The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
JAN. - FEB. 2005
Losing an election - but winning the campaign
In 2004 the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter had major successes - and our volunteers have unprecedented strength for the future
We've just experienced the most critical election of our lifetimes, and the national results are not pretty.
That makes our local election victories all the more important. Further, during the year the Chapter achieved a series of local conservation successes. Our volunteers are more numerous and better organized than ever. We are ready to direct all our strength towards defending our land, our air, and our water, our cities and our greenbelt.
In 2004 the Bay Chapter experienced an unprecedented level of volunteer activity. There were over 800 volunteers who made hands-on contributions to the Chapter's environmental efforts and hundreds more who led outings and activities. These people logged literally thousands of volunteer hours protecting our precious environment.
Over 400 volunteers turned out to help our election efforts - making phone calls, walking precincts, and working on the myriad tasks that it takes to campaign and to turn out voters. Many of these people came back week after week. During the final two months of the campaign we had at least one volunteer campaign event every week in Hercules, in San Francisco, in Marin, and in Berkeley or Oakland.
In addition we held weekly John Kerry phone banks in Berkeley and in San Francisco, phoning to swing states. In late October we had 40 callers at once at our Chapter Office. They used all our Chapter phone lines and made calls on cell phones as they filled our big meeting table and spilled out into the hallways.
In June, 20 of our volunteers headed to Reno to educate voters. This initial Bay Chapter contingent pioneered the Club's national effort to send thousands of volunteers to swing states. Again, in August, 40 volunteers headed to Reno to continue the voter-education campaign, and many of them went back a third or fourth time during the last two months (see article).
Now that the election is over, these volunteers are even more important. In the election many of them learned important organizing and leadership skills. We are counting on these people to power our ongoing efforts to hold back the Bush administration's anti-environmental agenda - and to accelerate our local environmental efforts. While Washington, DC, is in bad hands, we are working to make sure that the Bay Area provides a better model for the rest of the country.
In addition to all these election efforts, during the year about 65 people volunteered well over 2,000 hours of effort in the Chapter Office. They answered the telephone, dispersed general information, entered data, wrote letters, assembled mailings, filed information, addressed and stuffed envelopes for the mail fund appeals, proofread the Yodeler, and did other tasks essential for serving our members and supporting the Chapter's wide range of campaigns.
These volunteers have already been making a big difference.
In the November election we retained the environmentalist super-majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. All of the environmentalist incumbents who ran were re-elected, including Jake McGoldrick, who faced a very serious challenge, and one of our endorsees, Ross Mirkarimi, was elected in District 5, where incumbent Matt Gonzalez chose not to run again. This majority on the Supervisors means that San Francisco Airport will not get to revive its plans to fill in up to two square miles of the Bay. It means that the city will get to advance a major campaign for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It means that San Francisco can continue progress towards becoming a truly pedestrian-friendly city (see article). During the year the Chapter and the San Francisco Group funded a staff position to work about 3/4 time on these San Francisco efforts. This person concentrated on developing a large core of volunteers, who became an essential part of McGoldrick's campaign.
In Marin County we had a clean sweep. Club activist Charles McGlashan won election to the Board of Supervisors. Charles joins incumbent Susan Adams, who the Club had previously endorsed, giving two strong environmental voices on the five-member Board. Our Marin Group chair, Alex Forman, was re-elected without opposition to his seat on the Board of the Marin Municipal Water District, helping to maintain a strong environmental majority on that board. In addition, the Marin Group endorsed and the voters passed Measure A for transportation funding and Measure B to prohibit outdoor cultivation of genetically modified organisms in Marin.
We endorsed and won two critical ballot measures for East Bay open space. Measure CC passed, providing a critical funding source for park maintenance in the East Bay Regional Park District. The measure won with 67.3755% of the vote, just a hair over the required two-thirds vote. The vote was so close that the outcome wasn't certain till two weeks after the election; our support made the difference.
Measure M in Hercules, to protect Franklin Canyon, won by a landslide. The initiative was written, circulated, and passed largely through the efforts of Chapter volunteers, and Chapter funding was essential to launching the effort. Chapter staffer Jonna Papaefthimiou managed the Measure M field campaign, and Chapter phone outreach staff walked precincts for the measure. Now the West Contra Costa Group can focus on protecting this land as a wildlife corridor and possibly as public open space. In addition, one of our endorsees, Charlene Raines, won election to the City Council, ensuring a voice there for opponents of development in the canyon. She won by a mere eight votes; our efforts surely made the difference.
In Albany we elected two of our three endorsees to the City Council. This will give a strong environmental voice in coming decisions about shoreline development (see article).
In Fremont we helped elect Bob Wasserman as mayor and Bob Wieckowski to the City Council.
In Richmond two of our three endorsees won: incumbent Tom Butt, who ran well ahead of the pack, and surprise winner Gayle McLaughlin, who edged out an incumbent (see article). This gives two strong environmental voices on a City Council not otherwise seriously concerned about environmental values.
In Berkeley all four of our endorsees won election to the City Council, and we were successful in our first-time-ever endorsement of John Selawsky to the School Board. In Pleasanton we elected Jennifer Hosterman as mayor and Matt Sullivan to the City Council.
In the March election we helped elect Barbara Halliday and Bill Quirk to the Hayward Council. These new councilmembers have already played key roles in stopping proposals to excessively widen Mission and Foothill Boulevards (see "Transportation" below).
Lynda Deschambault, a leader of the Club-supported Preserve Lamorinda Open Space, won a seat on the Moraga Town Council. Our endorsed candidates all won in El Cerrito, Pinole, and San Pablo, and in March in Oakland, and one of two won in the city of Alameda.
Even in the painful defeat of long-time open-space champion Millie Greenberg for the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors there is some hope. Mary Nejedly Piepho, who defeated Millie, also ran on a platform of support for open space and the greenbelt, and we will give her every chance to prove her sincerity (she will be visiting the Delta Group on Jan. 18).
The Bay Chapter divides most of its conservation efforts into a set of priority campaigns. 2004 was a year of accomplishments in all the Chapter's priority campaigns (and many of the victories below fit into multiple campaign categories).
Preserving open space
A perennial first-tier priority for the Chapter is preservation of open space and sprawl prevention. Our big open-space successes of the year were in Contra Costa County.
The great victory was achievement of a settlement agreement for permanent protection of 1,354 acres of land in and adjacent to the Gateway Valley in Orinda. These valuable open-space lands, rich with streams and wetlands, complete a 20-mile-long continuous wildlife corridor stretching from San Pablo to Castro Valley. The 16-year-long effort to protect these lands was led by Save Open Space-Gateway Valley (SOS) and Golden Gate Audubon; the Bay Chapter is proud to have been part of this team.
In a struggle over similar open-space and habitat issues in nearby Moraga, Preserve Lamorinda Open Space turned out a crowd of hundreds to a May hearing by the Army Corps of Engineers over a development called Palos Colorados. We do not yet know what decision the Corps will make about the development, but we do know that the Corps will be attentive because it rarely sees such a massive public protest.
In another settlement agreement we won significant improvements and limitations to development in the Tassajara Valley. The settlement of our Alamo Creek lawsuit protects rare wetlands and a migration corridor that form habitat for the red-legged frog. The agreement also mitigates traffic impacts from planned development, and the developers have agreed not to try to push beyond Contra Costa's current Urban Limit Line, at least until the expiration of the current General Plan in 2010.
In the ongoing battle to block development in Antioch's Future Urban Area #1, we won a temporary respite. In the face of strong public opposition, the City Council dropped consideration of this development. Now that the election for Antioch City Council has produced mixed results - both incumbents were re-elected, including Club-endorsed Brian Kalinowski but not our other endorsee Reggie Moore - we must be on guard lest pro-development forces move again.
Bay, shoreline, and watersheds
Another first-tier priority is Bay, shoreline, and watershed protection and enhancement.
One of the Chapter's most complex successes has come in the area of expanded ferry service on the Bay. We want to see the most effective possible improvements to the Bay Area's transit systems. The initial proposal for ferry expansion left open questions on all sorts of issues including siting of terminals, air and water pollution, and potential interference with Bay wildlife and parks. As plans have advanced, the Water Transit Authority has worked with refreshing openness with environmental groups, including the Club, to address many of the concerns.
For example, in November the WTA announced its preliminary preference for a terminal at the Berkeley Marina rather than at Gilman Street or in Albany, locations that the Club strongly opposes. The plans are far from final, but we can confidently say that in response to our efforts, most of the most harmful possibilities have been eliminated from the planning. The Bay Chapter will continue watching over this planning process
Our San Francisco Group's efforts helped persuade the San Francisco Planning Department to prepare a full Environmental Impact Report on the proposed expansion of the marina at Marina Harbor. The proposal would block public access to and views of the Bay, limit access to the Bay for small-boat owners, add landfill and breakwaters to the Bay, and create new pollution risks. We will continue pressing for the project to be dropped or greatly modified to prevent harm to the Bay.
The Bay Chapter has been especially active in organizing for the protection of the Richmond and North Richmond shoreline area. Numerous development proposals have been appearing here, and it is critical to monitor each one individually, as well as their combined impact. We have played a central role, working with many other organizations, in organizing the Richmond Shoreline Alliance to watch these issues and to give a voice to environmental concerns as well as to those of the often disenfranchised communities living closest to these projects. We have helped to organize events where hundreds of community members have turned out to express their concern. We helped block Richmond from rushing through a housing project at the highly toxic Stauffer Chemical-Zeneca shoreline site. We worked with concerned Richmond residents to get oversight of that toxic site switched from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which lacks the staff to handle such a toxic site, to the state Department of Toxic Substance Control.
The Marin Group has been closely following the planning for the restoration of Bolinas Lagoon. Our insistence that the plan be based on accurate scientific information has proven increasingly foresighted as researchers continue to uncover surprising holes in the information formerly relied on for the flawed Army Corps study. We successfully lobbied for an independent blue-ribbon Technical Review Group, which has been functioning well. We are more optimistic that the final report, due next June, will give a fair presentation of the No-Action Alternative.
The city of Alameda made a decision that advances the interests of one major watershed. The city has used the Trinity River as a source of hydropower for its city-run electric company, but in January, at the urging of environmentalists including the Club's Northern Alameda County Group, the City Council voted not to support a lawsuit by the Northern California Power Agency to retain its water rights on the river. We are hopeful that this move can advance restoration of the river while costing the city less than 10% of its hydropower.
Parks and habitat
Another first-tier priority is the expansion and enhancement of parks and habitat. Several of the successes listed above have important habitat components.
We had two major successes this year in bolstering the budget of the East Bay Regional Park District. In November we helped pass Measure CC to fund restoration and protection of habitat, rehabilitation of dilapidated park infrastructure, and operation and maintenance of the Eastshore State Park. Earlier in the year the district faced an enormous threat when the governor drafted a budget plan that would have redirected 25% of the district's revenues (from the sales tax) into the state budget. Fortunately, after tremendous outcry (including letters from Yodeler readers) and negotiation, the budget plan was revised to take much smaller cuts from the district.
The Chapter's East Bay Public Lands Committee continued its perennial efforts for the Eastshore State Park. This year we saw more fruits of our efforts as the state began work on the habitat restoration plan for the park's Meadow. We also won assurance that ballfields will be built at the sports area south of Gilman Street. We played a key role in getting this site for the ballfields so that they would not be built in more ecologically sensitive areas.
In San Francisco, where every square foot of space is hard fought-over, the San Francisco Group worked with neighbors and Supervisor Aaron Peskin to persuade the Board of Supervisors to use eminent domain to acquire a 4,200-square-foot triangle of land adjacent to Joe DiMaggio Park in densely populated North Beach.
The Marin Group sponsored a forum on "Marin County Hiking Trails" and donated $1,500 (partly from the forum proceeds) towards construction of a new hiking trail north of Rush Creek Preserve north of Novato.
The Chapter's other top-tier priority is environmental justice. This priority is different from all of the others, because it informs all our work on all our campaigns. Our organizing efforts described above for the North Richmond shoreline are one campaign where we have been particularly successful in working together with minority communities.
Urban land use
Urban land use is one of our second-tier goals.
Our Northern Alameda County Group has played a vital role in the planning for the Uptown Project in Oakland east of Telegraph Avenue from 19th to 20th Streets. We welcome the project for bringing a substantial increment of housing to a location extremely well-served by transit - but we believe that the design could be greatly improved by locating the open-space component adjacent to heavily used Telegraph, rather than hidden away in the midst of residential buildings. Accordingly the Group commissioned a conceptual drawing for an improved design and sponsored a public charrette, which drew 50 people to a Saturday planning session and raised the public profile of the issue. As a result the developer is expected to convene public sessions of its own to air the plans. We are hopeful that our efforts will lead to constructive changes in the plan.
The Northern Alameda County Group also filed an amicus brief in support of a project that would bring 39 units of affordable housing, plus ground-level shops, to the site of the former Outback store at the corner of Blake and Sacramento in Berkeley (see article). The appeals court cited the Club's brief in its ruling in favor of the project. This project, at a location served by three major bus lines, is the sort that helps to improve transportation choices and reduce dependence on the automobile.
The Northern Alameda Group also has campaigned actively for sustainable housing in the city of Alameda. In the past year there has been considerable public discussion of the pros and cons of single- versus multi-family housing. In a city where such topics have been almost taboo, this represents considerable progress.
In March the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a chain-store ordinance supported by the Club's San Francisco Group. The measure will give the public notice and an opportunity to oppose inappropriate chain developments in the city's neighborhoods.
A closely related priority is transportation.
For over 30 years we have shared the dream of extending Caltrain, the commute rail line connecting the Peninsula with San Francisco, to reach all the way downtown to the Transbay Terminal rather than just to its current terminus at Fourth and King. In October the San Francisco Board of Supervisors listened to the urgings of the Sierra Club and many other environmental and transit-advocacy groups and brought this goal much closer, by voting to apply eminent domain to acquire a crucial site. Before this could happen the state had to agree to give the city land surrounding the site for redevelopment so that money from the sale of housing would be available to construct the extension and the new terminal. Additional funds, nearly sufficient to complete the work, are available from the state, bridge tolls, the city's sales tax, and the federal government. Design can now proceed while the legal battles continue. The most optimistic estimate of trains actually running to the new terminal is 2013.
During 2004 San Francisco also took a few more small steps toward reversing over 50 years of automobile dominance by approving about 80 units of housing with nearly no parking spaces. The Sierra Club San Francisco Group and Transportation for a Livable City were able to persuade the Planning Commission to support developers who wanted to provide less parking for apartment houses of four to 40 units. We have been only slightly successful, however, in reducing proposed parking for larger projects where the developer wanted to provide excessive parking.
After over a quarter of a century the Sierra Club was able to join with Hayward activists in celebrating the final defeat of the Foothill Freeway that would have ripped a path through the neighborhoods and open space of Hayward's hillsides. Now that the court in April has finally denied Caltrans' appeal, Hayward residents are free to develop more sensible plans for the Route 238 corridor. We helped block proposals for overwidening of Mission and Foothill Boulevards that would have dislocated about 100 businesses along a two-mile major arterial. Community members turned out in large numbers at two Council meetings, and the newly elected councilmembers whom we had endorsed played an important role.
The year's big progress on our energy priority has come in San Francisco. In July the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that will expedite selling bonds, authorized by Proposition H in 2001, to raise funds for renewable-energy and energy-conservation projects. In November it also appeared that the city was moving much closer to replacing the existing dirty power plants in the Hunters Point and Potrero Hill areas with much less polluting new plants. Approval of the Jefferson Martin Transmission Line was a major milestone towards closing Hunters Point.
Also, the city of Alameda's Public Utilities Board heeded the Chapter and decided against the construction of a high-temperature waste-to-energy electric-power plant for at least the next five years.
In December of 2003 (after our last year's accomplishments article was published) Chapter solid-waste and recycling chair David Tam, as an individual plaintiff, and Chapter legal chair Norman La Force, as attorney, achieved a major victory in our solid-waste priority campaign. The Fremont City Council voted to send its solid waste to the Altamont landfill rather than trucking it much further to Stockton. This decision will greatly reduce the fuel consumption and pollution from trucking the wastes and will bring around $350,000 per year for 20 years of additional landfill mitigation fees for host-community impact payments to Livermore, waste-shed-wide recycling education and job training, and acquisition of wildlife habitat and open space in Eastern Alameda County. Chapter activists have been serving on the committees overseeing expenditure of these funds.
The Northern and Southern Alameda County Groups and the Chapter contributed to legal and negotiating expenses to ensure that dumpers at the Vasco Road Landfill near Livermore pay landfill mitigation fees to support acquisition of wildlife habitat, recycling education and job training, and mitigation of impacts on Livermore. The fees will total to around $4.5 million.
In the city of Alameda we helped get the city's program for recycling green-waste and food waste going well despite some initial complaints, and Alameda is now ahead of most cities in the nation in green-waste composting.
While we have very little wilderness land within our Chapter boundaries, the Chapter's Wilderness Committee provides a vehicle for local wilderness lovers to work to protect wilderness throughout the state and country. This year the Wilderness Committee organized two special local events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The committee co-sponsored a "Walk for Wilderness" at Del Valle Regional Park and a wilderness anniversary program, with slides of wild places by Bob McLaughlin and historical commentary by Jack Robbins. A special end-of-the-year highlight was passage in the Senate of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act (see article). The bill did not clear the House, and will have to be reintroduced in the next Congress, but this year's progress makes success in the coming Congress likely.
Though our priority campaigns are fairly widely encompassing of local environmental concerns, the Chapter does not hesitate where necessary to play a role on issues that do not fit neatly into these categories.
The San Francisco School Board heeded warnings by the San Francisco Group and many other community organizations and voted to prohibit the use of irradiated foods in its school-lunch program.
To achieve all these successes, the Bay Chapter relies on many forms of outreach. One of the most important is our program of outings, which help thousands of participants to learn the importance of conservation through direct experience of our natural environment.
Hundreds of day hikes, on every weekend day of the year as well as many weekdays, take participants to virtually all the natural places of the Bay Area (and sometimes beyond). Our Hiking Section sponsors the largest number of day hikes, and many more are sponsored by Sierra Singles, Solo Sierrans, Gay and Lesbian Sierrans, and the Mount Diablo, Marin, and Delta Groups.
Our Backpack, Car Camping, Snow Camping, and Ski Touring Sections, and the San Francisco Group's Charter Bus Section, take participants beyond the Bay Area to the mountains, coastline, and other wild places of California. The Backpack Section alone sponsored 60 trips in 2004, with 430 participants. The Charter Bus Section celebrated its 30th anniversary, allowing people without cars to visit California's beautiful places and giving an opportunity, especially for the less physically active among us, to get out into the natural world.
This year the Chapter awarded the annual Dave and Pat Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership to backpacking and snow-camping leaders Jaye and Erwin Keller. At its Annual Banquet, the Marin Group presented a special recognition to its activities and outings co-chair, Richard Watson, who leads dozens of hikes each year. The national Sierra Club awarded the Oliver Kehrlein Award for outing leadership to Chapter backpack and car-camping leaders Brad and Katy Christie. These awards recognize just a sampling of the Chapter's outstanding outings leaders.
Our outings program includes important educational components. Each spring the Mount Diablo Group sponsors an annual series of hikes for beginning hikers. The Backpack Section since 2002 has sponsored an annual beginning backpacker course, with an average of 45 participants. Each year around 10 of these become regular participants on the section's trips, and three graduates have become new leader candidates. In 2004 the section trained nine highly qualified backpack leader candidates, who are all well on the way to fulfilling all leadership qualifications. In 2004, Sierra Singles co-sponsored a course on street skills for bicyclists.
The Snow Camping Section's annual training series introduced 70 participants to the skills of winter camping. More than 45 volunteers helped lead the course's 11 snow-camping trips. Two past students made the news, when they were rescued from the Sierra after an early storm. Equipped with just hiking boots they were unable to get out through the 4 - 5-foot drifts, but they were safely and comfortably making coffee when the rescue helicopter arrived - a testament to the skills they had learned.
The Chapter offers regular Basic Wilderness First Aid classes - for Chapter outing leaders as well as for members at large. Our three trainings in 2004 had 61 participants, including 26 Chapter outing leaders. (All outing leaders are required to have first-aid training appropriate to the type of outing they lead.)
Many of our outing leaders will educate participants about conservation concerns relating to the locations of the hikes. For example, in 2004 Bob Solotar of the Hiking Section led two hikes to Sycamore Grove Park, where he helped to raise awareness of the threats to the sycamore-grove ecosystems of California.
Our conservation subcommittees also often sponsor outings to see locations of environmental concern. Such outings in 2004 included an Energy Committee trip to see wind turbines, a livable-city tour in San Francisco, a walk sponsored by the Environmental Justice Committee and the San Francisco Group to learn about environmental concerns in Bayview/Hunters Point, and the Energy Committee's co-sponsorship of a tour of solar homes in Oakland. The Chapter Wilderness Committee often collaborates with the Sierra Club California Wilderness Committee on trips to official and potential wilderness areas in California's mountains and deserts. These trips include at least one annual service trip.
The over 200 volunteers of the Chapter's Inner City Outings Section had another year of impressive accomplishments, leading outdoor trips for people, mostly youth, who would otherwise have lacked such an opportunity. The section completed more than 75 safe, fun, and educational outings to introduce more than 1,000 urban youth and adults to the wilderness and conservation. It ran training programs to further the skills of volunteers at all levels of experience, including certifying seven new adult leaders and four new youth leaders.
For those who want some learning sitting down, our East Bay and San Francisco Dinners offer slide presentations, usually about travel to wild and beautiful parts of the world. Many of our regional groups and conservation subcommittees offer educational programs at their meetings.
Some of the Chapter's most important outings are our service outings. For example, the Hiking Section sponsored a pair of work parties to help with trail work in Tomales State Park and Point Reyes National Seashore. Gay and Lesbian Sierrans holds a monthly work party at Fort Baker to help restore native plants and ensure the recovery of the endangered mission-blue butterfly. The Delta Group holds regular clean-ups at its adopted clean-up site at Contra Loma Regional Park. The Marin Group sponsors two work weekends each year to help with maintenance work at the Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge at Norden in the Sierra.
The best way to learn about the Chapter's outings and events is to come to one. Whatever your level of ability and experience, there's one for you, and probably not far from where you live. For information on all these outing possibilities see each Yodeler's "Events and Activities" centerfold section or our Chapter web site
The Yodeler has been the Chapter's primary form of outreach to members and to the public since 1938. This past year we switched to a bimonthly format. This saves the Chapter a good bit of money, which can now be directed to other forms of outreach and conservation efforts. The new fatter format also allows the Yodeler go into more depth about the Chapter's priority campaigns.
In the past year we have made greater use of post-card inserts in the Yodeler. It takes you the reader only a few moments to sign and stamp a post card, and it makes a great impression on officials if we can deliver them a pile of thousands of signatures from people concerned about a given issue. We have enclosed in this Yodeler a post card directed to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; please send it in.
For many years we also published a Chapter Schedule, available for individual purchase or subscription. In 2004 we discontinued publishing the Schedule, and instead have incorporated our main calendar into the Yodeler. This way the calendar reaches all our members rather than just the ones who paid for the Schedule. In addition, the calendar is now available on-line, so that an updated version of it is available at any time to anyone with a computer. Activity leaders report greater turnout for hikes now that the information is more easily available.
The Chapter web site
2004 saw a revitalization of the Bay Chapter's web site.
Not only is each issue of the Yodeler now available on-line, but all of the Chapter's activities, campaigns, events, and resources are regularly updated. We had a very popular political section during the elections where everyone could see all of the Sierra Club's endorsements and recommendations for Bay Area balloting.
Each week the home page lists current happenings of interest to members. This feature has been so successful that our home page now has more visits than even the Calendar, which was previously by far the most-frequented section of the site. But with sections added for the Campaigns we are working on (including a Take Action! section), volunteer involvement, staff and contact information, leadership roster, links to job opportunities, and all of our local groups, visitors are quickly learning that the best way to keep up with their local chapter is to visit the site regularly.
© 2005 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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