Marin’s Climate Action Plan – Moving into Checkmate Position

Marin’s Climate Action Plan – Moving into Checkmate Position

Fighting climate change is important – but what seems to have become even more important to special interests groups is placing significant impositions on the greater population, sometimes for profit, but also in the simple belief that everyone should make sacrifices to fight climate change, no matter how imposing and how minimal the actual impact is. These impositions surface as: High density housing appearing in your neighborhood, and you discover all ability to oppose it has been undermined (we have to do it to save the planet!) Noise and polluting transportation projects appearing right next to your house that encourage further development, cause congestion and ultimately a negative spiral towards apartment blocks served by trains and trolleys Money that could have been used to address severe traffic congestion problems is instead diverted to pet transportation projects that are entirely cost-ineffective at fighting climate change or moving any significant number of people Higher taxes, cap and trade funds used to pay for the above (high density housing, cost-ineffective transportation projects) Special Interests Moving into “Checkmate” Position What few know about, or realize, is that transit advocates, housing advocates and local government have been getting busy drafting their plan for how Marin should do it’s fair share to fight global climate change. Only a few of us realized what’s been happening – but it’s now time to pull the alarm cord and expose what’s going on. The drafting of Marin’s  Climate Action Plan 2014 Update is akin to special interests playing a game of chess, and moving their queen into position for checkmate. This action plan can be used in a...
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...
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...
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...
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...