Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 20, 2009

Sierra missed

Normally I wouldn’t get involved in the private business of the executive committee of an advocacy organization, but since one of the members invited comment on the decision making process for the Sierra Club around the issue of the Alameda Point Revitalization Initiative, and invited members of the public to attend their meeting, it’s sort of fair game.

According to a comment made in early November, Bill Smith of the Sierra Club indicated that while the members ran the gamut from supportive, neutral, and opposed the Club has decided to only vote on two possible positions: “actively neutral” or “opposed.”   Declining to even consider a position of supportive for reasons unexplained.

Even then the resolution supplied for the “opposing” position is a bit on the wobbly side, of the seven “whereas” statements, three are general statements and three of the whereas statements have to do with the need to delay the vote until after the EIR is completed as opposed to being against the Initiative.   Which, personally, is not a compelling reason to oppose an Initiative, but instead perhaps the Sierra Club should be considering a resolution asking the City Council to delay the Initiative vote until such time that — at the very least — a preliminary EIR is submitted if not a completely adopted EIR.

But, herein lies the rub of the Sierra Club going through the motions of voting for either the “actively neutral” or “opposed” positions.   As early as November 8th, prior to any decision either way, an email was sent from a Sierra Club/Renewed Hope member to various City officials and community members discussing the role that the Sierra Club or Renewed Hope would play in acting as a signatory to arguments against the initiative or the rebuttal to the arguments for the Initiative.    Renewed Hope has already come out against the Initiative, so their inclusion signing off wouldn’t be out of line, but committing the Sierra Club to possibly signing off on a rebuttal to the argument for, as phrased in the email:

In the more likely event that the argument for the Initiative  features its environmental benefits, and presuming that the Sierra  Club decides to oppose the Initiative, a statement signed by the  area’s most widely known and respected Environmental group would be a  powerful rebuttal to the environmental benefits claim.

Before the Sierra Club has even voted to decide to oppose or take a neutral position  and when the language written up for the resolution opposing the Initiative doesn’t touch on environmental concerns as being the reason for opposing the Initiative doesn’t lend a whole lot of credibility to the Sierra Club.

Now, it is quite possible that this is simply one member…going rogue…but unless the Sierra Club puts out word to the contrary it appears to others ( and by others, I mean, me) that the fix is in, there is no process and the Sierra Club isn’t about a healthy debate about the pros and cons but simply is a tool for various members to use for their own political purposes.


  1. I was a member of the Sierra Club for many years, but lost interest when the club got tangled up in its own underwear over the question of immigration as an environmental issue. Sounds like the club hasn’t quite extricated itself yet.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — November 20, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  2. How about that, Bill Smith? Was the email sent by a rogue mole within your organization or is duplicity the ongoing theme for the Club? Sounds like SC’s trying to play both sides of the game.

    I’m becoming convinced that a yes vote for the initiative is best for the west end of Alameda. Webster street’s renewal largely depends on the demographics the project could bring. The arguments against the initiative are taking on increasingly strident tones similar to the rhetoric against the Alameda Theater. And the more strident and duplicitous the opposing views becomes, the more the reasonable voters separate themselves from those views.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 20, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  3. Interesting that you mention the immigration fiasco, Tom. I have expressed my concerns to the club that in their evaluation and decision making, they have totally overlooked (as have other “save the…” type organizations) the environmental and social justice impacts of their views.

    In my email to the committee I stated “The Sierra Club’s discussion to date, and the proposed amendments to either oppose or take no stand on the current plan for re-development have largely ignored issues of environmental and social justice that are an integral component of the redevelopment. From the initial BRAG discussions, One of the key components of any future at Alameda Point were opportunities for homeless and low-income families to gain a foothold and engage in economic opportunities that will build self sufficiency.”

    Comment by Doug Biggs — November 20, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  4. . . . just for the record . . . the part of a resolution that starts with “Whereas” is known as a “pre-ambulatory clause.” Now didn’t that make every one’s day? 🙂

    Comment by Tony Daysog — November 20, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  5. Well, you gotta kinda wonder about someone putting stuff out in the name of the group without them having voted yet. What’s up with that? Is that fellow a spokesperson for the group? Or he trying to stir the toxins?

    Comment by Jayne Smythe — November 20, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  6. This blog would be more interesting if the author pursued the proponents of the initiative with equal vigor. No shortage of targets to go after there.

    How about a post entitled, “Burned by the Sun?”

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — November 20, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  7. 2

    Strident? I’m certainly guilty of that, as are many other opponents.

    But duplicitous? According to my dictionary that means “deliberately deceptive.” The pro side has shown a fair bit of that, and indeed that mendacity has fanned the strident flames you mention. I’d be real interested in any examples you can cite of duplicity by the contrary camp, cuz I don’t see any.

    Comment by David Hart — November 20, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  8. # 7
    Concerning your strident tone questioning my use of the word “duplicity” in #2

    You’ll notice there is a question mark after my sentence in which I used the word “duplicity”. Usually that means the writer is asking a question. I echoed Lauren’s question in her post.

    Lauren’s post mentions; ” Now, it is quite possible that this is simply one member…going rogue…but unless the Sierra Club puts out word to the contrary it appears to others ( and by others, I mean, me) that the fix is in, there is no process and the Sierra Club isn’t about a healthy debate about the pros and cons but simply is a tool for various members to use for their own political purposes.”

    I would argue that a rogue member of the Sierra Club putting out an email in order to leverage the vote for or against the Initiative without the Sierra Club’s sanction, as was suggested in Lauren’s post, ought to meet your standard of “deliberately deceptive” and therefore also meet that standard in the reuse of the term describing that action as being from the “anti-” side in the final sentence of my #2.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 20, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  9. The sentence in which you use the S and D words is not followed by a question mark.

    Comment by David Hart — November 20, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  10. Indeed, that sentence was not followed by a question mark. That’s because it’s not a question. I’m a reasonable voter and the more strident and duplicitous arguments are on any particular issue on any particular side on which I am eligible to vote, the more I separate myself from those arguments and create my own.

    That’s why, in my opinion, it’s better for Webster Street’s vitality to bring development to the Point. I’m fond of Webster Street.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 20, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  11. Who are you and what have you done with the real Jack Richard? The Jack Richard who used to post here would never be in favor of a budget busting boondoggle that will ultimately raise taxes. He wouldn’t have much nice to say about government clumsily involving itself where the private sector should be acting. And he’d certainly recognize Suncal’s lies as lies.

    Comment by David Hart — November 20, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  12. Oh, I’d much rather the Point migrate into the post-military era with very little government bureaucratic control of its development but I’m not diametrically opposed to something being done to the Point (I supported the Theater project). Since the apostates in local government no longer support the initiative, it’s only reasonable for one to think that passage of the Initiative will not benefit their political careers. That must mean something.

    There are at least three different outcomes in this matter: 1. The Initiative passes and the dire consequences the anti-Initiative-ites have preached come true. 2. The Initiative fails and the local government apostates hail their victory and reap the political awards from like minded voters. 3. The Initiative passes and the Point becomes better than it is, perhaps not what is advertised but better than it is.

    Plus, I had an interesting conversation with a ranking member of waba last evening and she made some good points. Not government intrusion points but Webster Street as it relates to the Point points.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 20, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  13. Alameda Theatre complex is one of the successful bay area projects…who would go anywhere else to watch a movie after going there.

    Same can be true with Alameda Point…they gave it to SunCal to develop let them do it…otherwise it will be bickering back and forth for years and nothing done…it is a mess now…and will only get worse…it is time for West Alameda to move forward…currently we are just stuck.

    Comment by Joel — November 21, 2009 @ 7:12 am

  14. Joel, yes… it *could* be true at Alameda Point. But what are the chances given Suncal’s record?

    Comment by Jack B. — November 21, 2009 @ 8:38 am

  15. By what measure is trading millions of property tax dollars for thousands of sales tax dollars a “success?”

    Or are movies just more important than police, fire & ambulances?

    Comment by David Hart — November 21, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  16. #14

    Such skepticism!

    SunCal is such a nice company. You can trust them. Just sign right here Mr. and Mrs. Alameda.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — November 21, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  17. Lauren in her post, and many of those responding, have provided constructive critiques of the Sierra Club process for taking a position on the Initiative. As a result Club leaders, specifically NACG chair Kent Lewandowski, have solicited, and received, some very good arguments from proponents of the Initiative.

    Now that the Sierra Club has received comments from all of the major positions on the Initiative, its various committees are weighing those comments. I thank Lauren and all readers of this blog for providing comments – your comments, whether for, against or undecided, have contributed to the Club’s deliberative process. Beyond the following brief update on the schedule, I refer interested bloggers to the Club’s elected leaders for more details on that deliberative process.

    Regarding the schedule, the Sierra Club subcommittee charged with making a recommendation on the Alameda Point Redevelopment Initiative will make a recommendation to the Sierra Club’s Northern Alameda County Group elected executive committee on Monday, November 23rd. Should the NACG executive committee decide to take a position on the Initiative, that decision must be reviewed and approved by the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter Executive Committee, probably on Monday, December 14th. The NACG executive committee is chaired by Kent Lewandowski and the SF Bay Chapter committee, by Norman LaForce.

    As the Club’s most visible activist on the Initiative, I will likely be at many of these meetings and will, and have (as at the meeting of the Club’s East Bay Public Lands Committee), pass on constructive and informative comments posted on this blog irrespective of my own position on the Initiative. At least two members of the NACG ExCom have generally been supportive of the Initiative, and, if requested, I would be glad to pass their names on to Sierra Club members who are proponents of the Initiative or wish the Club to remain neutral.

    In this post, I’ve updated fellow citizens on the status of the Club Initiative decision process. In a subsequent post I will respond to Lauren’s critique of my role in this process.

    Comment by William Smith — November 21, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  18. 15. at present we aren’t looking to get property tax dollars or sale tax dollars and we won’t see either without development. Just an observation.

    The Journal states Councilman Matarrese and others are due to visit Orange County which expects to spend $65 million on an early phase of a $1.4 billion conversion of a military base into a park. How are they financing that one wonders?

    14. Better watch out, you know Orange County’s “track record” on bankruptcy? Meanwhile, the court is forcing Lehman to pay for Oak Knoll demolition and clean up and it’s too early to know what the SunCal/ D.E. Shaw track record will be there.

    In a letter to the Sun urging a no vote, Gretchen Lipow mentioned a San Diego conversion project, but without ANY specificity, which to me makes the reference worthless. Maybe she meant Orange County, who knows.

    Comment by M.I. — November 21, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  19. FYI This doesn’t seem dissimilar to the SunCal plan but it’s hard to know without much more detailed information. Interstesting.

    San Diego.

    also stumbled on Chicago

    Comment by M.I. — November 21, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  20. Apples and oranges? The Glen in Chicago doesn’t seem dissimilar to the SunCal plan but it’s hard to know without much more detailed information. Interesting.

    San Diego.


    Comment by M.I. — November 21, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  21. In a previous post, I updated fellow citizens on the status of the Sierra Club Initiative process. In this post I respond to Lauren’s critique of my role, admittedly confusing at times, in this process. I first describe my own personal, and still evolving, views of the basis that I envision for the Sierra Club’s decision on the Initiative, then I respond to Lauren’s critique of my personal role.

    As the Sierra Club has, as of yet, taken no position on the Initiative, all of my posts and communications related to the Sierra Club on this blog have been my personal views on both the Initiative itself and on the positions that the Sierra Club could take. As the Initiative is a mixed bag for the environmental community, I have been exploring the pros and cons of both an actively neutral position for the Club and an opposed position. As more becomes known about the Initiative, especially recent letters from Oakland (October 2009) and the Alameda City Manager (November 18, 2009) explaining how the Initiative restricts the City’s options for mitigating adverse environmental impacts, I have become a more and more vocal advocate for the Club opposing the Initiative. I will make a final decision on my recommendation for the Club’s position after I see both of the rebuttal arguments selected for the Initiative later this month. I was pleased to see that the authors of both arguments already submitted for and against the Initiative focused on concerns that are factually accurate and consistent with Sierra Club policy.

    If the authors of the rebuttal arguments do the same, then I will base my final recommendation for the Club’s position on the issues raised by the Initiative and not on concerns that either Club silence or opposition to the Initiative could be spun as opposition to the environmentally responsible development that the charter amendment in the Initiative would enable. Regrettably, other parts of the Initiative, at the sole discretion of the developer and its financier, would also enable traditional urban sprawl development that the Sierra Club has long opposed.

    After explaining my basic position above, I now respond to Lauren’s comments on my role.

    1. Declining to draft a resolution to support the Initiative:
    I decided not to draft a supportive resolution myself as I, after conversations with several Club officers, judged the Initiative to be inconsistent with Club’s CEQA policies and therefore made it impossible for the Club to give serious consideration to supporting the Initiative. The Initiative would entitle an unknown sequence of developers to more than 4,400 homes and 3,000,000 square feet of commercial space before the environmental impacts had been formally analyzed, contradicting the spirit of CEQA. Proponents were free to, and asked, if they wished to draft a pro Initiative resolution. They have so far limited their response to letters addressing individual impacts of the Initiative and not addressed the totality of environmental impacts necessary for a resolution.

    2. The role of an EIR:
    I agree with the Lauren that I could have advised the Club to delay the election until after the EIR was completed. I did consider doing so and posted at least one comment on either this blog or the Island exploring the pros and cons of waiting for the EIR to be available to hold the election. No one responded with a suggestion one way or the other regarding the election schedule.

    Even if the election was postponed until the EIR was available, the CEQA process could still be compromised. The City Council is not required to certify the EIR before the election on the Citizen’s initiative proceeds, so the mechanism for the Council or citizens to require the Developer to implement any mitigations identified in such an EIR is unclear. Again, like so much else in the Initiative, the mitigations could end up being at the sole discretion of the developer and financier. Thus I have concluded that a delay in the election would be unlikely to resolve the problems the Initiative poses for CEQA.

    3. Sierra Club Signing Ballot Arguments:
    I was, and remain concerned, that both those opposed to the Initiative and those supporting the Initiative, will advocate positions opposed to Sierra Club policies – the proponents by undermining the effectiveness of the environmental mitigations that result from subsequent CEQA reviews, and those opponents who oppose the construction of market rate condos, apartments and townhomes, thus driving Bay Area residents to the sprawling suburbs for more affordable housing.

    I had already communicated my concerns about undermining CEQA to the proponents, but had not communicated those concerns to the councilmembers who were in charge of the argument against the Initiative. My communication to the opponents made it clear that the Club had not yet taken a position on the Initiative. Thus I couldn’t be committing the Club to any role regarding the ballot arguments, only communicating possibilities that I could pursue if those preparing the arguments wished. In the end, my comments may have helped to insure that the ballot arguments stuck to the facts regarding environmental cleanup and remained consistent with Sierra Club policies, as both the pro and con arguments largely did.

    Like many proponents of the Initiative, I am concerned about the further decay of the structures at the site and the growing hazards they present to both humans and the environment. The Initiative is flawed, though. As the Chamber and Oakland interests have clearly indicated their intention to battle the Initiative in court, perhaps even before the election, implementation of the Initiative may be delayed even beyond waiting for the Bay Area Real Estate market to recover. Thus by voting down the Initiative and starting over we may actually be able to address the hazards sooner than if the Initiative passes.

    Comment by William Smith — November 21, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  22. 18. Orange County went bankrupt once. Suncal has at least 27 project meltdowns. It doesn’t matter much to me if their partner is Lehman or Shaw. I’m not saying they are bad people. It’s the nature of short-term interests that are leveraged to the hilt (hedge funds) and the risk they bring to Alameda, which we all agree is a groovy place. Simple risk vs reward, from what I can see.

    Here’s the latest Oak Knoll story…

    My favorite paragraph (2nd to last):

    The $3.7 million falls far short, however, of the $6.7 million that it will take to “complete the job of removing 90-plus tinderbox buildings, abating hazardous materials, cleaning up the trash dump conditions and clearing overgrown, fire-prone vegetation at the SunCal site” as the City of Oakland explained in their October 8, 2009 press release. Further, most of the of the $550,000 now ordered by the judge goes not to direct abatement activities, but to health and safety insurance, presumably to protect Lehman Brothers, SunCal and the bankruptcy trustee from liability in the event of a catastrophe.

    And I’m not sure what Gretchen Lipow’s comment has to do w/ my post.

    Comment by Jack B. — November 21, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  23. I am a lay person on most of the minutiae concerning this issue, have no axe to grind, am not a Sierra Club member and admittedly support the Imitative because of reasons written elsewhere. That disclaimer stated, This is my interpretation of Mr. Smith’s comments concerning his and the Sierra Club’s position on the Initiative. I write not because I care to try and influence anyone but to help myself understand the decision making process that may be the last attempt to bring the base out of the WWII era and into a post-military environment.

    A few of the points Mr. Smith touched on were quite revealing, to me at least. First, it appears that the bureaucratic layers to decision making within the Sierra Club far exceed the number of bureaucratic layers in a small backwater town like Alameda:

    Per Mr. Smith’s sequence of Club decision making process:

    1. Sierra Club receives comments on the Initiative from all major positions (note – minor positions need not voice their opinion)

    2. Various Club committees weigh comments during deliberative process (for details on weight measurement in deliberative process please proceed to Club’s elected members)

    3. One of Club’s many various sub-committees (not stated how this sub-committee is selected) is charged with making results of deliberative process known to the Sierra Club’s Northern Alameda County Group (NACG) elected executive committee.

    4. NCAG executive committee ruminates:
    a. NCGA decides not to support taking any position, end of activity – issue goes back to subcommittees (Mr. Smith didn’t mention the step of going back to the start point but after dealing with bureaucracies we all know any issue couldn’t actually end here).
    b. NCGA decides to support taking a position, sends position arguments to the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter Executive Committee (SCSFBCEC – my acronym).

    5. Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter Executive Committee reviews and approves NCGA decision. (Mr. Smith doesn’t allow for a negative decision by the SCSFBCEC in his explanation. Probably because in real life the executives in these two committees will iron out their differences and come to a consensus)

    Even though this bureaucratic process does not appear to be democratic (no vote by members on issue), Mr. Smith kindly provided the name of the NACG chair and also advised common member Initiative opponents or neutralites how to get in touch with like minded Club members. Note: proponents need not contact).

    There, that takes care of the decision process as I interpret Mr. Smith’s # 17 comment. His # 19 comment addresses Lauren’s concerns in her post and explains his position, which I interpret.

    But first, in his preamble to the points, Mr. Smith explains his personal journey from being an “active neutral” to a proponent of opposition.( I must confess, the term “active neutral” to me seems like an oxymoron or a mis-wired electrical circuit so I have no idea what it means in political parlance). He also states that regardless of how the ultimate decision of the Club turns out, their motives are above reproach.

    His points and his point numbering system:

    1. In this point Mr. Smith explains how the bureaucratic deliberative process he outlined in # 17 is shunted aside by his inside conversations with like minded Club officers and gives reasons why he and they consider the Initiative inconsistent with the spirit of CEQA. He also touches on the nub of opposition to the Initiative by the Club, and that is, of course, the position of the Environmental Impact Report in the sequence of events if the Initiative is passed.

    2. Mr. Smith explains why delaying the Initiative is not a viable option because of reason in point #1.

    3. In this point, Mr. Smith apparently admits he is the “rogue” Club member Lauren alludes to in her post and reiterates his points of #1 and #2. But then he states his true position which is, do nothing.

    Why the citizens of Alameda would let the Sierra Club’s Initiative position sway their own is beyond me. The citizens who vote on the Initiative have one vote and only one vote. And that is an up or down vote. The internal mechanisms of the Sierra Club, on the other hand, had three positions, for, against, or neutral. I say they “had” three positions, now they have four. And that fourth position is, do nothing. And that’s the position Mr. Smith advocates. Good, bad, indifferent, makes no difference JUST DO NOTHING!

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  24. This is a joke, right? The Sierra Club is a front organization for Bill Smith?

    I’m just wondering what happens if the League of Women Voters comes out against the Initiative, or the Alameda Democratic Club. Who will you blame for that?

    Maybe it’s all a conspiracy…

    Comment by littlechicken — November 22, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  25. George Bush

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

  26. Just as I said, a joke…

    Comment by littlechicken — November 22, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  27. Right, I figure if I’m for it everybody else will be against it.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 22, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  28. Think of Sarah Palin as your revenge.

    Comment by littlechicken — November 22, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

  29. MI: I believe the project that Gretchen Lipow was referring to is the Naval Training Station in San Diego, now called “Liberty Station.” Which was/is being developed by Corky McMillin.

    For those that may remember Corky McMillin was one of the five finalists, but then dropped out before the first open house. I found this old article from the Sun which reminded me that they said that the risk and return wasn’t worth it for the project.

    If I recall correctly, UWI had picked up one of the consultants from the Liberty Station project who had worked on Fort Mason and a similar project down in Liberty Station too, which I was really excited about.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 23, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  30. thanks Lauren

    I did a search after my post and found the NTS in San Diego a site in Chicago which is supposed to be a model project. My attempts to post links failed.

    Corky McMillin sounds like a character from the “Dobie Gillis” TV show.

    It’s hard to know if these projects are apples or oranges for comparison but here is some on The Glen in Chicago.

    Comment by M.I. — November 23, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  31. The Northern Alameda County Group decided that the Sierra Club will take no position on the Alameda Point Redevelopment Initiative at its November 23rd meeting. As always, Club members are free to comment, but are asked to refrain from mentioning their association with the Sierra Club when speaking about the Initiative. In particular, members are expected to refrain from commenting on whether or not the initiative is consistent or inconsistent with Sierra Club policies. If members have questions about this policy, they are welcome to contact a member of the Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group executive board, whose members and contact info are listed on the San Francisco Bay Chapter Website.

    On behalf of the Sierra Club, I would like to thank Lauren Do for allowing postings of the Initiative debate within the Sierra Club on this blog. The input we got from contributors to this blog, both Club members and non-Club members, informed that debate.

    The Northern Alameda County Group also reaffirmed the Sierra Club’s endorsement earlier this year of the Community Vision listed among The Island’s Alameda Point links. Whatever the outcome of the election, I will be working to help the Club realize that vision after the election.

    A civil and constructive campaign to All!

    Comment by William Smith — November 23, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  32. Back to the Sierra Club: I was at the meeting when they took their vote.

    They refused to support Measure B, the initiative.

    Comment by RM — November 25, 2009 @ 8:17 am

  33. RM: There was never an option to support according to the communications by Bill Smith. There were only options to (1) be against the Initiative or (2) be actively neutral.

    As Bill Smith already reported, the Club decided to take no position, which is different than “refusing to support” the Initiative.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 25, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  34. You can’t very well support the Initiative if you, “take no position”, so what’s the alternative?

    In the real world a voter who takes “no position” wastes his vote. Remember, Sierra Club doesn’t have a vote so they take the wishy-washy position so people will think they’re fair and balanced by picking (wishy) and choosing (washy) which and what part of the Initiative suits them. It’s a “no” position they’re taking but in typical gutless liberal politics they won’t admit it.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 25, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  35. The San Diego conversion was done on a military base in the downtown area. The city was the master developer and they hired the developers to carry out the project. One of the project people
    there worked on the United World Infrastructure plan proposed here three years ago.

    Comment by gretchen lipow — November 25, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  36. RM,LD,JR, 32,33,34:

    A no position means that the Sierra Club neither supports nor opposes the initiative. The Sierra Club takes this position when an Initiative is a mixed bag, as this one clearly is. The Initiative contains items that would both advance and setback Club policies with the final balance unclear.

    Active and respected Club members are on both sides of the issue, so to take a position would risk alienating one set of activists with no clear benefit evident to the Club body that set policy on this Initiative. To insure that there is a consensus that a ballot issue presents a clear benefit, the Club requires a supermajority to take a position.

    Glad to answer more questions on the Club position through Thanksgiving weekend. Then come December I plan to make no more comments on Club policies related to Measure B until after the election. Instead, in December and January I will be displaying another hat.

    Comment by William Smith — November 25, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

  37. 34. Jack,

    I think you are over thinking this one. The club has bylaws, a mission statement perhaps and a general set of principles, but it is just a group of people with various points of view along a theme, which on some issues are hard to rectify. Immigration is a good example. Even though it would seem pertinent to their purpose to express an opinion on this development, to do so and do it in a fair and comprehensive way, might just take so much time and potentially be divisive enough that they wish to sit this one out. Call it wishy washy or a cop out but I disagree.

    I’m sure it would be much easier for them to take a position on the plan itself based on the basic environmental tenants on which they stand, but I’m not surprised and in fact I am pleased that they not taking a position. The legal complexities of this initiative are not something which readily falls into the purview of environmentalism.

    35. Thanks Gretchen. My impression from some Googling was that the San Diego navy base was more comparable to the Presidio in some ways than the Point. Lots more valuable historic buildings and less toxic sump. Maybe less land fill issues too. And what about Public Trust Lands, feds taking a chunk for birds etc.

    I’d really like to better understand what is involved in a city becoming a development corporation. I’d like to know how redevelopment districts may have factored in to that project and what their exposure to debt may have been or be. It’s nice to allude to a successful example, but the devil is in the details and we don’t seem to know many of those.

    Comment by M.I. — November 25, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  38. Gretchen L.: Not to be nitpicky on Thanksgiving, but according to the City of San Diego website, it doesn’t say that the City was the Master Developer for the Liberty Station project. The City designed the project, but as to the financing,

    Creation of a redevelopment area at NTC was critical to a workable financing program. The City adopted the NTC Redevelopment Project Area in May 1997. Due to the financial situation of the City at this time, as well as the cost associated with rehabilitation of the former base, it was determined that the City would need to partner with a master developer to provide the necessary funding to get this Project started. The City Council selected the Corky McMillin Companies.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 26, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  39. Look at it this way, Mark. This city is just a group of people with various points of view along a theme, which on some issues are hard to rectify. However, those points of view must be decided in some manner if an issue comes before them. Citizens of the city may be active and respected or they may be just ordinary joes and janes. Regardless of their position, they decide those issues in as much a democratic method as they can, by listening to all sides of the issue and either voting yes or no. In doing so the active members of the community may be derided and risk alienating voters on the other side of the issue but that’s the expense they pay for living in a democratic society.

    On the other hand, the political structure of the Sierra Club is not democratic. Their citizens have no up or down ballot on which they can vote on city issues. Their hierarchy can pick and choose amongst four positions, up, down, neutral or nothing. My problem with the Club on this issue is that the position they take is akin to a no vote without the guts to admit it. Think of it, they have admitted that there is much in the SunCal proposal they are in favor of but there are some issues in the Initiative which they believe are not in their interest. If the Initiative passes, these issues would still be alive and could be mitigated along the way to completion of the project.

    However, if the Initiative fails, it’s dead as a doornail. So even though the Club admits there is much to like about the Project, including latent environmental issues which would be resolved during the buildup, they have chosen to let the toxic waste fester in our front yard because they’re afraid they won’t have enough influence on the EIR if the Initiative is passed as written.

    Your analogy with the Club’s immigration policy doesn’t hold up. Immigration is going to happen regardless of anybody’s vote.

    Comment by Jack Richard — November 26, 2009 @ 10:11 am

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