Kessel had problems with it because it was 
Oakland, and that's in his ward. He counted on Elihu Harris for 
support, and so he was ambivalent. He was looking for some way 
out, to compromise his way out of that. 

That threat was renewed each year. Finally, I don't 
remember all of the details, but we peeled some money off --not a 
whole lot--for the zoo one year, I think in '86. But the problem 
didn't go away. It was going to come back the next budget year 
and the next budget year. So that was a constant bur under my 
saddle; it was an irritant. I wasn't particularly sympathetic to 
the zoo, either. I didn't think that it was appropriate for the 
park district money to go to that when the demands for open space 
were so great. But I could have been wrong. 


Lage: Was that something you had to take an active role in, working 

Pesonen: I had to mediate between the board. I had to find some 

politically acceptable way to solve that problem that the board 
would accept. That was always my goal in that area. 1 didn't 
see my goal as helping the zoo out any more than necessary. 
While I had great admiration for Joel Parrott and what he was 
doing, my perception of what parks were about didn't include the 
zoo. But my value judgments were not that important. It was the 
politics that were more important, and maybe my value judgments 
weren't thought through very well. 

1 believed in open space. I wanted to get people into open 
space, not into zoos; not to see caged animals in an artificial 
environment. There is certainly a value to that, but it just 
wasn't what I thought parks were about. I'm sure there are many 
views on that that can be well supported by good arguments, but 
that was my bias, anyway. 

Ardenwood Regional Park 

Lage: What was your involvement with Ardenwood Park in Fremont? 

Pesonen: The Ardenwood acquisition and development had happened before I 
came to the park district, and there was an Ardenwood advisory 
committee set up, I think as part of a compromise out of some 
controversy growing out of the establishment of Ardenwood 
[encompassing an historic house and small working historic 
farm]. 1 

Lage: Is that unusual, for the particular park to have an advisory 

Pesonen: That was unusual. I think Ardenwood was the only one that did. 
Ardenwood was resented, to some extent, because it was very 
expensive. It was expensive to operate. It was an attempt to 
recreate an old farm. You needed all of the machinery, and you 
had aesthetics to maintain; there were problems with the 
eucalyptus trees getting too old and the deer population over- 

'For further information on the history of Ardenwood Regional Park, 
see Patterson Family and Ranch: Southern Alameda County In Transition, an 
oral history project of the Regional Oral History Office, 1988. 


populating. It didn't grow vegetables very well; the water was 

It was a lovely place, but-- 
Lage: And it's expensive to maintain those old houses. 

Pesonen: And it took a lot of staff, and that was expensive. So there was 
some resentment of Ardenwood because it was sucking more than its 
share of district funds. 

Lage: Was this resentment from the board or the staff? 

Pesonen: On the board. Harlan didn't particularly like Ardenwood, but he 
didn't dare say so. And I don't think Mary Jefferds liked 
Ardenwood very well either. 

Lage: Well, it wasn't an open space kind of thing either. 

Pesonen: No, it wasn't. And that was the other reason they didn't 

particularly like it. But the political pressure, apparently, 
had been very great. There had been a threat from the Fremont 
area to pull out of the park district altogether. 

Lage: They have Coyote Hills, near Ardenwood. 

Pesonen: They have Coyote Hills. Coyote Hills is a very interesting place 
for wildlife and for the study of wildlife and wetlands, but it 
doesn't get a lot of use. It doesn't have the political support 
that an Ardenwood does. Ardenwoods are like the T.V. world. 
It's a fantastical Victorian house. People hold weddings there. 
It's got a lot of middle class appeal, and it was about to be 
turned into a housing development if the park district didn't buy 
it. So I understand, at any rate. That was before I had gotten 
there, and I hadn't known much about Ardenwood before I became 
general manager. I sure had to learn about it when I was. 

So Ardenwood was not liked by some of the board members, but 
there wasn't anything they could do about it. The circumstances 
of its origin and creation were too scary to try to take on 
Ardenwood. Every once in a while, Harlan would say something 
about, "We ought to get rid of Ardenwood," and then he'd back off 
from it. 

We had a lot of these little brush fires going all of the 
time that never went away. 

Lage: Were you asked to keep the budget down on Ardenwood? 


Pesonen: No. The budget on Ardenwood was set; it's fixed. I mean, it has 
a little annual increase, but it was already expensive when I got 
there. It was an operating budget. 

Lage: I did an oral history project on Ardenwood. Not just on 

Ardenwood, but the whole development down there- -the Patterson 
properties. I have a recollection of something about the manager 
of Ardenwood; some controversy of his being transferred. 

Pesonen: Yes, it was Dave Luten. He has since had a very serious accident 
and sustained some brain damage. He lived up on Mission Peak; he 
had a house up on Mission Peak. His wife and he had two kids. 
He didn't come out of a traditional park background. He was a 
high-energy organizer and a fixer-upper, and he was a person who 
didn't have a lot of patience with going through the normal 
procedures. He would barter with somebody for fenceposts or feed 
for the animals, completely outside the budget; completely 
outside normal procedures. 

Lage: Sounds kind of refreshing. 

Pesonen: It was kind of refreshing. But every once in a while he went a 
little far. He also had the skill of maintaining his political 
connections. He had his own political base, and people liked him 
and they liked his iconoclastic freshness and his can-do way of 
operating the park. 

He thought there was a scandal involving the park down 
there. He became convinced that there was some illegality going 
on. I should remember, but I remember the chronic struggle with 
him over that issue because I couldn't find any evidence of what 
he was talking about . He thought that Lynn Bowers was on the 
take from some developer down there, and he was calling the 
newspapers about it. The evidence didn't seem to materialize. 
The accusations got out there, but then the evidence didn't seem 
to materialize. 

I wouldn't put it past Bowers. I didn't have a lot of 
respect for Bowers' integrity, but I didn't see any evidence that 
Luten had anything but plain old suspicions about it. He later 
was transferred to another job in the park district, finally 

Lage: Was he transferred as a result of this? 

Pesonen: It was an outgrowth of a number of things. He offended some 

people over time, and he had some staff problems. I'm sorry, I 
just don't remember the details. 


Then, sometime after that, he was in a very serious bicycle 
accident. He was hit on his bicycle riding down the hill from 
Mission Peak by a passing car. I don't know what's happened to 
him since. He's still alive, but I think he's just permanently 
very seriously disabled. 

Relations with Park Field Staff and Unions 

Lage: Now, would you get out to the parks on a regular basis? 

Pesonen: I tried to go out to the parks a lot. I made a special point of 
going to field staff meetings. They had a regular meeting once a 
month or once every two months, and I would always go. Trudeau 
had never gone to those meetings, and many of the park district 
staff said they had never met Trudeau; they'd never seen him in 
the park. 

Lage: Field staff meetings were all in the parks? 

Pesonen: In all of the parks. He did not go out into the parks. I loved 
to go out into the parks; I got out as much as I could. There 
were meetings in the park, field staff gatherings of one kind or 

Lage: Did that make a difference, do you think? 

Pesonen: I think it made a difference in field staff morale. There's 
always a dichotomy between the field staff and headquarters 
staff. Headquarters is management. I mean, it's never going to 
go away. No matter how much time you spend in the parks, how 
much time management goes out with a hands-on approach, that 
dichotomy is never going to go away. 

And then the field staff were unionized and their contract 
came up every year or two years, and we always had a struggle, 
and they always had a demonstration outside the board meeting 
when they didn't think they got a good enough offer from 
management . 

There had been a strike under Trudeau 's tenure, a very 
bitter strike, and there were still little echoes of that when I 
got there. 

Lage: Did you have to negotiate that personally, or did you have--? 


Pesonen: Bob Owen did most of the negotiating. We'd lay out what our 

position was going to be, and he did the hands-on negotiation, 
along with our attorney whose name was Joe Wiley. Wiley had a 
firm down in Emeryville, a big management-oriented employment law 

Wiley was good, and Owen was good. 
Lage: Did the board get involved in that heavily? 

Pesonen: The board would only get involved at the end when it came time 
for ratification of the contract and the union was holding out 
for more. There would be a big meeting, a board meeting, and the 
union would pack the board meeting. The board would throw them a 
carrot of some kind, and we would get a contract and get on with 
business. There were no strikes while I was there. But that 
pattern repeated itself, and everybody knew the dance, 

Lage : The union and you? 

Pesonen: Yes, the union song was the same pretty much. It was a regular 

There were two unions. There was the union of the police 
officers and the union of the rest of the field staff. Their 
contracts came up at different times, and they tended to play one 
off against the other sometimes, on various kinds of benefits. 

Lage: You mean they didn't work together? 

Pesonen: No, they didn't openly work together. Each would leverage its- 
position off what the other had obtained the year before. 1 
think they came up in alternate years. And the length of the 
contract was sometimes an issue. There was an effort by the 
board, I think, to have the contract talks renew at the same 
time. The unions didn't like that. I think they saw it as 
diminishing their bargaining leverage. 

Quiet Victories in Chabot and Sunol Parks 

Pesonen: There were a couple of things that I did which were not initiated 
by the board but which were supported by the board, that I take 
as my quiet little victories. One was getting the motorcycles 
out of Chabot park. For years and years I had seen those off- 
road motorcycles just tearing that hillside up, and I was told 


that it was impossible to stop that; that the motorcycle lobby 
would pack the board room and cause a lot of trouble and the 
board would back down. Apparently that had happened in the past. 

So I set out on a strategy to get the motorcycles out of 
there, and it took about a year and a half. 


Pesonen: The motorcycling site was along Redwood Road in Chabot Park, 

overlooking Upper San Leandro Reservoir. The riding had started 
spontaneously twenty-five or thirty years ago, and by the time I 
got in as general manager, there was a lot of activity. Every 
weekend there would be motorcycles all over there. 

Lage: That must have been deafening. 

Pesonen: The roar and buzz and whine of those things-- 

Lage : The neighbors must have objected. 

Pesonen: Well, there weren't any neighbors. It's out in the middle of the 
park, and it's on the top of the ridge looking down over the 
reservoir. So I involved Jerry Gilbert, who was the general 
manager of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. In fact, I 
drafted the letter which he then sent to me formally telling me 
that we ought to get the motorcycles out of there because it was 
causing erosion which was polluting the water supply. 

Lage: Had he noticed that before you drafted-- 

Pesonen: He noticed, but he hadn't really done anything about it. But he 
was perfectly happy to help me. He didn't like the motorcycles 
up there either. So I drafted this very strong letter from the 
water district to the park district saying, "Get the motorcycles 
out of your park because it's hurting our water system," and he 
was glad to put it on his letterhead and send it to me. Then I 
could wave it around at the board and wave it at the motorcycle 

And I did some other things. We got some vague promises 
that there was an alternative site that had already been chewed 
up by quarrying out in eastern Contra Costa County, that might be 
suitable and the park district would--. We had a grantwe had 
some money from some kind of a grant out of one of these park 
bond measures to develop an alternative site. We never did find 
an alternative site. I don't think the money ever got spent, 


Lage: How did you control the motorcyclists? 

Pesonen: Well, we used-- 

Lage: You almost have to get their agreement. 

Pesonen: Well, there is a motorcycle park way out there someplace, but 

this was close in. It was just around the corner from Oakland, 
and it was a lovely site, and it was scenic. 

So we finally got them out of there. Then there was a major 
rehabilitation effort: hydroseeding, laying mesh over the 
hillside, which was terribly scarred and still looks scarred if 
you go up there. As a matter of fact I was up there last 
weekend. It looks a lot better than it did five or six years 
ago, and it's coming back slowly. 

Lage: Did you have to fence it or did you get the motorcyclists to 
agree to this? 

Pesonen: No, it had to be fenced. We got some money from that source of 
funds. I just don't remember the details of that. I never was 
very good at figuring out those things. I left that up to Owen 
and other people. 

Lage: You mean the grant money? 

Pesonen: The grant money that was spent on that project and which financed 
some of the rehabilitation. It's a good job. It's coming back, 
and it's quiet up there. It's like a park now. And it's not 
silting up the reservoir, which is still not open to the public. 

Lage: That's one of the few that's not open to the public? 

Pesonen: That's one of the few. Boy, I'd love to get into that, because 
that's got big rainbow trout in it. 

The other little triumph was the opening up of Sunol Park. 
Lage: That had not been opened up? 

Pesonen: It had been opened once some time ago, and then the San Francisco 
Water Department hated the idea of the public running around on 
its land, and the park district and the San Francisco Water 
Department land intermingled out there. The main road that goes 
up Alameda Creek and goes way back to Ohlone wilderness, cuts 
across San Francisco Water Department land, then into park 
district land, then into water department land, then into private 


ranch, then back into park district land. There is the Grimmer 
ranch back there. 

For many years, since the Hetch Hetchy system was built, San 
Francisco had kept the public out of that land. The only people 
that were let in were the people that had in-holding ranches back 
there who used that road. If you go back there now, there are 
seven or eight locks on the gate. So if you went about a quarter 
of a mile from the bridge out of Sunol Park, you came up against 
a big fence which said "San Francisco Water DepartmentKeep 
Out." It was horrible. Here you were in a big meadow with a 
creek running right down alongside of you and this huge cyclone 
fence telling the public to stay out of what looked like complete 
wilderness, looked like an extension of the park. In order to 
get into that country, you had to veer way up the hillside. 

Lage: And you had to know that there was a way around? 

Pesonen: You had to know that there was a way around, and it essentially 
kept families, children, and a lot of people out of a very 
beautiful part of the country. There is a little place up there 
called "Little Yosemite," which has huge boulders and rocks 
strewn down into the creek bed. 

But the San Francisco Water Department was adamant that if 
you let any people in there, they would go up the little road 
that went to the southwest up out of the Alameda Creek Canyon to 
Calaveras Reservoir, which is a major part of the San Francisco 
Hetch Hetchy distribution system. It's been a kind of a private 
little jewel for staff and guests of the San Francisco Water 
Department for a long time. I've heard rumors of huge rainbow 
trout in that lake, and nobody goes in there without permission. 
It's heavily patrolled. 

So there was a fear on the part of the San Francisco Water 
Department old-time staff that somebody would come up and damage 
or sabotage their filtration systemthey had a chlorine 
treatment plant up there- -that they would blow up the chlorine 
treatment plant and a cloud of green gas would come down the 
hillside and kill all of the people in the park. They had all 
kinds of horror stories that would happen if we let anybody in 

Well, Rudy Nothenberg, who was the financial officer for the 
mayor, or for the city, had been a good friend of Bob Connelly's 
in Sacramento when they both worked in the legislature. So Bob 
and I put it together. We brought Rudy and some of the water 
department staff out there in the park district helicopter and 
put on a nice little picnic thing with lunch out at Ohlone Park 


and showed them this excrescence of a fence on our landscape and 
got a promise that they really would use their influence to try 
to get it solved. 

Lage: Which city was Rudy with? 

Pesonen: San Francisco. You know, out in Sunol there's the water temple, 
and that whole area is-- 

Lage: Yes, it's incongruous when you see all that San Francisco stuff 
out there. 

Pesonen: Well, it was where they brought water down from Hetch Hetchy and 
then shipped it under the bay over to Crystal Springs and that 
reservoir system into the city. 

Lage: And they keep Crystal Springs pretty well sealed off, too. 
Pesonen: Yes. There's a lot of pressure to open that up, too. 

So we promised that we would undertake the expense of a new 
fencing system to discourage people from going up to Calaveras 
Reservoir if we could open this property up. It wasn't until 
late 1987, I think, that we did finally get this. It took two 
years of steady effort, but the fence is down now and you can 
walk all the way back into Sunol and Ohlone Parks . 

Lage: I think Sunol is a great park. 

Pesonen: Oh, it's a wonderful park. You still can't drive back there, 

which is appropriate, but now you can go back there on weekends 
and there's people pushing strollers and bicycles and there's all 
kinds of people back there. That was--. Lynn Bowers, of course, 
took credit for that. We had a celebration out there, and Lynn 
gave a speech. That was fine, but I did that. I was real clear 
that I was going to open that up. 

What it did was to make an enormous amount of open space 
available to people without any more significant expenditure 
except the cost of this expensive fencing. It was a pretty 
elaborate fence: it had to go up the hillside and over the rocks 
and all. The city threw up every roadblock. They didn't like 
the fence; complained it wasn't secure enough. By the city I 
mean the real old guard in the city's Public Utilities Commission 
and the water department. 

Lage: When East Bay MUD has opened up so many of their reservoirs, how 
does San Francisco continue these arguments? 


Pesonen: Well, it embarrasses San Francisco. 

Lage: Right across the bay they have Lafayette Reservoir and San Pablo 
Reservoir open. 

Pesonen: Exactly. It's a different political world. East Bay MUD has an 
elected board; San Francisco Water Department has an appointed 
Public Utilities Commission, appointed by the mayor. It's 
insulated. And the Public Utilities Commission has the MUNI, has 
the water system, two or three other activities. The water 
department was a closed little world, and they were very skilled 
at coming up with all kinds of arguments for why nothing should 
change . 

Lage: Well, that was a good accomplishment. Can you tell me anything 
about Soraerville, the old coal mining area that was part of one 
of the parks? 

Pesonen: That's in Black Diamond Mines Regional Park. 

Lage: Yes, Black Diamond. Didn't the park have some connection with 

Pesonen: Yes, there was an abandoned Welsh mining town out there called 

Somerville right in the park. I didn't have too much to do with 
that. It seemed to be run well, and it had a manager of the mine 
part who was very effective at getting money, and he was very 
skilled at mine history and mine design; he understood all of 
that, mine safety. That part ran itself well. 

For the money, the attempt to reconstruct a little makeshift 
replica of a village there at the park entrance never really got 
very far as long as I was general manager, but that was because 
of money. It was a catch-as-catch-can project, collecting old 
buildings out of Antioch and Pittsburg that had been historic 
buildings that were going to be torn down and get them moved up 
there. It wasn't very well planned but that's just because it 
was the nature of the resources that were available. 

I don't remember any particular issues about Black Diamond 
Mines . 

Lage: Did these parks have any separate financial help from local 

Pesonen: Some of them did. Black Diamond Mines had some local support. 
It was a historic mine, so you could get money from the federal 
government for historic projects that you couldn't get for other 
things. Sometimes you need a little citizens' advisory committee 


to kind of oversee that or meet some qualification in the federal 
application process. 

Reorganizing the Interpretive Program 



I had a note here to ask you about interpretive programs, 
that an area where you made any changes? 





In the reorganization, the interpretive programs were brought 
under the management of the interpretive parks. I think I 
mentioned this in our last interviewthe major part of the 
reorganization that I undertook was to change the reporting 
structure for all of the field parks. Before that it had been on 
a geographic basis. You had southern Alameda; you had Contra 
Costa, shoreline and inland Contra Costa; it was broken up 
geographically . 

I thought it made more sense and would be more efficient and 
lead to better interpretive programs if the parks were classified 
by the nature of the park. Shorelines and lakes, which had water 
issues and water contact questions, fishing, used different kinds 
of equipment and called for different expertise on the part of 
the staff. The open space parks, which had in common grazing 
issues, for example, management of their grazing program. And 
the interpretive parks. I reorganized the system along those 
lines. One of the purposes was to increase the emphasis on 
professionalism in the interpretive programs, which were kind of 
scattered and unconnected. The interpretive staff talked to each 
other and had a manager, but they also had another manager, who 
was their geographic manager. So I tried to consolidate that, 
giving more coherence to their direction and planning. To some 
extent that happened. It didn't happen overnight. 

Were you happy with the interpretive efforts? 

Well, some of it is personal. I thought the interpretive efforts 
were not very aggressively promoted. They tended to involve the 
same people over and over again. 

You mean the same clientele? 

Yes. The same clientele was part of it, and part of it was--I 
can't think of the word I want to say is keetchy. [laughter) 

How do you spell that? 


Pesonen: I don't know how to spell it. 

It was just a little bit too 

Lage: Puppet shows? 

Pesonen: Yes, that kind of thing. I didn't sense a lot of depth in the 
interpretive program. That may be unfair. I don't want to be 
unfair to that staff. Certainly Ron Russo, who took over in 
charge of the interpretive program, was very knowledgeable about 
interpretive programs generally, and he had some staff who were. 

Lage: Was he somebody you got from outside? 

Pesonen: No, he was there already, and he had been high up in the 

interpretive program. He just took on a different title in the 
reorganization, somewhat more administrative responsibility. I 
thought the interpretive program was central to what the parks 
were about. It never seemed to get anywhere. I think part of 
that was the nature of those parks. It's amazing how few people 
in the East Bay still really understand that park system. It's 
not aggressively promoted in the way the one around Minneapolis 
is. It's out back there some place. There's Tilden Park for 
people who live in Berkeley, which is a unique park all to 

Lage: It has everything. 

Pesonen: Yes, it has everything. That was the original park. 

That park system is a huge patchwork of wonderful stuff and 
if there is a coherent idea about it, I never figured out what it 
was. It's a lot of things to a lot of different people. It's a 
place for picnics on weekends for a lot of people in southern 
Alameda. Gar in Park is like that, although there is a lot more 
of Garin Park that I think people don't know about. 

Lage: Is there a historical element there in Garin Park? 

Pesonen: Yes, there's an old ranch. Garin' s interpretive claim to fame is 
its apple orchard. There are a lot of different varieties of 
apples that were planted historically, some of them by the 
original homesteader out there. 

I'm puzzled about that park district. I never got a 
coherent idea of what it was about. It was heavily used parks in 
some places; it was an attempt to fend off development of 
wetlands in other places; it was a trail system in other places; 
it was an open space wilderness system in other places; it was 
historic museums in other ways. It was a lot of different 


things, and getting a coherent definition of it in my own mind 
never worked. I don't know. Maybe it's not possible. Maybe 
it's just the nature of the beast. 

Lack of Support from the Board for Promoting the Parks 




Did the parks newsletter start under your tenure? 
The Log? 
The Log. 

Well, the Log was a colorless little publication, and all of the 
brochures for all of the parks were out of date or smudgy little 
xerox foldover things. There was abysmal promotion of the park 
district. I concluded that that's the way a lot of the board 
members wanted it . I thought there was a certain amount of 
elitism there. They didn't want a lot of people in the park. 

Did you conclude that by things that they said? 

I concluded it by the policies they favored. They didn't want 
money spent on promotion. I had to fight for the money to 
promote the parks. I hired Janet Cobb as the assistant general 
manager for development and public relations, and she was 
dynamite. She came with a graphics design background, and she 
agreed with me that the promotional materials for the park 
district were abysmal. 

They were years behind the times. 

Yes, so she set out to change that. And the board fought the 
budget for that and complained bitterly about it. They never 
said anything nice about it, never complemented her staff on 
their wonderful job of completely changing the publications 
program of the parks. They were much more useful to people. She 
started bringing in groups of disabled children for fishing 
derbies at Temescal; all kinds of things she started to do to get 
people into the parks . Every one of them was met with a sour 
response by the board. I thought there was a certain amount of 
misanthropism on the part of that board. They wanted open space 


for themselves and their friends, to say it most bluntly, 
the way I often felt that board used the parks. 

So they weren't keen on the interpretive programs and the 
promotional efforts? 

That ' s 








No. They couldn't come out and be against them; they are too 
much a part of what parks are supposed to be about. It was just 
easier not to give them any help. 

But also your political support depends, in part, on people 
knowing about the parks and your effort to pass a bond issue and 
all of that. 

I don't think that park district really is very politically 
visible. There's almost never been a contested election for 
board seats. That's starting to happen now. Kay Peterson was 
defeated three years ago or four years ago, maybe. Maybe it was 

That was the first time a sitting board 
has been defeated, I think, in living 

just two years ago. 
member, an incumbent 
memory . 

Was there some issue there? 

Well, that was after I left as general manager. I'm not sure 
what the issue was. I know the union supported her opponent. 
The union hated her. She was a stupid little--. She epitomized 
what I didn't like most about a lot of the supporters of the 
board members. The board members had a very small constituency 
that they listened to. 

Where was she from? 
She was from Lafayette. 

They listened to a handful of people who were white, middle 
class hikers, Sierra Club types who had no other social 
conscience as far as I could tell, who I thought had a good deal. 
They had, in effect, a huge backyard to play in and didn't want 
any other people playing in it. I saw parks as a social device 
for taking some of the tensions out of poor people's lives and 
out of urban stresses. I didn't get the feeling that the board 
had any sympathy for that by-and-large, or any sympathy for that 
idea at all. 

Yours seems to be more in line with Mott's ideas about parks. 

Yes, and that's why Tilden is what it is. You could never build 
a Tilden Park within the East Bay Regional Parks District now. 
The merry-go-round would have been opposed; the pony rides would 
have been opposed; the swimming at Lake Anza would have been 
opposed; the golf course, of course, would have been anathema. 
Maybe it is anathema, but nevertheless a lot of people use the 
golf course. It gets a lot of use, and that's what parks should 


Lage: And who's to make judgments on other people's pleasures? 

Pesonen: I'm not sure I want the rest of the park district to be like 

Tilden, but I think the park district can use a park like Tilden 
and maybe an Ardenwood too, for that matter. But the dominant 
theme on that board was, in my view, to buy as much land for a 
kind of private open space and promote it as little as possible 
and not encourage public use, or if you are going to have any 
public use, concentrate it in a few little places. 

Lage: Did they talk in terms of a "land bank" idea for the future? 

Pesonen: No, every park had to be open, had to be accessible. The board 
certainly didn't oppose that, but they weren't in favor of going 
out and bringing people into the parks and promoting their use. 

That was certainly true of the promotions, and Janet Cobb 
and I had a constant uphill fight. Mary Jefferds would try to 
take money out of Janet's budget; she didn't want any money for 
publications. She would never explain it as I'm speculating what 
her motives were, nor did Harlan explain it as I am speculating, 
but I drew the conclusions. 

Lage: Then how did they explain it? 

Pesonen: Well, you'd have a budget hearing, and they'd chop the budget. 

Lage: Without too much explanation of it? 

Pesonen: Without much explanation, and then we'd have to fight for it. Or 
they'd find some excuse that the money was being misused or 
something which had no evidence to support it. Harlan didn't . 
like Janet, and Janet was a dynamite woman. She has gone out and 
built her own political constituency. They can't get rid of her. 

Lage: She's still there? 

Pesonen: She's still there. [laughs] 

Lage: Now what local constituency would she draw on? How do you build 
one as a member of a staff like that? 

Pesonen: She has taken the leadership in other organizations which have an 
interest in the park district like the California Oaks 
Foundation. She's on the board of the Planning and Conservation 
League. She has really taken off, and she just has a wide circle 
of friends and maintains a wide circle of acquaintances. She's 
on the board of what used to be called Amendment 27, which was a 
proposal for a federal constitutional amendment to protect the 



environment- -it's going to have to change its number now because 
of the one the Congress just certified, the one about pay raises, 
which we didn't even know about when we started the environmental 

Is that the environmental bill of rights? 

Pesonen: I think that's it. We were calling it Amendment 27. 

Anyway, she's very effective and very well respected and 
she's the one who got Proposition AA put together. She put that 
together almost single-handedly. That was a $125 million bond 
issue for the park district. It was after I left. I was opposed 
to it when I was general manager. She kept saying, "Let's go for 
some real big money on a general obligation bond issue and get a 
a two-thirds vote." I said, "You'll never do it," and she proved 
me wrong. In fact, I resisted it when I was general manager. 

Once I was gone, the main barrier as far as Janet was 
concerned was out of the way, and she put it together. She 
rounded up the support. She was opposed by Harlan all the way. 
She set up the citizen's advisory committee to get it done, and 
it went. It got 68 percent of the vote, I think. The park 
district's rich now. It's got a lot of money. It's still 
issuing these bonds under that authorization. It was a complete 
triumph for Janet Cobb, and nobody else can take anywhere near 
the credit that she did. She organized it. She's just an 
enormous high-energy, well-organized person. She has very good 
political sense and absolute stubborn determination, and when 
she's going to do something, she's going to find a way to make it 
happen. She certainly proved me wrong on a big general 
obligation bond election. I have great admiration for her. 

Lage: She should go to work for the school districts. [laughs] 
Pesonen: Well, she may take that on next. 

Working with City Officials and Environmental Organizations 

Lage: Is there something else we should talk about here? We've talked 
a little bit about East Bay MUD, state grants, which speaks to 
the topic of relationships with other public agencies. What 
about relationships with cities in the park district and with 
organizations such as the Sierra Club? 


Pesonen: Well, there was a certain tension between the park district and 
some of the communities. A part of it just reflected Trudeau's 
style, and part of it reflected some history, historic 
developments where there had been some disagreements over policy. 
The city of Richmond and the park district were not on good terms 
when I got there. I set about to try and mend that because I had 
lived in Richmond and been a judge out in that county, and I knew 
a lot of the local public officials. I made an effort to try to 
respond to Richmond's concerns. 

Lage: Did they feel neglected in Richmond? 

Pesonen: They felt neglected. 

Lage: There was Point Pinole. Is that in Richmond? 

Pesonen: That's in Richmond, but the difficulties had to do with Alvarado 
Park, which is up there towards the north end of Wildcat Canyon 
Regional Park. I don't remember what it was that had set off the 
tensions there. Also the trail along the bay conflicted with 
some of Richmond's shoreline development plans. 

Pesonen: I set up a committee involving the city managers of Fremont, 

Newark, and Union City and the Southern Alameda Water District, 
which was involved with Alameda Creek. Alameda Creek was used to 
recharge the ground water system down there, which affects 
Ardenwood. Also we had a plan for the development of a wonderful 
park in the quarries there in Fremont, [which are part of the 
Alameda Water District], and that was slow-going. I think it's 
finally getting off the ground. There was just a need for a lot 
of coordination there, and I spearheaded that. That mended a lot 
of relations. 

Things were somewhat distant between the city of Fremont and 
the park district. A lot of that I just noticed after I got 
there, that people seemed a little chilly when I'd meet them at 
social gatherings and things. I figured there was something that 
happened while Trudeau was there that offended somebody, and I 
was a new face, and I was going to go out and start over. I did 
a lot of that. The park district rubs up against a lot of 
different public agencies. I think I counted them once, sixty- 
seven or seventy different public agencies: fire districts, water 
districts, cities, counties, transportation systems, all of the 
different governments. 


Is that an argument for regional government? 


Pesonen: I think it could be an argument for regional government, yes. I 
think it is an argument for regional government. There's a lot 
of overlapping and lack of coordination. 

My relations with the Sierra Club were pretty good. There 
were some club members who were active in local environmental 
matters that I got crosswise with. One was Alan La Pointe over 
in Richmond. 

Lage: Over what kind of issue? 

Pesonen: It was over the development of the cleanup and fixing of Alvarado 
Park and Wildcat Creek. There was a little bridge that was going 
to be widened by the city right there near Alvarado Park to 
improve local traffic conditions. La Pointe was leading a group 
that was opposed to it; they wanted to keep it kind of rustic and 
small. I didn't think it made that much difference. I said 
something once that La Pointe took as suggesting that his only 
reason was that he wanted to protect his own little property 
values up in the canyon there. 

Lage: He lived up there? 
Pesonen: He lived up there. 

So he was a bitter enemy ever after that and I happen to 
think that I waswhat he concluded, I thought, he concluded 
correctly. [laughter] 

Lage: So you did think that he was concerned with protecting his 
property values? 

Pesonen: Yes. 

Lage: He may not have misinterpreted your remark? 

Pesonen: He didn't misinterpret it. 

Parks for the People or "Nimby" Preserves 

Lage: When you referred to Sierra Club "types" earlier as being some of 
the ones that wanted to try to preserve- - 

Pesonen: I want to correct that. There is no such thing as a Sierra Club 
"type" but there is a suburban middle class nimby, and I met some 
who were probably some of the most active constituents of the 


board members of the park district. It's a very small group of 
people. They do reflect the values of a lot of people, and the 
park district is very popular in the East Bay or it wouldn't have 
passed Measure AA with a more than two-thirds vote. The parks 
are a symbol of serenity and grace, and they are fairly well 
managed. When people do come in contact with the parks, the 
staff is friendly and helpful. 

At bottom, my concern and frustration was that I wanted more 
people to get into the parks and I didn't--. I was the wrong 
person for that job because the people who seemed to have the 
most influence with the board members were people who in my 
estimation didn't want people in the parks. 

Lage : So that would be a kind of a mission which should be stated by 
the board in some way? 

Pesonen: Right. Well, the board had a master planadopted their new 
master plan while I was therebut the master plan was really 
nothing but a set of maps about acquisitions. They had some 
policies, but nobody paid any attention to the policies and 
guidelines. They would look at the maps and the acquisition 
plan. That's what it was really about. 

Lage: Anything else you want to comment on before we leave the subject 
of the East Bay Regional Park District? 

[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: I'll sum up my view of the park district and why I probably was 
always out of phase with the boardnot always, but enough so 
that I didn't enjoy it there and I think we parted company 
knowing that I wasn't the right person for a long-term cordial 
relationship with the board. I had the strong feeling after I 
had been there a while that the most vocal voices on the board 
were influenced by a small group of essentially misanthropic 
people. They were perfectly entitled to be misanthropic, but I 
thought that this was a public agency, that everybody in the East 
Bay paid for those parks, and everybody in the East Bay ought to 
be able to use them. So it was a good-government view on my 
part, as well as a philosophy about parks which was out of phase, 
I felt, with what the emphasis that the dominant board members 
had, and that tension never went away. 

Lage: Some of those board members had been your original supporters 
when you took the job? 

Pesonen: Correct, because they didn't, I think, understand how strongly I 
felt about that. 


Lage: It sounds like they wanted a little wilderness system on park 

1 QTM^ O 

Pesonen: Very much so 



Mediating the Dispute between the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club 
Legal Defense Fund 

Lage: Shall we go on to the work you did to mediate the dispute between 
the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund? 

Pesonen: That's been fairly recent. 

Lage: I know. Is it too recent to talk about? 

Pesonen: I think we can talk about it. 

Starting in 1989, I think, a crisis point was reached in 
which the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund 
found themselves on opposite sides of a political issue. It grew 
out of litigation launched by the legal defense fund to stop 
forest management plans in the Northwest which threatened the 
habitat of the native spotted owl. That was a hot controversy, 
as it still is, and one of the legal defense fund's staff lawyers 
had openly criticized the club while the club was one of its 

Lage: Was the club a client on this litigation? 

Pesonen: Yes, but the club--so I understand--didn' t want to be quite as 
aggressive as some of the other clients, the Oregon Audubon 
Society and some of the others in the Northwest. The real 
purpose of that litigation was to prevent logging of the last of 
the old-growth forests in the Cascades. I think it was Senator 
[Robert] Packwood who got a rider on the appropriations bill that 
took jurisdiction away from the federal courts to hear such 
suits, temporarily at least. The club lobbyist in Washington had 
supported that amendment in exchange for a vote on something that 
the club thought was more important to them in Alaska. The legal 




defense fund's lobbyist took the opposite position on the 
amendment and claimed betrayal by the club. 

A falling out had developed, and the club's board threatened 
to revoke what they maintained was the license to the Sierra Club 
Legal Defense Fund to use the name Sierra Club. Over the years, 
the name Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund had acquired its own 
value in fundraising and identity with the courts and the public; 
it's like a trademark. That threat to revoke the Sierra Club 
name really threatened the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. 

Was it something the club could do? 

Well, it's not clear. It wasn't clear to me. It wasn't clear to 
the club; it probably wasn't clear to the legal defense fund. 
But they were on the threshold of going to court, and I thought 
that would be an enormous disaster for both organizations. It 
would deprive them both of a very high level of public confidence 
that they had enjoyed for a long time. It would be an unseemly 
struggle, it would certainly be public, and it would, I think, 
permanently damage both organizations. But it seemed intractable 
for a while. 

The president of the legal defense fund, Rick Sutherland, 
was a very strong-willed person. The legal defense fund over the 
years had grown into a substantial organization in its own right 
with its own board. 

Lage: It was, essentially, a separate organization? 

Pesonen: It was a separate organization, but its origins were very 

innocent and very casual. It was 1971 when the legal defense 
fund was set up. I read all of the original papers, and there 
was no written license. There was a proposal from Larry Moss, a 
former board member, that there should be a written license, but 
it just never seemed to happen, or if it did happen then it has 
gotten lost. 

Lage: I just recently interviewed Larry Moss. He was on the Sierra 
Club board in the seventies and president for a year. He 
recalled that when the defense fund was founded, he had insisted 
that the Sierra Club retain the right to revoke the use of its 
name. He says there was a resolution passed that the club could 
revoke the name. Was there a board resolution? 

Pesonen: There's a reference in the minutes to the need for a written 

license, but there's no record of its ever having been executed. 
The club president at the time I started looking into the problem 
was Sue Merrow from Connecticut. 


Lage: How did you get called to look into it? 

Pesonen: Well, I kind of made it known that I would like to work on 

resolving that dispute. I made it known to the principals. I 
went around and talked to some people who were involved and got a 
pretty good idea of what it was about and very much wanted to 
help resolve it. I knew they were at each other's throats. It 
was just very bitter. The correspondence back and forth was most 
unpleasant, and it had gotten somewhat personal, and the Sierra 
Club board had its back up. They felt that their hundred-year 
ownership of the name was challenged. They were the preeminent 
environmental organization in the country, and they perceived 
there was confusion developing because the Sierra Club and the 
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund would take different positions in 
professional lobbying, such as the example on the appropriations 
rider affecting the court's jurisdiction. 

But there were deeper institutional reasons I began to 
understand. The legal defense fund depended on the club for part 
of its fundraising. The club was also its principal client. At 
the staff level things ran quite well, but at the top policy- 
making level, there was a senseas I characterized it anyway--on 
the legal defense fund's part that they were not being treated 
with the dignity that they deserved. They had seven or eight 
regional offices around the country, and Rick Sutherland had 
built it up into a huge and very successful environmental 
litigation organization, but they were still a kind of a little 
brother to the club. 

So I set about to see if 1 could mediate that controversy, 
and I got myself appointed by both of them, accepted by both as 
the mediator. They both had counsel, and counsel were hedging 
their bets, getting ready to end up in court over trademark and 
trade name interests. So at the beginning it was--. I was 
working with both of the lawyers and representatives appointed by 
each organization's board to negotiateRick Sutherland 
principally on the legal defense fund's side, and Phil Berry and 
Sue Merrow on the club side. Phil had been on the Sierra Club 
board when the legal defense fund was first set up. 

Lage: And he had been instrumental in establishing it, as I remember. 

Pesonen: He had been instrumental. And on the other side there was Fred 
Fisher who was with the Lillick law office in San Francisco, 
which for many years had been on a small retainer to handle the 
club's litigation. Fred Fisher and Don Harris, who had also been 
with the Lillick firm, put together the papers to create the 
legal defense fund as a 501(c)(3) organization, and it was all 
very congenial and cordial and casual when it first happened. It 


was a small operation with one staff person who transferred over 
from the club staff to the legal defense fund staff. Through the 
three executive director/presidents and particularly through Rick 
Sutherland, the legal defense fund grew into a completely 
separate entity. 

Lage: It had other clients and--? 

Pesonen: It had other clients and had plans to go international, and the 
club felt a little threatened by some of that. They didn't know 
where it was headed. The Sierra Club name would then appear in 
France and Canada and Brazil without the club having anything to 
do with it. The club had its own long-range ambitions for more 
international activity. 

I started meeting with both sides, and it took a long time 
for a level of trust to develop so that we could start to make 
some progress. I really got involved in it in early 1991 and 
worked on it all through the year 1991. In the spring of 1991 
we had a meeting in which it became clear to me that it was going 
to be very difficult to come to a workable agreement that covered 
all aspects of their relationship. I suggested that the legal 
defense fund may wish to consider changing its name so that it 
wouldn't be beholden to the Sierra Club anymore. That got some 
initial favorable response. I went and spoke to the Sierra Club 
board at a retreat they had out at Audubon Canyon Ranch and said 
that this looked like the way this mediation was going to go. I 
suggested that they get Walter Landor and Associates who were 
very good at name changes. They had changed the name of Datsun 
to Nissan successfully. 

Lage: You mean in terms of public relations? 

Pesonen: In terms of public relations, everything that goes with corporate 
or institutional identity in the public. They have a fine 
reputation, they are very successful, and I had worked with them 
on some other things. But they also had represented the club, so 
the legal defense fund was suspicious of that and wouldn't use 

Lage: Was this retreat a defense fund retreat? 

Pesonen: No, it was the Sierra Club board. The reaction of the Sierra 
Club board was rather lukewarm. There was an ambivalence. 

Lage: They like having the connection? 

Pesonen: They liked having the captive law firm. That sounds too cynical. 
There was a symbiotic relationship there. They had a long 



history, and it had worked very well. The idea of severing it, 
even an amicable severance, was an uneasy notion for a lot of 
people. But the club recognized what had happened over the 
intervening twenty years, and I got a letter from Sue Merrow 
saying, "We are not particularly enthusiastic about it, but if 
that's the direction the legal defense fund wants to go, why we 
will, of course, give them our blessing." 

Then the legal defense fund took a look at the problem and 
at that issue, and they were uneasy about it, too. Then we got 
back into trying to negotiate an agreement to cover all of the 
relationships. The more we dug into it, the more issues came up 
that had to be dealt with in any final contract or charter. 
There was no written agreement ever between those two 
organizations. There was a series of-- 

If there had been, it probably would not have been complicated 
enough to handle everything. 

Pesonen: Well, if there had been, maybe this controversy never would have 
arisen. But there were lots of misunderstandings. There had 
been changes of staff on both sides, and much of the history was 
a kind of a common law of handshakes and agreements between the 
executive director of the club and the executive director/ 
president of the legal defense fund. And just working habits. A 
lot of it had to do with money; how the club raised money for the 
legal defense fund, how the legal defense fund raised money from 
many of the same sources as the club raised money from. Money 
had a lot to do with it. 

Lage: The club's development office also raises money for the legal 
defense fund? 

Pesonen: It's called a check-off. When you get your Sierra Club dues 

notice, there is a place to check off and add some money for the 
legal defense fund which cements in the donor's mind the 
cohesiveness and connection of the activity of the two 
organizations. There had been some experimentation with dropping 
the check-off, but the check-off was a substantial source of 
funds for the legal defense fund. 

So there were all kinds of things. Limitations on lobbying, 
what they could say-- 

Lage: The legal defense fund lobbies also? 

Pesonen: The legal defense fund lobbies also, yes. They both have 
lobbies, and they both have regional spokespeople. 


Lage: And legal defense fund actions affect proposed congressional 

Pesonen: Exactly. So the effort to work this out ended up in something 
like a twenty- five or thirty-page agreement which covered 
fundraising; it covered lobbying and public statements; it 
covered public relations generally; it covered use of 
publications; it covered the timing of fund appeals. I've 
forgotten all of the topics I'd have to dig the documents out-- 
but it was very elaborate. 

Late last year or early this year--I guess it was early this 
year [1992]--! again appeared before both boards within several 
weeks to present this agreement which had been hammered out over 
many sessions, where we'd get one step forward, two steps back, 
two steps forward, one step back. We'd get where it would look 
like an agreement, and then they'd go back and think about it, 
and they didn't like it. I finally presented this agreement to 
the legal defense fund board and argued that it should be 
adopted, that it was pretty much at the end of the line. There 
wasn't much else that we could do, and the club had set a 
deadline of the end of February this year for an agreement or 
they'd go to court. The antagonism hadn't completely 

Now, some of the delay and some of the difficulty in getting 
agreement was because of some terrible things that happened 
during the process. Rick Sutherland was killed last July, I 
think, on the Sunday after I had met with him on Friday and 
gotten his agreement to virtually everything that was left at 
loose ends. I had persuaded him that in the long-range interest 
of the legal defense fund he should be a little more flexible in 
some areas. 

One of the reasons I was chosen was that I knew all of those 
people, and they all trusted me, and they trusted me not to take 
sides. They knew that my main concern was to keep them both from 
going to court and doing great damage to what they stood for. I 
am a very good friend of Phil Berry, and I was a very good friend 
of Rick Sutherland, and they were on opposite sides of this. 
Mike Traynor, who succeeded Rick Sutherland, was a good friend 
going way back to Bodega days. So I was personally acquainted 
and, I think, respected by all of them. 

Lage: Did Mike Traynor come out of the legal defense fund organization? 

Pesonen: No, he was a private lawyer, but he was the president of the 
board or had been for a long time. When they had to pick a 
successor for Rick, he had reached a point in his career where he 


wanted to do something different and they selected him as the 
president and he left his law firm. He is still of counsel, 
Cooley, Godward, Castro, Huddleson, and Tatum, I think was the 
name of the firm, a very big, well-established, San Francisco law 

Then, of course, Phil Berry had his terrible accident when 
he was badly burned, and I was practically on scene for that. 
Mary Jane and I had been camping with him that weekend, and he 
was behind us on the road, and we lost sight of him, and then his 
truck caught fire. He was very badly burned and in the hospital 
for a long time. That came during all of this process, so that 
held things up until he got healed. After he got healed then 
Rick got killed. Each time one of these things happened, we were 
close, I thought, to an agreement. Then the person who had to 
make the agreement, that was in charge, was gone. 

Lage: Were Fred Fisher and Don Harris involved? 

Pesonen: No. They stayed out of it. They were on the board of the legal 
defense fund, but they had stayed out of these negotiations. 

Well, to my great surprise, after I met with the legal 
defense fund board in early February or late January of this 
year, I left the meeting feeling that they would swallow their 
pride a little bit and sign this agreement which we had hammered 
out over the previous year. To my astonishment, I learned a few 
days later that they had voted to change their name. [laughs] 

Lage: And is that the way it ended? 
Pesonen: That's the way it is right now. 

Lage: Oh goodness. Last time I talked to you it was probably before 

you learned that because last time we discussed this you said it 
was just on the verge of being signed. 

Pesonen: Well, it was. Then they decided that the constraints- - 
Lage: What kind of constraints? 

Pesonen: Oh, there were lots of limitations on what they could say 

publicly, and the club had to be their primary client, had first 
choice of being their client. It was an entanglement, a lot of 
entanglement. I began to understand that they felt like Gulliver 
tied down by a bunch of Lilliputians in this agreement, and that 
it was time to recognize history and go their own way, and do it 
in an orderly, planned way. They have hired a consultant--! 
don't know his identity; it may be confidential still- -who has 


laid out plans for them for some years to make a gradual change. 
I am informed informally that there is an interim very modest 
agreement for a working arrangement during this transition. 

But once they made that decision, they also decided they 
really didn't need a mediator any longer. But they are not going 
to court, which is what I wanted to have happen, and they are 
working together as the legal defense fund goes its merry way to 
become a different organization- -the same organization with a 
different name. Maybe the John Muir Legal Defense Fund or 
something else. Maybe they don't know what they are going to 
call themselves ultimately, but it worked. And I charged them 
for it; I got paid for it. I charged them $250 an hour and told 
them, "I'm not going to do this for free because then you won't 
take it seriously." They split it between the two organizations. 

I think both organizations are going through terrible budget 
problems because of the recession. Eleemosynary giving has 
fallen off very sharply, and the idea of no longer paying 
somebody to do something that they now are in a position to do 
themselves makes sense. 

So I think it was successful. The resolution was different 
from what I thought would happen, but I had intuitively seen that 
this was the way they were going to go a year ago and proposed 
the name change. They weren't ready at that time. But as the 
reality of thirty-five pages of entangling limitations on their 
freedom began to sink in, they went along with what my intuition 
had been a year before. 

Lage: Did you sense that this was a philosophical difference, the 
defense fund maybe being more bold than the club? 

Pesonen: Well, sure they have different missions, and there have been 

different ways of operating. The legal defense fund is a staff - 
driven organization with a professional staff, mainly lawyers. 
The Sierra Club is a much more political organization with an 
elected board from across the country. They are contested 
elections; they have a far wider agenda; and like any 
organization of 600,000 members with as big an agenda as the 
environment, is more cautious and less focused in its operations. 


Lage: I know that the spotted owl-ancient forests issue has created a 
certain controversy within the club also. I haven't gotten the 
full story on that one. [See oral history interviews with Sierra 
Club leaders Phillip S. Berry, Michael L. Fischer, and Edgar 


Wayburn, in process, for more information on the ancient forests 
issue and the conflict with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.] 

Pesonen: I don't have a full story on how much that's a controversy within 
the club either. But each institution has its own identity, 
which is an outgrowth of its history and accidents of who was 
there to shape it. Emerson said, I think, "An institution is the 
lengthened shadow of one man." He said it before modern times 
when women led organizations as well. There is some truth to 
that. The legal defense fund was the lengthened shadow of Rick 
Sutherland, who had a particular world view. 

Lage: How would you characterize his world view? Was it distinctive? 

Pesonen: Irreverent towards big business and government, gutsy, courageous 
and shrewd, not very compromising, not willing to compromise 
unless he didn't have much choice-- 

Lage: That probably wouldn't work well within the Sierra Club 
organization itself. 

Pesonen: No, they both have their strengths. I think the club wouldn't be 
as strong and effective an organization if it were an Earth 
First! militant, no-compromise--. As a matter of fact, it would 
lose a lot of its members and a lot of its support and a lot of 
its power. There's nothing invidious in that comparison. They 
were just different kinds of institutions, and once the legal 
defense fund was large enough to have a sense of its own self and 
its destiny and institutional integrity, it was inevitable that 
there would be some discordance. I think some of it might have 
had to do with personalities. Rick could be abrasive. 

Lage: Was Rick also a friend of Phil Berry? 

Pesonen: Oh yes. Old friend. Although there were strains developed out 

of this. And Mike Fischer, who was the executive director of the 
club, he and Rick didn't get along together at all, so that may 
have exacerbated it. But it probably would have happened anyway. 
It just made my job a little harder. 

Lage: Was Mike Fischer involved in these negotiations? 
Pesonen: Very much so. 

Lage: How did you feel he worked? Did you have a chance to evaluate 
him as a--? 

Pesonen: I think he's an effective administrator. That's a very difficult 
job. I think working for the park district board was a piece of 


cake probably compared to working for the Sierra Club board, 
[laughs] There's nothing like working for volunteers because 
volunteers' only reward is their psychic reward, their ego 
reward. That's sometimes a lot harder to satisfy than a good 

straightforward financial reward, 
difficult to read. 

They are also more erratic and 

Lage: What was Sue Merrow's role? I'm going to be interviewing her for 
the Sierra Club series. 1 

Pesonen: She's now the mayor, or first selectwoman of a little town in 

She very much wanted the dispute to be resolved, and she 
worked very hard to see that that happened. She had hoped it 
would happen while she was president. Phil had hoped it would 
happen while he was president, the following year. It's a 
measure of how intractable the problem was that it didn't happen 
during either of their presidencies, although neither did they 
end up in court suing each other during either of their 
presidencies. And I don't think they are going to end up in 
court now. 

The State Farm Sex-Discrimination-in-Hiring Case; Managing the 
Remedy Phase 

Lage: Let's turn to your role in the State Farm case now, if we haven't 
carried on too long for your attention and patience? 

[tape interruption] 

Pesonen: I think as I mentioned at the last interview, in the fall of 1987 
I was pretty sure that I didn't want to stay at the park 
district, and I got a call from Guy Saperstein--his firm then was 
named Farnsworth, Saperstein, and Seligman- -asking me if I would 
be interested in leaving the park district to manage the 
Kraszewsk v. State Farm case, about which I knew very little. I 
read a little bit in the papers over the years, and I was 
acquainted with Guy Saperstein and had followed his career. He 
suggested some things I could go and read to find out more about 
it, including the decision in 1985 by District Judge Thelton 
Henderson finding State Farm liable for sex discrimination in 

'Susan D. Merrow, "Sierra Club President and Council Chair: 
Volunteer Leadership, 1980s- 1990s, " 1994. 



recruitment and hiring of its sales force. It's a very long 
decision, and I read the decision, and it was fascinating. It 
was a very thoroughly tried case and a very thoroughly decided 

So I told Guy I would be interested. 
Lage: The decision was made and you were going to manage--? 

Pesonen: The remedy phase. In the fall of 1987, Guy was quite sure that 
by early 1988 the court would approve a consent decree defining 
the system and the procedures and the standards for selecting 
class members who would be compensated. The original trial had 
been brought by only three women, but on behalf of thousands who 
had suffered discrimination in seeking the State Farm agent 
positions with the company. So I told him I would be interested. 
I didn't tell the park district board that. I did tell Jim 
Duncan, who was president of the board, that I was looking into 
this possibility, but that I didn't know if anything would come 
of it. 

So over several months Guy and I started negotiating an 
employment agreement for me to be managing attorney of the claims 
procedure. Then at one point when I was fairly confident that 
Guy and I would be able to work something out--and the prospect 
looked fascinating; it was a fascinating management problem--! 
told the board that I was considering leaving, and I wanted to 
negotiate a severance package. I negotiated both agreements 
simultaneously with a target date of March 15 [1988] to leave the 
park district, which was the day that Judge Henderson approved 
the consent decree. That slipped a little bit, and I think it 
was April 1 when I left the park district and I started with Guy. 

When I started, we were at 505 14th Street, and I didn't 
even have an office. The firm had leased a floor in the 
building, or most of the floor in the building, which hadn't been 
built out. So it was being built out when I got there. My 
office was a table in the library on the eleventh floor, and the 
whole Kraszewski case was going to be managed on the eighth 
floor. The computers all had to be hooked up, and the phones, 
and the staff had to be hired. The first thing to do was to go 
out and hire a bunch of people, paralegals and lawyers. 

Lage: Did this make the firm a lot bigger? 

Pesonen: It immediately doubled the size of the firm. It ultimately 

tripled and quadrupled the size of the firm. Ultimately, there 
were at least thirty lawyers working on this project alone, and 
then, of course, there was a lot more support staff and a lot 


more paralegals. But when I started out I had the consent 
decree, I had space that was being filled up, 103 bankers' boxes 
of documents pertaining to male State Farm agents, not organized 
or anything, and the prospect that a year and a half or two years 
later we would start litigated hearings for each one of the 
approximately 1,000 women that we selected as final claimants and 

The whole thing was laid out in the consent decree, and it 
wouldn't be fruitful for me to simply describe each detail. But 
it was a very comprehensive private legal systemthe judges were 
called special masters appointed by name. The elements of proof 
that each woman had to establish for her entitlement, the formula 
for what damages she would recover in back pay and front pay-- 

Lage: That was all set out? 

Pesonen: It was all set out. The first thing that happened was that 
notices were sent out to 70,000 women that they had an 
opportunity to be considered in this process. Out of that, about 
6,500 responded in a timely way and filed a little form. 

Lage: Who were the 70,000 women? 

Pesonen: They were all women who had any kind of employment contact with 
State Farm since 1974. 

Lage: You got records of people who had come in for interviews? 
Pesonen: Yes, State Farm had to mail this notice out. 

Then, out of that 6,500 we would select up to 1,193, I 
think, which was the number of male agents appointed during the 
period covered by this case going back to 1974. The theory of 
the consent decree was that we would challenge each male 
appointed with a woman, on the theory that a woman should have 
been appointed. We knew that we wouldn't prevail on all of 
those, but that was the maximum number, because the pleading, the 
document which finally established the final claimants' right to 
go to a hearing, was a claim form which named a male agent, the 
date of his appointment, who he was. We had his file, and we 
would then go to a hearing and establish that the woman was 
qualified and would have been appointed in the absence of State 
Farm's discriminatory policies. 

Lage: Did you have to pick a woman who applied about that time? 

Pesonen: Yes, it had to be a woman who applied within that time period or 
had been deterred from applying in that general time period. 


That time period was very specifically laid out in the consent 
decree also. 

Well, I developed a plan, hired the staff, did the training, 
set up some systems for numerically ranking the strengths of each 
one of these people. There were some tests that they had to 
take. We had to organize all of that all over the country. 

Lage: You ran a kind of an employment bureau. 

Pesonen: It had some qualities of that. These tests were given in high 
school auditoriums so we could monitor them. State Farm 
administered the tests and the state Department of Insurance 
administered some of them, and we would be there to answer 
questions from the women and had the staff all over the country 
going to these meetings. There would be a whole auditorium full 
of 100 to 200 women taking this exam to get into this process. 

We boiled that down to about 1,400 from the 6,500 who had 
responded to the mailing. Then we interviewed every one of them 
in a lengthy, structured interview, made a report, developed a 
numerical ranking system, established their time periods, then 
filed final claims for them and started into the trial process. 

Lage: Now, was there a precedent for this way of handling a case? 

Pesonen: Not on this scale. It had never been done before, and I suspect 
it will never be done again. [laughter] Because it got very 
expensive, and it was very stressful. It was just as stressful 
for State Farm as it was for us; maybe more. It was certainly 
more expensive for them. We had heard that it was costing them 
about $30 million a year just to defend against what we had set 

Lage: They already lost on the consent decree? 

Pesonen: They had lost on liability; it was established that they had 
discriminated against women as a matter of law. 

Lage: But then they were fighting the amounts? 

Pesonen: We had to find out which women. Each one of these women who went 
to hearing to prove the specific elements had to show that she 
was an actual victim of the discrimination, not just somebody who 
walked in off the street and filed a piece of paper. Those were 
very intensely litigated hearings. State Farm's attorneys, 
Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, threw everything at it. It 
was a scorched earth defense as Guy Saperstein describes it. 


Lage: Did you argue those cases or did you manage everybody else? 

Pesonen: I argued some. They were tried, we called witnesses, had 

depositions, put in exhibits, wrote briefs and got decisions. 1 
ended up trying nine out of about seventy that went to hearing. 
I won five, I lost two, and two are still awaiting decision; I 
don't know how they are going to come out. 

Lage: And how about the other sixty-one? 

Pesonen: We were winning about 45 percent of those that were tried; they 

were settling half, and of the half that went to hearing, we were 
winning about a little less than half of those. If we won at 
each one, it was roughly $700,000 to the claimant and another 
couple of hundred thousand dollars of attorney's fees on top of 
that for all of the work we put in. Over time, it became 
apparent to State Farm that this process would go on until maybe 
1998 and the value of each claim was increasing with time because 
of an accumulated back-pay formula with interest so that the 
claims that would go to hearing in the late 1990s would be worth 
over a million dollars a piece, and we had 800 of those left, 
roughly. So an overture to try to settle all of this was made 
last fall. 

Lage: By State Farm? 

Pesonen: By State Farm. And in about September of '91 through January of 
this year [1992] we negotiated a very comprehensive settlement 
program which gave each woman less than she would get if we went 
to trial and won, but with the certainty that she'd get it. The 
condition was that 87.5 percent of about 821 cases remaining had 
to accept it or it was voidable. It ended up that 89 percent 
accepted the offer. 

Lage: So they preferred the certainty? 

Pesonen: Well, it was a healthy chunk of cash. No woman got less than 
$135,000, and most of them got up in the range of between 
$150,000 and $200,000. Some over $200,000, depending on the year 
of the challenged appointment. So the total was $157 million and 
814 out of 821 accepted that. The other seven felt that they had 
such good cases they would go for the full value, and State Farm 
immediately settled two of those for full value, which was a lot 
of money. The others are settled, all but one, which is going to 
go to trial in July of this year. Then there are ten or twelve 
that were tried before the settlement that are awaiting decision 
from the special masters. So it is just about wrapped up. It 
will be wrapped up by this fall. Now the total amount recovered 
for the women is going to be over $200 million. 


Lage: How about the total amount recovered for the law firm? 
Pesonen: Well, that I'm not at liberty to say, but it's a lot. 

Lage: There is always the popular perception that the lawyers are the 
ones who win in these cases. Do you think that's justified? 

Pesonen: The lawyers did very well. The lawyers are not complaining. But 
when you consider that Guy Saperstein started this case sixteen 
years ago and had to take the risk of all of the overhead, hiring 
all of the people and building a new office, taking on the 
enormous liability of possible malpractice if anything were 
mishandled in this claim procedure, he's not been overcompensated 

in my opinion, 

He's a wealthy man after this case, and he should 

Lage: Does he have to adjudicate his own compensation? 

Pesonen: No, that's part of the deal. But I don't know any lawyer who 

would take that kind of risk for that long. There were periods 
when he had three mortgages on his house to finance this case, to 
keep it going, and long periods of time when he was deeply in 
debt and didn't get paid at all. And I'm sure he went through a 
lot. It's the American way. I mean, it's a gamble. 

Lage: Was the law firm always in the field of sex discrimination? 

Pesonen: Civil rights, which includes sex discrimination; it includes race 
discrimination, and the firm now does nothing but a lot of class 
actions against large employers. Several cases going against 
large grocery chains for sex discrimination in the promotion and 
hire of their clerical or management staff. We have one huge 
case going in the South against a restaurant chain for race 
discrimination. We are starting to move morewe are hoping at 
least- -to move into large environmental cases. 

Lage: And these will also be large class actions? 

Pesonen: Well, not necessarily class actions, but large cases involving 
lots of money and lots of--. Well, they won't be just your 
little not-in-my-back-yard garbage dump cases. We don't know 
exactly what they are going to be yet, but they could be large 
toxics cases, toxic contamination, air pollution, water 

Lage: Is that what you are going to go into? 

Pesonen: That's what I'm supposed to go into. I'm just starting to work 
on it . 










What will that involve? 

Well, it's never been done before on this scale 
large class actions settle with a formula. The 
a chunk of cash, which could be a lot of money, 
in and file a form and get a little piece of it 
get ten cents on the dollar. In the State Farm 
were close to being fully compensated, but they 
this ordeal to reach that level of compensation 
the largest amount of money ever recovered. 

Most of these 
defendant puts up 
Then people come 

They usually 
case these women 
had to go through 

It is certainly 

Was this Guy Saperstein's idea that it would be done on such an 
individual basis? 

Yes. Well- 
He put it across to the judge? 

There's a U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The case involved a 
teacher's union versus the United States in 1977, I think, which 
reasoned that when the injury is as personal as sex 
discrimination and as individual to the victim, that an 
individually tailored remedy for each member of the class was 
preferred to a formula distribution. A formula distribution is 
favored in cases where the amount of recovery is small and the 
injury is fairly economic, such as antitrust violations, for 
example, where you are overcharged $1.50 for a pair of Levi's or 
your bank overcharges you $1.50 for each bounced check, that sort 
of thing. 

It doesn't make sense to go through this kind of process for 
that kind of case, but where you are deprived of a career path 
that could be very lucrativeyou know these State Farm agents 
make a lot of moneyand shunted off into a clerical position or 
some other career path, it is really a distortion of what your 
life would be but for this illegal conduct. We are talking about 
something a lot more personal and a lot more freighted with 

emotional and identity issues, and a lot of money, 
only place you make your money, is your work. 

That's the 

And, on the other hand, each woman had to show that she was a 
potential hiree? 

That's right, and that she had the qualifications and the 

It sounds very interesting. Did you enjoy working on it? 
must have been a great management problem. 




Pesonen: It was, but I loved it. I love big management problems. I love 
new challenges. This was an unprecedented challenge. 

Lage: How did it compare with managing the Department of Forestry 
the regional parks in terms of just the management? 

Pesonen: Well, those were public agencies. They are subject to a lot of 
rules and constraints. The Department of Forestry, managing it 
is 80 percent people and motivating, training, selecting, and 
guiding. The rest of it is inspiration and leadership. The 
mission here was very clear, simple, and straightforward. The 
mission of a public agency often is very diffuse. They have many 

Lage: And many more complications? 

Pesonen: --and many more complications, but in the personnel area there 
are many more constraints, too. You can't just go out and hire 
people who you think would do a good job, you have to go through 
the civil service system, deal with unions; in the state you are 
completely stuck with the civil service system except in very 
rare instances. Here we could just put ads in the legal 
newspapers that said we want lawyers with certain minimum 
qualifications, and then we interviewed hundreds to select the 
correct staff. So at least the recruitment and hire part is far 
different from public agencies. The personnel management, a lot 
of it is the same. It is just common sense. You treat people 
fairly, compensate them fairly, give them some sense of self- 
worth about what they are doing, some clarity about what is 
expected of them, and they do a good job. They really did a good 
job on this case. 

Lage: That's a good place to end. Shall we cut off now or do you have 
anything else you want to say? 

Pesonen: No, I don't think so. I'll probably think of something when I 
look at the transcript. 

Lage: You can add it then. 

Transcriber: Kian Sandjideh 
Final Typist: Shannon Page 


TAPE GUIDE- -David E. Pesonen 

Interview 1: December 17, 

Tape 1, Side A 

Tape 1, Side B 

Tape 2, Side A 

Tape 2, Side B 


Interview 2: 
Tape 3, 
Tape 3, 
Tape 4, 
Tape 4, 
Tape 5, 
Tape 5, Side B not recorded 

January 23, 1992 

Side A 

Side B 

Side A 

Side B 

Side A 

Interview 3: 
Tape 6, 
Tape 6, 
Tape 7, 

February 12, 1992 
Side A 
Side B 
Side A 

Tape 7, Side B not recorded 

Interview 4: February 27, 1992 

Tape 8, Side A 

Tape 8, Side B 

Tape 9, Side A 

Tape 9, Side B 

Interview 5: March 12, 1992 
Tape 10, Side A 
Tape 10, Side B 
Tape 11, Side A 
Tape 11, Side B 

Interview 6: April 2, 1992 

Tape 12, Side A 

Tape 12, Side B 

Tape 13, Side A 

Tape 13, Side B 

Tape 14, Side A 

Tape 14, Side B not recorded 










Interview 7: May 14, 1992 

Tape 15, Side A 236 

Tape 15, Side B 247 

Tape 16, Side A 258 

Tape 16, Side B 270 

Tape 17, Side A 281 
Tape 17, Side B not recorded 

Interview 8: May 28, 1992 

Tape 18, Side A 284 

Tape 18, Side B 295 

Tape 19, Side A 306 

Tape 19, Side B 317 


APPENDICES--David E. Pesonen 

A. Karl Kortum letter on Bodega, San Francisco Chronicle, 

3/14/62 330 

B. "The Battle of Bodega Bay," by David Pesonen, Sierra Club 

Bulletin. June 1962. 331 


Appendix A. Karl Kortum letter on 
Bodega, San Francisco Chronicle. 3/14/62 


Atom vs. Nature at Bodega 

Editor Harold Gilliam's article 
"Atom vs. Nature at Bodega" (This 
World, February 1 1), described 
how one of the few harbors on our 
almost harborless Northern Cali 
fornia coast is going to be hacked 
and filled and finally disfigured by 
an atomic power plant. How a 
great, brooding California head 
land, sea-girt and of ancient gran 
ite, will be given a profile like 
neighbor Richmond and its gas 
tank How a large State park at 
Bodega has been killed, and a 
county park will be made to en 
gorge steel towers and the familiar 
droop of transmission wires. 

Nearly a quarter century ago, I 
fished for some days running out 
side the Tomales Bay bar. Bodega 
Head lay to the north, enveloped in 
moods and mists like a cape thrust 
into the Irish Sea. I never closed 
with this headland and indeed re 
moteness seems much of its char 
acter. Even today no highway has 
ever been scratched in angular sur 
vey down its soft contour. And a 
bay filled with fishing boats inter 
venes between it and the nearest 
gathering point of the automobile. 

Conservationists from the State 
Park Commission and the National 
Park Service came in the last dec 
ade to walk among the lupine and 
decide that this should be a public 

But about the same time came 
men of a different type. They too 
walked out on the point and gave 
it the triumphant glance of dem 

I am reconstructing. These men 
are engineers from a public utility, 
and as a member of the public it is 
my privilege and duty to speculate. 
The scene shifts to the home 

"Our engineering boys think we 
ought to grab Bodega Head ." 

"They do' (low whistle) That 
might be a little rough." 

"Why? Why more than Moss 
Landing or Humboldt Bay?" 

"Well, it's more scenic. There 
will be more protest. The State 
park people and the national park 
people are already on record for 
public acquisition." 

"Our engineers sav we need it. 

We'll just buy, fast. Get in ahead 
of them. It's legal." 

"Well . . ." 

"What we can't buy we'll con 

"What about public protest. This 
one could ge^ a little noisy." 

"Keep it at the county level. Or 
try to Every service club in every 
town has got our people in it rub 
bing shoulders In the country, 
opinion is made at the weekly 
luncheon . . ." 

"How about the newspapers'" 

"It's the local businessmen who 
buy the space. Oh, I don't say we 
haven't got some work to do. But 
these guys have got other things on 
their minds they're scratching 
out a living." 

"Have you got an angle? I mean 
apart from the < fact that we want 

"Oh, sure We'll get out some 
releases and speeches on how the 
county tax base will be improved. 
We might even try calling it a 
tourist attraction ." 

"And the county officials'" 

"They're o.k. We'll set the tone 
up there and they'll respond to 
it Just as elected representatives 
should Oh, you might get some 
idealist . . ." 

What is the matter' Why do 
these things come to pass' 

The answer is simple Our engi 
neer demigods are obsolete. 

The idea of shaking their ped 
estals to see if they will topple over 
has only lately come upon us. (A 
covey bit the dust lately when 
the Tiburr n Bridge 'was canceled > 

The engineers of this public util 
ity may find that their callousness 
has crested at Bodega Head. Just as 
the Toll Bridge Authority engineers 
crested with the bridge that sags 
frugally from Richmond to San 
Rafael Or the highway engineers 
with the two-deck freeway that 
spoils the Embarcadero. 

An atomic plant doesn't have to 
be built at Bodega Head. Without 
any expertise whatsoever, I can 
make that statement categorically. 
It is just a matter of whose engi 
neers you listen to. 

Engineers have amazlne re 

sources. They have been able to 
prove that it is mechanically impos 
sible for a bee to fly ... 

"You can't lick the biggest 'city 
hall' of them all . . ." wrote Ed 
Mannion in his column in the Peta- 
luma Argus - Courier on February 
17, pointing out that two friends, 
one a member of the county grand 
jury and the other a prominent 
newspaper reporter, had urged him 
to give up the fight. 

Well, Ed, you can lick them If 
everyone reading this would take 
five minutes to write a letter they 
would be licked. But a licking is not 
what to ask for; regulation is suf 
ficient regulation in the full 
Breadth of U* pijWk. *eiesi. We 
have a Public Utilities Commission 
charged with doing just that. 


San Francisco. 

FEPC Progress 

Editor To correct the impres 
sion readers may get from your 
report of results obtained by the 
California Fair Employment Prac 
tice Commission ("Progress Re 
port by State FEPC", March 8) 
may I explain that the agency has 
reached a determination in more 
than 1000 cases as to whether the 
evidence indicates discrimination 
m employment on account of race, 
religious creed or ancestry 

In 36.6 per cent of those cases 
such evidence was established 
and corrective action taken. In the 
remaining cases, there was insuf 
ficient or no evidence and the 
cases were dismissed 

Information Officer, FEPC. 
San Francisco. 

'Living Future' 

Editor The resumption of ot- 
mospheric tests is merely a symp 
tom of our failure to reduce world 
tensions. It is unrealistic to blome 
eoch new step in the orms race on 
the malevolence of the Russian 
leaders . . . 

Negotioting means give and 
take, ond this process might force 
us to give on some positions, but 
the result could be o better world 
because we could reasonably ex 
pect o living future. 




The Battle of Bodega Bay 

Appendix B. from 

Sierra Club Bulletin. June, 1962. 

By David E. Pesonen 

BODEGA'S headland is a bold arm of gran 
ite curving into the Pacific Ocean about 
fifty miles north of San Francisco. It curls 
nround Bodega Harbor and protects the 
fishing village of Bodega Bay and the Meet 
in the harbor from the heavy wind and surf 
that beat against California's northern coast. 
Since the main north-south highways run far 
inland at this point, the Bodega area was, 
until recently, relatively little known among 
scenic attractions of the Pacific shoreline. 
But never again will it be a sleepy, remote, 
wildly beautiful place off in a far corner. 

On March 7, the state Public Utilities 
Commission opened hearings on an applica 
tion by the Pacific Gas and Electric Com 
pany for a "certificate of public convenience 
and necessity" to construct a $64 million 
nuclear fueled electric generator at Bodega 

The hearings took eight days, spread over 
a four-month period, during which the util 
ity argued that Bodega Head is an attractive 
site for a nuclear reactor for a number of 
reasons some ostensibly technical, but at 
the root mostly economic. The headland's 
close proximity to the growing San Fran 
cisco Bay Area would assure low power 
transmission costs. Harbor facilities for 
transporting fission products are ideal. And 
since present reactors gulp great volumes of 
cooling water, Bodega Head, the Company 
asserted, is about the only site in the region 
where cheap intake and outlet structures are 
feasible. If built, the Bodega Bay plant 
would be a "breakthrough" for private cap 
ital. It would, according to Mr. N. R. Suth 
erland, the Company's president, "produce 
electricity ... as economically and as reli 
ably as available conventional fuels." 

Opposition to the plant was vigorous, 
widespread, and at times acrimonious. Bo 
dega Head is a seismic stepchild of the San 
Andreas Fault. It is a block of granite sep 
arated from the mainland by this greatest of 
the Earth's rifts, and it appears to have ar 
rived where it is through movement along 
this fault. Understandably, residents of the 
town of Bodega Bay are uncomfortable at 
the thought of a nuclear reactor virtually in 
their front yard, on the skirts of the same 
fault which heaved in the 1906 San Fran 
cisco earthquake. Further, the excavated 
granite would be used as fill for a heavy 
duty road to the plant along the Harbor's 
tideland, obliterating the rich clamming- 
grounds and endangering the fishing fleet 
during heavy weather. Powerlines from the 
plant are mapped to stream across the har 
bor mouth, down the length of the county's 
Doran Park, a sandspit which defines the 
southern border of the harbor. 

The University of California, which is 


now in litigation to condemn a strip of 
property next to the P.G.&E. holdings for a 
marine research station, took a neutral stand 
at the hearings. Despite a parade of marine 
biologists who testified that the temperature 
and radiological effects of the plant would 
certainly affect local marine life (to an un 
known degree), the Chancellor's representa 
tive at the hearings told the Commission 
that the University "neither supports nor op 
poses" the power installation. He added that 
the plant would not "render the [marine] 
site unusable." But he declined to state 
whether the marine station would be a bet 
ter research facility without the reactor next 

Although the State Division of Beaches 
and Parks had plannned in 1955 to acquire 
all of Bodega Head for addition to the state 
park system, all interest was withdrawn in 
1958 for lack of county enthusiasm and be 
cause the area had been "spoken for." The 
Division's representative at the P.U.C. hear 
ings took a position similar to the Univer 
sity's. Although he testified that the State's 
interest was lukewarm because enough of 
the Bodega-type shoreline was already in 
state ownership, under cross-examination he 
could cite no comparable area. 

The Sierra Club's opposition to the plant 
was based on two principles: (1) The alter 
native uses of Bodega Head are of higher 
value than the proposed plant and would by 
their nature preclude its construction, and 
(2) The cost of power is an inadequate meas 
ure for determining "public convenience 
and necessity" at Bodega Head. The Com 
pany already runs three plants along the 
coast; the Bodega plant would be the fourth. 
"The future demands for energy- are going 
to be too great for the public to wish a series 
of precedents that would result in the sys 
tematic picking off of irreplaceable scenic 
and recreational sites for power genera 

tion," the club's statement said. "One kilo 
watt hour looks just like every other kilo 
watt hour, and this energy should come from 
the transformation of common resources, not 
from the transformation of unique sites." 

The statement of the Sierra Club argued 
that "it is not really a 'breakthrough' at Bo 
dega Head if no other site is competitive. 
This would merely demonstrate the penin 
sula's uniqueness. It is of questionable eco 
nomic value, in the advancing technology of 
nuclear electric generation, to demonstrate 
that only with the most fortuitous proximity 
of bay, ocean, and peninsula can the nuclear 
process be competitive. A comparable situa 
tion would be to have the utility allege that 
only by using Yosemite Falls could it build 
a competitive hydroelectric plant, and then 
claim a 'breakthrough' by building a plant 
that would require using up this unique re 
source. Engineers can surely do better than 
this. They must." 

Unless startling new evidence is uncov 
ered, no further hearings will be held by the 
Public Utilities Commission. The final de 
cision is not expected until late in the sum 
mer, after the Company provides some addi 
tional seismic data requested by the Com 
mission's staff, and after the Commission 
members convene formally to assess the 
eight-volume record of testimony at the 
hearings. A great many complex technical 
questions remain to be answered before a 
final decision is rendered. 

The club's statement concluded: "The 
public is entitled to know how much more 
an individual's monthly electric bill will be 
increased or decreased by using alterna 
tives. ... If there were [no alternatives], 
the public might very well be willing to buy 
a little less electricity each month in prefer 
ence to destroying a scenic resource that is 
the last of its kind on a coast that belongs 
to the world." 

Bodega Bay 
looking north. 
John Lf Baron 


INDEX--David Pesonen 


A Visit to Atomic Park. 37, 38, 

49-53, 55-56, 59, 69, 87, 99, 

affirmative action, 206-209, 222, 


Agretelis, Demetrios, 253 
Alper, Roy, 184 
Alquist, Alfred, 206, 225 
Alvarado Park, Richmond, 

California, 306-307 
American Civil Liberties Union 

(ACLU), 57, 236 
American Friends Service 

Committee, 57, 85 
Anderson, Glenn, 74 
Anschults, Phillip, 282 
Ardenwood Regional Park, 290-293, 

304, 306 

Arnason, Richard, 247-248, 255 
Arnold, Byron, 136-137 
Association of Bay Area 

Governments (ABAC), 270 
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 
Railway, 283. See also Santa 
Fe Pacific Railway 
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, 79 
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) , 

47-48, 50, 54, 56, 58, 60-61, 

66, 71-75, 89, 97-99, 123-126, 

142, 172 
atomic power. See nuclear power. 

Baker, Richard, 185-186 

Baker, William, 285 

Barsotti, Mario, 109-110 

Barzaghi, Jacques, 185, 187 

Behr, Peter, 72 

Belli, Melvin, 92-93 

Bennett, William, 61-62, 89, 160- 


Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, 263 
Bernstein, Malcolm, 108-110 
Berry, Phillip, 44, 54, 83, 191, 

193, 312, 315-316, 317-318, 319 
Bird, Rose, 228, 240, 242-243 

Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, 

Black Panthers, 91, 108, 112, 116- 

119, 142, 150, 256 
Blease, Coleman, 236, 238 
Bodega Bay, Ca. : proposed power 

plant, 34-35, 37-105, 112, 115, 

119, 122, 124, 125, 128, 153, 

160, 163, 185, 236 
Bonneke, Hazel, [now Mitchell] 50 
Bosco, Douglas, 225 
Bowers, Lynn, 268, 270-274, 275, 

289, 283, 285, 292, 298 
Brand, Stewart, 185 
Bridenbaugh [nuclear engineer], 


Brotsky, Alan, 112, 142, 150 
Brower, David, 28-29, 31-33, 42, 

44, 46-48, 52-53, 99-100, 102, 

128, 178-179, 188 
Brown Act, 288 
Brown, Ira, 139-140, 238 
Brown, Jerry, [Edmund G., Jr.], 

32, 103, 150, 179, 180, 182, 

185-242, 244, 249 
Brown, Pat [Edmund G. , Sr.], 53, 

55, 56, 74-75, 171-172 
Brown, Willie, 194, 269 
Budnitz, Bob, 185 
Bunnelle, Hasse, 33 
Burch, James, 162-163, 165-168, 

173-175, 179 
Burton, Phillip, 190 
Bush, George, 192 

California Coastal Act of 1976, 

California Energy Resources 

Conservation & Development 

Commission, 180 
California Environmental Quality 

Act (CEQA), 139, 224-225 
California State Board of 

Forestry, 32, 42, 188-199 


California State Department of 

Agriculture, 196 
California State Department of 

Finance, 203, 206, 210, 213, 

217, 226 
California State Department of 

Fish and Game, 30-31, 126-127, 

198, 223, 228 
California State Department of 

Forestry, 190-191, 194, 198-236, 

239, 263, 284, 326; director of, 

129, 142, 150, 187, 198-235. 

See also fire fighting. 
California State Department of 

Highways, 57 
California State Department of 

Insurance, 322 
California State Department of 

Parks and Recreation, 50, 284 
California State Department of 

Transportation (Caltrans), 140- 

California State Department of 

Water Resources, 196 
California State Division of Mines 

and Geology, 228 
California State Highway Patrol, 

California State Legislature, 139- 

140, 179-183, 194, 206, 223-226, 

228, 269-270, 285; Assembly 

Committee on Resources, Land 

Use, and Energy, 180-181; 

Assembly Fish and Game 

Committee, 29-31; Assembly Rules 

Committee, 14-15, 269 
California State Personnel Board, 

206-207, 208 
California State Public Utilities 

Commission (PUC), 42-45, 46-48, 

50, 53, 58, 60-61, 89, 97-98, 

103, 126, 160 
California State Resources Agency, 

199-200, 202-205, 211-217 
Californians for Environmental and 

Economic Balance, 185 
Californians for Nuclear 

Safeguards, 161, 162, 165-166, 


CalPIRG (California Public 

Interest Research Group), 154, 


Calvert Cliffs. 66 
Carroll, James, 131-137, 254 
CBS (Columbia Broadcasting 

System) , 132 
Central Valley Project, 10-12, 40- 


Champion, Dale, 123-124 
Channell, William, 242, 244 
Choper, Jesse, 106, 242 
civil rights, 38-39, 111, 274, 

276, 319-326 
Civilian Conservation Corps, 3-4, 


Clark, Lewis, 47 
Cleaver, Eldridge, 107, 117 
Cleaver, Kathleen, 117 
Cobb, Janet, 269-270, 271, 302, 

Cocke, Dwight, 159-160, 162, 165, 

170, 184 

Coffey, Bert, 251 
cold war, 35-37, 41 
Combs, Joycelyn, 275 
communism, 35-36, 41 
Communist party, 35-38, 41, 114 
Connelly, Robert, 14-15, 19, 31, 

206, 214, 222, 225, 226, 262- 

263, 269, 297 
conservation. See environmental 

Contra Costa County Superior 

Court, 31, 111, 138, 139, 236- 

Contra Costa Times. 242-243, 246, 

249, 255-256 
Coyote Hills, 291 
Cranston, Alan, 190 
Creative Initiative, 162-178, 186 
criminal law, 116-119, 247-249, 


Crooks, Afton, 264-266, 276-277 
Crosby, Heafey, Roach, and May, 


Davis, city of, 140-141 
Davis, Gray, 185 
Davis, Pauline, 29-31 


Dedrick, Claire, 199-200, 204, 228 
Democratic party, 38, 74-77, 249, 


Denton, Jan, 228 
Desmond, Joseph, 241-242 
Deukmejian, George, 192 
Diablo Canyon power plant, 63, 80, 

103-104, 128-129, 229-235 
Dow Chemical, 125 
Doyle, Bob, 277 
Dreyfus, Barney, 64, 72, 89-94, 

105-106, 112-114, 116, 119, 121- 

122, 133-134, 142, 150 
Duncan, Jim, 268, 280, 320 
Duskin, Alvin, 156-159, 165 

earthquake, Good Friday 1964 

(Crescent City, CA) , 71, 73 
East Bay Municipal Utility 

District, 295, 298-299, 305 
East Bay Regional Park District, 
98, 199, 259-310, 318-319, 320, 
326; Advisory Committee, 264- 
266; budget and finance, 284- 
287; Board, 260-261, 263-280, 
283, 285, 287-289, 291, 302-305, 
308, 318-319, 320; Measure AA, 
305, 308. See also individual 

Eisenhower, Dwight D., 35 
Eissler, Fred, 80 
Eldredge, Laurence E., 136 
elections, initiative process in 
California: Proposition 9 
(1972), Clean Environment Act, 
155; Proposition 9 (1974), 
Political Reform Act of 1974, 
166-167, 168, 177, 184; 
Proposition 13 (1978), 217, 
284; Proposition 15 (1976), 
See Nuclear Safeguards Act; 
Proposition 20 (1972), Coastal 
Zone Conservation Act, 155; 
Proposition 130 (1990), 194; 
Proposition 138 (1990), 194. 
Emerson, Ralph, 97-98 
employment practices, 

discrimination in, 319-326 
Environmental Defense Fund, 92, 

environmental law, 28-29, 54, 66, 
104, 119-126, 139-142, 304-305 

environmental protection, 156-157, 
224, 228-229, 261-262, 264-265, 
276; legal actions, 89-94,126- 
129, 138-142; personal 
motivations for, 30, 164, 168; 
philosophy of, 11-13, 84-85, 
101-103, 204-205. See also 
Bodega Bay. 

evidence, rules of, 243-244 

Fair Employment Practices 

Commission, 272 
Fair Political Practices Act 

(1974). See Proposition 9 

Fair Political Practices 

Commission, 166-167, 171, 257 
Fannin, Coleman, 244, 251 
FBI, 82, 99-101 
Federal Water Pollution Control 

Act (1976), 194-199 
Ferry Point, 265, 280-283 
fire fighting, 15-17, 18-19, 206- 

208, 209-211, 213-224, 229-235 
Fischer, Michael, 317-319 
Fisher, Fred, 312, 316 
Flier, Richard, 253, 256 
Flint, Phil, 50 
Ford, Dan, 154 
forest policy issues, 188-213, 

310, 317-318 
forest practice rules, 42, 190, 

Forest Practices Act, 32, 189, 

196, 227-229 

Forrest, Loyd, 205, 206, 212-213 
Free Speech Movement, 38-39 
Freedom of Information Act, 61 
freedom of speech, 133-136 
Frick, Karen, 269, 270-274, 275 
Friends of the Earth, 178-179, 184 
Fullerton, Charles, 198, 200 

Gaffney, Rose, 43, 94-96 
Gagen, William, 250, 255, 257 
Garin Regional Park, 278, 301 
Garner, Jack, 281 


Garry, Charles, 91, 93, 108, 112- 

117, 133, 142-151 
Garry, Dreyfus, McTernan and 

Brotsky, 90-91, 107-108, 112- 

152, 169-170, 200-201, 207-208, 

240, 242 

Geeseman, John, 179 
General Electric, 55, 90, 167, 


Georgiou, Byron, 237, 238 
Gilbert, Jerry, 295 
Gilliam, Harold, 50, 59-60 
Gilligan, James, 27-28 
Gion-Dietz doctrine, 129-130 
Golden, Robert, 33 
Goodwin, Jim, 92, 101 
Graff, Tom, 103-104 
Grand Accord, 194, 213 
Green, Dorothy, 154, 156 
Grendon, Alexander, 55-56, 86, 


Grossman, Richard, 170 
Guidotti, Win, 49, 84 
Guillino, Josephine, 205-206 

Hannigan, Thomas, 225 

Harberts, Paul, 279 

Harris, Don, 312, 316 

Harris, Elihu, 289 

Harwood, Bud and Virginia, 193 

Hastings, John, 230-233 

Hawaii, childhood in, 3-9 

Hayes, Walt, 174, 179 

Hayward Daily Review. 273-274 

Heady, Harold, 214 

Heafey, Edwin, Jr., 137 

Hearst family, 97 

Hedgpeth, Joel, 44, 49-51, 83, 96- 


Heisler, Francis, 91-92 
Henderson, Thelton, 319-320 
Herring, Frances, 64 
Hetch Hetchy reservoir, 88, 297 
Hill, Doug and Mary Ann, 91-92 
Billiard, David, 118-119 
Billiard, Shelly Bursey, 118-119 
Hoffman, John, 121 
Hoover, J. Edgar, 82, 100 
Hornbeck, Hulet, 277 

House Unamerican Activities 

Committee, 91, 114 
Hubbard, Dick, 171-172 
Humboldt Bay power plant, 63, 130- 

133, 141-142 
Button, Bobby, 107 

Interstate Commerce Commission, 

Jeans, Robert, 201 

Jefferds, Mary, 263, 267, 271, 

280, 283, 289, 291, 304 
Johnson, Buey, 150, 189, 199-205, 

211-217, 219 
Jones, Jim, 143-151 
Joyner, Ernie, 52-53 

Kaiser Hospital, 254 

Keene, Barry, 225 

Kendall, Henry, 134, 153-156, 183, 


Kennedy, Charles, 254-255 
Kent, Jerry, 262, 275-276 
Kent, Roger, 75-76 
Kerson, Don, 92, 115 
Kessel, Harlan, 260, 263-264, 267, 

268, 271, 279-280, 283, 287, 

289, 291, 304-305 
King, Don, 238 
Kline, J. Anthony, 237 
Knecht, William, 45 
Knox, John (Jack), 285 
Koenig (geologist), 46 
Kortum, Jean, 55, 59, 75-77, 89 
Kortum, Karl, 42, 44, 45, 50-52, 

57, 59, 65, 69 
Kortum, Lucy, 51-52 
Kortum, William, 51-52, 54, 89 
Koupal, Edward, 155-161, 165, 175, 

Kraszewski v. State Farm. 274, 

276, 319-326 

LaBelle, Mary Jane, 316 

La Pointe, Alan, 307 

labor law, 112, 114 

labor unions, 218-223, 251, 293- 

294, 303 
Lafayette Reservoir, 299 


Lake Chabot Park, 271, 294-296 

land acquisition, 276-310 

Landor, Walter, 313 

Lane, Mark, 146-149 

Lange, Suzie, 209, 210 

Langley, Peter, 281 

Lemmon, Jack, 131-132, 136, 138, 

252, 255, 256 

Leonard, Richard, 47-48, 83 
Leopold, Aldo, 27, 97 
Leopold, Starker, 22, 31, 96-97 
Lesher, Dean, 246, 255-256 
Levine, Larry, 201 
Levine, Meldon, 225 
Levy, David, 244-245 
libel law, 133-136, 144-145 
Livermore, Norman "Ike", 126-127, 


Livermore, Putnam, 126 
lumber industry, 190, 192-196, 

223-224, 228-229 
Luten, Dave, 292-293 
Lynch, Eugene, 137 

Maldonado, Ellen, 272-274 
Martinez, city of, 280-283 
McCarthy, Leo, 72 
McDonald, James, 69, 70 
Mclntyre, Joan, 55, 58, 154 
McTernan, Frank, 91, 112, 114, 

133, 142, 150 
Meese, Edwin, 108 
Merrill, Theodore, 242 
Merrow, Sue, 311, 312, 319 
Meyer, Bob, 115 
Meyer, Steve, 286 
Michigan, childhood and background 

in, 1-2 

Miller, Clem, 49 
Minor, Dale, 171 
Mitchell, Hazel. See Bonneke. 
mitigation, 264-266, 281-283 
Moorman, Jim, 121 
Moran, Lewis, 198, 199-200, 205, 


Morrison & Foerster, 322 
Morrison, Jack, 76 
Morrissey, John C., 45 
Moss, Larry, 311 

Mott, William Penn, 2, 261, 262, 

266, 277, 279, 289, 303 
Moyal, Maurice, 244-245 
Muldoon, James B., 51 
Murphy, Turk, 67 

NAACP, Hayward, California, 264 

Nader, Ralph, 154, 179, 184 

National Environmental Policy Act, 

National Lawyers' Guild, 91, 106- 

National Park Service, 2-4 

NBC (National Broadcasting 
Corporation), 130-137 

Neal, Kathy, 289 

Neilands, John B. (Joe), 3, 50, 
60-61, 87-89, 92 

Nejedly, John, 138, 242, 251-252, 
256, 285 

New Deal, 2-3, 10 

Newhall, Scott, 57 

Newman, Marsh and Furtado, 114 

Newsom, William A. , 237 

Newton, Huey, 112, 116-117, 142 

Nixon administration, 132 

North Coast Regional Water Quality 
Control Board, 195, 223 

Nothenberg, Rudy, 297-298 

nuclear engineering, 52, 171-172 

nuclear power, attitudes toward, 
47-48, 74-80, 101-103, 163-165, 
171-172, 178-179, 184-188, 201- 
202, 229; movement against, 12, 
42-82, 119-129, 131-136, 141, 
153-156, 163-168, 171-172, 178- 
188, 201-202, 230-233; safety 
of, 47-48, 51, 54-55, 74-75, 
78-80, 97-98, 131-133, 164-165, 
178-188; waste management, 78- 
79, 181. See also Bodega Bay 
and Nuclear Safeguards Act. 

nuclear power plants, 66, 78-79, 
119-120, 153-154. See also 
specific power plants. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
142, 152, 234 

Nuclear Safeguards Act, 1976, 129, 
134, 152-188, 201, 236. 

nuclear weapons, 55 


O'Brian, Pat, 269 
Oakland Museum, 286 
Oakland Tribune. 273 
Oakland Zoo, 289-290 
Ohlone Park, 297-298 
Owen, Bob, 294, 296 

Pacific Gas & Electric Company, 

37, 38, 41-45, 46-48, 50, 58, 

60-61, 62-66, 68, 70-77, 83-84, 

86-89, 97-98, 99-100, 102-104, 

105, 119-129, 130-138, 141-142, 

229-235, 241, 254-255 
Packwood, Robert, 310 
Parkinson, Thomas, 22 
Parrott, Joel, 289-290 
Patsey, Richard, 31, 239-240, 242, 


Paulus, Robert, 206 
Pearl Harbor, 1941, 4-6, 11 
Peavey, Michael, 185 
People's Lobby, 157-159 
People's Park, 108-111, 113 
People's Temple, 142-149, 151 
Pesonen, Bart (brother), 4-9, 11, 

13, 26 

Pesonen, Dan (cousin), 121 
Pesonen, Eleanor Barton (mother), 

1, 3-11, 13, 25-26, 38 
Pesonen, Everett (father), 1-13, 

14-15, 25-26, 36-37, 38, 40 
Pesonen, Kyle (son), 118 
Peterson, Kay, 271, 277, 280, 283, 


Pleasanton Ridge, 268, 279, 285 
Point Arena nuclear power plant, 

105, 119-129, 152-153 
Point Reyes National Seashore, 59, 

political philosophy, new left, 

political philosophy, old left, 

91-94, 109, 112-116, 146, 150 
Pollack, Stewart, 139 
Presley, Robert, 225 
Price-Anderson Act, 159, 181 
Project Survival, 173, 179, 183 
Public Employees Retirement Act, 


Radke, Ted, 268, 280, 287 
Raker Act, 88 

Rancho Seco power plant, 120-121, 

Rathbun, Amelia and Harry, 163, 

164, 173-175 
Reagan, Ronald, 108-109, 155, 192, 

244, 281 

Reclamation Act, 88 
Redwood National Park, 189-192, 


Reinhardt, Stephen, 167-168 
renewable resources, 204, 211-213, 


revenue bonds, 284, 286-287 
Reynoso, Cruz, 240-241 
Richardson, H.L., 252 
Richmond, California, city of, 


Rogers, Sam, 60-61, 89 
Rosenthal, Cecile, 193 
Rudden, Cliff, 33 
Ruebel, Marion and Ray, 43, 50, 


Russo, Ron, 300 
Ryan, Leo, 146-147 

Sacramento Junior College, 14, 18 
Sacramento Municipal Utility 

District, 120-121 
Saint -Amand, Pierre, 58-59, 70-71, 

102, 122 

San Andreas Fault, 59, 61, 68, 122 
San Francisco Water Department, 


San Pablo Reservoir, 299 
San Onofre power plant, 156 
Santa Fe, New Mexico, childhood 

in, 2-4 

Santa Fe Pacific Railway, 280-283 
Saperstein, Guy, 273, 274, 276, 

319-320, 322, 324-325 
Sargent, Tony, 45, 50 
Save San Francisco Bay 

Association, 68, 84-85 
Save the Redwoods League, 191 
Schuler, Bill, 115 
Seaborg, Glenn T. , 38, 97-99 
seismic safety, 46-48, 58-62, 68- 

69, 73-74, 122-126, 142, 229 
Shea, Kevin, 262 
Shearer, Julie, 58, 60-61, 63, 71, 

83, 87, 101, 106, 122, 146, 169, 


173-175, 185-186, 235, 238-239, 

254, 256 

Sher, Byron, 225 
Sherwin, Ray, 126-127 
Sherwood, Don, 67-68 
Siegel, Dan, 108-111, 113 
Sierra Club, 28-29, 31-33, 34-35, 

42-48, 52, 63, 80-81, 83, 85, 

102-104, 119, 121-122, 126-129, 

179, 184, 188, 191, 193, 310-319 
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, 

92, 121-126, 129-130, 310-319 
Silva, Julio, 15-17 
Sloan, Doris, 50, 57, 85-86, 89, 


Smith, Charlie, 88-89 
Southern Pacific Railroad, 280-283 
Speier, Jacqueline, 146-147 
Spohn, Richard, 154, 156, 160, 179 
State Farm Insurance Company, 319- 


Stegner, Wallace, 27-29 
Stender, Fay, 112-113 
Sterns, Jerry, 258-260 
Stolz, Preble, 101 
Stone, Edward C., 22 
Strube, Hal, 63-65, 75 
Sunol Regional Park, 265, 296-298 
Sutherland, Rick, 311-313, 315- 

316, 318 

Tilden Park, 263, 277, 301, 303- 


Tocher, Don, 70 
Traynor, Mike, 315-316 
Trobitz, Henry, 192-193, 224 
Trudeau, Richard C., 260-262, 264- 

266, 277, 287, 293, 306 
Truehaft, Bob, 109, 114 
Truehaft, Walker and Bernstein, 


Udall, Stewart, 29, 59-60, 65-66, 

73-74, 76 
Uniform Determinate Sentencing 

Act, 247-248 
Union of Concerned Scientists, 

134, 153-154 

United Nations, Food and 

Agriculture Organization, 34-37, 

46, 48, 49 
United States Army, 15, 22-23, 35- 

United States Bureau of 

Reclamation, 9-12, 40-41 
United States Congress. See House 

UnAmerican Activities Committee. 
United States Department of 

Interior, 59-60, 65-66, 99, 124, 

United States Department of 

Justice, 117-119 
United States Forest Service, 15- 

17, 25, 192; regulations, 29 
United States Geological Survey, 

59, 65-66, 71-73, 123-124 
University of California, 

Berkeley, 38-39, 50, 84; Boalt 

Hall, 101, 105-108; School of 

Forestry, 14, 19-26, 34, 60, 97 
University of California, Lawrence 

Livermore Laboratory, 38, 45 
University of California, proposed 

marine biology station at 

Bodega Bay, 96-99 
University of California, 

Radiation Laboratory, 38 
University of California, San 

Francisco, expansion of, 138-139 
University of California, 

Wildlands Research Center, 25-29 
Unruh, Jesse, 252 

Valentine, Paul, 168, 174 
Varanini, Emilio E., Ill, 180 
Vaux, Henry, 20-22, 29, 31, 34, 

39, 60, 188-189, 192-194, 196, 

198-199, 212, 221 
Vietnam conflict, 107, 132 

Wadell, Tom, 230, 233-234 
Waegell family, 15, 35-36 
Wahrhaftig, Clyde, 193 
Waldie, Jerome, 76 
Walker, J. Samuel, 58-59, 65-66, 

74, 82, 99, 152-153 
Wallace, Henry, 38 
Warass, Harold, 203-204, 206 


Warren, Charles, 156, 179-183 
Wasco power plant, 201-202 
water issues, 11-13, 40-41, 194- 

199, 223, 296-299, 306 
Water Resources Control Board, 195 
Watson, Fran, 251, 257 
Watters, Lu, 67-68 
Watters, Pat, 67 
Wayburn, Edgar, 47, 80-81, 104, 

Wellock, Thomas, 38, 52, 78-79, 

82, 83, 94, 100 
Wheelwright, George, 72 
Widener, Don, 130-138, 139, 144, 

231, 254-255, 256 
Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, 306- 


wilderness, 27-29, 223 
Wilderness Act, 28-29 
"Wilderness Letter," (Wallace 

Stegner), 28-29, 32 
Wiley, Joe, 294 
Willy, Zach, 103-104 
Wilson, Pete, 194 
Wilson, Richard, 193-194 
World War II, childhood 

experiences of, 4-9, 11 
Wyman, Dave, 281 

Yank, Ronald, 234 

Z'berg-Nejedly Act. See Forest 

Practices Act. 
Zen Center, 184-187 
Zinoni, 129-130 
Zirpoli, Alfonso, 118-119 
Zivnuska, John, 21-22, 34, 60, 188 


B.A., and M.A. , in History, University of 
California, Berkeley. 

Postgraduate studies, University of 
California, Berkeley, American history and 

Chairman, Sierra Club History Committee, 1978-1986; 
oral history coordinator, 1974-present; Chairman, 
Sierra Club Library Committee, 1993-present. 

Interviewer/Editor, Regional Oral History 
Office, in the fields of natural resources 
and the environment, university history, 
California political history, 1976-present. 

Principal Editor, assistant office head, Regional 
Oral History Office, 1994-present.