Saturday, March 2, 2013

LEARN: One Bay Area Plan Video

Here is a good overview what is happening at the One Bay Area meetings throughout the Bay Area. Please note that these are thoughtful everyday citizens,  not all of them are extremist some would have you believe.

Welcome to the Sequester of 2013. Too bad you don't have the LIHTC tax credit.

Welcome to the Fiscal Cliff of 2013.
If you are real smart,  maybe even a "neighborhood leader" you can avoid a "whole lotta taxes" if you are fortunate enough to be able to invest in Bridge Housing LIHTC credit.
"That's right!  I can promise you risk-free BIG RETURNS when you invest in Bridge Housing LIHTC!"

"The way it works is I build high quality "green housing" with my "non profit" corporation and I sell you my "tax credits" for a huge discount. Since you are paying taxes anyhow, my tax credit will give you a RISK FREE return on your money!"

"I've got the politicians throwing money at me to improve empty lots all over Marin. At Marinwood Village, my people have nearly have the project in the bag. Marin County Supervisors have given me special studies, staff time, waived my development fees,  minimized my taxes (which I will soon apply to for full rebates). "

" Local taxpayers will pay for all of my typical developer's costs and pay nearly all the increased  to improve traffic, parking, police, fire, school and most impact fees. As you know this can add up to millions for the typical private real estate developer.  Heck,  I am getting them to rewrite CEQA and design review laws too.  Instead of messy public hearings,  my contacts in the Community Development Department have their "rubber stamp" ready to approve my projects."

"Don't worry about public opinion.  We will snow the public.  We will make them feel guilty and racist if they don't buy our plan.  We will tell them that more high density housing, will be greener and won't cost them a thing.  Suckers!"

"So you just write me a check here for let's say $28,000,000 dollars and I will give you $40,000,000 in tax credits to cover your 2013 tax bill.  You just made $12,000,000 on your investment!"  You can even tell your buddies and the general public, you are a socially responsible concern!"


"What? You don't have a $40,000,000 tax liability?  I guess you are not the "player" I thought you were.  You need to be a big time bank,  insurance company,  pension fund to play.  Too bad.

 "I still have other favors coming your way if you can help me.  We still need people as  neighborhood leaders. We have oodles of goodies, just for you"

Paying taxes in 2013 is for middle class suckers.

[For more information on the LIHTC see Understanding the LIHTC]

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dispatch from Novato, "We need answers first"

Are we merely pawns of government?

I need some answers about some of these affordable housing ground rules from the state.
I want clarification about building 30 units per acre of housing plus a bonus of 35 percent equaling 40 units to more than 100 units with few or no constraints. In addition, does the state require that 50 percent of the units be for market rate? Does that mean that 200 or more units will be developed on sites around Novato?

The state, high-density groups, plus supervisors, builders, and developers favor few or no constraints for traffic, design, or concern for impacts on schools, safety and infrastructure in Novato. “Build, Baby, Build” is their motto as long as there are federal and state tax dollars for their political and economical agendas.

Forget about the social impacts on the quality of life in Novato when the threshold of high density is paid by the next generations.

Forget about drought, earthquakes, water quality, community gardens, trees, deer, flowers, wildlife, wetlands, watersheds, shade, valleys, forests, red roses and blue skies, too.

Forget about knowing your neighbors, your community and religious institutions.

Forget about the social, economical and environmental costs to the rural and suburban residents.

One solution for the future is plan for 20 units per acre or less on some locations.

The city staff is apparently afraid or reluctant to do this without the Novato City Council saying the buck stops here (I am from Missouri, home state of Harry S. “Buck Stops Here” Truman, where conservation was ingrained into our souls in school). A solution of 20 units or less needs a feasibility study to show the state that the sites are buildable. Building 30-40-100 units per acre plus adding 50 percent market-rate units to the low-income units do not require any feasibility studies from cities and costs less for the city planners. For whom do they work?

In addition, the county now wants the Atherton mobile Home park on the east side of 101 for multiple low-income housing. 300 or more units on that site plus additional 50 percent market rate units will wreak havoc on Novato’s vision of a small-town atmosphere.

Furthermore, the county has added back to their quota list the St. Vincent’s parcels near Marinwood, which would add another 1,200 units plus the 50 percent market rate units, plus cars in the future for the county’s quotas. [editor's note: this article is dated and does not show in the current housing element]

Examples of high density in our rural, suburban county are the Millworks/Whole Foods complex on De Long Avenue in downtown Novato and the large buildings in downtown San Rafael.

Moreover, massive high-density buildings and millions of dollars for a passenger train system deny respect for humans and our need for open spaces, fresh air, clean water, parks, uncrowded schools, safety and cultivated land. Will robots and politicians replace conservation?

Novato must be the poster child for common sense and 20 units or less per acre. Feasibility studies will show we can do this and have a community that thrives now and in the future.
No more passing the buck.

Support our city and advocate for lowest densities of 20 units an acre or less.
Please see parts of: California Government Code Section 65583.2
(d) For purposes of this section, metropolitan counties, nonmetropolitan counties, and nonmetropolitan counties with micropolitan areas are as determined by the United States Census Bureau. Nonmetropolitan counties with micropolitan areas include the following counties: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada,
Tehama, and Tuolumne and such other counties as may be determined by the United States Census Bureau to be nonmetropolitan counties with micropolitan areas in the future.
(e) A jurisdiction is considered suburban if the jurisdiction does not meet the requirements of clauses (i) and (ii) of subparagraph (B) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) and is located in a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of less than 2,000,000 in population, unless that jurisdiction's population is greater than 100,000, in which case it is considered metropolitan. Counties, not including the City and County of San Francisco, will be considered suburban unless they are in a MSA of 2,000,000 or greater in population in which case they are considered metropolitan.

Editor's Note:  The Housing quota assumes all of Marin is an "urban" county despite the obvious densities that suggest rural/suburban.  The county of Marin considers all of unincorporated Marin as a "single jurisdiction" with a population over 50,000, This mandates 30 units per acre designation for affordable housing which is the same as the Sunset district of San Francisco. 

Despite the fact that Marinwood/Lucas Valley has a population of only 6000 we have 71% of all affordable housing for unincorporated Marin located within our 5.78 square miles .  We have our own fire department, ordinances, parcel taxes, share the Dixie School district with Terra Linda. 

Only by combining Marin City, Tam Almonte, West Marin, Strawberry, Santa Venetia, parts of Novato and Marinwood/Lucas Valley can we be called a "city". Without that designation Marin County would have us at no more than 20 units per acre like Petaluma. 

But there is another wrinkle.  By state law, a government cannot concentrate all of its affordable housing in a single district.  Therefore, it is unlawful to concentrate so much housing in our neighborhood.  Reconizing this problem, I believe some lawmakers are trying to change this law.

Some "neighborhood leaders", politicians and political insiders don't want you to know this.

Does this seem fair to you?


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bruce Anderson to hold public meeting about housing TONIGHT!

Lucas Valley in the 1930s

Bruce Anderson, CSD Director (appointed 2009)

Bruce Anderson, CSD Director and long time housing advocate will engage the public tonight, February 28th with his vision for Marinwood CSD's future at Marinwood Center, 775 Miller Creek Rd at 7 PM.   

Bruce has been advocating affordable housing since 2000 by his own account and wants to discuss a future vision with the community tonight.  He was one of the "neighborhood leaders" that was selected to offer input and advice about the Marinwood Village project.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In California don't Bash the 'Burbs

The suburbs ARE green and offer us a quality of life not afforded in bus stop apartments

by Joel Kotkin

see article at Don't Bash the 'Burbs

For the past century, California, particularly Southern California, nurtured and invented the suburban dream. The sun-drenched single-family house, often with a pool, on a tree-lined street was an image lovingly projected by television and the movies. Places like the San Fernando Valley – actual home to the "Brady Bunch" and scores of other TV family sitcoms – became, in author Kevin Roderick's phrase, "America's suburb."

This dream, even a modernized, multicultural version of it, now is passé to California's governing class. Even in his first administration, 1975-83, Gov. Jerry Brown disdained suburbs, promoting a city-first, pro-density policy. His feelings hardened during eight years (1999-2007) as mayor of Oakland, a city that, since he left, has fallen on hard times, although it has been treated with some love recently in the blue media.

As state attorney general (2007-11) Brown took advantage of the state's 2006 climate change legislation to move against suburban growth everywhere from Pleasanton to San Bernardino. Now back as governor, he can give full rein to his determination to limit access to the old California dream, curbing suburbia and forcing more of us and, even more so our successors, into small apartments nearby bus and rail stops. His successor as attorney general, former San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris, is, if anything, more theologically committed to curbing suburban growth.

Sadly, much of the state's development "community" has enlisted itself into the densification jihad. An influential recent report from the Urban Land Institute, for example, sees a "new California dream," which predicts huge growth in high-density development based on underlying demographic trends – like shifts in housing tastes among millennials or empty-nesters rushing to downtown condos.

Yet it's not enough for the planners, and their developer allies, to watch the market shift and take advantage of it. That would be both logical and justified. But the planning clerisy are not content to leave suburbia die; it must, instead, be cauterized and prevented, like some plague, from spreading.

Ironically, it turns out that the "new California dream" is more widely shared by planners and rent-seeking developers than by the consuming public. During the past decade, when pro-density sentiment has supposedly building, some 80 percent of the new construction in the state was single-family, a rate slightly above the national average. Over time, Californians continue to buy single-family houses, mostly in the suburban and exurban periphery. They do it because they are like most Americans, roughly four of five of whom prefer single-family houses, preferably closer to work but, if that proves unaffordable, further out.

This includes both working-class and upper middle-class markets. The more-affluent, including many largely Asian immigrants, have been willing to buy high-priced homes closer to employment centers in places like Irvine or Cupertino, near San Jose. Meanwhile, the less-affluent of all ethnicities continue to move further out, to places like the Inland Empire or the further reaches of the Bay Area. These peripheral areas have continued to represent the vast majority of growth in both greater Los Angeles and around the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, some of the urban-centric residential construction now being put up will, as occurred in the housing bust, may be fashionable but, in some cases, not so profitable over time. Construction is being driven mostly by tax breaks, Uncle Ben's essentially ultralow-interest money for wealthy investors and, in some cases, subsidies. Overall, the Wall Street Journal notes, the rental market is beginning to "lose steam," as people again start looking into buying homes. This may suggest that new speculative building in places like downtown Los Angeles – where there's good evidence that rents and occupancy levels are, if anything, getting weaker – may end up in tears.

To date, the anti-suburb jihad has been somewhat constrained by the recession and the collapse of the housing bubble about five years ago. But now that there's an incipient housing recovery in parts of the state, including Orange County, the constraints could be problematical, particularly for younger buyers about to start a family or for people migrating into the state.

The impact may be felt first in Silicon Valley and its environs. The planners now dominating the Bay Area want only highly dense bus-stop- or train-oriented development in the valley. Yet, notes real estate consultant John Burns, this does not reflect market realities marked by what they describe "as a resilient and ongoing preference for single-family homes."

Even more fanciful, they are promoting high density in areas, far distant from current employment centers, in dreary locales like Newark, south of Oakland, claiming workers there will take public transit to jobs in the Valley. The belief among planners and some gullible developers that aging millennials will choose to live in high density, far from costly San Francisco or Palo Alto, and commute to work by transit is somewhat north of absurd; today, a bare 3 percent of workers in Silicon Valley get to work by car, and downtown San Jose, the logical terminus of any transit strategy, is home to barely 26,000 of the region's 860,000 workers.

Some tech workers may put up with a few years of high rents and shared apartments in San Francisco or Palo Alto, but not many will want to live in expensive towers far from both Silicon Valley's primary employers and the amenities of the big city. Apple's plans for a new headquarters in Cupertino has drawn criticism from green-minded urbanists precisely because they rest on the sensible presumption that Apple's workforce will remain largely suburban and car-oriented. One can also wonder the effect on the start-up culture when workers have been forced to live in places lacking the proverbial garage or extra bedroom that historically have nurtured new firms.

More important still, forced densification, by denying single-family alternatives, is likely, and in some places, already is, spiking prices, which are up $85,000 in Silicon Valley in a year. This, over time, will force millennials, as they age, to look for other locales to meet their longtime aspirations. Generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, in their surveys, have found more than twice as many millennials prefer suburbs over dense cities as their "ideal place to live." The vast majority of 18-to-34-year-olds do not want to spend their lives as apartment renters; a study by TD Bank found that 84 percent of them hope to own a home.

Much the same can be said of Asian immigrants, who are now driving much of the new-home sales, particularly in desirable places like Orange County or Silicon Valley. Nationwide, over the past decade, the Asian population in suburbs grew by almost 2.8 million, or 53 percent, while the Asian population of core cities grew 770,000, 28 percent. In greater Los Angeles, there are now three times as many Asian suburbanites as their inner-city counterparts.

If California is not willing to meet the needs of its own emerging middle class, there's no doubt that other states, from Arizona and Texas to Tennessee – although not as fundamentally alluring – will be, and are already, more than happy to oblige.

Rather than seeking to destroy our suburbs, California leaders should expend their energy figuring out how to make them better. Rather than some retro-1900s urbanist vision, they need to embrace the multipolarity of our urban agglomerations. They could look to preserve open space nearby, when possible, or cultivate natural areas, parks, walking and biking trails that would appeal to families as well as to singles.

Instead of attempting to force employment into the center city, it would make more sense to expand home-based and dispersed work in order to cut down or eliminate commuting times. These moves would create both healthier suburbs and reduce carbon emissions without devastating the natural aspirations of most California families.

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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

VIDEO: The Framing of Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Daughter hugs Father (courtesy Marin IJ) see the complete story at Drakes Bay will leave

Editor's note: The Interior Department Secretary, Ken Salazar denied renewal of the lease for Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Pt. Reyes Seashore. The vast majority of us are upset that the National Park Service used falsified data to "prove" that the decades old operation upset the ecosystem in this beautiful bay. We decry the abuse of government power that will destroy a tradition and put 30 workers out of a job. Although, this video strictly isn't about "Saving Marinwood", it demonstrates the danger the abuse of government power by special interest groups (environmental absolutists). In a similar way, the One Bay Area Plan, is using questionable data to Urbanize Marin. The Marinwood Priority Development Area threatens to change our beautiful community to a cluster of high density apartment buildings around a bus stop. Drakes Bay filed a lawsuit hoping to appeal the decision. Please help them by signing their petition and send this video to your friends.
The Framing of an Oyster Farm - Drake's Bay Oyster Company from A Visual Record on Vimeo.

Lesson for SMART planners- The $1.5 Billion Milwaukie Light Rail Alternative-

Portland's failures should be Marin's lessons