Thursday, October 27, 2016

Marin County Nursing Home Tax

Marin County Supervisor discussion the imposition of an affordable housing tax on nursing homes and assisted living facilities on Oct 18, 2016 .  Damon Connolly is the only supervisor that questions the  new ordinance which will mean higher costs for seniors.  Rice, Sears, Kinsey and Arnold embrace the new tax (development fee).  A project now in the development pipeline could have to pay $1.5 million dollars in affordable housing fees.  Is it any wonder why market rate developers hate building in Marin?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

With Kaine pick, does Clinton become the “urbanism candidate?”

With Kaine pick, does Clinton become the “urbanism candidate?”

City Terrain National News
(Courtesy Jamelle Bouie/Flickr)
(Courtesy Jamelle Bouie/Flickr)
Presumptive Democratic nominee for President Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, has been widely described as a “boring” choice in the media. And even though the presumptive nominee herself remarked to the New York Times, “I love that about him,” when asked about her excitement-challenged running mate, for advocates of fair housing reform and, by extension, urbanists, Kaine’s selection is due to generate a bit of interest on the campaign trail. Does Clinton’s selection make her the “urbanism candidate” of 2016?
Signs in Kaine’s history point to yes and after the Republican party released a starkly anti-urban party platform last week, his selection could not come at a better time.
The Virginia Senator Kaine’s career is rooted in his advocacy for fair housing policies, as reflected by his long-standing relationship with Virginia-based, fair-housing advocates Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) and the fact that fair housing cases made up a reported 75 percent of his workload when he worked as an attorney. According to a press releaseput out by HOME, Kaine’s law career began in 1984 when he represented a plaintiff on behalf of the non-profit who had been turned away from an apartment application due to her race. Regarding the case, Kaine is quoted in the press release as saying, “When someone is turned away in that aspect of their life, trying to find a place to live, what a powerful difference it makes, and it made a huge impression on me in that first case.”
Kaine was also at the helm of a landmark 1996 case involving the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company’s systematic and intentionally discriminatory insurance practices in urban neighborhoods, winning a record $100 million settlement that, after appeal and lengthy delays, was finally settled for $17.5 million in 2000.
Kaine’s addition to the Democratic ticket begs the question, will having a fair-housing advocate on the ballot herald a new emphasis on urban issues? For a campaign so far dominated by abstract discussions of income inequality and “law and order,” as well as efforts to undermine institutionalized anti-blackness, political discussions thus far have conspicuously excluded nuts and bolts approaches to addressing urban poverty like increasing the supply of affordable housing, expanding public transportation infrastructure, and rectifying the deeply troubling historical legacies resulting from racist urban planning and real estate ideologies of the 20th century.
Clinton’s selection of Kaine comes as the Republican Party released a fiercely anti-urban party platform at its convention last week. The platform, aside from seeking to keep the 23 year old federal gas tax rate unchanged in an era of very low gas prices and crumbling infrastructure, also advocates for a prohibition on use of federal gas tax revenue on mass transit projects, citing public transit as an “inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population concentrated in six big cities.”

The Republican platform also takes issue with the new United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plan to increase access to access to Section 8 housing vouchers in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods. The so-called “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” (AFFH) program aims to institutionalize research conducted by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, who argues extricating children from impoverished neighborhoods early on in life increases their earning potential and life prospects exponentially as adults. The program offers families who qualify for Section 8 vouchers increased funding to move into more economically successful neighborhoods. Coupled with a new mandate by HUD that considers denial of housing on the basis of a criminal record an unfair practice, HUD’s latest initiatives under Secretary Julian Castro have have placed key urban issues like access to affordable housing and an emphasis on de-segregation at the center of the country’s ongoing anti-blackness debate.
Intentionally ignorant of redlining policies, like those Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company was found guilty of perpetuating in the Kaine case, restrictive covenants, and federally-backed mortgage programs mid-century whites used to concentrate minorities and poverty in urban centers, the Republican platform refers to HUD’s initiatives as a form of “social engineering.” HUD, on the other hand, views its new initiatives as upholding the mantle of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to “take actions to address segregation and related barriers for groups with characteristics protected by the Act, as often reflected in racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty.”
Kaine’s impact on the campaign’s discourse was apparent at the ticket’s first joint rally on Saturday, where Clinton lauded Kaine’s record at the expense of their opponent, stating, “While Tim was taking on housing discrimination and homelessness, Donald Trump was denying apartments to people who were African American,” citing a 1973 housing discrimination suit brought against Trump by the United States Department of Justice. 
We will have to wait and see if this approach yields a greater emphasis on other urban issues as the campaign heads towards Election Day.

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?

PD Editorial: Ready for regional government?


Housing, its availability and affordability, is at or the near the top of the public agenda throughout the nine-county Bay Area.

So, too, are roads and transit.

Despite the region’s robust economic growth since the Great Recession, or perhaps because of that growth, the increasingly high cost and tight supply of housing is making it difficult for many families to make ends meet or even to live near their places of employment. And frustration with commute-hour congestion is often accompanied by the fury that is producing threats of a property tax strike in rural Sonoma County unless deteriorating roads are repaired.

Is surrendering local control the solution?

That might be the easiest answer, but we aren’t convinced it’s the best one, or even that it’s equitable, much less politically viable.

Indeed, regional government has been considered and rejected before. However, it may get a new look after being put forward again in “A Roadmap for Economic Resilience,” a report prepared by the Bay Area Council, an influential organization representing some of the region’s most prestigious employers, a list including Apple, Intel, Kaiser and Oracle.

“For all its strengths, the Bay Area lacks any cohesive and comprehensive regional economic strategy for sustaining economic growth, weathering business cycles and supporting shared prosperity across the region,” the report says. “Given the regional nature of the economy, its labor pool, housing sheds, job centers and commute flows, viable solutions must reflect a regional perspective.”

That, the Bay Area Council report said, could include punishing cities that fail to meet housing targets set by regional planners. The report also suggests a cap on development impact fees (which, in theory, are supposed to offset costs of schools, parks and other infrastructure to serve new development), waiving environmental reviews for housing projects and taking away local discretion over plans that are consistent with local zoning and building codes.

To upgrade the transportation network, the report recommends allowing a regional agency to impose bridge tolls, sales taxes, fuel taxes and/or a vehicle registration fee.

The Bay Area already has two large regional government agencies — the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments — though neither has the kind of teeth that the report envisions.

And while major regional efforts, such as Plan Bay Area, usually respect local priorities, larger cities and counties tend to have greater influence on the governing boards. That’s a reason for concern in North Bay counties should there be a serious effort to give these agencies greater authority.

In its report, the Bay Area Council points at regional governing schemes in Portland, Ore., where commissioners are elected, and the Twin Cities, where they are appointed by Minnesota’s governor. However, it isn’t clear that residents of Sonoma and other smaller counties would have any more influence under either of these approaches.

It is undeniably true that housing and transportation are regional concerns and that solutions have proven elusive, but it won’t be easy to persuade people that their interests would be better served by a board of super-supervisors further removed from its constituents

Clinton vs Trump: what will the next president do for cities, housing and infrastructure?

Clinton vs Trump: what will the next president do for cities, housing and infrastructure?

By Vas Panagiotopoulos

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump leave the stage following the first presidential debate. Image: Getty.

Nearly two thirds of Americans (62 per cent) live in cities, while an impressive 52 per cent of total GDP is generated in the country’s 20 top metropolitan areas. Those cities continue to face considerable challenges, in areas as diverse as transport, housing, poverty, public investment and economic growth.

And yet, urban policy has largely been ignored during the 2016 election campaign. “We have heard precious little on this front from Mrs Clinton,” says Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management. The only comments on urban policy worth noting, he adds, came from unsuccessful Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley in the early part of the Democratic campaign.

When asked about Donald Trump’s urban policies, Lynn Richards, the president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), says that she doesn’t take them seriously: “He’s like a child with a crayon.” Richards is not alone in thinking that way. Many of the DC-based policy wonks think that the Republican candidate’s proposals lack specifics.

The possibility of Trump winning the keys to the White House on 8 November is steadily diminishing. But the Republicans are still likely to win the House of Representatives, even if the Democrats take the Senate.

So let's take a closer look into some key urban issues – transport, infrastructure and housing – and how the views of the two big American parties compare.
Transport and infrastructure

On issues related to mass transit, biking, and the environment, the two parties hold radically different views. Democrats advocate a substantial boost for investments in transport, with the focus on moving away from car use, while Republicans promote a limited federal role and a return to car-based transport.

Deteriorating infrastructure is a huge issue. Some 32 per cent of US roads are now rated “poor” or worse for bumpiness, an increase of 16 per cent since 2005. In addition, the next government will be required to address the numerous ageing railways, bridges and sewers needing improvement and replacement. With an enormous spending deficit, the Democratic Party has suggested a five-year plan to create a $275bn National Infrastructure Bank to fund such projects.

An infrastructure bank would be “hugely powerful for city building and place making,” explains CNU’s Lynn Richards. She adds that she hopes that the error of single-objective spending is over. “We should be spending our infrastructure dollars in ways that meet multiple community outcomes.”

And despite Donald Trump’s loose talk about the importance of infrastructure, the Republican platform would shift how the Highway Trust Fund would be spent. The multi-billion-dollar source of federal support for mass transit, biking programmes, sidewalks and other would be channelled back into building roads, leaving such initiatives to local governments.In order to fund the bank, the Democrats plan to raise the gasoline tax. The Republicans, by contrast, are set against increasing a tax that has remained stable for 23 years.

The final outcome will depend what kind of win ensues. “If Clinton is elected but the Democrats do not get control of the House and Senate, then it will be like Obama' last years; nothing much gets done except by presidential directives,” explains University of Maryland Professor John Rennie Short. If that happens, rather than grand policies from the federal government, we can expect the encouragement of local initiatives such as the DOT Livability Initiative. “Increasing gas taxes for the Highway Fund would be off the table as would the National Infrastructure Bank,” Rennie Short says.

A Trump win would almost certainly mean that Republicans win Congress too, he adds. “Expect no tax increases, no local initiatives, more toll roads and probably some privatisation schemes touted.”

Looking to the future, an important issue to be addressed within the next presidential cycle will be adopting the technology and installing the infrastructure required to guide autonomous vehicles, such as the ones developed by Tesla and Google. “Who owns that technology is going to own the road essentially,” explains Lynn Richards.

America has an affordable housing crisis: there is not a single US state where a minimum wage employee working full-time can reasonably afford a one-bedroom apartment at a fair market rent. Meanwhile, the supply of rental housing is not expanding fast enough to accommodate household growth, which creates pressure on rents.

Buying is becoming harder, too. Older millennials are having a hard time getting into homeownership because mortgages are still hard to get, while seniors are living longer, and more independently, than they used to. According to their differing views on the role of government, each party has proposed different ways of dealing with the crisis.

In February, Hillary Clinton proposed a $125bn Economic Revitalisation Initiative that includes some major housing reforms. It makes a number of proposals to make sustainable homeownership more accessible: offering more families down payment assistance, expanding beyond traditional credit scores and building more affordable rental housing.

To help current homeowners keep their homes, and fight the effects of homelessness, Clinton also proposes substantially increased funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, with the aim of creating new homes and jobs in the process. She also plans to boost the Neighborhood Stabilisation Programme, whereby municipalities can purchase foreclosed homes, get them renovated and then subsidise their sale to new home buyers with low incomes.

It's worth noting, too, that Clinton's vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine has spent yearsadvocating for fair housing reform.

Trump, on the other hand, a real-estate developer himself, has yet to offer a position on housing finance reform. The Republicans believe that regulations and rules are holding back the free market from finding a solution.

The party has heavily criticised the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that requires cities which receive federal money to examine their housing patterns and look for racial bias. Their reasoning is that is it tampers with local decision-making in community planning.

Under the banner of “responsible home ownership” the Republican party platform champions the virtues of a property-owning democracy that safeguards individual liberties, strengthens communities and builds wealth, while blaming Democratic housing policies for any problems. It only briefly mentions renting, within the context of “eliminating restrictions to promote greater supply of rental opportunities”.

What the US needs is a multi-faceted strategy to allow people to achieve economic mobility whatever their housing situation. Rolf Pendall, co-director of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, believes policies need to focus on rental affordability for young tenants, access to credit for mortgages for first home buyers, and strategies to improve homes for older age owners.

“These trends play out differently in different metro areas,” he says. “However, with hot markets much more bottled up at the younger end and cooler ones needing more to help seniors transition comfortably.”
Bipartisan and local

There are bipartisan approaches to addressing metropolitan issues, which would allow either candidate an excellent starting point for a realistic reset of US urban and housing rules. Professor Short believes that the most interesting policy developments in the US are not emanating from a stalled Congress, but “from progressive towns and cities experimenting with new schemes instead”.

Richard Florida concludes that a strong urban policy – linked to economic growth and addressing the challenges like inequality, segregation and affordability – is the key to get American economy moving again. “Cities are the key sources of innovation and economic growth. Urban policy needs to leverage this and address the challenges it brings.”

Rigging the Election Part III and IV

The Bully Party

The Bully Party  

by Scott Adams

I’ve been trying to figure out what common trait binds Clinton supporters together. As far as I can tell, the most unifying characteristic is a willingness to bully in all its forms.

If you have a Trump sign in your lawn, they will steal it.

If you have a Trump bumper sticker, they will deface your car.

if you speak of Trump at work you could get fired.

On social media, almost every message I get from a Clinton supporter is a bullying type of message. They insult. They try to shame. They label. And obviously they threaten my livelihood.

We know from Project Veritas that Clinton supporters tried to incite violence at Trump rallies. The media downplays it.

We also know Clinton’s side hired paid trolls to bully online. You don’t hear much about that.

Yesterday, by no coincidence, Huffington Post, Salon, and Daily Kos all published similar-sounding hit pieces on me, presumably to lower my influence. (That reason, plus jealousy, are the only reasons writers write about other writers.)

Joe Biden said he wanted to take Trump behind the bleachers and beat him up. No one on Clinton’s side disavowed that call to violence because, I assume, they consider it justified hyperbole.

Team Clinton has succeeded in perpetuating one of the greatest evils I have seen in my lifetime. Her side has branded Trump supporters (40%+ of voters) as Nazis, sexists, homophobes, racists, and a few other fighting words. Their argument is built on confirmation bias and persuasion. But facts don’t matter because facts never matter in politics. What matters is that Clinton’s framing of Trump provides moral cover for any bullying behavior online or in person. No one can be a bad person for opposing Hitler, right?

Some Trump supporters online have suggested that people who intend to vote for Trump should wear their Trump hats on election day. That is a dangerous idea, and I strongly discourage it. There would be riots in the streets because we already know the bullies would attack. But on election day, inviting those attacks is an extra-dangerous idea. Violence is bad on any day, but on election day, Republicans are far more likely to unholster in an effort to protect their voting rights. Things will get wet fast.

Yes, yes, I realize Trump supporters say bad things about Clinton supporters too. I don’t defend the bad apples on either side. I’ll just point out that Trump’s message is about uniting all Americans under one flag. The Clinton message is that some Americans are good people and the other 40% are some form of deplorables, deserving of shame, vandalism, punishing taxation, and violence. She has literally turned Americans on each other. It is hard for me to imagine a worse thing for a presidential candidate to do.

I’ll say that again.

As far as I can tell, the worst thing a presidential candidate can do is turn Americans against each other. Clinton is doing that, intentionally.


As I often say, I don’t know who has the best policies. I don’t know the best way to fight ISIS and I don’t know how to fix healthcare or trade deals. I don’t know which tax policies are best to lift the economy. I don’t know the best way to handle any of that stuff. (And neither do you.) But I do have a bad reaction to bullies. And I’ve reached my limit.

I hope you have too. Therefore…

I endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States because I oppose bullying in all its forms.

I don’t defend Trump’s personal life. Neither Trump nor Clinton are role models for our children. Let’s call that a tie, at worst.

The bullies are welcome to drown in their own bile while those of us who want a better world do what we’ve been doing for hundreds of years: Work to make it better while others complain about how we’re doing it.

Today I put Trump’s odds of winning in a landslide back to 98%. Remember, I told you a few weeks ago that Trump couldn’t win unless “something changed.”

Something just changed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meet the Utah State Senator Who Switched from Republican to Libertarian

"Property Owners, hand over the profits"

At Habitat III, a Rethinking of the Urban Development Paradigm

The concept of “value capture” surfaces as a possible path to more equitable growth.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa is pictured on a screen as he speaks during the opening ceremony of the UN Habitat III conference in Quito. (Guillermo Granja/Reuters)

QUITO—The United Nations global cities summit, Habitat III, began with long security lines under a bright Andes sun, and ended in song. The musical group Nick Horner Family performed “City of Dreams” on the final day of the conference that drew some 40,000 participants. A little more than an hour before, the New Urban Agenda—a manifesto intended to guide the future growth of cities worldwide—was officially adopted.
But as attendees flock to the airport to go home, what actually was accomplished? What happens now?
Among the many takeaways, Habitat III may very well have given birth to a land use revolution. Many participants, as well as the president of Ecuador, are calling into question the historic financial model of city-building, where government provides the streets and other infrastructure, and private landowners and developers take it from there. In the process, one of the hottest topics at the summit has emerged with unlikely celebrity: value capture, where the private sector must acknowledge that an array of government actions—from a zoning change to putting in a light rail line—prompt huge increases in property value.
Ecuador President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, an economist by training, started the bidding early on at the conference by proposing legislation to curb real estate speculation. If a landowner purchases a plot of land for $100, and sells it five years later for $500, he or she would only be able to realize a 7.5 percent price appreciation under Correa’s proposal; the rest would essentially be confiscated by the government. You can think of it as a more extreme version of President Obama’s admonition that “you didn’t build that”—that the bulk of increases in value, plusvalía in Spanish, are the result of public investments framing the land, and thus should be recaptured.
Correa’s concept is not actually a pure version of value capture. Elsewhere in Latin America, land-based financing mechanisms takes other forms, such as “betterment contributions” or developer exactions providing funds for urban development at the front end. In São Paulo, Brazil, landowners begin with a floor-area-ratio of 1. If they want to build anything more, they must purchase certificates traded on the stock market.
In yet another form of value capture, government may increase the building envelope in growth areas in return for more affordable housing provided by developers—a version of the “density bonus” that has been deployed in the United States. But otherwise the concept is the same: when government sets zoning that will ultimately benefit the private sector, the private sector must give something back.
Value capture has a long history, going back to Roman times in the construction of infrastructure such as aqueducts. The framework was in place in the Philippines in the colonial era as far back as the 16th century, and was inherent in redevelopment plans for Paris in the 19th century. The 19th century political economist Henry George, who advocated a single tax on land or land value tax, spelled out how real estate owners were enjoying a windfall by being smart or lucky enough to purchase land near a train station, for example.

Thousands of pedestrians gather downtown for a lighting and chromalithe exhibition on a catholic church, as part of the UN Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador. (Guillermo Granja/Reuters)
Today, value capture is in relatively wide use in Latin America, Asia, and Europe, and is beginning to gain traction in the United States. Transportation officials in Massachusetts, confronting cost overruns in the extension of the Green Line through Somerville, have floated the idea of having the private sector pay for new stations along the new corridor, recognizing that transit-oriented development will be enormously profitable. Land is already more valuable along the route of the line, in many cases in industrial areas that have been rezoned for mixed-use development.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, the proposed rail line known as the Cotton Belt is predicated on a similar framework: that private development benefitting from the infrastructure should contribute to the public works in the first place. Australia is also wading into these waters, with the prime minister calling for a gear change in how major urban infrastructure is financed.
A backlash to all of this has already begun, starting with a critique that value capture is a new kind of tax on private landowners and developers. Complex questions about property rights are also being raised—what it means to own land, a commodity in fixed supply.
But it was striking how often value capture came up in the sessions of Habitat III. In a way it’s no surprise. The basic premise of the conference was how global cities can accommodate huge increases in population in the coming decades. In the current paradigm, downtowns are densifying, while unplanned and irregular growth sprawls out at the periphery. There’s a clear need for infrastructure, housing, and amenities such as parks and open spaces in these growth areas, but the question is how to pay for all of those things. Local governments are charged with the responsibility, but don’t have many options. In most cases, cities are severely constrained by national governments on how they can raise revenues.
The concept of value capture is embedded in the New Urban Agenda, and UN-Habitat executive director Joan Clos sprinkled in references to it in his many official remarks, including at a press conference on how the media covers Habitat III issues. He called on journalists to explain how urban planning and urban design increases property values in the process of urbanization. “Who is explaining that?” he said.
Does it sound a bit radical, to change the paradigm of urban development going forward? It’s not revolutionary enough for some, who led protests outside Habitat III and organized parallel alternative gatherings urging more action to improve conditions for the urban poor. Amid the camouflage fatigues and cocked berets of the soldiers around this city, and the progressive impulses of the Latin America region, the concept of value capture may be the most conservative revolution in city-building at hand.
Editor's Note: Honestly, socialist schemes like this could ignite civil unrest. It is counter to the traditions of western democracy and property rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Another Oyster farm destroyed by the Government

Destroying the last Oyster farm in Oysterville - a tale of tyranny

Oysterville Sea Farms is the last oyster farm in Oysterville, but that hasn't stopped Pacific County government officials from trying to shut it down.

This situation began as a series of complaints from jealous competitors and a distant family member in 2011. Then, Pacific County Commissioners Lisa Ayers, Frank Wolfe, and Steve Rogers along with County Prosecutor Mark McClain and Central Planner Faith Taylor-Eldred dedicated enormous sums of money, political capital, time, and focus to harass, litigate, fine, and destroy Oysterville Sea Farms, a local family-run business.

There are similarities to the Drake's Bay Oyster Company's long and ultimately unsuccessful battle to survive the bureaucratic onslaught unleashed by the California Coastal Commission and the National Park Service, Department of Interior and various environmental groups. In the end Drake's Bay Oyster Company lost:

However, unlike Drake's Bay, Dan Driscoll's Oysterville Sea Farms is on private family-owned land, in Willapa Bay, where other large, commercial oyster farms operate unmolested by Pacific County.

Much of this harassment of Oysterville Sea Farms was code enforcement efforts to micro-manage the retail business. Despite licenses to operate, the county would attempt to dictate which products could be sold or not sold. The Washington State Department of Ecology would use the Shoreline Management Act and the planners would use zoning changes as excuses to shut down the business. Dan has been in court for 5 years and he has successfully prevailed on most challenges to his business, but the bureaucrats are relentless, and Pacific County is relentless.

If you want to learn more about Oysterville Sea Farms:

The Citizens Alliance for Property Rights believe that people have the right to make a living, run a business, and manage their property in a responsible manner free from abusive regulations, fines, fees, legal harassment, excessive taxation, and other government abuse. Bureaucratic overreach, as Pacific County demonstrates is harmful to our freedoms, our liberty, and a healthy community.

Please help Citizens Alliance for Property Rights ( expose more stories like this effort to save his family business so that we can work to stop abusive central planners and government bureaucrats from doing this to Dan. We would like to educate everyone so that property rights are recognized as the critical human right they are, and their necessity to the freedom and prosperity of future generations...

We shouldn't have to live in a society where a small family business can be whimsically destroyed just because a government bureaucracy wants to do so... that is what makes this story a tale of tyranny.