Accusations fly as Sierra Club executive committee election heats up

Run for the hills! The luxury developers are coming for our naturalists!

Well, not quite. But as the sleepy — yet ferocious — election for the San Francisco Sierra Club’s executive committee heats up, the accusations are flying.

The club is our local environmental heavyweight. They’ve saved the whales and all that jazz, and also weigh in on local housing projects. Advocates affiliated with SF BARF and the YIMBY group are running candidates to usurp the longtime Sierra Club members.

Why? Because the Sierra Club can be a roadblock to developing more housing, those new candidates contend.

“I would still like to see more [housing] density in San Francisco,” said Travis Cole, a local software engineer running on the YIMBY slate for the Sierra Club board. “More offices and more housing.”

Cole, from the pro-development slate, sounded genuinely concerned about the need to build, build, build in San Francisco in order to combat climate change. People working close to home — in San Francisco — means less driving, he argued.

Perhaps that’s why in a mailer from Save SF Sierra Club to potential Sierra Club voters, the group claims the pro-development slate are “luxury real estate developers and corporate interests who oppose a strong environmental voice” are waging a campaign “to hijack the SF Sierra Club.”

Most frequently, the committee challengers point to Sierra Club’s opposition to the 1,500-unit Mission Rock housing development — replete with 40 percent affordable housing — as a sign that the incumbent slate is out of touch.

Becky Evans, an incumbent Sierra Club committee member, said they opposed Mission Rock because of the 1,200 or so proposed parking spaces that were slated to go along with it.

But development is only a slice of the overall pie the Sierra Club tangles with, she said.

“It’s not even a big slice,” she said.

The Sierra Club deals with water access rights, with protecting animal habitats, they took a stance on dark skies around Ocean Beach, and helped Katherine Howard, who is now a Sierra Club committee candidate, fight against the use of rubber crumb tire in The City’s astroturf soccer fields — they favored real grass.

Evans has been a Sierra Club member since 1969, whereas the new candidates from the pro-development slate signed up for the local chapter in 2015 — the first time BARF aligned folks ran for those seats.

Cole stumped hard for more development, but struggled mightily to name any other local environmental issue.

“Let me think,” he said when asked about other issues. “Parking, I’m pretty anti-parking. I can’t remember any specific, but getting rid of parking minimums I agree with. Generally the focus on, I hike a lot, things like that, I’m a big fan of focusing on national parks or state parks.”

It’s a bit of a reach to say that Cole, Laura Clark (of the YIMBYs), Armand Domalewski (who worked for Scott Wiener’s state Senate campaign), and Leigha Beckman are developer moles hell bent on conquest.

But it is completely fair to say that they are focused to a fault on standard “urbanist” issues — transportation and development — in interviews and candidate statements, and mention little else about, ya know, that thing. What’s that thing? Let me think.

Oh yeah, the environment.

Voting closes Dec. 16.

* * *

I had a blast sitting on a panel of judges for the bake-off on Monday, along with Brittany Vock, production manager at Mission Pie, and Claudine Bingham, a 20-year custodian at City Hall.

And man oh man, the cakes and cookies and goodies were delicious. Judging was mighty tough, indeed.

The “best in show” winner was Supervisor Katy Tang’s aide, Ashley Summers, whose cake played off of her boss’ lactation legislation — two bosom shaped tres leche cakes replete with edible nipples and honey frosting. The honey was subtle, but made everyone exclaim “mmmm.”

The cake’s name? The Land of Milk and Honey.

* * *

This week’s On Guard ends on a solemn note.

Recently the Board of Supervisors commemorated President London Breed’s grandmother, Comelia Brown, who died at the age of 94 on Nov. 27.

Born in Craven, La., Comelia moved to San Francisco in the 1950s, and married her second husband, Willie Brown (no, not our former mayor), and had three daughters. Comelia raised them and — amazingly — also three of her eight grandchildren, including London.

A young London Breed sits on her grandmother’s lap. The board recently commemorated Breed’s grandmother, Comelia, after she died at age 94 in November.
(Courtesy photo)

I always felt a bit of a kinship to my fellow S.F. native, London, in this regard. When I was ten my father, Joe Bill Rodriguez, died. My grandfather on my dad’s side, Paco, helped my mother raise my brother and me.

I owe Paco everything. London felt much the same for Comelia.

“As a teenager, I gave her hell and she gave it right back with a good butt whooping every now and then,” London wrote on Facebook on the day of Comelia’s death. “Her love and strength were constant. She never gave up on me.”

Consider this a note of love to grandparents, and to those who love them. May you have the warmest of holidays.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at

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