Thursday, February 7, 2013

Introducing our Newest Planning Commission Member, Ericka Erickson

Ericka Erickson

Editor's Note:  It would be nice if the Supervisors chose at least one resident of Marinwood-Lucas Valley for the planning commission given the number of housing units they are forcing on us.  After all, we are paying taxes and will pay the most costs related to 71% all of affordable housing for Unincorporated Marin that will be located here. 

They chose housing and social activist, Ericka Erickson.  Below is some information to provide an insight to her qualifications.

[Update: Ericka Erickson announced at the February 11, 2013 planning meeting, that indeed she is a resident of Marinwood. We couldn't be happier.  She is also a mother and we presume she will be sensitive to the issue of Dixie School Funding and increased taxation as a result of a large influx of apartment complexes that provide virtually no tax revenue to support our schools and community services]

Ericka Erickson has been appointed to the Planning Commission according to the Marin IJ.  Her interests include Social Equity-  The Marin IJ published the story 2/6/2013.

From Marin Grass Roots website

Ericka Erickson, MPA, Associate Director, has been working with Marin Grassroots since June of 2002 in various capacities. A naturalized American citizen from Brazil, Ericka’s background also includes more than 15 years of national and international experience in the areas of marketing, adult education, and organizational development. She has a Masters degree in Public Administration and a B.A. in Business Administration from two of the top universities in Brazil. A former member of the Marin Women’s Commission and of the Alcohol Justice’s Board of Directors, she is a current member of the Marin Women’s Political Caucus and of the Board of Directors at Brazilian Alliance. She lives in San Rafael with her husband Mark Erickson and daughter Eva, enjoys outdoor activities and teaches Zumba as a hobby.

She previously was involved with Urban Habitat  which sued the City of Pleasanton for more affordable housing  here

From Marin Grassroots Website

Press related to Marin County and HUD
KQED: “Group seeks to diversify area’s whitest county”
Marin IJ: “Report targets Marin’s NIMBY culture”
Bay Citizen: “HUD Scolds Marin on Fair Housing Record”
Bohemian: “HUD accuses Marin County of violating federal anti-discrimination laws”
San Francisco Chronicle: “Report: Marin is the Bay Area’s least diverse county”
Marin Magazine: “No place like home”
Marin Scope: “County to improve fair housing efforts after review”
New York Times: “Marin Agrees to Seek Out Minorities”
Bay Citizen: “Marin Diversity Plan Leaves out Minorities, Groups Say”

Here is her twitter feed:

LEARN: An Overview of Affordable Housing Law affecting Marin

Understanding  Federal and California Affordable Housing Laws

Here is an overview of affordable housing law published by Housing and Community Development .

It provides the dimensions of the laws that developers, politicians and housing advocates are using to bully affordable housing development against small communities.

Affordable Housing: Law, Policy and Practice

Of course to simplify everything, just "Follow the Money". Wealthy investors earn big discounts on their taxes with the use of LIHTC tax credit. Builders make huge profits and the developer earns perpetual management fees.  We middle class taxpayers are stuck for paying for it all.

Paying Taxes is for Middle Class Suckers!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Supervisors on LV Scenic Road " Build First, then We'll Save It"

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On February 5, 2013.  the Board of Supervisors were presented with an opportunity to preserve Lucas Valley Road as a Scenic Highway for the benefit of the community, tourists and future generations. 

It would have no immediate impact on the development potential of affordable housing, yet the supervisors were sufficiently spooked to dismiss the effort outright.

Many community residents spoke up in support of the project  and had signatures from a petition from community members.  Despite the passionate love of the land, expressed by supporters, the supervisors unanimously opposed the simple designation.

It is clear, that all of the supervisors want to concentrate affordable housing throughout the valley.  In addition to the five massive affordable housing developments now identified, it is expected that they will also down zone our single family homes to allow multifamily homes for their "Transit Village" utopian ideal of Smart Growth. (We call it Disneylandia)

This Board of Supervisor is turning it's back on the values of preservation of Nature that make Marinwood-Lucas Valley such a wonderful place.  We believe that they are concentrating development here, to preserve the leafy neighborhood in their own backyards.  It is NIMBY by the political elite against the politically weak.

Lucas Valley has timeless beauty

It is your Community and your Future.  Speak up and be heard.

Supervisor's "Perfect Solution" for Affordable Housing.

Is there really a need to build 71% of all low income housing for Unicorporated Marin in Marinwood-Lucas Valley?

According to Supervisors Kinsey, Sears, Rice, Arnold and Adams,  the answer is "Yes".

Our population in Marinwood-Lucas Valley is 6094 according to the census or approximately 2% of Marin County  .  Our land area is 5.73 square miles or  about .06 of the total land mass of the County of Marin. 

Why do we get stuck with all the low income housing?  Simple.  The NIMBY supervisors want us to have it. 

Although they claim that they also have low income housing in Southern Marin, they conveniently leave out the fact that most of it is very small senior complexes that don't impact the schools and social services like the large family complexes they want to build in our neighborhood.

The Supervisors hope to win millions of dollars in federal and state  grant funds for following the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) housing quotas.

Nice. They sell out Marin County.  Concentrate development in the politically weakest districts like Unincorporated Marin and they win the big dollars. Our guess is much will be spent in Southern Marin on multimillion dollar bike tunnels, SMART improvements, trolley cars, consultants and expensive studies.

Where is our neighbor Supervisor Adams in all this?  For the past ten years she has been serving in ABAG even becoming the Vice President in 2010.   We were even quietly named a "Priority Development Area" for urbanization in 2007.  Can anyone recall of a public announcement heralding this "accomplishment"?

It is clear,  that the Supervisors are in violation of State Housing code 65583 by concentrating so much housing in a single sliver of land known as Marinwood-Lucas Valley. 

Speak up.  It's your home. It's your future.

Even more Photos of Low income Housing

100 square foot apartments in Hong Kong



Monday, February 4, 2013

Please sign the Lucas Valley Road Scenic Highway Petition

We have a wonderful opportunity to preserve Lucas Valley Road as a California Scenic Highway.  It will protect our vistas and open space and protect the land.  On February 5th, the Board of Supervisors will hear the proposal. Please come voice your support.

Please sign the petition here: Lucas Valley Scenic Road Petition

More Bubble Trouble in California?

full article: More Bubble Trouble in California?
Just six years since the last housing bubble, California is blowing up another. This may seem like good news to homeowners and speculators alike but it could further accelerate the demise of the state's middle class and push more businesses out of the state.

On its face, a real estate turnaround should be a strong sign of an economic recovery. In Southern California, home sales have jumped 14 percent over last year and the median price is up 16 percent, some 25 percent in Orange County. We may not quite be at 2007 super-bubble levels but we're getting there, particularly in the more desirable areas.

Yet, before opening the champagne, we need to look at some of the downsides of this asset recovery. We are not seeing much new construction, particularly of single-family homes, so the supply is not being replenished as inventory sinks. Meanwhile, many of the homebuyers are not families seeking residences, but flippers, Wall Street types and foreign investors. A remarkable one-in-three Southern California home purchasers paid with cash, up from 27 percent from last year.

It's clear that this increase is not being fueled primarily by income growth among middle-class Californians; these "prices are rising disconnected from household incomes," notes one analyst. Indeed, California incomes have been dropping somewhat more rapidly, down $2,600 per household from 2007-11, according to the American Community Survey, compared with a $200 drop nationwide. California incomes are still 13 percent higher than the national average, but a lot less so than in the past, particularly given the much higher costs and taxation.

This leads to what is becoming the biggest problem facing the state – a decline in the rates of affordability. The previous bubble left us a legacy of more-affordable housing, an advantage we may now be losing. Historically, and in much of the country, the median multiple, which compares the median-price home to median household income, was in the three range. At the height of the previous bubble, the median multiple for the Los Angeles-Orange County metropolitan area, reached 11.5 in 2007, then fell to a still-elevated 5.7 in 2009, notes demographer Wendell Cox. It remained steady in 2011, but in just the past year the measurement has shot up to 6.2. A few more years at this rate, and housing affordability could worsen materially.

The new bubble can be seen elsewhere in the state. The most prominent inflation in housing values can be seen in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has enjoyed the most buoyant recovery from the recession. Never a cheap area, in 2006, San Francisco reached a median multiple of10.8 and Silicon Valley (San Jose) rose to 9.3. When the bubble imploded, the median multiple fell to 6.7 in both metropolitan areas, still well above any level recorded before the housing bubble. But now, amidst a concentrated boom in the western side of the Bay, the median multiple rose the equivalent of 1.1 years of income in San Francisco (to 7.8) and 1.0 years of income in San Jose (7.9) in a single year.
Of course, you can argue that the higher prices in the Bay Area are explainable at least in part by a growth in employment and wealth generated by tech start-ups. But what about soaring prices in places like the Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino), Sacramento or Fresno, where economic growth has been torpid, and unemployment remains well north of 10 percent? Over the past year, Sacramento's median multiple has risen from an affordable 2.9 to 3.2, the Inland Empire from 3.2 to 3.7 while Fresno's has gone from 3.1 to 3.5.

As these prices rises, the California dream, already increasingly off-limits in the coastal areas, begins to become less achievable even in the inland areas. Already, barely 55 percent of Californians own their own home, down from the bubble-period high of 60 percent in 2005 and compared with upward of 65 percent nationally.

Traditionally, the pent-up demand for houses would be met in the marketplace, but California's Draconian planning laws make this very difficult. In the first 11 months of 2012, the Census Bureau reports that the Los Angeles-Orange County metropolitan area had half as many construction permits than much smaller Dallas-Fort Worth, 60 percent of Houston's permits and fewer even than the relatively tiny Austin, Texas, metropolitan area. More to the point, more than 70 percent of L.A.'s construction was in multifamily units while the majority in most areas, (except for such areas as New York, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego) was in single-family homes.

Given the state's planning preference for high-density housing, even in suburban and exurban areas, there's little hope that California single-family home buyers can expect much relief. As millennials age, and seek out this form of housing as they start families, they will likely look increasingly elsewhere, for example, in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix or Atlanta. The great California exodus, which slowed during the housing bust, will likely pick up, joining up with the continued movement of employers to more business-friendly states.

In the short run, of course, not everyone loses from a new bubble. Owners of homes, particularly along the coast, will see a big increase in their net worth. There could be good times ahead again for what author Bob Bruegmann calls "the incumbent's club." With projected new units running at one-half their 2007 level until 2015, scarcity will help the state's graying gentry. These same citizens also enjoy a double bonus, since most are protected by Proposition 13 from paying higher property taxes on their rising property values.

The bubble may also have short-term positive impact on local governments, which may benefit from high property taxes if more homes change hands at higher prices. The "wealth effect" could also bring new capital-gains income to a state government whose revenue stream increasingly depends on the upper-class taxpayer, particularly after the passage of Proposition 30, which increased the state's reliance on high-income earners. In this sense, the asset inflation could help Gov. Jerry Brown enjoy his much-trumpeted surplus, and he may even avoid the deficit projected next year by the Legislative Analyst.

These positive effects may be outweighed by bigger concerns. The pushback against single-family homes will restrain the growth of the construction industry, still down 400,000 jobs from its 2006 peak. This is particularly critical for working-class Californians, many of whom previous made decent livings in this industry.

But workers and homebuilders won't be the only ones affected; so, too, will consumers. Without a loosening of regulatory constraints, pent-up demand for housing, particularly the single-family variety, will remain largely unaddressed. This will further inflate the bubble even in unfashionable areas. We may soon see a surplus of rental apartments, but not enough single-family homes; the ownership market, as evidenced by the rising median multiples, will continue to tighten, and prices could rise even more, even in a mediocre economy.

The groups hit hardest by this scenario will be middle- and working-class Californians, particularly above the age of 30-35, most of whom desire to own their own home. Unable to qualify, or unwilling to overleverage, many will be forced either to give up their dreams or look elsewhere, taking their talents and, eventually, their offspring, with them.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study, The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.
This piece originally appeared in the Orange County Register.
Photo by Sean Dreilinger: One of two adjacent bank owned homes

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dispatch from Berkeley: 16,000 new affordable housing households!

Even Berkeley is rebelling against their aggressive ABAG housing quotas.

16,000 New Households In “Vision Scenario” For Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday April 06, 2011 - 02:18:00 PM

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Should the number of Berkeley households increase by 34% over the next 25 years, adding as many as 35,000 new residents to the city?

That seems to be the premise of a low profile but significant item being transmitted to the Planning Commission for discussion on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.

If a series of recommendations drafted by regional agencies is put into effect, the number of households in Berkeley could grow from about 46,000 in 2010 to nearly 62,000 in 2035. State and Regional pressure will be put on Berkeley’s “transit corridors” in particular to accommodate those new residents.

Household growth, of course, essentially means housing unit growth, so that projection might necessitate the construction of nearly 16,000 new housing units in Berkeley or an average of more than 600 per year each year for the next twenty-five.

The projection is contained in a staff report by Berkeley’s Planning Director Dan Marks transmitting what the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) call an “Initial Vision Scenario” forecasting where new population in the nine-county Bay Area might be accommodated.

The draft document is a response to a 2008 state law (Senate Bill 375) requiring regions in California to have a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” designed to meet State targets for greenhouse gas reduction by concentrating residential development in areas where new residents are less likely to drive.

“The underlying assumption of the Initial Vision Scenario is that the region’s growth should be concentrated in transit serving locations”, Marks says in his report to the Commission. “Many jurisdictions in the region have identified such areas within their communities with capacity for growth. These growth areas are called ‘Priority Development Areas’ or PDA’s.”
Berkeley has already identified as part of its Housing Element six PDA’s, including Downtown, the Adeline Corridor, San Pablo Avenue, South Shattuck, Telegraph Avenue south of Dwight, and University Avenue.

To accommodate the “Vision Statement” expectations those areas would need to grow by nearly 5,000 new households Downtown, nearly 3,300 along San Pablo Avenue, and 1,372 along Telegraph south of Dwight to the Oakland border.

The “Vision Scenario” does not exactly state the number of residents expected per household. But using its assumption of some two million new regional residents requiring just over 900,000 new housing units, it’s possible to extrapolate a planning number of about 2.2 residents per household.
For Berkeley, that would mean those 16,000 households would translate into another 35,000 residents, or about a 23% increase in the City’s population over 2010 Census estimates.
Marks makes it clear in the staff report that he is not necessarily endorsing the ABAG numbers for Berkeley.

“As ABAG / MTC did not consult with City staff prior to presenting these numbers, staff cannot say how all were derived and is seeking more information from ABAG to get a better understanding of its process. While each of the PDA’s has substantial room for initial development…(City) staff has not generally qualified the capacity of these areas to accommodate new units.”

Marks then notes that the new ABAG / MTC numbers are dramatically different from projections of recent years. For example, in 2009 ABAG projected that Berkeley would grow by about 4,000 new housing units by 2035. The “Vision Statement”, just two years later, now ups that number by nearly 12,000 additional units.

“City staff has not begun to test the feasibility of the numbers generated for the IVS” Marks tells the Commission. “Our ‘educated guess’ at the moment is that for most if not all of the PDA’s, the level of growth posited in the ABAG / MTC IVS is far in excess of what is reasonable or feasible to assume. We will be commenting back to ABAG to that effect.”

The “Initial Vision Scenario” does note that it “does not take into account many factors that constraint the region’s supply of new housing units, such as limitations in supporting infrastructure, affordable housing subsidies, and market factors.”

However, it says, it “is designed around places for growth identified by local jurisdictions. These places are defined by their character, scale, density, and the expected housing units to be built over the long term. Using ‘place types,’ areas with similar characteristics and physical and social qualities, ABAG asked local governments to identify general development aspirations for areas within their jurisdictions. These places were mostly the Priority Development Areas…”

The driver, so to speak, of the “Vision Scenario” is that in order to reduce greenhouse gases, “vehicle miles traveled” in California should be reduced. “In order to reduce VMT, the fundamental land use strategy is to encourage more people to live near and use transit, and to develop more ‘complete communities’ where people can rely less on automobiles to address daily needs”, the Marks memo says. “The range of strategies that promote more livable communities near transit is often referred to as ‘smart growth’.”

Consideration of the “Vision Scenario” by cities and ABAG / MTC, Marks notes, will feed into the next “Regional Housing Needs Allocation” (RHNA) for the Bay Area which takes place every eight years.

“For the next round”, he writes, “the RHNA must be consistent with the SCS (Sustainable Communities Strategy). The SCS is the first time that there will be a regional development strategy that combines land use, housing and transportation.”

A relatively quick process is envisioned. A draft Housing Needs Allocation will be released a year from now, and ABAG is expected to adopt a final version by fall, 2012. The “allocations”—numbers of new residents each Bay Area community is expected by ABAG to accommodate—will then filter down to the local level as cities adopt their individual Housing Elements.

The “Initial Vision Scenario”, which Marks appended to his staff report, assumes the Bay Area will grow “by over two million people…by the year 2035. This population growth would require around 902,000 new housing units.”

To respond to that expectation, ABAG and MTC planners proposed massive increases in growth and residential density for some Bay Area communities, and went lightly on others.

In Alameda County, for example, the IVS posits that an additional 212,746 households should be accommodated over the next 25 years, a 38% increase countywide.

Emeryville has the highest projection recommended in the County—a whopping 130% increase in housing units from 2010 to 2035, while most Alameda County communities receive a recommendation of about 25 to 40 percent household growth. Oakland is near the top of that group, with an increase of 65,453 units recommended.

Albany—if the ABAG / MTC projections prove accurate—will have to find room for 2,167 additional households. In contrast, wealthy Piedmont is let off lightly. Piedmont planners will only need to search for room to accommodate ten additional households in the next 25 years to make ABAG / MTC happy.

Both Albany and Piedmont are small towns largely built around single family neighborhoods, have no BART stations, but are connected to neighboring communities by large arterial streets and are close to freeways.

But Albany is expected to provide for more than 217 times the number of new households than Piedmont is. Even the availability of more development sites in Albany shouldn’t create a discrepancy that large.

Wealthy enclaves elsewhere in the Bay Area generally receive similarly light projections.
Danville gets an 8.1 % housing increase allotment. Belvedere needs to fit in only 20 new households. On the Peninsula, most of the upscale suburbs get only small increases: Atherton (90 households); Portola Valley (50); Woodside (30).

There are a few exceptions for the upscale. Orinda, for example, is expected to accommodate nearly 2,000 new households, for a 28% increase, presumably because it has a BART station.

The same trend applies on the county level. Marin County is asked to grow its households by about 16.5% while Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties are all given targets of 37% or more and are, together, expected to take the “lion’s share” of regional growth, the IVS says.

Marks takes note of this issue at the end of his staff report. “Staff is also concerned”, he writes, “that other communities with a capacity to accommodate growth with a concerted infill-oriented strategy (i.e. without sprawling) in the same manner as Berkeley is shown in this IVS are not being asked to step up as much. We will also be commenting to that effect in the next few weeks.”
He did not identify any specific other communities staff used as a comparison.

The “Initial Vision Statement” for the region will be refined into “Detailed Scenarios” by ABAG, with a release date of July 2011. These, in turn, will then be distilled into a “Preferred Scenario” by the end of this year.

A public workshop on the Vision Scenario for Alameda County will be held May 19, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brower Center in Downtown Berkeley.

To see the agenda item, including both the staff report and the Initial Vision Scenario, go to:

Low income housing or "workforce" housing is a big business for the wealthy 1% who earn big tax credits while the middle class community must pay for the tax burden of a new population for 55 years.