Attacking Sierra Club won’t solve housing crisis

When tenant and affordable housing advocates unite with environmental and neighborhood groups, we have a powerful voice. The strength and credibility of that coalition was a major reason San Francisco voters were able to see through millions of dollars in deceptive ads by developers and overwhelmingly reject the 8 Washington “Wall on the Waterfront” luxury condos and Propositions P and U, the San Francisco Association of Realtors’ anti-affordable housing measures on November’s ballot.

The real estate lobby and luxury high-rise condo developers who want to rewrite our laws to benefit their financial interests have figured this out, too. That’s why they are funding a slate of candidates again this year to try to take over the S.F. Sierra Club as a way to divide us and confuse voters.

The SFBARF/YIMBY group that failed to get their candidate, Donald Dewsnup, and others elected to run the San Francisco Sierra Club last year is trying again, and they are far better funded this time around. According to Ethics Commission records, YIMBY PAC’s top donor in this past election was a political committee that received $300,000 from Maximus Real Estate, the sponsor of the controversial “Monster in the Mission” luxury condo tower. Ethics Commission records show that YIMBY PAC received tens of thousands more from political committees funded by the Association of Realtors, Shorenstein Real Estate and corporate executives. They’ve reportedly signed up hundreds of new Sierra Club members with the exclusive purpose of electing their slate of candidates in this election to reverse the S.F. Sierra Club’s longstanding support for both affordable housing and environmental protection.

The Sierra Club takeover slate is pushing a false choice that claims the way to fight climate change is not to focus on stopping polluters from polluting but to repeal height limits and build high-rise luxury condo towers up and down San Francisco’s waterfront. More than just a false slogan with no more validity than climate-change deniers, this is a targeted strategy aimed at dividing people who care about the environment and our waterfront from people who want to halt unfair evictions, strengthen rent control and build more affordable housing.

We need to stick together and not be divided by corporate interests with their own agenda. Now, more than ever before, we need the Sierra Club to be a strong champion for our environment and to work with, not against, tenant groups and affordable housing advocates. 

Just as the national Sierra Club has partnered with affordable housing advocates and prioritized stopping housing displacement in the Bay Area, the volunteers who lead the S.F. Sierra Club have been a strong and valuable ally in the fight to protect renters and build more affordable housing while protecting our parks, waterfront and environment. We can and must do both.

If you are a Sierra Club member, please join us and reject the real estate takeover by supporting the nominated slate of candidates: Sheila Chung Hagen, Becky Evans, Katherine Howard and Linda Weiner for Sierra Club S.F. Group Executive Committee. Voting ends on Dec. 16, so vote now or find out more at www.SaveSFSierraClub.org.

Dean Preston is the executive director of Tenants Together. Jennifer Fieber is the political director of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

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