Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day! Fourth of July Parade Photos

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."

Happy times at the Larkspur-Corte Madera Fourth of July Parade!


Fairfax Town Meeting- Housing Activists dominate meeting.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dick Spotswood: Statistics clash over number of commuters working in Marin

Dick Spotswood: Statistics clash over number of commuters working in Marin  see it in the Marin IJ. Great comments too.

By Dick Spotswood

Posted:   06/28/2014 08:02:13 PM PDT29 Comments

Statistics are powerful. One number that has driven the debate over so-called transit-centered housing is a figure published by Marin's League of Women Voters. In its white paper, "Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Affordable Housing," the league states, "59.5 percent of Marin workers commute from outside the county."

Its idea is that if Marin builds more housing, this environmental and social negative will dissipate.

The number may be a "myth." At the very least, it's seriously in dispute.
From my review, the most reliable and detailed information comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's report, "Residence county to work place county, 2006-2010." That exhaustive review indicated the actual percentage of workers who in-commute to Marin is 35.7 percent.

That's quite a difference from the league's claim.

According to census data, 120,586 Marinites travel to a job. Of those, 78,950 both live and work in Marin. The in-commute consists of 42,657 travelers who live in another county but work in Marin. It's no surprise that the largest influx is the 17,457 Sonoma residents traveling each day to work in Marin.

This makes sense. It's actually a big part of the justification for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train. The commuter train is essentially designed to move Sonoma residents to Marin jobs, a worthy goal.

About 41,600 Marinites, 34 percent of our workers, are outbound commuters with most headed to San Francisco and Contra Costa County.

The second-largest source of Marin's workers are San Franciscans. While San Francisco's housing prices are even greater than Marin's, some younger workers preferring the city's urban experience have landed well-paying Marin jobs. Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda counties, in declining order, are the other prime sources of Marin's in-commuting.
The league's numbers are based on a second database. That's the Census Bureau's "Longitudinal Employment and Household Dynamics" program.

The conflicting numbers are due to different sources of data.

"Residence-to-work place" statistics are based on surveys, which admittedly could have sampling errors.

The "longitudinal dynamics" figures are based on unemployment data that doesn't include the self-employed, informally employed and selected federal employment categories. Disregarding the substantial number of self-employed Marinites makes those numbers dubious.
The Census Bureau acknowledges the discrepancy. They're working on reconciliations, but since it's a national phenomena, don't expect a resolution anytime soon.

It's the nature of the polarized housing debate that Marin and similarly situated suburban counties face, that when conflicting statistics arise, proponents of various views adopt as gospel numbers that justify their preconceived position.

Marin's League of Women Voters in a laudable organization, but don't forget they play two roles.
The more obvious is as nonpartisan guardian of fair elections. Its second role is advocacy. Here, its members are not neutral arbiters but proponents, in this case, for affordable and high-density housing.

As such the origin and destination statistics touted in their "Myths" report must be judged accordingly.

The league frankly acknowledges both databases, but prefers to publish the numbers that support their position as housing advocates.

Use the league's numbers and Marin has the worst share of in-commuters of any Bay Area county. Follow the Census Bureau's Residence-to-Work Place data and Marin's in-commute is average with both San Francisco and San Mateo having more in-commuters than Marin.
Given the dynamics of America's free enterprise society with folks holding multiple jobs during their careers, decisions on job locations and residence are based on many factors.
A good job isn't often passed up simply because it involves a commute, and building more dense housing isn't inherently going to change that necessity.

None of this takes away the need for more affordable housing. The problem is that rational decision-making is derailed when important statistics are used selectively.

Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley writes a twice-weekly column on local politics for the Marin Independent Journal.

The Sustainable "Medicine Show" Environmental Forum of Marin - Land Use and Transportation

Editor's Note:  Caution: Many of the audience members are well known "housing lobbyists"  with close industry ties to development.  There is no effective counterpoint to the flawed data and assumptions discussed.  The Marin County has spoken loud  and clear in their preference for rural/suburban character.  These folks are the ones pushing the vision for an urbanized Marin especially along the corridor of 101 Freeway.  (For fun, count the number of times you hear the word "sustainable". ) Intensive development is certain to create more traffic, pollution, crime and other ills of urban life.  We will Save Marin Again.

Published on Apr 22, 2014

Lecture Series 2014: Changes, Challenges and Choices
Transportation & Land Use, Growth, Housing and Traffic

Speakers describe the patterns of our lives in Marin -- who we are, where we live, and how we travel about, and how these contribute to this global crisis. They talk about the various ways that we can individually, as a neighborhood, and as a larger community respond to the changes in our climate and our planet.

The audience will be introduced to the challenges of planning for change and to the strategies statewide and beyond to reduce the impacts of fossil fuel on our future. Participants will also learn about the secondary benefits of planning for land use and transportation improvements, including public health, the economy and quality of life.

Wednesday, April 9 | 7:00 -- 9:00 PM
San Rafael Corporate Center
750 Lindaro Street


Linda M. Jackson—Planning Manager, Transportation Authority of Marin
Bob Brown—Community Development Director, City of Novato
Ian C. Gillis—President, Urban Community Partners
Paul Supawanich—Senior Associate, Nelson Nygaard

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Do You Sincerely Want to Become Rich?

"Champange Wishes and Cavier Dreams to you!"
"The Donald" Trump and family inherited $500 million dollars from his father, Fred, a low income developer in NYC, NY.
Non profit real estate developers are not so "non profit" after all.  They get oodles of cash from the government to provide low income housing for government "affordable" programs.  While one business entity may be non profit to secure financing and grants, other associated business units may be racking in the cash. Construction contracts, financing, leveraged tax deals can yield big profits while maintaining a "pure" appearance of a social good enterprise for the non profit developer.  

Not until you examine the amount of cash required to actually build low income housing and realize all the additional incentives and leverage, do you realize that this is a huge business opportunity to get rich!

For example Bridge Housing's recent Oakland project St Joes Family Apartments is similar to the Marinwood Village concept in that it is one, two  and three bedroom affordable family units.  This project averages $500,000 per apartment!  My best guess is that Marinwood Village will cost 4 to 5 times comparable Marinwood properties on a per square footage basis!

Someone must be pocketing alot of dough. It sure seems like a great way to get rich using "OPM- other people's money".  The taxpayers and citizens of Marinwood/Lucas Valley will pay for much of the Marinwood Village development cost and the financial impact to our community.  

For those interested in learn finance strategies of the "Rich and Famous" "non profit" developers, check out the link below.  It is a PHD thesis by a former Bridge Housing executive.

Champange dreams and cavier wishes to you.

You may become the next Donald Trump!

Thesis on Low Income Housing Tax Credit by former Bridge Housing Executive

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Congressman Jared Huffman's Transportation Summit on June 30, 2014

Be certain to check out Steve's Kinseys plan for punative taxes on travel by automobile. He offers that taxes may be raised through vehicle miles travelled tax,  increased bridge tolls, congestion pricing, paid HOV lanes and more.  He alluded to opening the third lane on the Richmond Bridge for "people moving" but did not say cars. We assume he wants to use it either as a bike path or connect the SMART train to Bart in Richmond to open up Marin for urbanization.   He must be having fun from his remote West Marin hamlet of Forest Knolls where he knows that urban growth will never reach him.

Steve Kinsey left the meeting early so he did not field any questions from the public.  Does he EVER answer questions to the public?

Regional Prosperity Plan for the "People" as long as you are member of State Approved Community Activist Groups

"People of the Bay Area, a worker's Utopia is within our grasp!"

From the  [Bay Area Plan speak translated into English by Editor]

The Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan is a three-year initiative funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). As part of HUD’s Sustainable Communities Partnership Program, it aims to create stronger, more sustainable communities by integrating housing and jobs planning, fostering local innovation and building a clean energy economy.  [As opposed to private business?]

The Prosperity Plan will build on local and regional planning efforts such as FOCUS and Plan Bay Area to address the needs of people who face barriers to economic opportunities and who are least likely to participate in local and regional planning and decision-making processes.

 The Prosperity Plan will include two key, interconnected areas of work:
  1. Economic Prosperity StrategyDefine a regional approach for expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income workers, and provide more than $1 million in sub-grants for pilot projects by late 2013. [Government sponsored jobs]
  2. Housing the Workforce InitiativeProvide tools and resources to improve housing affordability near transit, while stabilizing low income neighborhoods as new investments raise property values, and provide more than $1 million in sub-grants for pilot projects by late 2012.[Government sponsored housing]
MTC and ABAG will work with elected officials, local city and county staff, community-based and non-profit partners, business and labor groups, and economic and workforce development organizations[Political cronies that support our regime] that co-sponsored the grant application to implement this program[Payoffs to our friends]. Underpinning these two areas of work will be an extensive outreach and engagement process to ensure that underrrepresented groups [political friends] most in need of affordable housing and quality jobs will have a real voice in the development and implementation of the plan. More partners are expected to join. [As they see who holds the power and money]
    The agencies have formed the following committees and working groups to implement the Prosperity Plan:
    • Steering Committee Composed of MTC and ABAG members, community-based organizations and co-chairs of the working groups and Equity Collaborative (see below). [No direct democratic accountability. Voters can't stop us]The committee will provide project oversight, make recommendations on sub-grants and pilot projects and oversee community engagement.
    • Economic Prosperity Working Group Composed of non-profit and community-based organizations, labor and business groups, and economic development and workforce training agencies. The working group will provide oversight on the economic prosperity work plan, help direct technical research and analysis, conduct additional outreach and develop guidelines for pilot projects. It will have three rotating co-chairs each year.[ Private business need not apply. They do not know how to create prosperity  and are the capitalist enemy]
    • Housing Working Group Composed of non-profit and community-based organizations, housing authority staff, and tenants’ rights groups. [Private real estate Interests need not apply. They create high rents and know nothing] This working group will provide oversight on the housing the workforce work plan, advise staff and consultants on technical research and analysis, conduct additional outreach and develop guidelines for pilot projects[Help sell "The Plan"]. It will have three rotating co-chairs each year.
    • Equity Collaborative Composed of non-profit and community-based organizations that represent under-represented and disadvantaged communities in the Bay Area. The collaborative will coordinate outreach, engagement and capacity-building activities that complement activities of the working groups. It will focus on engaging underrepresented communities and disadvantaged groups that are likely to benefit most from increased availability of affordable housing and quality jobs. [Friends get paid to sell "The Plan"]The collaborative will have two rotating co-chairs each year.
    • Joint Projects Team Composed of MTC and ABAG staff, and co-chairs of the working groups and Equity Collaborative. [A tight inner circle with NO VOTER ACCOUNTABILITY to ensure that "The Plan" is carried out and no one gets out of line]  The team will support the Steering Committee and working groups in their activities, comply with the HUD grant requirements, develop request for proposals and call for projects, screen proposals and present recommendations to the Steering Committee, and oversee the Fair Housing and Equity Assessment.

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    Larkspur gets a Reality Check

    Larkspur gets a Reality Check from Planning for Reality
    Larkspur Gets a Reality Check
    While groups such as CALM  claim that  Marin can somehow be made more “livable” by adding 920 housing units, a hotel and over 100,000 square feet of office space to the already congested Larkspur corridor, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District responded to the plan’s Environmental Impact Report with this serious reality check (full letter):
    Paid parking at the Ferry Terminal and a dedicated transit shuttle, The Wave, in addition to existing transit routes serving the Terminal have not altered the demand for parking.
    These facts, in combination with peak commute ferries operating at capacity…are cause for the District to pursue multiple solutions to improve operational capacity.
    An overriding consideration is that such uses not conflict with the operational need to provide increased ferry parking.
    Under ImpactTRANS-6 (page 153) is is indicated that proposed development will increase demand for Golden Gate Ferry service, but it will be built over a period of time that allows the District to adjust ferry service levels accordingly. The EIR states that this is a less-than serious impact. However the District’s ferry service already operates at capacity in the peak direction. Any cumulative increase in demand for service in the traditional commute direction (i.e. to San Francisco in the morning, to Larkspur in the afternoon) will result in the need for additional crossings (trips). Increases in the number of crossings will trigger the need for a full environmental review of the additional ferry service.
    [emphasis added]
    It’s important to note that no more crossings can be added without causing unacceptable impact to the environment.  The Greater Marin, published by one of CALM’s steering committee members based in Washington D.C. , states:
    Too many departures and the wakes will erode what is very rich habitat. To help combat this problem, GGT has limited the number of crossings between LFT and San Francisco to 42 per day.

    Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) – Multi-Modal Solutions

    The Transportation Authority of Marin’s approach seems to fly in the face of the realities of Golden Gate Transit. Remember that Golden Gate Transit’s letter demonstrates that additional transit is not altering or diminishing demand for parking or use of cars. Furthermore the transit authority states there is an operational need to increase ferry parking. But here’s what TAM has to say on the matter (full letter):
    Principal Arterials with high traffic volumes were designated to be monitored for decreases in Levels of Service [Sir Francis Drake is already at levels E or F at many intersections meaning that it is at or beyond acceptable levels]. The DEIR study area includes four key roadway segments that have been monitored for performance. Simultaneously, these segments have remained as “grandfathered”, meaning that regardless of performance changes, they are exempt from required mitigations. Nonetheless, TAM continues to monitor traffic on these segments, and encourages multi-modal solutions to congestion.
    Larkspur LOS
    Larkspur levels of service (LOS) with the station area plan project implemented
    TAM then identifies 5 segments at levels of service C and D.  If one reviews the map on page 49 of   the Larkspur SAP workshop document one starts to see the significance of this statement “they are exempt from required mitigations”.
    What is concerning here is that TAM encourages “multi-modal” solutions to congestion. But we are already seeing Golden Gate Transit that has increased transit service stating that this has not affected (e.g. diminished) demand for parking. They further expect demand for ferry parking to increase. So there appears to be a major disconnect.
    Orwell-quotePart of the problem is that “multi-modal” is a suggestive buzzword. It’s designed to sound convincing in that it will deliver a solution – but as Orwell might put it, it’s “pure wind”.
    [Note: Orwell's quote here referencing murder is a little too strong, but you get the gist]
    Update: The TAM Board did not approve TAM’s Larkspur SAP comment letter. Some suggest  that without board approval TAM didn’t have the authority to submit this letter. Perhaps that’s why planning manager Linda Jackson and not TAM executive director Steinhauser signed it – so this is how the game is played?
    It is precisely these types of transit-oriented development reality gaps, game playing and planning based on whims that concerns the author. What is needed is a firm grasp of reality which means:
    • People are going to continue driving cars in increasing numbers in suburban areas, even the transit authority sees the writing is on the wall
    • Providing transit or “multi-modal” solutions is not going to cut it
    • Planners should not be adding development that pushes traffic levels of service beyond acceptable levels
    • People in Marin are not increasing their usage of transit: The US Census shows that transit use in Marin is in steady decline, starting at 10.2% in 1990 and down to 8.6% in the latest census data from 2012
    Perhaps we need to define what “livable” means. For the author it reflects preserving quality of life  that includes avoiding adding unacceptable travel delays for the 75.8% of Marinites who through necessity or preference travel by car.

    Why they don't allow guns in China