Friday, January 11, 2013

Payroll Tax hurting? Guess who really benefits from Affordable Housing?

You guessed it.  The Wealthy Investors who buy Tax Credits to reduce their tax bills.  Keep this in mind when you are asked to "do your fair share" with increased taxes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gimme that Old Time Religion and Cleanse your Eco Sins!

A parade of fools

Like old time prohibitionists ready to rid the heathen world of alcohol,
the self proclaimed "Smart Growth" zealots are going to cure global warming by converting suburbs into Transit Orient Developments such as the Marinwood Priority Development Area to transform our community to a "Transit Village"
They claim among other things that Transit Oriented Developments provide
-Higher quality of life
-Better places to live, work, and play
-Greater mobility with ease of moving around
-Increased transit ridership
-Reduced traffic congestion and driving
-Reduced car accidents and injuries
-Reduced household spending on transportation, resulting in more affordable housing
-Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress
-Higher, more stable property values
-Increased foot traffic and customers for area businesses
-Greatly reduced dependence on foreign oil
-Greatly reduced pollution and environmental destruction
-Reduced incentive to sprawl, increased incentive for compact development
-Less expensive than building roads and sprawl
-Enhanced ability to maintain economic competitiveness
Of course all of this development and planning is done with our money with the blessing high priesthood of planners, politicians and crony developers eager to cash in. 
For a real world view of what really happens with "Smart Growth" you can examine the failures of Portland, Oregon to live up to it's promise.  In fact, despite the urban planning mania for "Smart Growth",  there is no successful example anywhere in the world.  It is another failed idea like socialism in Eastern Europe. Real world problems of pollution, congestion and corruption eventually seep into the imagined reality of 19th Century City Village life. 
Portland, Oregon is experiencing a mass exodus of business.  Nike remains but is considering a move to Idaho.You still can find a good latte, though.
For an insider's view of how they think check out:
It seems to me that we already have these developments.  They are called "cities".  Most of us left them to raise our families in the sunshine and open space in Marinwood/Lucas Valley.
Why must our Marinwood/Lucas Valley be destroyed to create their idea of a urban paradise?
Their mission is clear.

The Search for Holy Rail

Empty trains pollute more than cars.

The Search for the Holy Rail
Rail transit systems all over the country are losing riders and hemorrhaging money, yet city governments keep building them.
by Rachel DiCarlo 03/13/2003 12:00:00 AM Weekly Standard

Rachel DiCarlo, editorial assistant

IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO: The CEO of a large corporation calls a meeting of the board of directors to deal with a crisis: The business is losing four dollars for every dollar earned, much of the capacity goes unused, and the customer base, never large to begin with, is eroding at an alarming rate. The board huddles and after a lengthy session the solution emerges: Expand. Hard as it is to imagine that any business would "solve" a problem this way, the description accurately sums up the state of rail transit in this country. In all but a handful of American cities where it exists, transit ridership is flat or declining, cars run half-empty, and the system hemorrhages money. Take Baltimore, for example. The city's heavy-rail subway carries 50,000 commuters per day, half the 100,000 daily ridership originally envisioned. The situation is even more discouraging when it comes to revenue. Although mandated by law to recover 40 percent of operating costs through the farebox, the subway took in just $10.3 million in 2001 while operating costs were $30.3 million. Maryland taxpayers made up the difference. Baltimore's light rail, an above-ground trolley, is in even worse shape. The hastily built, single-track system only garnered $8 million in revenue in 2001, while it cost state taxpayers $32.4 million. Its near empty cars are the embarrassing legacy of former Governor William Donald Schaefer, who built the line to shuttle baseball fans to and from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Since opening in 1992, the original route has had other lines cobbled onto it, yet the entire system still runs far under capacity, carrying only 30,000 daily riders. None of these problems deters supporters, who see rail transit's dismal performance not as proof of its failure, but as evidence that still more needs to be built. The Baltimore Sun recently reported that Maryland state officials are aggressively seeking federal funds for a project that would extend the city's subway from 43 miles of track to 109 miles at an initial cost of $12 billion. Transportation officials believe this ambitious expansion will boost ridership to the extent that the city's system will rival the heavy rail Metro in Washington, D.C., which carries 643,000 riders per day. UNFORTUNATELY FOR TAXPAYERS, Baltimore is not unique. Other cities that have experienced the disappointing results of rail transit are forging ahead with plans to build more. Among them is Portland, which has the nation's most aggressive "smart growth" policies. Over two decades, Portland has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars for its two existing light rail lines only to see the share of commuters using them drop 20 percent. As of 2000, just 80,000 of the 6 million daily trips made in Portland were on rail transit--about 1.3 percent. And the city's traffic conditions are as bad as ever. The Texas Transportation Institute reported that Portland had third worst traffic congestion in the 1990s, behind Los Angeles and Washington. Still, a third line is scheduled to open in Portland in 2004. The situation in San Jose isn't much different. The city opened its first light rail line in 1988. Although original estimates projected that it would carry 40,000 riders per day, the high-water mark occurred in 1998 with an average daily ridership of just 22,700. Today San Jose's light rail cars carry fewer than 15 people at any one time. By mid-year the system is expected to fall a whopping $6 billion short of the money it needs over the next 20 years. Yet in the 2000 election, voters approved a referendum for two additional lines which are scheduled to open in 2004. But the problems are not confined to small cities. In Los Angeles, the city with the worst traffic congestion in the country, rail transit's market share is 270,000 daily trips out of a total of 65 million, about 0.4 percent. Miami is about the same: Of 15 million daily trips, only 55,000 are on rail transit, about 0.4 percent. And in Dallas, where $17.2 million of federal money was spent on three light rail branches and a commuter line, just 0.25 percent of daily trips are made on rail transit. Still, almost two hundred other cities around the country have requested federal money for rail transit. Demand has become so great that sparsely populated places like Sioux City, Iowa, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Staunton, Virginia, want federal money for their own systems. The twin cites of Minneapolis-St. Paul, one of the nation's least dense urban areas, have begun construction on their Northstar Hiawatha light rail line. If the new system were to pay for itself, commuters would have to fork over $19.00 per trip or $8,550 per year--enough money to lease a luxury SUV. WHY HAS RAIL TRANSIT been such a spectacular bust? Experts cite a number of reasons, one of which has to do with the way the systems are configured. Most rail transit is built to serve the downtown business districts in cities. But the days when downtowns functioned as the primary centers of employment are long gone. Since about 1955, when people and office equipment began taking up more space, most new jobs have been created in industrial parks and small office parks--areas outside of downtown. Now, less than 10 percent of the nation's employment in metropolitan areas is located in the old central business districts. So for more than 90 percent of commuters, rail transit isn't an option. Yet this fact is not an argument for extending rail transit into the suburbs. Employment outside of downtown areas is spread too thin to support rail transit. And any system serving the suburbs would have to include an expansive shuttle network to ferry commuters from transit stops to their homes or offices. So far, commuters have shown little interest in such a system. As transportation expert Wendell Cox puts it, "The problem has to do with the environment transit tries to serve. There is not a transit situation that can be superimposed on [a large city] that can get people to and from and around the suburbs." So is there a place for rail transit anywhere? If it makes sense at all, rail transit only seems to do so in the nation's largest cities like New York and Chicago, where more than 30 percent of commuters ride transit to work. But in other places the numbers plunge. And where transit extends into suburban edge cities, like Bethesda in suburban Maryland, or Perimeter in Atlanta, the trip share of rail transit is miniscule. But there is an even more compelling reason rail transit will never be a serious transportation alternative in more than a handful of places: It can't match the convenience of cars. Most people prefer to come and go on their own schedule, not one set by a mass transportation authority. Plus, in cars they can travel privately in much less time than a typical transit trip takes. Transportation consultant Alan Pisarski estimates that in most situations the average auto travel time is less than half that of rail transit. What's more, people do a lot of "trip-chaining." That is, they make side trips while they are out. A trip to the dry-cleaners might include a side trip to the bank, to the pharmacy, and to the day-care center. No transit system can replace the convenience of cars for these kinds of needs. BUT DOESN'T mass transit ease traffic as supporters contend? The evidence shows otherwise. Between 1960 and 2000, 1,500 new miles of transit were built and 64 million new jobs were created. During the same time frame, 71 million more commuters drove to work and 1.7 million fewer rode mass transit. In Washington, D.C., where the high ridership volume makes the subway somewhat of a success (though not a profit maker), the traffic is still the second worst in the country. "There is no documented case of mass transit making a material traffic reduction anywhere in the United States," Cox says. If the average commuter--the one who keeps voting for rail transit expansions--can be forgiven for not knowing the facts, what about elected officials and their advisers? Why do they consistently show such a willful disregard for those same facts? The answer has to do with several different groups which support rail transit. There are those who despise cars, roads, and SUVs, and want to limit them as much as possible--the "smart growth" types who would be perfectly happy to see people living the way they did 100 years ago. They subscribe to the "Field of Dreams" justification for transit, the idea that if you build it they will come. Then there are the civic boosters, whose desire for rail transit stems from the same impulse that motivates politicians to fund expensive stadiums to lure sports teams: The desire for status. As with big-time sports, most cities believe that they are not "big league" unless they have an extensive rail transit system. And lacking justification for the massive amounts of money it involves, rail supporters often appeal to civic pride as a way around economic accountability. In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O'Malley has come up with the novel justification that "if we don't have any better mass transit 20 years from now than we have today, we are going to be continually chasing our tail." But, when it comes to rail transit, it's the taxpayers who are chasing their tails. And they will continue to do so. That is, until they demand a reckoning of costs versus benefits and insist that elected officials at all levels stop making decisions that would get any CEO and his board of directors fired for incompetence. Rachel DiCarlo is a staff assistant at The Weekly Standard.

250 Citizens get stiffed by the City of Danville Planning Commission

Marinwood/Lucas Valley taxpayers will be forced to pick up the check for tax exempt Affordable Housing Developers and their tenants.
Editor's Note: Crowds are gathering in communities all over the Bay Area as the One Bay Area Plan are coming to light.  Citizens are discovering that property has been rezoned and hundreds of units of low income housing are being forced into their neighborhood.  It is interesting to note that Danville is objecting to high density 20 units per acre.  Marinwood/Lucas Valley is being asked to accomodate a MINIMUM of 30 units per acre.  This is a huge deal for us.  We will be forced to build another school or two and take on long term debt to accomodate our new tax subsidized neighbors. Meetings like this one reported by Heather Gass are being repeated all over the bay area.  We must stand up for our community and fight for local, responsible planning for ALL of us.

The East Bay town of Danville sure looks walkable/bikeable to me

Field Report on Planning Meeting in Danville 11/27/2012

By Heather Gass EBTP

Last night I attended the Danville 2030 Planning Commission meeting and boy was it lively. The meeting was packed, standing room only with over 250 people who came to give their input on the Draft 2030 Plan, Draft SAP (Sustainable Action Plan) and Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report).  I submitted my public comment card and waited for the meeting to start. The meeting was opened to public comments.

Many had submitted speaker cards to address the SAP and General Plan, but the program chair announced that their comments would not be taken at this meeting since it was only to cover the EIR for the General Plan or SAP. What?  This outraged many in attendance since the meeting announcement put out by Danville and the handouts at the meeting stated that the topics were the General Plan, SAP and DEIR for those plans. And how do you talk about an EIR for a specific project without talking about being allowed to talk about the project?? This is crazy. 

Several speakers who were allowed to start the meeting addressed this issue. Not a single speaker was in favor and later in the meeting when an informal vote was taken by a member of the public, not a single person raised their hand in favor of the plan!

The Danville 2030 Plan, SAP and EIR are flawed in so many ways I can’t begin to go into all of them, but there are several issues that jump out at me. The new plans call for the rezoning of 10 acres (8 acres at 25+ units or more and 2 acres at 20+ units) in the downtown area to accommodate high density stack and pack style housing in the future. And much of this housing would be very low and low income subsidized units by the tax payers of Danville. The reason for this is that the SDHCD (State Department of Housing and Community Development) has a statewide mandate to calculate how much “affordable” housing is needed every 7 years. These allocations are referred to as RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) and the next cycle is between 2014-2022, which in March it set at 660,000 new units for the Bay Area region.

SDHCD assigns the total to the regional COG (Council of Government) who then divides it up among the local municipalities. Much of these housing allocations are very low and low income units that must be according to these agencies injected into our communities whether we like it or not. Or whether a city can really comply or not. This is a huge issue with many cities and they are pushing back and some are objecting to the calculations and assignments.

Cities like Danville simply cannot tolerate high densities downtown and certainly the people of Danville should have a vote as to whether they want to absorb and subsidize this type of housing and population into their communities.

If a city objects to the allocation it’s up to the COG to reallocate a reasonable amount. The total never changes so when one city objects the burden shifts to Cities within the other 9 Bay Area Counties. The RHNA calculations are way over estimated and flawed, but they are being forced on our local towns and the tax payers are expected to support the rezoning of their towns to accommodate this growth in population and to pay for the subsidized housing and other essentials when these units are actually built out.

This will dramatically change the demographics of communities and there is no analysis or compensation for fiscal impacts to schools, safety, fire and other community resources that will be required to accommodate these low income subsidized populations once they are absorbed by a city.

Why isn’t the public more aware of this? Why aren’t we allowed to grow our local cities the way we want to? Why are we being forced to up-zone our towns? Danville does not have to take these RHNA allocations. We can object and fight them.

We can say NO!

These allocations are being forced on us and we must fight back. When we accept the allocations without contesting it, we are then required to rezone areas (10 acres in this cycle) to support that growth and the only way to support that type of growth is to build up and tight, hence the high density designations. Think what this will do to the traffic downtown. You think Danville is tough to get around now just wait until they rezone and start building these units.
Last night several people asked whether we could contest these allocations. We were told “no”. That is not true. Other cities have contested them and they have been lowered. Someone asked if we could just say no and we were told no. That is not true either. We can say no and we should.

Our town councils are our advocates and as such we should not be forced to do anything that would negatively impact our town and definitely not without the consent of the people who live in Danville. The consequence for a town that ignores their RHNA allocations and does not rezone many times is that they are sued by the social justice crowd. And the ugly truth is they sue us with our own tax money. Non-profit NGOs Non-Governmental Groups like Urban Habitat and others are just waiting to pounce on a local town that refuses to comply. The threat of lawsuits from social justice groups are driving the planning for our town! The town attorney denied the city will require very low and low income in these areas when they are built out, but he then went on to say that the developers will receive incentive bonuses for providing these type of units. So there it is the old point the finger at the other guy routine. Very clever. We’re not the bad guys… We just rezoned based on a mandate that we aren’t fighting because we have no backbone, but it’s not our fault if the developer builds and designates much of it to very low and low income housing. We have no control over that.
The question was also asked who is pushing for all this high density housing and the answer is MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) and ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments).  For those of you who have never heard of ABAG and MTC let me give you a crash course. MTC is the Bay Area Regional transportation authority. It was statutorily created to coordinate the funding and construction of mass transit and road maintenance throughout the Bay Area. ABAG is not a statutorily created government body. It is at best a quasi-governmental group. It calls itself “part regional planning agency and part local government service provider.” All Nine Bay Area counties and 101 cities in the region can volunteer to contract with ABAG by paying membership dues. ABAG deals with the RHNA housing allocations and is also tasked with creating a regional Sustainable Communities Strategy Plan for all 9 Bay Area Counties.

In 2006 the legislature passed AB32 the Global Warming Act which created a state level agency CARB (California Air Resource Board) to inventory GHG (Green House Gas) emissions statewide and come up with a plan to reduce GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020.  In 2008 the SB375 (SCS) Sustainable Communities Strategy bill passed which links transportation to land use. The SCS plan for the Bay Area is referred to as “Plan Bay Area” or “One Bay Area”.  This plan has been sold to the public as a way to save the planet from GHGs and global warming by transforming our single family residential neighborhoods and suburban towns into high density stack and pack housing next to transit.  This plan also advocates for a less cars, higher fees for parking, gas, bridge tolls as well as environmental and social justice.

There are $277 billion dollars in our tax and gas funds that are being handed to ABAG by our federal government to ensure that this plan gets adopted by the local municipalities. If local cities and counties do not adopt these plans ABAG will withhold much of their transportation funds. So our tax dollars are being used to coerce our councils into adopting this otherwise voluntary plan. You see, any town that wants their portion of the $277 billion dollar transportation pie must agree to designate an area within their town as a PDA (Priority Development Area).  SB375 page 32 defines PDA development projects or TPPs Transit Priority Projects as an area that is within ½ mile of a major transportation hub or is along a major transportation line and Danville is nowhere near  a transit hub with a minimum density of 20+ units per acre.

For the past 2 years I’ve attended ABAG meetings and we were told that we must give up our single family homes, reduce car use and focusing all future development into areas where mass transit ridership will be increased therefore lowering GHGs. But Danville is not a transit hub so people will still rely on their cars so cars will be concentrated into an even smaller area which will increase the GHGs. And to boot all these developments will get CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) waivers (referred to as streamlining). This means they will not have to do ANY impact analysis on emissions from light trucks and cars (See CEQA exemption details page 3 and 38 of SB375 I’m not going to get into whether or not anthropologic global warming is real or not.

To me this plan has nothing to do with decreasing GHGs it has everything to do with control and money.

When towns like Danville are forced to build urban high density housing where there is no viable transit and the developers will get CEQA  waivers the environmental argument is completely lost.
So other than including a housing element like RHNA, this plan is NOT mandatory and does not have to be adopted by our council or included into our general plan. In fact our general plan does not even have to be consistent with it (see page 2 of the SB375 bill Also in this June article,

Ken Moy, legal counsel for the Association of Bay Area Governments, admits that cities are not obliged to act in accordance with the plan. “No,” he said, “the state won’t come after you.” In fact the One Bay Area plan hasn’t even been adopted by ABAG and won’t be until June of 2013 so why is the town of Danville Planning Commission incorporating an incomplete regional plan into our General Plan which will affect our town for the next 20 years? I asked them that question. Chirp…. Chirp….

It’s interesting to note that this meeting took place after the election.  I imagine some of those running for office would not have been elected if the public knew they were supporting this type of transformational plan. I myself am not opposed to development as long as it is done responsibly, with private money and market driven. However, everything in this plan is about government regulation and control.

Many of us moved to Danville to get away from the stresses of urban living to raise our families. We like the suburban lifestyle in Danville and the small town feel. We enjoy our homes with backyards where our kids can play and we can watch them from the kitchen. We like our privacy and independence and we want Danville to stay that way. Danville is NOT a major transit hub and never has been. People who live in Danville do not move here because of jobs they move here for the small town family atmosphere where you can raise your kids. When you look at the new general plan it is clear that BIG development changes will be heading our way unless we the people of Danville do something to stop it!  

At the end of the party, we taxpayers are stuck with cleaning the mess.

Hi Density Housing Next to the Freeway? Think again.

Another reason to reconsider hi density apartments next to the 101 freeway- links to autism

Traffic pollution tied to autism risk: study

Mon, Nov 26 2012

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Babies who are exposed to lots of traffic-related air pollution in the womb and during their first year of life are more likely to become autistic, suggests a new study.

The findings support previous research linking how close children live to freeways with their risk of autism, according to the study's lead author.

"We're not saying traffic pollution causes autism, but it may be a risk factor for it," said Heather Volk, an assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders ranging from a profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to milder symptoms seen in Asperger's syndrome.

The prevalence of autism has grown over the past few years. It's now estimated that the disorder affects one in every 88 children born in the United States, which is a 25 percent increase from a 2006 estimate (see Reuters article of March 29, 2012,

The increase in autism diagnoses has also been accompanied by a growing body of research on the disorder.

Including Volk's new study, there are three articles on autism in Monday's issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"A decade ago, the journal published about the same number of autism articles per year," wrote Geraldine Dawson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in an editorial accompanying the studies.

The two other reports in the current issue deal with ways to image a person's brain to look for physical differences between an autistic and non-autistic brain.

According to Dawson, who is also chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, the number of studies on autism began to grow around 2000. Most studies, she says, deal with the biology of the disease.


Volk's new study, however, is one of a series of looks into how environmental factors may be linked to a child's risk of being autistic, done over the past few years (see Reuters article of July 5, 2011,

"I think it's definitely an area that's been understudied until recently," Volk told Reuters Health.

Unlike their last study, which used how close a child lived to a freeway as a substitute for pollution exposure, for the new analysis Volk and her colleagues looked at measures of air quality around kids' homes.

Compared to 245 California children who were not autistic, the researchers found that 279 autistic children were almost twice as likely to have been exposed to the highest levels of pollution while in the womb, and about three times as likely to have been exposed to that level during their first year of life.

They found that children exposed to the highest amount of "particulate matter" - a mixture of acids, metals, soil and dust - had about a two-fold increase in autism risk. That type of regional pollution is tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Volk and her colleagues also saw a similar link between autism and nitrogen dioxide, which is in car, truck and other vehicle emissions.

"This is a risk factor that we can modify and potentially reduce the risk for autism," wrote Dawson in an email to Reuters Health.

The researchers said certain pollutants could play a role in brain development - but that doesn't prove being exposed to air pollution makes kids autistic. They warned that there may be other factors that explain the association, including indoor pollution and second-hand smoke exposure.

"There are some potential pathways that we're examining in our current research that will be coming up next," said Volk.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, online November 26, 2012.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Marin IJ Article on Lucas Valley Road Petition

Beautiful Lucas Valley
A petition drive is underway to get more than nine miles of Lucas Valley Road designated as an official state scenic route.

The petition asks the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately Caltrans, to create a plan that could be used to protect the views around Lucas Valley Road, from Miller Creek Road to Nicasio Valley Road.

Liz Dale, a Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association board member, helped spearhead the effort, which she said began in May 2011 at a community meeting. The petition to create the scenic route began circulating late last year, and is regaining attention after the holiday season.

Lucas Valley Road Petition

Novato "greets" its new Community Development Director

What our neighbors in Novato are saying about Affordable Housing quotas

The article and comments on the appointment of Bob Brown as Community Development director speaks for itself.  I linked this article for the comments from the community concerning the appointment.  It is clear that the outrage of the community is not about "affordable housing" per se but the political process,  the addition of thousands tax free housing units to Novato that the community can ill afford and the unfair concentration of housing in their community. 

Also,  there is outrage about "double dipper" Mr. Brown,  who joins the young six figure government pensioners / bureacrats at a time of extreme financial hardship in local governments.

Affordable housing is being crammed into middle class communities in Novato and Marinwood/Lucas Valley so the wealthy can keep it out of their backyards.

Time to start Squawking!