Friday, April 24, 2015

Who are these BARF people Anyhow? -George Lucas's Astroturf Housing Activist Mercenaries

 Who are these BARF people Anyhow? - George Lucas's Astroturf Housing Activist Mercenaries

Like a nobleman of old,  flogging a peasant for casting a shadow upon his path, George Lucas is using his neighbors as his whipping boy.
Earlier this week, I was notified by a social activist friend in San Francisco that a group calling themselves SFBARF may be coming to town to create disruption and advocate for the Grady Ranch project, "The Revenge Villas".  While, the generous gift of affordable housing is appreciated, the local middle class community of Marinwood-Lucas Valley will be stuck with millions of dollars of development costs for roads, sewer and water, new schools, public safety and fifty years of tax free status.  His attorney, former supervisor, and millionaire lobbyist , Gary Giacomini, says George thinks there are "too many millionaires" igniting class warfare against Marin.  
In addition, he has enlisted the help of his Hollywood PR firm to spread the message of "St. George helps the poor, from the Greedy Millionaires next Door" B.S.   George Lucas is one of the RICHEST MEN IN THE WORLD with BILLIONS to spend. Like a nobleman of old,  flogging a peasant for casting a shadow upon his path, he is using our community as his whipping boy.  
The issue of Housing Redevelopment is as much about Democracy and Class Warfare as it is about issues of Water, Traffic and Urbanism.  The political and social elites are justifying the destruction of communities to rebuild them in their imagine Smart Growth Utopia as a "necessity to eliminate sprawl (the suburbs).  They will use "any means necessary" to achieve their ends including inciting class warfare, suspension of the local political process, onerous taxation and the destruction of property rights.  Unfortunately, it appears they are also willing to use these feckless BARFers from San Francisco to foster class hatred and call us "Millionaire NIMBYS".
We will not let this happen.  We will Save Marin Again!

Who is SFBARF?

From the Berkeley Daily Planet HERE

On the left you’ll see a longtime Berkeley consultant who often fronts for developers, Tim Frank. Next to him is Jon Schwark, who told people at the table that he’s lived in a rent-controlled San Francisco apartment for twenty years after moving here from Oklahoma Kansas. Next to him there’s another Midwestern transplant, Ian Monroe from Missouri, in Berkeley for a bit over 2 years, a techie who commutes to San Francisco for work. The guy on the far right, the one wearing the 60s’ style prairie dress and the straw bonnet, is Alfred, the cartoonist. 
The small person crouched under the table is, probably, one Libby Lee-Egan, a child, though she’s hard to identify in this photo. 
Missing here, but reported to have been present, is Sonja Trauss. She’s the subject of a remarkable article which appeared in today’s San Francisco Business Times: 
The story reveals that Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has given Trauss $10,000 for her personal use. 
“I wanted to help her personally with a financial gift since she recently gave up her job as an educator to devote herself full time to activism,” he told the SFBT. Activism seems to pay better than it used to in the olden days, doesn’t it? 
From the SF examiner:
  • Sonja Trauss, founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, says many people in San Francisco are against building new housing, which is why prices are high.
Sonja Trauss is an energetic 33-year-old math teacher from Philadelphia who moved to the Bay Area three years ago.
Like countless others, she found the search for a place to live in San Francisco less than welcoming. In fact, it was impossible.
That still does not sit well with her.
"I was immediately priced out," the West Oakland resident recently told The San Francisco Examiner.
After much grousing, Trauss did some research and concluded that the cause of this dilemma was
too little housing construction, even though such conclusions are hotly debated in San Francisco. Her answer was to found the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SFBARF.
"There are a lot of people that are just categorically against building," said Trauss, who ironically once worked to stop development from happening in Philadelphia. "But there are actually a lot of people that are categorically for building. My notion was to just organize them."
The ongoing debate over how to best solve San Francisco's housing crisis -- how much should be built, where and in what selling-price range -- has drawn all corners of The City into the fray. There's the Mayor's Office, which hopes 30,000 new and refurbished units will be added to the citywide stock by 2020. There are downtown business interests pushing for more units, and activist groups arguing that market solutions are not the answer. And now there is SFBARF, an avidly pro-development grass-roots activist group.
Since May, when Trauss started what she calls her "club of weirdos" who support more development, she has built a website and grown her mailing-list-based group from two people -- her boyfriend and roommate -- to 40.
Trauss can be found at hearings and meetings facing off against anti-growth activists whenever housing projects are on the table.
From Trauss' perspective, a city like San Francisco, where people want to live, does not have serious problems compared to cities like Detroit, St. Louis or Philadelphia.
Those other iconic metropolises are losing residents, whereas San Francisco's problem is the exact opposite. And finding places to put all the new residents is the true challenge.
Trauss' argument is simple: For too long, San Francisco and many other Bay Area cities did not build enough housing, and now there are not enough places for people to live. What's left is either too pricey for most or already occupied.
"Let's do an experiment -- let's restrict growth, let's spend 30 years not building to match the incoming residents," Trauss said of San Francisco's mentality toward development. "What happened? We have a rent crisis."
Such conclusions are based on her research into city building trends over recent decades, Trauss said. She also cites the real estate website Trulia's conclusions, for instance, on the link between expensive cities and a lack of robust construction.
At least when it comes to the lack of building, few would disagree.
Critics and housing-policy watchers say the problem is only partly about the amount of new housing. It is also about who housing is being built for.
In recent years, The City has had more than enough luxury housing and a less than adequate but still present amount of below-market-rate housing. Middle-income housing has been where the largest shortfall exists.
The conclusion is that any new housing should be built for those who need it -- the middle and lower classes -- not the rich.
None of this makes a difference to Trauss.
Her solution: Build as much housing as possible, as fast as possible, for all income levels and at heights and densities not currently allowed in many locations.
"People have this ridiculous idea that there's nothing you can do, [that] you can't build up," Trauss said as she pointed to The City's skyline as if to strengthen her point.
She did not comment on the Bay Area's history of fighting out-of-control development and redevelopment schemes -- for example, the Western Addition's redevelopment in the 1950s and '60s, fights against downtown height limits through the decades and failed plans to fill in much of San Francisco Bay. And Trauss does not have ideas about how to change a political culture with baked-in fears of development.
Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the urban-planning think tank SPUR, said culture is hampering efforts to plan for and build a city and region better-equipped for a growing population.
He has never heard of SFBARF, but he said the group's concept makes sense. Newcomers might be upset about the status quo's anti-development position, since it essentially closes off San Francisco to lots of people who want to live here.
"If you've ever lived in another part of the country ... it's pretty shocking to see people who have so much privilege ... using their privilege to stop other people from moving here," Metcalf said of the policies that have stopped or slowed development in San Francisco, such as the ballot measure that killed the 8 Washington St. luxury condo project and the long-ago fights against density and height limits in San Francisco.
Metcalf said he does not think all development is good, even though he is a vocal supporter of increasing The City's density and using urban infill to solve the housing crisis.
Voices like Metcalf's, as well as Mayor Ed Lee's, may have large platforms, but they are often confronted by a loud and well-organized opposition.
That opposition argues that building market-rate housing units -- already the kind overwhelmingly built in recent years -- will not reduce or even stabilize rents, but further make San Francisco a city for the privileged few.
Peter Cohen, a critic of the dogmatic belief in supply and demand, also does not know of SFBARF. But he is wary of such groups and questions whether they are really informed or repeating "superficial arguments on the supply debate."
The compelling story of one person who could not find a place to live in San Francisco can easily get swept up in larger political agendas beyond their understanding, Cohen said. Well-meaning folks get taken by that agenda, which is that the solution is simply a lack of supply.
"This stuff ain't black-and-white and simple," said Cohen, pointing to the multifaceted ways, for instance, that a market-rate development ripples across a neighborhood by increasing land value, driving up rents and eventually displacing people.
Trauss contends that she is neither paid nor in the pocket of anyone.[Editor's Note: She has taken money from Yelp CEO and others. See above article] But when such arguments block new housing, Trauss takes issue.
"This, like, 'pushed out, not enough room' thing is a red herring," she said of anti-gentrification arguments and efforts to restrict heights and density. "There's plenty of room. There might be other factors contributing to why people leave, but there's plenty of room.
"If there's an empty lot and someone builds a house there, then there may be a reason why that makes people leave. But how about let the house be built and [then] figure out what those other reasons are."

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