On August 26, Mr. Robert Piper responded to our article on Mr. Bill Smith, his credentials, and his claim that the Sierra Club had endorsed the policy advocated by HOMES for Alameda. We also asked where the $17,000, which Mr. Smith boasted about raising for HOMES on behalf of its campaign to amend Measure A, came from.
Let us take up the question of the money first. In the July issue of the Yodeler, Mr. Smith said that the Sierra Club had donated $500 to the campaign. Fine: that accounts for $500. What about the rest? Mr. Piper, in his attempt to extricate Smith from these questions says the Northern Alameda County (NAC) of which Mr. Smith was Chair from 2004 to 2005, says that it voted "unanimously to recommend that funds from the Sierra Club be allocated to support the activities of HOMES n the City of Alameda." That seems to say that all of the $17,000 came from the Sierra Club -- which it clearly didn't according to Smith's own statement. In his attempt to get Smith off the hook, he fails to quote the entire Yodeler piece: "Bill has successfully raised $17,000 from the community for the campaign, including $500 from the Northern Alameda Group." Five hundred dollars from the Sierra Club --- that's all, not as Piper tries to suggest, the entire amount. "From the community". This makes us suspicious and Piper's cover-up makes us even more suspicious that the money came from sources that he doesn't want to reveal. And we are made more suspicious by the fact that Helen Sause's (Chair of HOMES) letter in last week's Alameda Journal makes no reference to the $17,000 -- indeed goes to great lengths to deny that any substantial amount money at all has been raised -- and certainly not from any developers. So: what's the truth? There is a discrepancy of $16,500 to be explained.
About whether Smith "represents" the Sierra Club in Alameda. We accept the fact that for one year he was Chair of the NAC of the Sierra Club, from 2004 to 2005. That he represented the views of the 900 individual members of the Sierra Club in Alameda we doubt. In any case, they (and we) were never asked, which is yet another example, of how nominally democratic organizations are hi-jacked by a small group who have an agenda to push and then claim, as in the case of the local League of Women Voters (in which Mr. Smith has also made an appearance) to speak for the organization.
We are sorry to say, formalities apart, that based on Mr. Piper's statement, Bill Smith's views DO represent the views of the Sierra Club leadership, for which the Sierra Club leadership is to be condemned. Just as they are for their other alliances with developers as in the case of the Presidio privatization. Imagine! a National Park privatized so greedy developers can exploit its location. All with the eager help of the Sierra Club. Abstract ideas of "URBAN DENSITY GUIDELINES" need to take into account the context and the consequences. Dense housing and high-rise condominiums such as those going up at Oak to 9th (which the Oakland Sierra Club opposes) and all over the Bay Area (and California) means increased traffic, air pollution, higher taxes, urban degradation, etc. Moreover, this position does not take into account the views of those of us who think that junking Measure A is a bad idea. We think so, not because, despite Smith despicable claim, made several years earlier in a letter to the Alameda Journal, that all of those who support Measure are "racists", but because the special conditions of Alameda make it so. First, because the land is heavily contaminated, and a Superfund site, and locating "affordable housing" for minorities or anyone else on this land would be a case (as in Hunters Point/Bayview) of "environmental racism" and injustice. And, second of course, Mr. Piper may be surprised to learn, Alameda is an ISLAND with just one already overcrowded tunnel and four draw bridges which are closed at least several times a day, frequently in busy traffic periods. And third, 880 is one of the most traffic jammed highways in the area a point raised by the Oakland Sierra Club which opposed to the Oak to 9th project. Not only will Alameda itself suffer an enormous increase in traffic but getting on and off the Island will become a nightmare. Did the NAC take this into account? Did it hear from those of us who have thought long and deep about the future of Alameda? Or did it hear from only Mr. Smith who thinks that everyone living in the happy utopian community he has fantasized will not drive or will take busses or bikes. Absurd and unworkable.
So: when we translate the slogan "URBAN DENSITY GUIDELINES' into reality we see Alameda transformed into a second mini-Manhattan, with high-rise condominiums, and a vastly increased population resting on contaminated land. (Was the NAC informed about this fact?)
It's important to say that Smith started out by advocating Measure A be entirely repealed for the ENTIRE island, not just Alameda Point. Is that what the NAC endorsed back in 2003? All the more reprehensible. Helen Sause started at the same point. So when you voted to give them money wasn't it to abolish Measure A for all of Alameda? In our opinion that remains the long-term goal of Smith and HOMES. They've adopted what was called before WWII, the "salami tactic" -- a phrase that surely needs no explanation.
Who is the long-time beneficiary of what the Sierra Club advocates? The big, powerful developers like Catellus/ProLogis and Signature Properties who, perhaps, to return to the question of the missing $16,500, were so generous as to give HOMES the money for this campaign.
On the point of "affordable housing" just what is Bill Smith and HOMES talking about? The Bayport provided "affordable housing" for people making at least $80,000. The median income in Alameda is $56,000. Why didn't the Sierra Club go to bat for the residents of Harbor Bay apartments when they were evicted? Six hundred and forty units, overwhelmingly African-American and other minorities. The largest concentration of minorities in Alameda. Bill Smith showed up once and so did Helen Sause of Homes, but we can find nothing in the record stating their opposition and for sure they were not involved in the organized fight to save those homes. Whereas we, the supporters of Measure A, who Bill Smith slandered as racists, were part of the coalition to save Harbor Island tenants.
Additional facts about Alameda to undermine the stereotypes which are widely held: the majority of people living in Alameda are renters, not homeowners; only 40% of our homes are detached, single-family. This is the lowest percentage in Alameda County. Alameda is, we understand it, the fourth densest city in Alameda County. The ethnic breakdown in the school population is 32% white, 30% Asian, 13% African-American; 9% Filipino, and others. (Of the "white" population a not-insignificant number, to go by current census findings, are of mixed race background.)
How about organizing a meeting of all the Sierra Club members in Alameda (we are members) to ask whether Bill Smith truly represents their views? When the NAC steps into making policy of this significance it ought to actually research the specific details rather than just repeating the knee-jerk slogan of "URBAN DENSITY GUIDELINES".