|Stop the Strawberry Priority Development Area|
NUMEROUS "rebels with a cause" have spoken up against Priority Development Areas in Marinwood, San Rafael's Civic Center area , and Tam Valley —and have won.
That's not the case in Strawberry where, after months of requests, supervisors have yet to even place the issue on their agenda.We've read opponents "haven't shown they are speaking for a majority of their neighbors." While not a hearing requisite, the numbers suggest otherwise.
To date, more than 700 have signed petitions to remove Strawberry as a PDA. Those favoring inclusion have been oddly silent. In fact, nobody appears to be speaking up for a Strawberry PDA — except our non-resident supervisor, Kate Sears.
Of former Strawberry Recreation District directors and Strawberry Design Review Board members located, every past member has signed a letter opposing PDA inclusion — without exception.
These community representatives have served Strawberry for a combined 162 years and understand what's at stake.
They understand how dense mega-housing blocks like Novato's Millworks and Corte Madera's Tamal Vista would negatively impact Strawberry. They understand our serious traffic and parking issues, our crowded schools and overburdened facilities. They understand how the combination of a PDA designation and state-mandated housing quotas will eventually usher in high density development.
They understand visual blight and don't want it in Strawberry.
It's been said that PDAs won't change zoning, but that isn't the issue. Mixed-use zoning already exists throughout Strawberry and awaits "encouraged" development. That encouragement comes in the form of streamlined approvals, tax breaks, waivers, and other incentives.
Once state funding is leveraged to this end, the floodgates will open for higher-density projects.
To suggest local design committees have the final say is incorrect. Development entitlements are rarely challenged in design review.
Indeed, the only benefit offered our community is the promise of transportation dollars that may — or may not benefit the area.
Once consultants are paid, most believe the amount would be minimal. With increased usage brought on by denser development, it's hard to imagine any traffic improvement.
Fifty years ago, a group of Marin activists challenged pro-development supervisors and won. Thanks to them, we now enjoy the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Point Reyes National Seashore — free of the high-rise housing developments that would have littered these landscapes. Their efforts were chronicled in the inspiring film "Rebels With A Cause."
Today, Marin faces another assault by high-density housing advocates. This time, it's by state-mandated housing quotas that will bring more urban-style housing blocks to Marin. Groups like the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission use funding allotments to promote this density in Marin's transportation corridor.
The latest folly would urbanize Larkspur Landing, further clogging one of the worst freeway connectors (Highway 101 to Highway 580) in all of California.
In Strawberry, the prime target is the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary property, which doesn't even meet the PDA's own standard of proximity to transit.
As a member of the county Regulatory Improvements Advisory Committee (a.k.a. "Red Tape Committee"), I can say one of our primary recommendations will be to provide a more cooperative, "team" approach for planning projects. That means listening and working together.
To date, the Board of Supervisors hasn't taken this approach with Strawberry. Residents question Supervisor Sears' unyielding attitude in particular.
To learn more, come to the Strawberry Community Association's public meeting Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Strawberry Recreation Center, or visit www.Savestrawberry.org to access the petition.
Marin's historic tradition of preserving its character is being challenged once again. The concepts of PDAs and mandated housing quotas might seem obscure, but their unbridled implementation will be anything but.
Charles Ballinger of Strawberry is a former chairman of the Strawberry Design Review Board. He also served on the county Regulatory Improvements Advisory Committee.