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...

Whose Fault Was the WinCup Disaster?

Today WinCup has become famous as a disaster to both sides of the housing debate: Measured growth advocates point to a monstrosity that is a major departure from the architectural character of Marin, will impose major traffic impact and provides barely any (just 18 units) affordable housing Fast growth new urbanists recognize that it is the highly visible monument that lost them the hearts and minds of mainstream Marin residents. It is right next to 101 where on a peak day as many as 591,000 people drive by according to Caltrans 2013 traffic counts. Some blame the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) which imposed housing quotas on Corte Madera that the city had to plan for – failing which it was sure to be sued by housing advocates for “failing to deliver its fair share” of afforable housing. Others lay the blame on the Corte Madera city council. Both are both partially right a, but they overlook an entity that was fare more responsible for the fiasco that was WinCup. The Real Story of WinCup While it will be impossible to completely join the dots here is the real story behind WinCup that I’ve learned: 1) ABAG gave Corte Madera a ludicrously high target that it must plan for 244 housing units.This was preposterously high for a city that councilors tell me is near completely built out. The city already had identified locations for about 60 units, but there was very limited remaining land available that wasn’t in a flood plain. Later into the process Corte Madera objected and ABAG dialed the quote back to about 70 units,...

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,...