Walk Bike Marin’s $28m+ Failure Rewritten Into Success!

Walk Bike Marin’s $28m+ Failure Rewritten Into Success!

While I enjoy cycling and support extending bike paths and trails, residents such as myself have found themselves facing off against bicycle coalitions and bike groups that serve as the vanguard for pushing high density housing. Frequently these groups claim to represent thousands of cyclists and speak  out against the wishes of their membership as covered in another Planning for Reality article. As someone who has been involved in many market research projects I am a big fan of statistics – when used correctly – but nothing could have horrified me more than the manipulation of  Walk Bike Marin and the associated Congressional report deeming the $28m Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program a success. This was further heralded by coverage in an article in the June 30th  Marin Independent Journal “Feds Hail $28m Bike Path Program“. What Should We Be Trying to Achieve? We do need to fight climate change,  reducing vehicle miles travelled. More importantly we should spend our dollars as cost effectively as we can to focus on the most critical resources – road and freeway usage during peak weekday commutes.  It may help with emissions to reduce off-peak trips, but if we can switch people from cars to alternative commute methods that would be the real win – saving time for those who do need to commute by car, and maximizing economic benefit. The economic benefit of reducing peak hour congestion is measured in multiple ways: People can commute to jobs that would otherwise be out of range Children can be taken to activities Additional shopping trips may occur (these may be part of multi-leg trips incorporated...
Why Solar Makes Sense

Why Solar Makes Sense

As many readers will know, the author is a high tech product manager who applies economics and rigorous business model analysis to understand if claims of “sustainability” are valid. Recently I began to investigate whether solar panels are genuinely sustainable – meaning that they cost effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The answer is an unequivocal “YES”. Planning for Reality will  be publishing a series of articles  helping readers understand the issues around solar – and whether installing solar panels is a good choice for your specific situation. The High Level Summary Solar Panels are sustainable – CHECK Solar panels save money – CHECK Solar panels are strongly pencilling out as positive for most homeowners.  There are some situations where it may not make sense – articles will be published here that cover this. Where Can I Get Solar Panels for My Home?       Lately the author has been reviewing two specific vendors as he considers installing solar in his own home: Solar City – PFRs quick take: Quickly delivers  up front savings compared to alternatives without any up front investment. Contact: Bill Utnehmer, butnehmer@solarcity.com, 415-202-5282. Sun Power – PFRs quick take: A higher initial cost per kWh but a cost that’s locked in mean that SunPower provide the highest saving over 20 years. According to independent third party Frauenhofer tests they offer the most robust solar panels with the least power generation degradation. Contact: mark.chapman@sunpower.com 415-686-3877 and let him know that you found out about Sun Power through Planning for...
Marin County High Density & Bicycle Coalition

Marin County High Density & Bicycle Coalition

Marin County Bicycle Coalition members are being surprised to find their organization volunteering their neighborhoods for high density housing. Are they being used as pawns in the high density housing wars? The Marin Cyclist’s Dilemma While I’ve been outspoken regarding the need for bikers to follow traffic laws, I remain a  big fan of bikes – cycling all around my home county of Somerset as a child on my Raleigh Arena racing bike. Now as I raise our 2 children to embrace bikes I face a dilemma: – we want to join an organization that teaches our kids bicycle road safety – we do not support high density housing However the one organization here in Marin claiming to perform the first item – the Marin County Bicycle Coalition – has become one of the most ardent supporters of urbanizing Marin with high density housing. Throwing Terra Linda Under the High Density Bus I live in Civic Center / Terra Linda. Residents of 10+ Terra Linda neighborhoods fought long and hard for over a year to rescind the Civic Center Priority Development Area (PDA) and turn back a wildly ambitious high density zoning plan called the “Civic Center Station Area Plan” to something reasonable with a modicum of new affordable housing units and retain the area’s low rise, suburban character . The community eventually succeeded –  but only despite groups such as Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) pushing for the PDA to be approved. Here is what the Marin County Bicycle Coalition had to say about the Civic Center Priority Development Area: The Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) would like...
The Junior Second Units Solution

The Junior Second Units Solution

A Low-Impact/High-Benefit Solution to Changing Housing Needs in Marin by Rachel Ginis We live on a majestic peninsula surrounded by natural wonders set just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Marin, brilliantly located, is an amazing place to live and work. Exceeding population projections, Marin grew by 1% or 2,500 people in 2013.  Babies accounted for less than 20% of our growth. According to the 2012 Marin County Housing Element the fastest growing sectors of our population over the next 30 years will be the elderly and young adults, who tend to have the lowest income levels. The senior population is expected to more than double over the same period. How are we planning to house this expanding population of lower income young adults and seniors? Did you know that over half the homes in Marin are occupied by only one or two people? In most cases these two are a couple sleeping in only one bedroom, leaving the majority of bedrooms, in an average three-bedroom home, either empty or under-utilized. We are moving into an age of individuals. Family size has shrunk to 2.3 persons per household, while home sizes have grown by 30% in America over the last thirty years. We face major housing challenges in our area, yet we have the most bedrooms per person of all the counties in the Bay Area. Marin is an affluent community, but we live in a gilded cage, where our own children cannot afford to come home and live and our seniors cannot afford to age in place. Second units are the best solution to address the need for housing in our community,...
What Should Come After Plan Bay Area?

What Should Come After Plan Bay Area?

Plan Bay Area hit really stiff resistance – the opposition is now mobilized and highly organized – and primed and ready for Plan Bay Area 2.0. Some might argue that some kind of revolution is needed; instead I strongly suggest ABAG and MTC incorporate new thinking into future regional transportation plans: 1) Build Bridges & Involve Opponents ABAG and MTC need to build bridges and connections with opposition leaders – to commence genuine engagement that never occurred with Plan Bay Area 1.0. Plan Bay Area 2.0 admits that this was a grave mistake.  It should not repeat this same error in the latest version of the Plan. 2) Amend Senate Bill 375 so it does not Selectively Reduce Emissions for Cars Senate Bill 375, a Steinberg Bill, needs to either be thrown out or amended so that instead of solely focusing on reducing the emissions of cars and light trucks, it reduces emissions from all forms of transportation. Since 2010, market forces, aided by government regulations, have resulted in the sharp decline of car emissions. Car emissions in Marin are now far lower than ferries and lower than buses. Given that SMART train ridership will be low in suburban Marin and Sonoma the train will  have higher passenger emissions per mile than cars. 3) Allow Residents to Vote for their ABAG Representatives There is insufficient accountability for ABAG representatives. ABAG representatives are effectively distanced from their electorates. In Marin there are three seats on ABAG (of 110). More populous areas are better represented, so if Marin and other suburban and rural areas have different needs, representatives from more urban...