Friday, May 22, 2015

MTC Plan Bay Area meetings are PLANNED to stifle dissent.

Citing civil disruptions during public meetings to discuss Plan Bay Area,  MTC representative Richard Hedges from San Mateo approves of the way tabletop meetings are conducted. 

He said that last Plan Bay Area meetings were disrupted by certain people (referring to the East Bay Tea Party and other groups that questioned the 40 year plan) and by eliminating stadium seating, they can quiet dissent. 

It is remarkable that in Contra Costa County with a population of 1.1 million people had only 80 people attending this Plan Bay Area meeting.    

According to the MTC,  "success" is when no one listens and objects.   At least half of the attendees were supporters of the plan from the building trades and housing activist communities.

 It looks much less than eighty people to me. Maybe they were counting the staff too.

Walkable Urban Premiums & Gentrification: Good News or Bad?

Fascinating how these "Smart Growthers" justify their right to destroy neighborhoods through government planning.  To me there is a world of difference between private, organic growth and using the power of government to confer special privileges upon crony developers.  They will do anything to get their way including bastardizing the democratic process and attacking people who get in their way.  No wonder there are large grassroots movements against to stop the juggarnaut of corruption.

Gentrification and what can be done to stop it | Loretta Lees | TEDxBrixton What we don’t understand about gentrification | Stacey Sutton | TEDxNewYork

Gentrification through the natural market and democratic means is healthy evolution.   When government policies break up neighborhoods in favor of outsider developers, it is cultural imperialism.   The backlash against government planners and politicians continue to grow as people wake up to the planning schemes.  Government should represent the people and stay away from social engineering that inevitably leads to the dissolution of community.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Displacement from Public Housing and Private Profits with Bridge Housing

At the Marin City Meeting on May 18, 2015 to discuss the future of the redevelopment  of the Marin City Priority Development Area, a resident is concerned with displacement and the gentrification of their community.  The elimination of public housing in lieu of Private-Public Housing and the gentrification of Marin City is EXACTLY what will be occurring as the response from the "facilitator" indicates.

She tells the resident that since HUD has declining budgets, public housing is trending towards "public-private partnership" schemes. Non profit developers like Bridge Housing sells tax credits to Wall Street Banks and the wealthy 1% and collects huge management fees from the management of the apartments.  I am told these fees often top 60% of rent for each unit for 55 years!    The Non Profit "public private" partnership is a lucrative money making deal for insiders.

It is clear from the residents is all they want is their apartments to be maintained and be left alone.  They do not want gentrification which will raise ALL the rents and push the poorest away from their homes.

While there are many fine people on both sides of the housing debate, we need to pay particular close attention to the COMMUNITY first.  How do we "improve" a community by displacing its residents?  What right does ANY government entity have in a free society to force redevelopment "for our own good"?  Isn't this government imperialism?

An Activist from San Francisco Mission District:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Regionalism: Spreading the Fiscal Irresponsibility

Will a regional tax base help Marinwood Lucas Valley?

Regionalism: Spreading the Fiscal Irresponsibility

'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Searches for Home in a Fast-Changing City

'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Searches for Home in a Fast-Changing City

Now fundraising on Kickstarter, a film by two S.F. natives will grapple with race, class, displacement, and the importance of friendship.

Among the more worrying trends out of San Francisco in recent years—and the greatest tarnish to the city’s reputation for diversity—is the displacement of longtime residents of color. It’s not only Latinos being pushed out of the Mission District: Census numbers reveal a staggering 35.7 percent decrease inSan Francisco's black population between 1990 and 2010.
Third-generation San Franciscan Jimmie Fails has witnessed that flight first-hand. As a black kid growing up in the Fillmore District, he watched his beloved family home go into foreclosure, and his aunts, uncles, and cousins disperse from the Bay Area. Soon after, he moved to the Army St. Housing Projects near the Mission, where he met fledgling film director and fifth-generation S.F. native Joe Talbot.
“Everyone always kicked it at Precita Park,” he says. “We started hanging out, shooting videos.”
It’s an understatement: One of those shorts won an honorable mention at the 2013 San Francisco Independent Film Festival.
Now 20 and 24 respectively, Fails and Talbot are gearing up to create their first feature-length film, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” inspired by some of Jimmie’s real-life stories. They’re well on their way to raising $50,000 to fund the project on Kickstarter. The frankly heartbreaking teaser-trailer is above.
Written and directed by Talbot, the film follows Fails—also a co-writer—and his best friend, played by Prentice Sanders. Neither quite at ease in their far-flung neighborhood, Hunters Point, or in the newly tech-ified San Francisco core, Jimmie and Prentice are outcasts at heart, searching for home in their native city as it changes before their eyes.
Though the film is heavily fictionalized, a central arc is Jimmie’s character’s attempt to buy back the house he lost as a child.
“There is this major question of whether he can stay in the city,” says Talbot. “Do you fight to protect the city you love, or do you accept these big changes?”
Issues of race, class, and displacement loom over the film, but both Jimmie and Joe say it’s really about friendship. “What ties you to the city are your friends who are from here,” says Fails. “You gravitate towards each other. When I look at someone, I can tell if they were born and raised here. There aren’t many of us left.”
Their own connection feels increasingly like an exception, as the city’s black community shrinks and shrinks. “One thing we always say is that friendships like Jimmie and mine don’t exist in the future of San Francisco,” Talbot says. “When we were kids, Precita Park used to be the meeting point for everyone from the area: White kids from Bernal Heights, black kids from the projects, Latino kids from the Mission. Now that park is very different. There isn’t that crossover.”
Now both living at Talbot’s family home in the Mission, Jimmie and Joe say they’re working toward ways to stay in the city, and that there’s plenty to keep them both there for now, even as they worry about what’s to come.
“I hope we can bring the diversity back,” says Fails, “and that there can be more of a black community. I also hope the weirdness stays. The whole reason white people came was it was a city where people who felt like outcasts could come and feel accepted.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marin City Fights Back! Marin city meeting about the PDA redevelopment

Here is the unedited version of the Marin City residents meetings to discuss the redevelopment of Golden Gate villages. Emotions were heated as residents fought for fairness.

I am reminded of the Vietnam era military expression, "You've got to destroy a village to save it".  

Marin city is perhaps the most deep rooted community of all in Marin.  It's residents go back generations to the WWII shipbuilding industry and the Deep South where many of the original workers came from.

The meeting begins with the consultant from EMG describing the millions of dollars of deferred maintenance and expected future capital costs.  His eighty page report is meant to lay the groundwork for the NEED of replacement housing.  (As an aside, the consultant had no idea what EMG stood for.  I think it means "Evil Money Grubbers".  He also referred to Marin City as "Marina City". Perhaps this is the new name planners have for the area just as "Hunters Point" in SF has been rechristened as "Hunters View" to attract new residents.)

Residents have pointed out that deferred maintenance has going on for decades.  Repair the buildings and leave us alone.  Please do not destroy this vibrant community that we love.

Lewis Jordan, Marin Housing Authority director fended off sharp criticism.  I was impressed with his ability to stay cool.  He came from Cabrini Green in Chicago that was dismantled in favor of smaller "smart growth" developments. Residents have reason to be concerned about the future of their community.

The future of public housing according to the facilitator is with "public-private partnerships" with companies like Bridge Housing that is the suitor for the Marinwood Plaza housing project.  They make money for their non profit by selling tax advantaged investments to Wall Street and huge management fees to run the facilities often taking 60% or more of the rents in "fees".  They also receive millions in public funds and donations to their non profit.  Nice work if you can get it.

The "Marina City PDA" is going to be a gold mine for consultants, developers, builders and politicians. Residents have every reason to be concerned.  

Planners and Politicians need to stop talking about "housing" and start talking about "community".  We shouldn't be destroying villages to save them.

An Urban Paradise in " Marinwood City"?

Is this the face of a future Marinwood City?

[Editor's Note.  The following is a lecture by urban planner Randal O'toole given in Witchata, KS criticizing the Smart Growth policies that are targeted for the Marinwood Priority Development Area. Will we learn from the mistakes of Portland, Oregon or will we destroy our community for a planning Fad?]

Randal O’Toole said he spent 15 years studying urban planning, and he said he’s learned this:

“Urban planners promise us paradise on earth, but first we have to give them the power to create it.”

Imagine an urban planner in 1950 writing a 50-year plan for Wichita. O’Toole showed illustrations of some things we take for granted today but were unknown at that time, such as direct dialing a long-distance telephone call, using a personal computer, and flying on a commercial jet aircraft. But, he said, nearly everyone had rode on trains.

We know that predictions made in the past often turn out to be nowhere near accurate. But urban planners still make these type of long-range plans. The problem, O’Toole said, is that when plans are made, someone is going to benefit from that plan. Those people will lobby to keep the plan in effect so that they continue to benefit. This will be true even if the plan turns out to be totally wrong and a disaster for everyone else.

Cities are too complicated to plan, O’Toole said. There are too many people, and there are too many parcels of land with too many possible uses. Despite this complexity, planners think they should be allowed to dictate the use for each parcel of land.

Since planning is so complicated, planners follow fads. As an example, O’Toole showed an example of a city that created a pedestrian mall downtown, as did some 200 cities across the country. Almost all have since been reopened to traffic.

Another fad was slum clearance, where high-rise housing projects were built to replace slums. These buildings proved to be unlivable, and many have been torn down.

One of the latest fads is “smart growth,” which seeks to increase the density of urban development. O’Toole’s hometown of Portland has embraced this fad. There, an urban growth boundary limits the expansion of developed areas. Instead of growing out, planners want the city to grow up. Minimum density zoning means that high-density housing that replaces single family housing.

Row houses in PortlandRow houses in Portland. These replaced a single-family home.

O’Toole showed a photograph of a nice house that he said sells for $160,000 in Houston. In Portland, at the peak of the bubble, a similar house would sell for $380,000. He said that Portland planners are proud of the fact that developers will buy a house on a quarter-acre lot, tear it down, and replace it with four skinny row houses.

Could this happen in Kansas, he asked? O’Toole said that President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation has decided to require all metropolitan areas to write plans to include compact development.

Light rail is another favorite tool of urban planners that hasn’t worked. O’Toole told how Portland built light rail rather than highways. Federal dollars encouraged this. But light rail was so expensive that Portland had to cut back on its thriving bus service. Bus fares were raised and service was cut, so bus ridership plummeted.
Light rail in MoscowA light rail train in front of an apartment building in Moscow …
Light rail in Moscow… and the same in Portland.
Portland built still more light rail, however, urged on by campaign contributions from rail contractors. Land near the light rail stations was zoned for high-density development. But no one wanted to develop there, because there was a surplus of high-density development and no parking around these light rail stations — except for train riders, and few people rode the trains. So Portland subsidized high-density development along light rail lines.
Portland also created tax increment financing (or TIF districts) along the light rail lines. O’Toole referred to the money allocated to TIF districts as stolen from police and fire services, and from public schools. But still more TIF districts were created along even more light rail train lines.
Cars parked illegally in PortlandCars parked illegally at a high-density, transit-friendly development in Portland. Management knows that if parking regulations are enforced, tenants will leave.
The claim by government officials is that light rail promotes economic development. But it’s a zero-sum game, O’Toole said. Development is promoted in one place at the expense of development elsewhere. The added tax burden of TIF makes it a negative-sum game, as the cost of TIF financing slows the economic growth of cities that use TIF compared to those that don’t.

O’Toole showed a photograph of a mixed-use development in Portland with three floors of apartments upstairs, with shops on the bottom floor. But all the stores are empty, because there is no parking for shoppers. [Editor's note::This is exactly what will happen with Marinwood Plaza if current plans are adapted. This site should be 100% commercial and housing should be located elsewhere]

All the spending on light rail in Portland has led to a decrease in the share of commuting trips taken using transit, O’Toole said.

So what is the result of following urban planning fads in Portland? O’Toole said: “If your goal is to make housing unaffordable, make your streets more congested, increase taxes or reduce the quality of urban services, then by all means follow the kind of fads that Portland is doing.”
O’Toole said that cities should follow the type of planning efforts that Anaheim, California has followed in the Platinum Triangle. Instead of using TIF financing to sell bonds and take land by eminent domain, cities should not rely on eminent domain and subsidy. Government should get out of the way, he said.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Clean up or Cover Up at Marinwood Plaza?

On May 13, 2015,  several residents for Marinwood appeared before the Regional Water Quality Control Board in Oakland, CA to testify for the immediate clean up of the Toxic Waste at the Prosperity Cleaners site at Marinwood Plaza, 132 Marinwood Avenue, San Rafael, CA.

In February 2014, the same board issued a clean up order to the plaza's owners Marinwood Plaza, LLC .  They objected on grounds that clean up is very expensive it would it difficult for the new owners to obtain financing in a timely fashion.  The spill had spread UNDERNEATH the freeway and was approaching the well on an adjacent dairy  farm that produces food for thousands.  

Supervisor Susan Adams and Assemblyman Marc Levine personally intervened on behalf of the DISCHARGER in 2014 (not the public in immediate health risk) to DELAY THE CLEAN UP.

One year later and two buyers have dropped interest in the property and NO CLEAN UP or plan for CLEAN UP has begun.

Residents are frustrated.  Hundreds of lives may be affected.   The board simply wants to test more wells instead of ordering the immediate clean up

We must Save Marin Again.

ABAG Meeting in Novato. Plan Bay Area update 2017