Environmentalists Torn Over Smart Growth

A Berkeley, CA growth initiative revealed the stresses that smart growth play on grassroots environmental organizations like the Sierra Club where members determine positions.

Berkeley's downtown growth initiative, Measure R, "bankrolled by developers and backed by the Sierra Club" won big at the polls on Nov 2, receiving 64 per cent of the vote. It approved "a blueprint for reshaping downtown that includes five new high-rises."

"(Smart growth) is controversial in the club," said Kent Lewandowski, chairman of the organization's Northern Alameda County group. "We've got longtime club members who see efforts to promote density as colluding with developers. Others are against living in an urban environment."

"Mr. Lewandowski said that one member, who is upset about the organization's support of smart-growth development, threatened to remove the club from her will."

Thanks to David Tam

Full Story: Smart-Growth Policy Splits Environmentalists



Sierra Club's position on Measure R debunked

The Sierra Club's support of Berkeley's Measure R was shameful and disingenuous. In the article linked below, which appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, Lifetime Club member and longtime Berkeley planning commissioner Gene Poschman exposes the bankruptcy of the Club's rationales for its endorsement. Zelda Bronstein



I am puzzled by this claim in the open letter:

The problem is first, that any knowledgeable person knows that LEED Gold can be gamed in getting to the required 60 points. There are points given for being downtown, there are points given for being near transit etc

Being downtown and being near transit clearly do reduce the environmental impact of a building. If developers get points for this, they are not gaming the system. They are doing exactly what the system intends: developing environmentally sustainable buildings.

Charles Siegel

Irvin Dawid's picture

Sierra Club & Smart Growth controversy continues....

The letter referred to above is an analysis of yet another letter on this growth measure that won on Nov. 2 in the City of Berkeley. Interestingly, the battle within the Club - or more specifically, the chapter, is not quite settled as there is a chapter election of executive committee members. Another grassroots organization, Livable Berkeley sent an alert to their members who might also be Sierra Club members:

"Vote for Helen Burke, Alan Tobey, Sarah Syed and Pedro Rosado for the local Sierra Club Executive Committee as the candidates who wiill best represent Livable Berkeley's mission for a vibrant, sustainable and affordable Berkeley. Please forward this message to your Sierra Club friends."

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Group, Not Chapter

To be more precise, it is an election in the Northern Alameda County Group, not the SF Bay Chapter.

Note for those who are not SC activists: the Group covers a smaller geographical area than the Chapter that it is part of.

Charles Siegel

Compromise? In Berkeley?

Though there is still a lot of conflict, there is some movement toward compromise in the planning for downtown Berkeley.

Previously, the pro-high-rise forces were pushing for buildings taller than the two existing highrises, but Measure R allows 3 buildings of the same height and none taller, so Berkeley's skyline would still focus on the Campanile.

I myself would prefer a traditional, European-scale downtown, and I think it is too bad that the debate in Berkeley has been polarized between those who want highrises and those who are against development. I hope Measure R helps us move toward the center.

Downtown Berkeley is filled with one-story buildings and also has a substantial number of auto-oriented uses with large surface parking lots; there is plenty of room for new development that would enhance its traditional character. An excellent example is the proposed Acheson Commons development, which you can see at http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-10-05/article/36386?headline=P...

Charles Siegel

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