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...
Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

An innocent reader interested in learning about transit oriented development projects would have learned from official county and city sources that one of the major justifications was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Here is a selection of the justifications made to justify a number of projects in Marin: – The County of Marin told us in official documents that Priority Development Areas would “lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” – The Larkspur Station Area plan public workshop presentation told us that we should add 920 units of high density housing in order to “minimize greenhouse gas emissions” – The SMART’s train’s measure Q, climate change whitepaper and final Environmental Impact Report told us that it would “fight global warming” But what if none of this turned out to be true? What if all of these projects actually increased emissions? What if the claims that “if we don’t build high density here then we’d increase emissions by building sprawl elsewhere?” rang hollow? Then shouldn’t we re-evaluate all those projects based on the new information? After all the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated unambiguously that the climate change crisis has become so significant that we can’t continue with business as usual. The Changing Landscape: Car Emissions Have Dropped Many of us still feel a modicum of guilty pleasure driving a vehicle – based on information such as the above we presume that while taking transit can be inconvenient, we’re doing our bit to save the planet because transit has lower emissions. But the reality is that cars have come a long way in the last few years....
Larkspur and the Transit Oriented Development Ponzi Scheme

Larkspur and the Transit Oriented Development Ponzi Scheme

If you ask the situational analysis question to anyone living in Larkspur or commuting through Larkspur “do you have traffic or parking issues?” the answer is likely to be a resounding “Yes – we need to sort out this mess”. However Larkspur has got itself caught up in what can almost be described as a planning-Ponzi scheme. Is it intentional? I would argue many involved have good intentions, and many are hamstrung by state and regional mandates driven by flawed thinking that is pushing areas like Larkspur into an endless cycle of creating acute transportation issues, then offering funds to solve the issue that only compound it. It’s like a drug-deal. Who benefits? Regional transportation agencies that gain more and more federal grants, grow in employees, executives get more responsibilities and higher salaries and grow in influence. What Does Larkspur Really Need? In normal circumstances whenever new development is added developers pay impact fees to expand the road system, pay for schools etc. However this money only pays for improvements in the immediate local area. Larkspur is a focal point for transportation for Marin and Sonoma. While development in Larkspur has been limited, the town is affected by all development happening upstream. Sure each new development in Marin and Sonoma only adds a little traffic, but it adds up. Take for example the $820m Graton Casino which opened in Rohnert Park in November which provides no less than 5,700 parking spaces for it’s patrons. The casino will draw a significant amount of evening traffic passing through Larkspur. The casino is paying $12m per year in traffic mitigation fees –...
The Myth Spreading Larkspur Station Area Plan DEIR

The Myth Spreading Larkspur Station Area Plan DEIR

Larkspur represents a focal point for transit in Marin, where the SMART train terminates, the Golden Gate Ferry and the Marin Airporter converge. The area already experiences acute parking issues either in the ferry terminal lot, or in the Larkspur Landing mall. The freeway is a choke-point for traffic – that has yet to be addressed (e.g. by the Greenbrae Corridor Project) and traffic intersections in the area fall  below the targeted acceptable level D. Special interests have been focusing on pushing through plans that would allow the building of an additional 920 dwelling units, a hotel and 77,000 square feet of commercial space. This week I reviewed the newly published Larkspur Station Area Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report – the precursor document used to inform final decisions to allow such development in the area. The Station Area Plan was funded by MTC and SMART. Here is what I discovered: Exaggerated Representation of Bike Path Usage Page 104 of the Larkspur SAP DEIR makes the following statement: “The most popular bicycle paths around and through the Plan area include the multi-use path along the Corte Madera Creek, the path along the southbound U.S. 101 on-ramp from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the Cal Park Hill Tunnel Multi-Use Pathway. These paths are all heavily used by commuters and recreational users [emphasis added] alike to access such destinations as the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and the shopping centers located south of the Plan area. Compared to Car Travel, Bike Usage is Very Low The actual bike counts in the report show the following usage over a two hour period (car numbers to follow are over a 1 hour period): – Corte...