The local chapter of the Sierra Club, whose Balboa Park headquarters has been the focus of San Diego City Council debate over political activity in city-subsidized office space, will relocate to a North Park storefront Jan. 20, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Barbara Bamberger, the organization's conservation coordinator, said that the move to larger quarters, in the 3800 block of Ray Street, is unrelated to an attempt by some council members to restrict the political activity of organizations that lease city-owned property at a discount.
Bamberger said that the Sierra Club has been searching for new office space since February, about five months before it was accused of violating city policy by meeting in its city-owned headquarters to review an endorsement made by its political committee.
The move, from a 771-square-foot office in the park's House of Hospitality to a 1,000-square-foot storefront, will allow the Sierra Club to expand its bookstore, library and art gallery, Bamberger said. The expanded bookstore, which includes literature on hiking, travel and natural resource conservation, will increase the group's revenues, offsetting a 16-cent-per-square-foot rent increase, she said.
"We get a lot of money from the books. It's a real good way of supporting the organization, bringing in money, and it will be a real good source (of information) for San Diego," Bamberger said.
The council's Public Facilities and Recreation Committee is scheduled to discuss next Wednesday a proposal to expand rules on political activity by organizations that rent city-owned space at rates below market value. The rules would prohibit activity on behalf of political candidates or ballot measures by those organizations. Current policy bars work for any candidate.
Those organizations could, however, conduct their political activity at sites not owned by the city, according to the proposed rules.
Don Barone, the city's property services supervisor, said that the rules technically would apply to more than 1,100 organizations that have leases with the city. However, all but a handful are community groups that lease city space for periodic meetings, making them unlikely to issue political endorsements, he said.