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...
From False Dichotomies to the Spectrum of Reality

From False Dichotomies to the Spectrum of Reality

One of the issues occurring as people new to the fast growth and urbanization issue in Marin try to get their heads around the issues are the false dichotomies that are appearing. Daily I see these dichotomies used by fast growth proponents in letters to the Marin IJ editor and on websites. I even hear at least one Marin County supervisor suggesting that if we don’t allow more housing in Eastern Marin then rural Western Marin must be given up to development. RationalWiki describes a false dichotomy as follows: A false dilemma, or false dichotomy, is a logical fallacy which involves presenting two opposing views, options or outcomes in such a way that they seem to be the only possibilities: that is, if one is true, the other must be false, or, more typically, if you do not accept one then the other must be accepted. The reality in most cases is that there are many in-between or other alternative options, not just two mutually exclusive ones. I thought it useful to look at each aspect the impacts of rapidly developing and urbanizing Marin in the appropriate way – on a spectrum, understanding the current situation. And most importantly basing this on facts. Marin Already Has the Highest Taxes in the State Urbanization and housing advocates are lobbying to significantly increase the stock of affordable housing in Marin. Affordable housing is an alternative way of  saying subsidized housing, exclusively playing up one specific aspect. What’s the impact of affordable housing on taxes? An entire non-profit developed apartment block can pay the same property tax contribution towards schools as just one modest single family home. So adding many...
Larkspur and the Transit Oriented Development Ponzi Scheme

Larkspur and the Transit Oriented Development Ponzi Scheme

If you ask the situational analysis question to anyone living in Larkspur or commuting through Larkspur “do you have traffic or parking issues?” the answer is likely to be a resounding “Yes – we need to sort out this mess”. However Larkspur has got itself caught up in what can almost be described as a planning-Ponzi scheme. Is it intentional? I would argue many involved have good intentions, and many are hamstrung by state and regional mandates driven by flawed thinking that is pushing areas like Larkspur into an endless cycle of creating acute transportation issues, then offering funds to solve the issue that only compound it. It’s like a drug-deal. Who benefits? Regional transportation agencies that gain more and more federal grants, grow in employees, executives get more responsibilities and higher salaries and grow in influence. What Does Larkspur Really Need? In normal circumstances whenever new development is added developers pay impact fees to expand the road system, pay for schools etc. However this money only pays for improvements in the immediate local area. Larkspur is a focal point for transportation for Marin and Sonoma. While development in Larkspur has been limited, the town is affected by all development happening upstream. Sure each new development in Marin and Sonoma only adds a little traffic, but it adds up. Take for example the $820m Graton Casino which opened in Rohnert Park in November which provides no less than 5,700 parking spaces for it’s patrons. The casino will draw a significant amount of evening traffic passing through Larkspur. The casino is paying $12m per year in traffic mitigation fees –...
Can’t Win the Debate? Then Shut it Down

Can’t Win the Debate? Then Shut it Down

Successful democracy depends on community discussion to reach the best outcome. But what if special interest groups infiltrate key positions to promote self-serving, green-washed schemes on the public? What happens when the public awakens to realize what’s happening and disagrees? Supporters of high density, transit oriented development, including Wall Street banks, developers, builders unions, and social equity activists, reap benefits from the very policies they helped shape like California Senate Bill 375, ABAG’s Plan Bay Area and the Marin County Housing Element. These financiers and activists mask their motivations behind claims of social justice and combatting whatever else is ailing the planet. Volunteering Needless Sacrifices Without those Affected Present These special interests have helped formulate policy such as Plan Bay Area, housing quotas, Climate Action Plans and Housing Elements in a bubble – a bubble removed from the input of residents who might be concerned about foundational flaws in the thinking  – such as transit emits less greenhouse gases than cars (disproven by facts covered by this Planning for Reality article). This policy-formulation bubble was also removed from what sacrifices residents might be willing to make to achieve these special interests goals – such as diverting money from roads to other transport modes, even despite these modes declining in usage after increasing investments. Or imposing developments such as WinCup across Marin – in the hope that the new residents work in Marin or a disproportionate number will take transit – more flawed thinking. A Revolving Door Between Planners and Special Interests  Recently I emailed an ABAG employee to understand how Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are rescinded. Using LinkedIn, I discovered that he was a former employee of Urban Habitat, the social equity advocacy group that filed suits against Pleasanton and Menlo...
Don’t Blink – Senate Bill 1 is Coming

Don’t Blink – Senate Bill 1 is Coming

Senate Bill 1 will give new unelected bodies powers of taxation and eminent domain. Suburban neighborhoods can be deemed blighted to be replaced by high density housing. Last year many of us were shocked by the enactment of Plan Bay Area. Now we face an even greater threat – Senate Bill 1. In the excellent BBC TV show “Doctor Who” one of the doctor’s most fiendish opponents are the “Weeping Angels” (pictured). Whenever you blink these fiendish stone statues creep up on you and send you to a different time period. Senate Bill 1, if enacted, could send us back to Dickensian London – dark days where those with lower incomes were relegated to living in crowded conditions in inner city high rises. Meanwhile the one percent, the only ones able to afford it, could escape to wealthy suburbs on trains. Senate Bill 1 is just like the weeping angels. While none of us were looking on May 28th it was passed by the state senate. Then on September 9th it was passed by the state assembly. It lies on the Governor’s desk – now all that remains is for Governor Brown to sign it into law.  If we blink – it will become law, unless we act. Senate Bill 1 is the work of State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg – you remember, the senate leader who receives campaign donations from the construction industry, developers, builders’ unions, train manufacturers… Senate Bill 1 has passed the State Assembly, all that remains for it to become enacted is for Governor Jerry Brown to sign and enact it. Senate Bill 1 is up there with Plan Bay Area. In fact I...