Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Night-Django Reinhardt Mix

Surveillance is everywhere

 Just came across these youtubes by an anonymous blogger/social commentator. He is performing an interesting social experiment by pointing camera directly at people in public who are already under video surveillance and seeing their reactions.  

I don't blame the subject's reactions. It is creepy to have some videotaping you without your knowledge or consent.  Clearly, that is exactly the point of Surveillance Camera Man, to awaken people about the surveillance everywhere.

I don't think I'd have the guts to do this.  I wonder how many broken cameras he has.

Judy Arnold Sells Novato!

Google Invests In Homes For Poor People, Gets Massive Tax Cuts In Return

Google Invests In Homes For Poor People, Gets Massive Tax Cuts In Return

public housing
Google has been investing in low-income housing for the massive tax advantages, according to Bloomberg.

Investments in low-income housing are helping Google offset taxes on the company's profits.

The move works like this: Google invests in a low-income housing project and receives a tax credit on its investment. That tax credit is of greater value than the actual investment. So if Google invests $1 million in such projects, they actually make back more than $1 million in tax credits.

Google's investment in the low-income housing market is worth at least $86 million. The company also invested $25 million in a separate deal earlier this year, according to Bloomberg.

This isn't a short term investment for Google, as the tax credits make take some 10 years to sort out. But it may be worth it for yields that could be around 10%.

Editor's Note: Marinwood Village and the huge amount of the low income housing in Marin will be driven by the LIHTC scheme to provide corporate investors and Wall Street financial firms to make huge returns on investment backed by the government.  The COST of these investments is shouldered by the host community like Marinwood-Lucas Valley who must pay for all of the infrastructure improvements, government services, schools, police and fire while receiving almost NO TAXES.  It is a scheme worthy of late night "No Money Down" real estate gurus.  Investors get guaranteed profits while we pay the bill.

Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

Click to see a larger image
Click to see a larger image
An innocent reader interested in learning about transit oriented development projects would have learned from official county and city sources that one of the major justifications was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Here is a selection of the justifications made to justify a number of projects in Marin:
- The County of Marin told us in official documents that Priority Development Areas would “lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions”
- The Larkspur Station Area plan public workshop presentation told us that we should add 920 units of high density housing in order to “minimize greenhouse gas emissions”
- The SMART’s train’s measure Q, climate change whitepaper and final Environmental Impact Report told us that it would “fight global warming”
IPCC CoverBut what if none of this turned out to be true? What if all of these projects actually increased emissions? What if the claims that “if we don’t build high density here then we’d increase emissions by building sprawl elsewhere?” rang hollow? Then shouldn’t we re-evaluate all those projects based on the new information? After all the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated unambiguously that the climate change crisis has become so significant that we can’t continue with business as usual.

The Changing Landscape: Car Emissions Have Dropped

Many of us still feel a modicum of guilty pleasure driving a vehicle – based on information such as the above we presume that while taking transit can be inconvenient, we’re doing our bit to save the planet because transit has lower emissions. But the reality is that cars have come a long way in the last few years. Market pressures have led to cars making immense improvements in fuel economy and this almost directly results in lower emissions. In 2012 the average new US car achieved 23.8 mpg (source: EPA) a 1.4 mpg improvement in just one year.
It’s important to understand that miles per gallon figures are directly linked to emissions. If you burn 1 gallon of gasoline in an internal combustion engine you will emit, on average, 8,887g of CO2 according to the EPA. Diesel emits slightly more per gallon – 10,180g CO2.
The California Air Resources Board’s EMFAC database provides the official emissions figures used by transit agencies, cities and counties. Marin has commissioned consultants ICF International who inform me they use this data with their own proprietary model as they revise Marin’s Climate Action Plan. This EMFAC data uses actual DMV data regarding the specific vehicle fleet – down to the make, model and age – registered to be on the road in any selected county. It then applies official forecasts based on improvements from Pavley legislation and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to project emissions for cars and transit out until the year 2035.
CAFE StandardsHowever the EMFAC database has yet to consider in its projections the much more aggressive Pavley II legislation enacted into law by the EPA in August 2012. This enacted legislation states that the average new car must achieve 54.5 mpg by the year 2025. Sources in the ARB report that they are confidently on track to meet this target.
Since this more aggressive, enacted legislation is not considered we must treat any car emissions projections over-estimates (actual emissions will be lower).

What About Transit?

As previously covered in Planning for Reality, transit emissions historically have remained fairly static over the past 20 years. The California Air Resources Board EMFAC database also provides insight into emissions per vehicle mile for buses. More importantly it provides this data specific to buses currently used in Marin – and projects bus emissions out into the future.
We know the emissions for the SMART train as SMART published this in their SMART vehicle study.  SMART locomotives will emit 6,825g CO2 per vehicle mile.

The All Important Passenger Miles Per Gallon

More important than emissions per vehicle mile is emissions per passenger mile. We all know that a bus with 4 people on it will emit far more than the same 4 people in a large SUV because the bus has a larger engine pulling more weight. What’s important is measuring the CO2 emissions generated by transporting each passenger 1 mile.
To arrive at these vital figures requires an understanding of average ridership:
  • Cars: The US Department of Transport conducted a National Travel Trends Survey in 2009. Table 16 on page 33 arrives at the average occupancy for cars of 1.67.
  • Golden Gate Transit Buses: The American Public Transportation Association’s 2012 Factbook, Appendix A provides detailed information about vehicle miles travelled and passenger miles.  Here we see that the system achieved 82,418 million passenger miles and 6,147 vehicle miles – this translates to an average ridership of 13.4 passengers.
  • Golden Gate Ferry: The same fact book shows that the ferry system achieved 22,541 million passenger miles and 194 million vehicle miles – translating to an average ridership of 116.5 passengers.
  • The SMART Train: SMART does not have official ridership numbers, MTC, SMART and projection authors Dowling all stated in TAM meeting notes that projections are “incorrect”. Reverting to the national figures for trains, bouyed up by rail systems in the northeast with dense monocentric employment centers such as Manhattan and Boston, we can use the same approach above to arrive at an average ridership for commuter rail of 44.1 passengers. This figure is especially generous for SMART that is running in a suburban and rural area and not connecting to major employment centers.Looking at the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) commuter train in the East Bay which serves  a much larger population than SMART in San Jose, Pleasanton and Fremont, the APTA 2012 figures show an lower average ridership of 40.6 passengers. Had this been used SMART’s emissions would be higher on the chart. In the author’s opinion, given that SMART does not connect to major employment centers directly like ACE, and serves a much reduced population catchment, SMART’s true average ridership will be significantly below 40 passengers.

The Results

This graph shows the results:
Click to see a larger image
Click to see a larger image
  • Cars have lower emissions per passenger mile than the bus throughout the forecast
    (Diesel cars, not shown, have even lower emissions).
  • While the SMART train has a slight edge until about 2023, just 7 years into operation (when ridership will be lower), for the remaining 23 years of operation cars have lower emissions than the train.
  • Golden Gate ferries are not shown on the chart as they have the highest of all emissions at 727g CO2 per passenger mile

But What If…

One question I hear is that if we add more high density transit oriented development then surely we can fill buses so there are more occupants. In reality as buses reach capacity more need to be added – how long would you tolerate waiting for a bus every day when half the time it arrived was full and you had to catch the next one? After wasting 15 minutes a day several times a week you’d change your travel mode.
The most popular arterial routes are already served, adding additional bus service will cause bus emissions per passenger mile to further increase, widening the gap against lower emission cars.
Another objection is that if we don’t build high density near transit here in Larkspur, Strawberry, Santa Rosa, then it will lead to more single family homes with cars which will increase emissions. But given the new data it would appear that such a displacement would likely reduce emissions. More evidence is emerging that single family homes can reduce emissions by becoming more self-sufficient using solar power.

Trains Cannibalize Other More Cost-Efficient Transit Projects

Another objection is that since Marin and Sonoma voted to allow the SMART train to be built, and it will be operating in any case, we might as well fill it as full as we possibly can. After all we’ve paid for the train, it’s free.
[update 4/16 9:15am] However I am now learning that such thinking ignores the reality, which is rail projects cause transit agencies to “eat their young”. This deserves a longer article to explain, but there is fairly clear proof that rail projects such as SMART displace money from far more cost-effective bus services or highway improvements. We already know SMART took $20m+ away rom other transportation service via TAM in 2011  to balance it’s budget, and more recently diverted $20m meant for highways, bike and ped in the Greenbrae corridor project.
It appears increasingly likely SMART may be back, cap in hand, asking for more money just to conduct ongoing operations and potentially deliver the full line length that it promised. Additionally the  transit network may pivot in Marina and Sonoma to gear into feeder buses to SMART stations – again diverting/absorbing more money away from more cost effective transit projects.

What Does This Mean?

If this week’s United Nations IPCC report is to be adhered to, which advocates the end of business as usual, then it becomes vital that we reassess justification of transit oriented development projects based on this new data.
We need to educate the public of the new reality. We need our politicians to embrace these facts, and we need plans and outreach to reflect the data.

One Last Consideration

I had an especially enjoyable conversation with a fellow climate change opponent this week who suggested the importance of thinking bigger. He pointed to how a mechanic he knew condemned the Toyota Prius as it generated higher lifecycle emissions than equivalent gasoline models. But he highlighted that the Prius was a symbol – a stepping stone on the way to a time when genuinely efficient cars would emerge (which is now happening).
In the same way there may be an argument that in the long term we need to change people’s travel habits as 20+ years out perhaps genuinely efficient transit will arrive with superior (lower) emissions to cars. However that is not the conversation that we are having, and not the marketing we are being sold as we consider the Larkspur Station Area Plan and similar high density projects.
We need to level-set the conversation, and once and for all put an end to the myth that transit is cleaner than cars. If we continue discussions, planning and processes that are not based on facts then we are not going to arrive at the right outcome.
Only with a fact-based foundation to planning we can have a genuine conversation about fighting climate change and preserving, possibly even improving the quality of life for all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bait and Switch in Marinwood?

Wincup development aka "CorteMazilla" in Corte Madera

Marin Voice: Marinwood proposal changes consensus plan

Posted:   04/16/2014 05:57:00 PM PDT

Click photo to enlarge
Dave Dave Mitchell is a former Marinwood Community Services District board chairman. 

THE RECENT IJ editorial and Marin Voice article have been in favor of the Bridge Housing proposal for the Marinwood Plaza shopping center. It has been reasoned that the proposal is not much different from the one that, with community support, was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.

So what's the problem?

As someone who was intimately involved in the various Marinwood shopping center committees that developed the earlier plan, I think there's a big problem. There are glaring differences, yet to be aired, that in my view make the current Bridge proposal unacceptable.

The most serious has to do with the phasing of the development.
The approved 2006 plan envisaged the housing, grocery store and other commercial to be developed in a single phase of all new construction by a single owner-developer.
The Bridge proposal envisages three distinct segments which may be owned and developed separately and not necessarily at the same time.

To quote from page 13 of the Bridge master plan submitted to the county: "The Marinwood Plaza Project Master Plan is separated into three segments — that will occupy the northern, central and southern lots as shown on this master plan map. While the uses and improvements on these separate lots are interrelated, they may be owned and developed separately, either simultaneously or in multiple phases."

What this means is that Bridge Housing will develop the southern lot as a 72-unit affordable housing complex. The central lot — the grocery store — will remain as is under separate ownership. The northern lot comprising a small commercial element and 10 small, single-bedroom, market-rate rental units will likely be developed (if ever) by someone else since this type of development is not Bridge's specialty.

By the way, the northern lot also contains the proposed public plaza, small stores and a restaurant. If it remains undeveloped it would be a huge loss to the community.
The second divergence from the 2006 plan is that this is an all-rental project as opposed to a mix of owner-occupied and rentals. The 10 single-bedroom, market-rate rental units on the northern lot may never be built and, if built, may never be converted to condominiums and sold.

To summarize, my fear is that the development of the northern lot may be delayed for years. Or may never happen. Then what we'll get is a high-density, three-story affordable complex on the southern lot, an existing grocery store in a 50-year-old building in the central lot and the current weed-infested eyesore in the northern lot.

This is a far cry from what the community agreed to, namely, a project developed in a single phase with all new construction and with a mostly owner-occupied housing element.
Bridge withdrew from the earlier discussions in 2004 to 2006 when it became clear the community did not want an all-rental project with a very high affordable ratio. Now it is back with the same all-rental proposal, a higher affordable ratio and worse, no assurance that anything more than the 72 units in the southern lot will be built. 

Its proposal should be rejected and the Board of Supervisors held to the agreement it made with the community in 2006.

Most of us recognize that the redevelopment of the center will need to include a housing component some of which will be affordable. However, we should not feel pressured into accepting something that we don't think is in the best interest of the community.

David Mitchell is a longtime Marinwood resident and a former elected director of the Marinwood Community Services District.

Suzy's World of Deals!

"Come on down! Me and the boys from Bridge have a deal you will never forget!
Ask me about the special discount for my Neighborhood Leaders"

Damon Connolly and Susan Adams debate Marinwood Housing, Dixie Schools and the future of our neighborhood

Marin County Supervisor Debate on April 16, 2014 sponsored by the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.  Incumbent supervisor, Susan Adams debates San Rafael Vice Mayor and former Dixie school board president, Damon Connolly for the race for District One Supervisor. They discussed affordable housing, Dixie school district, transparency in government, Marinwood-Lucas Valley and public involvement in the planning process. 

Be sure to vote in this important election for the future of Marin.

Will we have a high density, urbanized Marin as advocated by ABAG and Susan Adams or will we grow in the Marin way, organically with considerations of scale, density and infrastructure needs advocated by Damon Connolly?

The election is June 3rd. Mail ballots go out on May 5th.

The Enron-ization of Democracy - Part IV

See the original article in the Patch: The Enron-ization of Democracy-Part IV
Posted by

Government "Off the Books"
Government "Off the Books"
A multi-part investigative report into what's behind the push for Plan Bay Area's regional planning, and how the abuse of joint powers authorities is robbing us of representative government.


Senator Steinberg’s Legacy
In 2012, Governor Brown vetoed senate bill 1156, which was drafted and promoted by Senator Darrell Steinberg, the author of SB375. It proposed to resurrect the state redevelopment agencies dissolved by the California Supreme Court. Governor Brown vetoed the bill.
In 2013, Darrell Steinberg, whose term in office ends next year, introduced Senate Bill 1 (SB1) which is virtually identical to SB1156.
In his remarks on SB1 before the Appropriations Committee on August 16th, Senator Steinberg noted that the passage of Proposition 30 (the “millionaire’s tax”) in 2012 put the state in "a much stronger fiscal position" to consider SB1. His implication being that we can now afford to appropriate funding for his latest redevelopment agency resurrecting scheme.
He added, "I believe that 2013 will be the year that we can find new ways to move forward and fill the void in local economic development and housing policy."
Senator Steinberg’s Asperger’s-like single mindedness to realize his transit oriented development (TOD) visions aside, this statement is remarkable for several reasons, not all of which are obvious at first glance.
On the surface what he said might even seem helpful since it purports to support local housing policy. However, once viewed in the context of SB375 and Plan Bay Area, his statements take on a more ominous tone.
While richly compensated ABAG executives continue to spin nonsense about how Plan Bay Area and SB375 have no effect on local control, we have Steinberg, the chief architect of the Sustainable Communities Strategy (aka, Plan Bay Area), lobbying for the creation of yet another “off the books,” quasi-governmental, regional planning and development agency (the Sustainable Communities Investment Authority in SB1), which further erodes local voices, local voters and local control.
These guys need to get their “spin” straight.
What’s equally remarkable is that Senator Steinberg never seems to consider that local governments, working from the bottom up, might better solve local planning and affordable housing challenges in more creative, effective and appropriate ways.
But most interesting of all is that there’s really no connection between the funds generated by Prop 30 which go into the state’s General Fund, and the proposals of SB1 which propose using local tax increment financing (a percentage of local tax dollars) to fund TOD.
So why would Steinberg say that? It's one of the questions that led me to look further into the list of complex new laws being proposed today in Sacramento. Laws that will all impact how Plan Bay Area will ultimately be implemented.

We’ve Only Just Begun
Commenting on Governor Brown’s 2012 veto of SB1156 (the former incarnation of SB1), Dan Carrigg, legislative director of the League of California Cities (a supporter of SB375 and SB1), said, "I don't think any doors were slammed last year. I think we're early in the process.”

Senator Steinberg himself, pleading before the Appropriations Committee last week to get them to approve SB1, asked the committee to appreciate that SB1 was just one of many new pieces of legislation that would all work together. He assured them that any shortcomings of SB1 would be remedied in other legislation that’s forthcoming.
He wasn’t kidding.
2013 has witnessed a dam break of proposed legislation that in concert, make it clear that SB1 is just the beginning.
What follows is a partial list of pending legislation that works to give teeth to Plan Bay Area and fund high density, transit oriented development.

SB628 – Jim Beall, D-San Jose: This bill would eliminate the requirement of voter approval for the creation of infrastructure financing districts or its issuance of debt to finance TOD.
Existing laws allow cities and counties to form infrastructure financing districts (IFDs). But it requires voter approval to do so or allocate taxpayer money or issue debt (bonds).
SB628 would allow cities and counties to create infrastructure financing districts without voter approval and it would remove local voter approval of how their tax money was spent to support high density TOD. SB268 also goes a step further by requiring that a city or county commit at least 25% of the tax increment financing revenues put into the IFD, toward developing TOD.
As justification, SB628 states that:
     “Transit priority projects, through the use of IFDs, will provide a new tool for green development to help achieve the sustainable communities strategy and regional transportation plan goals of Senate Bill 375.”
Remember, under existing law, a transit priority project (TPP) that meets specified criteria (SB375 and Plan Bay Area and soon SB1) is automatically designated as a “Sustainable Communities Project” and is therefore exempt from certain CEQA environmental review requirements. So in combination with SB628 this further erodes local government autonomy.
Like SB1, SB628 justifies its need by reiterating the faulty “findings” of SB375 about greenhouse gas emissions and TOD’s benefits. This is problematic. As more and more laws seize upon the same wording and non-scientific “truths” about the environmental benefits of TOD, the more it becomes the legal version of “if you tell a lie enough times, it becomes accepted as the truth.” And the more you are able to build other laws on that faulty logic.
What is dangerous here is these “legal” definitions were created for political reasons (not because of any reasonable study of TOD) but are now codified and tied to new fees and tax spending. SB628 not only removes taxpayer input into spending on infrastructure and affordable housing development, but in combination with SB375, SB226, Plan Bay Area and SB1, it virtually eliminates all checks and balances by the electorate.
As if this were not enough, there are actually two versions of this idea being pushed forward in Sacramento.

SB 33 - Lois Wolk, D-Davis:  This bill authorizes the creation of new “Infrastructure Financing District Authorities” (joint powers authorities – JPAs).
SB33 is very similar to SB628 but it goes a step further by creating more government “off the books.” SB33 tries to do for existing infrastructure financing districts what SB1 is proposing to do for defunct redevelopment agencies.
Again, existing law allows cities and counties to create infrastructure financing districts, use tax increment financing and issue bonds but only with a 2/3rds voter approval. These IFDs are like the old redevelopment agencies in that they are part of the city or county government and under their direct supervision and control.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Local Control Under Attack in Marinwood-Lucas Valley

ABAG and MTC control over 200 Billion Dollars of Transportation Funds
Local Control under Attack

by Carol Brandt

 The regional war on suburbia has been simmering for quite some time but the heat is being turned up and the pot is about to boil over.  The “Plan Bay Area” is the brainchild of a head-spinning group of four regional agencies: Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They hope that the public is too busy to pay attention. However, the resistance is growing as local community leaders and neighborhood groups are starting to stand up against this plan that will forever change the landscape of our small towns. Plan Bay Area will require future housing to be high-density and transit-oriented. It could also allow for a change in the zoning of existing single-family neighborhoods to allow high-density housing units – no more single family lifestyle for you!

Governor Jerry Brown wants to reform the requirements of CEQA review, particularly for high density developments. He claims that CEQA is the NIMBY group’s tool to oppose development. I believe most of the public sees CEQA as a tool to help preserve the character of neighborhoods, downtowns and open space and gives the public the right to speak up for or against a proposed project and hold that project to defined environmental standards.  Brown has political allies with Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) jumping on the CEQA-bashing bandwagon by piling on their versions of CEQA reform bills this past week.  At a recent conference on the future of California’s housing, Brown was asked how he avoided CEQA-related lawsuits over all the development that happened under his watch in Oakland. He replied that they put so many projects in the planning pipeline that the opposition couldn't mobilize fast enough. He also said they overwhelmed the opposition with mass, “kind of the Soviet model.” Afterwards he tried to backpedal by saying he probably should not have said that, but it was too late and the press got it down. This is our Governor speaking and we should be outraged.

We also have our local officials participating as board members or commissioners on all four of the agencies pushing the Plan Bay Area. Are they representing our voices or are they helping form this regional high-density plan? ABAG’s Regional Planning Commission includes Supervisor Susan Adams and Novato Mayor Pat Eklund. Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Judy Arnold serve as ABAG’s County representatives as does San Rafael councilmember Damon Connolly.  ABAG’s Executive Board includes Supervisor Katie Rice and Mayor Eklund. Supervisor Steve Kinsey serves on the board of MTC. Supervisor Adams also serves on the board of BAAQMD and both Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Kathrin Sears are commissioners on BCDC.

It is contradictory that local officials jump up and down with joy as they champion things like banning plastic bags in the name of saving the environment, yet they don’t object to high-density developments that will require huge increases in demand for building materials, water, energy, schools and other infrastructure.

Regional agencies and politicians are full steam ahead on the Plan Bay Area. Who is listening to the voice of the people? One response is the upcoming Town Hall Meeting, June 20, 2013, 7:30pm at the Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael.  The information states the meeting will address planning and housing challenges in Marin and the public will have a chance to learn the truth about Plan Bay Area. It is sponsored by Organized Residents of Marinwood, a group of well-informed citizens.

LA Times story on Housing Conference.
[Editor's Note: Carol Brandt was a ten year resident of Marinwood. She ran against Susan Adams for Supervisor. Although she now lives in the Glenwood area, she remains vitally interested in Marinwood . She is an advocate for renewing Marinwood Plaza for  a vibrant retail center that will serve as a true town center.]

Tax Day Videos

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Housing Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The Housing Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The housing revolution will not be televised: You will wake up in your Eichler or single family home to find the single family home in the lot next door being replaced by an apartment block.

The Housing Revolution Will Not Be Televised
The housing revolution will not be televised -  if developers have anything to do with it there will be no communications occurring at all. You will wake up in your Eichler or single family home to find the single family home in the lot next door to you being demolished, to be replaced by an apartment block. You will say in exasperation "no one ever told me" and "how do I complain?" but all modes of communication and channels of input will have been cut off.

Why is this Happening?

Yes. We have a perfect storm. Developers are joining forces with transportation advocates fixated on "transit oriented development" (apartment blocks near transit) and the social equity lobby (everyone has the right to a home in Marin). Then there's HUD - the US Department of Housing and Urban Development which is looking at counties like Marin and Westchester, NY with an aim to address a perceived racial imbalance caused by over-building of single family homes (amongst other factors).

Thanks to politicians such as Darrell Steinberg, leader of the California State Senate,  laws and processes are slowly but steadily being introduced that remove any impediments to the scenario outlined in the opening paragraph - waking up to find a 5 story apartment building being built in the lot right next to you. (and wake up Larkspur - they have 920 units planned for you, and this is set to flood 101 with cars right at its biggest bottleneck - the Greenbrae interchange. That northbound evening crawl - well you ain't seen nothin' yet).

How Are They Doing this?

A number of changes are going into place that would make George Orwell turn in his grave and put a smile on Kim Jong Un's face:

Senate Bill 743 - this is a bill that has now been approved and enacted by the state senate that streamlines the review process for new housing projects. It was put through the senate by Darrell Steinberg, the house leader with sizable campaign donations from the building lobby. Originally intended to remove impediments to the building of the Sacramento Kings stadium it was postulated - why not apply this to all development in California? This removes important last lines of defence for both home owners and wildlife - CEQA. Now that hurdle can be jumped.

Removal of the Zoning Process - Meanwhile HUD is making an example of Westchester County in New York state. It is a wealthy county like Marin, it is racially diverse but apparently not enough for HUD. Rob Astorino, the county executive (equivalent to a county supervisor) explains in this video the sever measures being inflicted on Westchester by HUD including the removal of zoning.

Minimum Density Zoning - Minimum density zoning is a regulatory tool that specifies the minimum allowable development density or floor area ratio, instead of the density maximums found in most traditional zoning ordinances. This encourages compact development through the increased density minimums required by your zoning regulations.

Minimum density zoning is starting to be put in place by places embracing transit oriented development such as counties in Oregon and Washington State. It's likely to come to Marin fairly soon given the trends we are seeing - I expect to see it in Plan Bay Area 2.0.

This is how minimum density zoning works. Your neighborhood is within 1/2 mile of a transit corridor (most Marin houses are as we're a string of towns along 101 - with transit corridors being further extended by SMART, buses and perhaps trolleys). It is assigned a "minimum density" of 40 units per acre (for example).  Corte Madera's WinCup building is 40 units per acre.

Now anyone in your neighborhood can be approached by a developer and sell their lot. The developer can then build a dense apartment complex in its place. There's not much you can do to stop this happening - it's already "zoned" and pre-approved!

Over time your nice, quaint Eichler neighborhood will turn over - with more and more single family homes being replaced by apartment blocks. You may not sell, but given the turn over is this still a neighborhood you want to live in as you become increasingly surrounded by apartment buildings?

Stopping the Flow of Information

Those of you that know me know I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't buy into Agenda 21 just yet (I have a sympathetic ear). A couple of other things are  happening that are set to impede the flow of information in Marin:

1) The Marin IJ is to Go Behind a Pay Wall:
I've found not just the IJ, but more importantly the comments at the bottom of IJ online articles are a place where people can learn from other residents about what's going on, and more importantly how others perceive these change. I'm fairly sure that the number of people who read comments (but don't post) compared to posters eclipses the posters by a factor of 10 to 1.

Putting the IJ behind a paywall means that only paying subscribers will have access. This will dramatically shrink this communication forum.

2) Patch is in Distress
Patch may go away. In August AOL layed off 40% of Patch employees.  The lay off process was particularly inhumane.

The Last Refuge of Communication - Correction- Nextdoor is now being censored by the two neighborhood leads of Marinwood-Lucas Valley Nextdoor-B.A. and G.M.   These two individuals appointed themselves as "president and vice president" of the Marinwood Association and deceptively called it a "non-profit" even soliciting donations while the organization was out of legal compliance for forty years.  B.A. and G.M. both claim that they must limit political discussions on Nextdoor for the sake of "community standards".  The truth is both have been political insiders lobbying for affordable housing and political favors while running Marinwood Association with less than 20 members.  They only succeed when we are in the dark.

This leaves about one remaining place where residents can find out what's going on - - but even here there is a risk. For those who don't know is a social network like Facebook only instead of being for friends and relatives it's restricted to people in your neighborhood. People talk about many things ranging from politics, to a good place to get a vacuum repaired (merchant reviews/recommendations) to lost pets.

In East Terra Linda there have been a mix of political and non-political discussions. But time and again we are seeing objections. Many don't want to hear about concerns about housing. They don't feel any level of concern and don't see any fires burning, or apartment blocks being built. The slow boiling of the frog by developers works really well for this group.

Increasingly we are seeing objections from this more politically apathetic group  to any housing related postings. They advocate that conversations are taken to a group on that others can opt into. We tried this in East Terra Linda - but the suppression of communications was near complete:
- only those in the immediate neighborhood (68 residents) could join (as opposed to 1,600 residents)
- only 3 people chose to opt in

If these objections prevail I fear that we may lose one of the last remaining communications tools

Finally if you're not on and you're concerned about housing issues I implore you to join it. Just go to and it should help you locate your nearest neighborhood group.