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A Long History of Guarding Our Environment –— The Iconic Cliff House

Many years ago, long before saving our environment became the focus of society, the Cliff House and Sutro Bath’s Cove were the site of various projects to produce energy from waves and wind. There is a fascinating article, Wave Motors and Tide Machines at the Cliff House: 1886 to present, written by Cristine Miller, that chronicles many of the early attempts at wave power. To see this article, visit www.outsidelands.org/wave-motor.php.

Another story that appeared in the San Francisco Call newspaper, Wind machine at Point Lobos, April 29,1893 describes the first attempt at generating wind power on the blustery bluff above the cove. Following is a brief, yet amusing excerpt from that article:

“A queer spidery looking building has been going up near the Point Lobos station during the last ten days. It is over forty feet high and looks like a scaffolding, but eight braces of heavy wire cable reveal the fact that it is expected to sustain a great strain. Many conjectures were made as to the probable use of the skeleton of steel. Saturday the queries were answered. Into the tower of steel rods were carried six ten-foot windmills. They form a power that their inventor expects to revolutionize the world of mechanics.”

In 2015 the Cliff House and the National Park Service partnered with InvisibleSun Energy to install a wind turbine on the north deck of the Cliff House building. Its purpose was to do a two-year study on the affects of wind turbines on wildlife in an urban environment. At the end of the study it was noted that not one single bird had been harmed and the turbine produced enough energy to power the Cliff House gift shop.

Cliff House General Manager & Partner, Ralph Burgin, who grows micro-arugula and over 30 varieties of organic heirloom tomatoes on an acre of land in Sonoma, has run an eco-friendly establishment for many years. All menus, bottles, and cans are recycled, paper towels are unbleached, food waste is composted, and used oil is picked up for conversion into bio-fuel. For a short time, they even used biodegradable garbage bags, which proved to be too costly. Now, they do even better: they use nothing and take the extra effort to rinse the bins each day. Because of these combined efforts, Cliff House garbage has been reduced by about 80 percent. Most recently in 2018 the Cliff House was one of the first restaurants to introduce eco-friendly paper straws.

The food in the restaurant is focused on local, and when possible, organic. “If it’s organic but being shipped from 1000 miles away, we don’t want to buy it,” says Burgin. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense, environmentally speaking, to truck products in from far away.” He credits the owners – Dan and Mary Hountalas with giving him the ability to focus on sustainability and is grateful to his team who manage the recycling and composting program. “Sometimes doing things this way costs a little more, but they support all of our efforts and encourage us to continue,” Burgin says.

– Sponsor Author: Lisa Bellomo

What to Know

Location: 1090 Point Lobos

Phone: (415) 386-3330 Restaurants
              (415) 666-4027 Private Events

More Info: www.cliffhouse.com
                    www.nps.gov/goga

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