Saturday, August 29, 2015

Teahupo'o, Du Ciel from SURFING Magazine on Vimeo.

Trump on China

Smart Growth: Why It's Not Working in the Bay Area

New: Smart Growth: Why It's Not Working in the Bay Area (Public Comment)

James Shinn
Tuesday August 11, 2015 - 10:23:00 PM
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Smart growth is simply not working in highly attractive urban settings such as San Francisco. The reason is that smart growth in these areas has a paradoxical effect. The reasons are as follows: 

From a climatological and topographical standpoint, San Francisco has always been a desirable place to live. There has never been a time when people didn’t want to live there. On the other hand, something very strange has happened in the last 10-15 years. The city has vaulted dramatically to the top in our country to become the most expensive major urban city in the USA for rentals, and the second most gridlocked city in the nation. Why has this happened at the same time that smart growth policies became fully imbedded in local urban planning decisions!? We are getting the exact opposite of what smart growth policy promises should happen! High rise residential structures have exploded all over San Francisco, but the gridlock and prices just seem to be getting worse and worse.  
The reason is two-fold. The Bay Area happens to be the cradle for one of the greatest economic revolutions in human history—the high-tech revolution. But this revolution was born in the Santa Clara valley, which does not have the topographical and climatological assets that are characteristic of the North Bay. For a considerable period of time, this did not make much difference in habitation patterns. The techies involved in the industry remained in the valley close to their companies. Being well-paid, they bid up residential prices in the area to quite high levels. Then came the smart phone app application revolution, combined with the move of financial firms to San Francisco, and the concomitant decisions by city planners to start driving the city skyward. San Francisco suddenly became THE place to live if you wanted to show you had “made it”, and all these techies decided they wanted to live in this new “Manhattan”. High rise buildings are part of this “vibe”. As one Bay Area city planner told me when I objected to skyscrapers for Berkeley, “Americans love skyscrapers!”. For awhile, techies started moving to San Francisco and taking corporate buses back to the Valley for their jobs each day. This still goes on. But, increasingly, they now have such high salaries that they can actually buy a condo in the city—and that is the key variable driving the current price explosion.  
The other key variable is the fact that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, about 20% of SF residential purchases are by foreign buyers, primarily from China, as investment vehicles for getting assets offshore. And, frequently, these foreign purchases are empty most of the year. Everybody wants to be part of the new “Gotham by the Bay”. This is why, the more you build, the more they will keep coming—with the disastrous environmental effects of gridlock that we are now seeing. The smart growth theory is that this high-rise density actually can be used to force people out of their cars. Some of the more cynical smart growth advocates actually say that, eventually, the gridlock will get so destructive that people will have no other choice but to virtually abandon the automobile. This mantra is particularly prevalent among young techies. But, sadly, this is the fallacy of hope over experience. It simply is not happening in any urban area that has very limited land availability(SF), high topological/climatological desirability(SF), and high disposable income among the professional class(once again, SF).  
To date, Berkeley has not yet become totally infected with this virus—but we are on the cusp. This drive by techies, and out of country buyers, to live in SF at all costs can not be realized by all. Some just don’t have quite enough money to realize the dream. What to do? Move across the bay to the next best alternative—Oakland and Berkeley, commute to our jobs in SF and hope that the “Manhattanization” of Berkeley(for example) moves ahead fast enough so that it can be seen as an “acceptable life-style” type of place to live. The sad fact is that, then,what has happened to SF is going to happen to Berkeley—and fast! We are already starting to see the first wave of this impact. Gridlock is growing, prices are going up steadily, lower income residents are being pushed out. And we are rapidly losing the particular aesthetic, architectural, and livable character of this low-rise city. And the city planners plan for even more of this by urging the construction of high rises because this, allegedly, will provide more housing, at more affordable rates, for all. Unfortunately, this won’t happen.  
What we will get instead is "Manhattan by the East Bay”, ever more unaffordable as it becomes a perhaps equally “acceptable" place to live as SF. The bottom line is that, for high desirability, land deficit, urban areas, the high rise codicil to smart growth philosophy simply doesn’t work. The problem is that urban planners simply are refusing to believe that “the emperor has no clothes”. In the face of reality staring them in the face they simply can’t admit what is happening before their very eyes—and ears and noses! When the Downtown Plan was passed several years ago, the people of Berkeley had not come to realize this either. But in the meantime, this revolution in urban development has exploded with exponential force. More and more of the public is beginning to come to terms with what urban planning, by “the best and the brightest” hath wrought—and they don’t like it. This is why Harold Way must be stopped at all costs, Once the people of Berkeley allow city development to cross this high-rise Rubicon, and set a true high-rise precedent in our fair city, there is no turning back. The die will have been cast. 
And finally, what happens if this current tech bubble bursts—as it has before—and many are predicting that it will soon—and real estate prices begin to tumble rapidly—as they did so recently. Then we will have a downtown stuck with high-rise structures that don’t appear to be such good investments, and tax reservoirs, after all. In fact, they will be white elephants. This is why true, “smart growth” for Berkeley is to proceed with mid-rise, 4-6 story infill development along the lines of what is presently going on. After all, this has been good enough for Paris, why should it not be good enough for us! There is plenty of opportunity for this to be done—despite what some city planners say. One can argue about the aesthetics and neighborhood impact of these structures, and this is the proper purview of the Design Review Committee, but this more cautious approach to downtown development provides far more protection against the inevitable real estate bust that is coming. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Will Marinwood Pool have a Solar carport like this?

Redwood high school solar carport - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Marinwood CSD is considering installing a customized version of a carport in the pool area. We support the use of renewable energy sources where ever practical and cost effective.  we think this industrial project is not right for our resort like pool area that boasts a beautiful natural setting, wildlife and abundant places to enjoy the outdoors.  This structure can be found in the Redwood High School parking lot in Larkspur.  This huge structure is 40 feet wide (about the wide of the pool) just like the ones proposed .  Unfortunately, due to its location,  a fully custom engineered structure will be needed which will greatly add to the expense.  The energy/ cost savings do not justify it.  By keeping the project on the main community center roof we will have a far more cost effective project. A must less costly solar hot water heater as proposed by Marin County Sustainable Team leader, Dana Armanino.

Tell the Marinwood CSD to say "No" to the solar carport project.

Displacement Blues

Stop planning to cram our neighborhoods with new housing

(editors note: Cramming more housing into single family neighborhoods is the next phase of urbanization of Marin.  Smart growth forces the "densification" of our neighborhoods)

Proctor, North End Tacoma residents tell city: Stop planning to cram our neighborhoods with new housing

The crowd was standing-room-only Wednesday at a hearing of Tacoma’s Planning Commission. People filled two overflow rooms as well as the commission took comments on proposed changes that would allow different kinds of housing across the city. Kathleen Cooper Staff writer


Several hundred people packed a Tacoma meeting room Wednesday, and for more than four hours told the city Planning Commission in no uncertain terms that its ideas for building more types of housing were bad.

Person after person lined up to demand a change to the law that allows six-story buildings in neighborhood business districts. In about equal number, people protested the idea ofallowing single-family homes to be turned into duplexes and triplexes, particularly in historic neighborhoods.

The speakers against proposals that would allow more “in-fill development” cited Proctor Station, a six-story retail and apartment complex, as the prime example of what must be avoided.

“I don’t want to see what’s happened to the Proctor District,” said Steve Kamieniecki, a North End resident who opposes other changes, “with a six-story monstrosity that has destroyed the character of that part of town.”

The ear-splitting applause and cheering that followed set the tone for the evening.

The Planning Commission, a group of volunteers appointed by the City Council, has been working on several new proposals that are part of a larger slate of annual amendments tothe comprehensive plan, the document that acts as the city’s blueprint for development. The hearing Wednesday was the public’s opportunity to formally comment on those ideas.

It was the most well-attended Planning Commission meeting in decades, city staff said. Outside of City Council Chambers, where the meeting occurred, two overflow rooms were set up. Almost 100 written comments were in hand before the meeting began.

Residents of Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood have been organizing for months to pressure the city to reduce the maximum height allowed for new construction in their business district. The impetus was the prospect of a second apartment and retail building across from Metropolitan Market, to be built by the same developers as Proctor Station a few blocks away.

A neighborhood group, 4Proctor, has led the charge for a reduction in height limits. It delivered a petition with more than 1,500 signatures to the commission calling for the change.

Wednesday, speakers raised concerns about increasing traffic and the danger it poses to pedestrians, especially children attending Washington Elementary and Mason Middle schools.

“We moved here to raise our children,” said Callie Stoker-Graham, who was close to tears as she described all the children who walk to school. “Please help us maintain the safety and walk-ability of our neighborhood.”

Speakers also rejected the idea that more density in housing won’t create traffic problems because it gets people to abandon their cars.

“Quite frankly, and I hate to be rude, but that’s pie in the sky,” said Alice McComb, a Proctor resident since the 1990s. “Mass transit was curtailed years ago.”

Another set of recommendations Wednesday dealt with adding to the number of allowed types of housing in single-family neighborhoods. Among the most contentious recommendations:

▪ Making it easier to build, or convert existing homes into, duplexes and triplexes in traditionally single-family neighborhoods.

▪ Allowing duplexes on corner lots in residential zones that only allow one single-family home per lot.

▪ Allowing what is called a “detached accessory dwelling unit,” commonly called a mother-in-law apartment, in all single-family zones. Such mother-in-law apartments are already allowed in Tacoma as long as they are attached to the home and they pass a special review process.

Historic Tacoma raised an alarm earlier this month over the prospect of homes in conservation districts being converted into duplexes or triplexes. On Wednesday, dozens of homeowners as well as members of the North Slope Historic District gave voice to their objections. It delivered a petition with 600 signatures.

Change for the sake of change isn’t required, said Deborah Cade, co-chairperson of the North Slope district.

“That’s what historic preservation is for: it’s to counter those pressures,” she said.

A deep vein of skepticism about the need for more housing density ran through the crowd. One woman called mixed-use buildings “stack ’em and pack ’em housing.”

If Tacoma needs more housing, a man said, annex some land south of town.

“Why do we have to plan for growth?” another man asked. “If an area is built out, people can live elsewhere.”

Updates to the comprehensive plan are required by the state’s Growth Management Act. The Planning Commission will take written comments until Sept. 11, though they will begin reviewing them Sept. 2 and discussing possible changes at a meeting then and on Sept. 16.

Read more here:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Onion gets it right. Propaganda about Light Rail is getting Ridiculous.

Advice on being an Environmental Activist.

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the otherhalf of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
-- Edward Abbey (on being an environmental activist)

Bahamas, "WAVES" from Tyler Manson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Marinwood Plaza Toxic Waste explained by Bill McNicholas ( 9 minutes)

Bill McNicholas, a 44 year Marinwood resident and engineer explains the Toxic Waste problem for Marinwood and Silveira ranch.  (9 minutes)

Clean up efforts stopped in 2011 while more testing was done.  It has been FOUR YEARS and testing has proven the migration of the plume extends underneath Highway 101 and threatens Silveira ranch and elevated soil vapors are a mere 100 feet from residences.  We need to protect our public health and environment NOW.

  Please sign the petition to resume CLEAN UP now!  HERE

Blues of the People

Even the French Publication LE MONDE wants to call us NIMBYS thanks to the George Lucas PR Team.

George Lucas has hired his Hollywood PR machine to paint Marinwood/Lucas Valley as NIMBYS.
Recently,  I was contacted by a writer of the prestigious Le Monde about questions concerning Grady Ranch.  He totally mashed my points to portray us as wealthy NIMBYS and apparently was in league with the George Lucas PR hit team who wants to further its agenda in our working class district.

Here is how I responded to his request for clarification of my position on Grady Ranch:
Hello Elvire,

Happy to answer questions to correct the record on Housing in Marinwood/Lucas Valley.   Everyone seems to be chasing the "George Lucas vs. the Wealthy Neighbors" story that his Hollywood PR team has put out.   There is much more to the story and the press has not kind.

We have written extensively about George Lucas on and youtube and posts to various blogs.

Here are some pertinent facts.

1.)  Grady Ranch is located 4 1/2 miles up a country road.  It has no water, sewer or other utilities.  It is isolated and lacks public transportation.  It will be run by a non profit and therefore contribute little if anything to community costs of the development.  The surrounding community will be on the hook for paying infrastructure, new schools, police and fire service.  

2.) Marinwood-Lucas Valley is a middle class neighborhood with moderate incomes. We have lots of retirees on fixed income.  Many would qualify for subsidized housing based on their income.  This is far from the picture painted in the press as "Millionaire Neighbors".  In fact this is one of the biggest lies being perpetuated by the press as most locals will tell you.  We are not southern Marin. Our neighborhood was one of the original working class neighborhood of Marin.  It still serves that purpose for families who have been priced out of San Francisco.  WE ARE THE ONES BEING FORCED TO PAY FOR SUBSIDIZED HOUSING while the housing advocates like Supervisor Steve Kinsey and Housing groups live like kings in San Geronimo Valley.  They are the real NIMBYS of Marin.

3.) George Lucas is reportedly willing to invest up to 300 million dollars for 224 apartments.  It is a very generous gift to all of the people of Marin.  Affordable Housing is needed but for that kind of money he could build THREE to FOUR times the amount of housing where the tenants would have access to shopping and essential services.  In fact he could BUY 450 HOMES in Marinwood at CURRENT MARKET PRICES and GIVE them to needy families. They would get a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a private backyard and no sensitive habitat will be destroyed. Why is George fixed on developing Grady Ranch.?

4.) Our community of 5.6 square miles is being burdened with 80% of all affordable housing not including Oakview Development and other locations currently seeking approvals.  We think that the distribution of housing should occur EVERYWHERE in Marin and not be concentrated in a politically weak community far from the elites in Marin.

5.) We support affordable housing (especially for seniors) like the Rotary Village Senior Center in Lucas Valley which is well located, fits within existing densities of the community, is environmentally safe and financially responsible.. 

Stephen Nestel

Here is what he wrote  (translation provided by a George Lucas's PR Firm website. link to original article below:  

George Lucas's Plans to Build Workforce & Senior Housing

Le Monde
August 8, 2015
By Elvire Camus

George Lucas's Plans to Build Workforce & Senior Housing
Grady Ranch
(photo caption)
The current entrance to Grady Ranch. On a total area of 1037 acres, over 800 are open to the public for hiking. The development that George Lucas wants to build will be 50 acres.
Imagine: A vegetable garden, an orchard, a small farm, a swimming pool, lawns, a community center and some 224 units of senior and workforce housing, all nestled in the heart of one of California's most bucolic valleys. When George Lucas announced his intention to convert a small portion of land he owns in Marin County, north of

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Is Following the Brown Act "sunshine law" OPTIONAL?

Local Marinwood CSD politician Tarey Read withdraws a motion to propose change to board bylaws without proper Brown Act notification.  She kills the motion when audience objects.  Is following the Brown Act  "optional" if no one objects?

Tarey Read, appointed ten years ago, winning re-election last time through default, is facing in an open competitive election this Fall. There are three positions open.

Candidates include yours truly,  Stephen Nestel.  

The Marinwood CSD has been a closed organization for years, with appointees like Tarey Read serving for years unnoticed.  Re-elections were not widely broadcast assuring the re-election of incumbents.  The election of Justin Kai, Deana Dearborn and Bill Shea was the first contested election in years.

It is time elect candidates with new ideas who will support civic openness, fiscal responsibility to ensure that our community remains strong.   I am building a website at and hope you will vote for me.

Casa Marinwood Residents are Angry over the FOUR YEAR DELAY to CLEAN TOXIC WASTE.

From the August 25. 2015 letter to the editor in the Marin IJ HERE

Clean up toxic waste near Marinwood housing
In the Aug 15 article, “Marinwood residents demand cleanup of dry cleaner chemicals,” Stephen Hill, toxics cleanup division chief at the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, is quoted as saying, “All test results are showing below regulatory levels and there is no indication that soil vapor has reached Casa Marinwood residents.”
This statement is not accurate, according to his own test results.
The test well, SV-26, has a soil vapor reading for PCE of 580 ug/m3, which is three times the allowable limit for residential areas.
The SV-26 location is within 100 feet of a residential area.
I have provided links to the map and testing data and the health effects of soil vapor. The residents here are very concerned that the plume may have moved into Casa Marinwood, especially since we have had a cancer cluster of six cases.
Can you ever remember an oil company being allowed to “study the problem for four years before cleaning up an oil spill?”
We must protect the environment and the people. Clean up Marinwood Plaza now.
— Elizabeth Geler, San Rafael
Sign the Petition HERE
What Homeowners Need to Know About Vapor Intrusion - An infographic by the team at EDR

Monday, August 24, 2015

Clockwork Orange author, Anthony Burgess on “the Duty to Distrust the State”

Anthony Burgess on “the Duty to Distrust the State”

Anthony Burgess wrote some 50 books, but he became most famous for one that was made into a hit movie – A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 and filmed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. Two years later Burgess wrote an essay reflecting on the book, the film, and their message. But the essay was not published until 2012, in the New Yorker, where it could be seen only by subscribers. Only this summer did the New Yorker open access to its archives, if only temporarily. So at last I have a chance to draw attention to the section of it I particularly enjoyed, on the dangers of the modern state:

We probably have no duty to like Beethoven or hate Coca-Cola, but it is at least conceivable that we have a duty to distrust the state. Thoreau wrote of the duty of civil disobedience; Whitman said, “Resist much, obey little.” With those liberals, and with many others, disobedience is a good thing in itself. In small social entities—English parishes, Swiss cantons—the machine that governs can sometimes be identified with the community that is governed. But when the social entity grows large, becomes a megalopolis, a state, a federation, the governing machine becomes remote, impersonal, even inhuman. It takes money from us for purposes we do not seem to sanction; it treats us as abstract statistics; it controls an army; it supports a police force whose function does not always appear to be protective.

This, of course, is a generalization that may be regarded as prejudiced nonsense. I personally do not trust politicians or statesmen—very few writers and artists do—and consider that men enter politics for the negative reason that they have little talent for anything else and the positive reason that power is always delicious. Against this must be set the truth that government makes healthful laws to protect the community and, in the great international world, can be the voice of our traditions and aspirations. But the fact remains that, in our own century, the state has been responsible for most of our nightmares. No single individual or free association of individuals could have achieved the repressive techniques of Nazi Germany, the slaughter of intensive bombing, or the atomic bomb. War departments can think in terms of megadeaths, while it is as much as the average man can do to entertain dreams of killing the boss. The modern state, whether in a totalitarian or a democratic country, has far too much power, and we are probably right to fear it.

It is significant that the nightmare books of our age have not been about new Draculas and Frankensteins but about what may be termed dystopias—inverted utopias, in which an imagined megalithic government brings human life to an exquisite pitch of misery. Sinclair Lewis, in “It Can’t Happen Here”—a novel curiously neglected—presents an America that becomes fascist, and the quality of the fascism is as American as apple pie. The wisecracking homespun Will Rogers-like President uses the provisions of a constitution created by Jeffersonian optimists to create a despotism which, to the unthinking majority, at first looks like plain common sense. The trouncing of long-haired intellectuals and shrill anarchists always appeals to the average man, although it may really mean the suppression of liberal thought (the American Constitution was the work of long-haired intellectuals) and the elimination of political dissidence. Orwell’s “1984”—a nightmare vision which may conceivably have prevented the nightmare fact from being realized: no one expects the real 1984 to be like Orwell’s—shows the unabashed love of power and cruelty which too many political leaders have hidden under the flowers of “inspirational” rhetoric. The “Inner Party” of Orwell’s future England exerts control over the population through the falsification of the past, so that no one can appeal to a dead tradition of freedom; through the delimitation of language, so that treasonable thoughts cannot be formulated; through a “doublethink” epistemology, which makes the outside world appear as the rulers wish it to appear; and through simple torture and brainwashing.

Both the American and the British visions conjoin in assuming that the aversive devices of fear and torture are the inevitable techniques of despotism, which seeks total control over the individual. But, as long ago as 1932, Aldous Huxley, in his “Brave New World,” demonstrated the submissive docility that powerful states seek from their subjects as being more easily obtainable through non-aversive techniques. Pre-natal and infantile conditioning makes the slaves happy in their slavery, and stability is enforced not through whips but through a scientifically imposed contentment. Here, of course, is a way that man may take if he really desires a world in which there are no wars, no population crises, no Dostoyevskian agonies. The conditioning techniques are available, and perhaps the state of the world may soon frighten man into accepting them. 
The whole thing is worth reading, with its reflections on freedom and conformity, good and evil, Orwell and B. F. Skinner (he was big in 1973).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

California builds first farm-to-table new home community

California builds first farm-to-table new home community

Urban farming is in the air and California is setting an example by creating the first American housing project of its kind with an urban farm built intentionally in the center of the community. The farm will be 7.4 acres and will include a teaching center for sustainable farming. Some 547 new homes have been built around the farm.
This is no straw bale hippy paradise, but fulfilling the dreams of mainstream urbanites who want the pleasures of big, single dwelling homes with access to fresh, local, organic produce.
The project is called The Cannery, and this Saturday 14 model homes will go on sale. Owned by NEW HOME (NYSE: NWHM) this event marks California’s first farm-to-table new home community. It is located in Davis, Calif.
“We have worked extremely hard over the past several years to get to this moment,” said Kevin Carson, Northern California President for NEW HOME. “The Cannery is unlike any other community in the western United States and it has truly been a rewarding experience to contribute to such an innovative concept.
Through a collaborative effort with the Center for Land-Based Learning of Winters, Calif., the Urban Farm will serve as a state-of-the-art example of sustainable urban farming and as an agri-classroom for students and beginning farmers.
“To see The Cannery today becoming a viable farm community is not only personally exciting for me, but also one of the most fulfilling accomplishments in my career,” said Craig McNamara, founder of the Center for Land-Based Learning. “The Cannery Urban Farm honors what I believe in most: Connecting eaters directly to food.”
Hear, hear. Let’s here of more projects like this multiplying across the US and the world.