Editor's note: the KQED program about the Levine Bill AB1537 to change designation of Marin to Suburban generated a lot of commentary from Citizen Marin membership. Most of us feel that the bill is a ruse to actually INCREASE minimum zoning densities to 20 units per acre from 5-7 in most neighborhoods. The bill is enthusiastically supported by the pro housing activists, the Board of Supervisors who have been pushing for the urbanization of Marin
See the program the radio program and listen to the broadcast notes HERE
Commentary from Citizen Marin members:
I listened to the archived show on Marc Levine’s bill (Michael Krasny Forum on KQEDand wanted to emphasize a few points, for future messaging.
1. We keep dancing around, and actually ignoring, the important point of growth being inevitable and good. This whole program started from there, as does ABAG, that California is growing and must grow, without addressing this premise as anything other than a given. It’s a framing issue and I think we always need to emphasize this point. At some point, too much growth, unlimited growth, is very, very bad. Unsustainable. And it drives a Boom and bust cycle which favors the wealthy and exploits the poor.
2. The other framing issue is de-tangling the affordable vs the high density. That we are getting huge high density housing with only a bit affordable. That the state doesn’t count other lower density affordable housing which is unfair to local government and a big bonus to developers and their wealthy financiers.
3. Water IS an issue. Only an idiot would deny that. At what point are we beyond the tipping point with our water resources; with population rising so much that all our conservation measures are being lost? David Kundhart ignores the latest Climate Science for northern California which predicts the same amount of rain in a shorter period of time, causing more flooding AND more drought as the soils don’t ever get enough water to really hydrate. He was really such a blowhard on this program. And the rain DOESN’T FALL equally everywhere; it’s not equally proportioned on all of CA. Some areas will be hit harder than others.
4. But the main problem is that Marc’s bill will raise the minimum densities—or at least will not cap them. As he said, “It’s a floor, not a ceiling. So everyone can build at the densities they want or need.” And he trusts local politicians to do the right thing, such as we saw at WinCup (sarcasm alert!)
In addition, it would only address the density for this current HE, not the one that is already certified with areas specified at minimum 30 units/acre w/o full environmental review. So these parcels are essentially “pre-approved” at that higher density, plus state bonus opportunity. Levine’s bill does nothing to fix this: there is no retroactive fixing of the high density put into place by the 2007-2012 HE for the county.
And am I the only one to hear the iron fist in the velvet glove, when Marc said, “this gives Marin a chance to show the state it can build the affordable housing it needs,” …. or what? we go back to being urban? Get more high density forced on us? The Levine bill is just window dressing since it doesn’t change Marin’s designation to suburban permanently nor retroactively.
MCA’s lawsuit is the only one that addresses the HE the county has already submitted, which is set at the 30 units per acre. This is the only lawsuit in the works that is addressing the past very bad planning effort by the county, where environmental issues were ignored; where public notice was ignored; and where the County Wide Plan was blatantly amended to support it.
Other points showing the bill’s true colors:
"Minimum default densities"….the affordable housing people said this. State density bonuses are still allowed. This is why they are for Levine’s bill and why it’s a pig in a poke.
"Parking for Seniors is less because they don’t drive." Although they DO go out by roads in vanpools or by a friend’s car, since they don’t necessarily walk or bike everywhere; better than single cars perhaps but it only addresses land needed for parking while ignoring the impacts on traffic. Another issue requiring teasing out; higher densities will mean more traffic; more need for services, like water.
"Up to local jurisdictions to plan"….but local jurisdictions don’t seem to plan or promote good plans but wait for developers to come forward and present something. And again the state isn’t giving any points for low-impact infill development.
Nonprofit developers are in favor of this bill….Affordable housing advocates are in favor….ABAG is in favor….
Um, need I say more? This is not the bill you are looking for…. Fool me once….
I definitely agree with your analysis but I think you stop short. This is a bill to save face for the Supervisors and Levine and to cause local folks to look at the County and the state as less threatening when in reality the state legislature is actively trying to extend their reach so that local control is in the distant past. The face saving is to show that unincorporated Marin County can do as well as Novato did.
The worst part of what Kinsey and Arnold have done is to co-operate extensively with the urbanization of the 101 Corridor, posing the question as either agriculture and recreation in West Marin AND unlimited development on the 101 Corridor OR West Marin falling to development interests to keep the 101 Corridor as a string of towns, separated by greenbelts. This is a false choice which misleads the people. The original bargain, the Countywide Plan of 1973 NEVER included overpopulating Marin with continuous high density development along 101 while it DID intend to retain West Marin for agriculture and recreation zones and to protect the unique character of each of the towns in all of Marin.
Your points are well stated. I phoned into Forum with the intent of highlighting that the densification of Marin has nothing to do with affordable housing or greenhouse gases and everything to do with promoting construction; I also planned to chimd in about points 2 and 4 on your list (affordable vs. high density; and that even "suburban" ABAG densities are highly dense, and all the more so with bonuses). Unfortunately my call was dropped about 15 seconds in, so I was unable to make any of those points.
It is quite unfortunate that Kunhardt had so many more minutes than Susan K or I would have had in total. One would guess that his support of the ABAG/MTC (and CA political hierarchy's) agenda, opens all kinds of doors that don't open as readily for us.
While on one level, this is a source of immense strength to the power structure that is advancing these kinds of plans for the rest of us, it's also an even greater weakness. The general public instinctively, in their very being, believes in fair play, and honest and open deliberation of issues of public concern. The fact that the power structure needs to rig the outcome, and rig the process--even to the point of rigging a putatively objective presentation on this issues like Forum, is a critical, critical point of vulnerability on their part--one that will prove decisive when and if the general public understands they are doing this.
I got involved in all of this 2.5 years ago when a friend asked me to go to an ABAG-MTC Plan Bay Area hearing. I knew nothing about Plan Bay Area, didn't even know there were regional agencies, and couldn't spell "MTC" if you asked me to. And I still knew nothing about any of these after the hearing...but I could tell there was something terribly wrong. I could tell the process was completely rigged. That's why I started investigating this, and that's why I got involved. If someone who knows so little about this as I did can get engaged because I realized something was wrong about this process, and only because a friend asked me to look into this, virtually anyone can. Once a critical mass of the public does so, they will insist that these kinds of plans, and this kind of planning, be stopped.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said it for me ..."Change is inevitable but growth is optional" and of course the growth being projected is not sustainable