Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You think the 101 is bad, check out this intersection in Ethiopia with no traffic lights!

"Move seniors from their oversized homes and make room for young families" say housing planners

Smart growth planners want to encourage older Americans to move into smaller homes to
create more housing for young families.

Editor's Note: Almost every Marin County planning meeting I go to these days,  someone mentions the "problem" of seniors staying in their homes.  It leads to "loss" of tax revenue due to Prop. 13 and "inefficiently allocates" housing to seniors who often time live alone.  They openly fret that it would be so much better to "help" seniors transition to smaller dwelling so the larger dwellings can be utilized by growing families.  This all sounds so nice in a planning session but just as with all other "smart growth" planning concepts, in the real world it is a cruel seizure of private property rights. 

If you are planning to get old, you need to pay attention what is happening in government circles. Check out what is being discussed in England, which is about 20 years ahead of us in smart growth planning otherwise known as "cramming" by the locals.

 Britain’s housing shortage disenfranchises the young. We should use the tax system to encourage people to free up larger homes.

Britain suffers from a chronic shortage of housing, which has dramatically increased land values. This has disenfranchised the younger generation, many of whom can no longer realistically expect ever to own their own home. The Intergenerational Foundation’s David Kingman argues that one solution is to use the tax system to encourage more members of the older generation to downsize into smaller properties, bringing more traditional ‘family homes’ onto the market, lowering the price through increased supply.

The scale of the problem – not enough houses are being built

For a number of years, the stock of housing in Britain has been increasing by less than 1% per annum, much slower than the pace of demand. There is no doubt we need more housing – and lots of it. The problem is the difficulty of achieving this goal in the short to medium term. Private-sector developers are in a parlous state at the moment and have never managed to consistently build the level of houses required to meet demand in the post war era. The other main obstacle is that house-building is incredibly unpopular with existing homeowners. In response to the coalition’s draft National Planning Framework (NPPF), the Daily Telegraph launched its “Hands Off Our Land” campaign, with official support from the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

This is despite the fact that the current NPPF is unlikely to kick start house-building to the extent needed. Meanwhile, 2010 saw just 134,000 new homes built in Britain – the lowest number constructed in a single year since World War Two – while 230,000 new households are formed annually, worsening the shortfall.

Importantly, there is a very strong intergenerational divide in terms of home ownership. The baby boomer generation (those born during the prolonged spike in Britain’s birth rate between 1946 and 1964) was able to benefit from decades of government policies which explicitly encouraged homeownership. This period saw the mass building of new houses throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s as the baby boomers came of age, while they had the benefit of schemes like Mortgage Interest Relief at Source (MIRAS) (which allowed borrowers to claim tax relief on their mortgage interest from 1969 until the scheme was ended in 2000) and the 1959 Housing Purchase and Housing Act, which provided £100 million in loans for individuals who wanted to renovate older properties.

In the 1980s, many of them who hadn’t previously owned their own property benefitted from the Right to Buy, and there is ample evidence that the decline in new housing development since has created an unprecedented boom in house prices. Collectively, members of this generation own 40% of the nation’s £2.5 trillion pounds of property wealth, while one in five baby boomers owns a second home.

This is not necessarily problematic on its own. However, underpinning this issue is rising life expectancy. The baby boomers have also been the beneficiaries of enormous rises in longevity. In previous eras, our lack of new housing development would have been less of a problem because people occupied the property they owned for a shorter period of time; couples were likely to purchase their family home in their 20s or 30s, see their children move out when they were in their early 50s and then not live too far beyond their 60s, bringing family homes back onto the market more quickly when they were sold off by the children who’d inherited them.

As we have seen, house-building has slowed down to such an extent that this trend is effectively denying young people access to the nation’s limited stock of family homes. Statistical evidence bears witness to this: between 1991 and 2010, rates of owner-occupation fell 30% in the 25-34 age group and 13% among those aged 35-44. By contrast, owner-occupation increased by nearly 20% for those aged 65-74.

As older people usually don’t have children living with them this represents an inefficient use of the housing stock. Our report found that Britain’s houses contain the equivalent of 25 million unused bedrooms, mostly belonging to pensioners and pensioner-couples who have continued to live in the family home after all their children have moved out. If a significant proportion of these could be brought back onto the housing market where young families could access them, it would go a long way to address Britain’s present shortage of housing space.

Taxing larger homes is a solution

The key issue here is that if Britain is not going to solve its housing shortage by building new homes alone then it must achieve the most efficient possible allocation of its existing housing stock.
However, the large-scale occupation of large houses by small households represents an inefficient allocation. The current tax system makes this more likely – as you are taxed proportionally less the more housing space you use. The tax system could be altered in several key ways to put a price on this inefficiency and encourage older households to downsize into smaller dwellings:
  • Abolishing stamp duty on people moving house to downsize
  • Abolishing the council tax concessions for single occupation
  • Introducing a property value tax, based on the size of homes
It should be pointed out that none of these changes would be targeted exclusively at members of the older generation; younger people using housing space inefficiently would be affected by them just as much, while older people already living in small houses would not be affected.

We are aware that the report has been misinterpreted in some quarters as calling for older people to be “forced” out of their homes; it should be emphasized that there is no question of coercing people to do anything they don’t want to do. Rather, our suggestions rely on “nudge” economics; they attempt to gently discourage people from doing something by a putting a price on it. The main recommendation, after all, is actually a tax cut for older people! The fact that young families are shut out of the housing market has economic costs, and all these proposals would do is offset some of them while attempting to improve the situation.

Our suggestions are not a panacea. Downsizing has advantages for the older generation, particularly lower energy bills and easier household upkeep, but in some areas a lack of houses that are the right size (especially bungalows) are holding people back. There is also, in the short term, a problem with the availability of mortgages for young people which is making it harder for would-be downsizers to sell their homes on to them, but conditions in this area will likely improve in the next few years. In the future downsizing options may well expand on a larger scale so we could move closer to the US experience, where downsizing is much more common.

What our solution does offer is an analysis of the demographic dimensions of the problem, along with a remedy which would directly address one of the main demographic drivers of inefficient housing use and pressures on housing demand. It would be irresponsible to pretend that we can deal solely with the problem through house building. Surely alternatives are worth exploring further.

A PDF of the full report is available online on the Intergenerational Foundation website.

Has it really been 42 years?

Judy Arnold started her government career 42 years ago. At age 74, she is the oldest candidate for Supervisor and if re-elected will be 78 years old at the end of her term.  She frequently quotes that Marin agreed to urbanize the 101 Corridor in 1972 and therefore the rights of Marinites to prevent unwanted high density growth is limited.  The average Novato resident wasn't even born when she started in politics.  According to Judy, your vote just doesn't count.  We beg to differ. The future of Marin belongs to the people of today. It is time for a fresh start. 
Vote June 3rd for Toni Shroyer.

$170,000+ Average Pay & Benefits for Full-time Employees of Corte Madera

$170,000+ Average Pay & Benefits for Full-time Employees of Small California Town–Corte Madera

by Stephen Frank on 04/21/2014 · Comments (0)     Print This Post Print This Post
Government is theft.  Some government steal more than others.  There are some government that openly think of citizens and taxpayers as real chumps.  That appears to be the attitude of the government of Corte Madera, just across the bridge from San Fran.
“The town of Corte Madera, CA, makes up for what it lacks in size and population, roughly 4 square miles with 9,425 residents, in its exorbitant government compensation packages. City government has approximately 43 full time employees with the average compensation package coming in at over $170,000.
That means every man, woman and child in Corte Madera pays $778.41 to fund just 43 positions.”
If you can pay taxes that subsidize that payroll you should be smart enough to know you are being taken.  The folks that live in Corte Madera, in my opinion deserve to be taken like a hick in Manhattan.

$170,000+ Average Pay & Benefits for Full-time Employees of Small California Town
By Robert Fellner, Union Watch,   4/21/14

The town of Corte Madera, CA, makes up for what it lacks in size and population, roughly 4 square miles with 9,425 residents, in its exorbitant government compensation packages. City government has approximately 43 full time employees with the average compensation package coming in at over $170,000.

That means every man, woman and child in Corte Madera pays $778.41 to fund just 43 positions.
A disproportionate number of these employees are firefighters. Amazingly, it’s routine for fire chiefs in California to earn well over $275,000 in total compensation. For instance, the fire chief in nearby San Rafael, population 57,713, earned $294,119.45 in 2012 total compensation, but it is quite surprising to see that such a small town employs three Battalion Chiefs with compensation packages around $294,000, $293,000, and $275,000. Then there’s the Director of Emergency Services who raked in over $313,000 in compensation in 2012.

This is just some of the information that is now available on, a database of over 2 million public employee records that is searchable by name, job title and jurisdiction. Transparent California is provided by the California Public Policy Center as a public service and allows citizens to find out what public employees actual make, not what they or others claim they make.

Inflated compensation packages in Corte Madera don’t just come from high salaries, but from tens of thousands of dollars in benefits that are often hidden from the public eye. In Corte Madera, several city employees received health insurance policies that cost the government $20,894 a piece. This is hardly an isolated incident. In the Contra Costa Community College School District, over 150 employees are receiving medical plans that cost over $25,000 a year. The school district’s highest priced plans top out at over $29,000 a year!

This hurts taxpayers in two ways. The first is obvious — funding for $20,000+ premiums are ultimately paid for by taxpayers, some of whom don’t even have any healthcare of their own.
The second effect is more subtle, but well worth noting. The government’s systemic overpaying for health insurance, for a conservative estimate of well over 1 million California employees, results in raising the price of health insurance higher than it would have been otherwise.

As Dr. Thomas E. Woods documented in his book, Rollback, the artificially inflated cost of a good not only makes consumers, on the margin, less likely to purchase as much health-care coverage as they otherwise would have, but the less-price conscientious government purchaser acts like a de facto subsidy for insurance companies. This reduces the need for the producer to compete in normal market-based ways — improving the quality of the product offered and/or lowering the price. This means that the quality of health insurance that presently exists is of a lower quality than it would be without Corte Madera and many other government agencies purchasing $25,000 insurance plans.

This phenomenon is similar to how increasing the demand for higher education through federal aid and student loans has precipitated a dramatic increase in tuition over the last several decades.
Just as college tuition’s dramatic increase in price would grind to a screeching halt if consumers had to bear the full cost — by eliminating federal aid and government loans — the same principle applies to health insurance.

If government workers had to pay the full or partial cost of their health insurance or could choose between a $15,000 plan and $10,000 in additional salary or a $25,000 health plan, the demand for these high-priced plans would drop, thus putting downward pressure on the industry as a whole, This would create additional incentives for insurance companies to offer more competitively priced plans, and the price of health insurance would decrease for all as governments spent less on health insurance.

What Transparent California reveals is that taxpayers pay twice — initially by paying for the public employee’s compensation and again when they or their employer goes out to buy health insurance and find that the price has been artificially inflated.

Robert Fellner is a researcher at the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and joined the Institute in December 2013. Robert is currently working on the largest privately funded state and local government payroll and pensions records project in California history, TransparentCalifornia, a joint venture of the California Public Policy Center and NPRI. Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes. Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage law won first place in a 2011 essay contest hosted by the George Mason University.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What are Joint Powers Authorities?

Joint Powers Authorities(JPAs) have been called the "Shadow Government". They are "governments of governments",  which are made up of appointed officials of member governments.  They have no direct voter accountability.  Although individual politicians can be recalled, citizens cannot recall the entire JPA.   It therefore becomes an effective "Administrative State" with massive powers to tax and create government policy and no citizens can thwart it's power.   Essentially, it is "extra-constitutional" in many critic's eyes.

Here is the Citizen's Guide to Joint Powers Authority to help you understand.

Children sit under the American flag and watch the puppets on stage in amazement,
 never seeing the puppet master behind the curtain.

The dangers of LAFCO: A conversation with a Government Scholar on LAFCO, Regionalism and the Future of Local Government.

After last week's postings about LAFCO and the future of the Marinwood CSD, HERE, I wrote my friend who is a government scholar, specializing in California constitutional issues.  Here are his answers to my questions about LAFCO

What do you make of LAFCO?

 I'm compelled by your own grace to give you a civilized answer. :)

 I'm very concerned about LAFCo. These are independent political subdivisions of our State operating within our Counties via the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg government reorganization act. LAFCo's operate under a "governance" structure much like ABAG. I don't know that these LAFCo's are constitutional. There is no direct representation of the people through a democratic process with LAFCo.

While there is a legitimate role for the State to try to manage the many agencies that are set up by government, the people on LAFCo boards are a step removed from our County jurisdiction, elected officials and our election process.

 These LAFCo agencies, if allowed to continue as is, will likely overtake our original County political subdivisions of our State where our registrar of voters and the real political power of the people resides. Instead replacing this County government structure with a governance structure of unelected, unaccountable people who have no reason to listen to the people nor can be compelled by the people to operate on behalf of the people.

 It's also problematic to me that these LAFCo's likely encourage formation of community service districts (CSD) and impose "conditions" on agencies which are anything but the equal rights, equal justice, under just laws, and three branch balance of power, enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. The people who put our government together realized the potential for abuse of power and wrote limits into our founding documents to try to prevent this type of abuse of power. We forget or dismiss this at our peril. While our system of government is less than perfect, in my view it will always be better than this governance structure.

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. And force, like fire, is a demanding servant and a fearful master." George Washington

Our government is now actively implementing a plan to separate, we the people, from our government, transitioning us from our constitutional self-government of elected public servants representing the will of the people, to a governance model of appointed people representing sustainable development implementation. Our U.S. and State Constitutions were written and put in place to put bounds on the power of the government to avoid the abuse that led to the creation of these constitutions in the first place.

If County land is annexed into cities and property tax is siphoned off into community service districts, then the political power of the people (jurisdiction), which resides in the County will effectively be neutered. There's more on this if you are interested.

From your email subject line: Is LAFCO the secret weapon for the Supervisors to force growth on unincorporated Marin?

 I don't think so. I think it's the secret governance weapon to take your political rights away through the management, creation and replacement of the jurisdictional boundaries of our government.

Unincorporated areas will likely not be allowed to develop. We are faced with difficult choices. Do we want to decide for ourselves how we grow? Do private property owners have equal rights to develop? Do we give up our property rights to provide the means to build more housing within existing development footprints? Do we give up our private property rights to provide for open space and habitat? Do we stop having children? Do we keep our immigration numbers low? What are we trying to save? What are we willing to give up to save it? How can we make life fair when there are so many ways to be? What role does the government have in determining how we live? What role do we want the government to have in determining how we live?

Do we let the government make all our choices for us? Does giving up our individual rights get us something better in return?

 Time for a break!

Regarding our less than perfect constitutional government, all I can say is you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

 Some notes from the videotaped Marinwood CSD meeting with LAFCO:

a.) LAFCO "political sub-division of state of CA" authority rests in legislation. . . (think Darrel Steinberg and Leland Yee!)

Yes, think Steinberg and Yee.

b.) legislation (1963 created LAFCO in every CA county)

 You might be interested in the report titled: State of California, Growth Within Bounds, Report of the Commission on Local Governance for the 21stCentury. This report can be downloaded as a pdf. It's all in there.

They didn't title this report using the word "governance" for no reason. In my view, the structure of LAFCo is a deliberate effort to change our way of government and reduce or eliminate the power of we the people (jurisdiction).

c.) Organizational structure: 11 bosses: 3 BOS: Judy Arnold, Susan Adams, Kate Sears; 3 local City Council; 3 District members; 2 public members)

In my view, any time you have this type of indirect government structure, you are looking at a change from government to governance. 

These folks are not accountable to you and if you recall any of these people, a replacement will be on this LAFCo board before the sun rises the next day. These governance boards are bullet proof against the will of the people and in my view are not legitimate and should not exist.

When government creates these types of governing structures where the people have little choice. If it gets really bad, the only way people know how to respond is by force. Social unrest. Riots. This type of government in my view is the root of the breakdown of social order. Muting the political power of the people yields to a demonstration of physical power by those same people because they feel they have no other way to respond to this injustice.

In my view, the integrity of our current political system must be maintained if we are to avoid this type of social unrest in the future.

d.) Task: Create, update "spheres of influence" - urban growth boundary lines; gatekeepers to all future growth.

"Spheres of Influence" are updated every 5 years to assess "service provisions" to meet community needs.

 People are not going to be able to do anything without the government deciding what is best for them and the environment and they will comply.

At some point, I think we will have to decide what we want: freedom to build on our private property, to do what we want or freedom to look out from our urban dwelling and see the verdant hills under a collective form of government (think Stalin, Hitler, etc).

e.) Proposed study schedule: North Central 101 Corridor - Marinwood, San Rafael, handful of others - through 2015.

What is capacity to provide services Now, projecting forward next 10 years?

The first Marin LAFCo study seems to be on water.

 What property should be annexed?

 If you look at the OBAP maps and the DPA maps related to fire, you can see the various land uses and planned jurisdictions using a very cryptic legend. I think some of this land use and acquisition relates to areas that are "policy" protected. These policy protected areas will likely expand through more detailed County/City general plans (think RHNA) and more restrictive zoning laws. My guess is all property is planned to be annexed into a district/city so you lose the original County political jurisdiction and with that probably lose your constitutional protections. Ask Peter S. about jurisdiction if you are interested in this topic.

What are property tax implications?

If community service districts (CSD) are allowed to take property tax money away from cities, over time, I think you'll see cities ability to provide services to all residents diminished. Government functions would be less integrated and would become more specialized.

 What I think I know :)

 Counties are legitimate government power of the people manifest as a subdivision of our State.
Counties have legitimate political jurisdiction as a subdivision of the State.

County board of supervisors are directly elected by the people through a democratic process (each person gets an equal vote and equal chance to vote as well as an equal chance to run for office).

County BOS people can be recalled, the people can do referendum and initiatives if they believe there is a need to remove elected officials for abuse of power and/or correct an unjust law.

County has three branches for balance of power: legislative (makes laws), executive (implements laws), judicial (upholds laws) like the State and Federal governments. These distinctions are increasingly being blurred, in my view to our detriment.
 LAFCo is an illegitimate governance structure operating within the County.

 LAFCo board is appointed, self selected people associated with legitimate government structure.
Elected officials can be recalled, but replacement of members on LAFCo board is easily done without interruption in their LAFCo proceedings.

No three branches, just one, central government, Soviet style. 
Remedy for bad policy is a short time frame for protest by affected persons only (no direct approval as with a ballot measure, no equal opportunity). 

This seems like sort of a negative right in that you get that right only if enough people protest. It's very hard to organize lots of people in this short time frame. Goes against our equal opportunity to participate in our democratic process and our unalienable rights as called out in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our constitution. This process changes our positive right to make law through our representatives to a negative process where protest is our tool to impact this government. 

 Another remedy is a lawsuit which is expensive and requires legal expertise likely not possessed by the majority of people.

Boundary changes, organizational structure

These boundary changes are likely to make the land use changes from our current, urban, suburban and rural to urban, open space, agriculture, and wildland/habitat and create a new jurisdictional model. My guess is boundaries will be drawn and redrawn according to the OBAP maps until ultimately LAFCo's will aggregate and replace our Counties and we will officially come under a regional entity such as the joint policy committee replacing our County government with governance.

 IE - San Rafael Sanitary: Look at different ways to deliver waste water services - Consider consolidating 4 services into 1.

I think the plan is to aggregate all water: drinking water, storm water and wastewater together captured, treated and returned to the urban areas (sustainable) , no private property with lawns and the rest of the water is for nature. Check out the Bay Delta Conservation Plan governance structure and "stakeholder" model for details.

Influence: Fire, parks and rec, street lighting, open space.

All districts. I'm guessing these districts are viewed as eventually becoming part of the federal government as an extension of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C). Crazy isn't it?

 Sphere of Influence: Find out where growth in appropriate (ie., Silveria Ranch)

If you check out the Direct Protection Areas (DPA's) you will see green lines that look like the limits of growth to me. These are presented as fire protection areas, but I think they are also land use planning maps.

Expand, reduce"sphere of influence" - gov't entity to create incorporation.
If all becomes incorporated or a district then our original, legitimate political jurisdictions (Counties) are essentially eliminated and so goes our Constitutional three branch system of government, our sovereignty, our freedoms and rights under our Constitution.

CSD - provide municipal service, with LAFCO approval, except land use authority

It looks like land use is to be left to our General Plans. Our housing elements requiring RHNA seems to be the beginning of this type of control over our cities. If allowed to continue, State law general plan laws will likely increasingly impact our cities as RHNA has.

If LAFCo recommends land annexation, in a district "CSD has limited authority to stop an annexation unless they can provide documentation in a 30-day window showing a financial hardship." 

I find this very problematic.

I would ask why LAFCo wants to annex County property to Cities and/or form districts in these unincorporated County areas?

I would like to learn more about this financial hardship angle.

Check the LAFCo strategic plan for details on what they are planning for Marin County.
For more see

Likely to neuter the legitimate role of these Counties as our political power base and constitutional jurisdiction.

Counties now operate as a pass through for federal subsides supporting government social service programs (money drain). The enterprise funded government services such as water, energy, etc. (money makers) are now increasingly with the regional government. These Counties will in time likely be viewed as "federal" counties. The federal government will have completed their mission of eliminating State's rights, State land and the rights of the people.

Some cities have given thought to disincorporation, returning to an unincorporated model of government coming back under the jurisdiction of the County. I wonder if Peter S. might be interested in explaining this jurisdictional concept to us at some point.

There's much more to share on this issue, but don't want to overwhelmed you.

I hope that helps.

All the best,


Monday, April 21, 2014

A Lesson for Marin about the Growth without Planning for Basic Services

For a lesson in how Plan Bay Area might be implemented from the Mecca of “smart” growth, Portland (The Oregonian is the largest general-purpose newspaper in the Greater Portland area).

East Portland's housing explosion tied to city plan without basic services

Teresa Ascenzi, 58, lives on a half-acre flag lot in Portland's Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, right behind the home where she grew up. There was a time when the lot adjacent to her had horses and a huge vegetable garden. Now, she has nearly two-dozen homes and duplexes next door, and a four-story senior center looming in the distance. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)
Brad Schmidt | bschmidt@oregonian.comBy Brad Schmidt | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated December 20, 2013 at 8:02 PM
For a glimpse of most everything that’s gone wrong in east Portland, step into Teresa Ascenzi’s backyard.
Just over the chain-link fence of her spacious half-acre lot loom nearly two-dozen houses and duplexes. Beyond those rooftops, a four-story senior center juts upward amid the Douglas firs that once helped distinguish Portland’s Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood as a decent place to live.

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian’s series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
Her message to the city leaders who ushered in this unchecked, inescapable infill?
“They failed,” said Ascenzi, 58, who lives on a flag lot behind the house that her parents bought almost 45 years ago. “F-minus.”
Today, Powellhurst-Gilbert is the land of cheap, dense housing crammed into a community that still lacks basic public improvements such as paved streets, sidewalks and nearby parks.
The channeling of tightly packed homes into this formerly suburban landscape east of Interstate 205 was a deliberate choice made by city planners and elected officials nearly 20 years ago. Yet the failure to add services and amenities to support those newly urban neighborhoods stands as an oversight that borders on negligence.
In a city nationally renowned for smart urban planning, Powellhurst-Gilbert represents all that Portland leaders got wrong – and the legacy of problems that will haunt generations of residents for decades to come.
Seeking to protect farms and forests from sprawl, the Portland City Council in 1996 approved a sweeping blueprint for growth that directed 14,000 new houses, apartments and townhomes toward the city’s newly annexed eastern edge.
Planners under the watch of then-CommissionerCharlie Hales made wholesale zoning changes to push in higher density. East Portland went on to add more than its fair share of new homes while city leaders let affluent Southwest Portland, which staged a political firestorm against growth, shrug off its burden.
City leaders now admit mistakes after years of complaints from residents. East Portland grew too quickly and without the sidewalks, parks and transportation system bestowed on other high-growth areas such as the Pearl District, Portland’s utopian planning playground.
“I don’t think we would say it took more than its fair share,” said Eric Engstrom, a principal planner for the city. “I think we’d say, in retrospect, it took more than it should have.”
"Spiral of improvement"
The Outer Southeast Community Plan was supposed to make east Portland a better place.
Planners wanted to transform a 28-square-mile expanse that encompassed the streetcar neighborhoods of Lents, the 1950s subdivisions of Hazelwood, the tree-lined hillsides of Pleasant Valley and the partially developed farmland of Powellhurst-Gilbert.
They hoped to capitalize on the success of earlier community plans for the Central City and Albina by adding 50,000 new homes and 100,000 new residents citywide over two decades.
Because land within the Outer Southeast area made up almost one-fifth of the city’s total, officials figured it should welcome one-fifth of the new residents. They set targets of 20,000 newcomers, 14,000 new homes and 6,000 new jobs.

Expectations were lofty. Large lots would be divided into small blocks with cozy streetscapes. Roads would be paved, sidewalks built, trees planted, transit service improved, the entire area cleaner and safer, according to the “perfect vision” that accompanied the plan.
“This spiral of improvement is continuing into the future,” it read.
Growth was coming with or without changes. Planners projected about 9,000 new units over 20 years. But by rezoning the area for smaller yards and more multifamily projects, planners swelled those projections to 14,000 units, a 55 percent jump.
“We had all the best intentions,” said Paul Scarlett, a city planner who worked on the effort and now heads the Bureau of Development Services.

East Portland broken promises: Density floods neighborhoods, squeezes residents (video)In 1996, city officials steered development of 14,000 new homes, apartments and townhouses toward newly annexed land. Zoning decisions enabled where those dense projects could be built.

Powellhurst-Gilbert became the designated epicenter for the accelerated growth.
The neighborhood already had 6,250 homes. But planners saw the potential to add 3,600 more because of its deep, underdeveloped lots and roads with bus service, such as Southeast Division Street, Powell Boulevard and 122nd Avenue.
Planners blanketed the area with multi-family housing designations along key transit routes, enabling the construction of 22 to 65 units an acre. Planners stretched some of the tighter zoning five to six blocks on either side of major streets into neighborhoods.
At the same time, officials all but eliminated development of single-family homes on large lots, which for years dominated the landscape.
eastportlandhomes.jpgCity planners and elected officials approved a plan to increase housing production on the city's eastern edge from 9,000 to 14,000 homes over 20 years. That helped keep the region's urban growth boundary tight. Nick Sauvie, an affordable housing developer, said east Portland has taken more than its share of multi-family housing and "the region owes east Portland." 
Residents didn’t know what hit them.
Nick Sauvie was part of the plan’s technical advisory committee. The level of community involvement wasn’t sufficient, he said.
“The magnitude of 14,000 units, it doesn’t have context,” said Sauvie, executive director for ROSE Community Development, which builds affordable housing.
“At the time, I didn’t realize what that meant. If I didn’t, I think virtually nobody was thinking about what that actually meant.”
"Fundamentally dangerous"
The housing explosion never struck Southwest Portland. Residents refused to let it happen.
In September 1996, just eight months after the City Council approved the Outer Southeast plan, officials breezed into the West Hills looking to equitably spread their vision of housing growth to all corners of the city.
They presented a proposal with new zoning that would ensure “likely development” of 7,500 new housing units over 20 years. It included high-density apartments and mixed-use buildings along Barbur Boulevard, the area’s main commercial drag.
Residents were furious.
Judges, attorneys and doctors flooded City Hall with angry letters. Liz Kaufman, a political consultant who lived in South Burlingame, called the Southwest Community Plan “fundamentally dangerous.”

(continued ...)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Big Trouble in Minnesota, Just Like Plan Bay Area

Twin Cities suburbs should beware of the Met Council

  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 4:48 PM
Crusaders for ‘regionalism’ want a more concentrated, centrally planned Twin Cities. Those who don’t may never know what hit them.

Resourceful people will find ways to make the most of failed government policies like Plan Bay Area. This vehicle gets only takes 3 gallons of oats and gets you to the city. Unfortunately it produces methane.

Editor's Note: This article could have been written about Marin and Plan Bay Area. The planners from ABAG are not at all original with their plans for Smart Growth.  They make it sound like they have invented a revolution in land use planning.  In the end,  it is the same New Urbanist drivel, cooked up in academia and doled out through central planners.  They even impose a "style book" of architecture types that are acceptable.  At least in the free market, private owners can experiment with new ideas.  The end result of all this top down planning will be a drab lifeless "Disneylandia"

The Twin Cities of 2040 will likely be starkly different from the place you live now. People will increasingly live in dense, urban concentrations, even if they’d prefer a house with a yard outside the 494 beltway.

Government planners will have power to steer new jobs into central cities and first-ring suburbs, and to set what amounts to quotas for people of different incomes and races in neighborhoods and schools throughout the metro area. Outside the urban core, highway conditions will deteriorate and congestion — encouraged by government — will get worse.

As these changes unfold, you’ll never be sure how the freedom and quality of life you once took for granted slipped away. Plenty of elected officials will be as frustrated as you are. But mysteriously, they too will stand powerless as choices constrict.

What will be the engine of this transformation? An out-of-the-limelight agency we generally think of as running the buses and occasionally approving a new runway at the airport: the Metropolitan Council.

In coming months, the council will release a draft of “Thrive MSP 2040” — its comprehensive plan to shape development in the seven-county region over the next 30 years. Powerful forces are coalescing to use the document as a tool for social planners to use to design their vision of the perfect society — and to impose it on the rest of us.

A huge, unchecked power grab is about to take place beneath our noses. But mayors and city councils will find it hard to push back. That’s because the Met Council will increasingly wield the power to decide which municipalities thrive and which decline. It will both write the rules for development and hold the purse strings.

The Met Council was established in the mid-1960s at the behest of Republican-leaning
policymakers, who believed regional planning of infrastructure could enhance efficiency. Its reach has grown dramatically, and today it allocates funds (state, federal and regional) among the region’s 187 municipalities for projects ranging from highway improvement to bridges to sewer lines. In the process, the council’s role has expanded well beyond its original mandate, as government so often does.

We can expect MSP 2040 to put this process on steroids, giving the agency a license, over time, to dramatically remake the entire region.

‘Equity,’ ‘sustainability’
The forces shaping MSP 2040 — whose final vision the council will approve in 2014 — are part of a growing nationwide movement called “regionalism.”

Regional planning of service delivery and infrastructure is important, of course. But “regionalism,” as an ideology, is not, as its name suggests, about promoting the good of a region as a whole. It’s about metro centers — the urban core and inner-ring suburbs — usurping control over outer-ring communities to advance their own interests and, in the process, effectively replacing local elected officials with a handful of regional governments.
A neighborhood with perfect "social equity" provided it is inhabited by the government approved demographic balance
prescribed by HUD.

In the case of the Twin Cities, the ramifications for democratic self-rule are profound. The Met Council’s 17 members are not elected. Though they come from different parts of the seven-county area, they don’t represent the needs and interests of voters there. They are all appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, and they owe their allegiance to him.

The press for regionalism is coming from the highest power in the land: the Obama White House. The Obama administration’s campaign to build the regulatory framework to implement the movement’s agenda is documented in political analyst Stanley Kurtz’s 2012 book, “Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.”

The Twin Cities may be a showcase for how far the regionalist crusade can go. Our Met Council is unique, and we already have regional tax-base sharing — one of the movement’s most sought-after tools.

An army of academics, environmental organizations, foundations, and transit advocacy and left-wing religious groups is working to ensure that MSP 2040 greatly expands the Met Council’s regulatory control. And there’s a movement underway to organize politicians from inner-ring suburbs and Minneapolis and St. Paul, with the goal of taking on the outer-ring suburbs and forging a permanent legislative majority for the regionalist agenda.

Regionalism is driven by a core ideological conviction: The cause of the poverty and social dysfunction that bedevil America’s cities is the greed and racial bigotry of suburbanites — especially those in prosperous, outer-ring suburbs, which are viewed as unjustly excluding the poor. Regionalists believe that financial aid for the inner ring won’t remedy this injustice. A profound change in governance is required.

What sort of change? The title of a book by regionalist guru David Rusk puts it bluntly: “Cities without Suburbs.” In regionalists’ view, suburbs with their own tax bases are, by definition, a menace to cities, and the distinctions between the two must be wiped out as completely as possible.
Regionalists’ strategy to effectively merge cities and suburbs turns on two ideologically freighted buzzwords: “equity” and “sustainability.” “Equity” is code for using public policy to redistribute wealth and to engineer economic equality among demographic groups.
20 units per acre, A Marin County Planner's dream single family neighborhood in Daly City.

Regionalists view metrowide “economic integration” as one of government’s primary responsibilities. Their plan to accomplish it is twofold: Disperse urban poverty throughout a metro area via low-income housing and make suburban life so inconvenient and expensive that suburbanites are pushed back into the city.

“Sustainability” means policies that would override market forces to ensure that in the future, the great majority of new jobs, economic development and public works projects are funneled into the metro area’s urban core and inner ring — where, not coincidentally, regionalists’ own political base is concentrated. “Sustainable” policies promote high-density, Manhattan-style living, and attempt to wean us away from our cars and push us to walk, bike or use public transit to get to work.

As one critic — speculating on MSP 2040’s likely outcome — lamented: “Do we all have to live in a 1,500-square-foot condo above a coffee shop on a transit line?”

Suburbanites will disproportionately shoulder the costs of this socially engineered transformation, paying more in taxes and getting less back in infrastructure and public services.
"Screw You, ABAG!"

Purse strings
Regionalists’ strategy for imposing their agenda hinges on giving regional bodies like the Met Council the ultimate trump: the power of the checkbook. The Obama administration’s “Sustainable Communities Initiative” (SCI) provides a model. SCI channels federal funds for land use, transportation and housing projects through regional bodies. The catch is that, to participate, municipalities must embrace redistributive “equity” goals.

The Met Council already has announced that “equity” and “mitigating economic and social disparities through regional investments” will be top priorities of MSP 2040. This explicit embrace of social engineering goals appears to signal an intent to initiate what could be a virtually limitless remake of our metro area.

Special-interest groups are lining up to lobby for proposals to embed “equity” and “sustainability” criteria in Met Council plans and/or funding criteria. These proposals include creating one giant seven-county metro school district to facilitate apportionment of students by race and income, and ensuring that “at least 70 percent of projected growth in population and households” in the next 30 years takes place through “infill and redevelopment of already urbanized land.”

In the future, if Prior Lake or Anoka want to get a grant to expand a major regional highway, officials there may need to demonstrate that their city meets the council’s “equity” criteria on low-income housing and doesn’t allow “exclusionary” zoning, instead of just showing that the project would improve safety or reduce congestion.

Over time, demands could escalate. Eventually, for example, a municipality may have to meet onerous “carbon footprint” or “clean energy” requirements to get approval for a new sewer line. Pressure will mount to make state and federal aid of all kinds contingent on meeting Met Council social planning dictates.

Most likely, the council will continue to operate under the fiction that cities have a choice. Yet a city council or a county board that declines to comply with “regionalist” criteria — citing its citizens’ needs and preferences — would ensure that funds and approval for improvement would stop, and so would remain frozen in time.

Advocates insist that the Twin Cities must embrace regionalist policies to remain “economically competitive.” In fact, top-down planning by unaccountable bureaucrats that distorts market forces is likely to constrict overall prosperity and stymie development. Ironically, it’s also likely to increase “sprawl,” as people flee to cities like Delano or Elk River to get beyond the Met Council’s iron grip.
Most importantly, the direction the Met Council is heading is inconsistent with our deepest beliefs as a people. The American dream is about striving for a better life through economic growth, not redistribution of wealth. Regionalists’ Orwellian appeals to “equity” and “sustainability” are hostile to our cherished traditions of individual liberty, personal responsibility and local self-government.
Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. The views expressed here are her own. She is at