Sierra Club files brief in Parkmerced lawsuit

The Sierra Club and the California Preservation Foundation have jointly filed an appellate brief as amici curiae in support of a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s approval of the proposed Parkmerced project.

The proposed project would require tearing down over 1,500 rent-controlled residential units in historic Parkmerced, at the southwest corner of San Francisco next to Lake Merced and the San Francisco State University campus. Parkmerced, built during and just after World War II by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company with the assistance of the federal government, was the first large-scale residential community on the West Coast made up of affordable rental units. The proposed project would also destroy the existing landscaping designed by famed San Francisco designer Thomas Church. The proposed project was to include improvements to the Muni J-Church line, but those improvements remain unfunded. While the proposed project is touted as reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, that wouldn’t happen until roughly 2035 or later. In the short term, the demolition and construction would actually increase CO2 production.

The submitted amicus brief touches on two subjects.

  • Is the city’s interpretation of Proposition M, a General Plan initiative passed by city voters in 1985, entitled to “great deference” by the court?
  • Would destruction of 1,500 housing units in a historic complex violate Prop M’s policies for conserving and protecting existing housing and neighborhood character, and preserving landmarks and historic buildings?

The Club is uniquely suited to submit this amicus brief because it signed on to a ballot argument in support of Proposition M in 1985. By contrast, San Francisco’s then-mayor and much of the city’s political establishment opposed Proposition M. Why should the court give “great deference” to the city’s interpretation of a measure it neither wrote nor supported? This would be like letting England decide the interpretation of the Declaration of Independence.



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