Editors Note: This article was written in 1990 about Smart Growth architect, Peter Calthorpe by current Marin IJ Opinion editor, Brad Breithaupt.
Architect’s plan for new Marin town sparks debate
By Brad Breithaupt
Independent Journal reporter
PETALUMA — A novel scenario for Mann’s growth — concentrating development into new towns along the proposed commuter rail line — drew raves and raspberries Friday at a forum staged to seek solutions to the North Bay’s growing traffic jam.
Architect Peter Calthorpe pitched his concept, admittedly nostalgic of the way most of Marin and Sonoma cities got started, to 275 people who turned out for the North Bay Transportation Management Association’s conference.
Calthorpe said his proposed “Pedestrian Pockets,” involving building 2,000 apartments, condominiums and small houses methodology,” he said, suggesting pockets of “pedestrian-and transit-oriented development” could be built at the St. Vincent’s School for Boys and the Silveira Ranch in Marinwood, Hamilton Airfield in Novato and open areas bordering the railroad tracks in Sonoma.
Because the development would be concentrated, it would leave most of those areas undeveloped as open space, he said.
But Calthorpe ran into a buzz saw of criticism from Marin Supervisor Robert Roumiguiere, who said the concept isn’t politically acceptable to Marin residents who support the traditional suburban neighborhood development with lots of open space, not high-density housing.
“Being very realistic and a pragmatic politician, it isn’t going to work in Marin with 3,000 jobs and downtown-type shopping opportunities packed into 128 acres, is a reversal of the suburban sprawl that is threatening to turn Highway 101 into a parking lot.
The sponsors of the forum have been big backers of Calthorpe’s proposal as a way to create affordable housing in Mann, where the average sales price of a home was $389,654 in 1989.
“Our (current) land use does nothing more than extend the need for more highway growth,” said Calthorpe, who found support from state Assemblyman Bill Filante, R-Greenbrae, Marin Supervisor Robert Stockwell and Angelo Siracusa, president of the Bay Area Council, a group of the area’s major corporations.
“We just have an outmoded planning County. It isn’t going to work in Manin Sonoma,” he said.
Marin voters are not going to accept “high-density apartment-type living surrounded by fringes of open space,” Roumiguiere said. He stressed that Novato voters’ overwhelming rejection of the Hamilton redevelopment plan sent that message loud and clear.
Calthorpe responded that Roumiguiere’s vision is to build “exclusive enclaves for the rich.” He called that attitude, which closes the door on affordable housing, “ethically and morally repugnant.”
Filante said Calthorpe’s idea is “something that will work, that can work,” but sees it most effective on a smaller scale and used to redevelop and revitalize downtown areas.