Friday, March 20, 2015

Berkeley Planet: Plan Bay Area – A Shocking Theft Of Our Democracy

Berkeley is fighting the Tyrannical Authoritarian  "Plan Bay Area"

By Vivian Warkentin
Friday June 28, 2013 - 11:46:00 AM

Our local media has been dropping broad, confusing hints about something big, something imminent, coming to the greater Bay Area.

A front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle in March 2013, titled “HardChoices for a growing S.F.” begins, “San Francisco residents will be getting thousands of new neighbors in the next 30 years, and it’s time to start figuring out where they will live and work. (??) The article goes on to say “Combined with the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) estimate that San Francisco’s population will soar from the current 812,000 to at least 964,000 by 2025 it’s clear great change is ahead for the city.”

Tim Redmond, editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, lays out similar predictions in his article, “The Zero-Sum Future”: “Streets may have to be torn up, and redirected . . . ABAG, according to its most recent projections, would like to see some 90,000 new housing units in S.F. That’s got plenty of problems, particularly the likelihood of the displacement of existing residents.”

East Bay Express editor, Robert Gammon, pulled out all the stops with his article, “How an Environmental Law is harming the Environment”, arguing that we need to gut the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because it gets in the way of “smart growth”.

So thousands of new neighbors are coming to our cities, even though there are neither jobs nor housing for them. Streets are going to be torn up and residents will be displaced. Thousands of new housing “units” will be needed. CEQA will have to be revised to accommodate “smart growth”.

What is going to cause all this upheaval? What are the media outlets softening up the public for? ­ It’s the Plan Bay Area that has been implemented on July 18, 2013 by a small appointed "executive council" of appointed politicians.

Most people in Berkeley and other Bay Area cities have never heard of Plan Bay Area and only a miniscule percentage of the seven million residents of the nine Bay Area counties who will be affected have had any part in the “planning sessions.” But ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) who have designed it to address SB-375, the California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, say they are responding to the needs and desires of Bay Area residents. No vote of the people is planned.

Our Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates (as an MTC commissioner), along with mayors and city and county elected officials of the Bay Area, has been attending public-private meetings alongside non-profit groups who have alliances with corporations, developers, non-governmental organizations and government agencies. A conglomeration of locally elected officials should not constitute a legal governing body when they were not elected for that purpose. ABAG and it’s partners have effectively created an illegitimate regional branch of government that trumps city government, diminishing the rights of average citizens to affect their local environment. 

The principle behind the Plan is to restrict future development in the Bay Area region to redevelopment areas and Priority Development Areas (PDA) only. Increase public transit to outlying areas? No. It’s a cruel hard world now. By allocating federal grant money through ABAG and the MTC, the idea is to starve rural and suburban counties of transportation money and restrict land use of property owners in order to cause a migration of people to designated city centers close to mass transit. Construction in cities will be mixed-use, high density “smart growth” buildings. Wow! The callous disregard for the average person’s property rights, and rights in general, is breathtaking. 

Other policies include a carbon tax which will force us to install GPS monitoring devices on our cars, eliminating even more parking, and paying for parking at night downtown. That will be great for local business.

People in other affected Bay Area counties are mighty upset. A Youtube videos of a hearings in Walnut Creek is available on line at:

Some Democrats would have us believe that only anti-government Tea Party types would object to a plan like this. I wonder if Democrats have lost their minds over climate change. Is it really environmentalism, or are the usual the money-bags and land grabbers of the world supplying self-enriching “solutions”?

Democrats, including Loni Hancock, are actually working to gut CEQA, something developers have only dreamed about until now. Only deep-pocketed developers have the wherewithal to build giant multi-unit buildings, and are getting rich off of federal tax dollars doing so. I doubt that our lawmakers will be moving from their single family homes to stack and pack “smart growth” housing units any time soon.

If we want to continue to call this a democracy, we in Berkeley will have to join our compatriots in other Bay Area cities and counties to say “Hell No!” to the illegitimate, tyrannical Plan Bay Area.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Developers " Play to Win" over Stupid, Racist, NIMBYs in Marin

"Something is not right here. They told me high density housing was going to be great for Marin."

Editor's Note: Today, I got an invitation to a professional seminar promising to unlock the secrets of "countering public opposition against development". Of course, we have been under assault by the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, Developers, Bankers and Housing activists for several years. Their dream is to turn Marin into a urban "smart growth" Shang-gi-la while most Marinites are happy with the human scale, garden communities close to nature we have today. We are happy to grow when it occurs the "Marin way" with concern for the total community, not just for developer dollars. For your amusement, try to identify all of the techniques being used on us.

How to Fight the ‘Not in My Back Yard’ Syndrome

Steps to mitigate opposition, build community support
By Al Maiorino | May 10, 2012

From Ethanol Producer

You have plans to build a biorefinery. Jobs, tax revenue, and much more are the benefits that will resonate with the community. At the first public hearing, however, opposition arises due to fears of having such an industry in the community. The entitling agency takes notice, and now you must build support, long after you have announced your plans and opposition has solidified

Why? Residents near the proposed site have created an opposition group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the new plant would generate renewable energy for many communities and improve the local economy, the community doesn’t seem to understand these benefits. The residents say the new facility would be too close to their homes and may potentially be hazardous to their health. They say it would create too much noise, pollution, and traffic, and would obstruct their views. You realize the opposition is a roadblock that may halt or even destroy the project. Now what do you do?

This problem is not so uncommon. This practice of communal opposition to development— the “not in my backyard” syndrome, or NIMBYism— blossomed in the 1980s. During that time, community concerns were often reasonable and justified. While those days are gone, the sentiment of opposition remains, and the “backyard” has grown so vastly that NIMBYism affects companies all over the world. With modern technology and strict government regulations, however, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development is usually reduced to a minimum.

Get the Message Out

Very often, the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present it with the facts.

It is necessary to look for local support and build allies to form a supporter coalition. First and foremost, identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor of, against, or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by carrying out a poll or a phone bank, asking local residents about their view of the renewable energy industry in general and your development plan in particular. The survey results may be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward the venture.

Once the database is created, it should be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of changes in local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign. A strong social media campaign is modern and necessary to spread your message, reach out to the community, and provide supporters with a communication outlet.

Organization of a database is crucial to the success of a campaign. Whether the identification process is achieved through direct mail, radio, phone calls or email, having an unorganized list of supporters and undecided residents doesn’t do your campaign any good. By inputting your supporters into a database, you can then separate them by town, county and legislative district for effective grassroots lobbying.

Now that you have distinguished supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third-party groups that support the development. These groups could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Companies or groups with whom you have had a positive relationship or who will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign. Do not focus only on third-party groups for support: Third-party groups are critical for your efforts, but often a few dozen “regular citizens” showing up to hearings and meetings can benefit your project tremendously.

Residents should express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further can attend public hearings, where they can speak about the benefits of the project. Most likely, an independent pro-group will have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

Grassroots campaigns create a support group of members from the local community that can assist in your efforts. The support group can actively promote your project through social networking. Proactive support groups are also a great source of volunteers and as they volunteer, they’ll feel more committed and supportive of your project.

Campaigns should be designed based on several factors including the size of the population you are targeting, the level of opposition, and the length of the entitlement process. Many of these campaigns should research their territory, identify supporters, code them into a database, not rely solely on email, not focus only on third-party support and always be transparent.

Regardless of the industry or location, NIMBYism always presents itself in an attempt to curb a proposal. It can attack any project no matter how big or small. Employing proper campaign tactics and developing the right grassroots campaign can counter NIMBY opposition to your energy projects.

Be Proactive

Companies frequently wait until opposition arises to hire a public affairs firm. By then residents have solidified their positions on a project, making it all the more difficult for them to change their minds in your favor. While some may feel the “added cost” of a public affairs firm is not worth it to the project budget, think about how much it costs a project to be delayed weeks, months or years, or to be outright denied approval. You may choose to fight NIMBYism on your own. Experience shows, however, that hiring a specialized firm will provide you with the necessary tools and tactics to ensure a victory for your development. Trained professionals from a grassroots firm will make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and that the silent majority is heard.

The way you approach the situation will make all the difference. You can choose to ignore the NIMBY fight, avoid communicating with the local community, and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Or, you and/or a specialized team can develop a strategy, engage in conversation with the community, and encourage project proponents to voice their support.

George Lucas thinks Rich and Powerful People shouldn't get Special Favors

Here is an interesting interview given by George Lucas just before the LucasFilm Studios at Grady Ranch project was pulled due to problems with permitting process with state and federal regulators.  The Board of Supervisors did everything they could to intervene on his behalf, lobbying the State and Federal government. 

We learned last week that George Lucas received an administrative permit to remove 4000 cubic yards of soil at Big Rock Ranch.  There was NO notice to any of his adjoining neighbors that we know of.  Only a small notice was posted at the Nicasio Post Office.  There are no EIR reports, Soil studies, Road impact/Traffic studies.  Just a quick rubberstamp approval.

Gee Whiz.  I wonder is this qualifies as "Special Favors"?

From the permit: 

. This Design Review Amendment approval authorizes up to 4,000 cubic yards of soil to be

off-hauled to an off-site location. The excess soil is a result of grading activities related to a

previously approved Design Review application. The soil will be transported to either Loch

Lomand Marina, or the Nicasio Rock Quarry. A fleet of “super ten” trucks will be utilized for

transport of the soil. Each truck can carry approximately 10 cubic yards of soil each;

therefore approximately 400 truck trips will be necessary to complete the soil off-haul

operation. Per the application, the 40’ wide by 102” long, four-axle trucks will be either

tarped or filled one foot below the top of the truck bed to reduce dust. The trucks are rated at

66,500 lbs maximum gross vehicle weight when loaded. The truck trips shall be staggered to

avoid truck traffic congestion. The off-haul operation shall take place Monday through

Friday, from 7:30 AM until 4:30 PM.

2. The off-haul operation shall substantially conform to the Design Review Amendment

request, as described in the letter and site plan submitted by Al Cornwall, date stamped

February 13, 2015, and on file with the Marin County Community Development Agency,

except as modified by the conditions listed herein.

3. There shall be no exportation of soil to the Nicasio Quarry. The soil shall be off-hauled to

either Loch Lomand Marina, as proposed, or an alternate off-site location.

4. The applicant/owner hereby agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the County of

Marin and its agents, officers, attorneys, or employees from any claim, action, or

proceeding, against the County or its agents, officers, attorneys, or employees, to attack, set

aside, void, or annul an approval of this application, for which action is brought within the

applicable statute of limitations.

5. Any changes to the project shall be submitted to the Community Development Agency in

writing for review and approval before the contemplated modifications may be initiated.

Construction involving modifications that do not substantially comply with the approval, as

determined by the Community Development Agency staff, may be required to be halted until

proper authorization for the modifications are obtained by the applicant.



Unless conditions of approval establish a different time limit or an extension to vest has been

granted, any permit or entitlement not vested within three years of the date of the approval,

March 5, 2018, shall expire and become void. The permit shall not be deemed vested until the

permit holder has actually obtained any required Building Permit or other construction permit

and has substantially completed improvements in accordance with the approved permits, or has

actually commenced the allowed use on the subject property, in compliance with the conditions

of approval. An extension to vest may be granted administratively by the Planning Division for a

maximum period of three years following the original expiration date.


This decision is final unless appealed to the Planning Commission. A Petition for Appeal and a

$600.00 filing fee must be submitted in the Community Development Agency – Planning

Division, Room 308, Civic Center, San Rafael, no later than March 19, 2015.

cc: {Via email to County departments}

CDA – Planning Manager

DPW – Land Development

Nicasio Design Review Board

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The tinfoil hat song for true believers of Plan Bay Area.

Why Did This San Francisco Woman Get Stuck With a $6,755 Monthly Rent Hike?

Why Did This San Francisco Woman Get Stuck With a $6,755 Monthly Rent Hike?

Landlords are exploiting a loophole in a law meant to protect renters.
Image James Gaither/Flickr Creative Commons
Bernal Heights, where things are getting ugly between one tenant and landlord over a massive rent hike. (James Gaither/Flickr Creative Commons)
Earlier this month, Debra Follingstad received an alarming notice from her landlord. Or rather, her landlord's attorney. The notice informed Follingstad, a longtime San Francisco resident, that her rent was going up. A lot. More than 400 percent.
"Effective May 5, 2015, your monthly base rent pursuant to Section 4 of the Lease shall increase from $2,145 to $8,900," the notice reads. The 60-day notice also required Follingstad to provide an additional $12,500 as a security deposit.
After Follingstad posted the letter to Facebook, many of her friends, followers, and even strangers had the same question: Can this possibly be legal?

The answer may be yes.
On her Facebook post about the notice, Follingstad speculates that the landlord is raising the rent in an effort to evict her. She tells me, via text message, that she has lived in the house since 2005 and works as a licensedacupuncturist. (She also says she is unavailable to speak while she is immediately seeking legal counsel and a new place to live. As of press time, CityLab has not been able to obtain or review the full notice beyond the single posted page.)
According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, the maximum allowable annual rent increase is 1.9 percent. Follingstad was served with a 415 percent rent increase, even though the Bernal Heights home that she occupies would appear to be protected by the city's rent-control laws. Per the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a tenants'-rights organization, rent control applies to most any building built before June 1979, including the 1924 house in question.
There are some exceptions to the law—and now, this Bernal Heights house may be one of them, thanks to a technicality in the law. A loophole in a policy designed to protect renters may be enabling some landlords to send their rents soaring.
"It's totally plausible. We're seeing a lot of this right now," says Tommi Mecca, the director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. "This is just the latest trick these landlords are doing to remove the price controls on the property."
Here's how it might work: On her Facebook post, Follingstad alleges that the landlord recently converted the house's unoccupied downstairs rental unit into storage, following a transfer of the title between family members. In demolishing the downstairs unit—by tearing out its kitchen and bathroom—the landlord reportedly changed the two-unit house into a single-family residence. One whose rent-control status was suddenly void.
The property in question: 355 Bocana St., San Francisco, California. (Google Earth)
"The situation of a single-family home with an illegal unit—sometimes downstairs, sometimes out back, in what’s called an in-law unit, sometimes it’s an apartment they put in the garage—it’s various scenarios, but it’s all the same situation," Mecca says. "Under rent control, those properties, as long as the single-family house was built before 1979, the illegal unit does not matter. Having that illegal unit puts that property under rent control. Once you remove that illegal unit, technically, you lose rent control. It’s now a single-family dwelling."
Records show two title transfers for the address on December 30, 2014, between the owner and other individuals, including another individual with the same last name as the owner. A search for the address on the city's permits database didn't yield any results matching a housing-unit demolition or conversion. The owner's attorney could not confirm these transactions, but did confirm that the notice was legit.
There's a formal procedure for rental housing demolitions and mergers, the process whereby housing units are removed by their owners, according to the San Francisco Tenants Union. In some cases, when landlords demolish units, tenants are liable to receive thousands of dollars in relocation payments. "A landlord must first get the required permits or their ability to do the eviction legally is significantly impaired," the SFTU website reads. "Tenants who face eviction due to such mergers may be able to contest the issuance of such permits."
Illegal or in-law units—the likes of which Follingstad says her landlord converted to storage in order in order to strip the property of its rent-control protection—have been the subject of increased scrutiny in recent years. In April of last year, San Francisco supervisors approved legislation recognizing these in-law units as legal housing, ending a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to a big part of the city's affordable-housing stock.
"There's tens of thousands of units that were legalized. Now they’re on the books," says Sonja Trauss, the founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters' Foundation, a grassroots pro-growth organization. "People would have a garage, or a basement, and instead of carefully going through process of filling out firms, they would just finish them. They weren't illegal in the sense that they were uninhabitable, they just weren't permitted."
Granting legal housing status to illegal in-law units was a measure meant to protect renters in San Francisco. However, bringing these units out of the "shadow economy," in a sense, may have stripped renters of an unlikely but powerful protection: legal limbo.
"How are you going to sue your tenants when you’re not supposed to have a tenant there in the first place?" Trauss says. "When you know your landlord’s breaking the law, haven’t you always felt that you're safer than when you’re in a fully permitted building?
If Follingstad's accusations are accurate, then her housing situation is a conundrum. The in-law unit adjacent to her own rental unit may have been an illegal unit, one that was not necessarily up to code for rental housing. Nevertheless, thanks to the April 2014 sunshine law giving amnesty to illegal housing units, these in-law units warrant rent-control protections.
Does the new rent-control legislation mean that demolishing an in-law unit—potentially an illegal unit not up to code—requires a demolition or merger permit? Does removing an in-law unit from a home, and thereby rendering it as a single-family dwelling no longer subject to rent-control protections, trigger relocation payments—the way any other unit demolition or merger would?
The answer is unclear.
Peak eviction in San Francisco arrived in 1998: That's when Ellis Act and owner-move-in evictions reached their highest numbers. Since then, landlords looking to move renters out of rent-controlled properties have used increasingly sophisticated and varied legal mechanisms to do so. Given the legal ambiguity surrounding illegal and in-law units, it may not be a surprise that a landlord could find in them a way to raise the rent astronomically.
"Welcome to the San Francisco housing crisis," Mecca says.
Top Image: James Gaither/Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

California Supreme Court to Decide Major CEQA, Climate Change Case

California Supreme Court to Decide Major CEQA, Climate Change Case

Justices' Latest Grant of Review Continues Supreme Court's Focus on Environmental Law

To paraphrase former President Ronald Reagan, there they go again.
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday granted review in an important case at the intersection of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and one of the state’s most important climate change laws.  The case, Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments, is the latest in an unprecedented series of CEQA cases taken up by the Supreme Court.  It’s also the justices’ first opportunity to confront the important legal and policy issues presented by the landmark 2008 climate change legislation popularly known as SB 375.
SB 375, formally titled the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, for the first time links California regional transportation planning and funding with state land use regulation and planning–the ultimate goal being to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from California’s transportation sector, the state’s single largest source of those emissions.  The legislation does so by requiring each of the state’s regional transportation agencies to incorporate a “sustainable communities strategy” (SCS) into its periodically updated regional transportation plan.  SB 375’s objective is to incentivize more sustainable land use and transportation practices, thereby reducing California’s aggregate GHG emissions.SD Traffic
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) was the first regional transportation agency in California to adopt an updated transportation plan with an SB 375-required SCS component.  SANDAG did so after a lengthy regulatory process that included preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) under CEQA to assess the overall environmental consequences of its proposed transportation plan and SCS.  The regional plan and SCS that SANDAG ultimately approved, while projected to achieve short-term GHG emission reduction goals, does not meet those goals over the long term.  Critically, however, the SANDAG EIR did not identify and address this inconsistency; nor did EIR focus on potential mitigation measures to address the projected environmental impacts of the regional plan’s GHG emissions.
Environmental organizations and housing advocates sued SANDAG, challenging the EIR’s adequacy under CEQA.  California Attorney General Kamala Harris intervened in the litigation on behalf of the People of the State of California and in support of the plaintiffs, a controversial decision that dramatically raised the stakes and profile of the litigation.
SANDAG total emissionsThe trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and Attorney General Harris, a development reported inan earlier post by Legal Planet colleague Ethan Elkind.  SANDAG appealed, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the EIR prepared by the agency in support of its regional transportation plan and SCS to be legally deficient in numerous respects.  (Ethan did a nice job of covering that decision as well in another previous post.)
SANDAG then sought review from the California Supreme Court regarding a number of perceived flaws in the Court of Appeal’s 2014 opinion.  All seven justices of the Supreme Court concurred in today’s decision to take up the case, but they limited review to a single issue which they reframed as follows:
 Must the environmental impact report for a regional transportation plan include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals reflected in Executive Order No. S-3-05 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act?
(Executive Order No. S-3-05, issued by former Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005, establishes the GHG reduction targets for 2020 and 2050 that SB 375 is designed to help achieve on a statewide basis.)
The California Supreme Court’s grant of review in Cleveland National Forest Foundation is noteworthy for several reasons:
  • First, it continues and underscores the Supreme Court’s continuing interest in–some would say obsession with–environmental law in general and CEQA in particular.  (I commented on this noteworthy trend in a recent post.)  The justices’ grant of review again brings the number of CEQA cases pending before the Court to nine and the number of pending environmental cases overall to 20–both records in California Supreme Court history.  Cleveland National Forest Foundation, moreover, is the second currently pending case before the justices to involve the intersection of CEQA and climate change, joining California Building Industry Assn. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management Dist. (which I discussed in the above-referenced, earlier post).
  • Cleveland National Forest Foundation, while a CEQA case, also represents the first opportunity for the Supreme Court to address and apply SB 375, an important and particularly innovative component of California’s suite of laws designed to reduce the state’s aggregate GHG emissions.  The Court of Appeal decision in the case [now vacated as to the issue the Supreme Court will review] gave an expansive interpretation to SB 375 and the long-term objectives the legislation is designed to achieve.  It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court applies a similarly muscular construction of SB 375 or, alternatively, adopts the more technical and limited interpretation of the legislation advanced by SANDAG.
  • Finally, another reason that watching the Cleveland National Forest Foundation case play out in the Supreme Court will be fascinating spectator sport is that it involves a veritable Super Bowl of CEQA advocacy.  The public interest plaintiffs are represented by managing partner Rachel Hooper of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, one of the very best environmental and land use law firms in  California.  Attorney General Harris, aligning herself with plaintiffs, is ably represented in the case by Principal Deputy State Solicitor General Janill Richards, herself a veteran, accomplished environmental litigator.  And SANDAG’s counsel before the Supreme Court is Margaret Sohagi, one of California’s most experienced and respected CEQA experts.  To say that this key California Supreme Court case will be ably litigated on all sides is a serious understatement.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Transbay Terminal

The Transbay Transit Center Project (Narrated by Peter Coyote) from Transbay Transit Center on Vimeo.

Transbay project in $300 million hole

'There's not enough money' for transit center project
Updated 8:46 am, Thursday, July 25, 2013
The construction cost for the first phase of the transportation hub at First and Mission streets, which will initially serve buses from seven transit agencies and eventually electric trains from Caltrain and high-speed rail, has risen from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion in the revised budget the authority adopted on July 11. The project's first phase includes demolishing the old Transbay Terminal, building and operating a temporary terminal and building the five-story terminal, including bus decks and ramps, retail spaces, two below-ground rail levels and a rooftop park.

Funding elusive

To cover the hefty cost increase, Heminger said, the authority will use some of the money that had been dedicated to the second phase of the project - the downtown extension that would carry trains from Fourth and King streets to the Transbay center. That portion of the project had never been fully funded, and is a key Bay Area project competing for major federal funding. But the soaring cost of the first phase means it will be an even bigger challenge to find the funding to lay rails to the new transit center.
"There's not enough money to deliver the full project - not before the increases and not after," said Adam Alberti, a spokesman for the authority. "The fact that the cost increased by $300 million means that a bigger hole needs to be plugged."
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, a commissioner and Transbay center supporter, said after the meeting that the cost increase was disappointing but not a serious setback for the downtown extension.

'We'll get it done'

"I don't think it will have a meaningful impact," he said. "We have always known that getting the downtown extension done would take a lot of work over a number of years, and this doesn't change that. We'll get it done."
Alberti blamed the cost spike on increased and unanticipated federal security requirements for the transit center, whose prominence will make it a potential target for terrorist attacks. A federal vulnerability analysis identified an additional $56.8 million in detection, communications and protection systems needed for the project.
The resurgent economy and construction industry also contributed, pushing bids on the last major contract - structural steel - 75 to 80 percent over estimates. The authority received a single bid, rejected it and repackaged the work into three separate contracts to attract more bidders. It worked, resulting in lower bids, but they were still $95 million more than budgeted.

Economy strengthens

"It's largely reflective of the fact that the economy, and especially the construction economy, is heating up," Alberti said.
While construction costs are rising, so are land values, and that will help the authority cover the $300 million overrun. To take advantage of the boom, some of the land sales funding the center will be accelerated so that money is available sooner, Alberti said. The authority also hopes to win additional Proposition K transportation sales tax funds in San Francisco, transit center impact fees and grants from the MTC. It also hopes to refinance a federal infrastructure loan.
But if those efforts fail, Heminger said, the authority may ask the commission to borrow toll money. He said the agency would consider that request but is unlikely to give any additional grants to the transit center project. The terminal is expected to open, without the downtown extension, in late 2017.

Design changes

Alberti said the Transbay authority has made design changes to hold the costs down, including replacing the glass covering of the curvaceous center with a perforated metal skin. It's also adjusted estimated costs of future construction contracts upward to reflect the change in the economy.
The authority also hopes to win new state and federal grants. But the biggest hope is that the project is awarded $650 million or more from the federal New Starts program, a competitive grant program that has helped fund major Bay Area transit projects, including the Central Subway, the San Jose BART extension and the BART extension to San Francisco International Airport.

New York's $4 Billion Train Station make San Francisco 3 Billion Dollar Transbay Terminal look like a bargain

New York's $4 Billion Train Station: In 100 Years, Will Anyone Still Care About All That Wasted Money?

New York magazine's Andrew Rice defends Santiago Calatrava's "glorious boondoggle." Here's what he gets wrong.

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub |||
Santiago Calatrava's World Trade Center Transportation Hub in lower Manhattan, dubbed "the world's most expensive train station," will cost $4 billion, or roughly double the price tag sold to the public when the project was first announced 11 years ago. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency in charge of the project, has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on ill-advised construction contracts and lousy planning.
A new essay by Andrew Rice in New Yorkmagazine, "The Glorious Boondoggle," argues that none of this matters so much because it's a phenomenal structure—"No recent addition to the cityscape has aspired to combine public utility and aesthetic daring to the same degree"—and eventually we'll all forget about the wasted money. Rice approvingly quotes architect Daniel Libeskind:
Someday…people will revel in Calatrava’s creation and the controversies will be forgotten. "Bernini, most people don’t know, built a tower at the Vatican that collapsed," he says. "He had such a failure he thought his career would never recover. Now we look back at Bernini and say, 'wow, what an architect.' So, look, you have to give it time."
New York is indeed filled with worthwhile infrastructure project that were scandals in their own time. Is anyone still pissed that Tammany Hall embezzled millions during the construction of the Tweed Courthouse, which stands a few blocks from the World Trade Center Transportation Hub? It dominated the headlines for a period in the 1870s; today the building's considered a treasure.
But Rice doesn't dwell on how all that money otherwise could have been spent. It's no wonder that we’re more apt to appreciate the public infrastructure that exists than to mourn the unnamed projects and initiatives that never came to fruition because of lousing planning and government ineptitude.
Rather than a $4 billion train station, wouldn't it have been better for the Port Authority to build out an actual train? The city's $2.4 billion extension of the number 7 train is also scandalously expensive, but at least it's the sort of project that makes the city more habitable and creates conditions for private developers to build grand structures. We could have gotten almost two of those instead of the station.
Or, taxpayers could have held on to those funds and spent them in ways invisible to the rest of us but also of benefit to future generations.
For more on the World Trade Center rebuilding saga, check out this Reason TV video Kennedy and I made back in 2012:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Testimony to RWQCB about the Toxic Waste spill at Marinwood Plaza that threatens our health

Marinwood Plaza, LLC, the current owners of Marinwood Plaza  aka Hoytt Enterprises is under order to clean up the toxic waste contamination of PCE from Prosperity Cleaners.   There is a profound threat to the health of our community.  A cancer hotspot is reported yards away in Casa Marinwood.  

Very little clean up appears to have happened since the order was issued in February 2014.   Former Supervisor Susan Adams and Assemblymen Marc Levine have PERSONALLY INTERVENED in the process in an attempt to INTIMIDATE the non partisan scientific board.   It seems that it has worked.

The commissioners who were adamant that the clean up begin immediately in February 2014 suddenly have backed off of their demands.  The case officer at the RWQCB (Regional Water Quality Control Board) suddenly was "retired" and will not speak of the case.   Marinwood Plaza has fallen out of escrow and is now being offered for sale (Bridge housing has a offer in.  We presume they are counting on the taxpayer to foot the bill on their behalf)

Susan Adams,  a nursing PHD seems to be more concerning with advancing her objective of helping Bridge Housing than the health of her neighbors.   She was delivered a crushing election defeat in June 2014 but still remains on the ABAG regional planning board as a member of the "public" representing "public health".

The sleaze is surreal.  Even if one is for affordable housing at Marinwood Plaza, does it make sense to imperil the health of the community so that Marinwood Plaza can save money over clean up?

The property should be seized immediately and cleaned up and turned over to Marinwood CSD.

Trust Me.  I support affordable housing and green jobs

My Comments for EIR Scoping of Marinwood Village.

Editor's Note: According to Kevin Haroff, lead attorney for lawsuit against the Marin County Environmental Impact Report for unincorporated Marin,  people have a right to comment AFTER the artificially imposed comment deadline for today, April 7th.  Comments become part of the official record and the only points to which the public can appeal.

It is important to have your voice heard.  Send your concerns today.


Sent to: ''

Rachel Reid
Environmental Planning Manager
3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 308,
San Rafael, CA 94903

The Marinwood Village project raises many environmental concerns to the community of Marinwood Lucas Valley.  Its impact to the health, safety, aesthetics, financial, parking, ground water school impacts, archeological heritage, air quality and local government services will be dramatic.  In addition, the proximity to five other potential sites within a 4 mile radius, the cumulative impacts will spread far beyond the immediate neighborhood.  

While affordable housing per se is not the issue,  non profit (tax payer subsidized) affordable housing at the Marinwood Plaza site is particularly challenging especially given the known toxic waste and benzene contamination, and  a microwave farm located on the property.    This site is wholly unsuited for high density development, placing its residents at health risks from the toxics from the former gas station,  prosperity cleaners site and highway 101.  Indeed, a cancer hotspot is located several hundred yards away in Casa Marinwood. see:

The community concerns raised at the March 29th are just a beginning.  Other sites within the Marin County Housing element are far less impactful than the Marinwood Village site.

1.)  The EIR shall study the impacts cumulatively from all areas between South Novato Blvd at Hwy 16 in Novato to the Civic Center, San Rafael,  and Nicasio through the Baylands Corridor and San Pablo Bay..  Marinwood Plaza may soon be joined by 240 residences at Silveira Ranch, 173 units at Oakview, 225 units at Grady Ranch, Rocking H ranch  240 units, Big Rock Deli 60 units plus 60 units across the street at Rotary Field plus whatever else the community development department may propose.  It is clear that the current board of supervisors have specifically targeted Marinwood/Lucas Valley for major development of non-profit affordable housing to meet its HUD requirements under the Analysis of Impediments agreement.  In addition, Marinwood was identified as a potential Priority Development Area for urbanization, which  may increase the number of living units west of Las Gallinas by 1500-4500 households . ( Although this designation has been temporarily withdrawn, the Board of Supervisor reserve the right to reinstate it at a later date.

2.) The EIR shall study the effects on local and freeway traffic especially if Marinwood market is forced to close due to loss of parking and freeway visibility. Since Marinwood Lucas Valley only has one retail shopping center and virtually no employment beyond government services, the destruction of the shopping center will forever doom its residents to travel elsewhere for all of their  living essentials and jobs.  Marinwood market is a gourmet deli with premium pricing and unlikely to serve the needs of a neighboring low income population. The residents will be forced to travel to Novato or San Rafael to shop for essentials. 

3.) The EIR shall study the comparative environmental effect of a neighborhood retail shopping center that will serve the local community within walk-able and bike-able distances.  Especially study the positive impacts on health, well being of the community and positive  impacts for mobility impaired people.

4.) The EIR shall focus on the effects on the environmental effects of the immediate community of Marinwood-Lucas valley and ignore irrelevant, non-objective conjecture such as "greenhouse gases saved" by avoiding building 82 single family homes in a distant community.

5.) The EIR shall study the FULL toxic waste removal of the PCE contamination that has traveled beneath the 101 freeway and threatens the water supply of Silveira Ranch.  The removal is most likely excavation and will imperil the community health from dust and debris. Residents from Casa Marinwood plus the hundreds of school children who ride the school buses could be affected.   The Silveira dairy herd is imperiled from the current contamination and threatens the health of thousands of milk drinkers. See: ;  and also RWQCB website for Geologica Report.

6.) The EIR shall study the current contamination of the old gas station property at the corner of Marinwood Avenue and Miller Creek which will house ten housing units and commercial spaces.  The current site has been cleaned to commercial standards according to the RWQCB but not to residential standards.  Further cleanup must occur on this site before construction is permitted.  The effects on the health of residents of Casa Marinwood and Blackstone drive shall be studied.  

7.) The EIR shall study the effects of parking during peak usage during the weekends when workers are home and people need to shop at Marinwood Market.  Since the residents auto use will be high (or higher due to multiple adults per residence) due to the lack of local shopping and job opportunities, it is likely that every available parking space will be continually occupied and additional street parking will be needed on Marinwood Avenue, Miller Creek avenue and Blackstone Rd.  The EIR shall study the negative effects on groundwater pollution on the Miller Creek watershed.

8.) The EIR shall study the effects of the removal of trees, providing healthy oxygen and filtering roadway pollutants and GHG  currently lining Marinwood Avenue. 

9.) The EIR shall study the effects on the archeological resources of the ancient Miwok village which was sited along  Miller Creek for thousands of years.  Indigenous people's relics from past civilization are still found regularly in Miller Creek.  Several major anthropological studies have been made along Miller Creek and reside in the Marin County Library. Further work is needed to protect the legacy. A state licensed archeologist shall be present at the dig sites.

10.) The EIR shall study the effects of construction of new schools. The increased population of children will necessitate building new school facilities.  Brad Wiblan, VP of Bridge Housing, stated at the October 28, 2012 meeting at Mary Silveira school that he estimated 1.6 school children per apartment, or approximately 160 children.  At minimum, this is likely 6-8 classrooms depending on the distribution of grades.  It is likely to trigger the construction of a new elementary school given the current capacity constraints.  Additional schools will be needed when the new developments at St Vincents and other areas are completed.  This impact is especially important to study cumulatively.

11.) The EIR shall study the impacts on our burdened Marin Municipal Water Supply especially during drought conditions.  The current drought has seen our water supply perilously close to water rationing.  This impact shall be studied cumulatively on the entire water district and its sources.  Sonoma county, has aggressive housing mandates which will lessen the supply available for our district.

12.) The EIR shall study the impact on the overburdened Las Gallinas Sanitary District.  It is overcapacity, dated and in need of a major upgrade to stay current with environmental regulations.  Study the cumulative impact on the current system plus the construction of a new sanitary system.  The current sewage pipes are 60 years old and in need of replacement. Please study the effects of replacing sewage pipes to carry the additional waste.

13.) The EIR shall study the impact of groundwater runoff from the parking lots on the spawning habitat of threatened salmon population, egrets, otters and endangered species found locally.

14.) The EIR shall study the aesthetics of building an urban style high density housing project that is 3 times as dense and 50% taller than any other multifamily building in Marinwood-Lucas Valley.  The prevailing density is 5 units per acre in the adjoining neighborhood and 10 units per acre in Roundtree Condominiums. The architectural character of Casa Marinwood is Mission Style and the single family homes are Mid Century ranches.  The aesthetics of Marinwood Village is "Miami Vice Modern" clashing with the character of our Mid Century suburb.

15.)The EIR shall study the effects on increase crime with high density housing.  Increased population, especially in densely packed housing has been shown to increase overall crime even if the "per capita" crime rate remains constant.  More people equals more crime. Compare affordable housing in Bay Vista and Wyndover apartments in Novato crime rates with existing crime rate in Marinwood-Lucas Valley.  The EIR shall study increased police protection required to keep crime rates low.  See:

 Respectfully submitted,

Stephen Nestel