The Death Knell for California’s Single Family Neighborhoods

The Death Knell for California’s Single Family Neighborhoods

Unbeknownst to most Californians, changes to state housing laws are being proposed that substantially shift the balance away from development of single family homes and low density residential (duplex, triplex, etc.) to large scale high density development and they make it almost impossible for residents, councils or mayors to ensure quality development mitigating impacts on existing or new residents’ quality of life California’s Housing Accountability Act law, enacted in 1982, compels cities to take action on proposed developments. However legislation enacted by Governor Brown in September 2017 shifted the burden of proof that a development conforms to legal and zoning requirements to the local government. Now the judgment of elected city officials is replaced with that of any “reasonable person”, which can include the project developer who has a fundamental economic interest in the project. Should the city reject an undesirable proposal, until recently only the developer could file suit to appeal and overturn the decision. However in September 2016 this was also changed so that instead trade or industry groups, or housing advocacy groups could file suit with cities paying their legal fees. Developers are reluctant to sue cities when development proposals are blocked, because they are constantly negotiating with city officials over their projects. The new legislation allows developers’ surrogates to do the dirty work. There have been two suits filed in Berkeley and Sausalito by the housing advocacy group San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SF BARF, which is now known as SF YIMBY), both for market rate, not affordable housing. In both cases the advocacy groups prevailed with the city paying the advocacy group’s costs....
Trains Aren’t the Solution,  Cars Are

Trains Aren’t the Solution, Cars Are

The secret’s out! Trains aren’t the solution, they’re the problem. On May 30th 2016 the Wall Street Journal published this article stating how California’s cap and trade increases gas prices by 1/2c to fund projects like high speed rail that DON’T reduce emissions and yet cost us 1/2c per gallon on gas: http://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-cap-and-trade-bubble-1464643546 According to the state’s Legislative Analysts Office California high speed rail won’t reduce emissions for over 30 years, during that time it will actually increase emissions! Just like SMART. Many have just about had enough of being spoon-fed by self-declared authorities on “sustainability” pushing expensive, ineffective rail projects costing billions. Authorities like Governor Brown, State Assembly leader Kevin DeLeon and rail advocates across the state. The true story is now emerging that rail doesn’t fight climate change, it encourages it by increasing CO2 emissions even over the car journeys it displaces! Then authorities have the audacity to charge 1/2c on gas to bankroll encouraging climate change (all in the name of supposedly fighting it). So What’s the Answer? Autonomous Shared Car Services Meanwhile planners ignore the real solution: autonomous cars. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group made up of 57 member countries including the United States, has published this report on how autonomous shared car services like Uber Pool and Zipcar can solve many problems: http://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/shared-mobility-liveable-cities.pdf For rail advocates this report clearly shows that the time has now finally passed for this 19th century solution. The report is based on a traffic and transit simulation based on the city of Lisbon in Portugal. Note that autonomous cars work in conjunction with transit...

The Flawed Concept of “Workforce Housing”

Listening to the Marin County Supervisors we would be led to believe there is no higher priority than to provide “workforce housing“. “We can reduce the impacts of in-commuting by…building workforce housing would enable people working in Marin to live closer to their jobs.” Supervisor Sears, Feb 21st 2014 Facebook page “It’s important that we build healthy and sustainable communities by allowing those who work in Marin to also live here,”  Supervisor Arnold, Sept 2011 “To increase the stock of affordable housing, especially workforce housing, the Marin County Board of Supervisors enacted the Affordable Housing Impact Fee.” This is a $5 or a $10 per square foot fee imposed on new builds and remodels. An existing 1,800 square foot house with a 700 square foot addition or conversion will be assessed $2,500. Source. The concept of providing workforce housing underpins stated policy not just from Marin County Supervisors but also the Association of Bay Area Governments’ Plan Bay Area: “The job growth forecast was adjusted based on the difficulties in supplying sufficient housing in the Bay Area to meet the needs of workforce housing within reasonable commute times. ” Source: Plan Bay Area, page 15, Employment Forecast Workforce Housing – The Premise & Alleged Benefits The concept presumes that by building affordable housing in a county: more county workers who used to live outside the county will be able to live in the county traffic congestion will be reduced greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. A quick Google search constrained to the Marin County website references the term “workforce housing” in 340 separate documents. The same term appears in 160 documents...

How Many Riders Will SMART Really Have?

There has been a great deal of speculation about how SMART will reduce 101 congestion or greenhouse gas emissions. But these claims all pivot on the assumption that SMART will attain a certain number of riders. Previously the author has run figures and worked out that to breakeven on CO2 emissions SMART will need something north of 60 to 80 average riders. But how many riders will SMART really get? Could this be realistic? A Look at Other Hybrid Rail Ridership Numbers 2012 is the most recent national data available from the Federal Transit Administration; here is a table showing average train ridership for the four operators that reported “hybrid rail” data for that year. The New Jersey “River Line”, opened in 2004. This line is 8 years into operation before it attained am average of  as many a 46.8  riders. This line connects Trenton and Camden, going down the East Side of the Delaware River.  There are connections to New York City (long commuter rail) and Philadelphia which is pretty much right across the River. While stations along the River Line do not directly serve a major business district, New Jersey is this most densely populated state in the nation. (i.e. far more dense than Marin, so it would be near impossible for SMART to hit a ridership of 46.8). North San Diego County doesn’t go into the major city of San Diego, but it does serve the city center of Oceanside, population 172,000 – that’s over 3x the population of San Rafael, along with a number of other smaller cities and college campuses. It commenced operation in 1995 – 17...

A Response to Global Site Plans’ Nick Danty

Every  now and then an article is published by those advocating rapid growth that is so poorly grounded on facts that one almost hesitates to respond. One such article is “Social Equity Or NIMBYism? Marin County’s Battle With Affordable Housing” on Global Site Plans written by Nick Danty, a recent CSU Chico graduate. I’ve known of this post for a while, but it has almost not seemed worthwhile responding due to the nature of its inaccuracy and because it has slide down to the depths of ad hominem attacks – typically a strong indication of a lack of defensible arguments. Writer Nick Danty responds to one commenter: please keep your posts mature and without offensive language Yet his article sets the tone by descending to name calling – labeling opponents NIMBYs. I find this offensive as it falsely simplifies a wholly complex and nuanced topic with a smear intended to distance observers. Such readers might otherwise read up on the topic, become informed and discover that Danty’s arguments are completely misplaced.  Inaccuracies – Where to Start? Moving onto the topic of inaccuracy, where to start? I shall endeavor to be precise and include citations. First let’s get the most obvious, and blatant inaccurate statement by Danty out of the way: ultra right-wing community groups continue to believe that Plan Bay Area is the extension of a global agenda to rob Americans of their freedom. Groups such as Citizen Marin… Danty might be surprised to learn that Citizen Marin was co-founded by Marin Democratic Central Party committee member Susan Kirsch: http://citizenmarin.org/about-us/ Frank Egger, former seven time mayor of Fairfax –...