Drone Bans in the East Bay, Northern California

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Hi all, I am new to this forum, so I apologize in advance if this is off topic. This may be a local issue and outside your area of influence, but I am reaching out to groups I thought might be able and/or willing to help. I also feel this is an example of a broader concern. 


The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a special district operating in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, California, within the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay Area. It maintains and operates a system of regional parks which is the largest urban regional park district in the United States. For all intents and purposes, this organization manages the available natural open spaces across the entire region. 


In Dec 2015, with no public comment, the board of the district approved a universal ban on the operation of drones from any park managed property. The stated reason for this was risk to aircraft and potential impact to wildlife, specifically birds. 


I represent a small group of avid drone operators and aerial photographers that live and at one time were able to use these wonderful tools for to capture the beautiful and unique land and waterscapes found here. Since this ordinance was passed, drone use across general region is almost impossible. Unless operating from private property, there is essentially no accessible area available to operate from. We have basically been forced to abandon the use of these tools.


While I understand the concerns raised and support appropriately considered and vetted guidelines. I do believe that unrestricted use could create a risk in public spaces, and consideration should be given to sensitive wildlife, bird nesting areas and other wildlife concerns. However, a complete ban restricts access to and the fair use of public lands that we all support with our tax dollars. Drones, when operated in accordance with FAA guidelines and in a responsible manner do not pose a unique or special risk such that a complete ban is appropriate or justified. However, letters and requests for review of the policy to the park district have gone unanswered.


I would respectfully request that the district at least listen to our perspective and take into consideration the value these tools can bring in capturing the natural beauty of the area. Universal bans of new technologies out of the fear of a potential impact, is not justification for limiting or eliminating fair access to our tax supported lands. If any members of this group would be willing to reach out to the Board,  purhaps our voices will be heard. As an individual, there is not a lot I can do.  However, if enough of us express our concern, this Board and others across the region and nation may actually listen to their constitutes.


Best regards,

    Bruce Hartwell

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Bruce, thanks for posting. Would be helpful if you offered a strong 'call-to-action' here — should we be calling a specific phone number, asking to speak with someone specific? Writing letters to an address? Joining a pre-existing group?

I know there are many people compelled by legislation like this in the same way you are, but you have to make it really easy on someone to take that next step of actually doing something about it. 

So, all that said, any additional information, like a link to the actual ban, if there's already a group people can tap into, etc. would be extremely helpful in pushing your agenda forward. Please share!

Hope that helps!

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Despite the San Francisco Bay area being the high-tech capital of the known universe it is extremely drone hostile here and almost everywhere in the immediate bay area is a banned place for one reason or another. I live across the street from an East Bay Regional Park on the San Francisco Bay and I was nicely warned by a park worker that if the East Bay Regional Park Police caught me they would fine me and there are "no drone" signs posted everywhere now. I had launched at the far, far corner of this park and I was flying over the bay/water which is not part of the EBRP. It's a real bummer because the views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge are stunning from this park. Unfortunately California is an extremely litigious state, full of regulations, and I don't see that ever changing. Add to that all the "tree-huggers" here are going to give you resistance for disturbing birds or sea lions or whatever. I was harassed once by a "volunteer sea lion monitor" (he even gave me a business card!) who was concerned I was disturbing the sea lions that were sleeping... 

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are several facets to this issue.  Starting with an understanding of the term "Public Commons".  Both a city park, and the airspace above it are: Public Commons.  Spaces designated for public use.  While both are designated for public use, they have different governing bodies.  And very different reasons for the way they are governed.


1.  The map enclosed is the FAA drone map.   This can be viewed at  https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2e4406710048e19806ebf6a06754ad

As you can see from the attached map, the airspace you mentioned is available for up to 200 feet AGL.  Your complaint is the ground level approach.  You want to use LAND to launch your UAV that is not governed by the FAA.  So the flight would be legal, but the launch would not be...  May want to talk to a neighbor who would understand your predicament.


My input is this.  This map also shows significant land away from congested areas to practice your craft.  Be professional, and understand why governing bodies make the rules they do...


I would expect to see more restriction of urban drone usage, in particular - for security reasons.

I caught this online recently and expect that we will see an predictable upheaval in the industry at some point.

This is a Washington Post Article on the Kalashnikov Exploding drone.  -Note-  I do not support this mindset.



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  • 1 month later...

Hi all,

Sorry for the slow response, I have been working several channels on this issue.  One of the biggest challenges is getting people to care. In some cases, even forums focused on the hobby, members don’t see the issue or care enough to raise it as an issue.

My concern is that like other slow moving actions, the impact of these bans won't really hit home and start hurting until they are set in established law and difficult to undo. By the time the general community realizes that these wonderful tools are now in effect banned from use in all the natural settings they designed to capture the beauty of, the laws will already have been passed, signs posted and fines imposed.

I reached to our local congressman, Eric Swalwell, who interestingly stated the issue was not within his jurisdiction. Technically he is correct, however, I do see the broader issue as regional to the state and not just the district. None the less, he did put me in contact with Ms. Katy Hornbeck with the Park District. Her reply was as follows:  


Hello Mr. Hartwell,


Thank you for your email regarding the East Bay Regional Park District’s prohibition on the recreational use of drones in regional parklands by members of the public.


The District had a long-standing ban on motorized model airplanes, but in 2016 added the word “drone” to clarify section 409.3 in Ordinance 38 due their increasing popularity and presence in the parks. The Board unanimously approved this revision to Ordinance 38 on April 19, 2016. The full board vote occurred after the item was presented at two public meetings: Board Operations Committee meeting on 3/17/16 and the Park Advisory Committee meeting on 3/28/2016. There was time for public comment at each of these meetings. Ordinance 38 is reviewed and revised on a bi-annual basis after receiving feedback from public and staff. The Public Safety Division then presents its proposed revisions to the Board Operations Committee, Park Advisory Committee, and the full Board for comments and approval.


District parklands serve to protect wildlife, the natural habitats that support them and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the public. The current prohibition on recreational drone use is intended to reduce potential impacts to wildlife and to preserve to the greatest extent possible the quiet natural setting that many visitors value and seek in our regional parks. Additionally, as you pointed out in your letter, drones can also present significant safety issues for aircraft working in an around our regional parks including the helicopters operated by the District’s public safety division.


Take care,






Katy Hornbeck



Acting Business Services Manager  | Business Services



East Bay Regional Park District



2950 Peralta Oaks Ct, Oakland, CA 94605



T: 510-544-2540| F: 510-639-4757



KHornbeck@ebparks.org | www.ebparks.org



STATEMENT OF CONFIDENTIALITY | This electronic message and any files or attachments transmitted with it may be confidential, privileged, or proprietary information of the East Bay Regional Park District. The information is solely for the use of the individual or entity to which it was intended to be addressed. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that use, distribution, or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited. If you received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately, destroy any copies, and delete it from your system.


P Please consider the environment before you print

A couple of points leave room for optimism, one that the orginal ordnance did include a public discussion (I was not aware of this) and two there is a biannual review of these policies.


I would ask any interested drone enthusiasts to reach out to Ms. Hornbeck concerning our concerns related to these general bans and how we can introduce our perspective into the next policy review meeting. 

Please note, I am not advocating a complete elimination of all restrictions, I am advocating a fair access and use policy that would allow camera drones to operate with the purpose of recreational photography in areas and in ways that do not unreasonably impact other visitors, wildlife and local manned aircraft. 

If you agree with position please reach out to Ms. Hornbeck, or to me so that we can organize a common voice on this issue.

Thank you for your interest.



Bruce Hartwell


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20 hours ago, Bruce Hartwell said:

 Please note, I am not advocating a complete elimination of all restrictions, I am advocating a fair access and use policy that would allow camera drones to operate with the purpose of recreational photography in areas and in ways that do not unreasonably impact other visitors, wildlife and local manned aircraft. 


Amen to this — I'd love to see an opportunity to get some kind of drone permit rather than a blanket ban, which we're seeing far too many of at the local level like this.

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  • 2 months later...

This is a great thread. Anyone have an update? Following.

I’m an East Bay resident looking to use a drone to capture myself painting on location outdoors. Many of my sites are EB parks. I’d like to see reasonable rules. How do we find out when it’s on the agenda for public comment? 

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  • 8 months later...

Can you shoot down drones if they enter the airspace above your property? 

Outside of local firearms ordinances are there any other restrictions on destroying remote controlled and/or robotic devices that trespass on private property and/or violate your privacy?  

Thanks in advance for any info in this regard. 


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