Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday Night Videos

43,000 Feet from Campbell Hooper on Vimeo.

Transmission from Jared D. Weiss on Vimeo.

PORTRAIT from MILKYEYES - donato sansone on Vimeo.

Notes on Blindness from The New York Times - Video on Vimeo.

IDIOTS from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.
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"The World of Lisa Frank" - A Short Film from Scott Ross on Vimeo.
This is (to our knowledge) the first on camera or audio interview with Lisa Frank ever made public. Urban Outfitters, who was buying Lisa Frank's vintage stock, got her permission to short this short documentary, and we flew out to Tuscon, AZ to direct it. Lisa is an awesome, classy lady, but she values her privacy and preferred to be filmed in silhouette. We had a lot more interesting footage that couldn't make it into the final cut. The guy dancing in the bear costume is Scott, the guy in the leopard costume is Lisa Frank's young son.

Directed by Scott Ross & Karl Beyer (www.scottandkarl.tv), along with producer John Osborne
Interview conducted by Kate Williams
Music by Evan Younger, performed by members of Miracles of Modern Science
Produced by Urban Outfitters (www.urbanoutfitters.com)

We must be allowed to Insult each other

Rowan Atkinson: we must be allowed to insult each other

Rowan Atkinson has launched a campaign for a change in the law that bans "insulting words and behaviour".

Rowan Atkinson launches campaign against 'insult' ban
Rowan Atkinson Photo: REX FEATURES
The Blackadder and Mr Bean star attacked the "creeping culture of censoriousness" which has resulted in the arrest of a Christian preacher, a critic of Scientology and even a student making a joke, it was reported.
He criticised the "new intolerance" as he called for part of it the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a "chilling effect on free expression and free protest".
Mr Atkinson said: "The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult."
Police and prosecutors are accused of being over-zealous in their interpretation of Section 5 of the Act, which outlaws threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour, the Daily Mail reported.
What constitutes "insulting" is not clear. It has resulted in a string of controversial arrests.
They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a placard reading "Scientology is a dangerous cult", and gay rights campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays, Jews and women.
Mr Atkinson said he hoped the repeal of Section 5 would pave the way for a move to "rewind the culture of censoriousness" and take on the "outrage industry - self-appointed arbiters of the public good encouraging outrage to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react".
Speaking at the Westminster launch of the campaign, he added: "The law should not be aiding and abetting the new intolerance."
He was joined by Lord Dear, former chief constable of West Midlands Police, and former shadow home secretary David Davis.
Mr Davis said: "The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right."
The campaign has united an unlikely coalition of support including The Christian Institute and The National Secular Society as well as Big Brother Watch, The Freedom Association and The Peter Tatchell Foundation. 

Susan Adams explains Regionalism and One Bay Area Plan


Our neighbor and Marin County Supervisor, Susan Adams has served as the Vice President of the Association of Bay Area Governments.  In this video she explains  the history and objectives of the one bay area plan . 

Supervisor Susan Adams is the Marin County Supervisor of District One that includes Terra Linda in San Rafael and Marinwood- Lucas Valley.    83 % of all low income housing units proposed for all of unincorporated Marin according to the 2012 Housing Element are located within Marinwood-Lucas Valley.  She was also instrumental in securing Priority Development Areas at the Civic Center Station near Northgate Mall in Terra Linda and Marinwood (see map page on this website) which may result in the highest concentration of high density housing development in the county.

Priority Development Areas are special areas that are provided grants and special financing for creating high density housing.  Zoning and other development rules may be changed in these areas to "streamline" development.  

Find out more by links provided by articles at this site,  Marin County,  ABAG and the MTC.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Night Folk Blues

The next threat to your Neighborhood may be "Monster Houses"


The overarching principle behind Plan Bay Area and "Smart Growth" is densification of living along major transportation corridors. Thus, like Seattle, Portland and other areas we can expect not only multi-family homes being built in single family neighborhoods, but also Monster Houses where lots will be split and more houses built per lot.  As you can see in this newscast from Seattle, the neighborhoods are fighting back.  You can find out more by visiting www.onehomeperlot.com.  In a few years, I expect the battle to save our neighborhoods will affect ALL areas within a  mile of the 101 corridor.  We must Save Marin Again!

The Smart Growth Planners Steam Roll San Franscisco's SOMA.

The attack on Soma: City wants to create a new downtown, wiping out culture and thousands of blue-collar jobs

48hillssoma1
By Zelda Bronstein
(first of a series on South of Market development)
Four years ago, Donny Beckwith lived and worked in San Francisco. He and his wife rented a one-bedroom apartment on Nob Hill for $1,450 a month. “It was perfect for us,” Beckwith says. But when they started a family, they needed more space. “There was no way we could rent anything else in the city, and it was a good time to buy a house.” They bought one—in Castro Valley.

Beckwith still works in San Francisco, commuting to the same job he had in 2010. He manages Interior Moves, a South of Market business that receives, inspects, and installs high-end furniture. But if the city’s Planning Department has its way, he and the firm’s 13 other employees won’t be working in San Francisco much longer.

The planners want to change the zoning for a large swath of SoMa, including the 700 block of Harrison, where Interior Moves is a tenant. The new rules would allow the construction of offices, hotels and market-rate housing—now all prohibited—and would raise maximum building heights from 85 to 130 feet, or, in a “high rise alternative,” up to 400 feet. Rents would soar.

That, says Beckwith, “would drastically change our business. We’d have to go to the East Bay and cut our staff in half.”

They wouldn’t be the only ones. The planners themselves say that the proposed zoning would probably put at least 1,800 jobs “at risk.” That could mean the displacement of hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses.

While the displacement of residential tenants has become big news in this city, local blue-collar jobs and businesses are getting forced out of San Francisco, too – and if history is any precedent, the city is asking for a fight.   See the full article in 48Hills online  HERE.

From Santa Monica, the lament of an 'urban villager'

 From Santa Monica, the lament of an 'urban villager'

My city may be an urban planner's dream. But for the rest of us, it's become a nightmare.

Santa Monica
Bicycle riders make their way along a completed portion of the new green bike lane on Ocean Park Boulevard near 4th Street in Santa Monica. The green stripe, when completed, will run from Lincoln Boulevard to Nielson Way. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / January 11, 2013)

I've read recently with a sense of deja vu — and dread — about the efforts of Los Angeles and Pasadena to build denser housing in downtown areas and make their streets more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Santa Monica, where I live, was an early adopter of this "urban village" concept. The result? My beachside community's downtown core works fine for those who can afford to live there. They can walk from their $4,000-a-month studio apartments in the hip center of town to their choice of half a dozen coffee joints, and they can pick up the latest fashions on the way so they'll look good when they get there.

But for the majority of Santa Monica's 92,000 residents — those of us who cannot ride bicycles and live too far to walk to this downtown paradise — life has deteriorated.
READ MORE: Sharing the road in L.A.

It all sounded great when the city planners, whose salaries we pay, started talking about it. The plan was to add residents to the city core and then make the streets safer and more appealing for cyclists, so people would leave their cars behind. There would be bike lanes and bike centers with storage and showers to make biking to work possible. Who could oppose that?

Since then, even though most of the new residents drive just as the old ones did, a number of streets have been reduced from two lanes in each direction to one to accommodate bike lanes. Traffic lanes on other streets have also been narrowed to make room for the bicycles. And city streets are festooned with "sharrows" — hieroglyphic-like drawings on the asphalt that are supposed to encourage drivers to be polite to cyclists (though, from observation, the cyclists don't feel bound to show the same courtesy).
Congestion has been growing in Santa Monica for years, but today it can take 30 minutes or more on any of the major east-west routes to drive the few miles from the ocean to our eastern boundary with West Los Angeles. It's the same at 11 a.m. or 9 p.m. most days. North-south streets such as Lincoln, Fourth and Main can be even more nightmarish.

If you work or have appointments outside the city, or even if you just want to leave the beach to attend a play or concert in downtown Los Angeles, you have to brace yourself for a tortuous commute, often starting at your driveway. You might spend two hours in the car to drive the 18 miles to Disney Hall, more time than the concert itself will take. To meet friends for dinner in Beverly Hills, a mere eight miles away, you have to plan on an hour to be sure you're not late.

Constructing more hotels and high-rise multi-use buildings, and eliminating lanes for cars in favor of pedestrians and bikes, sounds great in theory. Who wouldn't want to live in an urban village? But a lot of Santa Monica residents don't take advantage of the movie theaters, restaurants and shops that were supposed to make our downtown attractive. Getting to them is just too difficult. Instead, we're sheltering in place, experimenting with dinners with friends by Skype and tearing our hair out at the thought of having to drive more than a mile or two from home.

Of course, sometimes we're forced to drive — say when we need to buy food from a nearby grocery store. Then we have to run a gantlet of empowered cyclists, who dart in and out of traffic at will, position themselves in the middle of the street going 6 miles per hour (because they can!), ride against the direction of traffic or on sidewalks (which is prohibited in Santa Monica), and slide in between two stopped cars at lights to assert their position. They nonchalantly blow through stop signs.

Bicycle riders feel entitled in Santa Monica, and for good reason. We've bent over backward to let them kick us in the rear end. The bulk of Santa Monicans have been forced to take a back seat to a few thousand smug urbanites and cyclists. They've won the war and are taking no prisoners

Is this what you want in Pasadena and in downtown Los Angeles? Just make sure you know what you're getting into. If you build it, they will come. Pasadenans may soon find themselves heading to Sierra Madre to do their errands. And those who work downtown should brace themselves for significantly longer commutes.

Go ahead with your plans, if you want, but here's some advice from someone who's already living in an urban village: The next time you get in the car to go the doctor, take your kids to school or call on a client, make sure you pack a sandwich, a toothbrush and a change of underwear.

Bruce R. Feldman is a 29-year resident of Santa Monica.


http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-feldman-santa-monica-bicycles-20140126,0,5387711.story#ixzz2rlV8lEcq

Thursday, January 30, 2014

California drought: 17 communities could run out of water within 60 to 120 days, state says


California drought: 17 communities could run out of water within 60 to 120 days, state says

Nicasio reservoir Dec 19, 2013 -Alan Dep Marin IJ.


By Paul Rogers
progers@mercurynews.comPosted:   01/28/2014 06:28:22 PM PST
Updated:   01/30/2014 12:24:48 PM PST


As California's drought deepens, 17 communities across the state are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days, state officials said Tuesday.
In some communities, wells are running dry. In others, reservoirs are nearly empty. Some have long-running problems that predate the drought.
 
The water systems, all in rural areas, serve from 39 to 11,000 residents. They range from the tiny Lompico County Water District in Santa Cruz County to districts that serve the cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale in Sonoma County.
And it could get a lot worse.
 "As the drought goes on, there will be more that probably show up on the list," said Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for aythe state Department of Public Health.

Most of the affected water districts have so few customers that they can't charge enough money to pay for backup water supplies or repair failing equipment, leaving them more vulnerable to drought than large urban areas.
The state health department compiled the list after surveying the more than 3,000 water agencies in California last week. The list will be updated weekly, Mazzera said.
 State health officials are in discussion with leaders of other agencies, including the state Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to work on immediate solutions, he added. Those could include everything from trucking in water to the health department providing emergency funds for drilling new wells or connecting faltering systems to other water systems.
A similar list of vulnerable communities was compiled during California's last drought, which lasted from 2007 to 2009. But the current drought is more severe. Less rain fell in 2013 than in any year since California became a state in 1850.
Even though some rain is forecast for Thursday, major storms are desperately needed this winter and spring to replenish depleted reservoirs, rivers and the Sierra Nevada snowpack -- which on Tuesday stood at 14 percent of normal.
 "This is a statewide drought. This is a serious drought," Bill Croyle, director of the state Drought Task Force, said Thursday. "It's all hands on deck."
Croyle, an official with the state Department of Water Resources, made his remarks at a meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, a state board of water experts.
 Asked by board member Hank Nordhoff, a San Diego businessman, where the water will come from to bail out small systems, Croyle said he's working on it.
"You are going to get it wherever you can get it," he said.
Retorted Nordhoff: "That's a frightening reply."
 Croyle cited the possibility of new pipe connections to other water systems and trucking in water.

 "On the Central Coast, they have in the past looked at desalination," he added. "So if we lose our groundwater and surface water, we are going to go to the ocean. It is going to be expensive, but you bring in mobile plants and fire them up."

 Since California's last major drought, which ran from 1987 to 1992, most major urban areas have spent millions of dollars to store water underground, fund conservation programs, build new reservoirs and construct wastewater recycling plants. As a result, their residents are feeling little effect so far.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced a voluntary 10 percent cutback for its 2.6 million customers in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties. Similarly, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has requested a 10 percent voluntary cutback. Others, like the Contra Costa Water District and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, have not yet asked customers to meet conservation targets.

 The story is different in many rural areas.

 Lompico County Water District, in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Felton, has long-standing water supply issues and is exploring a possible merger, but so far has been stymied by nearly $3 million in needed upgrades -- a hefty bill for the district's 500 customers.
A boat dock is nowhere near the water at Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino, Calif., on  Jan. 22, 2014.

A boat dock is nowhere near the water at Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino, Calif., on Jan. 22, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer)

"We have been unable to take water out of the creek since August and well production is down, and we didn't have that much water to begin with," said Lois Henry, a Lompico water board member. 
Henry said she hopes the state comes with funding to help the agency find more reliable water. The district could soon have to begin trucking in water, she said.
"I'm frankly worried," Henry said. "I know people turn their faucet on and say, 'Oh, everything's fine.' And I know it's not."
 In Cloverdale, where 9,000 Sonoma County residents draw their water from four wells, low flows in the Russian River prompted the City Council last week to put in place mandatory 25 percent rationing, which includes a ban on lawn watering. The city raised water rates 50 percent to put in two new wells, which should be completed by July, said City Manager Paul Caylor.
"Hopefully," he said, "we'll be able to get through the summer and the development of this project will pay off."


Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin contributed to this report. Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 408-920-5045 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN

See related story in the Marin IJ HERE


The plan to get rid of the ranchers

The plan to get rid of the ranchers


01/09/2014
A few years ago, Don Neubacher, at the time the superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore, provided a troubling story to one of us—Phyllis Faber, who was then a board member of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association—saying the National Park Service had a “plan” to rid the seashore of working ranches.

That plan would start with closure of the oyster farm in Drakes Estero. Once it was gone, the park would stand by as environmental groups brought lawsuits against the surrounding ranches, claiming their operations were degrading water quality. The ranchers, whose means are modest, would have no choice but to shut down, bringing an end to the 150-year ranching tradition at Point Reyes. 
It was reminiscent of a plan developed by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1971.
It was reminiscent of a plan developed by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1971. The organization called for designating most of the peninsula as wilderness, thus requiring the closure of both the oyster farm and the working ranches. No other conservation groups advocating for wilderness supported this plan when wilderness legislation came before Congress in 1976.

In fact, every interested environmental and civic organization told Congress that the oyster farm and working ranches should stay.

But the N.P.C.A. appears to have held firm to its agenda, and has honed it elsewhere in recent years. On Santa Rosa Island, in Southern California, the group used laws like the Clean Water Act to force out a historic family cattle ranch operating on park service land. If the plan worked there, it could also work here.

Opponents argue that the oyster farm must go because “a deal is a deal.” But the farm had the same deal as all the surrounding ranches: a renewable lease and decades-old assurances from the federal government that they are part of the agricultural heritage the seashore was created to protect. If that deal meant the oyster farm must close, then expect to soon hear that the same deal requires the ranchers to go too.  

The park service is already doing its part to make life difficult for the ranchers. In the environmental impact statement for Drakes Bay Oyster Company, it went out of its way to identify the surrounding ranches as primary sources of pollution that could degrade water quality in Drakes Estero. In recent years it also terminated a long-time lease at Rancho Baulines, and evicted another family, the Horicks, whose history at their ranch dated back to the 1800’s. It is now demanding that the rest agree to difficult, if not impossible, lease conditions.

For example, park officials recently told one rancher that his lease will be renewed only if he moves out of his house and lives off-site. Officials are demanding that other ranchers allow tule elk to graze on their lands. If ranchers lose forage to elk, they will have to import more hay and water, which will surely force them out of business.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The park service could still renounce the N.P.C.A. plan and issue the oyster farm a permit, as Congress intended. It also has the authority to issue ranchers new long-term permits—today—without imposing any new conditions.

Even with the recently announced range management planning process underway, the park could take pressure off ranchers by moving the elk off pastoral zone in the meantime.  The existing management plan gives the authority needed to do so—or it could easily be amended to clarify that authority.

That plan specifically rejected an alternative that would have allowed free-ranging elk in the pastoral zone, and required that the park be a “good neighbor” by relocating elk that wander from their designated range. The environmental analysis that accompanied it determined that relocating stray elk would have no significant impacts. After all, over 40 elk were relocated from Tomales Point to Limantour in 1998 under the plan, so no harm can come from moving them off the pastoral zone now.

Both the oyster farm and ranches provide considerable ecosystem services to Marin that should not be ignored. Oysters improve water quality by filtering the water, so losing the farm would result in long-term adverse effects to water quality. The ranches maintain pastureland that provides clean air and plant diversity; losing them would allow fire-prone weedy vegetation to quickly encroach, as it has at Rancho Baulines.

The seashore was established to offer the public recreation and natural beauty while protecting local agricultural operations, including the oyster farm and working ranches.  The park service seems to have forgotten that the seashore would never have been created without the support and cooperation of these farming families. It should stop trying to push aside historic operations in favor of a plan that will both eliminate the working landscape and degrade the ecological integrity of these lands.


Phyllis Faber is a biologist and co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. Laura Watt, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Sonoma State University and chair of its Department of Environmental Studies and Planning and is currently completing a book project on the history of management at P.R.N.S. Peter Prows is a partner with Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, L.L.P. of San Francisco, which represents Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eminent Domain kills business

Density, Unpacked: Is Creative Class Theory a Front for Real Estate Greed?

Density, Unpacked: Is Creative Class Theory a Front for Real Estate Greed?

cc-realestate.jpg
“The heresy of heresies was common sense”—George Orwell

The stories we tell affect the lives we lead. I do not mean to be abstract here. I mean, literally, the stories that are told make up a kind of meta-reality that soaks in us to form a “truth”. This “truth” affects policy, which affects investment, which affects bricks and mortar, pocketbooks, and power. Eventually, the “truth” trickles down into a more real reality that defines the lives of the powerless.

The story du jour in urban policy is one of density. The arc of the story is that cities are places where “ideas come to have sex”. The lovechild is innovation. The mood lighting is creative placemaking.

The Kama Sutra of density reads this way: creative people cluster in cities that are good at lifestyle manufacturing. The more people that are sardined the higher likelihood there will be “serendipitous” encounters. The more serendipity in a city the better chance the next “big thing” will occur. The next “big thing” will lead to a good start-up, which will lead to an agglomeration of start-ups, termed an “Innovation District”. Detroit becomes Detroit 2.0 then.

The story of density is a seductive story. Society-making is sobering and full of harsh realities. The story of density is seamless, velvety. It is no wonder the story gets sold, implemented, and then told and re-told, despite the validity and logic of the story being pretty awful.

Take the recent New York Times piece entitled “What It Takes to Create a Start-up Community”. In it, the writer interviews urbanist Richard Florida. “Population density, [Florida] said, allows for the serendipitous encounters that inspire creativity, innovation and collaboration,” reads one key passage in the piece.

The story goes on to highlight the emerging tech hub of Boulder as the exemplar of the story of density. One problem: Boulder, a city of less than 100,000, isn’t dense, with a population per square mile of 3,948. The writer moves the goal posts a bit and says the city “is an unusual case of density”, before going on to question whether a start-up community can be created in a city like Detroit that “lacks density”. Yet Detroit, despite being a land mass comprised of one-third vacant land, is denser than Boulder, at 5,144 people per square mile. In all, Aristotle would have a field day with the piece.

Such illogic peppers the story of density, particularly as it relates to the correlation—to say nothing of the causation—between household clustering and tech growth. For instance, in a recent analysis of America’s top “high tech hot spots” by the Progressive Policy Institute, the top 25 counties experiencing the highest percentage of tech job growth reads like a “Where’s Waldo” list, if Waldo was Thoreau-like. There’s Madison County in Alabama (417 people per sq. mile). Utah County in Utah (258 people per sq. mile). Denton County in Texas (754 people per sq. mile). Fayette County in Kentucky (1,043 people per sq. mile). Snohomish County in Washington (342 people per sq. mile).

To be fair, also on the list are San Francisco, Boston, and New York. In the case of Boston and San Fran, the tech clustering is a legacy asset---including large venture capital funds --- from decades prior, not the result of the story of density. New York, under Mayor

Monday, January 27, 2014

Green Living in the Suburbs


Daily Acts from Go Project Films on Vimeo.
Thirty community volunteers come together to transform their neighbor's front yard into a lush, edible garden. Daily Acts Founder Trathen Heckman shares his thoughts on how small actions can help address big problems like climate change, water scarcity and suburban sprawl.
http://www.dailyacts.org/



My Garden from PSM on Vimeo.
Transformation of a suburban garden
My Father's Garden from Mirko Faienza on Vimeo.
Your.garden from Camille Marotte on Vimeo.
The Garden from Peter Bunzl on Vimeo.

Secret Garden from Cody Cha on Vimeo.
Shot on Sony FS100 with Canon EF 100mm L Macro and FD 50mm Macro.

Ominous Garden from Paul Whittington on Vimeo.
A garden surrounded by that which is about to happen.


Garden Walk from Phil Shoebottom on Vimeo.
Just a quick mess from a walk around the garden over Christmas.

It's not meant to be anything profound, it was just to pass some time and get some fresh air to burn off some excess food :)

All shot on the Canon 7D @60fps converted to 24fps in premiere, where I did the quick edit.

It was all hand held. So if nothing else, I learned i need a steadicam or a video head for my tripod. Handholding is hard!!!


Music is by Jem.

Food Forest Suburb - Not all "Sprawl" is Sprawl


Food Forest Suburb from Portage Perennials on Vimeo.
Village Homes is a seventy-acre subdivision located in the west part of Davis, California. It was designed to encourage both the development of a sense of community and the conservation of energy and natural resources. The principal designer was Mike Corbett. Construction on the neighborhood began in the fall of 1975, and construction continued from south to north through the 1980s, involving many different architects and contractors. The completed development includes 225 homes and 20 apartment units.

A number of design features help Village Homes residents live in an energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing manner:

Orientation — All streets trend east-west and all lots are oriented north-south. This orientation (which has become standard practice in Davis and elsewhere) helps the houses with passive solar designs make full use of the sun's energy.

Street Width — Our roads are all narrow, curving cul-de-sacs; they are less than twenty-five feet wide and generally aren't bordered by sidewalks. Their narrow widths minimize the amount of pavement exposed to sun in the long, hot summers. The curving lines of the roads give them the look of village lanes, and the few cars that venture into the cul-de-sacs usually travel slowly.

Pedestrian/Bike Paths and Common Areas — Alternating with the streets is an extensive system of pedestrian/bike paths, running through common areas that exhibit a variety of landscaping, garden areas, play structures, statuary, and so on. Most houses face these common areas rather than the streets, so that emphasis in the village is on pedestrian and bike travel rather than cars.

Natural Drainage — The common areas also contain Village Homes' innovative natural drainage system, a network of creek beds, swales, and pond areas that allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground rather than carried away through storm drains. Besides helping to store moisture in the soil, this system provides a visually interesting backdrop for landscape design.

Edible Landscaping — Fruit and nut trees and vineyards form a large element of the landscaping in Village Homes and contribute significantly to the provender of residents. More than thirty varieties of fruit trees were originally planted, and as a result some fruit is ripe and ready to eat nearly every month of the year.

Open Land — In addition to the common areas between homes, Village Homes also includes two big parks, extensive greenbelts with pedestrian/bike paths, two vineyards, several orchards, and two large common gardening areas. The commonly owned open land comes to 40 percent of the total acreage (25 percent in greenbelts and 15 percent in common areas), a much greater proportion than in most suburban developments. Thirteen percent of the developed land area is devoted to streets and parking bays, and the remaining 47 percent to private lots, which generally include an enclosed private yard or courtyard on the street side of the house.


[Editor's Note:  Living in Marin offers a tranquil, healthy alternative to crowded high density housing and city streets. We should celebrate our green, human scale  communities as an alternative to the dense, polluted, grimy urban centers.  Why must everyone conform to "One Bay Area Plan"?  ]


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Marin Voice: Strawberry housing -- A flawed process

Marin Voice: Strawberry housing -- A flawed process





Click photo to enlarge
Richard Rubin in 2008. (IJ photo/Robert Tong)

THE CONTROVERSY raging in Strawberry over proposed high-density housing development on property owned by the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary shows no signs of abating.

In fact it may just be heating up.

The reasons for the citizen uprising are understandable and it was predictable.

Clearly, there was a hardening of positions when irate residents were not brought into the public process early enough. Whether that was by design or default is not known. 

However, when a small, informed community is confronted with decisions made from on high without sufficient explanation there is bound to be reaction.

As an unincorporated area lacking any formal political voice in its affairs, that duty falls upon its county representative who in this case is the newly-installed Board of Supervisors President Kate Sears of Sausalito.

Sears, a Harvard-trained lawyer formerly with the state Attorney General's office where she got high marks for her handling of tough cases, was elected without opposition after appointment by the Gov. Jerry Brown to the spot left vacant by the untimely death of Supervisor Charles McGlashan.

Sears was barely seated when the storm clouds over Strawberry were already gathering.
In designating the seminary a Priority Development Area (PDA) in Plan Bay Area's implementation and thus an eligible site for subsidized housing, the degree of unhappiness may not have been anticipated. It should have been.

Similar problems facing her colleague, Supervisor Susan Adams, the target of a recall involving development of Marinwood Plaza, served fair warning this issue would not go away quickly.

A contentious meeting with Strawberry residents in August kindled temperatures even further. Repeated requests for an up-or-down vote by the supervisors to have the Strawberry PDA removed have been rebuffed on grounds that non-compliance with state housing mandates could jeopardize millions of dollars in transportation funding.

Given that, Sears contends that resolution of this issue rests appropriately with the Transportation Authority of Marin, which opponents dispute since it has no authority over PDA designations. They say PDAs are a voluntary determination for each community.
There is some speculation that the seminary, to assure sale of the highly valuable real estate, may be taking advantage of the county's reinterpretation of its decades-old master plan zoning regulations, which called for 2.47 units per acre of subsidized housing on the property.

By invoking so-called Affordable Housing Combined District map overlays, 30 units per acre of high density or "clustered" housing as county planners prefer to call it, are permissible.
The Strawberry Community Plan, ratified by the county in 1982, advocated the lower densities.

In support of its position, opponents cite census-backed statistics which show that only 39 percent of Strawberry's housing stock is owner occupied in contrast with 63 percent for the county.

This goes to the nub of citizen grievances. The theory behind the sustainable communities concept, they argue, is for fair and equitable distribution of the housing mix without imposing excessive burdens on any single community.

Marinwood and Tam Valley were able to opt out and Novato has negotiated a deal with the state for 20-23-units-per-acre densities.

Opponents see this as a blatant attempt to apply different standards to different communities, and if the goal is to promote high density developments next to city-centered transit corridors to best serve urban populations, there is justification for saying this misses the mark.

The seminary has not yet signaled if it will go along with the county's plans. But if this process has been in any way influenced by forces that may not be compatible with Strawberry's legitimate interests in its own destiny, corrective actions are still possible and full transparency is required.

As our neighborhoods evolve and grow, change is inevitable, including our housing needs. County officials can recommend changes. Decisions on how best to implement and manage those changes are a right reserved to each community. Strawberry is no exception.
Richard Rubin of Strawberry writes about political issues and is president of a public affairs management firm. His email is richardrubinassociates@gmail.com. His blog is at www.thepoliticalstage.com