Public Comment

Open Letter to Sierra Club Re: Northern Alameda County Group

By Root Barrett
Thursday September 19, 2013 - 10:41:00 PM

Dear Sierra Club,

It has come to my attention that your Northern Alameda County Group is in violation of the Sierra Club´s Environmental Justice policy. The NAC Group has officially endorsed the forcible eviction of sixty-two of Alameda County´s poorest residents from their homes in order to turn their living space--a multi-use commons which hosts recreation, housing, wild space, and community art--into a recreation-only park.

The Environmental Justice policy clearly states that “no community should bear disproportionate risks of harm because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition.” The NAC Group has targeted the Albany Bulb, home to a community of people marginalized by economic condition and in many cases by disability. The Bulb presently offers stable housing to those unable to afford housing anywhere else in Albany.

By targeting the Bulb, this Sierra Club group is participating in taking away shelter as winter approaches. The NAC Group does this fully aware that no alternative housing exists in Albany, and actually advocated against the City giving people more time to find alternative housing. 

The Environmental Justice policy further states, “People have the right to participate in the development of rules, regulations, plans, and evaluation criteria and at every level of decision-making. . . . Barriers to participation (cultural, linguistic, geographic, economic, other) should be addressed.” 

No effort has been made by the Sierra Club or the City Council of Albany to involve Bulb residents in deciding what will happen to their home. When Bulb residents have attempted to make their voices heard, their concerns have been waved aside. 

The irony of excluding Bulb residents from decisions about their homes is heightened by their role as ecological stewards. They have cleaned up surface hazards left from the Bulb's days as a landfill. They have rescued birds during the Cosco Busan oil spill. They have built their homes from salvaged and local materials. In return for these efforts, they are being displaced. 

Mass displacement is a clear violation of human rights, and is of special concern now, when housing is such a critical issue. At the moment when the Sierra Club´s Executive Director is announcing the Club´s participation in the Democracy Initiative, seeking “justice for all Americans,” one would expect the Sierra Club to be opposing any action that will put people on the street. This is not a way forward for environmental justice. 

October 1st is the deadline. I hope the Sierra Club will help stop this mass displacement in time, and advocate for a reasonable delay that would allow Bulb residents to find alternative affordable housing. 

Sincerely, Root Barrett Share the Bulb