Monday, December 1, 2014

Marin Voice: There's no room in Marin for projected housing By Randy Warren

Marin Voice: There's no room in Marin for projected housing

By Randy Warren

Wendi Kallins, in her Nov. 23 Marin Voice column, claims housing density proposals will "finally realize the dream of what Marin was meant to be."
Many of us in Marin would disagree.

Marin today is what Marin was meant to be. We should not increase our population beyond our capacity for traffic, water and sustainable schools.

Ms. Kallins says, "Densities of all kinds are appropriate for Marin." She outlines her vision, but many of us feel some densities are inappropriate for Marin under any design.

Utopian dreaming of what Marin could have been does not alter how Marin is today: We are built out to the point that we cannot sustain greater population without changing Marin's fundamental character. Unless existing neighborhoods are demolished and rebuilt in Ms. Kallins' vision, there is no practical path to her Marintopia.

Sonoma's 25,888 planned new housing units will soon overwhelm our transportation grid like a tsunami, threatening our environment and quality of life.

We should follow Corte Madera's lead by shelving further Marin development until we see if the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train delivers on its promises, and whether Sonoma's massive housing boom will already crush us.

When one experiments with density developments there is no do-over, no matter how sad or even tragic the result. The changes remain.

Think Win-Cup.

Then think more.

I truly understand Ms. Kallins' good intentions: There is unfairness in society's economic structure. There is a dearth of good environmental planning. There is social injustice.But not every proposal would be a pragmatic solution. We cannot reduce Marin's carbon footprint by producing even more carbon with a larger population. We need to improve our efficiency within the existing population rather than drawing more people to overgrow Marin.

Ms. Kallins' Marintopia overlooks an important point: Thousands of people came to Marin, worked hard, and bought homes here because of what Marin was then and is today. These people — our neighbors — invested their lives to live in their present densities, with pleasant surroundings and great schools.

For our neighbors who worked so hard to make San Rafael, Mill Valley, Fairfax and all of our lovely communities what they are today, "equity" must not be defined in a way that prevents our communities from remaining the size, character, and density we have relied upon.

Committing our lives to Marin created this social contract.

Our county government, rather than acting as good stewards of Marin's character, pushes a housing element, tripling the number of housing units the state asked us to allow. It is as though county leaders are deaf to the ballot box where we have spoken so loudly.
There will always be more people wanting to live in Marin than there will be housing available. The demand is simply too great.

In a recent radio interview, Ms. Kallins lamented losing the misguided 920-unit Larkspur Landing plan she thought was so great. When conservationists preserved 85 percent of Marin's geography from development, she claims the remaining 15 percent was supposed to be developed into "a city center corridor."

But perhaps her most important statement was this: "And the problem is the conservationists didn't stop. They have been fighting every single housing proposal that has happened in Marin ever since."

First, many of us disagree that eastern Marin County was intended to be developed into a "city center" from county line to county line. We oppose this view.

Second, when Ms. Kallins and development advocates view Marin's conservationists as their enemies, they should step back and rethink pushing their vision of "what Marin was meant to be."

Because even in Utopia there can be myopia.

Randy Warren is a San Rafael lawyer. He was a candidate for San Rafael City Council in 2013.

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