|Janie Figen: consummate activist | 1927-2002
Conservationists throughout the state expressed their sorrow at the passing of
long-time Sierra Club activist Janie Figen, who died from cancer on Oct. 11.
Janie served a total of 12 years on the Chapter Executive Committee. She was chosen
chapter Chair in 1978 and 1979, and also held a number of positions at the state
level, including membership on the Sierra Club Council, the Northern California-Nevada
Regional Conservation Committee, the California Convention, the State Executive
Committee, and the State Coastal Committee. She also served as Chair of the State
Over the years Janie organized three conferences on the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA) to help the public understand how to use CEQA to defend the
environment. She had considerable mastery of environmental law and was able to
use that knowledge effectively. Her passion for detail led her to follow the legal
notices faithfully; on one occasion, for example, she read about a tax foreclosure
sale on 38 lots in Sand City and quickly informed the Regional Park District and
Big Sur Land Trust. The trust got an emergency loan from the Packard Foundation
and made a dramatic and successful bid on the courthouse steps. These acquisitions
later enabled the Park District to establish parkland where Sand City had envisioned
resort and condo development.
As the Chair of the chapters Coastal Committee she made many trips to Coastal
Commission meetings from Eureka to San Diego to seek to overturn local and county
governments approval of dense developments in sensitive coastal habitats.
Along with other members of the Monterey Bay Dunes Coalition, which she helped
found in 1985, she was instrumental in the defeat of a number of huge projects
in the dunes, including the Sterling fat farm in Sand City and the
Gullwing condominiums in Marina.
Janie and Lowel Figen moved to the Peninsula in 1957 with their one-year-old son
Peter. Daughter Anne and son Bill are native peninsulans. Until 1969 when she
returned to the work force as a medical technologist, she was a stay-at-home mom
who was active in the League of Women Voters, school affairs, and the Ventana
Chapter, which she joined soon after it was formed in 1963. Soon she and Lowel
were participating and later, leading outings.
Former Chair Don Gruber, represented the Ventana Chapter at Janies memorial
service. Sam Farr gave a memorable eulogy and many tributes to Janie were expressed.
The Chapter expresses its deepest sympathy to her family in the loss of this remarkable
Tributes to Janie
LEON PANETTA: Janie Figen will take her honored place beside those pioneers
who fought to protect the beauty of the Central Coast. Surely, we could pay her
no greater tribute than to carry on the fight in her memory.
CHRIS BROADWELL, past chapter chair: It was Janie who cajoled me into working
with the Clubs California Executive Committee, and it was Janie who encouraged
me to take on several tasks at the Clubs National Office in San Francisco.
I am a better activist for Janies tutoring.
DON GRUBER, past chapter chair: Janie developed a good grasp of the fundamentals
of land use law, and it is in this area that perhaps her signature contribution
to Sierra Club efforts occurred. Along with that [she] imposed a demanding, implacable,
impossible-to-ignore personality and tenaciousness on the poor public officials
JANE HAINES, environmental attorney: The view of the Monterey Bay shoreline
that the public enjoys today is our legacy from the life and accomplishments of
MAYOR PENDERGRASS, Sand City: Although we sometimes disagreed about how
best to appreciate natures beauty, we agreed on ways to accomplish both
objectives of coastal preservation and the creation of tourism by promoting the
1996 Sand City Coastal Peace Accord adopted by the park agencies and the city.
SCOTT HENNESSY, Director, Monterey Co. Planning and Building Dept.: Her
tenacity and accuracy of comment before decision-making bodies was always impactful.
ZAD LEAVY, Park District Board member, Big Sur Land Trust counsel: The result
of all Janies heroic efforts is that 95% of the Monterey County shoreline
north of the City of Monterey is now in permanent open space and available to
SARA WAN, chair, California Coastal Commission, PETER DOUGLAS, Executive Director,
California Coastal Commission, MEL NUTTER, former chair, California Coastal Commission:
Janie was one of the Monterey Bay Areas and Californias coastal
treasures. She did her homework and was always prepared. We will miss her great
knowledge and wisdom.
MARK MASSARA, environmental attorney, Sierra Club Coastal Program: The Monterey
coastline is a living testament to her work that will exist in perpetuity.
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