Saturday, September 22, 2012

Smart Growth: Smart or not?

"Smart Growth" is an urban planning movement that encourages high-density development in urban areas near transportation hubs in the hopes that suburban sprawl will be discouraged and folks will use their cars less. The terms "sustainable growth," "new urbanism," and "transit village" are also used to describe this process that hopes to achieve continuing growth that is pedestrian and community friendly, while being environmentally "smart."

The Argument Against Smart Growth

The Argument Against Smart Growth

Will smart growth result in more traffic congestion and air pollution? Wendell Cox presents the argument for sprawl and against urban 'smart growth' development.

By Wendell Cox
Jan 22, 2001
As it appeared in PLANETIZEN
Over the past 50 years, America's suburbs have grown to contain most urban residents. As the nation has become more affluent, people have chosen to live in single family dwellings on individual lots and have also obtained automobiles to provide unprecedented mobility.

As population has continued to grow, the amount of new roadway constructed has fallen far short of the rise in automobile use. As a result, American urban areas are experiencing increased traffic congestion. The good news is that improved vehicle technology has made the air cleaner in many cities than it has been in decades.

Low density suburbanization is perceived by the anti-sprawl movement as inefficiently using land, by consuming open space and valuable agricultural land. The anti-sprawl movement believes that suburbanization has resulted in an inappropriate amount of automobile use and highway construction and favors public transit and walking as alternatives. Moreover, they blame suburbanization for the decline of the nation's central cities.

The anti-sprawl movement has embraced "smart growth" policies. In general, smart growth would increase urban population densities, especially in corridors served by rail transit. Development would be corralled within urban growth boundaries. There would be little or no highway construction, replaced instead by construction of urban rail systems. Attempts would be made to steer development toward patterns that would reduce home to work travel distances, making transit and walking more feasible. The anti-sprawl movement suggests that these policies will improve the quality of life, while reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.

But the anti-sprawl diagnosis is flawed.

  • Urbanization does not threaten agricultural land. Since 1950, urban areas of more than 1,000,000 have consumed an amount of new land equal to barely 1/10th the area taken out of agricultural production. The cultpit is improved agricultural productivity, not development.

  • Only 15 percent of suburban growth has come from declining cental cities. Most growth is simple population gain and the movement of people from rural to suburban areas. The same process is occurring throughout affluent nations, from Europe to Asia and Australia. In these nations, virtually all urban growth in recent decades has been suburban, while central cities have lost population. Since 1950 Copenhagen has lost 40% of its population and Paris 25%.

  • There is no practical way for low density urban areas to be redesigned to significantly increase transit and walking. Whether in America or Europe, most urban destinations are reasonably accessible only by automobile. Transit can be an effective alternative to the automobile only to dense core areas, such as the nation's largest downtowns.

  • Large expanses of land are already protected as open space. All of the nation's urban development, in small towns and major metropolitan areas, accounts for approximately four percent of land (excluding Alaska).
Ironically, smart growth will bring more traffic congestion and air pollution, because it will concentrate automobile traffic in a smaller geographical space. International and US data shows that:
  • higher population densities are associated with greater traffic congestion.

  • the slower, more stop-and-go traffic caused by higher densities increase air pollution.
Further, urban growth boundaries ration land for development. Rationing, whether of gasoline or of land drives up prices. For example, in smart growth oriented Portland, Oregon, housing affordability has declined considerably more than in any other major metropolitan area. This makes it unnecessarily difficult for low income and many minority citizens to purchase their own homes.

The anti-sprawl movement has not identified any threat that warrants its draconian poliicies. As the "Lone Mountain Compact" puts it, people should be allowed to live and work where and how they like absent a material threat to others.

As urban areas continue to expand -- which they must do in a growing affluent nation -- sufficient street and highway capacity should be provided, so that traffic congestion and air pollution are minimized.

Wendell Cox is principal of Wendell Cox Consultancy, an international public policy firm. He has provided consulting assistance to the United States Department of Transportation and was certified by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration as an "expert" for the duration of its Public-Private Transportation Network program (1986-1993). He has consulted for public transit authorities in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and for public policy organizations. <!###DEMOGRAPHIA FOOTER AT 000623>
(c) 2000 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.
Demographia is "pro-choice" with respect to urban development.
People should have the freedom to live and work where and how they like.

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Forcing growth on Marin

MARIN'S POPULATION is about to grow in a new, planned and significant way, unless there is a flurry of protest and some meaningful local government action soon.

This mandated population growth is thanks to state law — AB 375.

This law was heavily backed by the construction industry, since it called for creation of new "sustainable" housing along major transportation corridors. .....

>>>Pat Raviso of Corte Madera has an excellent piece in the Marin IJ.  check it out below

Kitchen Table meetings for the Marinwood-Lucas Valley.

One person CAN make a difference.  Our country is founded on the principle of ordinary citizens possess inalienable rights of freedom. No government can take away those rights.  We certainly do not give those rights away only to be ruled by an unelected body like the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Marin County Supervisors have dissappointed the Marinwood-Lucas Valley  community by removing us from the planning process.  While we don't have tanks threatening to run us down,  we do have powerful forces of government and greedy developers, eager to urbanize Marin  and rob us of our heritage of wise land use planning and local control.

This is a time to speak up.  Shall the Association of Bay Area Governments determine that we "need" high density housing throughout Marinwood-Lucas Valley or will we?

Join us by sending me an email with your contact information and I will send you the details.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A few links to give you an idea what is being planned for Marinwood-Lucas Valley

The 2012 Housing Element for Unincorporated Marin:

See pages 103-105 for a chart of development prosposed.  Silvera Ranch, Marinwood, Lucas Valley has over 72% of all of government assistance housing for unincorporated Marin. 

One Bay Area Plan,  how they are selling it to us:

The Future of Marinwood Plaza? Vibrant Community Marketplace or Government Housing? you heard what is being planned at Marinwood Plaza?

It may be converted to government subsidized housing and retail for up to 100 families. Bridge Housing Development is hoping to build a cluster of 3 or 4 story apartment structures.   This dense urban style development will require an additional 200 parking spaces or more and may encroach on publicly owned Marinwood Avenue.

Susan Adams, Marin County Supervisor,  cites that "teachers, firefighters and policemen" will have a place to live in "workforce housing" although some she acknowledges earn more than the $96,000 maximum income threshold to live there. Government pension benefits ( typically 50% of salary or more) are not included in the total income calculation.  Very low income is family income of less than $26,000 is the minimum.

Since the lot is small, developer Bridge Housing will ask for reduced parking requirements in the mistaken belief, that working poor do not own cars.  The isolation of the property in a bedroom community will require a car trip for affordable shopping, services and job opportunities if public transportation is not conveniently available. One only needs to see the cars parked along the roads in the  San Rafael Canal district, to see how many cars low income residents own.

The Marinwood Fire Department does not own a ladder truck and will have to upgrade its fleet for a new $900,000+ ladder truck and train staff to fight blazes in large multiunit, multi story tenements.

The water and sewage infrastructure will need to be upgraded to accomodate this intensive project. Infrastructure bonds do not require voter approval and are paid back typically in 40 years or more. It is estimated the Marinwood Plaza housing project will rival the scale of a large roadside hotel, like the Four Corners Sheraton in Terra Linda with far fewer parking spaces.  

The Dixie schools will receive an estimate increase of 200-300 new children requiring additional staff, classrooms and special needs population qualified teachers.  As low income, resident renters,  they cannot be expected to contribute at the same rate as existing population,  with the net effect of stretching existing resources or increasing taxes to pay for the changes.  No doubt the new voting population will demand these resources and vote for increasing taxes on existing property owners.

Although press releases from the office of Susan Adams and Bridge Housing claim widespread support from community leaders for this project,  none have publicly identified themselves.   CSD directors-Bruce Anderson, consultant,  Cyanne Dandridge, local government contractor, Bill Hansell, Architect, Leah Green, elevator component manufacturer have been involved in the preliminary planning process and/or discussions as citizens.  The meetings are closed to the general public.   Do you think the public has a right to participate in the planning process with Bridge Housing and the County?

What about the people of Marinwood-Lucas Valley?  A local place to shop by walking and bike gives us our independance, cuts down on pollution and builds community. For some seniors and the mobility impaired,  a neighborhood market is the only way they can shop without relying on outside services or caretakers.  An indoor market featuring local produce, wine, restaraunts, fitness studios, performance space and essential services have been proposed. Marinwood Plaza has the opportunity to come alive again with our neighbors and an enjoyable place to shop. To be commercially successful, these businesses need adequate parking and freeway visablity. Marinwood plaza should be retained as a commercial space.  There is no additional room for housing and resident parking on this site.

Marinwood Plaza can become a center of our community for years to come, providing us a place to shop and meet our neighbors. Or it can become one of many subsidized government projects burdening us with costs forever.

What future do you want for Marinwood-Lucas Valley?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

True or False? The Affordable Housing Element for Marinwood-Lucas Valley


1.)     True or False: Affordable housing is scarce for Marin Residents.

TRUE:  Just like any service or commodity, there is high demand for low cost housing that out strips supply.  Most surprisingly, despite the demand for low cost housing, income restrictions often mean that tenants must be found from outside the county.

2.)    True or False: 60% of all workers in Marin commute from outside the County.

FALSE:  Data published in the Miles from Home Report, is often repeated as fact yet it was created by low income housing advocate groups to support questionable conclusions regarding housing needs in Marin.  They claim, for instance, that nearly 60% of the workforce is forced to live elsewhere due to the cost of the housing.  No where do they take account of people who may choose to live elsewhere due to  better housing values, family,  cultural amenities offered elsewhere.  This giant assumption is the basis of the false “need” of affordable housing.  Also, the study nowhere distinguishes part time from full time work.  How many of us “need “ an affordable apartment or house for our first entry level job.  The BIG DECEPTION of housing and job Census statistics is one reason you should question Marin affordable housing quotas.

3.)     True or False: The Marin Housing element is a vision, not a plan.  FALSE: The housing element identifies housing sites that are pre approved for affordable housing according to state criteria.  There are a virtual catalog of projects that developers can select and build on a fast track basis with streamlined approval process, fees waived, low interest loans, guarantees and tax credits for fifty years.

4.)     True or False: The Housing element was created by an open, democratic process. FALSE:  A handpicked selection of citizens, low income housing advocates, and activists decided for the rest of us on the sites that would be approved.  They were under no obligation to report back to the community.

5.)    True or False:  High Density affordable housing and increased crime are unrelated. FALSE:  Violent crime statistics show the highest crime in Marin occurs in Marin City and Hamilton.  Part of the reason for this is the high density of people living in a small area. Although per capita crime rates may be constant, increasing density increases overall crime. Senior/ disabled affordable housings obviously have a different demographic and thus do not have the same social problems.

6.)    True or False: High Density housing will reduce our carbon footprint.  FALSE:  How does adding thousands of people to our county actually reduce our carbon footprint?  Clearly more residents put more burdens on our infrastructure, local traffic, water use and more.

7.)     True or False:  Affordable Housing won’t be a financial burden on communities.  FALSE: Affordable housing pays minimal fees and mitigation.  The surrounding taxpaying citizens will have to pay for increased fire and safety, build new schools,  add more social services, and infrastructure.  Bonds for new infrastructure do not require a vote by taxpayers creating a burden for the next 40 years

8.)     True or False: Affordable housing is built for the poor. FALSE:  The prime beneficiaries are developers.  If it was all about affordable housing, why aren’t they buying existing housing stock for conversions?

9.)     True or False: Affordable housing won’t affect property values. FALSE:  It can change a suburban neighborhood to an urban high density neighborhood overnight, depressing housing values.  The free market prefers single family homes.

10.)  True or False: You can’t do anything about the affordable housing element.  It already has been decided. FALSE:  You can speak up, demand answers from our politicians, write letters, and protest.  Politicians need our public support to maintain their power.  Be certain your interests are being accurately represented.  Our great democracy demands active citizens.

Are you willing to stand up and be heard?