In the Heart of the High Density Housing Echo Chamber

In the Heart of the High Density Housing Echo Chamber

Sometimes the best way to deal with an adversary is to go behind enemy lines and find out what they’re thinking. So today, together with Susan Kirsch, I attended the ABAG and MTC hosted event “Calling the Bay Area Home: Tackling the Affordability and Displacement Challenge” at the Oakland Marriott. The Marriott is an impressive venue, attendees were provided with muffins, cake and Starbucks coffee for breakfast and an assortment of lunch boxes – this was no Plan Bay Area public meeting. Our regional transportation and housing planning bodies, MTC and ABAG had truly rolled out the red carpet for this select audience. While not up to Oscars standards, in regional political terms the cast was star studded. The north bay was well represented with Jake Mackenzie, ABAG vice chair and Rohnert Park Vice mayor resplendent in a Famous Grouse rugby shirt just in case his strong Scottish accent was insufficient to drive home his characterful identify. Also in attendance were Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, Napa County Supervisor and former ABAG president Mark Luce, Novato Mayor Pat Eklund and supervisor candidate Susan Kirsch with whom I carpooled to the event. So Where’s ABAG’s Forum for Homeowners? What Susan and I found most remarkable was how special interest groups of affordable housing advocates and developers had their own dedicated forum laid on at a 4 star hotel. Where, we asked, was the forum for the other major stakeholder – the homeowners and residents whose taxes paid ABAG and MTC’s salaries and office rent? Where we asked was our forum also paid on our dime – the one that might be called “Calling...

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 –...
Powerpoint Slides from Nov 13th Citizen Marin Presentation

Powerpoint Slides from Nov 13th Citizen Marin Presentation

Many of you have inquired about obtaining my presentation from the recent Citizen Marin event held on November 13th at San Rafael City Hall. Here is the presentation in both pdf and ppt format: Powerpoint Presentation (pdf) >> Powerpoint Presentation (ppt) >> Note: You may use the slides on websites and presentations on condition that you credit the source as follows: “Created by Richard Hall,...
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...

SMART Train Growth Set to Overwhelm Highway 101

Thanks to the SMART train, a project we were promised would alleviate congestion on Highway 101, towns in Sonoma County have planned a whopping 24,010 housing units in the Priority Development Areas (PDAs) along the train line — equivalent to a city the size of San Rafael appearing in Sonoma County. In Marin Downtown San Rafael remains a PDA. The giant WinCup complex in Corte Madera has 180 units. This new growth planned by Sonoma, focusing on high density growth, is equivalent to no less than 133 WinCups.  Will All of the New Residents Be Taking the SMART Train? Do Marin’s planners really think the 60,000-plus new residents of suburban Sonoma County who work in Marin or employment centers in Oakland or San Francisco will be taking the train? No, many more will  drive down 101 rather than take the train. What About the Water for 60,000 More People? Do the planners not recognize that they will drink water coming from the same reservoirs that serve Marin? Can Marin County’s planning really be a good plan if it effectively ignores the massive growth already planned to our north? While Marin has squashed PDAs in Marinwood, Civic Center and Strawberry the sheer numbers of units in the remaining Priority Development Areas dwarf the units that were removed (see map). But SMART Told Us That it Would Alleviate 101 Congestion Many voted for SMART based on the ballot measure’s promise that it would alleviate 101 congestion. However the reality was quite the opposite as the presence of a train opened up the entire rail corridor for development – targeting more than...
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...