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Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Club’

Without a hint of irony, the Sierra Club blog discovers the YIMBY movement, and efforts by millennials to build infill housing:

“If you can create a land-use configuration that will encourage people to take transit more often, to bike, and to walk, you’re really making an improvement as far as reducing congestion, reducing vehicle emissions, and reducing energy use,” says Andrew Goetz, a professor of geography and the environment at the University of Denver.

Such policies can lead to tension with those residents—often older, whiter, and more affluent—who don’t want the traffic, congestion, and other effects of urban density, such as shadows from high-rise buildings. The conflicts play out before zoning boards, city councils, and other public bodies where young YIMBYs turn out to support large housing projects. The NIMBYs who oppose them are often progressive, environmentally minded individuals who believe in climate action and recognize that sprawl is unsustainable; they just want to preserve the look and feel of the neighborhoods they call home.

Those “older, whiter, progressive, environmentally minded” NIMBY’s are literally the Sierra Club itself. The YIMBY movement began as a reaction to the old guard Sierra Club leadership who continually oppose infill projects. If the Sierra Club really wants to turn NIMBY’s into YIMBY’s, then step one is to admit the Club has a problem.

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The Washington Sate chapter of the Sierra Club has joined the oil and mining industry in opposing voter initiative 732. In case you haven’t heard of this measure, it would implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax.   Dr. James Hansen proposed such a scheme back in 2009 whereby revenues from the carbon tax are returned to families and individuals (in this case through a lower sales tax).

If you are wondering why on earth they would oppose, you can try to read their reasons here and here.  I’ve tried to make sense of it, but their reasoning is contradictory and incomprehensible. This is really a new low for the Sierra Club.

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In 2012, the Sierra Club published a very nice toolkit called Employee Commuting: Best PracticeOne of the sections covered employee shuttles, specifically mentioning Google Bus as a Best Practice.

However, the local San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club is apparently unaware of this. The group has come out against the use of employer shuttles — once again showing that a local group can take positions completely against the official policies of the national organization:

These companies offer as a perk to their employees living in San Francisco free transportation to and from their jobs. Meanwhile, the shuttle companies pay a revenue-neutral fee of $3.67 per stop per day to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Tech companies get tax write-offs for providing free transportation to employees.

And yet, no environmental impact report has been done on this private transportation system with the potential for unlimited growth, unlimited interference with Muni, unlimited demographic disruption and unknown air quality impacts.

By all acccounts, the San Francisco tech shuttle program has been wildly successful. An SFMTA study found that 45% of riders did not own cars, and 45% of those cited the employer shuttle as the reason for not owning a car. Furthermore, 47% of riders said they would switch back to car commuting if the shuttle service were discontinued.

Googlebus

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A proposed 76-mile bike path through the Everglades is currently under study. It would provide a safe alternative to highway 41 for bicyclists and pedestrians who wish to visit the park. That is why groups such as Adventure Cycling and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are in support.

And, as usual, the Sierra Club strongly opposes the trail:

Miami-Dade County, the lead agency for the initial planning, expects to complete a feasibility study and master plan by November or December, said Mark Heinicke, project manager for the county’s parks and recreation department. The plan will identify possible routes, access points, environmental issues, public benefits and public interest in the project. He is currently going through 485 letters and emails filed as comments on the project.

Among them is a letter in opposition organized by the Sierra Club and signed by representatives of a wide variety of organizations that often find themselves on the opposite sides of environmental debates. Among the dozens of signers are representatives of hunting groups such as the Everglades Coordinating Council, Safari Club International, United Waterfowlers of Florida, the Collier Sportsmen and Conservation Club and the Florida Sportsmen’s Conservation Association.

The proposed alignment runs largely along the highway ROW. But the Sierra Club doesn’t care about the cars blasting through — just the bicycles and joggers.

ROGGmap_Feb2011

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The Sierra Club has spent considerable effort fighting against development in San Francisco. Most recently, they endorsed Measure I, which would impose a housing moratorium in the Mission District.

And guess what happens when development is curtailed:

After 124 years in San Francisco, the Sierra Club is moving its headquarters across the Bay to Oakland because of rising rents in The City. The nonprofit on Thursday announced its headquarters will move from its current site at 85 2nd St. in San Francisco to 2101 Webster St. in Oakland in May 2016, after learning the group faced an annual rent hike of more than $1.5 million, said John Rizzo, political chair of the club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

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Plans for a comprehensive system of bike trails in the East Bay have long been stymied by the EBMUD (the East Bay municipal water district). That is because EBMUD has an absolute ban on bike riding on its trails. For the past 50 years, only hikers and equestrians have been permitted on the trails. There are huge gaps in the bike network as a result.

But now the water agency is reconsidering the ban. Last month, it held a public hearing — and as usual, the Sierra Club is vehemently opposed:

A total of approximately 45 people spoke. The Sierra Club came out very quickly against making any changes at all through Stormin’ Norman Laforce. If it weren’t for the fact that we needed to listen respectfully and smile we would have laughed him off the stage. He is thoroughly ridiculous. The lady that followed him from the Sierra Club, a former director of EBMUD, Ms.Burke, was equally ridiculous. They have no idea at all.

By and large even the people who would not have supported access to cycling suggested that absolute closure was unreasonable. They were simply concerned against all of the usual horror stories about mountain bikers, the need for enforcement, and the challenges that these created. I think that these were all fair criticisms.

Mary Selkirk, a former director who voted to exclude mountain bikers in 1996, spoke of regretting her decision as patently unfair. This was huge. She had real gravitas.

However the greatest proportion of people who spoke suggested the value of mountain biking especially in terms of generating good health and good trail use practices in our youth. The contact with nature and our tendency to be stewards, the need for unblocking closures that inhibit the entirety of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. People spoke in terms of hoping for flexibility and the potentials for evaluating as things unfolded.

The ossified leadership within East Bay Sierra Club chapters has grown increasingly bizarre in its policy positions. They have opposed bike lanes and transit-oriented development. They have even endorsed anti-BRT candidates for Berkeley City Council.

Their actions are completely at odds with policies adopted by the Sierra Club’s National Board of Directors. Indeed, the “official” Sierra Club policy specifically encourages bike access on trails where safety and environmental quality are not compromised. When will the National organization start requiring local chapters to comply with Sierra Club policy?

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In 2010, the NY Times published article on the Northern Alameda Chapter of the Sierra Club. It was not a flattering article, as it went into the group’s reluctance to embrace smart-growth policies. Many of its members were opposed to in-fill development in the downtown area (near the BART station). At the time, I pointed out that the group was endorsing candidates opposed to AC Transit BRT.

Now comes the 2014 election, and to judge from their endorsements it is clear nothing has changed. They again endorsed Councilmembers Worthington and Arreguin — even though both voted against BRT. As well, the Sierra Club endorsed the candidacy of George Beier, who organized neighborhood opposition to BRT.

Arreguin deserves special mention for sponsoring Measure R. It would reduce height limits and increase minimum parking requirements in the downtown. Groups such as Transform and Greenbelt Allliance are oppopsed to Measure R, but the Sierra Club is curiously silent on the matter.

If you visit the Sierra Club Transportation Policy web page, it states the following:

Walking and bicycling are best, along with electronic communications to reduce trips. Next are buses, minibuses, light rail and heavy rail (as corridor trips increase); electrified wherever feasible. Rail systems are most effective in stimulating compact development patterns, increasing public transit patronage and reducing motor vehicle use. Station access should be provided by foot, bicycle and public transit, with minimal, but full-priced, public parking. Accommodation of pedestrians, bicycles and public transit should be given priority over private automobiles.

Land use patterns should be designed to improve pedestrian access, encourage shorter trips, increase public transit use, enhance the economic viability of public transit and decrease private motor vehicle use (auto mobility). Therefore zoning, financing, land-use controls and other policies should concentrate employment near transit stations or stops, densify residential areas to allow shorter trips.

This a good transportation policy. What would it take for the National leadership to demand that local chapters adhere to it?

 

 

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