Saturday, January 11, 2014
Friday, January 10, 2014
Since rumors began to spread that a startup called Palantir helped to kill Osama bin Laden, Alex Karp hasn’t had much time to himself.
On one sun-baked July morning in Silicon Valley Palantir’s lean 45-year-old chief executive, with a top-heavy mop of frazzled hair, hikes the grassy hills around Stanford University’s massive satellite antennae known as the Dish, a favorite meditative pastime. But his solitude is disturbed somewhat by “Mike,” an ex-Marine–silent, 6 foot 1, 270 pounds of mostly pectoral muscle–who trails him everywhere he goes. Even on the suburban streets of Palo Alto, steps from Palantir’s headquarters, the bodyguard lingers a few feet behind.
“It puts a massive cramp on your life,” Karp complains, his expression hidden behind large black sunglasses. “There’s nothing worse for reducing your ability to flirt with someone.”
Karp’s 24/7 security detail is meant to protect him from extremists who have sent him death threats and conspiracy theorists who have called Palantir to rant about the Illuminati. Schizophrenics have stalked Karp outside his office for days at a stretch. “It’s easy to be the focal point of fantasies,” he says, “if your company is involved in realities like ours.”
Palantir lives the realities of its customers: the NSA, the FBI and the CIA–an early investor through its In-Q-Tel venture fund–along with an alphabet soup of other U.S. counterterrorism and military agencies. In the last five years Palantir has become the go-to company for mining massive data sets for intelligence and law enforcement applications, with a slick software interface and coders who parachute into clients’ headquarters....... continued. ( See Story in Forbes)
More info and links HERE and HERE
Excerpt from the Forbes story:
"AT 4:07 P.M. ON NOV. 14, 2009 Michael Katz-Lacabe was parking his red Toyota Prius in the driveway of his home in the quiet Oakland suburb of San Leandro when a police car drove past. A license plate camera mounted on the squad car silently and routinely snapped a photo of the scene: his off-white, single-floor house, his wilted lawn and rosebushes, and his 5- and 8-year-old daughters jumping out of the car.
Katz-Lacabe, a gray-bearded and shaggy-haired member of the local school board, community activist and blogger, saw the photo only a year later: In 2010 he learned about the San Leandro Police Department’s automatic license plate readers, designed to constantly photograph and track the movements of every car in the city. He filed a public records request for any images that included either of his two cars. The police sent back 112 photos. He found the one of his children most disturbing."
“Who knows how many other people’s kids are captured in these images?” he asks. His concerns go beyond a mere sense of parental protection. “With this technology you can wind back the clock and see where everyone is, if they were parked at the house of someone other than their wife, a medical marijuana clinic, a Planned Parenthood center, a protest.”
|Susan Adams spent most of 2012 running for Congress|
See Quiet and Safe San Rafael Blog Post by Richard Hall Supervisor Adams Unresponsive to Housing Questions
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Guest op-ed column
|Stop the Strawberry Priority Development Area|
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.
Pedestrians walk past a high-rise under construction at Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times / August 9, 2013)
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Special to the IJ
London Transport demonstrates transit's capabilities in a city-centered metropolitan region.
"LT" is a network of efficient, frequent but expensive-to-ride subways and double-decked buses. The capital city's density is such that transit and taxis are effectively the exclusive means of intracity mobility.
London is also home of the world's first suburban railways. They made possible the very concept of suburb. Commuter rail demonstrates that the most effective use of transit in suburbs is moving residents of low-density communities to concentrated central business districts.
Other than New York, no other American or British city has such high density, allowing transit to work so effectively. Recreating that mass in San Francisco or even Chicago or Philadelphia is unrealistic.
To imagine such population concentration in Marin or any other suburban region is preposterous.
Low-density Oxford provides a more Marin model.
Other than the city center, where a dozen blocks are limited to buses, most residents own a personal vehicle.
In Oxford, automobiles are essential to access the town's suburbs. Like Marinites, many Britons prefer a lifestyle in low-density leafy suburbs.
While there's good local bus service, it's most useful to those attending the university or working in the town's center.
There are lessons here for Marin and the Bay Area.
Rail, buses and ferries work well as trunk lines delivering workers from small- and medium-sized suburban communities to central job centers like downtown San Francisco.
Regional planners of the 1980s, aided by San Francisco's political left fearing the city's "Manhattanization," derided this model.
They wrongly believed that if Californians simply lived and worked in suburbia, the jobs-housing balance would be resolved. That turned out to be a model that could never be served by transit. The suburb-to-suburb commute is inherently auto dependent.
We're still paying for that fiasco. The percentage of Bay Area workers in central San Francisco plunged with the rise of large-scale suburban employment.
Planners now need to encourage the old but effective model of San Francisco as the Bay Area's employment center.
The North Bay is doing its part with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, a commuter rail line designed to bring workers south from Sonoma and northern Marin. Coupled with convenient ferry connections, commuters will enjoy the most efficient and environmentally sensitive travel mode to the region's revitalized employment center.
Trying to urbanize American suburbia is a fool's errand. Densities high enough to justify large-scale transit will never be created no matter how many growth-inducing blockbusters like Corte Madera's Tamal Vista Apartments are built.
The upshot will be the destruction of the quality of life that enticed most of us to places like Marin.
Given the travel imperatives of a mobile, two-income household, intra-suburban transit works well as an alternative, not a substitute, for the auto.
Americans — and the Brits — demand choices. In Marin, good, balanced public policy provides appropriate transit, improves freeways and includes a coherent network of bicycle and pedestrian pathways.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
A Florida Politician Tells the Crowd why he isn't for the Regional Plan Seven50 (like Plan Bay Area)
BLOOMTOWN HOUSTONOurs is an opportunity city with a style uniquely its own. Let's quit wishing we were something else and let Houston be Houston.
This may sound obvious to the average person, but in the wonkish world of urban policy and planning, the themes of the past decade have been environmentalism (smart growth), pedestrian aesthetics (new urbanism), and meeting the desires of the educated elites (the "creative class"). Each of these movements raised important points— the need for urban core renewal and infill, a lack of quality pedestrian spaces and neighborhoods, and talent as the new basis of global competition, respectively. But they also went a step too far — denying suburban homeownership to those who desire it, demonizing the car and excessively focusing on attracting a narrow class of outside talent by being "hip and cool" instead of developing skills broadly in the existing population. Improving life for the typical resident got lost in the clamor.
What do we mean by "improving life" and "upward social and economic mobility?" Kotkin's research team, of which I was a part, identified four enablers: additional education for self or children; affordable homeownership; entrepreneurship; and getting a superior job, better matched to the jobholder's skills with improved productivity and pay. Urban policies and planning can have a direct effect on each of these drivers.
How can a city make more of these positive changes happen for more people? Our prescription — and Houston's great strength — revolves around the theme of maximizing residents' "opportunity zone."
What constitutes a rich environment for these four enablers to do their positive work? The more education, job, start-up, or affordable home options they have within their personal travel-time/cost tolerance, the more likely most people are to take advantage of them. That's their opportunity zone, and Houston has managed to maximize it in four key ways.
The first and most obvious way to expand the opportunity zone is transportation mobility, whether by car or transit. What parts of the city can people access in 10, 20, 30 or more minutes? That represents their education, job and homeownership opportunities, as well as their potential customer and employee base if they decide to start a business. The longer the travel time, the less likely they are to take advantage of any given option. Most critically, mobility determines access to affordable housing within a reasonable commute. Houston has invested aggressively in congestion reduction and transportation infrastructure, especially freeways.
In many cities, mobility investments have lost popularity in recent years, usually due to the lament that any new capacity "will just fill up eventually anyway." The benefits of increased capacity — like more access to more jobs and affordable housing for more people — are not obviously apparent, and therefore are often ignored, while the direct costs in money, neighborhood impacts and construction hassles are all too visible.
Local leaders need to do a much better job articulating the real value of these investments to residents and voters.
Another common belief is that freezing mobility infrastructure (or refocusing most resources on transit) will help curb suburban sprawl and return people to the core.
The reality is that employers will follow their employees to areas with good schools and affordable, high-quality housing if employees cannot reasonably commute to them from such places. The end result is a sprawling, vibrant suburban fringe with a stagnant core as jobs flee outward. And the biggest irony is that sprawl actually increases under such policies. Once employers have moved to the suburbs, employees then feel comfortable moving another half-hour beyond that into the exurban periphery. As long as employers stay in the core, sprawl has practical limits if employees want to maintain a reasonable commute.
The second key factor is maximizing the number of people and jobs inside the opportunity zone. People have been migrating to cities for hundreds of years for the simple reason that more people equals more opportunity. More people can support more education and employment options. Businesses have access to more potential customers and employees.
The implications for policy? Well, for one, growth is good, despite becoming more and more unfashionable in many cities. It creates more options and opportunities for more people — existing residents as well as newcomers. Studies have shown that larger cities generate more wealth and innovation per person. Another implication is that reasonable infill and density are also good. Growth, infill and density increase the number of people and jobs in a given opportunity zone.
More people and jobs in a given opportunity zone also mean more discretionary income in
Monday, January 6, 2014
The demographic dilemma facing California today might be better illustrated by pictures of aging hippies with gray ponytails, of legions in wheel-chairs, seeking out the best rest home and unemployed young people on the street corner, watching while middle-age families drive away, seeking to fulfill mundane middle-class dreams in other states.
The vital, youthful California I encountered when moving here more than 40 years ago soon could be a thing of the past – if we don't address the root causes of an impending demographic decline. The days of fast population growth have certainly passed; the state's population growth barely equaled the national average in the past decade. In the urban strips along the coasts, particularly in the Los Angeles Basin, growth has been as little or half that level.
To be sure, particularly in this region, few would want to see a return to breakneck population growth. But there's little denying that California has shifted from a vibrant magnet for the young and ambitious to a state increasingly bifurcated between an aging, predominately white coastal population and a largely impoverished, heavily Hispanic interior. This evolution, as suggested in last week's essay, has much to do with what passes for "progressive" policies – high taxation, regulation and an Ecotopian delusion that threatens to crush the hopes of many blue-collar and middle-class Californians.
California's consistent net outmigration over the past two decades continues, albeit at a slower rate. Over that period, California, notes a recent Manhattan Institute report, has lost a net 3.4 million people. This outflow has slowed with the recession and housing bust, but could swell again, as in the past, when the housing market recovers, and people can sell their homes.
This long-term outmigration likely stems from a combination of persistently weak job growth, relatively higher unemployment rates amid generally far higher housing prices. Until 1970, notes demographer Wendell Cox housing prices in California, including Los Angeles and Orange County, were generally in line with national averages, adjusted for income.
But over the past four decades, California's housing prices relative to income have mushroomed to more than twice the national average. This is particularly true in places such as Orange County, where housing prices, particularly near the coast, are so high that younger even solidly middle-class families have little chance to enter the market.
These high prices are the result not merely of market forces, but also the perverse impact of Proposition 13, which allows people to stay longer in their homes, as well as regulatory restraints on new housing construction. The regulatory vise, if anything, is almost certain to get worse as the state's "climate change"-inspired regulations seek to all but ban new single-family house construction, all but guaranteeing higher prices.
Until recently, the impact of net outmigration has been ameliorated by immigration, not just the kind memorialized in Wilson's grainy ads but of the legal variety, as well. Over the past decade, however, immigration enforcement data indicates that California has suffered a gradual erosion in its appeal to immigrants; this is particularly true for the L.A. Basin. In 2000, for example, Los Angeles-Orange County received 120,000 new immigrants; a decade later the annual intake had dropped by 87,000.
Essentially, immigration into the L.A. Basin fell 27.5 percent while immigration nationwide remained essentially stable; the numbers of Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Washington and New York, in contrast, remained level or grew.
Particularly troubling has been the relative decline in Asian immigrants, whose numbers now surpass Hispanics, and who also tend to be better educated than other newcomers. An analysis of migration of Asians conducted by demographer Wendell Cox, shows Asians heading increasingly to places like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn. Still home to the largest concentration of Asian-Americans, the L.A. Basin's growth rate is now among the lowest in the nation, 24 percent in the past decade, compared with 39 percent in New York, and more than 70 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
Some, like USC's Dowell Myers, suggest slowing migration and population growth may actually be a positive, and claims "the demographic picture is brighter than it is has been in decades." He suggests that, rather than depend on the energy of newcomers, we now ride on "the skills of homegrown Californians."
Certainly, slower growth may help with our traffic problems and even provide a break on housing inflation, but the contours of our demographics appear less than favorable. Over the past decade, for example, virtually all the largest metropolitan areas – including Silicon Valley – have seen slower percentage growth in college graduates than the national average. The big exception has been Riverside-San Bernardino, which started from a low base but has appeared to attract some college-educated people from the more expensive coastal regions.
In contrast, largest rate of growth in educated people has taken place in regions such as Raleigh, N.C.; Austin, Texas, Phoenix and Houston; all these cities have increased the number of bachelor's degrees at least one-third more quickly than the major California cities. Although California retains a strong educational edge, this is gradually eroding, particularly among our younger cohorts. In the population over age 65, California ranks an impressive fourth in terms of people with bachelor's or higher degrees; but in the population under 35 our ranking falls to a mediocre 28th. If we are becoming more reliant on our native sons than in the past, we may be facing some serious trouble.
This pattern can also be seen in those with graduate educations, where we are also losing our edge, ranking 19th among the younger cohort. More worrying still is the dismal situation at our grade schools, where California now ranks an abysmal 50th in high school attainment. Our students now rank among the worst-performing in the nation in such critical areas as science and math.
If these issues are not addressed forcefully, what then is our demographic trajectory? One element seems to be a decline in the numbers of children, particularly in the expensive coastal areas. Over the past decade, according to the Census, the Los Angeles-Orange County region has suffered among the most precipitous drops in its population under age 15 – more than 12 percent – than any large U.S. metropolitan area.
The numbers are staggering: in 2010 the region had 363,000 fewer people under age 15 than a decade earlier, while competitors such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston increased their youngsters by over 250,000 each. Orange County alone suffered an 8 percent decline in its under-15 population, a net loss of 54,000.
If current trends continue, we may not be able to rely on immigrants to make up for an nascent demographic or vitality deficit. In fact, demographer Ali Modarres notes that L.A.'s foreign born-population is now older than the native-born, as their offspring head off for opportunities in lower-cost, faster-growing regions.
Ultimately the state's political and economic leadership needs to confront these demographic shifts, and the potential threat they pose to our prosperity. We can't just delude ourselves that we attract the "best and brightest" from other states without creating improving the basics critical to families, from other states and abroad, such as education, reasonable housing costs and business climate. California 's beauty, great weather and a bounteous legacy remain great assets, but the state can no longer rest on its laurels if it hope to attract, and retain, a productive population capable of rebuilding our state's now-faded promise.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com 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 illustration by krazydad/jbum
Sunday, January 5, 2014
1) QUESTION: Does the 2012 DRAFT Marin County Housing Element target the Marinwood/Lucas Valley Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites with potential high-density housing?
ANSWER: “Yes”, if the content of the 2012 DRAFT Housing Element remains the same as it is currently written. Please read directly below to understand why this is the case.
EVIDENCE THAT THE 2012 DRAFT MARIN COUNTY HOUSING ELEMENT TARGETS MARINWOOD AND LUCAS VALLEY WITH POTENTIAL HIGH-DENSITY HOUSING:
Each Marin County Housing Element includes an Available Land Inventory that consists of enough Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites to meet the projected housing needs of Unincorporated Marin for the housing element’s planning period. FIVE MARINWOOD/LUCAS VALLEY sites have been identified as potential Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites. Three of these sites are proposed for inclusion in the current 2012 DRAFT Marin County Housing Element (2007 to 2014) and two are proposed for inclusion in the next Housing Element (2014 to 2022) or else future Housing Elements.
Although we hope the county will stop adding affordable housing development in to the five sites listed in the Housing Element, we know that Rock H ranch and other property along Lucas Valley Road and 101 Highway has prelimary EInvironmental Impact Report (EIR) allowances for up to 280 dwelling unit each. While other areas in Unincorporated Marin such as Tam Junction are wrestling with much lower housing allocations of 182 residential units at five locations versus Marinwood/Lucas Valley' 500 plus living units.This can be verified by visiting to the County website
Marinwood Plaza will have all Extremely Low Income (ELI), Very Low Income (VLI), and Low Income (LI) tenants. Bridge Housing claims that most of their residents earn between $15,000 and $50,000 per family see http://www.bridgehousing.com/Living
For more evidence that the 2012 Draft Housing Element is targeting our area with potential high-density development, please read the 2012 Draft Marin County Housing Element-
2) QUESTION: Would the Marinwood/Lucas Valley Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites actually be developed with high-density housing, if they remain in the 2012 and future Housing Element’s available land inventory?
ANSWER: This is not a simple yes or no answer.
In addition to the owner’s personal preferences and financial parameters, there are State laws and County laws plans, including County zoning regulations, which would influence what could be built on a site. Furthermore, there are other factors that may limit development at the sites and still other factors, just as influential, that could encourage the sites to be developed with high-density housing.
Being identified as an Affordable Housing Opportunity Site, increases the odds that an affordable housing developer would become aware of the site and signifies to the developer that the site is zoned, available, and suitable for affordable housing, since these are the requirements for a site to be included in the Housing Element’s inventory of Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites. The designation also lets the affordable developer know that the zoning most likely allows for the County’s default density of 30 units/acre and that the County would be helpful in the developer’s pursuit to develop housing at the site.
So, being identified, as an Affordable Housing Opportunity Site, does not mean that, when the site is put on the market for sale, it would definitely be bought by an affordable housing developer and developed as an affordable housing complex. It means that there is greater likelihood that this scenario would happen. In addition, it increases the odds that the property would be developed at a higher density than normal due to the density bonuses, incentives and exceptions to development standards that affordable housing developers may be granted.
FACTORS THAT MAY LIMIT DEVELOPMENT AT THE Marinwood /Lucas Valley SITES:
Due to the physical conditions at the sites, development would be very expensive. This expense may lower the likelihood that the sites would be developed. On the other hand, there are numerous funding sources for affordable housing that would help pay these costs. (E.g. tax credits, One Bay Area Grants and local sources including Housing Trust, CDBG and HOME funds.) There is oodles of cash from Federal, State, Local and Charitable funding.
The sites are laden with environmental constraints, which may limit development. However, State laws (CEQA itself; SB 375) allow possible exemption and streamlining of environmental review for affordable housing projects that meet certain criteria. The proposed 2012 Marin County Housing Element also includes CEQA streamlining measures. So, potential environmental impacts from proposed development may not be fully evaluated.
LAWS THAT ENCOURAGE DEVELOPMENT AT THE Marinwood/Lucas Valley SITES:
There are numerous laws that would encourage high density residential development at these sites, including (but not limited to) possible streamlining of permit review so that future public input & environmental review of proposed development at these sites may be limited. One of the most concerning measures is Senate Bill 375’s “Builders Remedy”:
“Enforcement: SB 375 contains two remedies if a jurisdiction fails to rezone or implement programs by the deadlines:
a. “Builder’s Remedy”: A developer can build on any site that is identified in an element for residential development, as long as the development is within the densities and development standards specified in the element. The local government must allow the development to proceed unless it makes finding that the development will have a “specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”
If the jurisdiction illegally denies a development, a court can order it to comply with the law. The local government will have the burden of proving its action was legal….” (Summary of Senate Bill 375 by Housing California - http://www.housingca.org/site/DocServer/billsum_SB_375.pdf?docID=231
Again, please see the attachment to read important excerpts from the 2012 Draft Marin County Housing Element.
The above was written with much help from an article originally published by Sharon Rushton, organizer for Sustainable Tam Almonte. Their website www.tamalmonte.org is a great resource for learning about the 2012 housing element and the One Bay Area Plan.
We would lke to create a similar "one stop" website for Save Marinwood/Lucas Valley but we need assistance. If you or someone you know has web design skills and would like to help, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org