Survey Says We Should Build & Reduce Fees & Regulations

Survey Says We Should Build & Reduce Fees & Regulations

On May 29th the Marin IJ published a front page story about a survey results entitled Area ‘disconnect’ cited in housing policy opinion.  The survey was commissioned by an organization calling itself the Bay Area Council , which has a mission to: Fight unreasonable barriers to infill, transit-oriented, and urban development Should it be any surprise that the  survey gives the “council” the mandate to be shovel ready to build high density infill housing region-wide? Low Number of Marin Respondents,  High Degree of Error The disclosure of a 16% margin of error for the north bay is highly significant. They only interviewed 1,018 respondents across the entire Bay Area of which 18% were in the North Bay which is likely to include Sonoma as well as Marin. So that’s 183 respondents, of which perhaps half were from Marin? There’s No Disconnect What’s emerging is the reality – the Bay Area is a highly constrained area. It’s a very attractive place to live with lots of high paying jobs that can kick start the career of a young graduate. The natural economics of such a situation are for rents and housing prices to rise; and it’s appropriate that respondents find that questions about these costs being high resonate. Build or Don’t Build, The Survey Presents a False Dichotomy The issue with the survey is that it asks whether respondents agree we should build more housing. This is a false dichotomy:  to say “no” presumes that we should stop all house building – hardly realistic, and few would agree. The Bay Area Council has framed this question nicely to achieve their desired...
Calming the Larkspur Station Area Plan with Misinformation

Calming the Larkspur Station Area Plan with Misinformation

A new fast growth organization has appeared on the radar – the Coalition for a Livable Marin, calling itself “CALM”. Its ranks are filled by familiar faces supporting fast growth with goals of urbanizing neighborhoods across Marin – including Larkspur, the Strawberry Seminary, Marinwood and Terra Linda – contrary to residents’ wishes. Members of these groups may not live in affected neighborhood, but they don’t hesitate to ally and join forces against residents opposing urbanization plans in their neighborhoods. Throughout the past two years members of these groups have claimed that misinformation is being circulated by those supporting measured and reasonable growth. The highly polished spin of their newly launched website would place them at the extreme end of the Politically Correct Spectrum. They claim to be for all the right things: “livable places, transportation choices, living local”. But are they really? Let the reader be the judge. Claim: The Larkspur Station Area Plan Alleviates Freeway Traffic Congestion – FALSE The group makes an interesting claim in it’s page purporting to lay out the facts on Larkspur Landing Station Area Plan, stating: Probably the top priority of Larkspur residents, and anyone who commutes through Larkspur Landing, is the horrific traffic congestion….To help smooth out the traffic, the SAP pushes for a direct connection between 580 and 101, to ensure freeway traffic can stay on the freeway and doesn’t need to cut through slow surface streets. What is entirely remarkable about this statement is that the Station Area Plan is a plan for the city of Larkspur to act on. It does not secure any funding to build any such freeway...
From False Dichotomies to the Spectrum of Reality

From False Dichotomies to the Spectrum of Reality

One of the issues occurring as people new to the fast growth and urbanization issue in Marin try to get their heads around the issues are the false dichotomies that are appearing. Daily I see these dichotomies used by fast growth proponents in letters to the Marin IJ editor and on websites. I even hear at least one Marin County supervisor suggesting that if we don’t allow more housing in Eastern Marin then rural Western Marin must be given up to development. RationalWiki describes a false dichotomy as follows: A false dilemma, or false dichotomy, is a logical fallacy which involves presenting two opposing views, options or outcomes in such a way that they seem to be the only possibilities: that is, if one is true, the other must be false, or, more typically, if you do not accept one then the other must be accepted. The reality in most cases is that there are many in-between or other alternative options, not just two mutually exclusive ones. I thought it useful to look at each aspect the impacts of rapidly developing and urbanizing Marin in the appropriate way – on a spectrum, understanding the current situation. And most importantly basing this on facts. Marin Already Has the Highest Taxes in the State Urbanization and housing advocates are lobbying to significantly increase the stock of affordable housing in Marin. Affordable housing is an alternative way of  saying subsidized housing, exclusively playing up one specific aspect. What’s the impact of affordable housing on taxes? An entire non-profit developed apartment block can pay the same property tax contribution towards schools as just one modest single family home. So adding many...
Records Request Revelations: The Larkspur SAP

Records Request Revelations: The Larkspur SAP

Today one of the greatest mysteries in Marin is how it came about that the “preferred plan” for the Larkspur Station Area Plan is for 920 new housing units, a hotel and 77,000 square feet of commercial space. That such a plan is the preference of residents, their representatives and  civil servants seems wholly remarkable given the increasingly acute traffic circulation and parking issues at the ferry terminal and Larkspur Landing mall. TAM – The Conduit Between ABAG, MTC and Plannning in Marin’s County and Cities To shine a light and unearth the reasoning behind the Larkspur Station Area Plan on January 25th I submitted a Public Records Request to the Transportation Authority of Marin – the conduit of transit planning and funding that sits between ABAG, MTC and the cities and county of Marin. In other words – TAM is the focal point  straddling the regional agencies behind Plan Bay Area, and the cities and county of Marin. Starting in late January my public records requests went back and forth with 3 denials, then  eventually in April – with the request  focused on specific TAM employees referencing Larkspur – things started to move and TAM agreed to produce records, but only after a county attorney could spend 20 business days vetting and censoring emails (which is permitted). Finally today, for the princely sum of $62, I received a DVD-ROM containing emails back as far as 2011 from three TAM employees – Dianne Steinhauser, TAM’s Executive Director, Linda Jackson, Manager of Planning and Suzanne Loosen, TAMs representative on the Larkspur Station Area Plan Technical Advisory Committee. SMART is Driving Growth...
Public Transportation Use in Marin in Decline since 1990

Public Transportation Use in Marin in Decline since 1990

Marin residents are bombarded with the need to invest increasing amounts in transit. We are already seeing a 1/4c sales tax pay for the train – and may yet see another to complete the promised line length. Neighborhoods such as Larkspur, downtown San Rafael and Civic Center have been targeted with densification in order to prepare for and justify the SMART train. This week the US Census published figures down to the county level on how people get to work. I took a look at the figures specific to Marin county. The results are fascinating. Public Transportation Usage Declined in Marin From 10.2% to 8.6% Of Marin residents who worked and were over the age of 16 the census showed a decline from 10.2% to 8.6% in the use of public transportation. Note that this is a percentage, so even as Marin’s population slowly increased, use of public transportation declined. This makes the author very skeptical of initiatives such as SMART and a focus on Transit Oriented Development – a policy that has been in place for nearly 15 years in Marin.   Bike Commuting Increased from 0.7% to 1.4% Over the Last 22 Years This is encouraging, but one needs to maintain perspective that we are in the weeds here. One could tout “bike commuting has doubled”. But consider that the real change in absolute terms is over 22 years of the 122,388 workers just 334 more have chosen to bike to work. That’s just 15 Marinites per year have switched to commuting by bike. The Real Winner: Working from Home Increases from 6.5% to 9.8% Never mind transit oriented...