The Loma Prietan - July/August 2010

Member Close-Up

David Scouffas: From Management to Activism

story and photo by Cheryl Hylton

David Scouffas retired from Hewlett-Packard and became a Cool Cities co-leader in San Carlos.
David Scouffas retired from Hewlett-Packard and became a Cool Cities co-leader in San Carlos.

"Give it a try" has been a personal credo of David Scouffas for much of his life. He doesn't like to accept things as they are if he knows they can and need to be different. This admirable trait is hinted at before you meet him, like when he gives you his email address — with "free_radical" in the wording!

David, like so many Sierra Clubbers, began life back East, where he felt a strong pull toward the environmental movement. Like many of us transplanted folks, after experiencing and relishing the West's boundless beauty, he wanted to protect its uniqueness through the Club's preservation and protection initiatives. His home is a showcase of his beautiful photographic images — some with an environmental theme — and he is working toward a career as an art photographer. (His work is shown at The Main Gallery in Redwood City.)

David's entry point for active Club involvement came when he retired from a management position at Hewlett-Packard after 27 years, freeing up the time to apply his people and political skills in a new way. His first effort was as a Cool Cities co-leader, lobbying for his home town of San Carlos to require a Green Building Ordinance within the city's general plan. This project was a real eye opener and earned him firsthand knowledge of how cities work and make decisions.

David and his team challenged assertions about cost and resistance to green buildings by compiling data about how green building is accepted by the building industry, commercial building tenants, and home owners. Industry groups, investment banks, and home builders have found that green buildings sell or rent faster, have higher occupancy rates, and command higher sales and rental prices. Armed with these facts and working with the San Carlos Greens, a dynamic group of fellow citizens, David and the Cool Cities team had an active presence as the general plan was considered by the local government. Despite an impressive show of support for the measure at Planning Commission meetings, the Commission voted 4 to 1 against requiring a Green Building Ordinance.

While disappointed, David was not dissuaded. He and his green partners renewed their efforts to convince the City Council. Meeting with each Council member — one at a time — resulted in a 4-to-1 vote to require a Green Building Ordinance!! Fortunately for the Club, this hard-won victory has buoyed David's interest and he is continuing on as leader of the San Carlos Cool Cities team. He is happy that the Chapter has given him volunteer opportunities and enthusiastically encourages fellow members to go out and make a difference that will give them a real sense of accomplishment while making great friends along the way. "Give it a try!"

Cheryl Hylton is a Sierra Club life member and a pro bono fundraising consultant for the Chapter.