July 5, 2015

In support of ethics reforms for S.F. — “Good government is good for the environment”

ethics1The Sierra Club supports the Friends of Ethics, a local good-government group, in its current effort to upgrade the policies and procedures governing political campaigns in San Francisco. This effort focuses on improvements that can be made in a relatively short time frame, before the 2015 election cycle and city budget cycle are complete. It involves encouraging the San Francisco Ethics Commission to adopt a number of needed reforms, some of which will require action by the Board of Supervisors.

The reforms the Sierra Club and Friends of Ethics urge at this time include restrictions on gifts and contributions to city officials from lobbyists or anyone else who could be seen to benefit from a proposed city action; additional powers for the Ethics Commission including the ability to disqualify parties from bidding on or being considered for city contracts; a tightening of regulations on fundraising by candidates for city office; and funding for an Ethics Commission secretary to ensure timely progress on actions taken by the Commission.

The specific reforms the Sierra Club and Friends of Ethics urge at this time include the following:

  1. Establishment of a private right of action that includes a provision for a private plaintiff to receive 50% of the penalties collected as a result of the action.
  2. Amendment of enforcement provisions to include not only fines, but also ineligibility to bid on or be considered for contracts.
  3. Prohibition of contributions from parties who seek land-use-related approvals that exceed a certain threshold monetary amount.
  4. Prohibition of contributions, gifts, or behest payments from any person or entity that is subject to enforcement actions to certain elected officials involved with the agency instituting the action.
  5. Prohibition of contributions or fundraising from lobbyists and those who receive a benefit from a proposed city action, as well as prohibition of fundraising by city commissioners and department heads for any candidate other than themselves.
  6. Designation of the Ethics Commission as the sole filing officer for behest statements and expansion of the statements to require additional disclosure.
  7. Amendment to the Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance to permit transfers to and from controlled committees only if the committees were formed for the same City elective office.
  8. Funding and hiring of an Ethics Commission secretary to enable timely progress on actions taken at Commission meetings.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission was established in 1993 by a voter-approved amendment to the City Charter. Among other functions, it audits financial-disclosure statements filed by political candidates, committees, and designated City and County employees to ensure compliance with contribution limits. The Commission also investigates ethics complaints and assesses fees and penalties for ethics violations such as conflicts of interest while making city decisions, failing to report lobbyist contracts, or failing to meet timetables for disclosing campaign contributors and expenses.

The Sierra Club supports these and other efforts to ensure fair and equitable consideration of public policy issues. The only way the environment (including its inhabitants) has a fighting chance is if we continue to try to level the public policy playing field. Or as stated by San Francisco Group chair Sue Vaughan, “Good government is good for the environment.”

— Karen Babbitt

National Sierra Club elections are underway – VOTE!

A democratic Sierra Club demands grassroots participation

VoteSierra Logo_2015The annual election for the Club’s national Board of Directors is now underway.

Those eligible to vote in the national Sierra Club election should have received in the mail (or online if you chose the electronic delivery option) your national Sierra Club ballot in early March. The ballot includes candidate profiles and where you can find additional information on the Club’s web site.

Your participation is critical for a strong Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club is a democratically-structured organization at all levels. The Club requires the regular flow of views on policy and priorities from its grassroots membership in order to function well. Yearly participation in elections at all Club levels is a major membership obligation.

In a typical year less than 10% of eligible members vote in the Board elections. A minimum of 5% is required for the elections to be valid. Our grassroots structure is strengthened when our participation is high. Therefore your participation is needed in the voting process.

How can I learn about the candidates?

Members frequently state that they don’t know the candidates and find it difficult to vote without learning more. Each candidate provides a statement about themselves and their views on the issues on the official election ballot. You can learn more by asking questions of your group and chapter leadership and other experienced members you know. You can also visit the Club’s election website for additional information about candidates. Then make your choice and cast your vote!

Voting online is quick and easy!

Even if you receive your election materials in the mail, we encourage you to use the user-friendly Internet voting site to save time and postage. If sending via ground mail, please note your ballots must be received by no later than election day, April 29.

Metallica and San Jose Sharks team up to benefit Bay Chapter

10806367_10152374627517723_5023106842506290904_nOn Wednesday, January 21st, the San Jose Sharks beat the LA Kings 4 – 2 in San Jose. At half time the iconic metal band Metallica broadcast interviews and gave a big shout-out to the Sierra Club. We were the non-profit select by the band to receive a portion of the proceeds from that evening. The event was a victory not just for the team, but it far exceeded fundraising expectations by bringing in over $28,000 for the Chapter! We want to thank the Metallica and the Sharks for including us the in the event and supporting conservation efforts in the Bay Area. You slayed it!

Nominations sought for Michener Award

Last year's Michener Award winner, Vera Lis.

Last year’s Michener Award winner, Vera Lis.

Now is the time to nominate outings leaders for this year’s Dave and Pat Michener Outings Leadership Award. The Bay Chapter established the award in 2001 to commemorate the many years of volunteer service performed by the Micheners as editors of the Chapter Schedule (the predecessor of the calendar in today’s Yodeler and Chapter website) and to recognize superior leadership by Chapter outing leaders.

If you know of an outstanding leader, send in a nomination! Leadership criteria include concern for individual participants, activities skill and knowledge combined with a penchant for sharing them, the ability to forge links between the Club’s activities and its conservation values, and the number/variety of their outings. To qualify, nominees must be leaders who list outings in the Chapter Events and Activities calendar. Each nomination may include up to two letters of support.

Send nominations and supporting letters by Tue., April 21, to Steve Bakaley, chair of the Chapter Activities Committee, at:

slbakaley at lbl.gov (preferred)
12 Calvin Court
Walnut Creek, CA 94595.

The winner will be selected at the Monday, May 4, Activities Committee meeting and announced in the June-July Yodeler.

Generations of Bay Chapter activists honored at 90th anniversary celebration

Arthur Boone (center, at microphone) and tree-planting team volunteers accept the Excellence in Community Service award at the Bay Chapter’s 90th anniversary celebration.

Arthur Boone (center, at microphone) and tree-planting team volunteers accept the Excellence in Community Service award at the Bay Chapter’s 90th anniversary celebration.

2014 was a year of many anniversaries: the 90th anniversary of the Bay Chapter, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the centennial of John Muir’s death, and the 20th anniversary of the California Desert Protection Act. All these momentous occasions gave the Bay Chapter the opportunity to reflect on past achievements and honor the activists whose vision and passion have guided us for close to a century. At the Chapter’s birthday party in November, we honored a small number of our dedicated activists with the following awards:

Edward Bennett, Edward Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award

A true Golden Sierran, Ed Bennett was elected to the Chapter Executive Committee in 1969, and served as Chapter chair, treasurer, or assistant treasurer for a period of 30 years. He takes special pride in his work on the successful campaign 1972 campaign for Proposition 20, the Coastal Initiative, which provides protection for much of the California coastline, and Proposition 70, the Wildlife, Coastal, and Park Land Conservation Act of 1988, which provided $25 million to help establish the East Bay Shoreline Park. In 1976 Ed founded the slide-lecture series “EVENTS,” which continued for 16 years and provided the Chapter with a major source of funding.

Zeke Gerwein, Future Leader Award

This summer, 13-year-old Zeke Gerwein embarked on a second summer biking adventure, pedaling 3,400 miles from Mexico to Canada and back down the coast to Arcata. Zeke’s trip raised money for the Bay Chapter and raised awareness of climate disruption. Zeke’s was an educational enterprise on multiple levels; an extraordinarily articulate young man, he shared his story and learned from the people he met along his route. Since his return to his home in Berkeley, Zeke has shared his experiences with others. Show your support for Zeke’s work by making a donation to the Bay Chapter at tinyurl.com/thankzeke.

Arthur Boone and Tree-planting Team, Excellence in Community Service

When Oakland reduced its tree crew in mid-2009, Sierra Club leader Arthur Boone stepped up to fill the void. Boone worked with the Northern Alameda County Group to garner the support of Oakland’s city officials, including former Councilwoman Jane Brunner. The tree team recruits and trains volunteers who plant trees between November and July. Over the last four-and-a-half years the Sierra Club’s all-volunteer tree-planting team planted 1,072 street trees in Oakland, with many more going in this season.

Jane Barrett, Paul Foster, Anna Robinson, Evelyn Randolph, and Jack Sudall (in memorial) of East Bay Dinners, Excellence in Social Events

In 1948, several volunteer leaders organized dinners to introduce new members to the Sierra Club and all it had to offer. Over time, these dinners became the East Bay Dinners: an evening of socializing with friends and a slide show presentation of members’ interesting trips. The current committee (our awardees) shares 128 years of Sierra Club membership and has given us 35 years of service. We also honor two past program coordinators, Bill Loughman and John Shively, as well as Jack Sudall, who led the group for 52 years and passed away in 2014.

Katherine Howard, Activist of the Year

“The public needs to be informed of what’s happening with our parks so that they can hold their elected officials responsible for protecting our precious park heritage,” said Kathy Howard. That statement pretty much sums up her approach to conservation. Over the years Kathy has helped to form various grassroots groups to be a voice for Golden Gate Park. Her efforts in Golden Gate Park include saving 100-year-old trees in the Music Concourse; successfully opposing the construction of a 40,000-square-foot water-treatment facility inside the park; and a six-year campaign to stop the Beach Chalet project.

Dick Schneider, Acre by Acre Award

Dick Schneider’s 40-year “career” in the Sierra Club has ranged from environmental research on high-altitude Sierra Nevada lakes to work on energy, toxics, and population issues as a Club leader. Dick’s leadership has been instrumental to campaigns to protect unincorporated eastern Alameda County land from sprawl and other harmful development. He has been involved in numerous growth-control initiatives in Fremont, Livermore, Hercules, Moraga, and Dublin, where in 2014 he helped lead the successful campaign to defeat a developer-backed initiative that would have broken the city’s new urban-growth boundary and authorized urban sprawl in rural Doolan Canyon.

Past Recipients, Michener Outings Leadership Award

In 2001, the Bay Chapter established the Dave and Pat Michener Outings Leadership Award, named after the volunteers who co-edited the Chapter Activities Calendar for more than 30 years. The award recognizes individual Chapter outings leaders for superior leadership. Michener Award recipients are: Don de Fremery (2001), Patrick Colgan (2002), Guy Mayes (2003), Jayne and Erwin Keller (2004), Jack Sudall (2005), Katy and Brad Christie (2006), Richard Watson (2007), Diane Smith (2008), Lloyd Sawchuck (2009), Chuck Collingwood (2010), Russ Hartman (2011), Mike Hayman (2012), Janess Hanson (2013), and Vera Lis (2014). These individuals have enriched outings participants and served the environmental movement in countless ways.

Finding our place in the Black Lives Matter movement — Why there can be no climate justice without racial justice

Holding signs from left to right: Eduardo Martinez, Steve Nadel, unknown activist, Liz Pallato, and Adrian Cotter at a Black Lives Matter rally in Oakland in December, 2014.

Holding signs from left to right: Eduardo Martinez, Steve Nadel, unknown activist, Liz Pallato, and Adrian Cotter at a Black Lives Matter rally in Oakland in December, 2014.

Looking back over the past year, I am proud to say that the San Francisco Bay Chapter has grown in its understanding of who we are as an ally and partner in our movement for change. Rather than the lone tree standing in the wilderness, called to the higher purpose of protecting the living earth, we must be a galvanizing force for bringing together a broad spectrum of Sierra Club members, partners in the environmental movement, and other allies who are impacted by environmental degradation. We need to pitch a big tent in order to make the changes that are needed to combat climate disruption and transition to a 100%-clean-energy economy.

A great injustice is preventing our society’s transition to renewable energy. Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything,” lays the blame on an exploitative economy that plunders the earth and strips the people of their rights. Klein’s arguments are a large-scale call for revolutionary thought and systemic reform. In order to achieve the systemic reforms that  promote environmental justice, we in the environmental community must reflect on how our work is connected to the struggle for racial justice.

Etecia Brown is a fourth-generation Bayview-Hunters Point resident and graduate student of public policy who has brought together a coalition of young black college students, community organizers, and local nonprofit organizations to support the Black Lives Matter movement at the local level. “The mission of this collaborative effort is to provide a safe space for the black community to gather and express their grief and begin to heal,” says Brown. “Despite the trauma that reverberates after tragic deaths like those of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin, the normalized behavior is returning to business as usual without addressing the pain and confusion that comes from both loss and injustice. The pain of these deaths is compounded by the powerlessness and voicelessness that the black community feels from the lack of accountability of police officers and government officials. It is important for young people of color to have undying love for themselves and their community and develop deep convictions for creating positive grassroots change.”

The following is an abridged list of demands from the San Francisco Black Lives Matter organizing group:

  • Invest in community black and brown initiatives—both in and out of the classroom;
  • Hire police and police commissioners from local communities of color so that the force is more representative of the communities they serve;
  • Ensure police training in cultural competency, de-escalation, and proper handling of suspects with mental health issues;
  • Implement policies that promote transparency and accountability, including citizen review boards, special prosecutors for police-involved shootings, better record keeping and sharing of information with the public, and on-body cameras (only if record keeping is in accordance with ACLU guidelines);
  • Open channels of communication with top city officials including the mayor, the district attorney, the city attorney, the police chief, and the sheriff; and
  • Prevent militarization of our police force by prohibiting the city or police department from owning military-grade weapons.

These demands are not dissimilar to requests that we in the environmental community make of government bodies tasked with regulating oil refineries, power plants, developers, and other powerful industries that threaten the natural world. For the Black Lives Matter movement, the “industry” at stake is the justice system.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Brown, Garner, and Martin have brought widespread public attention to the persistent bias within the American justice system that fails to serve communities of color equally under law. The Chevron Richmond refinery fire on August 6th, 2012, was likewise a tipping point for the Bay Area; more than 15,000 people sought medical treatment for respiratory problems brought on by the toxic smoke, in a powerful demonstration of how insufficient regulation of the fossil-fuel industry disproportionately harms low-income communities of color.

Under the heightened media scrutiny following the grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York, it has become tragically clear that violence against black Americans by those enlisted to protect and serve is part of a nation-wide epidemic. It is also true that exposure to pollution is far more common for communities of color. When the phrase “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement after the failure to indict in the Eric Garner case, the term resonated with individuals who suffer from asthma due to living in areas with poor air quality. According to the CDC, black children are twice as likely as white children to have asthma, and the difference in asthma rates between black and white children continues to grow. The same air pollution that causes asthma also leads to cancer and heart failure.

In 2014 our nation celebrated the 50th anniversaries of both the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act. Fifty years on, we see our lands being torn apart for fossil-fuel and mineral extraction. We also see the persistence of excessive force in our police apparatus and astronomical rates of incarceration of African Americans. Our nation’s social and environmental struggles can’t be properly addressed if they aren’t considered together. The injustices in our political institutions that marginalize and disenfranchise communities of color are the same forces that empower polluters. To stop the pillaging of our land and the poisoning of our air and water, we need to fight for a system that protects and empowers each individual citizen. There can be no climate justice without racial justice.

The Wilderness and Civil Rights Acts were passed only after prolonged periods of struggle and national reckoning with unpleasant truths. From our vantage point of fifty years, we can see that what made the difference in these movements was a willingness to openly acknowledge and speak out against the systems that perpetuate war and injustice. The fruits of our predecessors’ struggles were the legal frameworks that defend people and the environment to this day. Unfortunately, we find today that these laws have become frayed, too-often ignored, or redefined to fit a more convenient meaning.

In recent months many have quoted Dr. King, who proclaimed that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In our work in this new year and beyond, we must remember that environmental degradation and racial discrimination are two consequences of the same broken system. This is our call to action.

— Michelle Myers, Director, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter

2014: a year of successes on many fronts

10658929_10152219076347723_622597217986591581_o(1)As we close our 90th-anniversary year and look toward the future, the principles of conservation, sustainability, and environmental justice guide our efforts to preserve the region’s iconic open spaces, stand up to big polluters, and strengthen the laws and institutions that put our values into action. In 2014 we achieved many successes in these areas. Here are some of the highlights:

Parks and Open Space

Last year the Bay Chapter won victories that will prevent sprawl and protect more of the region’s world-class natural areas for wildlife and recreation.

  • Open-space protections at the ballot box: In November, voters defeated two developer-backed initiatives in Alameda County in what the Contra Costa Times called a “defining moment for slow growth advocates.” A stunning 84% of Dublin voters rejected an initiative that would have broken their new urban-growth boundary and authorized urban sprawl in rural Doolan Canyon. In Union City, the Flatlands Development Initiative was also soundly defeated, with 65% of voters endorsing the protection of 63 acres of open space. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9895.
  • San Francisco waterfront protections: In 2014, San Francisco voters made it clear that they want a say in the future of their city’s waterfront. In June, Proposition B passed by a nearly two-to-one margin, requiring that any development project on the waterfront that would exceed existing height limits receive voter approval. Two projects fell away during the Prop. B campaign: the Golden State Warriors arena at Piers 30-32 and the San Francisco Giants development at Seawall Lot 337. In November, voters demonstrated that Prop. B’s mandate can work, approving a mixed-use development on Pier 70.
  • Standing up for coastal protection: This fall the Club filed a lawsuit challenging a dangerous amendment to Marin’s Local Coastal Plan that could weaken environmental protections for the entire California coast. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9803.
  • Alameda Crab Cove park expansion: The Sierra Club made progress in an ongoing campaign to expand the park at Alameda’s Crab Cove. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9995.
  • Alameda wetland restoration: Thanks to the strong lobbying efforts of the Sierra Club and other allies, Alameda is moving forward with plans to convert the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point to a natural wetland park. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9752.
  • Funds secured to care for parks: Voters in Berkeley, Richmond, and El Cerrito passed Sierra Club-endorsed measures that will provide funds for park maintenance.

Dirty Energy

In 2014, the threat of mile-long trains of toxic and explosive “extreme fuels” like Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands became a terrifying new reality for the region. The Bay Chapter is fighting back, organizing coalitions against oil-refinery upgrades and for emissions regulations. Meanwhile, in the face of declining U.S. markets, coal companies pushed to massively expand exports of coal, particularly from the West Coast. This year the Bay Chapter contributed to successful campaigns to prevent coal exports from the Bay Area, which would  threaten local communities with pollution from coal dust and other particulate matter.

  • Plans to export coal and petcoke stymied: The Port of Oakland rejected a proposal to build a coal- and petroleum-coke-export facility, which would have handled over five million tons of fossil fuels annually. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9262.
  • WesPac EIR recirculated: The Pittsburg City Council reopened parts of the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the WesPac oil-terminal project in order to better assess public-safety risks. The project—which would bring in 242,000 barrels per day of crude oil by rail and tanker—is now on hold.
  • Air District emissions regulations: Pressure from the Sierra Club has been instrumental in pushing forward three strong new refinery-emission rules at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The rules, which are still moving through the approval process, will inventory emissions and improve fence-line monitoring of pollutants; set caps on pollutants; and require a 20% reduction of refinery emissions by 2020. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9900.
  • Bay Area cities oppose crude by rail: Over the spring and summer, Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland all passed resolutions opposing the dangerous transport of crude by rail through their city limits. The Oakland resolution was also the first in the state to address railway transport of coal and petroleum coke in addition to oil. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9678.
  • Chevron Richmond refinery expansion: The long fight over the expansion of Chevron’s Richmond refinery (a prerequisite for processing dirty and dangerous “extreme fuels”) ended last summer when the city council approved the project—but environmental groups won key concessions, including limitations on the sulfur content of crude being processed onsite and an agreement that the expanded facility would produce no increase in greenhouse gases. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9796.
  • People’s Climate Rally: In September, over 5,000 people attended the solidarity rally in Oakland on the day of the People’s Climate March in New York City. That event drew an estimated 400,000 people and proved to be a galvanizing moment in the global movement to demand climate action.
  • Progress toward an Alameda County fracking ban: Thanks to the Club’s lobbying efforts, a county-wide fracking ban made significant progress in 2014. The ordinance is now being drafted, and the Sierra Club will push for its adoption in 2015.
  • Port of San Francisco fossil-fuel ban: The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the Port of San Francisco to bar the transportation and export of hazardous fossil fuel materials, which would be the first such policy in the nation. The Sierra Club is in negotiations over options to restrict the handling of fossil fuels at the Port.
  • Chevron loses big in Richmond elections: Although Chevron spent close to $4 million in an attempt to stack the Richmond City Council with refinery-friendly candidates, the progressive, Sierra Club-endorsed “Team Richmond” candidates swept the elections, proving that democracy is alive and well in Richmond. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9943.
  • Speaking out against a Phillips 66 refinery project: Over 4,500 Sierra Club supporters submitted comments on the proposed upgrade and expansion of the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obisbo. The project, if approved, would threaten the region with spills and pollution from five weekly train deliveries of Canadian tar sands oil.
  • Gas-pump labels to warn of global warming: Both Berkeley and San Francisco are moving forward with plans to post warning labels at fueling stations to inform consumers of the link between driving, carbon dioxide emissions, and climate disruption. Read more on page 14.

Clean Energy

A key Chapter priority is the pursuit of clean-energy solutions right here at home. 2014 saw the expansion and development of Community Choice energy programs across the Bay Area, empowering local communities take back control of their energy future. Visit www.BayAreaEnergyChoice.org to learn more about Community Choice and find a program near you.

  • Community Choice-killer dies in the Senate: Assembly Bill 2145, the “Energy Monopoly Protection Act,” died in the State Senate in September, preventing a catastrophic loss to California’s clean-energy future.
  • Community Choice spreads throughout the Bay Area: Alameda County is moving forward with the study and formation of a countywide Community Choice energy program. The cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, and San Pablo, as well as Napa County, have all expressed interest in joining Marin Clean Energy, while neighboring Sonoma County officially launched its Community Choice program in May. Officials from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, along with the cities within those counties, are exploring options for creating their own Community Choice programs.
  • Glimmers of hope for CleanPowerSF: While San Francisco’s Community Choice program, CleanPowerSF, is still bogged down in city politics, recent developments have put the program in an even stronger position to succeed when it is finally implemented. In November, a report found that the program could create 8,100 new jobs, and the Board of Supervisors voted to give CleanPowerSF first right to surplus Hetch Hetchy power.


The Bay Chapter achieved transportation victories that will improve air quality, increase use of mass transit, and reduce dependence on the single-occupant automobile.

  • Settlement strengthens Plan Bay Area: The Sierra Club and Earthjustice reached a settlement with the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in a lawsuit over the regional land-use and transportation plan known as Plan Bay Area. The agreement ensures that the plan will meaningfully address the goals of reducing climate change; securing the health and safety of vulnerable communities; and promoting sustainable growth.
  • Transportation victories in the November election: San Francisco voters passed two Sierra Club-endorsed transportation-funding measures: Proposition A, the mayor’s $500-million bond for crucial infrastructure projects, and Proposition B, which dictates increases in the Muni budget as the population increases. San Francisco’s Proposition L—which would have reversed the city’s decades-old “Transit First” policy and established a “Cars First” policy—lost. Nick Josefowitz was elected to BART District 8, dislodging longtime director James Fang and putting BART back on track. In Alameda County, Measure BB—which will restore much-needed bus service and invest unprecedented sums of money into bicycle and pedestrian improvements—passed with over 70% of the vote.

Sustainable Communities

In 2014 we worked to make Bay Area communities  more sustainable by reducing waste and sprawl.

  • “Raise the wage” campaigns take hold: In November, minimum-wage measures passed handily in both San Francisco and Oakland. The Sierra Club supports measures to increase affordable housing and raise the minimum wage, because when people can afford to live near where they work—particularly in transit-rich, walkable, urban areas—there is an aggregate reduction of sprawl and greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • Big steps toward a Zero Waste Oakland: Oakland moved forward on a Zero Waste program that incorporates a number of green and forward-looking elements. After long and tough negotiations, two companies—California Waste Solutions and Waste Management—were awarded the Zero Waste contract. Oakland’s recycling and composting program now includes source separation of trash, recycling, and compostable materials for all Oaklanders; training and job placement for underprivileged youth; augmented bulky waste pick up to prevent illegal dumping; decent wages for recycling workers; a state-of-the-art recycling facility on Oakland’s Army Base; and use of a local EBMUD facility for conversion of commercial food waste to clean energy.


Taking down Goliath in Richmond—progressive Team Richmond defies Chevron’s millions to sweep elections

IMG_5198With checks on political spending falling away left and right, the strength of our democracy was tested this election cycle. But voters proved that democracy is alive and well in Richmond. Chevron—whose 3,000-acre refinery in the town is the state’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter—spent close to 4 million dollars on political ads with the goal of packing the city council and mayor’s office with industry-friendly candidates. Avalanches of mailers, television spots, web ads, billboards, and canvassers targeted local progressive candidates who promised to hold Chevron accountable, and forced Richmond residents to endure one of the nastiest political smear campaigns in history. Despite negative reactions from the community, Chevron kept the lies flowing all the way to the end of Election Day.

The Bay Chapter endorsed a slate of progressive city council candidates who banded together as “Team Richmond”: termed-out mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, and Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez. Martinez is a member of the Bay Chapter’s West Contra Costa County Executive Committee. The Club also endorsed Jael Myrick for a two-year term city council seat and Tom Butt for mayor.

Sierra Club members and supporters joined in the grassroots efforts to help Team Richmond defeat the corporate-backed candidates. We made phone calls, walked precincts, passed out slate cards, and put in as many hours as we could. And the hard work paid off: all five Sierra Club-endorsed candidates won, with McLaughlin, Beckles, and Martinez coming in first, second, and third place respectively; Myrick receiving 52% of the vote, with his closest competitor (Corky Booze) garnering only 31%; and Mayor-elect Butt taking 51% of the vote, with Chevron-backed Nat Bates coming a distant second with 35% of the vote.

Sierra Club volunteers, including Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton (center) at Team Richmond headquarters on Election Day.

Sierra Club volunteers, including Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton (center), at Team Richmond headquarters on Election Day.

Chevron’s campaign of lies only made Team Richmond stronger, helping to attract a loyal volunteer base that wanted a local government that would provide responsible oversight for the refinery’s 1-billion-dollar modernization project; aggressively pursue a lawsuit against the oil giant over the 2012 refinery fire; and generally provide strong oversight. Sierra Club member Victoria Stewart exemplified the passion of Team Richmond supporters, volunteering to knock on doors despite being in chemotherapy.

Richmond’s neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by the fossil fuel industry. The entire city lies in the blast zone of a potential oil-train explosion; our children breathe in the toxic emissions from the refinery; and our neighbors suffer the consequences when lax safety standards cause fires and other refinery accidents. Our newly-elected city government understands these threats and will work to correct them. Just a few weeks before the election, Mayor McLaughlin brought a resolution to the city council to formally denounce crude by rail and call upon the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to revoke Kinder Morgan’s permit for shipping highly explosive and toxic Bakken Shale oil into Richmond—a permit that was issued in secrecy. That same night, the candidates made stopping bomb trains and all fossil fuels by rail a priority cause. On election night, Richmond’s voters delivered five strong allies in the fight to turn away from our dependence on fossil fuels, and toward a safe and secure clean-energy future.

—Ratha Lai

San Francisco Elections Recap 2014

MUNI_diesel_hybrid_busSierra Club members in San Francisco had reason to feel unhappy about the election results; several of our priority races didn’t go our way. But we will learn all the lessons we can from these losses—and we shouldn’t forget the important victories we did rack up!

First the bad news:

With ballots still being counted, Supervisor David Campos conceded in his race to represent District 17 in the State Assembly. The winner, who will replace outgoing Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, is David Chiu, the current President of the Board of Supervisors (fun fact: both Davids are 44-year-old Harvard Law School graduates). Although he lost, Campos ran one of the best field campaigns in the city’s history, with over 500 volunteers working to get out the vote on election day. Campos went into the race as the underdog and exceeded expectations by earning 48.8% of the vote to Chiu’s 51.2%. The Sierra Club looks forward to Campos continuing his leadership on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and in advocating for clean-energy solutions—particularly the CleanPowerSF program—on the Board of Supervisors. The election results now give way to two questions: who will Mayor Lee appoint as Chiu’s District 3 successor, and who will the Board of Supervisors choose as their next President?

Tony Kelly, who ran on a platform of independence from the mayor’s office and giving the neighborhood a voice in City Hall, also came in second in his race to represent San Francisco’s District 10 on the Board of Supervisors. With his loss, self-identified progressives failed to take a back a seat considered crucial for advancing environmental issues. The Sierra Club hopes to work more closely with incumbent Supervisor Malia Cohen in the next four years.

In other disappointing news, the Yes on H and No on I campaigns did not go the way the Sierra Club had wished. Proposition H, the initiative that proposed to keep seven acres of soccer fields as natural grass and prevent the installation of 60-foot stadium nightlights, failed to pass. And unfortunately, Proposition I—a competing “Poison Pill” measure, little more than a Parks Department power grab—did pass. The very morning after the election, the S.F. Recreation and Park Department chained off Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet fields and began cutting down trees and demolishing the bucolic fields. In the days that followed, local activist Kathleen McCowin was arrested for her part in a sit-in that blocked work trucks from accessing the site (she spent the night in jail and was released without charge the following day). But not all is lost! The Sierra Club lawsuit against the environmental impact report for the contested Beach Chalet project is now in the appeals process. If the Sierra Club prevails, a new EIR will have to be completed. Park advocates would then have an opportunity to demand environmental improvements to the project.

And now for the good news!
Proposition F, a developer proposal to raise height limits at Pier 70 to 90 feet (the height of the tallest building currently at the site), and construct residential housing and parkland, passed. The project will protect artist studios currently at the site and otherwise put to good use an underutilized part of the city. The Sierra Club supported this community-supported infill measure because 600 units (or 30 percent) of all new housing will be affordable and in close proximity to the T-Third transit line.

The Sierra Club was happy to see the failure of Proposition L, a policy measure that sought to reverse San Francisco’s decades-old “Transit First” policy and establish a “Cars First” policy. The initiative lost by a wide margin, garnering only 37 percent of the vote. The proponents, supported by $40,000 from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker, called for municipal garages in every neighborhood and permanent bans on the operation of parking meters on Sundays and holidays. The Club is thrilled that San Franciscans have embraced a safe and healthy multimodal transit system and rejected a message of increased congestion and degraded air quality.

Meanwhile, the two transportation funding measures endorsed by the Sierra Club passed. The Mayor’s $500-million bond, Proposition A, will go a long way toward addressing the $10 billion in crucial infrastructure projects needed over the next fifteen years, although the measure was not accompanied by a spending plan. Proposition B, authored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, dictates increases in the Muni budget as the population increases.

Another big transportation victory was the election of Nick Josefowitz to BART District 8, dislodging longtime director James Fang. BART faces massive deferred maintenance costs and the percentage of renewables in BART’s power supply has dropped from 100% in 1996 to 56% today. A forward-looking director like Josefowitz will seek solutions—not the status quo.

In other good news, John Rizzo was re-elected to the Community College Board.  The future of City College of San Francisco is still up in the air; its status is before a Superior Court judge in San Francisco, but trustees are hopeful that they will be re-instated sometime in 2015.

The Sierra Club supports measures to increase affordable housing and raising the minimum wage, because when people can afford to live near where they work—particularly in transit-rich, walkable, urban areas like San Francisco—there is an aggregate reduction of sprawl and greenhouse-gas emissions. Jane Kim, who has been an advocate for affordable housing, handily won her bid for re-election to the Board of Supervisors in District 6. Proposition J, which will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 and thereafter increase hourly wages based on inflation, won handily, with over 77 percent of the vote. Unfortunately, Proposition G, the measure to place a hefty transfer tax on some residential properties sold within five years of purchase, lost 54 percent to 46 percent.  Prop. G would have served as deterrent to the purchase of residential buildings, eviction of tenants, and quick sale of highly lucrative empty buildings. We hope the proposition will be back on the ballot soon.

You can see all of our 2014 endorsement results at sfbay.sierraclub.org/endorsements.

—Becky Evans and Sue Vaughan


Northern Alameda County Group Elections Recap 2014

451530644_bce7c15715Though there were some heartbreaking losses, the story in Northern Alameda County is generally one of success. We are blessed with a deep bench of decent candidates to choose from, and overall we are very pleased and excited to have seen so many of the Sierra Club-endorsed candidates win their respective races. We learned once again that hard work, grassroots organizing, and the Sierra Club’s coveted seal of approval have a strong influence on the outcome of any election.

As so many races in this election showed, a candidate can win with only a fraction of registered voters participating in the process and with as little as a single-vote lead. So vote, Americans, vote! So many people in the world are denied this right.

Here’s a city-by-city look at some of the most notable races in Northern Alameda County.

There are numerous environmental battles ongoing in the City of Alameda, and our local Sierra Club activists worked hard to elect representatives who are solid and reliable on environmental issues. In this case, hard work and a well-deserved Sierra Club endorsement guaranteed an endorsed candidate’s victory: we are happy to welcome Frank Matarrese to the city council. And though we did not endorse another city council newcomer, Jim Oddie, we look forward to working with him as well.

Trish Spencer entered the race for mayor close to the deadline and was not endorsed by the Club, but local and group activists have high hopes for her as an environmental ally.

Sometimes good things just happen. Because there were only as many candidates as there were available seats, Albany did not have a formal election. Two of our endorsed candidates—Nick Pilch, who serves on the Bay Chapter Executive Committee, and appointed incumbent Rochelle Nason—will start their first full terms next month.

In District 1, Sierra Club-endorsed incumbent councilmember Linda Maio won in a race against another great progressive candidate. No voting record is perfect and Linda was accused by some of not voting correctly on mercury issues. Despite this, the Sierra Club was convinced that her overall environmental record was very strong—not only on local issues but also on issues of state and federal importance, like transport of crude oil by rail. Linda not only sponsored Berkeley’s resolution opposing crude by rail, but also brought this issue to the attention of the League of California Cities, which prompted the creation of a working group to provide recommendations to the federal government. She also led the California delegation in Washington, DC to press the Department of Transportation to more effectively regulate the railroads.

In District 7, we were glad to see endorsed incumbent Kriss Worthington retain his seat on the council in a tough race in a dramatically reconfigured district.

Our endorsed candidate in District 8, George Beier, lost by only 16 votes to Lori Droste. We are optimistic about building a robust working relationship with Droste.

We also celebrated the wins of both of our endorsed ballot measures in Berkeley, both of which passed overwhelmingly. Measure F, a special parks tax, will ensure the beautification and maintenance of Berkeley’s many incredible parks. Measure Q is an advisory measure that calls on the city council to adopt an ordinance to give Berkeley employees the right to request part-time or flexible work arrangements (academic research has shown that shorter work time reduces ecological footprint and carbon emissions).

The Emeryville City Council gained two excellent representatives in Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue. These two newly-elected officials entered the race as running mates with shared values for preserving open space, creating affordable housing, and improving bike, pedestrian, and transit access throughout the city. It is crucial to have environmentally-conscientious elected officials representing our coastal cities and we are delighted to have Dianne and Scott representing Emeryville.

Oakland had some of the most spectacular wins in the whole Bay Area. The most contentious and crucial race in Oakland for the Club was for the city council District 4 seat. Despite some deceptive tactics by her opponent (who printed the Sierra Club logo and the words “proud supporting member of the Sierra Club” next to her endorsements on campaign materials), the true Sierra Club-endorsed candidate, Annie Campbell Washington, won the election by a landslide.

It is worth noting that Shereda Nosakhare, our endorsed candidate for Oakland City Council District 6, lost narrowly (by less than 500 votes!) to long-time incumbent Desley Brooks. During the endorsement process Shereda demonstrated knowledge and commitment to environmental values, and she would have been a great representative for Oaklanders. We encourage her to run again. We do, however, also hope to develop a stronger working relationship with Councilmember Brooks.

While the Club did not make an endorsement in the mayor’s race, many Sierra Club leaders were disappointed about the loss of Mayor Jean Quan, who in her four years in office had many impressive environmental accomplishments to her name. We congratulate Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf—whom we had endorsed four years ago for her city council seat—and have high hopes that we will be able to work well with her.

The Sierra Club also endorsed Measure FF, which significantly raises Oakland’s minimum wage, and were delighted that it passed with large margins (San Francisco’s minimum-wage initiative, Proposition J, also won handily). In June, the Chapter Executive Committee voted to support all campaigns to increase the minimum wage within its member jurisdictions. This decision is in line with the Club’s commitment to sustainable communities and the goal of curbing carbon pollution, because when workers can afford to live in or near the cities where they work there is an aggregate reduction of sprawl and greenhouse-gas emissions.

San Leandro
In San Leandro, two Sierra Club-endorsed candidates won: Pauline Cutter for mayor, and Corina Lopez for San Leandro City Council District 5. Sierra Club activists were impressed with the overall environmental commitment of both candidates, particularly with regard to their commitment to affordable housing built close to public transit; and a Complete Streets approach that calls for investing in sidewalk- and bicycle-path expansion alongside road repair and maintenance.

We look forward to working with both Cutter and Lopez, as well as with the other newly-elected councilmembers, Deborah Cox and Lee Thomas, and are hopeful for a new pro-environment majority on the San Leandro City Council.

Special districts

In other election news, Sierra Club-endorsed incumbent Robert Raburn retained his seat on the BART Boart, despite labor opposition. With Nick Josefowitz’s win in District 8, the BART Board has become even more amenable to Sierra Club concerns.

One final victory to note was the election of Marguerite Young to the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors. As with the BART board, Marguerite’s election to the EBMUD board has created an environmental progressive majority, which will make it easier to pass water-conservation measures and protect the Mokkelumne River.

Finally, Measure BB, which will restore much-needed bus service and invest unprecedented sums of money into bicycle and pedestrian improvements, passed in Alameda County with over 70% of the vote. The Sierra Club’s endorsement and efforts to promote it were critical to its success.

You can see all of our endorsement results at sfbay.sierraclub.org/endorsements.

—Olga Bolotina and Igor Tregub