Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Lesson for Marin about the Growth without Planning for Basic Services

For a lesson in how Plan Bay Area might be implemented from the Mecca of “smart” growth, Portland (The Oregonian is the largest general-purpose newspaper in the Greater Portland area).

East Portland's housing explosion tied to city plan without basic services

Teresa Ascenzi, 58, lives on a half-acre flag lot in Portland's Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, right behind the home where she grew up. There was a time when the lot adjacent to her had horses and a huge vegetable garden. Now, she has nearly two-dozen homes and duplexes next door, and a four-story senior center looming in the distance. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)
Brad Schmidt | bschmidt@oregonian.comBy Brad Schmidt | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated December 20, 2013 at 8:02 PM

For a glimpse of most everything that’s gone wrong in east Portland, step into Teresa Ascenzi’s backyard.
Just over the chain-link fence of her spacious half-acre lot loom nearly two-dozen houses and duplexes. Beyond those rooftops, a four-story senior center juts upward amid the Douglas firs that once helped distinguish Portland’s Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood as a decent place to live.

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian’s series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
Her message to the city leaders who ushered in this unchecked, inescapable infill?
“They failed,” said Ascenzi, 58, who lives on a flag lot behind the house that her parents bought almost 45 years ago. “F-minus.”
Today, Powellhurst-Gilbert is the land of cheap, dense housing crammed into a community that still lacks basic public improvements such as paved streets, sidewalks and nearby parks.
The channeling of tightly packed homes into this formerly suburban landscape east of Interstate 205 was a deliberate choice made by city planners and elected officials nearly 20 years ago. Yet the failure to add services and amenities to support those newly urban neighborhoods stands as an oversight that borders on negligence.
In a city nationally renowned for smart urban planning, Powellhurst-Gilbert represents all that Portland leaders got wrong – and the legacy of problems that will haunt generations of residents for decades to come.
Seeking to protect farms and forests from sprawl, the Portland City Council in 1996 approved a sweeping blueprint for growth that directed 14,000 new houses, apartments and townhomes toward the city’s newly annexed eastern edge.
Planners under the watch of then-CommissionerCharlie Hales made wholesale zoning changes to push in higher density. East Portland went on to add more than its fair share of new homes while city leaders let affluent Southwest Portland, which staged a political firestorm against growth, shrug off its burden.

City leaders now admit mistakes after years of complaints from residents. East Portland grew too quickly and without the sidewalks, parks and transportation system bestowed on other high-growth areas such as the Pearl District, Portland’s utopian planning playground.
“I don’t think we would say it took more than its fair share,” said Eric Engstrom, a principal planner for the city. “I think we’d say, in retrospect, it took more than it should have.”
"Spiral of improvement"
The Outer Southeast Community Plan was supposed to make east Portland a better place.
Planners wanted to transform a 28-square-mile expanse that encompassed the streetcar neighborhoods of Lents, the 1950s subdivisions of Hazelwood, the tree-lined hillsides of Pleasant Valley and the partially developed farmland of Powellhurst-Gilbert.
They hoped to capitalize on the success of earlier community plans for the Central City and Albina by adding 50,000 new homes and 100,000 new residents citywide over two decades.
Because land within the Outer Southeast area made up almost one-fifth of the city’s total, officials figured it should welcome one-fifth of the new residents. They set targets of 20,000 newcomers, 14,000 new homes and 6,000 new jobs.

Expectations were lofty. Large lots would be divided into small blocks with cozy streetscapes. Roads would be paved, sidewalks built, trees planted, transit service improved, the entire area cleaner and safer, according to the “perfect vision” that accompanied the plan.
“This spiral of improvement is continuing into the future,” it read.
Growth was coming with or without changes. Planners projected about 9,000 new units over 20 years. But by rezoning the area for smaller yards and more multifamily projects, planners swelled those projections to 14,000 units, a 55 percent jump.
“We had all the best intentions,” said Paul Scarlett, a city planner who worked on the effort and now heads the Bureau of Development Services.

East Portland broken promises: Density floods neighborhoods, squeezes residents (video)In 1996, city officials steered development of 14,000 new homes, apartments and townhouses toward newly annexed land. Zoning decisions enabled where those dense projects could be built.

Powellhurst-Gilbert became the designated epicenter for the accelerated growth.
The neighborhood already had 6,250 homes. But planners saw the potential to add 3,600 more because of its deep, underdeveloped lots and roads with bus service, such as Southeast Division Street, Powell Boulevard and 122nd Avenue.
Planners blanketed the area with multi-family housing designations along key transit routes, enabling the construction of 22 to 65 units an acre. Planners stretched some of the tighter zoning five to six blocks on either side of major streets into neighborhoods.
At the same time, officials all but eliminated development of single-family homes on large lots, which for years dominated the landscape.
eastportlandhomes.jpgCity planners and elected officials approved a plan to increase housing production on the city's eastern edge from 9,000 to 14,000 homes over 20 years. That helped keep the region's urban growth boundary tight. Nick Sauvie, an affordable housing developer, said east Portland has taken more than its share of multi-family housing and "the region owes east Portland." 
Residents didn’t know what hit them.
Nick Sauvie was part of the plan’s technical advisory committee. The level of community involvement wasn’t sufficient, he said.
“The magnitude of 14,000 units, it doesn’t have context,” said Sauvie, executive director for ROSE Community Development, which builds affordable housing.
“At the time, I didn’t realize what that meant. If I didn’t, I think virtually nobody was thinking about what that actually meant.”
"Fundamentally dangerous"
The housing explosion never struck Southwest Portland. Residents refused to let it happen.
In September 1996, just eight months after the City Council approved the Outer Southeast plan, officials breezed into the West Hills looking to equitably spread their vision of housing growth to all corners of the city.
They presented a proposal with new zoning that would ensure “likely development” of 7,500 new housing units over 20 years. It included high-density apartments and mixed-use buildings along Barbur Boulevard, the area’s main commercial drag.
Residents were furious.
Judges, attorneys and doctors flooded City Hall with angry letters. Liz Kaufman, a political consultant who lived in South Burlingame, called the Southwest Community Plan “fundamentally dangerous.”

(continued ...)

Lessons for Marin (especially Marinwood and Novato) from the Portland Planning disaster

In Gateway, a well-meaning project draws objections

Glisan Commons represents the kind of taller, denser development planners say will turn Gateway into a true regional center. It's also highly controversial. (Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian)
Anna Griffin | agriffin@oregonian.comBy Anna Griffin | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on July 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM, updated July 17, 2013 at 12:35 PM


[Editor's Note: These are the type buildings we can expect to see in Marinwood in the near future if we are unsuccessful at repealing the Housing Element for unincorporated Marin.  So far, Supervisor Adams and her business/political associates seem intent on making Marinwood the next "smart growth" community in Marin despite all community objections over costs and infrastructure demands.  Please remember this on voting day]

Glisan Commons, the concrete and steel 

creation rising at Northeast 100th Avenue and Glisan Street, is that rarest of things in Gateway: New construction.

Despite bold plans to remake Gateway into "Portland's second downtown" and a "regional center," the east Portland district remains a mishmash of car-centric, suburban-style sprawl, much of it dating to the 1950s and '60s.

Broken Promises

Follow The Oregonian's series on the future of east Portland, looking closely at promises not kept.
But we need your help. Do you live, work, study or own property east of 82nd Avenue? Tell us your story.
So a multi-story, mixed-use project less than 1,000 feet from a MAX station would seem cause for applause. This is, however, east Portland, where nothing comes easy and neighbors harbor a generation's worth of resentment and distrust. Both the process and the policies behind this particular bit of urban renewal have some Gateway advocates frowning.

"It's more desirable than what was there," said Arlene Kimura, president of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association. "Unfortunately, it's also another nonprofit project that does not generate tax revenue."

Up until a year or so ago, this busy corner was home to a shuttered golf-club manufacturing plant, a dirt-floor barn, two houses and a crowd of homeless people and drug users who occupied it every night.
Human Solutions, a nonprofit that helps poor families find permanent housing, bought the land in 2006 with plans to build 155 apartments. Then the recession hit.
"The timing was horrible," said Jean DeMaster, the nonprofit's executive director. "We couldn't make it work."

In 2008, Human Solutions sold the land to the Portland Development Commission for $1.9 million. Two years later, the Portland Housing Bureau released a request for proposals from developers interested in building affordable housing in Gateway.
The RFP wanted to target renters earning from zero to 60 percent of the Portland region'smedian family income. It promised special consideration for developers who included commercial space on the ground floor and those willing to rent to the poorest of the working poor -- people earning less than 30 percent of the region's median family income. The regional median is $68,300 for a family of four or $47,810 for a single person.

Two groups responded. The winner was a two-phased partnership between three nonprofits.
In phase one, Human Solutions will build 67 apartments for people just entering the workforce. The ground floor will include 16,000 square feet for Ride Connection, which helps seniors and people with disabilities find transportation options. Some 50 Ride Connection workers will relocate to the new headquarters.
In the second phase, Reach Community Development Inc. will build 60 apartments for senior citizens.
glisanstreet.JPGConstruction has begun on the first phase of Glisan Commons.
A handful of units in each phase will be priced for people earning at or below 30 percent of the region's median family income, which translates to rents of $325 a month. The entire complex will be either studios or one-bedroom apartments, a favor to the severely overcrowded David Douglas School District.
The city is providing $5.9 million in urban-renewal money for the two phases, and the land for $1 a year.

From government's perspective, the project meets multiple goals: It's taller, denser, environmentally friendly construction in a stretch of the city envisioned as more urban in feel. It targets two of east Portland's fastest growing demographic groups in new workers and seniors.

And it meets a city requirement that 30 percent of money spent in urban renewal districts pay for new affordable housing, a policy pushed by former Commissioner Erik Sten as part of his effort against homelessness.

"I think it's going to be a fantastic project for the community," said Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission. "If there are complaints, I'm not sure where they're coming from."

They're coming from years of frustration with how city leaders have handled Gateway redevelopment.

The view from east Portland

"We get ripped off by paying a disproportionate share of taxes for services that we don't even get."
— Carrie A., Montavilla
"The best thing about east Portland is the diversity. There is so much variety in lifestyle and experiences with diversity."
—Lauren Ashley J., Powellhurst-Gilbert

See more

Residents and property owners here say the city has routinely used urban-renewal money generated in the district for projects that don't improve the area's economy. The first $682,000 in Gateway went to build a county receiving center for abandoned or abused children. Urban-renewal money has also gone to extend light rail to Clackamas County, to build a Gateway Transit Center parking garage and to buy land for a park that the city cannot yet afford to build or operate.

The PDC has done a smaller series of street improvements and storefront upgrades with urban-renewal money, but neighbors and property owners say the big-ticket items funded with tax increment financing always seem to be projects dearer to elected officials downtown than people in Gateway.

"I'm positive about Glisan Commons because we need more good, affordable housing for seniors," said Bob Earnest, a longtime east Portland resident. "I also feel like we're always spinning our wheels in Gateway."

"The idea behind urban renewal is to generate tax-increment financing and use that to reinvest in our community. That just hasn't happened here. This is one more case."
Residents and private developers in Gateway note that the city's decision to buy land from Human Solutions then quickly -- at least, quickly in development terms -- donate it back to a Human Solutions project looks inappropriate. But city and Human Solutions officials say there was no deal in the works when the city made its purchase.
Affordable housing is always a controversial topic in east Portland, which has seen a flood of cheap apartment complexes and publicly subsidized projects in the past decade. When early plans for Gateway's transformation into a regional center were in the works, some residents argued for putting all new affordable housing in the district on property along I-205.

"I remember standing up at a meeting and telling people, 'That's not right, and that's not fair,'" Earnest said. "It also wasn't realistic."

Community advocates also have a more specific concern: That Glisan Commons puts a publicly funded project in direct competition with private developers.
Riad Sahli, Reach's housing project manager, said surveys done pre-construction suggest most Glisan Commons apartments will cost about 20 percent less than the market average.

glisaninside.JPGLee Jackson takes a break from plumbing work on the first phase of Glisan Commons. The two-part project will eventually offer 127 units of affordable, one-bedroom apartments.
A 2012 market study conducted for the Portland Development Commission showed that newer one-bedroom apartments in outer northeast Portland rented for an average of $765 a month, including utilities. Most of the one-bedroom apartments in the first phase of Glisan Commons will go for around $570 a month, not including water and electric bills.

"Our housing prices are still so cheap," Kimura said. "A lot of people who qualify for Glisan Commons could also afford something offered by the private sector."

That equation may be true today, but city officials and project organizers are betting it won't continue as Gateway grows and the private market becomes more upscale. The Housing Bureau's request for proposals required that the Glisan development meet the criteria to be considered affordable housing for 60 years.

"Yes, we'll probably be competing for some of the tenants in the area right now," DeMaster said. "But we're building something that we know has to last 60 years. By that point, it might be the only affordable housing on this street."

In that regard, project organizers sound more optimistic than Gateway advocates about the future success of redevelopment here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What the MCA legal victory for a Complete EIR for Housing means for Marin

IJ and County Spin MCA Result

Yes, our victory was narrowly defined. And yes, Steve Kinsey, County Counsel and the IJ dismissed it as minor and easily dealt with—is anyone surprised at that? Were we expecting differently from the IJ or the county?

MCA Victory

We asked the court to set aside the FSEIR for further review or throw it out altogether. However narrowly defined, the FSEIR, for now, is set aside. This FSEIR is the foundation for both the old and the new Housing Element. It is what developers are waiting to be nailed down before they come forward with their massive projects for these 49 areas that the county has pre-defined as being ripe for high density housing.

The ruling states that the County will need to do a traffic study, which they will narrowly define, but we believe it will also be subject to Public Hearings. We all know these hearings are theater, but it is another opportunity in the political arena and in an election year cycle, to make the points that need to be made about the county’s headlong rush into overbuilding.  As they ignore cumulative impacts by dealing with projects on a “case by case basis” like we are now seeing at St. Vincent’s/Silveira and Grady, the county is pushing for 30+ units/acre and disregarding impacts on schools, traffic and the environment.

Why You Should Care about Lucas Valley

The traffic study may concentrate only on the impacts to Lucas Valley Road of the many projects being planned or waiting in the wings. If you think this only concerns Lucas Valley, or if you think that putting all these projects into this one area is going to protect your area, we fear you are missing the point. Traffic in one given area affects all of Marin. More importantly, every project that goes through without addressing the local conditions becomes another nail in the coffin for every other area. Every time we write off one set of residents who are voicing legitimate concerns about high-density development, we risk losing everyone’s rights, which are eroding daily.

DeathStar comes to Lucas Valley

George Lucas is proposing 224 units of housing with a multiplex building 60 foot tall with huge underground parking garage! This is bigger than Wincup. What are the consequences of locating such a huge project far up the road where residents will have to drive, further clogging 101 when they do? This project, if allowed to build in a remote area as pristine as Lucas valley, sets a dangerous precedence for the entire county.

Next Steps:

We will keep you posted on the MCA lawsuit and share information as we can and hope you will continue your efforts. Our rallying cry now is “Not just Lucas Valley: Marin wants County-Wide Traffic Study” as the meaningful study we need done.


**Send Letters to BOS on traffic concerns –It’s not just affecting Lucas Valley

**Those of you in Kate Sears’s District: attend her Traffic Meeting Sat and talk about the increase in traffic from all the high density housing! Details:


Invites you to a


Saturday, June 20th
11:00 am to 3:00 pm

San Rafael High School Cafeteria

185 Mission Avenue

San Rafael

~ lunch provided~

We want to hear from you. Attend the workshop and let us know about your transportation needs and the types of projects you’d like to see funded.

Please see details in the link provided here.

Pllease share this message.
Meehyun and MCA team

The mad war to house the poor in US suburbs

The mad war to house the poor in US suburbs

An African-American millionaire can buy a home in any expensive suburb. Color is no longer a barrier.
Despite this progress, President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing expensive towns of racism, simply because most minorities can’t afford to live there.
Westchester County has struggled under a federal monitor since 2009 to compel the county to build multi-unit affordable housing in the county’s most expensive areas.
Hillary Clinton claims to be a warrior against inequality. But her adopted hometown of Chappaqua is battling HUD’s demands — and that means it’s fighting the man believed to top Hillary’s veep shortlist, HUD Secretary Julian Castro.
The legal war in Hillary’s backyard is a preview. HUD’s soon-to-be-released regulation, in the works since 2013, will compel affluent suburbs across the nation to build more high-density, low-income housing, plus sewers, water lines, bus routes and other changes needed to support it.
Obama’s social engineers will eliminate local zoning requirements to achieve what the HUD rule calls “inclusive communities.” Property values be damned.
If you’ve worked hard to afford a home in an affluent neighborhood of single-family houses, you have a lot to lose under this HUD plan.
The HUD rule twists the original and laudable intent of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which is to bar housing discrimination.
The new rule states towns must “affirmatively further” diversity. If low-income minorities want to move to a town but can’t afford it, the town must “provide adequate support to make their choice viable.”
Whether HUD’s plan goes forward will depend largely on how the Supreme Court rules in Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, a lawsuit brought to demand public housing be located in wealthy Dallas suburbs.
By the end of June, the court will decide whether Texas is guilty of racism for putting public housing in lower-income areas of Dallas, close to existing public transportation, rather than in costly areas.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are trying to halt HUD’s new plan by depriving it of funding.
To do that, the House passed an amendment sponsored by Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar on June 11, but its prospects for success in the Senate are uncertain.
HUD’s plan is frightening. Phase one will collect data on poverty, school-testing scores and public-transit sites from every Census division to spot towns that have too few poor residents.
If a town’s guilty, HUD will charge racism and demand more public housing.
Race is being cynically exploited by officials as a pretext to accomplish something else entirely — economic integration.
HUD’s plan is a power grab. Nothing in the Constitution empowers the federal government to do this.
Zoning is a local power.
If the justices and Congress fail to stop HUD’s scheme, expect Hillary “Rodham Hood” Clinton to champion it (with a carve-out for Chappaqua, of course).
Short of taxing the rich to death, these inequality warriors would like nothing better than to prevent the rich from enjoying the suburbs, far from urban woes.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.

Marin City in the Cross Hairs of Massive Redevelopment

Marin City is just one of two Priority Development Areas in Marin.  Soon bulldozers and cranes will be coming for massive redevelopment and the construction of market rate housing.  The current residents of Golden Gate Village fear they will be displaced first from their community during construction and secondly from rent increases once the area becomes gentrified with market rate housing.  Here is a sample of recent community meetings concerning Redevelopment.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Excerpt from the "State of Emergency" on Free Speech press conference.

In one of the more bizarre encounters in 2013, members of the group Marin Grassroots held a press conference to call for Governor Jerry Brown to declare a "state of emergency" against what they termed "angry white people" who are against the urban redevelopment of Marin.  The group claimed that minorities were intimidated from speaking out.  Although, they never specified exactly what action they wanted from Governor Brown, we assumed it would have been some sort of muzzle order on public speech.

This is particularly ironic because the exact same members of this group protested outside an open public forum to discuss Plan Bay Area and the urbanization of Marin in 2012.  They claimed all inside were  "Racist, Classist, NIMBYS" and refused to participate.   Inside the meeting the public was allowed to speak openly regardless of viewpoint and offer their views on Plan Bay Area.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey showed up at the rally at this meeting and claimed that Marin was "unwelcoming to minorities".  He boycotted the community forum but spoke to a news reporter before speeding off in his car to "another engagement".

Supervisor Steve Kinsey says "Marin can be unwelcoming to minorities"

Obama wants to reengineer your neighborhood


This is what you get when you put a community organizer in the White House — he tries to reorganize your community from Washington.
Apparently, President Obama thinks your neighborhood may not be inclusive enough, so he has instructed his Department of Housing and Urban Development to issue a new rule called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, which is designed to force communities to diversify.
According to the Obama administration, in too many neighborhoods “housing choices continue to be constrained through housing discrimination, the operation of housing markets, [and] investment choices by holders of capital.” (Yes, that is a quote from an actual HUD document, not a bad undergraduate thesis on Karl Marx.)
Under Obama’s proposed rule, the federal government will collect massive amounts of data on the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of thousands of local communities, looking for signs of “disparities by race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability in access to community assets.” Then the government will target communities withresults it doesn’t like and use billions of dollars in federal grant money to bribe or blackmail them into changing their zoning and housing policies.
This is not about blocking housing discrimination, which has been illegal since 1968. It is unlawful for someone to deny you a loan or prevent you from buying a home because of your race, creed or color. Socioeconomic status is — and ought to be — another matter. If you want to buy a nice house in the suburbs, you have to be able to afford it. Apparently, Obama thinks that’s unfair discrimination by the “holders of capital.”
Putting decisions about how local communities are run in the hands of federal bureaucrats is an assault on freedom. Local autonomy is essential to liberty. As Milton Friedman put it in “Capitalism and Freedom,” “If I don’t like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, zoning or schools, I can move to another local community. . . . If I don’t like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.” Washington has no business imposing decisions about zoning and housing policies on thousands of local communities.
The proposed rule could become an issue in the presidential race. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, the man assigned to implement this new policy, is on everyone’s shortlist to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Moreover, as National Review’s Stanley Kurtz points out, collecting all the data will take time — which means decisions about how to use that data will be up to the next president, whoever that turns out to be.
Local communities across the United States will be up in arms over this rule — and rightly so. The federal government should have no say over whether your neighborhood is too Jewish, or too Caucasian, or has too many married couples. But Republicans need to be very careful. Democrats want the GOP to rail against this rule and see it as an opportunity to paint the Republicans as the party that wants to protect the wealthy, white suburbs and keep out poor people of color.
Conservatives need to make this absolutely clear: We believe Americans of all races, colors and creeds should be free to live wherever they want. And we want to help them do so by unleashing economic opportunity for those at the bottom so that more Americans can get better educations and better jobs and ultimately move to better neighborhoods.
Under Obama, those opportunities have been disappearing for Americans at the bottom of our economy. While he talks a good game about inequality, the poor have gotten poorer while the rich have gotten richer on Obama’s watch. During the Obama recovery, Americans in the top 5 percent of households (those with average incomes of more than $320,000) were the only group in the United States to see incomes rise from 2009 to 2013. Meanwhile, those worst hit were in the bottom 20 percent, who saw their real incomes fall by 7 percent on average. As American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks explains , “Our putatively progressive president has inadvertently executed a plutocratic tour de force.”
Having Washington micromanage the housing and zoning policies of thousands of local communities is not going to change this. The answer is not to force local governments to build affordable housing in affluent communities. The answer is to restore upward mobility in the United States so that more people can afford housing in affluent communities.
[Editors Note: Steve Kinsey and the Board of Supervisors agreed to Huds Analysis of Impediments in 2011 and will be actively reengineering our neighborhoods to meet the racial standards HUD deems appropriate.]