Thursday, October 30, 2014
|WinCup aka "Corte Mazilla" or Tamal Vista is the first of a transit oriented development for Marin. Steve Kinsey, Liz Crosse and the Green Mafia want add thousands of similar high density housing units everywhere in Marin as part of Plan Bay Area.|
|See the construction worker taking picture of us long after all other workers have left the site?|
Do you suppose he is adding us to his photo album or is he really a construction worker at all?
Powerful Testimony from resident about the public process and the hidden agendas of Housing Activists who are paid by Government Grants and Consulting Contracts. He also criticizes that the true public voice is being ignored in final reports after public input. Only the "official" position of Plan Bay Area is recorded.
Why Middle-Class Americans Can't Afford to Live in Liberal Cities
Blue America has a problem: Even after adjusting for income, left-leaning metros tend to have worse income inequality and less affordable housing.
If not the year's most persuasive act of dissent, it was certainly one of the most memorable demonstrations in the Bay Area, where residents have marched, blockaded, and retched in protest of San Francisco's economic inequality and unaffordable housing. The city's gaps—between rich and poor, between housing need and housing supply—have been duly catalogued. Even among American tech hubs, San Francisco stands alone with both the most expensive real estate and the fewest new construction permits per unit since 1990.
But San Francisco's problem is bigger than San Francisco. Across the country, rich, dense cities are struggling with affordable housing, to the considerable anguish of their middle class families.
Among the 100 largest U.S. metros, 63 percent of homes are "within reach" for a middle-class family, according to Trulia. But among the 20 richest U.S. metros, just 47 percent of homes are affordable, including a national low of 14 percent in San Francisco. The firm defined "within reach" as a for-sale home with a total monthly payment (including mortgage and taxes) less than 31 percent of the metro's median household income.
If you line up the country's 100 richest metros from 1 to 100, household affordability falls as household income rises, even after you consider that middle class families in richer cities have more income. [The graph below considers only the 25 richest US metros to keep city names moderately legible within the computer screen.]
Rich Households = Unaffordable Houses?
The line isn't smooth—and there are exceptions—but the relationship is clear: In general, richer cities have less affordable housing.
But there's a second reason why San Francisco's problem is emblematic of a national story. Liberal cities seem to have the worst affordability crises, according to Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko.
In a recent article, Kolko divided the largest cities into 32 “red" metros where Romney got more votes than Obama in 2012 (e.g. Houston), 40 “light-blue” markets where Obama won by fewer than 20 points (e.g. Austin), and 28 “dark-blue” metros where Obama won by more than 20 points (e.g. L.A., SF, NYC). Although all three housing groups faced similar declines in the recession and similar bounce-backs in the recovery, affordability remains a bigger problem in the bluest cities.
Super-Liberal Cities, Super-Unaffordable Houses
"Even after adjusting for differences of income, liberal markets tend to have higher income inequality and worse affordability,” Kolko said.
Kolko's theory isn't an outlier. There is a deep literature tying liberal residents to illiberal housing policies that create affordability crunches for the middle class. In 2010, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn published a study of California cities, which found that liberal metros issued fewer new housing permits. The correlation held over time: As California cities became more liberal, he said, they built fewer homes.
"All homeowners have an incentive to stop new housing," Kahn told me, "because if developers build too many homes, prices fall, and housing is many families' main asset. But in cities with many Democrats and Green Party members, environmental concerns might also be a factor. The movement might be too eager to preserve the past."
The deeper you look, the more complex the relationship between blue cities and unaffordable housing becomes. In 2008, economist Albert Saiz used satellite-generated maps to show that the most regulated housing markets tend to have geographical constraints—that is, they are built along sloping mountains, in narrow peninsulas, and against nature's least developable real estate: the ocean. (By comparison, many conservative cities, particularly in Texas, are surrounded by flatter land.) "Democratic, high-tax metropolitan areas... tend to constrain new development more," Saiz concluded, and "historic areas seem to be more regulated." He also found that cities with high home values tend to have more restrictive development policies.
One could attempt tying this together into a pat story—Rich liberals prefer to cluster near historic coastal communities with high home values, where they support high taxes, rent control, and a maze of housing regulations to protect both their investment and the region's "character", altogether discouraging new housing development that’s already naturally constrained by geography...—but even that interpretation elides the colorful local history that often shapes housing politics.
I asked Kahn if he had a pet theory for why liberals, who tend to be vocal about income inequality, would be more averse to new housing development, which would help lower-income families. He suggested that it could be the result of good intentions gone bad.
"Developers pursue their own self-interest," Kahn said. "If a developer has an acre, and he thinks it should be a shopping mall, he won't think about neighborhood charm, or historic continuity. Liberals might say that the developer acting in his own self-interest ignores certain externalities, and they'll apply restrictions. But these restrictions [e.g. historic preservation, environmental preservation, and height ceilings] add up, across a city, even if they’re well-intentioned. The affordability issue will rear its head."
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
|Wincup development aka "CorteMazilla" in Corte Madera. Officials were surprised at the size of the development.|
By David Mitchell
Guest op-ed column
Guest op-ed column
Posted: 04/16/2014 05:57:00 PM PDT
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?
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.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
See the article in Forbes It's Time For City Planners To Adapt A New Model
It seems its good municipal management to have a city plan. Mayors and city councils are somehow more informed as to how to meet the future with ten and twenty year plans in file drawers. Whether the citizens of a city might be the better for these exercises is open to question but planning is certainly good for the firms of urban planners and architects who prepare them.
Critical analysis by my students revealed several remarkable features. First, none of the plans ever spoke of what the city’s population might be at the end of the planning period! The singular measure of whether a city is succeeding or not, namely how many people chose to live there or have jobs to keep them in a particular place, is unexamined. So, too, is the question of what the profile of persons in poverty will be by the target year. Given that the ratio of poor residents who subsist on transfer payments to persons in families that are self supporting is among the most important measures of what a city’s economy looks like and will look like it is hard to imagine how anyone can try to better a city’s future, the stated ambition of all plans, without trying to prescribe what the poverty ratio might be. Finally, not one of the plans discussed the cost of running the city, certainly not the size of the public payroll and the associated benefit costs, including in most cities, the unfunded costs of pensions for retired and current public servants.
Instead, plans discuss and advance a set of what appear to be measures of city health that are clearly more faddish than practical. Thus, every contemporary plan speaks of how neighborhoods are the strength of any city, which while seemingly uncontestable, is largely not true. Neighbor health is derivative of city health. The city celebrates itself, through the words of its consultants, for its commitment to diversity going forward. Plans speak of why it’s to be desirable for a city to have upwards of twenty languages spoken in its schools (where its students commonly are already doing poorly on basic English competency tests). Of course, environmental sustainability seems a required discussion in which cities seem to fall over themselves making sure that DPW trucks, buses, police cars are enviro-friendly even as the decay of the streets they roll on, if mentioned at all, are absorbed in the umbrella phrase “infrastructure investment.” More words are devoted to the “clean” energy required for air-conditioning and heating schools than whether the schools are or aren’t educating the city’s youngest citizens effectively.
Some plans had references to international markets but the references are not to where the city’s industries must compete with their goods but to grocery stores that sell ingredients for burgeoning foreign resident populations. Above all, every plan discusses the important of new buildings for fire stations, community centers, schools, or government offices. (Remember, architects do a lot of city planning. To a man with a hammer every problem is a nail.)
None of the plans spoke of the changing nature of the economy. None set a goal of full employment or even mentioned unemployment. Poverty was a missing word. What discussion existed regarding economics was confined to making a specific kind of neighborhood, often called an arts district, to provide propinquity for the city’s “creative” population. If a link to the economy is mentioned it usually is a passing reference to new and small businesses that would grow up if, again, the physical environment was engineered in a specific way. The likely center of this new economy is the arts district!
To read a set of plans leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the practice of city planning has escaped reality. Its highly stylized form, apparently reflective of a settled professional culture, is first and foremost a political document disguised as a physical plan for a specific locale. Alexander Garvin captures the cynical nature of it all in his new book “The Planning Game.” Having been a professional planner and a real estate developer, his book is about politics and the importance of “playing” well so that new buildings get built. There is no discussion of the city’s economy. The index entry under “economics” takes the reader in every case to a discussion of the financing of projects. The book rests on the fallacy common to all contemporary urban planning, namely, that the built environment will make the economy happen. Just as with international development strategy, the artifacts of a successful economy are presumed necessary conditions precedent to a successful economy emerging.
In fact, the “build it and an economy will come” fallacy is but one flaw of contemporary urban planning. The much larger problem is that the typical plan is really a “retro-static” document, at least for cities not experiencing economic growth. It sets an implicit idealized state in the past usually the city’s high water mark in population. Detroit remains hopeful that someday 2.3 million people will live there once again. President Obama and countless others before him have declared such goals. Why not plan accordingly, even if the formal plan never mentions a credible strategy to reestablish an economy that would require and support 2.3 million people?
If planning is to be helpful it must see cities first as the economic communities that they were at their beginning. No city ever came to exist but for two forces, security and commerce. American cities were presumed secure – as modern communities they were and are the creatures of business. No community, ancient or modern, survives without commerce. Those cities that no longer produce sufficient commerce to sustain themselves become dependent on others outside, in a modern democracy, to provide for their care they rely on transfer payments. The cost is local control of their destiny.
Cities that are essentially supplicants to higher levels of government have one of two paths for planning. One is to become yet more proficient at supplication; in a bad national economy this path spells further decline. The other is to imagine rebuilding an economy that achieves scale growth. Planners never speak to the economic possibilities because apparently they don’t know how economic growth actually happens.
Going forward we need “proto-dynamic” plans for cities. They would sketch out an economic path leading to self-sustenance where the city produces more than it consumes in terms of the larger economy. This is the only path that will allow a city to anticipate any substantial growth and the capacity to eliminate poverty for those who live there. To form such a goal a city has to think of how it can generate sufficient industry to provide jobs for its unemployed. This must be the first order objective and it eludes planners because they have no idea of how the complexities of dynamic economies actually are sparked to life.
The urban plans of the future have to combine the capacity first to encourage a city’s entire population, not just college students – an error commonly made in today’s over emphasized reliance on “creatives” – to take up the possibility of innovating and making new companies that meet unforeseen demands in world markets beyond the city. Scale production, not small shop keeping or running art galleries, is the only path to growth and urban futures that hold the potential to restore communities which means reducing poverty. But, of course, this, like the capitalism that holds this promise, appears just too messy for planners who, in the end, see the growth of government and its control over all aspects of the built environment as the pathway to the cities of tomorrow, which in their documents look troublingly nostalgic for the towns that once were.
Fellow Citizen Marin Members and concerned Neighbors:
We need your help. Plan Bay II is upon us that will further erode our communities and local control. It is essential that we have as many comments as possible from Marin as possible to send a clear signal, that Marin will object to ABAGs attempt to urbanize Marin.
Plan Bay Area 2017 is on the horizon and that MTC-ABAG are conducting meetings on the Public Participation Plan that will determine the types of meetings that will give input to the next round of the Plan.
COMMENTS DUE OCTOBER 31
For introduction and to post general comments HERE
Answer Formatted Survey Questions HERE
(There are 5 multiple choice questions and 1 open ended question)
To review formatted question input go HERE
You can view a summary of the answers to date HERE
We had many private citizens attend the MTC meeting on Oct 8 where they were asking for our input. We got a lot of good video that can be viewed at www.youtube.com/sfbaycapr . The kinds of comments we need to drive home are:
1. There must be an opt-out option if a city does not want to participate.
2. NGOs should be identified as organizations who are getting money from MTC-ABAG to support PBA point of view
3. The Plan does not take in to account any improvements in technology that would make the objectives of the plan moot.
4. There must be an open debate about all the issues. The flaws of the plan were not openly discussed. There was only one debate (in Marin) where opposition positions were aired.
5. The process of forcing people to sit at tables and limiting their choices which do not include “none of the above” makes the process flawed
6. Plan carries water for the top 1%, the crony capitalists and NGOs that stand to gain from the money spent on the Plan
7. Questions developed by Richard Hall from Marin
a. How will neighborhoods this time around get local representation instead of discovering by surprise that they've been nominated for high density growth?
b. How can neighborhoods that don't want high density growth, that may happen to be near transit, opt out?
c. How will local residents this time around have the more significant representation that they merit on local land use decisions over and above the voices of minority groups that seek to impose alternate visions on their neighborhoods (but who may live many miles away and be small in number?)
d. What will the process be this time around when a comment is made on the plan by a resident?
Public Participation Plan (PPP for Plan Bay Area 2017) MTC Meeting (10-8-14)
Thanks to the intrepid souls who showed up at the MTC sponsored PPP meeting on Oct 8, 2014. Of the 20+ people making comments only 3 expressed support. Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Marin Counties were represented in the group. MTC tried to start the meeting with a standard Delphi technique of having people sit at tables and controlling the conversation. Most refused to sit at the tables and play their game so we were able to force them to change their agenda and take public comments first. This is one of the many great comments made by citizens
Here are the links to the specific videos:
Zelda Bronstein on lack of debate : http://youtu.be/tiuo9GE3SHE
Peter Singleton on identifying NGOs http://youtu.be/gaNLZnqr7SI
Paul Brooks on identifying NGOs: http://youtu.be/Bp1xLlvd1uQ
Pam Drew-Flawed process: http://youtu.be/i8fDReJNHtU
Peter Singleton: Plan Carries Water for the Top 1%: http://youtu.be/d2usBA62vwQ
Mimi Steel-Technology http://youtu.be/DPvkJSVp2WM
Berma Teetson-CO2 Capture technology http://youtu.be/As9uWuetlk8
Margaret Gordon derails the Delphi: http://youtu.be/NrQj3fH0Zyg
Mimi Steel asks Richard Hall’s questions: http://youtu.be/QqeFc12u-UM
Editor's Note: Please check out the entire article HERE
In a story that’s become somewhat legendary of late, David Talbot, founder of Salon.com, asked whether San Francisco could survive the tech boom: “How much tech can one city take?”
There’s no part of town where that’s a more crucial issue than South of Market, where the city is making plans that could change the character of one of the last places in San Francisco that still has industrial jobs and businesses—what the city planners call Production, Distribution and Repair, or PDR.
And what’s at stake isn’t only SoMa’s PDR but also the neighborhood’s fragile motley character.
It’s hard to see how Central SoMa could accommodate much more tech and still retain its fast-disappearing heterogeneity. According to a report released last December by the commercial real estate services firm CBRE, tech already accounts for 3.5 million square feet, or 58 percent of leased office space, in “South of Market,” an area bounded on CBRE’s map by Bryant, the waterfront, King and 8th; and 657,000 square feet, or almost 21 percent of the office space in “Yerba Buena,” which lies between Market, 3rd, Bryant, and 6th Streets.
Even the district’s office space is getting less diverse, as landlords tailor their holdings to satisfy tech tastes. Not incidentally, since the end of 2009, average asking rents in CBRE’s SoMa have increased by 87 percent, rising from about $30 to $57 per square foot a year, and by 95 percent in Yerba Buena.
Can this go on forever? No – but a city plan for Central SoMa assumes that tech companies are going to keep pouring into San Francisco, and into Central SoMa in particular, for the foreseeable future.
That assumption seems plausible in light of the CBRE study, which says that the outlook for the city’s tech sector is bright and, unlike the first tech boom, sustainable. This time, investors are passing up riskier firms for more established companies, while consumers are spending more and more money on technology.
But CBRE also sees “cautionary signs.” In San Francisco, as for the North American tech industry as a whole, things are getting “frothy” at the top, as valuations of “high expectation firms” are “surging well above more established benchmarks” (see WhatsApp). At some point, it all may... see full article HERE
Monday, October 27, 2014
Portland, Oregon pioneered the "Smart Growth" planning concepts now championed by Marin County Planners and the Association of Bay Area Governments. They believe in restricting growth to infill housing and setting urban growth boundaries. By subdividing single family lots and building "tall and skinny" houses, and apartment buildings, they fit more people per acre, leaving open space untouched. This is what planners want to do in Marinwood-Lucas Valley.
Here are two examples in Portland, Oregon:
IN PORTLAND, FIVE SLIM-LINE HOUSES NOW OCCUPY THE SPACE ONCE OCCUPIED BY THE WHITE HOUSE ABOVE
Small side yards become single family homes in this example.
The Marinwood Priority Development Area (all land east of Las Gallinas) is likely to become condominiums and apartments at a minimum 30 units per acre to a maximum 50 units per acre. (3 to 5 story apartment buildings). All other land in Marinwood-Lucas Valley is likely to become 20 units per acre or slightly more intense development than the above example.
Is this the kind of community you want to live in? We need you to speak up against the 2012 Housing Element and Plan Bay Area that will forever urbanize Marinwood-Lucas Valley.
|Speak up for your community!|
see related story: Priority Development Area will Urbanize Marinwood-Lucas Valley
Sunday, October 26, 2014
The grasshopper would look at her and laugh. 'Why do you work so hard, dear ant?' he would say. 'Come, rest awhile, listen to my song. Summer is here, the days are long and bright. Why waste the sunshine in labour and toil?' The ant would ignore him, and head bent, would just hurry to the field a little faster. This would make the grasshopper laugh even louder. 'What a silly little ant you are!' he would call after her. 'Come, come and dance with me! Forget about work! Enjoy the summer! Live a little!' And the grasshopper would hop away across the meadow, singing and dancing merrily.
Summer faded into autumn, and autumn turned into winter. The sun was hardly seen, and the days were short and grey, the nights long and dark.
It became freezing cold, and snow began to fall. The grasshopper didn't feel like singing any more. He was cold and hungry. He had nowhere to shelter from the snow, and nothing to eat. The meadow and the farmer's field were covered in snow, and there was no food to be had. 'Oh what shall I do? Where shall I go?' wailed the grasshopper.
Suddenly he remembered the ant. 'Ah - I shall go to the ant and ask her for food and shelter!' declared the grasshopper, perking up. So off he went to the ant's house and knocked at her door. 'Hello ant!' he cried cheerfully. 'Here I am, to sing for you, as I warm myself by your fire, while you get me some food from that larder of yours!' The ant looked at the grasshopper and said, 'All summer long I worked hard while you made fun of me, and sang and danced. You should have thought of winter then!
It is wise to worry about tomorrow today.
Editor's perspective: The politicians will be wise to consider the jobs, water and schools people will before building thousands units of high density housing in Marin.