Saturday, April 19, 2014
Friday, April 18, 2014
Just came across these youtubes by an anonymous blogger/social commentator. He is performing an interesting social experiment by pointing camera directly at people in public who are already under video surveillance and seeing their reactions.
I don't blame the subject's reactions. It is creepy to have some videotaping you without your knowledge or consent. Clearly, that is exactly the point of Surveillance Camera Man, to awaken people about the surveillance everywhere.
I don't think I'd have the guts to do this. I wonder how many broken cameras he has.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Damon Connolly and Susan Adams debate Marinwood Housing, Dixie Schools and the future of our neighborhood
Be sure to vote in this important election for the future of Marin.
Will we have a high density, urbanized Marin as advocated by ABAG and Susan Adams or will we grow in the Marin way, organically with considerations of scale, density and infrastructure needs advocated by Damon Connolly?
The election is June 3rd. Mail ballots go out on May 5th.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
|ABAG and MTC control over 200 Billion Dollars of Transportation Funds|
by Carol Brandt
The regional war on suburbia has been simmering for quite some time but the heat is being turned up and the pot is about to boil over. The “Plan Bay Area” is the brainchild of a head-spinning group of four regional agencies: Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They hope that the public is too busy to pay attention. However, the resistance is growing as local community leaders and neighborhood groups are starting to stand up against this plan that will forever change the landscape of our small towns. Plan Bay Area will require future housing to be high-density and transit-oriented. It could also allow for a change in the zoning of existing single-family neighborhoods to allow high-density housing units – no more single family lifestyle for you!
Governor Jerry Brown wants to reform the requirements of CEQA review, particularly for high density developments. He claims that CEQA is the NIMBY group’s tool to oppose development. I believe most of the public sees CEQA as a tool to help preserve the character of neighborhoods, downtowns and open space and gives the public the right to speak up for or against a proposed project and hold that project to defined environmental standards. Brown has political allies with Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) jumping on the CEQA-bashing bandwagon by piling on their versions of CEQA reform bills this past week. At a recent conference on the future of California’s housing, Brown was asked how he avoided CEQA-related lawsuits over all the development that happened under his watch in Oakland. He replied that they put so many projects in the planning pipeline that the opposition couldn't mobilize fast enough. He also said they overwhelmed the opposition with mass, “kind of the Soviet model.” Afterwards he tried to backpedal by saying he probably should not have said that, but it was too late and the press got it down. This is our Governor speaking and we should be outraged.
We also have our local officials participating as board members or commissioners on all four of the agencies pushing the Plan Bay Area. Are they representing our voices or are they helping form this regional high-density plan? ABAG’s Regional Planning Commission includes Supervisor Susan Adams and Novato Mayor Pat Eklund. Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Judy Arnold serve as ABAG’s County representatives as does San Rafael councilmember Damon Connolly. ABAG’s Executive Board includes Supervisor Katie Rice and Mayor Eklund. Supervisor Steve Kinsey serves on the board of MTC. Supervisor Adams also serves on the board of BAAQMD and both Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Kathrin Sears are commissioners on BCDC.
It is contradictory that local officials jump up and down with joy as they champion things like banning plastic bags in the name of saving the environment, yet they don’t object to high-density developments that will require huge increases in demand for building materials, water, energy, schools and other infrastructure.
Regional agencies and politicians are full steam ahead on the Plan Bay Area. Who is listening to the voice of the people? One response is the upcoming Town Hall Meeting, June 20, 2013, 7:30pm at the Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael. The information states the meeting will address planning and housing challenges in Marin and the public will have a chance to learn the truth about Plan Bay Area. It is sponsored by Organized Residents of Marinwood, a group of well-informed citizens.
LA Times story on Housing Conference.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
VIDEO: Bridge Housing "We have given Dixie Schools an estimate of 1.8 students per apartment" (150 students)
On October 27, 2012 Bridge Housing VP, Brad Wilban explains to skeptical residents how many school children he expects in the Dixie school districts.
Here is the transcript:
Brad Wilban (BW): "I think a month from now, when we come back, we're going to tell you exactly what we are going to do."
Audience (A): "When you come back, can you tell us about the impact on our schools?"
BW: (Surprised puts up his hand in Stop gesture and looks away to address the other side of the room). "We have given Dixie our projections of what we expect the school impacts to be (motions a sweeping gesture) from toddlers to high school."
"We have a large universe (round gesture) of our properties will similar demographics and so we know that about 1.8 students per unit on average is generated from this kind of housing"
Whole audience: (gasps )
A: "Wow, that's 160 kids, 150 kids!"
BW: (Gesture "stop") "So that's infants through high school so next month when we come, we will bring a break down, zero through five, elementary, middle school and high school. Not what we know will happen but what we think will happen based on our experience and that way, you can say 30 kids in high school and there is going to be 20 kids in middle school or what ever it is. So we will come back with that (pointing gesture)"
Editor's note: We note that 30 kids in high school and 20 kids in middle school will leave 100 kids for the elementary school. We believe, Mr Wilban realizing the controversial nature of school impacts intentionally changed his remarks mid sentence. The following month, he offered an unbelievable estimate of .8 children per household to give the appearance of a minor impact on our schools. This is not a credible estimate and easily can be disproven with actual enrollment statistics from family affordable housing complexes available from San Rafael and neighboring school districts.
I doubt there is a family affordable housing complex in Marin that has .8 children per household anywhere. When the city of Pleasanton, projected 1.2 children per house hold, they had a rude awakening when 3.1 children per household arrived and they had to build new schools. It is highly likely that local taxpayers will be forced to adapt new parcel taxes and bond issues to accommodate the Marinwood Village proposal as it is currently presented.
We can consider senior affordable housing in Marinwood-Lucas Valley but SHOULD NOT ALLOW ANY FAMILY SUBSIDIZED HOUSING that does not have strong financial support for the education of the children who will be coming into our community. This support could come from a commercial project such as the Farm to Table market which will generate millions in sales taxes or it could come from the non profit developers themselves who may provide realistic financial support for our schools.
We hope that Bridge housing will not force their unsustainable plans on our community without providing for it's tenants and the community that will host them.
We are asking our school board and administrators for unbiased student enrollment data from the San Rafael and neighboring school districts from affordable housing complexes owned by Bridge Housing and EAH Housing.
The community has a right to know of the full impacts of "non profit" subsidized housing projects before they are approved.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Published on Oct 2, 2013
The speaker is Jason Zimba, one of the three drafters of the Common Core math standards. The questioner is Dr. Sandra Stotsky. This exchange took place at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 23, 2010. As you will hear, Dr. Zimba admits not only that the CC math standards aren't designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies, but also that they're not designed to get a student into any selective college, even in a non-STEM discipline.
see the article in the Patch: THE “ENRON-IZATION” OF DEMOCRACY - PART III
Posted by Bob Silvestri ,
The Demise of California’s Redevelopment Agencies
In 1945 the state created local Redevelopment Agencies, funded primarily by local allocations of property tax revenues. Over the subsequent decades, they played an important role in residential and commercial development. On February 1st of 2012 the California Supreme Court dissolved these redevelopment agencies, ostensibly, due to the need to find more revenues for schools and special districts. At least that was the rationale.
In truth there were other reasons.
As much good as the Redevelopment Agencies had done over the years, funding infrastructure and redevelopment projects like Old Pasadena and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, they had also more recently become a “trough” of public funds where special interests fed without restriction.
As Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky said, Redevelopment Agencies, over the years,"evolved into a honey pot that was tapped to underwrite billions of dollars worth of commercial and other for-profit projects."The projects "had nothing to do with reversing blight, but everything to do with subsidizing private real estate ventures that otherwise made no economic sense.”
The Court, in its ruling, generally agreed with this assessment.
Once again, what started out as a good idea had become a backwater of corruption and political favoritism with little regard for the communities it impacted or the displacement of low income residents. But as I’ve said before, never under estimate the power of a bad idea.
So redevelopment agencies are back. The legislation to resurrect them is called Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and it was endorsed by the State Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, moving it ever closer to approval by the Legislature.
Senate Bill 1: Endgame for Plan Bay Area
SB1 is an unapologetic end run around the State Supreme Court’s ruling on redevelopment agencies. If it becomes law, the “honey pot” will be open for business again, this time better than ever. And you can give special thanks to Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg and newbie rep Marc Levine from Marin for helping it get passed.
Under SB1 redevelopment agencies would now be called “Sustainable Communities Investment Authorities (SCIA).” And their legal structure will be… you guessed it, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA).
The old redevelopment agencies may have been corrupt and mismanaged, but at least they were public agencies under the direct control and oversight of local governments. Their budgets were part of the city or county budgets and scrutinized annually. But since SCIA’s are JPAs, none of this will be true. And best of all for them, SCIAs won’t have pesky voters to contend with.
So ask yourself this. How likely is it that the new Sustainable Communities Investment Authorities will be better at avoiding corruption and political influence and backroom deals than the agencies that the Supreme Court dissolved?
If you answered that they’ll be better, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
When many of my students entered my third-grade classroom this year, they told me they didn’t like to read, and they definitely didn’t like to write. I made them a promise that by the end of third grade, I would change their minds.
Before the winter’s end, many of my children confirmed that—would you believe it?—they couldn’t stop reading. Parents were reporting flashlights under the covers because they just had to know what Ramona was going to do next. Kids were choosing to read during indoor recess instead of zoning out in front of the computer screen. They lit up when it was time for Writing Workshop because they had become teachers through their writing, and they had LOTS to teach about being a big sister, the right way to swing a tennis racket, and how to bake the perfect cupcake. Better still, I had tangible quantitative data that this love for their work was translating into elevated reading levels, stronger spelling and grammar, and better elaboration of ideas in writing. There was proof. I have numbers, letters, grades, written reports—all kinds of things that show that yes, love pays off, and that yes, kids will excel when they are engaged and committed because they are, well, engaged and committed. We get better at doing things we like doing, because we’ll do them again, and again, and again. Practice makes progress, proficiency, and beyond.
When the winter started to come to an end, it was time to start preparing for the ELA, the New York state standardized test in English Language Arts, which, for the second time now, is supposed to be aligned with the new Common Core expectations of what students at each grade level should know and be able to do. I have been a teacher for seven years, this is my third year teaching on a testing grade, and I felt that I’d learned a thing or two about how to make the test-prep process less arduous and monotonous for my young students: test-prep games instead of workbook pages every so often; basing some essays and short response questions on high-level but fun read-alouds such as Time for Kids articles, the fictional tales of Chris Van Allsburg, and short, kid-friendly biographies about famous historical figures, instead of irrelevant and obscure texts; partnership and small group work when possible; etc. I used every trick in my test-preppy pocket, because while it’s part of my job to make sure my students feel ready and confident for this test, it’s all of my job to take care of them and their learning. I won’t lie to you and say they loved it, because they didn’t. But we managed. I did my job. They felt ready. They were ready. They had practiced, and practiced hard. Their love for reading was weakening, because they were reading with the intention of answering complex questions, rather than to authentically respond or have a conversation with a reading partner. But still, they were reading. We reminded ourselves weekly of the books we were reading and enjoying outside of test prep, such as My Father’s Dragon, Superfudge, and Encyclopedia Brown. We did what we could to hold on to the most important factor in our progress: the actual desire to do the work, the love of reading and writing.
Nothing could have adequately prepared these 8-year-olds for the testing they were subjected to last week. As many other teachers have reported, the multiple-choice questions (and answer choices) were so complex and nonsensical that many adults struggled to determine the right answers. One of the reasons I actually support certain parts the Common Core is due to the emphasis on getting kids to go beyond the surface level of a text, but none of these questions tested their ability to do that. Instead of a question like: “What caused the character to (insert action here) in the middle of the story?” (which, mind you, is hard enough for an 8-year-old to identify as it is), there were questions like: “In Line 8 of Paragraph 4, the character says … and in Line 17 of Paragraph 5, the character does … Which of the following lines from Paragraph 7 best supports the character’s actions?” This, followed by four choices of lines from Paragraph 7 that could all, arguably, show motivation for the character’s actions in the preceding paragraphs. Additionally, MANY of the questions on the third-grade tests were aligned with fifth-grade standards (especially related to the structure of the text itself, rather than its meaning), and did not address the third-grade expectations. I wish I could give you more than hypotheticals, but teachers aren’t allowed to publicize test material.
If you got these questions right, it meant that you had an advanced enough memory to retain what had happened in Paragraphs 6 and 8 as you read the question that referred to Line 9 in order to determine what the test writer thought was the relationship among all three parts of the text. Question after question required undue scrutiny of individual words and phrases as they connected to other words and phrases. That isn’t close reading. That isn’t what we did all year, as we read and reread to talk about authorial intent, point of view, character motivations—things that I didn’t talk about as a student until middle school, that now I was watching my third-graders slowly but surely be able to do. But no: This was text dissection and process of elimination. Nobody really reads like that. It’s not how I taught, and it’s not what the Common Core expects. One of the huge goals of the Common Core is to prepare students for real-life reading, to be able to engage with text in the real world no matter the genre. Hear, hear! I would love for someone at Pearson, the company that produced the ELA, to find me one 8-year-old who would, on any given day in the “real world,” somehow come into contact with a level X (sixth-grade) novel that is set during the Great Depression, with characters who speak in local vernacular and are facing the problems of poverty and bankruptcy. But this is what’s used to measure how well my students can understand “authentic texts.” Give me a break.
During the test, my readers, who months ago couldn’t get their noses out of books, complained of stomachaches as they persevered and tried to read texts that were over their heads and had no relevance to their lives, age, or backgrounds. They struggled to hold their heads up and were doing hand stretches at the 60-minute mark as they tried to do what they were taught, what they know how to do—to back up their ideas with strong text evidence. But at the end of the day, their close reading and thinking put them at a disadvantage because they barely had enough time to finish writing about topics and texts that not only were inappropriate for their age and developmental level, but that they would never, EVER encounter in their reading lives, inside of school or out.
My kids are now totally fried and frustrated, and so am I. Worst of all, these tests are turning reading and writing into chores, into something that more closely resembles punishment than it does a way to enrich thinking. This is sucking the life and love out of their young literary lives. Did I break my promise from September? Do they not love to read and write anymore because of this insane culture? The hard work that we put in earlier in the year, showing them that there was so much to love about reading and writing, and doing it in a way that really does support these higher standards of learning, will not be reflected in their test results. It’s not what they needed to show New York state that they are grade-level readers (which, ironically enough, almost all of them are).
Again, it is my job to take care of them and their learning. Recently it has become part of my job to try and push their thinking beyond what many child psychologists would consider “developmentally appropriate” for 8-year-olds, and I was, and still am, up for that challenge, even though it’s a little crazy. It is not my job to take children who are developing, who are trying to make sense of the world and the books around them, and turn them into test-taking drones who read and write with the intention of dissection and choosing the best answer out of four complex answer choices that all say little to nothing about what the text actually meant.
The past few days have made it seem as though that’s what my job is supposed to be, and that all of the love (and skill!) they have developed for literature and writing this year is irrelevant, as is the progress my kids have made that will not be shown by this absurdity. You can assess me all you want. I will number-crunch and data-report until the cows come home, but leave my kids out of it. They’re trying to become stronger readers and writers, and this is getting in the way. We need a way to measure their growth from start to finish, not to see where they fall on a bell curve that is already skewed because of the flawed measures that it rests on.
And if you’re not sure what I mean … try going back to Paragraph 2, Lines 8–10, as well as Paragraph 5, Lines 1–4, and then choose the sentence from Paragraph 7 that best supports the main idea found in both of those paragraphs. Because if you can do that, you will have shown me that you have a deep understanding of the message I am trying to convey.
This piece originally appeared on Testing Talk.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
|The Wincup development "CorteMazilla" in Corte Madera|
By Mimi Willard
Guest op-ed column
Guest op-ed column
Posted: 04/10/2014 06:06:00 PM PDT
PEOPLE THROUGHOUT MARIN have belatedly — though maybe in the nick of time — awakened to discover an in-force plan to urbanize their beloved county.
Under the false guise of affordable housing and "smart transportation" planning, developers reap the benefits of financial incentives, density bonuses and expedited approvals for highly profitable high-density housing projects, in which market-rate units can comprise up to 90 percent of the total.
And Marin's nightmare.
Traffic snarls will metastasize under this plan. Existing capacity and cost challenge supplies and resources for water, sanitation, schools, police, fire and other emergency services.
None of these can be considered as reasons not to approve a project under the skewed rules of this fixed game.
Marin residents are finally realizing what's at stake. People are getting educated — and mad.
On March 22, 300 to 400 people jammed a community-sponsored forum to learn more. The unwise last-minute withdrawal of previously-committed Supervisor Katie Rice did not slacken interest in the issue. Instead, the supervisor's absence created frustration that elected officials have not yet stepped up to assist.
Ms. Rice subsequently asserts, via the IJ, that upset constituents are only reacting to false "rumors" of "phantom housing" in Kentfield.
Had she attended the meeting, she would know that's untrue. No one frets that high-density housing is coming soon to Kentfield — though possible planning changes leave open forever that possibility along any transit corridor, including Sir Francis Drake.
What people are mad about is that the size, character and local control of our small communities are under siege. Marin was swept into a dubious regional planning vision, Plan Bay Area, which forces Marin to urbanize.
Few residents want this. So far, there is no county-level coordination — nor any apparent elected-official interest in — addressing countywide consequences of increasing densities of new development. Any Marin town or city can approve new high-density developments without consideration of neighboring locales or the county as a whole.
Ground zero of the assault on smalltown Marin — and the real focus of immediate concern at the Kentfield gathering — are plans for huge development now advancing in Larkspur — the Larkspur Station Area Plan.
One of the proposed alternatives envisions the addition of 920 housing units and 177,000 square feet of commercial, retail and hotel space.
Defying any connection to reality, the draft environmental impact report projects no "significant" negative impact on traffic, which common sense tells us will be ensnarled from Fairfax to the Richmond bridge.
Urban Marin's reward? A freeway maze rivaling Oakland's.
Meanwhile, Larkspur Landing's children will cram into multiple neighboring school districts — San Rafael, Larkspur/Corte Madera, Kentfield/Greenbrae and Tamalpais Union High School District — despite school board members' warning there's no space.
Fixing infrastructure for schools and services may well require major bond financings or rate/fee hikes — paid for by taxpayers, not drive-by developers.
Many opponents of urbanizing Marin are vocal supporters of real affordable housing. But high-density market-rate housing projects do little to benefit low-income people, and much to damage quality of life in Marin.
Drive-by developers win. Marin loses.
see article in the Mill Valley Patch: The "ENRON-ization" of Democracy - Part II
Posted by Bob Silvestri ,
A multi-part investigative report into what's behind the push for Plan Bay Area's regional planning, and how the abuse of joint powers authorities are robbing us of representative government.
RHNA and the Housing Element
The RHNA housing mandate system was part of the original Housing Element laws first enacted in 1969. It required that all cities and counties create detailed plans for residential growth. It asked local policy makers to identify potential housing sites and enact policies that would facilitate more housing units of all types.
Its intention was more to help cities plan for potential growth and budget accordingly than it was about promoting affordable housing or social equity.
Keep in mind that at that time California was just making a name for itself as the “land of opportunity” for what seemed like a lifestyle that was one big party: the place where jobs were plentiful, living costs were low and every person under 30 wanted to be.
Some on our Board of Supervisors still cling to this vision of California. Memo to BOS: Put down the bong. Times have changed.
Housing Element Laws Have Been Problematic
Over time Housing Element Regulation goals have become more politicized. That’s made of RHNA quotas more problematic. In his study, California’s Housing Element Law: The Issue of Local Noncompliance, Paul Lewis of the Public Policy Institute of California notes three basic problems (as paraphrased by David Lyon, the Institute’s president):
“First, it (Housing Element Law) often goes against the grain of local politics by asking cities to plan for the needs of the wider region, not just those of current city residents. Second, it may represent a mismatch of goals and policy tools. Specifically, it attempts to tackle the problems of overall housing underproduction with a process-oriented approach developed to prod cities and counties into planning for their share of affordable units. Third, the statute itself is unwieldy, embraces multiple objectives, and is difficult for non-experts to understand.
“Lewis concludes that the time is ripe for policymakers and affected interest groups to seek a more workable, transparent, and straightforward approach to housing. These policymakers may need to resolve whether their major goal is a sheer increase in residential construction or an equitable distribution of affordable housing. Lewis warns that using a fair-share planning approach as a tool to encourage overall housing production places an unrealistic burden on a fairly fragile policy.”
Mr. Lewis’s report was done in 2003 but its conclusions remain just as relevant today. The top down RHNA driven system is badly broken even as its methods of coercing cities to comply have become more formidable (e.g. SB375 and Plan Bay Area).
At the epicenter of this process is ABAG, the allocator of RHNA quotas. Today, operating as Sacramento’s office of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD’s) “bag man,” ABAG seems to work completely opposite of its original purpose: working for its members.
All this notwithstanding, ABAG continues to argue that they represent the interests of their members, first and foremost.
But is that really the case?
Follow the Money
In 2002 ABAG’s total operating budget was $11,688,923, up $1,740,644 from the previous year (a 17.5 percent increase), but that was nothing compared to their 2004 budget of $17,677,000 (a whopping 51 percent increase in revenues and expenses!).
By 2012 ABAG’s operations had grown to $30,351,356. In a period of 8 years, during which time California fell deep into debt, the world economy collapsed, the Bay Area had negative job growth, and we began to see the first significant net migration out of California in decades, ABAG had grown more than 70 percent. From 2002 they have grown almost 300 percent in revenues.
Nice work if you can get it.