Plan Bay Area 2040: More Theatre or Genuine Outreach?

Plan Bay Area 2040: More Theatre or Genuine Outreach?

[Originally published in the Marin Post on June 1st 2016] This Saturday, June 4, starting at 8:30am an Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s public workshop will review an update to Plan Bay Area – called Plan Bay Area 2040. The venue is Corte Madera Community Center at 498 Tamalpais Drive. This time around ABAG/MTC are presenting us with three scenarios to choose from: Main Streets Scenario places future population and employment growth in the downtowns in all Bay Area cities. This scenario would expand high-occupancy toll lanes and increase highway widenings. It would also assume some development on land that is currently undeveloped. Connected Neighborhoods Scenario places future population and employment growth in medium-sized cities and provides increased access to the region’s major rail services, such as BART and Caltrain. It would place most of the growth in areas that cities determine as having room for growth, with some additional growth in the biggest cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint. Big Cities Scenario concentrates future population and employment growth within the Bay Area’s three largest cities: San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. Transportation investments would go to the transit and freeways serving these cities. There would be no development on open spaces outside the urban footprint. When you want to control the outcomes a great method is to limit the choices. All three likely pack in the same number of new residents (this is not yet clear). There may be some redemption in scenario 3 for Marin, but the growth still gets packed in the region somehow… Here’s an...
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...

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...
MTC Caught In the Act on Richmond Bridge Bike Lane

MTC Caught In the Act on Richmond Bridge Bike Lane

On January 26th MTC’s spokesman on CBS TV Bay Area news contradicted documents previously provided to Planning for Reality as recently as November 6th 2014 that showed that the cost of the bike lane across the Richmond San Rafael Bridge is $68m – more than double the $30m referenced by MTC’s spokesman Randy Rentchsler (jump to the 1 minute mark). Given that according to Walk Bike Marin the average bike path in Marin has 53.5 riders per hour at peak and declining (see page 23 of the Walk Bike Marin figures that are referenced in a US Congress on Nonmotorized Transportation report), spending $68m on a bike path across a 5.5 mile bridge is a terrible waste of taxpayers money.  Given its location, length and the regular high crosswinds the bridge will likely have far fewer riders than the average Marin bike path.  MTC – Bike Path Cost “Just Part of the Program” Meanwhile tens of thousands of Marin County travelers in cars, the ones picking up the tab for the bike path via gas taxes and bridge tolls, are affected by failure to address acute traffic issues at the 101/580 connector in San Rafael (estimated cost $125m), the Greenbrae interchange and the Novato Narrows (cost $225m) – projects that would address acute issues affecting tens of thousands of people that to date remain unfunded while this $68m bike path helping less than 156 riders is funded. MTC’s spokesman tells us in this news report “we say the issue of the cost is just part of the program“! Apparently spending for a handful of bikers goes unquestioned, the rest of us paying for this development can...

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 –...

UK to Invest $78 Billion in Roads

We’re told by Sacramento politicians, by county supervisors, by cyclists and transit advocates we need to accept high density housing near transit. We are sewn a story that we can be just as quaint as those progressive, green Europeans. Only here’s the reality check – the UK government just announced a $78 billion road building program. See if any of this  sounds familiar. Over here in the US you may have heard the same rationale made for investing in transit. Here’s what the UK Transport Secretary has to say on the matter: Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity…Better roads allow us to travel freely, creating jobs and opportunities, benefiting hardworking families across the country. The British Government Transportation Whitepaper Read the British government white-paper. This is not some site run by a blogger, not some mere county, this is the British national government recognizing that if one sticks ones head in the sand and bets all the chips on transit, as they had done, it significantly inhibits economic growth and jobs. Excerpt – by the UK Secretary of State for Transport: We need to maximise every one of our economic advantages, and deal with every factor that holds us back if we are to succeed in the global race. Transport is one of the most important factors in making our country prosper. As a densely-populated island, we should benefit from being better connected and more compact. This government has already committed to a major transformation of the rail network. However roads remain the most heavily used mode of transport for people and businesses and we need to give...