Saturday, October 6, 2012

A case for high density housing in Marinwood Lucas Valley

 Note:  The following article is widely distributed by High Density Housing Advocates.  It is printed in entirety without commentary.  It is likely that you will see a pamphlet at one of the housing workshops with the same arguments.  This "fact" sheet gives the appearance of objectivity through the use of statistics.  By using selective data from urban and suburban areas,  pre-2007 market crash, the authors create the conclusions they want you to believe

Make your own inquiries.  Down is never up.  Do not be afraid to ask common sense questions and to examine questionable conclusions. Do not accept lies.  Free speech is your right.

{short description of image}n the past 20 years, California's housing prices have steadily outpaced its residents' incomes. Housing production hasn't kept up with the influx of new families from around the world and household growth within the state. And the location and type of new housing does not meet the needs of many new California households. As a result, only one in five households can afford a typical home, overcrowding doubled in the 1980s, and more than two million California households pay more than they can afford for their housing.

Meanwhile, the federal government has dramatically cut back programs that used to help local governments accommodate new growth. Voter-imposed property-tax and spending freezes have further constrained local governments from responding effectively to new growth. Infrastructure funding now comes from new growth. And affordable housing development, while still funded in part by the federal government, also requires a larger local commitment than ever before.

Against this backdrop, it should surprise no one that many communities no longer accept population growth with open arms. When anyone proposes the development of affordable or multi-family housing, ambivalence about growth often shifts to hostility. And hostility feeds and strengthens certain myths, deep, emotional perceptions of how the world works. Myths—important sources of meaning in all societies—provide shared rationales for community members to behave in common ways; they have a strong moral component, with clear lines between right and wrong. Although myths are sometimes positive, they can also serve as shields for deeper and uglier motivations: racism, fear of outsiders, greed.

When people argue against new high-density and affordable housing, they often use myths to convince decision-makers that the new development and its residents don’t belong there. Traffic will be too heavy and schools will grow overcrowded. The buildings will clash with existing neighborhoods. The people won’t fit in. Maybe they'll even be criminals.

Opponents often truly believe these myths. But it's essential to counter these myths with facts. California desperately needs new affordable housing to reverse recent increases in overcrowding and overpayment. We also need new high-density housing to support economic recovery; to accommodate new workers and their families; and to economize on infrastructure costs, while preserving open space and cutting down on the distance between new homes and new jobs.

Fortunately, the facts of California's recent experiences with high-density and affordable housing often contradict the myths. We can now begin to rely on this recent experience to reassure concerned residents that the myths don't have to come true.

Myth 1: High-density housing is affordable housing; affordable housing is high-density housing.


This myth expresses an essential truth: more units per acre mean lower land costs per unit, especially if local governments allow builders meaningful density bonuses. And smaller units cost less to build than larger ones. To encourage housing affordability, California cities do need to promote higher densities.

But we also know from experience and observation that not all high-density housing is affordable to low income families. San Francisco's Nob Hill and Telegraph Hill, Los Angeles' Wilshire Corridor and high-rises in downtown San Diego are all examples of upper-income areas where housing densities are quite high. Similarly, most Californians know that low-density neighborhoods often accommodate people of modest means. The residents of these neighborhoods often moved there shortly after the homes were built several decades ago-and before the huge escalation in California's home values that began in the early 1970s. With assistance, many families with limited incomes will continue to buy homes in these neighborhoods. Many other low-income house-holds will continue to rent single-family homes, because they offer more space.

For the most part, of course, low-density neighborhoods offer more expensive housing than high-density areas. Detached homes cost much more to by than apartments and condominiums. Among new units, the difference is even more striking; new high-density units are much more likely to be affordable than new single-family units.

Density is not always enough, however, to ensure affordability. Local governments must intervene with programs and additional concessions if they wish to ensure that new high-density units are also affordable. For a list of resources on affordable housing techniques, see "Resources: Making housing more affordable," at the end of this report.

Myth 2: High-density and affordable housing will cause too much traffic.


People who live in affordable housing own fewer cars and drive less. In California's six largest metropolitan areas, two-thrids of renters and over three-fourths of the households living below the poverty line own no vehicles or only one, car, compared to 54 percent of all households and 44 percent of homeowner households.1 With lower car ownership rates come fewer trips, and fewer single-occupant auto commutes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commissio found in 1980 that low-income households make an average of 3.6 trips per day, compared to 6.8 trips per day for medium- and 9.9 per day for high-income households.

Recent traffic growth owes much to existing development. In the 1980s, car ownership increased and existing residents drove more, as incomes rose and women entered the workforce in record numbers. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Vehicle-miles traveled grew by 66 percent between 1975 and 1987, while population increased only 19 percent.2

In many high-density neighborhoods, and in most neighborhoods with a mix of housing types, traffic isnt a big problem. Fewer auto trips occur in higher-density areas. In a neighborhood of 15 homes to the acre, one third fewer auto trips occur, compared to a standard suburban tract.3 A 1990 study in Sacramento, by that area's Council of Governments, found that multi-family developments have lower car ownership rates--1.3 cars per household, as opposed to two per household in single-family tracts.

High-density housing can encourage retail development and ease walking & transit use. Mixing housing with commercial development is ever more crucial for traffic control, since non-work trips constitute the largest number of trips4. In 1990, over three-fourths of trips in Southern California were non-work trips. With high-density housing, stores serving neighborhood residents move in, allowing residents to walk to buy groceries or to the dry cleaner instead of driving there. Transit connections also become more common when neighborhood density increases, because transit is only cost-effective at densities above eight or 10 units per acre 5.

Low-income households own fewer cars, drive less.

Myth 3: High-density development strains public services and infrastructure.


Compact development offers greater efficiency in use of public services and infrastructure. Higher-density residential development requires less extensive infrastructure networks than does sprawl. California developers must usually pay for sufficient infrastructure capacity to serve their own projects. When communities cannot take advantage of scale economies in providing infrastructure, extension costs rise. High-density housing helps provide scale economies both in trunk lines and in treatment plants6. The lower costs per unit of housing can be passed on to new residents, and the smaller debt load can help ensure fiscal stability throughout the community.

Infill development can sometimes take advantage of unused capacity in public services and infrastructure. Communities can save taxpayers and new residents money when they allow housing construction where infrastructure and service capacity is yet to be used or has already been paid for. Indirect evidence suggests that existing urban areas generally have more slack capacity than new communities7.

Higher-density infill residential development can translate to higher retail sales. By approving new high-density development in infill locations, communities can revitalize stagnant commercial districts and increase taxable sales- the primary source of revenue in most California jurisidictions.

Myth 4: People who live in high-density and affordable housing won't fit into my neighborhood.


People who need affordable housing already live and work in your community. According to government definitions of affordable housing, families should devote no more than 30% of their income to rent or mortgage payments and utilities. "Affordable housing" often simply means housing whose residents don't pay too large a share of their income on rent or a mortgage.

Families earning less than four-fifths (80%) of the area's median income are officially "lower income" households; families earning less than half of the median are known as "very low income" households. For example, a starting elementary or high-school teacher in Mountain View (Santa Clara County), with a gross monthly income of around $2,000, can afford to pay $600 a month in rent-which qualifies as low-income if the teacher lives alone; if the salary must support a spouse and a child, the family would be a very low income household. A starting air-traffic controller in San Diego County, with income barely higher than $20,000 a year, would also qualify for affordable housing. Librarians, sheriffs' deputies, nurses, fire fighters, and many other vital members of our communities: they all need affordable housing.

People motivated by these concerns may just need to "meet" the residents of high-density and affordable housing. Residents often have been members of the community for a long time, and will continue to make contributions to their neighborhoods. For a list of resources that can introduce people to those who live in high-density and affordable housing, see "Resources: Meeting the residents of affordable housing," at the end of this report.

Case Study

Renaissance Village will provide medium- to high-density apartments and townhomes for north San Jose and the rest of Silicon Valley.

High-Density and Affordable Housing Help Balance Silicon Valley

In the 1980s, high-technology firms created thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley, but housing construction did not keep pace. New workers had to commute long distances to reach their jobs. As a result, Silicon Valley suffers from some of the worst traffic in California - and from the state's highest housing prices. In the late 1980s, San José set out to clear traffic and ease the housing shortfall by changing its land-use policies,

The Renaissance project, on a 56-acre site in north San Jose, was originally designated for research and development. It had enough infrastructure - including a wide road and convenient access to planned light-rail - to handle a large number of new jobs. In 1991, Renaissance Associates, a partnership between General Atlantic Development and Forest City Development, proposed with the landowners that San Jose rezone the site for over 1,500 moderate- and high-density rental apartments and for-sale townhomes, neighborhood retail, and a day-care center. San José readily agreed.
The project developers started work early with neighbors living in an existing single-family development on the site's northern boundary to provide appropriate transitions into Renaissance, while making best use of the large existing road. In response to neighbors' concerns, the developers located the lowest-density townhome component adjacent to the existing residences, and provided ample setbacks between the new attached homes & the 1950s-vintage single-family homes.
The developers responded to concerns about traffic by cancelling initial plans for a through street that would connect the existing neighborhood with Renaissance Village.
This high-density development shows that oftrepeated myths about the effects of high-density housing on public services and transportation aren't always true. San Jose's ambitious plans for employment development in the area led the city to require the construction of more infrastructure than was eventually necessary both on the site itself and in neighboring areas of the city. Later, the city determined that it could alleviate traffic throughout its road network by shifting the location of new residences and workplaces.
The composition of the project itself, with over 250 affordable apartments, market-rate apartments, and attached ownership units, further assures balance between the housing and Silicon Valley's new jobs. And the site design, which features pedestrian-friendly walkways and easy connections to the Tasman Light Rail, will allow Renaissance Village residents to leave their cars in their garages altogether.
The development also shows that, with advance planning and sensitivity to neighbors' concerns, NIMBY sentiments can be prevented. The neighbors and the developers displayed an attitude of openness that ensured both a smooth approvals process and a better project.

Myth 5:

Residents of affordable housing move too often to be stable community members.

Housing type is much less important in determining mobility than tenure. Renters move more often than owners do, whether they live in single- or multi-family housing. Once tenure is accounted for, the difference between the housing types is almost meaningless, especially for renters. (See Chart)

Tenure much more important than density in recent moves.

When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often. According to San Francisco's BRIDGE Housing annual turnover in their affordable projects is less than 10 percent annually. And in 1989, only 26 percent of California households renting government assisted housing had moved in the previous year, compared to 38 percent of unsubsidized renters. These statistics make it clear that, far from creating transient communities, local governments that approve permanently affordable housing may be helping their communities become more stable

The majority of both renters and homeowners in California metropolitan areas move less than once a year. Homeowners move less often than renters, but even renters move seldom enough to form long-term ties to neighbors.
Source: U.S. Dept of HUD, American Housing Surveys for San Francisco-Oakland (1989), San Jose (1988), Los Angeles-Long Beach (1989), San Diego (1987), Riverside-San Bernardino (1990), and Anaheim-Santa Ana (1990).

Myth 6: Affordable housing reduces property values.


No study in California has ever shown that affordable housing developments reduce property values. Many have been done. For instance, a new study of six projects built by San Francisco's BRIDGE Housing Corp, in the 1980s shows that only one of the projects has had any influence on the values of nearby properties-and in that case, BRIDGE's project was actually associated with higher, not lower, property values. 8

This result reaffirms decades of extensive research. In 1988, the California Department of Housing and Community Development reviewed research projects on the subject carried out between 1960 and 1986. In 13 of 14 studies, subsidized and maunfactured housing had no negative effect on property values. In some cases, assisted housing was even associated with higher property values. None of the four California studies included in the survey showed a negative relationship between property values and affordable housing.9

Case Study

San Paulo: High-density, affordable housing enhances Irvine's community character.

Good Design Beats NIMBYism in Irvine

The City of Irvine, one of California's largest planned communities, added tens of thousands of new jobs in the 1980s as the information economy boomed. But the city's housing supply-especially housing for families with modest incomes-could not keep up with its job creation. In late 1990, the City and The Irvine Company, which owns all the undeveloped land in the city, identified a 15-acre multi-family site as appropriate for new affordable housing.

To ensure that such a large and prominent new development would fit into "Westpark Village," the Irvine neighborhood that surrounds it, The Irvine Company contacted the Costa Mesa-based architecture firm of McLarand Vasquez & Partners (MV&P). MV&P, which had also designed the dense and highly popular Corte Bella townhomes across the street from the project site, designed San Paulo's 382 units in 27 separate buildings, with flats and townhomes of various sizes. San Paulo's overall density reaches about 25 units per acre, with room left over for two swimming pools, generous landscaping, a tot lot, and numerous features to smooth the transition from San Paulo's surroundings into its highest-density areas.

To show the city's residents that affordable housing and its residents belong in Irvine, The Irvine Company also met early with Westpark Village residents. The neighbors were won over by the open process and the high-quality design. The Irvine Company and the'City emphasized that San Paulo's residents would be members of the Irvine community. Teachers, firefighters, and other essential contributors to the city's life previously forced out of the city by its high housing prices would find an affordable place to live if San Paulo were approved.
Also key to the project's success was the participation of its non-profit partner, San Francisco's BRIDGE Housing. BRIDGE provided vital advice on affordable housing to the other members of the development team, assisted in the City of Irvine's approval process, and coordinated the project's financing, which came from city & county sources and state-authorized bonds and tax credits, with credit enhancement by Sumitomo Bank, Ltd. Forty percent of the units will be affordable to families earning less than half of Orange County's median income of $56,500; another 50 units are also designated as affordable to low- & moderate-income families.
In Irvine, the developer, architect, non-profit partner, and city staff needed to overcome one key obstacle: unfamiliarity. Residents' preconceptions fit the myths-and not the reality-of today's mixed-income, non-profit sponsored affordable housing. By being sensitive to both the design of surrounding developments and neighboring residents' desires to feel included in decisions, the development team has created a successful model for emulation throughout southern California.

Myth 7: High-density and affordable housing undermine community character.


New affordable and high-density housing can always be designed to fit into existing communities. Density, as measured in units per acre, can be a deceiving measurement, but new housing at between 20 and 50 units per acre can be designed to fit in most California communities. The best way to convince people of this is to show them how well new housing can fit into their neighborhoods. (See "Resources: Increasing housing densities," at the end of this publication, for a list of slide shows and videos.) Communities can also achieve higher densities by filling in the existing urban fabric with second units, duplexes and conversion of out-moded or abandoned commercial buildings. Local governments must often encourage infill by reducing regulations and restrictions.

New affordable housing differs little or not at all from any other development. When BRIDGE Housing opened its affordable Pickleweed housing development in upscale Mill Valley, potential buyers for neighboring condominiums mistook Pickleweed for the marketrate project. And when Habitat for Humanity built its self-help project in Rancho Santa Margarita, local developers and subcontractors contributed materials identical to those used in nearby market-rate homes. Thanks to sensitive work by experienced architects, the new townhomes fit in perfectly (see case study). These developments are proof that "affordable housing" doesn't mean high-rise slums.

When most people hear "high-density housing," they imagine "high-rise housing." But in most California cities, the market won't even support high-rise housing. More often than not, "high-density" development now means two- or three-story woodframe garden apartments that frequently are similar in scale to large-home luxury housing.

Myth 8: High-density and affordable housing increase crime.


Density does not cause crime. For many years social scientists have asked whether high-density housing causes crime. Not one study has shown any relationship between population or housing density and violent crime rates; once residents' incomes are taken into account, the effect of density on non-violent crime decreases to nonsignificance.

Scattering affordable housing helps check crime. In areas comprised mostly of low-income housing - particularly those areas lacking jobs, responsive police, and community services - crime can be higher. Local governments can help blunt the effect of such concentrations of low-income housing in any one place by accommodating their share of the state's need for new affordable housing, by encouraging the development of affordable apartments and duplexes in scattered locations, and by approving mixed-income residential developments.

Management and design are key. Local governments can also help protect the entire community - including new affordable housing residents themselves-by attending to details at the project level. Most important is effective professional management on site, with strong tenant-screening and good security systems. Design, too can play an important role in protecting residents and neighbors of high-density or affordable housing, especially by ensuring visibility. New developments should also contain a mix of unit types to accommodate different kinds of households. When residents have different occupations and family types, there will probably also be someone home in the development almost all the time.

Case Study

CARIÑO VISTAAffordable housing fits into Rancho Santa Margarita: Habitat's Carino Vista with neighboring single-family homes in the background.
Partnership Builds Community in Orange County

After The Fieldstone Company received its development approvals in the Orange County new town of Rancho Santa Margarita, it decided that the area also needed new affordable housing for low-income homebuyers. Working poor families, earning between $12,000 and $20,000 a year, lacked the resources to buy a home in one of the country's least affordable housing markets.

Fieldstone decided to work toward this goal with the Orange County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat, for several years one of the nation's largest non-profit homebuilders, usually develops a few homes at a time in built-up neighborhoods. Relying on at least 600 hours of "sweat equity" by prospective homeowners, donated time by community volunteers, and donated materials from local builders and businesses, the company has been responsible for the construction of over 20,000 homes since 1976 with no government subsidies. "Cariño Vista" would differ from this pattern. Its 48 stacked-flat condominiums would constitute the largest single-phase project in Habitat's history. Its location on a two-acre site in a mostly vacant portion of a newly planned community would also break from Habitat's mostly infill orientation.

Luckily for Fieldstone and Habitat, the landowner-the Rancho Santa Margarita Company still had development capacity that it didn't plan to use, and allowed Fieldstone to use some of that capacity to build Cariño Vista. Additionally, Fieldstone drew strong support from Orange County, which expedited permit processing and waived costly fees.

Cariño Vista's architecture, by Clark Forest Butts of Berkus Group Architects (Irvine), fit carefully into Rancho Santa Margarita. Clark drew on the design of the large single-family homes overlooking the project to determine the site-plan and exterior design of the townhomes, and added design features- hip-roof construction, one-story units on the edges, and recessed stairways-to reduce massiveness. Fortuitously, the donated materials included stucco and roof-tiles that were exactly the same as those used in construction of the neighboring single-family homes. As a result, the similarity between the affordable townhomes and luxury dwellings did not end at the outlines of the homes; it extended all the way to the color.

To facilitate integration of the new residents with the rest of the neighborhood, The Fieldstone Company and Habitat for Humanity sponsored picnics and other social events. Former President Jimmy Carter, a longtime Habitat supporter, was on hand for the groundbreaking, increasing both visibility and acceptance for the project. And Fieldstone chose the project's name to help it fit into Rancho Santa Margarita, where many neighborhoods are "Vistas." All these elements encouraged existing residents to begin thinking of Cariño Vista's residents as members of the community even before they moved in.


In the 1990s, California’s persistent affordable housing shortage has become so commonplace that it seems natural. Planners and elected officials must stop believing another pervasive myth: that they can do nothing to create affordable housing. This document shows that many California communities have stopped believing that they lack the creativity, resources, and will to house all those who need shelter. And as a result, they have established that, in fact, California communities can become more open, more accepting, and better places for oldtimers, new immigrants, or their own children.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Will Marinwood-Lucas Valley be governed by a Regional Government?

*WARNING: Political content may offend some viewers.
Note: The above video provides a window on the regional government movement as promoted and supported by President Obama's senior advisors.  It provides context for the regional government movement also espoused by the words and actions of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the One Bay Area Plan.
It is much more than just housing....
We debated posting this video during the election season since we are not interested in commenting on national politics.  Viewers are encouraged to learn more about the regional government movement and come to their own conclusions.
The Association of Bay Area Governments is responsbile for the Regional Housing Allocations and Priority Development Areas that will transform Marinwood-Lucas Valley from a sleepy bedroom community to an urbanized transit oriented development area. 
Under the current proposed housing development plans, our population may grow by 25%.  Over 83% of all low income housing for unincorporated Marin in the 2012 Housing Element is located in Marinwood/Lucas Valley from St Vincents/Silvera Ranch to Big Rock.
We can only conjecture their plans for our future although they have been steadily "streamlining" development plans for government assistance housing  through changes to zoning, the design review process and environment impact requirements. 
At one recent Housing Element Workshop,  a housing advocate stood up and asked that "all property within the 1/2 mile corridor of 101 be immediately rezoned to allow 30 units per acre" .  That is the equivalent to many apartment blocks in downtown urban areas.
What is the future you want for our community? Is your voice being heard?
Please attend the Planning Workshop on Monday, October 8, 2012 from 1-5 PM held at Civic Center Plaza, Rm 328. in San Rafael, CA. 
Please speak your mind.  It is your right.  It is our community.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Do you live near any of these proposed low income housing developments?

From the Supervisor Susan Adams October 2nd Newsletter.

Red dots:
  • Marinwood Plaza, 85 units 
  • St Vincent’s and Silveira, 221 units 
  • Grady Ranch (Lucas Valley), 240 units 
  • Big Rock Deli (Lucas Valley), 80 units
  • Rotary Field (Lucas Valley), 60 units
Blue Dots:
  • Oakview (along 101)28 Single Family Homes and 150 units
  • Luiz Ranch (aka Rocking H ranch in Lucas Valley) up to 280 units low income households
Population according to housing element is expect to be 2.23 people per household.
Do you live close to any of these proposed developments?  Do you have some questions or concerns about the increase in population and density in Marinwood Lucas Valley? What future do you want for the community?

Come to the Planning Meeting, Monday, October 8th from 1pm-5pm and voice your concerns.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

From the Desk of Susan Adams October 2012 newsletter

Civic Center is celebrating the 50th year anniversary.  What will Marinwood-Lucas Valley look like in 50 years?
Note: This is the cover story of Susan Adams October 2012 Newsletter reprinted in its entirety.  It is also available on her site.

Our office has received a number of queries on land use issues in the district. These range from sites listed in the Housing Element which is undergoing environmental re-view, to the hearing coming up on October 16 on the application to rezone and develop 14 acres at 650 North San Pedro Road. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for the Housing Element is evaluating a number of sites that may be suitable for multi-family and affordable housing units. These include: Marinwood Plaza, 85 units St Vincent’s and Silveira, 221 units Grady Ranch (Lucas Valley), 240 units Big Rock Deli (Lucas Valley), 80 units Rotary Field (Lucas Valley), 60 units
As of this date there has been no development application to the County for either St. Vincent's or Silveira Ranch where the maximum units were set at 121 units (down from the 500 - 2000 units and 300-500 thousand square feet of commercial space that was proposed 12 years ago). An extra 100 units could be allowed but only if they are all affordable, for a possible total of 221. Units would be clustered on not more than 5% of the lands beyond the already developed areas. There has been extensive public hearings on these properties spanning almost 2 decades. The information is available in the Marin County General Plan which was approved in 2007 and is available on the county website.
Marinwood Village redevelopment is on the near horizon. The Marin County General Plan allows for up to 100 units of housing and mixed use retail in a walkable/bikeable community serving center with a plaza gathering space and green building practices incorporated. The community generally expressed support for housing as part of the redevelopment once a full service grocery was in place. As many of you know, the Marinwood Farmer’s Market and the Marinwood Market are both open and operating (Phase 1) and have added a new vibrancy to the community. Future redevelopment of the failed commercial strip mall with new retail and housing was one of the attrac-tions that brought the Marinwood Market owners to the site. Phase 2 is in the early stages of discussion with about 15 members from the Marinwood community leadership including members of the Marinwood CSD, Lucas Valley HOA, Casa Marinwood, Dixie School District, who have met with BRIDGE Housing three times to discuss the points that have consistently been important to the community about traffic, density, aesthetics, community serving retail, community gathering space and green, and energy efficient building.
While no application has yet been submitted, BRIDGE will be reaching out to the broader community soon with an open house to introduce themselves and hear input from the community. They believe that the community input will be important before submitting an application to the county. I agree. Once the date has been set, we will send out an email to our newsletter subscription list.

Regarding the other sites listed in the housing element, these are simply locations that were identified as possibilities for development in the distant future and will be evaluated in order to comply with State Law on the Housing Element. Areas like Grady Ranch and Big Rock Deli are, on the face of it, challenging due to a number of issues including distance from transit and community services, sewer and water issues, etc.
Oakview, which includes the hill between Highway 101, Lucas Valley Road and Las Gallinas Avenue has a master plan entitlement which allows 28 units of single-family housing on the Lucas Valley/Las Gallinas portion of the hill with 6 of those units being affordable and up to 150 units of senior living ½ independent and ½ assisted living along the Highway 101 side of the hill and across the creek from the Marinwood Plaza. There was a 2 decade process for the entitlement and to date, there has been no application received by the county for the development.
Finally, 650 North San Pedro is slated for a hearing October 16th in the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers in the afternoon. The agenda will be posted.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Prop 31 is bad for Marinwood-Lucas Valley.

Note:  The affordable housing quota that gave Marinwood-Lucas Valley 83%of all low income housing came from the unelected regional government Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).  Prop. 31 will new regional fiscal authority to "share resources from "rich" counties like Marin and give to needy counties like Alameda.  This insidious proposition 31 should be voted down despite it's high minded good government and efficiency appeal.  Voters of all political persuasions should vote "No on Prop 31".  It will significantly weaken our ability to govern locally and to control our community destiny.

Prop. 31 would regionalize state revenue sharing
Aug. 30, 2012
By Wayne Lusvardi
Despite regionalization failing miserably in the European Union, California is proposing to adopt it as a tax-sharing policy for distributing state funds to local governments if voters approve Proposition 31 on the November ballot.
Prop. 31 is a combined new law and state constitutional amendment sponsored by the California Forward political action group. Nicolas Berggruen, a European billionaire, is the biggest sponsor of California Forward with a $1 million donation to the pro-Prop. 31 Campaign. Berggruen owns the IEC College of vocation schools in California and is a registered Democrat in Florida. He founded the Council for the Future of Europe, which has proposed “fiscal federalism and coordinated economic policy” to rescue the European Union from its debts.

Regionalism Will SAP Revenues from Suburbs to Cities

Urbanologist Wendell Cox writes that “regionalism” is an emerging policy of the Obama administration, as described in Stanley Kurtz’s new book, “Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.” Kurtz is a social anthropologist from Harvard.
Prop. 31 will not result in new regionalized governments. Rather, it will end up in what Cox calls “fiscal regionalism” run by a committee. The tax-sharing facets of Prop. 31 are:
  1. “Granting counties, cities, and schools the authority to develop, through a public process, a Community Strategic Action Plan for advancing community priorities that they cannot achieve by themselves.”
  2. “Granting local governments that approve an Action Plan the ability to identify state statutes or regulations that impede progress and a process for crafting a local rule for achieving a state requirement.”
  3. “Providing some state funds as an incentive to local governments to develop Action Plans.”
  4. “Implement the budget reforms herein using existing resources currently dedicated to the budget processes of the State and its political subdivisions without significant additional funds. Further, establish the Performance and Accountability Trust Fund from existing tax bases and revenues. No provision herein shall require an increase in any taxes or modification of any tax rate or base.”
According to Cox, regionalization strategies are “aimed at transferring tax funding from suburban local governments to larger core area governments.” The Prop. 31 version of regionalization would not amalgamate city, county, special district and school district governments. Nor would it create new taxes. But it could authorize the state to withhold or divert taxes from local governments unless those governments adopted a “Strategic Action Plan” to distribute the revenues from the suburbs to the large urban cities.
In essence, a Strategic Action Plan, or SAP for short, would sap the wealth out of suburbs. SAPS might also sap the bond ratings from suburban communities.

Governor Would Become “Emergency” Czar

Probably one of the most controversial provisions of Prop. 31 would grant the governor the power to cut or eliminate any existing program during a “fiscal emergency.” In essence, the governor could usurp local government decisions on where to spend state funds.
Budgets for local public schools, community colleges or cities could be cut at the whim of the governor and the funds diverted elsewhere. The governor could conceivably use new emergency powers to divert state funds to his choice of regional Strategic Action Plans.

Why Democrats and Unions Oppose Prop. 31

Public unions have historically been concerned about granting the governor broader emergency powers. On July 11, 1999, the Gov. Gray Davis administration called legislative committee chairpersons to inform them that the governor intended to direct the outcomes of selected funding bills without consulting their authors or the legislature. The leaders of the legislature at that time — Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco — called Davis’ actions a “totally improper intrusion into the legislative process.” The concern was that Davis was going to kill a bill sought by labor unions to increase workers’ compensation benefits.
This explains why the Democratic Party is currently opposed to Prop. 31 giving the governor emergency powers over the budget. Also, any consolidation or revenue sharing arrangement of local governments might lead to the heads of local unions losing their jobs if absorbed into a larger union.

Why Republican Party Wrongly Endorses Prop. 31

Oddly, the California Republican Party supports Prop. 31. This is because Prop. 31 is being misleadingly advertised as a government budgetary efficiency measure. But a two-year budget and performance budgeting do not need the approval of voters to be implemented.
Budget analyst John Decker in his book, “California in the Balance: Why Budgets Matter,” draws on an example from the Schwarzenegger administration to explain why a voter initiative is not needed for Prop. 31, except for the tax sharing provisions:
“Amid much fanfare the year after his election, Governor Schwarzenegger announced the results of a year long internal effort to find efficiencies in government known as the California Performance Review. Though most of the recommendations made could be implemented administratively, few were actually taken in the form proposed.”
Local governments can form “joint powers authorities” in California without Prop. 31 and make their own decisions about revenue sharing. In an email to this writer about Prop. 31, Wendell Cox stated: “State law permits Joint Powers Authorities and this is all that is needed.”

Tea Party Rightly Opposes Prop. 31 Despite Paranoia

The proponents of Prop. 31 may say that the Tea Party and those opposed to fiscal regionalism are over-reacting to its provisions. But why are the proponents trying so hard to sell Prop. 31 as a budget reform and government performance measure with little mention of its tax-sharing provisions?
The East Bay Tea Party has more accurately perceived the dangers with Prop. 31 as the creation of a “super” layer of government that cannot be held accountable by local government elections. Unfortunately, the paranoid Tea Party also fears that Prop. 31 would measure the “performance and accountability” of local governments by United Nations Agenda 21.
No doubt this sort of paranoia reflects the powerlessness and political marginalization of the Tea Party’s members in California. But such paranoia gives the opponents of the Tea Party reasons to discount them as “wing nuts” not to be taken seriously.

California Forward Hides Tax Sharing Part of Prop. 31

California Forward is selling Prop. 31 to the public as “trustworthy, accountable for results, cost-effective, transparent, focused on results, cooperative, closer to the people, supportive of regional job generation, willing to listen, thrifty and prudent.” The touted provisions of Prop. 31 call for a “two-year budget cycle” and for “performance budgeting.” Prop. 31 is officially titled “The Government Performance and Accountability Act.
California Forward makes no mention in its filing or in its official ballot argument in favor of it that Prop. 31 will socialize state revenue sharing. And the analysis of the California Legislative Analyst is so neutral and narrowly focused that it is does not help the public understand the importance of the tax-sharing aspects. The ballot arguments in favor and against Prop. 31 also ignore that it would socialize local government taxes by regions.

Commentariat Mislead About Prop. 31

It is amazing that California’s journalistic commentariat has, thus far, only been concerned that Prop. 31:
* Is a Trojan horse that would result in “tweaking” environmental regulations;
Wendell Cox is one of the few that has caught the magnitude of the problem of regionalism to our democratic form of government when he wrote, “[D]emocracy is a timeless value. If people lose control of their governments to special interests, then democracy is lost, though the word will still be invoked.”
In an email, Cox further wrote:
“In general, the idea of tax sharing is negative. This breaks the connection between local governments and taxpayers, as tax sharing governments are, by definition, not accountable to the taxpayers of jurisdiction with which they share taxes. Milton Friedman was right in saying something to the effect that people are more careful about with their own money than they are with other people’s money. This would be a very bad step for California, which already is suffering significant ill effects from insufficient fiscal responsibility.”

Prop. 31 is Ripe for Abuse

Safires’ Political Dictionary defines “tax sharing” as “collection of revenues by the (state) government, returned directly to the (local) governments without (state) control of expenditures.” Prop. 31 would go beyond merely returning tax revenues to local governments without controls and conditions attached. It would be prone to abuse for funding political cronies and political earmarks.
When former President Clinton proposed a form of revenue sharing in an economic stimulus bill, Republicans described it as political pork and successfully blocked it. But in the California Legislature, the Republican Party no longer has any blocking power. Prop. 31 would be prone to abuse because there are few checks and balances anymore in California’s new “Fusion Party.”
History indicates bureaucratic agencies have a way of not ending up as policy makers intended. There is no way of knowing whether Prop. 31 would end up as some form of “Tennessee Valley Authority” that would usurp local governments and would be self-perpetuating without any sunset provisions.
Voters on both sides of the political spectrum should be concerned about the implications of Prop. 31.