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...
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...
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,...
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...
Why Plan Bay Area Failed

Why Plan Bay Area Failed

An article “The Actions of Discontent – Tea Party and Property Rights Activists Pushing Back Against Regional Planning” by Karen Trapenberg Frick was recently brought to my attention. The author, an assistant adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, purported to address the underlying reasons for opposition to two regional planning initiatives including Plan Bay Area and a similar exercise in Atlanta. An otherwise well written piece, it seemed to fall short of understanding the true reasons for opposition. It seemed appropriate to get to the bottom of why so many opposed Plan Bay Area, and while enacted to understand why the plan failed in so many different ways – most of all for its’ largest stakeholders – Bay Area residents. But ultimately by putting plan proponents ABAG and MTC into an impossible situation as they progress new regional planning efforts. Focusing on the Wrong Places: The Tea Party and Property Rights Groups The piece focused on two groups that are away from the mainstream that allegedly led  opposition to Plan Bay Area. A tactic historically used by many regionalization proponents as an ad-hominem attack – seeking to give a stigma to those who might otherwise oppose. These groups did come across as vocal and well represented in their opposition, they tend to polarize conversations –  but in reality they were the tip of the iceberg. By comparison other grassroots and local groups did not make themselves so easily identifiable. So it was an easy mistake to make. The real foundational reasons for opposition to Plan Bay Area were at the grass roots level. What Really Happened #1: Planning Without the...