Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Night Movies

A NEW BREED: Content With Content - Part 4/5 from The Creator Class on Vimeo.

Violet - We Had Visions (Official Video) from Frita'Rita on Vimeo.

The road story Vietnam from Georgy Tarasov on Vimeo.

Citizens "Lighten Up" Cesare's remix from Ernest Desumbila on Vimeo.

Mat Maitland for Hunter Original SS15 from Big Active on Vimeo.

[BRDG020] Lilium from BRDG on Vimeo.

SENBEÏ - RAIN from Victor Jardel on Vimeo.

formic from Crave on Vimeo.

Elgin Park from Animal on Vimeo.

U.N. Climate Chief: We're 'Intentionally'Transforming The World Economy

U.N. Climate Chief: We're 'Intentionally'Transforming The World Economy

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years..."

The United Nation’s top climate change official Christiana Figueres announced this week that the group is actively working to "intentionally transform" the world's economic development model, a task she called the "most difficult" one the group has ever undertaken.
"This is  probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history," UNFCCC Executive Secretary Figueres stated at a press conference in Brussels Tuesday.
The "intentional" reordering of the global economy, she told reporters, "will not happen overnight" due to the "depth of the transformation":
"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 - you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation."
Figueres is optimistic that a new international treaty, the so-called "Lima draft"—which she hopes will be adopted at climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year—will be yet another step to the "transformation" of the world's economic model. The new treaty, she pointed out, was one of four parts of the process of economic reordering. UNRICreports:
In addition to the treaty, there are the current Climate Change actions from now and until 2020, the  financing packages and the so-called Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs).  These are the actions that countries intend to take under a global agreement from 2020 and have to be publicly outlined before the start of the conference. It is expected that all major economies will deliver their plans in time: the US, China, and the European Union have already shown their cards.
"We need to get to the maximum level of ambition of collective INDCs because what we are going to have to do all of the time is to close the gap between what science tells us where we have to be and where we actually are…." said Figueres. "But the point is will we be at the end destination? I would argue, yes."

As Bloomberg Built Affordable Housing, City Became Less Affordable

As Bloomberg Built Affordable Housing, City Became Less Affordable

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

00:00 / 00:00
A public housing complex in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that lost power during Sandy.A federal grant would provide back-up generators for complexes like the Red Hook Houses, above, that lost power during Sandy. (Shelley Bernstein/flickr)
Near the beginning of his three terms in office, Mayor Bloomberg made two promises: He'd pump billions into affordable housing. And he'd do everything he could to make the city more desirable. He kept both promises.
"We will continue to transform New York physically, giving it room to grow for the next century to make it even more attractive to the world's most talented people," he said in his 2003 state of the city address.
What followed: a building boom that dramaticallychanged the city's landscape - from waterfront parks to modern skyscrapers to big box shopping malls. And soaring housing prices for everyone from the mega-rich willing to drop $15 million for a pied a terre, to the working poor living in what were once considered marginal neighborhoods.
"It does seem that people continue to want to live in New York and that may be a measure of success on the one hand," said Ingrid Gould-Ellen, co-director of NYU's the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. "But it's a double-edged sword, because the more people that want to live here, the more expensive it becomes."
As part of our series, "New York Remade: The Bloomberg Years," WNYC is looking at the consequences of Bloomberg's policies on affordable housing - and on the real estate market as a whole.
The data is stark. In neighborhoods like Harlem, property values have jumped 222 percent and in East Harlem, median market rents went from roughly $1200 in 2002 to $1900 in 2011.
To counter that, the city is on track to create 165,000 units of affordable housing. But at the same time, tens of thousand of affordable units went off-line as landlords exited subsidized programs and regulated apartments went market rate.
It's not only that rents are rising; it's also that a growing part of the population is trying to live in New York City on very modest incomes. According to the city's own poverty measure, roughly 46 percent of New Yorkers were what is considered "near poor" in 2011. For a family of four, that means earning under $46,000 annually.
With incomes that low, the Furman Center says that nearly a third of New Yorkers were what is called "severely rent burdened" in 2011 - which means they were spending more than half their monthly income on rent.

Struggling on minimum wage

In the Bronx, Ricky Padin, who lives near 167th Street and the Grand Concourse, knows what that's like. Padin said he practically grew up in New York City shelters. Now he pays $900 a month for a one bedroom apartment he shares with a younger brother.
Padin's rent takes up roughly 75 percent of what he brings home each month. His brother lives with him and helps out, but is inconsistent. Both young men have fast food jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, food service has been one of the fastest growing industries during Bloomberg's time in office. It's also the industry with the lowest wages.
"I do everything" at work, Padin said. "Wash the dishes, take out the garbage, everything. I can't say what I don't do over there."
To pay the rent he had been working up to 80 hours a week at two different McDonald's. But he said he was fired from one location after taking part in an effort to protest the low wages of fast food workers.
Padin's apartment is meticulously organized. Even his dirty clothes are neatly folded. He said he has to be careful about how he spends, which means he eats at work or skips meals altogether. Still, Padin said he felt lucky to have his own place. "A lot of people I work with live in shelters, you know, they live with friends, they live in a room or they live with family," Padin said. "But nobody's able to live alone."

(Photo: Ricky Padin at his apartment near the Grand Concourse. His rent eats up most of his monthly income.  Cindy Rodriguez/WNYC)
To newcomers like writer Jonathan Larson, the choices can also be stark. Larson lives on the edge of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, in an apartment that was once housing for ex-cons, the homeless, and people leaving mental institutions - so-called three-quarters housing. But now the tiny rooms lined up off two hallways get rented for $580 a pop to tenants like Larson, who came to New York City to attend a creative writing program. His neighbor across the hall moved to New York City to become a merchandiser for Macy's.
Larson says he's aware his presence in this neighborhood is likely driving up rents. In Bedford-Stuyvesant for instance, the median market rate rent went from $925 to roughly $1400 between 2002 and 2011.
Gould-Ellen said living in the city is increasingly out of reach. "We've seen in the last 10 years and especially recently during this recession it's been particularly punishing. Rents have continued to go up, but incomes have fallen and poverty rates are increasing," she added.

Winning the housing game

Without a doubt, there have been winners in the Bloomberg years, like those who have won housing lotteries and are now living in apartments newly constructed as part of the Mayor's affordable housing program.
On 166th Street and Tinton Avenue in the Bronx, new residents enter an attractive, eight-story building. The lobby and halls here resemble a nice hotel. There is a new gym - and at the top of the building, a glass-enclosed vegetable farm. "You've got basil and a variety of greens, bok choy," said Les Bluestone, the developer of the building.
The urban farm is impressive. The perfect plants are lush and the George Washington Bridge hovers in the distance. To live here, a couple with two kids can't earn more than $52,000 annually. Monthly rents range from roughly $600 to $1000. Five thousand households applied for the 124 apartments.
The Bloomberg administration is proud of its record building well-designed, affordable housing and the effect that this housing has had on neighborhoods. Housing Commissioner Mathew Wambua said the new developments have lifted neighborhoods up. "If in fact rents are rising in a place like Morrisania, in many respects that's a testament to massive investment," Wambua said.
The mayor, Wambua added, "bolstered the tapestry" of poor neighborhoods such as Morrisania. "There was a time where the sense was, you lived here at times as a default and not a choice," he said.
Not too long ago, Harlem was one of those depressed neighborhoods. Right before Bloomberg took office, Carl and Ramona Scott paid just over $400 thousand for their Harlem brownstone. "The prices now for this house would probably be in the neighborhood of a million, maybe more than that, probably a million and a half," said Carl Scott.
Property values rose in Central Harlem 222 percent between 2000 and 2012. The property values here did not go down even during the housing bust. In nearby Morningside Heights, the increase was even greater. Scott, a retired school teacher, and his wife, a legal secretary, are solidly middle class. They feel lucky to have reaped the rewards as their neighborhood gains value. "For me it was great," Carl Scott said.


 Andrea Bernstein

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Night music: Johnny Cash Mix



Apartments, like this one-bedroom at  Midtown's Emerald Green luxury rental building, were made available via lottery--for about one-third of their usual rent to low and moderate-income New Yorkers who passed a vigorous screening process.
I recently entered a NYC Housing “Lottery” which turned out to be only slightly less stressful than that described in Shirley Jackson’s short story of the same name. While I didn’t have to go through a public stoning by the community, the sheer amount of paperwork one must compile and present in addition to doing in-person interviews was daunting. The ultimate possibility for rejection? Profound.
In NYC oftentimes when a luxury rental building is being constructed, developers will offer 20% of the units to lower-to-middle income tenants at a drastically reduced rate in order to get tax incentives. 
So when I heard about one on the site in Hell’s Kitchen at the start of the year I applied.
It works like this: Lotteries are announced on the city's housing site; information on income restrictions and ranges is listed and varies from building to building; if you fit the income range, download an application from the site or write to request one. 
You then fill it out and send it in. And then pray for the magic to happen. Out of thousands of applicants only a few hundred are chosen to actually participate in the review process. They are typically chosen randomly. 
For the one I applied for this summer--a building going up on 39th Street called Crystal Green  (the building is still in its early stages so there's no website to speak of yet)--I was told over 10,000 applications were received and those applicants who currently lived within the same community board were given first priority along with the disabled.
Names were randomly chosen and the lucky applicants received a letter with an appointment date on it. 
I had applied in the past to several lotteries and only advanced to the interview once, about three years ago, at Midtown's Emerald Green luxury rental building (pictured). After a rigorous interview process (more on that below), I was ultimately rejected for going over the income requirement by a measly $600 per year.
This time around, I was again one of the lucky ones to advance to the interview process.  I was given about 10 days to compile originals and copies of my passport, birth certificate, social security card, last three years of income tax returns including 1099s (I’m a freelancer), the last six months of my ConEd, cable, phone and internet services bills, the last six months of all savings and checking account activity and balances including all ATM withdrawals and deposits, my last six months of rent receipts, contact information for my current and past landlord, verification of income for the last six months (this is tricky for freelancers because we do not have check stubs and our income varies) and two money orders for application fees. 
I’m super-organized and love nothing better than a project. I got an eight-pocket file folder, and neurotically labeled each section and color-coded each category. 
I carefully organized each request chronologically with originals on top and copies behind. I carried that binder around for days like a mental patient showing it to the T-mobile clerk who kindly printed out my last bills and then onto my bank manager explaining why I was requesting they do days of work trying to find copies of each check I deposited from clients in the last six months.
Luckily, after explaining what a huge payoff it would be to get a nearly $3,600 one-bedroom for about $800 a month, they were all rooting for me. 
I had gone through this process before, so I was wary while trying to remain optimistic. Last time I went on the interview I was sure I’d make it because I fit perfectly in the required salary range for the last three years. I had all the paperwork required and a perfect binder, but what they had neglected to say was that if you have a large sum of money in the bank they raise your total income. They took one look and ruled me out. 
Frustrated, I tried to ascertain what formula they used to calculate how much each dollar in savings would bring up one’s gross income. I asked what metrics they used to determine total gross income beyond any assets and actual income reported to the IRS. 
I never got a straight answer and even appealed to the lottery review commitee but was simply told that I was $600 over their limit. 
This time around, I was sure to apply even though my income was slightly under what they needed. I knew that as I still had that added savings, they’d add it to my "income" and bring me right in the middle of the range. 
I showed up early, took a seat, my beautifully crafted binder of my lap, less Penske file and more a work of art. I looked around at the other applicants and sized them up. I noted one carried her paperwork in scraps in a brown paper bag. I stroked my color-coded binder and wished presentation was all that mattered.

There were neck tattoos, see-through tank tops, what appeared to be immigrant families, screaming children and one very pregnant teenager.

As a kid who grew up on welfare I could only liken the housing review office to a welfare one, albeit one a step-up from the ones I visited in the 70s and early 80s with my mother.

It was clean and neat but lacked any sort of ambiance beyond what can be described as “free cheese."(As a kid we actually stood on the free government cheese line so I know of what I speak.) The staff was efficient, polite and no-nonsense.

I was quickly ushered to a very nice woman who painstakingly reviewed my paperwork with me. I was asked over and over about assets I might have, about any past or present drug use, why I wanted to live there and a myriad of other questions that at this point are all a blur.

I answered all honestly, knowing from past experience they double and triple check all financial information and would be doing a home-visit should I pass to that stage.

Those who still fit in the income requirements after the near two-hour review were asked to submit a money order for a credit check. I made it to the next step as did at least two others while I was there.
One lady who was not invited to pass to the next level lost her shit and started yelling at a reviewer. GAME OVER!

I was asked about my dog; I proudly showed his picture indicating he was under the maximum weight limit (and oh-so-cute).
The trickiest part for me was conveying my income. My tax returns indicate that I am in their income range, but it is important to understand small business owners are allowed many deductions. It can be a bit confusing; luckily the reviewer had been a real estate agent and past 1099er herself so she understood the paperwork I was submitting perfectly.

This time I made it through the whole two-hour interrogation. The oddest question I was asked was how much money I had on me at that very second. I said $60 and they added that in the income column. 
What I found noteworthy was at the interview three years prior the reason why I went over their allowed income was that I had a large sum of money in my business account and this time the reviewer refused to even look at my business account. 
I explained to her that it seemed odd because last time that was whole reason why I didn’t make it. At the end they said even though I had applied for a one-bedroom (there were 10 studios, 20 one-bedrooms and 10 two-bedrooms up for grabs) my income was too low to qualify for that so they’d mark me down as applying for a studiofor which the rent would be $586.
With the opportunity to get a brand new unit in a super-luxury building that included an in-unit washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a pool, outdoor space, elevator and doorman in a Midtown high-rise for nearly one-fifth of the market price, I certainly wasn’t one to balk. 
I left and the only thing they needed me to send by the end of the week was my divorce certificate to show why my surname changed. 
I exited feeling great that I was still in the running to be America’s Next Top Apartment Lottery Winner. 
A few days later my agent called to tell me they ran my credit and all was good. I was imagining myself leaving my shitty, expensive walk-up and moving on up. I looked for signs everywhere. 
One night I lay in bed trying to visualize doing my laundry in my new home when I was interrupted out of my daydream by my cell buzzing alerting me that there was a new message. Even though it was just a piece of spam that somehow got past Hotmail’s filter, the subject titillated me: Lottery Winner. I took it as a sign! The Universe was speaking to me!
A few days after that I spent the day in the hospital. I have been having some scary (and costly) medical problems and this cheaper, less stressful building would be a godsend. 
As I lay in the E.R. sharing my space with an old woman, she asked where I live. I told her and she said she lived nearby on 38th Street. I immediately thought of the lottery. 
A few minutes later she explained that she won a housing lottery three years ago and now lived in Emerald Green, the building that had rejected for having too high of an income. She regaled me with tales of the gorgeous pool, her in-apartment washing machine and dryer and the view from her 20thfloor unit. 

In the three years she has been there her rent has only gone from $486 to $500.  I relayed my story to her, divulging that I was actually in the middle of a lottery decision and she said she was sure this was a sign and that we met for a reason and that surely I’d be picked to live in the companion building to hers, Crystal Green. 
I already was friends with a neighbor! Another reason I should come out a winner. The Universe had spoken!
The following day they called me yet again with several more questions: Why did I pay a full year of rent up front? (I had to because I’m a freelancer and it is hard to show I make 40X the annual rent required by my management company). Why did I recently move? (see Peeping Tom story ). Where did I get the money for the check they see for the full year of rent (transferred from my business account which I had tried to show them on day-one of the interview and that I made clear was an account I pay bills from because as a sole proprietor, it's only my money).
Each day I went to the mailbox hoping there would be nothing in it. I knew the next step was to get a call from the selection committee to set up a home-visit to check out where I live now. If that went well one of the last steps would be to meet with the building’s management office and see the unit I would be offered. 
But it was not to be. Last week I got a dastardly letter saying they determined my income is too high. Again! 
Even though at the in-person interview they had said my income was too lowto even apply for a one-bedroom. Baffling! 
I have written to find out, once again, what formula they are using to calculate the added income because according to assets and my tax returns I’m way under their allotted maximum income. I would also like to know how much over they are saying I am. Again, no response.  
Glenwood Management : If you are reading, give a girl another chance or at least explain where your reviewers are coming up with their final income figure. 
In the meantime, I will keep trying, and hope that the third time--should I get the chance--will be the charm.

Kelly Kreth, recently returned to Hell’s Kitchen, chronicles her misadventures in her tenement-style walk-up in this bi-weekly BrickUnderground column, Hell’s Bitchen

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Glenn Greenwald's Plan to Poke, Prod, and Piss Off the Powerful

Interesting observations start at 28:00 on the role of journalism. coalition between libertarian and leftest politics in fighting crony capitalism and insider politics.

The Marin IJ should take heed to some of his advice on the role of journalism. The first amendment means that you will upset people but most especially the powerful.

ABAG Affordable Housing Program Funds High-Priced Apartments (The Marin IJ will ignore this story)

Affordable Housing Program Funds High-Priced Apartments
Friday February 13, 2004

A Bay Area-based government program set up to promote the building of low-income housing has instead legally issued a substantial percentage of its low-cost bond financing to high-end apartment construction, according to documents on the agency’s website. It calls into question why an agency program whose self-declared purpose is “to deal with the increasing shortage of affordable housing” has ended up funneling so much potential low-cost financing into housing that is clearly not low-cost.

The affordable housing financing program of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) announces on its website that it has “successfully completed 53 affordable housing project financings” throughout California. However, close to half of ABAG’s affordable housing project financings in Alameda County went to seven mixed-used Berkeley facilities built by Berkeley-based developer Panoramic Interests. Eighty percent of the units in each of the seven Panoramic housing projects are market-rate rentals, far out of the financial reach of low-income renters.

In addition, ABAG’s signed agreement with Panoramic Interests to sponsor bond financing for the Gaia Building specifically exempts ABAG from having to monitor whether Panoramic actually rents the affordable apartments to low-income tenants.

In its bond funding contracts, ABAG defines affordable housing as housing that charges a monthly rent not in excess of 10 percent of the median monthly income for the area in which the housing is developed. For Alameda County, that means a monthly rent of approximately $650 for a family of four.

No other developments in Berkeley besides the Panoramic projects received ABAG-assisted funding, and the $72 million in bond financing made available to Panoramic during the eight years of the program far overshadowed the $4.5 million in bond financing that went to all of Oakland in the same period. One possible reason for the politically-savvy Panoramic’s dominance of the local bond issuance is that in order to qualify for ABAG-issued bonds, a development project must be sponsored by a member of ABAG’s Finance Authority For Nonprofit Corporations. Any California public agency is eligible for membership in the Finance Authority, subject to approval by ABAG’s executive board. At least some of Panoramic’s ABAG bond projects were sponsored by members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The tax-exempt government bonds are preferred by housing developers over non-government financing because of their lower interest rates.

There is no evidence that Panoramic misled ABAG in applying for the loans, and Clarke Howatt, ABAG’s Director of Financial Services (now under suspicion of embezzling at least $1.3 million dollars of taxpayer money), insisted in a telephone interview that the financing project has been carried out in compliance with regulations of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which he says allows tax-exempt bond financing for housing developments so long as at least 20 percent of those developments are set aside for low-income residents. Berkeley “inclusionary” ordinance mandates that all housing developments put up in the city meet that 20 percent low-income set-aside.

While ABAG-assisted affordable housing developments can be as low as 20 percent affordable, the ABAG bonds are often issued for the construction of the entire housing development, not just for the portion of that development which is affordable. In the case of the $15.4 million in tax-exempt bonds issued by ABAG for Panoramic’s Gaia Building in 2000 for example, the funding was intended for the construction of all 91 apartments in the facility. In practical terms, it meant that $12.3 million in the tax-exempt bonds that might have gone directly into the construction of affordable apartments in another project instead went to the 73 units in the Gaia Building that were not affordable.

“I think you’re onto a good story,” said Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton. “If you look at the ABAG program name, it says something along the lines of the ‘nonprofit housing development fund.’ And yet, virtually all of their funds go to for-profit developers. I have real questions about the appropriateness of how ABAG handles their program.”

Barton said that he knew of one Berkeley nonprofit housing developer that “applied to ABAG and was turned down on the grounds that [ABAG] regarded the loan as riskier than lending to a for-profit developer.”

Informed of the $72 million in Panoramic bond financing, Ian Winters, Executive Director of the Northern California Land Trust, said merely “wow.” The trust is a nonprofit Berkeley-based group that, among other things, builds low-income co-op and condominium projects of 10 units or less. The ABAG program “doesn’t seem targeted very well,” Winters said, “given that Berkeley’s Housing Trust Fund is about $4 million a year, and there’s five nonprofits who practically trip over ourselves trying to get that money.” Winters added that he’s not “that familiar with” the lending program. “I’d heard little bits about it, but it’s not something that we have applied for yet. I thought that the loans applied only to senior housing projects, which is something we don’t really do. If nothing else, it’s a really, really bad job of publicity.”

Janice Weston, Housing Development Assistant with the nonprofit Community Development Corporation in North Oakland, said her organization was not aware of the ABAG bond program. “There are so many things going on that some of them just don’t come into your immediate purview, but that’s one that I’m not familiar with,” Weston said. “One of the problems with the nonprofits is that we often operate in a vacuum. So I don’t know about the ABAG program, but everybody else might know.” Weston said her organization currently has developed more than 50 low income housing units for sale and rental in Oakland.

Todd Harvey, Housing Project Manager for the nonprofit Jubilee Restoration housing developers in Berkeley, said that he was aware of the ABAG bond program because Jubilee had worked with Panoramic on the ABAG bond-financed Acton Courtyard development. Harvey said he did not feel that ABAG should be responsible for getting out information on its loan programs to developers. “How we find out about any of this funding is research,” he said. “HUD didn’t come to us and ask us to apply for any of their programs. What we do is when we need money for certain programs, we would call up agencies and organizations and ask them what money is available. It’s up to the nonprofit developers to do the research themselves. And anybody who’s in the housing field knows all the sources of funding.” Harvey said that Jubilee intended to apply for ABAG bonds for its own future projects.

Established in 1961, ABAG is the official planning agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay region. All nine counties and 99 of the 101 cities within the Bay Area are voluntary ABAG members, and one elected official from each governmental body serves as a delegate to ABAG’s General Assembly. The General Assembly representative for Berkeley is Councilmember Miriam Hawley. The representative for Alameda County is Supervisor Nate Miley, and the representative for the city of Oakland is Councilmember Jean Quan.

ABAG is one of several public agencies that compete for a limited yearly state pool of this bond funding for housing projects. The pool is operated by the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC) of the state treasurer’s office. The money is divided into three separate pots: one for mixed income projects having 50 percent or less affordable housing units (such as the Panoramic projects), one for general projects having more than 50 percent affordable housing units, and one for rural projects. While the different types of projects never compete directly against each other, the financing for one pool of projects (such as those which require only 20 percent affordable housing) necessarily uses bond funds that could otherwise be allocated to fully affordable projects.

According to Elissa Dennis, an affordable housing financing consultant with Community Economics, Inc. of Oakland, the mixed-income pool is important because the low-interest bond payments it provides give for-profit developers an incentive to build a percentage of affordable housing in projects that would otherwise be totally market rate. Dennis also said that the fact that no nonprofit Berkeley housing developers received ABAG bonds did not mean that those developers were being frozen out of the CDLAC market; she noted that they might have applied for and received CDLAC bonds using sponsorship from another government agency.

Patrick Kennedy, the head of Panoramic, did not return a telephone call from the Daily Planet to answer questions in connection with this story.

“I think you’re onto a good story,” said Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton. “If you look at the ABAG program name, it says something along the lines of the ‘nonprofit housing development fund.’ And yet, virtually all of their funds go to for-profit developers. I have real questions about the appropriateness of how ABAG handles their program.”
Editor's Note: The Branson School, the most prestigious and expensive private school in Marin received $23,000,000 in ABAG bond funds  in 2008 to rebuild their campus. I doubt they are most people's concept of "the needy" No wonder non profits are in support of Plan Bay Area.  It is a honey pot of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Marin Voice: Bus hub plan is too big for Novato

Marin Voice: Bus hub plan is too big for Novato

By Al Dugan
POSTED:   02/04/2015 11:13:07 AM PST

The city of Novato is considering a project now that is at odds with the needs of the citizens, a delay in making important safety upgrades and a waste of taxpayers' taxes.
It is the trifecta.
The city wants to change the current Redwood Boulevard and Grant Avenue bus stop to a major transit hub with a controversial "weave design" for the buses to create headway that is not needed now or moving forward. The change will increase possible bus headway to 60 buses an hour, when the current and future needs per the reports submitted to the City Council are six buses per hour at peak.
Does Old Town Novato need a bus station that can handle 60 buses an hour? That's one per minute!

The City Council also approved a Community Based Transportation Project, a report that was just released. The cost of this study was approximately $300,000.
A review of sections on the bus stops, crossing and sidewalks doesn't appear to call for changes to be made to the Redwood and Grant bus stop and turning it into a major regional transportation hub. Rather, it talks about fixing and improving the safety of the crosswalks, renovating the current shelter, adding amenities such as bike racks and newsstands, and adding real time electronic GPS boards.
All in all, the residents appear to be asking for changes that will improve access to areas within Novato by reducing the cost of transportation and adding new services such as low-cost taxis equipped for wheelchairs to access local medical appointments.

This plan has held up basic renovations for the past four years by making the regional hub a greater priority than improvement to local transportation facilities and services.
The decision to put millions of dollars into a regional transfer hub appears to be coming from outside Novato, from the county level based on a plan created more than a decade ago.
The real reason for transit projects is that it provides access to funds to build high density housing like the above.
The location also is poorly thought out as it lacks any form of parking for commuters, limiting those who can even make use of a transfer hub.
The Redwood and Grant bus project is not what bus riders are actually asking for. The Community Based plan focuses on the most needy residents. It is funding tied to Lifeline grants that apply to residents living at or below the poverty level.
The $4 million to $5 million for this project could significantly improve the entire Novato bus stop system, including path of travel for disabled residents.
It is more important that we address the needs of residents dependent on bus service and wait to see how the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train will fill in the gaps in regional transportation including transfers.
A more fitting location might be adjacent to one of the two local SMART stations to be developed. Transfers would then include access to the train as well as the buses.
The City Council should listen to the 252 people who signed the petition we sent them. They are citizens who actually took the time to review this unneeded plan, see a waste of funds and support what is needed by actual local bus riders.
Al Dugan of Novato has been involved in local debates over housing and transportation.