Second attempt to take over local Sierra Club fails

For the second time, the YIMBY crew falls short in well-funded effort to make the club more development-friendly

The attack on the local chapter of the Sierra Club by people who want to make the club more developer-friendly utterly failed, the unofficial results show.


The voting still has to be certified, but according to the Club’s website, the progressive environmental slate has won all four slots on the local Executive Committee.

That means Sheila Chung Hagen, Becky Evans, Katherine Howard and Linda Wiener managed to fend off a well-funded effort by the YIMBY party to take over the club’s policy arms.

The outcome is significant: The club is a big player in local politics, and if the pro-development elements were able to change its positions, a wide range of causes and candidates could be hurt.

This isn’t the end, by any means – the YIMBY folks have a stated aim of bringing in more people to take over the local chapter. But so far, that effort has gone nowhere.


  1. If you are 100% opposed to in-fill development, you don’t get to call yourself an environmentalist.

    Maybe a preservationist, or an oh-so-precious NIMBY.

    But you don’t care about the environment.

  2. Those who know what the Sierra Club stands for and disagree may vote against what they endorse. It is a two-way street. And many don’t know what the stand for or don’t care.

  3. Those that know the process and speak to the principles know what the Sierra club SF stands on and support them, the local elections results show people do care and are paying attention on the issues locally.

  4. I received plenty of YIMBY mailers and noted plenty of contributions on the development side for slates and candidates supporting density. As usual groups are forced into mailers and spending tons of cash at elections and legal actions vs more positive principled change in the discussion of what should be considered a good green infill project… Planning dept needs to be more solid in how it approaches the density push. And architects more sensitive and adjustable with their initial ideas in outreach to communities to reduce backlash and promote a more solid principled approach the Sierra club and other groups can support fully. Takes a bit more discussion. And idea generation and not just pro-forma development based on profit margins….

  5. As noted by Sierra club members prior in comments on the YIMBY and nimby accusations (I was not at the meetings or decision maker on each project) they get each project as proposed just as lawyers and developers bankers and investors architects and planners have to eventually propose a final version of a project in paper online format. The groups don’t get to state “I’ll take the potatoes and not the peas” they have to vote as an org on the merits and these are based on environmental principles and planks the Sierra club states should be part of the order. Developers and the architects they hire can and should look at the input given early on for projects and adjust the design a degree (depending on project and principles). That is not to say all projects should be opposed. But a standard and principle should be taken if environmentally we are only seeing negative impacts and no change. I submitted alternatives and options as an individual on specific projects that added density and units while considering a fair and just option that retained profits for the developer but gave the people a choice environmentally. That option was as usual ignored in favor of 100% what was originally submitted with minimal real review of the project environmentally. It’s like genetically modified food, people don’t want it but it’s creeping in and poisoning the system. Eventually the YIMBY projects get approved and the courts usually justify or approve the majority of poorly designed and lacking thought driven growth in SF, at least the Sierra club spends the time and effort researching each project as it comes and gives a review on principle. I am sure they also approved and supported projects when it was justified or made appropriate sense. To blame them cart Blanche for all developer driven ideas that rarely bend or change in what is served ignores the fact the SF is like a goose getting stuffed to the Gills against its principles and wishes. It’s not just elderly or rich homeowners to blame it’s they city in general that has begun to reject more and more the ongoing on-slaught of buildings and projects that claim green principles but only are green-$-greed driven….. Hopefully change in what is proposed consistently will change if developers see they are contested consistently on principles. If not we all suffer the consequences of sprawl and poorly un-informed under-environmentally enforced principles of good sustainable infill designs that provide density but listen and hear the people’s concerns that endure the effects of the density in the ground.

  6. You have yet to give me the name of even on infill development that the Sierra Club has endorse. Your group has turned into a precious NIMBY group that opposes anything in favor of more parking and views for millionaires.

  7. Problem is how redensity is being pushed into cities without adequate infrastructure. And as people shovel back in and buy second or third investment homes they push out more people to the suburbs exacerbating the problem. The infrastructure should be built prior to density not as an afterthought. Unfortunately many in the YIMBY and SFBARF and SFHAC groups push in more density without any thought to systems that are at 110% capacity….

  8. 80% of the Bay Area jobs are not in San Francisco. A higher percent of SF workers live closer to work than workers in suburban cities, even those with more affordable housing. Also a lower percent of SF workers commute compared to most other Bay Area cities. San Francisco workers don’t have any longer commutes than most other workers in suburban cities. Workers in suburban cities with more affordable housing make longer commutes than SF workers.

    379,151 come into the City to work but 148,800 leave the City for work. And the number that live in City but leave the City for work is growing.

  9. Since over 80 percent of Bay Area jobs are in suburban cities, I agree they will need to do more to increase housing so more can live closer to work.

  10. The problem is that the suburban growth has occurred without real “consequences” or taxation out to the sierra’s. Banks and Developers made off like bandits without adequate taxation or light-rail / rail development to get people to urban areas with less traffic. All those houses have 2-3 car garages (regardless if they have an electric car) it incentivizes sprawl without consequence. The need to re-tax and re-engineer the burbs with infill is more than in the cities… The suburban dweller needs to create/produce more for the sprawl that was created…. build up the cul-de-sacs 1st with adequate transportation lines to those outlying areas, NO MORE ROAD re-works till transit gets to those outer areas.


    “You cannot be pro-environment and anti-urban housing.

    Yet in the last few years alone, our Sierra Club Chapter leaders opposed the Candlestick Point/Hunters Point Shipyard plan, bringing 12,000 new homes with about one-third affordable, a major environmental cleanup, and the rebuild of Alice Griffith public housing. They opposed Parkmerced, with 5,679 new homes and transit improvements for a car-dependent area once billed as “suburban living in The City.”

    Chapter leaders opposed the Treasure Island plan, with 8,000 new homes, the country’s first congestion pricing program, and acres of parks and wetlands. They even opposed the Giant’s Mission Rock, turning parking lots into a transit-rich, mixed-use neighborhood with 1,500 new homes. Time and again, chapter leaders hedge their opposition with statements like, “We support infill development, just not this plan.” But if you oppose every plan, that hedge rings awfully hollow. And the environment loses.”

    The Sierra Club supported preserving the Giant’s parking lots over desperately needed housing. This Sierra Club is more interested in parking for their cars than housing for people.

  12. Suburban development is bad for the environment. Suburban dwellers use more gasoline, pollute more of every kind and generate more waste than urban dwellers. San Francisco still has hundreds of thousands of people who commute in every day, many would love to be closer to work and not have to suffer the debilitating effects of a long, stressful commute.

  13. Please give me some examples of infill development that the Sierra Club has supported. I know of many examples where you have opposed development, tell me some development you have supported.

  14. “Well funded”? The only side spending money was the NIMBY side. I got two expensive glossy fliers from “Save Sierra Club” and none from the pro-infill development side. Tim just says whatever he feels like, regardless of the facts.

  15. Agree 100%, but OTOH, just saw that a penthouse in Milennium Tower’s asking price was more than sky high. Scary stuff.

  16. FWIW, I blocked DSN, I believe he’s the guy in NB with his partner who retired early & lives in an apt & owns a place in Spain.

  17. Locally we have a position opposing the demolition of rent-controlled housing and another position stating concern about the construction of high density housing near free way entrances without reducing the amount parking — in other words, we are concerned about the construction of freeway-oriented housing. We have another position in opposition to legislation that passed — unfortunately — allowing residential projects to increase their amounts of allowable parking to accommodate shared vehicles (instead of just dedicating one or more of the allowable spaces for shared vehicles). We do not otherwise have any blanket positions locally, but of course we support the national guidelines in support of infill housing. We have opposed various projects for too much parking, inadequate percentages of affordable housing, shadows on parks and wetlands (we supported Prop K, the shadow ordinance, in the mid-1980s), and, yes, going above the waterfront height limits. Find the link that I provided earlier that explains in detail our opposition to Proposition D/Mission Rock. We have supported several pieces of recent legislation that protect tenants in their homes, and supported Proposition F in 2015, to reign in Airbnb.

  18. I agree with Sue! and for Voltairesmistress, I second Sue’s stance, the Sierra Club SF chapter looks VERY carefully at the proposed projects, and supports some and critically reviews others. I think discussion can always swing a project sponsor from one stance to another, but it also takes more creative discussions on what is important with density, density, density, is in what methods/means we meet that density with supportive infrastructure.

  19. 90% is a very false statement, I spoke to the Sierra Club about specific projects, and they vet the projects more deeply than most know. They have sub-committees that review projects based on a varied grouping of issues including transportation, environmental hazards, and concerns of the community on parks, open space, give and takes, and what is best to get a project that provides denser housing, while addressing the environmental concerns of the development. If you attend meetings you would know, or if you spoke with those on these panels and those who were just elected they can justify the issues raised and concerns vetted. I was against specific issues on specific projects, but support density and improved urban transit and development citywide.

  20. Agree 100% / the problem with the driven market rate push is that we see in the above comments nobody mentioned

    a) transportation for the increase in population
    b) open-space improvement and investment (aka build 3 blocks and save 2 blocks for affordable housing and one for open space/gardens parks etc.)
    c) the need to look efficiently at where we build (example: empty lots at stonestown prior to demolishing “sound” essential prior backbones of rental housing in sf or letting institutional growth purchase away what bastions of affordability remain.)
    d) increasing density does not always translate into any semblance of affordable housing when the housing developed is placed outside the area.
    e) the need to build SRO’s, low-income senior, student, and family work-force housing on a philanthropy and taxed method that looks at high-end real estate transactions and big-business to foot the bill….

    The Sierra Club does an AWESOME job of addressing a multitude of environmental issues when making a decision, and not a very biased agenda of a few YIMBY groups who felt it was important to overthrow YEARS of environmental activism of our local chapter… for their benefit over the benefit of ALL people who live here… To reach a better balance perhaps a smaller discussion group can be made to vet projects at the Sierra Club with an intent panel that addresses all views on projects and the issues of “green-$-greed” that often obscures the real concerns of the cities redevelopment and gentrification concerns.

  21. I think around 70-80 percent would rather not live in high density housing preferring more space to overcrowded conditions. Families with children prefer 3-bedrooms and a yard. Lower density is better for children’s health. High density living restricts children’s physical activity and is bad for their mental and physical health. High density living is noisier, also not good for one’s health. And then there is more pollution from higher
    traffic densities, also not good for one’s health.

    Less dense living is more pleasant. Green space in nicer and people who have it are happier. Rural, small town, and suburban residents are happier, in that order, than central city dwellers.

    With the population growth in the Bay Area there are more people living in suburban cites but also more jobs in suburban cities. Over 80% of the Bay Are jobs are not in San Francisco. SF workers don ‘t commute any more than suburban workers commute. There is no way to put all the jobs and people in the Bay Are in SF. It is necessary to build out.

    It is true that housing has replaced agriculture. In one area, I am familiar with, pasture and orchards have been replaced by rural residential, where there is a house every 2-3 acres. Where there were few trees there are now many more. The area has been reforested.

  22. How many voters really care about what the Sierra Club stands for. Their endorsements can lose more vote than gained.

  23. Given what’s happening with the Millennium tower I’m beginning to wonder about the wisdom of high rise buildings on bay fill, especially in earthquake country. This could end up costing lives and taxpayer money if it falls over. The same could be said for high rise development on the waterfront, such as Washington 8.

    I think our building regimen needs a thorough rethinking. As it stands it’s being driving by builders and their proxies, the YIMBYS. This is not a sound way to proceed.

  24. The Sierra Club link you provided does not link to a support the 90% assertion made by Sue. People who throw around statistics like that should provide documentation to support them.

  25. Hi Sue, Could you elaborate on how and what the local SF Sierra Club supports and opposes when it comes to local building projects, particularly denser housing? I am genuinely interested. Thanks.

  26. Oh geeze, the MAJORITY OF VOTERS WHO VOTED CITY-WIDE voted to keep height limits on the waterfront. That majority of voters had NO VIEWS TO BE BLOCKED BY 8 WASHINGTON.

    And the majority of voters who voted in at least 4 elections voted for height limits. Either everyone is a NIMBY or just maybe people in San Francisco understand that many who advocate for Manhattanizing San Francisco because ‘the environment’ are really developers who are only interested in money and don’t give a shit about the environment.

    What’s worse, is that building more high rises seems to attract more wealth and investors, which further erodes San Francisco’s character, quality of life, and hurts many middle class and poor San Franciscans.

    Move to Las Vegas. You’ll be happier there.

  27. The Sierra Club supports the current height limits on the waterfront and was a sponsor of Proposition B, which requires project sponsors to go to the voters if they want to raise height limits on the waterfront. The Sierra Club supported one such ballot measure proposal: Proposition F/Pier 70, which raised the height limit to 90 feet, and opposed another, Proposition D/Mission Rock, in which height limits start at about 90 feet and go up to 240 feet. Every project proposal is complex and Sierra Club reasons for supporting or opposing projects depend on a variety of factors. But I wouldn’t count out views (which are for everyone, not just people whose views might be blocked on a daily basis). As John Muir said, “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread.”

  28. But if a project blocks the view from a rich supporter’s high-rise apartment, then it’s a wall on the waterfront that must be opposed at all costs, even if it’s inland of major public promenades and doesn’t block any significant public views.

  29. The local SF Group of the Sierra Club DOES support infill housing. We support the Transbay Terminal project (35 percent affordable and the DTX), and we supported Prop F/Pier 70 on the 2014 ballot, but we do not support the proposed demolition of 1,538 units of rent-stabilized housing at Park Merced. We did not support Prop D/Mission Rock — for good reasons:

    Prop. D policies set bad precedent – The San Francisco …

  30. I think there is a legitimate argument to be made that San Francisco’s Sierra Club chapter should support denser, urban development as a means to helping us live better, more environment friendly lives. Alongside preserving wilderness, open space, agricultural lands, and supporting carbon reduction, building within existing cities is a smart way to accommodate humans. That shift within the local Sierra Club chapter, however, should probably bubble up from within its true membership. Am thinking of renewing my membership to work towards that.

  31. I do appreciate the ad hominem attack — very relevant to the discussion. That citing is poor. This is the web; a link is considered proper citation.

  32. “The voting still has to be certified, but according to the Club’s website, the progressive environmental slate has won all four slots on the local Executive Committee.”


  33. No sources provided. No sources cited. Extremely biased wording throughout. This “article” is garbage…a mockery of journalism.

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