Goodbye and thanks to Tom Hayden – Environmental Activist

Tom Hayden may have rolled off the screen of national politics after his stint in SDS and as part of the destruction and resurrection of the Democratic Party at Chicago in 1968, but he never went away, and his contributions to protecting the environment were numerous. Rather than  spend a bunch of time trying to boil the ocean, he focused on producing very good smaller tasks for the local needs, that also furthered the big picture.  A large puzzle is made up of lots of little pieces, that all fit. They all are important in piecing together something that may not be done until much later. And it takes a lot of patience over a lot of time to complete. There are lots of politicians, even local ones here on the Peninsula, who could take a page  from his book.  Goodbye and thank you Tom.


From Marcia Hanscom Sierra Club

Mr. Hayden was the strongest proponent Sacramento has had for protecting forests, wetlands, endangered species and wildlife.

A few anecdotes about Tom Hayden, in this regard:

1) He famously used his subpoena power as a State Senator to call in biologists from the then-CA Dept. of Fish & Game – so they would be required to testify under oath (and could not have their jobs put at risk) about how their science was undermined by the still-powerful hunting lobby.   Today’s CA Fish & Game Commission is now doing a number of the things that Senator Hayden wanted them to do – with hunting in California and hunting & fishing license funds declining.

2) He tried to get legislation passed to change the name of the CA Dept. of Fish & Game to the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife — he faced stiff opposition.  Finally, some time after Hayden left the legislature, in 2012 – Jared Huffman was able to get a bill passed that would do this.  The name change took effect on January 1, 2013

3) He called together a number of environmental leaders in the mid 90s – to a meeting in Santa Monica, where I remember well the gasps in the room when Tom suggested maybe it’s time to abolish the Coastal Commission, and just let the law stand without the (often-times seemingly corrupt) Coastal Commission itself.  He was talked down from the ledge, but some of us do wonder now if he was just a bit ahead of his time – as he was with #2 above!

4) He was a huge champion of protection of the Ballona Wetlands – being the only elected official to actually read the environmental impact report for the proposed Playa Vista development, which would have been the largest development in the history of the City of Los Angeles – mostly to be built atop the floodplain of the historical Los Angeles River where it joined with several other streams at the coast in the Ballona Valley.   Because a couple of environmental groups had settled a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission – and therefore, the local electeds for the area were supportive of what they claimed was a scaled-down development — Hayden – who didn’t even represent the area – was our lone supporter of any reknown….especially once Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks partners announced they would be one-third development partners in the construction project.   Jeffrey Katzenberg called Hayden to tell him he would never get another penny for his political campaigns from Hollywood if he didn’t abandon us.  Tom stood firm.

5) After DreamWorks exited the Playa Vista project and the wetlands four years later, Tom sought a solution with other electeds in Sacramento.  Working with Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and Fred Keeley (Santa Cruz), he helped make sure $25 million was placed into Proposition 12 – which eventually lured the Wall Street owned (Morgan Stanley/Goldman Sachs REITs) developers to emerge as a willing seller for the 600+ acres of land in the coastal zone (about 400 acres were built on) — the public acquisition took place in 2003/2004 – as part of Governor Gray Davis’ legacy.

6) Tom *regularly* would call Sierra Club leaders into his office – or come to see us at our offices – to seek stronger advocacy from us for efforts he was attempting to make in Sacramento.  I remember thinking it so odd that HE had to come to US to ask us to be stronger advocates.

Thank you, Tom Hayden, for your principles and your amazing work for our Mother Earth, which sustains us.

Marcia Hanscom
Executive Committee
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter


Co-Chair, Sierra Club California Wetlands Committee

From his biography web page 

Despite serving under Republican governors for 16 of 18 years, and twice subjected to Republican-led expulsion hearings, Hayden managed to pass over one hundred measures. Included were:

  • District bills obtaining millions for restoring Santa Monica Bay and  the rebuilding of the Santa Monica and Malibu Piers;
  • A ten-year effort to hold off tuition increases for college and university students;
  • Establishment of a statewide Agent Orange registry;
  • Negotiations between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the University of California leading to divestment;
  • Ergonomic guidelines in purchasing;
  • Equal university access for disabled students;
  • Recruitment of gay and racial minority AIDs researchers at universities;
  • Crane safety inspection programs;
  • Back pay and fire safety protections for garment workers;
  • Requirement of set-asides for renewable energy in state planning;
  • Extension of sexual harassment codes to professional relationships;
  • Blocking several governor’s appointments to prison and university boards;
  • Hearings into fertility clinic scandals leading to resignations;
  • Prohibitions on date rape drugs;
  • Saving Los Angeles’ oldest cathedral from the wrecking ball;
  • Limits on gifts and contributions to transit agency board members;
  • Funding for student tutors in after-school programs;
  • Funding for tattoo removal;
  • Standards prohibiting MTBE in drinking water;
  • Funding to rehabilitate Indian sacred springs in LA;
  • Requirement for longer holding periods for lost animals in shelters;
  • Sister state relationship between California and San Salvador;
  • Reducing start-up fees for new small businesses;
  • Requiring trigger locks on guns sold;
  • Training for immigrant parents of public school children;
  • Independent inspector-general at Los Angeles school district;
  • Drafted largest state park and environmental restoration bond in nation’s history;
  • Minimum vision standards and testing for senior drivers;
  • Disclosure of slavery era insurance policies by California firms;
  • Prevented bills weakening state endangered species act;
  • Pay raises for jurors;
  • Children’s health standards in state EPA;
  • Funding for gang intervention projects.


1972-1982 – Mr. Hayden was Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointed chairman of the SolarCal Council, which encourages solar energy development.

NY Times attached

Focusing on state and local issues like solar energy and rent control, he won a seat in the California Legislature in Sacramento in 1982.

1993 – 2000

He was an assemblyman for a decade and a state senator from 1993 to 2000, sponsoring bills on the environment, education, public safety and civil rights.

“Hayden and Fonda started the Campaign for Economic Democracy, later known as Campaign California. The group fought for such causes as Santa Monica rent control, public spending on solar power and divestment from apartheid South Africa.

Much of the group’s money came from Fonda, whose movie career was booming and whose workout video business would spawn a fortune in the ’80s. It helped elect scores of liberals to local offices statewide and campaigned for Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden represented Santa Monica, Malibu and part of the Westside in Sacramento. His legislative achievements were modest (the words of the LA Times, notice how they editorialize on this issue, though the issues were hardly small issues. Compare this to the letter from Marcia Hanscom) — research into the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange on U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; repair money for the Santa Monica and Malibu piers; tighter rules to prevent the collapse of construction cranes, to name a few.”

L.A. Times article

One Response

  1. Thanks for reminding us of his career and contributions.

    Sent from Austin Kerr’s iPad


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: