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Sierra Club split over height initiative

Helen Burke, Robert R. Piper Berkeley
Tuesday October 01, 2002

To the Editor: 

The split in the Sierra Club over Measure P, proposed new building height restrictions, should be understood in context. The Sierra Club has a complex, democratic structure. The split occurred in one, subregional committee, which came within one vote of opposing Measure P. The Sierra Club, nationally and statewide, and the San Francisco Bay Chapter, have long-standing, policies of opposition to sprawl and pollution. The Club supports: 

n Public Transportation. 

n Pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities. 

n Compact, mixed use centers whose residents can reach many activities on foot and can conveniently travel to other centers by transit, thus reducing automobile use. 

n Preservation of open space. 

n Social justice. 

n A range of housing and transportation options. 

Measure P conflicts with these policies. It would reduce the heights currently permitted along major streets with frequent AC Transit service. The reduction would be so much that rehabilitating deteriorated properties along streets like San Pablo and University might become financially not feasible. These are the very locations where we might see construction of the small but affordable units that low -income citizens seek. Low income is not limited to those at the poverty level. It includes retirees wanting to sell a house but remain in Berkeley, and starting wage earners who have not yet put aside a down payment for a larger home. The heaviest burden would fall on those parts of the city where minority residents live and small businesses struggle. 

Measure P would not alter at all the heights permitted in existing, residential neighborhoods. What it would do is add delay and cost to owners seeking to increase height over 28 feet. We and many other long-time Sierra Club members believe that Measure P is bad from both environmental and social justice standpoints. There is a world of difference between resisting change in an urbanized area and preserving scenic wilderness. 


Helen Burke, 

Robert R. Piper