In September of this year an organization was formed to represent homeowners on creek properties, who are traditionally the stewards and caretakers of Berkeley’s many creeks. This group, Neighbors on Urban Creeks, through public interest, brought about a revision of that part of the creek ordinance which would have prevented the rebuilding of creekside homes destroyed by fire or quake.
There has been general agreement that the ordinance should be updated and revised in other ways, but disagreement about how that revision should be done. Neighbors on Urban Creeks felt that the Planning Commission, in conjunction with Public Works, should be given the job. Creek activist groups wanted to create a special task force in which they might assert their own agenda. This choice was to be made by the City Council on Oct. 26, but at the beginning of that meeting Mayor Bates announced a last-minute plan for a creek task force to be appointed by councilmembers. Some attendees as well as some councilmembers felt ambushed by this last-minute ploy, so discussion was put off until Nov. 9.
Well in advance of that meeting, Neighbors on Urban Creeks offered an alternative proposal, which was co-sponsored by councilmembers Wozniak and Olds, and was distributed to councilmembers and creekside residents. Feeling that the mayor’s proposed task force would be politically biased, as the council is, this counter proposal called for a balanced advisory group of twelve members, six appointed by Neighbors on Urban Creeks, and six by creek activist groups.
Dozens of residents attended the meeting, and each statement in support of this proposal was met with sustained and vocal applause. Nonetheless, in a stunning display of political arrogance and indifference to the will of the assembly, the mayor’s power block on the council passed his proposal instead.
Why did this entrenched majority dig in their heels on an issue that should be of general and open concern? Because the creek activists are under the wing of the Sierra Club, which is the Big Brother of ecology politics. Since the Sierra Club meddles in local politics by offering candidate endorsements based myopically and solely on ecology issues, with no concern for any other matters of political or social balance, those candidates are eager to do the Sierra Club’s bidding, at any cost. We may expect, therefore, to see a revised ordinance heavily influenced by activist groups, including some who have proposed daylighting Strawberry Creek from the campus to the bay, designating 36 homes and businesses that would be removed in this process. Others would like to send creek squads to inspect creeks on private property to ensure that the residents are properly maintaining the creek banks, planting only correct vegetation, etc.
I canceled my Sierra Club membership two years ago, and now support the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Other Berkeley residents, especially those who reside by creeks and are content to care for them in their own way, may want to think twice about future support of the Sierra Club.
Jerry Landis is a member of Neighbors on Urban Creeks.f