Bay Area Loses Strong Environmentalist, Pete Arrigoni

by April Orcutt

Patricia Arrigoni

Patricia Arrigoni

Patricia and Peter Arrigoni have been an environmental powerhouse couple in the Bay Area for decades, but, in a loss for all of us, in December Pete passed on. Pete is honored and remembered for his votes on the Marin County Board of Supervisors that stopped a planned freeway that would have run more than 20 miles across rural Marin from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Point Reyes National Seashore. Pete’s wife, Pat, a long-time BATW member, noted that he also helped establish Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The preliminary plan for the cross-county freeway had been approved by the Board of Supervisors by one vote, but that motivated those concerned about environmental quality and preserving open space to act. Pat wrote, “Pete was drafted to run for the Marin County Board of Supervisors in 1968 by Roger Kent of Kent Woodlands and [the California] state chairman of the Democratic Party and Al and [Elizabeth] ‘Libby’ Gatov.” (Elizabeth Gatov was Treasurer of the United States under President John Kennedy.) Pat added, “We won every precinct in a landslide and buried that freeway threat.” Pete cast a no vote during the final approval, and the freeway was defeated by his one vote.

Pat, who was married to Pete for 62 years, also pointed out that Pete was instrumental in getting agricultural zoning for west Marin County, which saved the farms and open land from developers’ plans to cover the hills with tens of thousands of homes.

Worried, the environmental community had come together to ensure that environmental policy was added to the county’s and cities’ general planning process. Norma Fragoso of the Environmental Forum of Marin (EFM), which was formed then to teach community members how to advocate for preservation policies, wrote, “Ultimately, the Coastal Planning Commission, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the restoration of the San Francisco Bay occurred due to advocacy by environmentalists. We stand on Pete’s shoulders.”

“Marin County would be a much different place if it weren’t for Pete Arrigoni,” said Marin County Supervisor Katie Rice.

Pete also helped Pat and two friends, Lloyd Smalley and Paul Maxwell, get permits in 1975 to start the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands. The Marine Mammal Center has since rescued and released thousands of seals, sea lions, sea otters, elephant seals, whales, and other marine mammals.

Both Pete and Pat are testaments to what one person can do to help the environment and make the world a better place.