The “Sinister Marin” Housing Survey

The “Sinister Marin” Housing Survey

Over the last week residents across the county experienced the “sinister Marin” telephone housing survey asking questions that might as well have been “are you a racist?” to find out which angle of attack would be the most effective to push through high density housing across our county. The survey’s backer was not disclosed, but the exercise  clearly involved big money. My contact at CALM – a loose coalition that has been pushing for high density development in Marin – denied it was their doing. Those with market research insight told me that a simple 300-400 respondent telephone survey costs in the realm of $25,000+. What was most puzzling is the number of friends who have been active in the high density housing discussion who were contacted. There are 100,000 households in Marin. The likelihood of being one of the (say) 400 respondents should be 0.4%. However a survey of 50 friends across Marin involved in high density housing revealed that over 6 had taken the survey – that’s 12%. Others thoughts on the matter are: Coincidence: after a highly active email thread we were all primed the survey was happening so we grabbed the phone quickly. (This is my belief, I’m not convinced of any conspiracy) Pre-Targeted Respondents:The organization conducting the survey pre-seeded respondents with those they identified as involved in the high density housing wars. They wanted to build a profile and understanding of their opponents that they could use later. (This was the belief of others, they pointed to the 12% sample when statistics suggest that of our group of 50 only one of us should have been...
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...
New State Planning Guidelines Disregard Traffic Impact

New State Planning Guidelines Disregard Traffic Impact

If you live within 1/2 mile of a “major transit stop” – meaning a stop served by buses running at a frequency of every 15 minutes or less at peak, or within 1/2 mile of a train station or ferry terminal  – then you should be aware of a new change to transportation analysis. Effective January 1st 2015 areas meeting  this criteria – which spans most of Eastern Marin – can henceforth exclude traffic delay, parking impact and building aesthetics as considerations that may block development or impose mitigation measures. Even if you’re outside of a Transit Priority Area (TPA) you should still be concerned – Senate Bill 743 provides the option for the new law to apply citywide or countywide. So a pro-development city or county such as Marin, whose supervisors’ plans to build far exceeds ABAG’s quota, can apply the new rules much more extensively. The result is that in effect the entire map shown, or county of Marin could be considered a Transit Priority Area. Transit Priority Area is exactly what it says – an area where transit trumps cars. Residents are expected and encouraged to use transit instead of driving. This is where planners whims and residents reality diverge. What Does this Mean Where I Live? If a developer plans to build high density housing in your neighborhood – an occurrence happening with alarmingly increasing frequency in neighborhoods that previously thought they were insulated such as Strawberry in Mill Valley – then even if the new development causes acute traffic congestion, parking issues or the building just looks ugly there’s not much residents can do...

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...
Survey Says We Should Build & Reduce Fees & Regulations

Survey Says We Should Build & Reduce Fees & Regulations

On May 29th the Marin IJ published a front page story about a survey results entitled Area ‘disconnect’ cited in housing policy opinion.  The survey was commissioned by an organization calling itself the Bay Area Council , which has a mission to: Fight unreasonable barriers to infill, transit-oriented, and urban development Should it be any surprise that the  survey gives the “council” the mandate to be shovel ready to build high density infill housing region-wide? Low Number of Marin Respondents,  High Degree of Error The disclosure of a 16% margin of error for the north bay is highly significant. They only interviewed 1,018 respondents across the entire Bay Area of which 18% were in the North Bay which is likely to include Sonoma as well as Marin. So that’s 183 respondents, of which perhaps half were from Marin? There’s No Disconnect What’s emerging is the reality – the Bay Area is a highly constrained area. It’s a very attractive place to live with lots of high paying jobs that can kick start the career of a young graduate. The natural economics of such a situation are for rents and housing prices to rise; and it’s appropriate that respondents find that questions about these costs being high resonate. Build or Don’t Build, The Survey Presents a False Dichotomy The issue with the survey is that it asks whether respondents agree we should build more housing. This is a false dichotomy:  to say “no” presumes that we should stop all house building – hardly realistic, and few would agree. The Bay Area Council has framed this question nicely to achieve their desired...