In a recent op-ed in these pages, Supervisor London Breed’s chief of staff accused the Sierra Club of being “anti-environmentalists” and “putting politics over planet.”
However, the nine executive committee members are San Franciscans who have volunteered to research issues, comment on environmental documents, testify at hearings, prepare questionnaires and interview candidates — all with the end goal of preserving the environment while creating just and sustainable communities.
In recent months, the executive committee has called for higher transit impact development fees, called for backyard protections and elimination of minimum parking requirements in new developments, kept watch over the Crystal Springs Watershed and our drinking water supply, celebrated the launch of CleanPowerSF and endorsed in June and November races.
Despite Conor Johnston’s accusations to the contrary, the Sierra Club supports measures to protect and create affordable housing in transit-rich communities as means to prevent sprawl, protect habitat and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the devil is in the details of every project, and it takes citizen watchfulness to see through the smoke and past the mirrors of deceptively marketed projects. Here are some of our positions on housing, development and transit:
We support the Transbay Terminal project with 35 percent affordable housing.
In 2013, the club opposed plans to raise waterfront height limits for a 13-story luxury housing project, and in June 2014, we supported a ballot measure empowering the voters to decide if developers can raise height limits on the waterfront. Then in November 2014, we supported Proposition F, raising the waterfront height limit at Pier 70 to 90 feet, in exchange for about 30 percent affordable housing.
We also opposed the demolition of 1,538 rent-controlled units at Parkmerced. Rent-controlled units are our largest source of affordable housing.
The club opposed Governor Jerry Brown’s 2016 efforts to gut environmental protection on behalf of developers seeking to more quickly build market-rate housing statewide. Because of the efforts of the Sierra Club and others, Trailer Bill 707 is fading away.
In the thick of San Francisco’s worst housing crisis, the club has also supported legislation to regulate tenant buyouts and the conversion of homes into Airbnb hotels.
In 2010, the Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon sued developer Lennar over plans to build a bridge over Candlestick Point State Recreation Area’s ecologically sensitive Yosemite Slough wetland — not to stop housing construction in Hunters Point. A settlement resulted in $2 million to create a living shoreline at Hunters Point to help mitigate impacts of sea-level rise.
In 2011, the Sierra Club supported the appeal of the Treasure Island EIR on the basis of inadequate planning for increased bridge traffic, among other problems.
All of these positions are consistent with our goal of protecting the environment while building just and sustainable communities. We will continue to step up where we can to make a difference for our city, our region and our planet.
Becky Evans is chair of the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter. Susan Vaughan is chair of the Sierra Club SF Group.