John Sutter, an East Bay Regional Park District board member for nearly 20 years, former Superior Court judge and Oakland city councilman, announced this week he is retiring after 60 years of public service.
“It has been a privilege to serve the Park District and be part of a team that has acquired more than 35,000 acres of new parklands during my tenure,” Sutter said. “I’m especially proud of the future Gateway Park, which I think will be a destination for generations of Bay Area residents.”
As a Park District board member, Sutter initiated the District’s acquisition of former Oakland Army Base land at the foot of the Bay Bridge to become the future Gateway Park. That park, now in the planning stages, will be the terminus of the bike and pedestrian trail of the Bay Bridge.
A lifelong resident of Oakland, Sutter began his public career in 1954 as an Alameda County deputy district attorney. He was appointed by Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in its inception in 1965. Sutter was also elected to three terms on the Oakland City Council, including a two-year stint as vice mayor.
In 1982, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Sutter to the Alameda County Superior Court, where he served until 1996.
Sutter has also served on the boards of the Alameda County Solid Waste Management Authority, Oakland Charter Revision Committee, Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission, Chabot Space and Science Center, Save the Bay, the local sub-chapter of the Sierra Club, Metropolitan YMCA, Alameda County Bar Association, Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal (OCCUR), California Democratic Council and numerous other organizations. He currently serves on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.
An advocate for open space and parks for most of his life, Sutter was a founding board member and president of Greenbelt Alliance (then known as Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks). He was a leader in the successful campaign to protect the land around San Pablo Reservoir, near Orinda, in the 1950s and in the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, a 741-acre park in East Oakland with restored wetlands, picnic areas and critical habitat for migratory birds.
Among his other significant environmental victories was a successful election campaign in 1961 to save Snow Park, adjacent to Lake Merritt, blocking city efforts to develop it for commercial use.
“We are deeply grateful for Director Sutter’s vision, hard work and expertise,” Park District General Manager Robert Doyle said. “He’s been an invaluable part of not just the Park District, but the fight for open space throughout the East Bay. He will be sorely missed.”
Sutter was first elected to the Park District board in 1996. He will finish his current term, which ends this year.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 120,000 acres in 65 parks including over 1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.