Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stalinist Urbanism

One Bay Area Plan is coming to Marinwood-Lucas Valley 

[Editor's Note: The ideas of Smart Growth and the One Bay Area Plan are similiar to the autocratic land use planning under the Soviet power. The author of this article reaches many of the same conclusions that we have concerning Smart Growth.  Freedom and responsibility under democratic self rule are preferable bureaucratic oppression and tyranny.]

Excerpt from Urbanism under Stalin

Postwar development brought historicism to new extremes in the form of monumental plazas, dramatic statues, and seven famous "wedding cake" high-rises built throughout the city between 1947 and 1953. The largest and perhaps most extravagant is Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), which includes a botanical garden and extensive landscaping connected to the park along the river at Lenin (currently Sparrow) Hills.

MSU today.

Fearful symmetry, 1949.

An earlier design, 1947.

Open land around the new building, 1954.

New development, 1957.

An older house prepared for demolition to accommodate the Universitet neighborhood along Leninsky Prospect, 1957.

Housing for everyday citizens remained terribly insufficient, as elites were given beautiful apartments in the city and cottages in the country. New residential development tended to follow a kvartal model, in which buildings of roughly 5-10 stories were bounded by a city block with shops at street level and shared interior courtyards. Today, at least in the more affluent neighborhoods of Moscow, these structures have aged well. They combine density with pleasant landscaping and easy access to amenities. This model influenced the development of larger apartment blocks in "microdistricts" after Stalin's rule. These places are generally not considered beautiful. Still, there is much to be said for the kvartal idea.

Kvartal-like courtyard at lower-right corner, beside the residential tower at Kudrinskaya Square, 1954.

Stalinist urbanism draws upon a number of ideas raised in the 1920s for the socialist city, including the modernization of infrastructure, communal housing, employment and amenities close to home, ubiquitous public transportation, and the integration of green space. However, basic human needs were neglected in favor of industrial development and an image of grandeur. Human rights were given even less concern. This abuse of power in the name of socialism is an enduring tragedy. Stalin's massive urban modernization projects made it possible for Moscow to accommodate a great influx of people. But I'm not sure if they improved living conditions on the whole, or if the ecological consequences can be justified.

Stalin surveying a construction site, followed by Voroshilov, a removed person, and an unidentified person, mid-1930s.

In some ways Moscow's high-density living, extensive public transportation system, and accessible parks sound like a contemporary planner's dream. However, after reading about Stalin I've become more sympathetic to the flip side of this equation, the suburban house with a small park (ie, yard) of one's own, where we can adapt the environment on a smaller scale without imposing our will on others. Can urban condos and parks meet those kinds of needs?
"Increased public spending on health and physical education," a section from the Second Five Year Plan, 1934.

This might seem like a loss of faith in cities, but the real problem is abusive power. Stalin accomplished many things in Moscow that have proven of enduring value. But process is at least as important as results in this case. Great places can come about through autocratic, democratic, capitalist, and socialist means. But for the good of daily life in cities, a democratic socialism sounds preferable to autocratic socialism or democratic capitalism. Oppression and exploitation must give way to freedom and responsibility.

"Fascism Is Efficient" says Andres Duany, father of the New Urbanist movement

Andres Duany

Andres Duany is considered the father of New Urbanism that inspires Plan Bay Area.  He seeks to "repair Sprawl" by redeveloping places like Marin into Urban Centers along transportation Corridors.  All land within 1/2 mile of 101 is targeted.

Here is the full 2 hour video of the Seven50 conference which is even more chilling than the clips above. Seven50 is a regional economic/transportation and housing plan in Florida that is similar too Plan Bay Area on a smaller scale. Andres Duany reveals his plans, contempt for local democracy and unabased admiration for fascist government controls to achieve New Urbanist objectives of walkable, bikeable communities.

Mussolini called fascism "Corporatism"

Article from Independent Institute

Fascism Is Efficient, Says Andres Duany, Leading Proponent of “Sustainable Development”

Andres Duany (photo by Michigan Municipal League)
Andres Duany (photo by Michigan Municipal League, 2013)
It goes by many names: “sustainable development,” “smart growth,” “transit-oriented development,” to name a few. But development projects built under the banner of “sustainability” share the same elements: high-density residential housing and high-intensity commercial space (so-called mixed use) clustered near capital-intensive mass transit lines surrounded by government-owned “open space” and, increasingly, government-imposed “urban growth boundaries.” Regardless of where a sustainable-development project is located in the world, each tends to apply these elements.
There is nothing wrong with high-density housing or non-automobile mobility per se. The problem is that sustainability advocates use government to force their vision of tomorrow on others and, equally important, use government to restrict or eliminate alternative visions from being adopted. Individual private-property rights and local decision making give way to the priorities of international, national, state, and regional governmental bodies influenced by urban planners who believe their vision of the next 50 to 100 years is the correct vision and the only vision worth pursuing. Anyone who thinks differently, according to the planners, is wrong, selfish, wasteful, or all three, and must be silenced.
If you think this description is exaggerated, watch this chilling video of Andres Duany speaking to the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council on why it should support his Seven50 plan. Mr. Duany is the chief architect of Seven50, the proposed 50-year regional development plan for seven counties in Southeast Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Mr. Duany is a leading urban planner, author of The Smart Growth Manual, and a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which seeks to end suburban sprawl. After watching this video ask yourself: Do I want to support the so-called “smart-growth” approach and empower Andres Duany and people like him to rule over me and my community using government force? Or do I want to strengthen my private property rights and ensure local control over housing, land use, and transportation issues?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Soviet-Style Governance In San Francisco Bay Area

See the article in Forbes: Soviet-Style Governance In San Francisco Bay Area

French battlefield, 1914. The guns of the Great War reverberate to this day.

One of the all too many examples of illegal government overreach is currently playing out in the San Francisco Bay area. Unaccountable bureaucrats are imposing a sweeping new regional plan there that reflects the antiprogress, antipeople predilections of today’s leftist regulatory elites. Under the plan most future business and residential developments will be packed, sardine-like, into approximately 5% of the land area of the 9-county, 101-city region. Residents of all political stripes are outraged. Landowners feel they are suffering a government “takings” without compensation. Some environmentalists object that the impact on some of the chosen areas will be detrimental.

The mandate is being imposed ostensibly to reduce greenhouse gases. But that rationale is preposterous. U.S. emissions have already dropped to levels not seen since 1994, thanks, in no small part, to a surge in the production of natural gas, a truly clean source of energy. The other major reduction in omissions comes from better made trucks and cars, not from ant-hill-like residential/business clusters.

Citizen groups are protesting, and the Pacific Legal Foundation has now joined the fight, labeling this scheme illegal because bureaucrats have turned a blind eye to inconvenient data: “They studiously ignored facts showing that high-density development restrictions aren’t needed in order to meet the region’s targets for greenhouse gas reduction.” The foundation notes that this Big Brother-like plan “treats the law like a nuisance.”

The whole exercise displays a Soviet-style planning mentality. We should have learned the folly of treat ing people as if they were movable pawns, as happened in so many of post-WWII’s disastrous urban renewal projects, which did immense harm.

Nationally, be prepared to see a firestorm of opposition develop over the next few years against the plague of government lawlessness, at all levels.

Jacobean Tragedy

Jacobean Tragedy

The gross misinterpretation of an intellectual icon

Chattanooga is to urban planners what Cuba was to the '60s left: a junket, a model, and something likely to embarrass them 20 years later. The Tennessee town has become the Shangri-La of the sustainable development movement, that fractious coalition of policy makers, activists, and executives who hope to cure a host of ecological crises, real and imaginary, with more planning, more management, and more buzzwords. Foreign officials come calling, from Shanghai, Stockholm, Prague. Praise descends from the United Nations, federal agencies, and the Utne Reader(which recently named Chattanooga "one of the ten most enlightened towns in America"). With the possible exception of Portland, Oregon, Chattanooga is the Sustainables' favorite American city.

Now it plans to build an "eco-industrial park," an initiative it promises "will connect both industrial and non-industrial companies in a series of waste-becomes-raw-material feedback loops that will save money by keeping the material flows and energy flows within an industrial metabolism, rather than releasing waste into the environment." The President's Council on Sustainable Development has issued a grant to help build the park, and the city fathers rarely miss an opportunity to plug the project. It's a more moderate, mainstream version of environmental guru Herman Daly's "steady-state economy," defined as a "constant level of stocks maintained by minimal throughput of flows." That means you reuse almost all your waste and strictly limit growth.
Flash back three decades. In 1969, urbanologist Jane Jacobs suggested that recycling might become a solution to pollution. Cities, she wrote, are potential junk mines, waiting for entrepreneurs to extract useful material from household trash, industrial waste, even smokestacks. She devoted several pages of her classic The Economy of Cities to this idea, describing several ways one might transform waste into wealth. The cities of the future, she wrote, may "become huge, rich and diverse mines of raw materials. These mines will differ from any now to be found because they will become richer the more and the longer they are exploited."

On a superficial level, it sounds like the Chattanooga project. But it's very different. And the distinctions between the two show a lot of what's wrong with the sustainable development movement. They also show how seriously some Sustainables have misappropriated Jacobs's work.
Jacobs is probably our greatest student of how cities work, how they grow, and how they die. Her The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) is one of the great books of the century--a book that undermined the idea that cities should be works of art, designed by enlightened planner-architects, insisting instead that they were living systems best understood from the ground, not the air. The book's success launched her first into activism, fighting to save her Greenwich Village home from the urban planners, and then into Toronto, a city whose leaders proved more sympathetic to her ideas. She also continued to write, deepening her study of city life and society.
One of her most important insights, enunciated in The Economy of Cities, is the way new work grows out of old: not by plan, as too many social engineers have assumed, and not by ever-finer division of labor, as Adam Smith asserted, but by serendipity. First, work is divided into smaller tasks, à la Smith, and then someone discovers that one of those smaller processes has other uses. The old enterprise then reinvents itself, or else someone breaks away from it to start a new operation. In this way, a sand mining company (3M) began to develop new forms of adhesive tape; a dress maker (Ida Rosenthal) invented, and turned to manufacturing, the brassiere; and--not an example of innovation, but an illustration of the same principle--many Japanese bicycle repair shops gradually moved into bicycle manufacturing.
Jacobs expected recycling to develop this way. To the extent that it's a viable concern, it has. (Think of the scrap industry, or of the savings glass manufacturers have realized from using recycled content.) Contrast that process with these words from business writer Paul Hawken's 1993 book The Ecology of Commerce--a passage the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce saw fit to quote in a portfolio sent to journalists interested in its eco-industrial park: "A prototype of industrial ecology and cooperation is in place right now in Kalundborg, Denmark. In Kalundborg, a coal-fired plant, an oil refinery, a pharmaceutical company specializing in biotechnology, a sheetrock plant, concrete producers, a producer of sulfuric acid, the municipal heating authority, a fish farm, some greenhouses, local farms and other enterprises work cooperatively together....This synergy is remarkable because it happened `spontaneously,' without governmental regulation or law as the prime motivating factor, and because some of the relationships between outputs and inputs were serendipitous or unplanned at the outset."
Here's the kicker: "Imagine what a team of designers could come up with if they were to start from scratch, locating and specifying industries and factories that had potentially synergistic and symbiotic relationships."
Jacobs expects chance and entrepreneurship to produce progress. Hawken seems surprised when they do. Jacobs distrusts planners. Hawken, in this passage, does not. Of course, it makes sense to expect industries to imitate success, the serendipity of the past giving way to the deliberate design of the present. And it makes sense for companies that might want to use one another's waste to plan their proximity to one another in advance. But that sort of decentralized, contractual imitation of what works elsewhere differs considerably from the plan the Chattanoogans are proposing. The latter is a demonstration project, not a living economy; government planners dreamed it up, and it will be financed, in large part, by federal dollars.
Companies still will make money off it, of course. How could they not? The risk will be socialized and the profits privatized; the industries will be serving not customers but an ideological agenda. (And a civic agenda. Chattanooga has been trying to reposition itself as an "environmental city" for years, hoping to draw in tourists and fat federal grants.) Small wonder sustainability is becoming a corporate buzzword: You don't have to buy Daly's crank economics to make some easy dough off his rhetoric.
Thankfully, most of us have little direct contact with raw industrial waste. When we think of recycling, we think of our domestic trash--and, perhaps, of a local compulsory recycling law. Such laws are just as misguided as Chattanooga's eco-industrial park, and for much the same reason. The value of the activity takes a back seat to its symbolism; planners forget that the recycling process also uses energy and sometimes is more wasteful than simply throwing things away. So separating trash becomes a sort of religious ritual, a tiresome procedure that citizens are put through (or environmental aesthetes put themselves through) to prove their fealty to Mother Earth, whether or not they're doing her any favors.
Contrast that with another passage from The Economy of Cities, describing a hapless household trying to recycle its junk: "Imagine that one serviceman calls who is interested only in old metal, another who is interested in waste paper, another in garbage, another in discarded wool furniture, another in used-up plastics, another who wants old books (but only if their bindings have gilt letters; another serviceman is interested in the others), and so on. A family would be driven crazy by this traffic, let alone by the necessity of separating and storing for various intervals the various wastes."
Jacobs did not then propose that the family be forced to separate its trash. Indeed, she implied that this would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. "The aim must be to get all the wastes possible into the system--not only those that are already valuable at a given stage of development, but also those that are only beginning to become useful and those that are not yet useful but may become so," she writes. "A type of work that does not now exist is thus necessary: services that collect all wastes, not for shunting into incinerators or gulches, but for distributing to various primary specialists from whom the materials will go to converters or reusers."
An interesting idea. But trying it means allowing the new work to grow from the old work. That cannot happen if garbage collection is socialized, or if the government contracts with a single private company to do the job. It canhappen if households hire people to haul away their refuse. At first, the private haulers might give the garbage to landfills; as opportunities to sell different sorts of trash develop, they'd diversify, much as homeless people collect cans for profit in places with deposit law. Except, of course, that the trash collectors would be responding to an actual market incentive, not one jerry-rigged by the state.
If recycling technology advances far enough, the haulers may find themselves paying for the garbage they collect, rather than getting paid to collect it. But even when opportunities to sell trash don't arise, there can still be a solid incentive to recycle: As landfill space grows scarce, limited by geography or by popular opposition, it will grow more expensive to dispose of trash. In some communities, this has already happened. In others, it hasn't, and that's fine; it just means recycling isn't necessary. There's nothing wrong with that. We're talking about a means of waste disposal, not a moral imperative.
So Jacobs's vision is open-ended and dynamic. The Sustainables, meanwhile, dream of closed systems. Jacobs thinks progress comes from small enterprises making incremental changes, with a healthy dose of trial and error. The Sustainables think it derives from design. In a Jacobean world, businesses make money by meeting consumers' needs. Under sustainable development, they follow government incentives, jump for federal subsidies, and participate in "public-private partnerships." Writes Jacobs, "Cities that take the lead in reclaiming their own wastes will have high rates of related development work; that is, many local firms will manufacture the necessary gathering and processing equipment and will export it to other cities and to towns." The sustainable agenda has no room for that kind of fluid, messy, uncontrolled, spontaneous growth.
The funny thing is, a lot of Sustainables think they're following in Jacobs's footsteps. Many of them read her damning indictment of city planners in The Death and Life of Great American Cities; many embraced its powerful assault on the freeway projects and urban renewal schemes that were wiping out living neighborhoods and replacing them with concrete.
Agreeing that those projects were awful, they added Jacobs to their pantheon--and proceeded to dream up a more "sustainable" set of transit projects and redevelopment plans. If it was wrong to wipe out high-density districts, they figured, they should go out to the suburbs and try to force high densities on a population that doesn't want them, in an economic landscape where they're inappropriate. If it was wrong to push freeways into pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, they should try to herd people into expensive, unpopular mass-transit systems. (They certainly wouldn't follow Jacobs's recent advice and allow jitneys to proliferate.)
You think I'm exaggerating? I've just described the official urban growth policies of Portland, Oregon, where more than a few municipal officials claim Jacobs as a forebear. Last year in Toronto, at a gathering held in Jacobs's honor, Brian Scott of the environmental group Livable Oregon repeated something a city hall worker once told him: "A lot of us got tired of protesting the Vietnam War, read Jane Jacobs, and decided to take over Portland." Evidently, they didn't read very carefully.

The Sustainables' grossest misuse of Jacobs may be their approach to metropolitan government. They read Jacobs's principle, enunciated in 1984's Cities and the Wealth of Nations, that the most important economic unit is the city-anchored region, not the nation-state. Somehow, they interpreted this as an endorsement of regional governance--of creating governing superstructures able to override, and ideally eliminate, the competing jurisdictions that make up most metropolitan regions. Portland gave more and more planning power to a shadowy tri-county authority called Metro. Chattanooga merged its school system with that of the surrounding county, and has made noises about further consolidating the city and county governments. Whether or not those governments pointed to Jacobs as their inspiration, their boosters--such as columnist Neal Peirce, co-author of Citistates--somehow did.
But Jacobs has long believed government should be as local and as limited as possible, and has denounced regionalism as unworkable and undemocratic. "The voters sensibly decline to federate into a system where bigness means local helplessness, ruthless, oversimplified planning, and administrative chaos--for that is just what municipal bigness means today," she wrote in Death and Life. "How is helplessness against `conquering' planners an improvement over no planning? How is bigger administration, with labyrinths nobody can comprehend or navigate, an improvement over crazy-quilt township and suburban governments?" Last year, when Ontario wanted Toronto to merge with its environs into a giant, New York-style megalopolis, she was one of the plan's angriest opponents, at one point suggesting the city consider seceding from the province. "Separating power and responsibility doesn't make sense," she explained to a TV interviewer. The Sustainables would do well to listen.

But they won't. To the extent that they have digested Jacobs, they have romanticized her vision, bastardizing her empirical observations of how cities work into a formula they want to impose not just on cities but on suburbs and small towns as well. More often, however, they simply have not digested her at all. And it shows. Their vision is static, stagnant, and statist, everything that Jacobs's is not. The result will soon be on display in Chattanooga.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Power of Punk Art and Music / Soviet Punk

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry OFFICIAL TRAILER from Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on Vimeo.

Battle for the California Desert: Why is the Government Driving Folks off Their Land?

The Antelope Valley is a vast patch of desert on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, and a segment of the few rugged individualists who live out there increasingly are finding themselves the targets of armed raids from local code enforcement agents, who've assembled into task forces called Nuisance Abatement Teams (NATs).

The plight of the Valley's desert dwellers made regional headlines when county officials ordered the destruction of Phonehenge: a towering, colorful castle constructed out of telephone poles by retired phone technician Kim Fahey. Fahey was imprisoned and charged with several misdemeanors.

But Fahey is just one of many who've been targeted by the NATs, which were assembled at the request of County Supervisor Mike Antonovich in 2006. LA Weekly reporter Mars Melnicoff wrote an in-depth article in which she exposed the county's tactic of badgering residents with minor, but costly, code violations until they face little choice but to vacate the land altogether.

"They're picking on the the people who are the most defenseless and have the least resources," says Melnicoff. collaborated with Melnicoff to talk with some of the NAT's targets, such as retired veteran Joey Gallo, who might face homelessness if he's forced to leave his house, and local pastor Oscar Castaneda, who says he's already given up the fight and is in the process of moving off the land he and his wife have lived on for 22 years. And, while Antonovich declined an interview, we did catch up with him at a public meeting in order to ask the big question at the center of all this: Why the sudden enforcement of these codes against people living in the middle of the desert, who seemingly are affecting no one?

Writer-Producers: Zach Weissmueller and Tim Cavanaugh. Associate Producer: Mars Melnicoff. Camera: Alex Manning and Weissmueller; edited by Weissmueller.

Approximately 9:48.

Music by

Tiny houses helping with homeless problem in U.S.

Tiny houses helping with homeless problem in U.S.

MADISON, Wis. - While tiny houses have been attractive for those wanting to downsize or simplify their lives for financial or environmental reasons, there's another population benefiting from the small-dwelling movement: the homeless.
There's a growing effort across the nation from advocates and religious groups to build these compact buildings because they are cheaper than a traditional large-scale shelter, help the recipients socially because they are built in communal settings and are environmentally friendly due to their size.
"You're out of the elements, you've got your own bed, you've got your own place to call your own," said Harold "Hap" Morgan, who is without a permanent home in Madison. "It gives you a little bit of self-pride: This is my own house."
He's in line for a 99-square-foot house built through the nonprofit Occupy Madison Build, or OM Build, run by former organizers with the Occupy movement. The group hopes to create a cluster of tiny houses like those in Olympia, Wash., and Eugene and Portland, Ore.
Many have been built with donated materials and volunteer labor, sometimes from the people who will live in them. Most require residents to behave appropriately, avoid drugs and alcohol and help maintain the properties.
Still, sometimes neighbors have not been receptive. Linda Brown, who can see the proposed site for Madison's tiny houses from her living room window, said she worries about noise and what her neighbors would be like.
"There have been people who have always been associated with people who are homeless that are unsavory types of people," she said.
Organizer Brenda Konkel hopes to allay neighbors' concerns by the time the City Council votes in May on the group's application to rezone the site of a former auto body shop to place the houses there. Plans include gardens, a chicken coop and possibly bee hives and showers and bathrooms in the main building.
"I think a lot of them we can work through. I think there is some ways we can be a real asset to the neighborhood," she said.
The group has already built one house that's occupied by a couple and parked on the street. A volunteer moves it every 24 or 48 hours as required by city ordinances.
The house, which cost about $5,000, fits a double bed with overhead storage, a small table and a small room with a compostable toilet. There's no plumbing or electricity, but the home is insulated and has a propane heater to get the residents through the harsh Wisconsin winters.
Organizers want to eventually add solar panels.
Morgan, who has struggled with a spinal cord surgery, alcohol addiction and unemployment, lives in a trailer provided by OM Build. He hopes to work as a cook again.
"My goal is to go back to that and get my own place, but it's really nice to have this to fall back on," he said.
The tiny house effort in Eugene, Ore., sprung up after the city shut down an Occupy encampment that turned into a tent city for the homeless. Andrew Heben and others worked with the city, which provided them with land for the project.
Opportunity Village Eugene opened in September with little resistance, said Heben, 26, who is on the board of directors. Most of the nine huts, which are 60 square feet, and 21 bungalows, which are 64 square feet and 80 square feet, are already built.
Thirty people are living in them now, and he expects 40 to 45 residents ultimately. The houses don't have electricity, water, bathrooms, showers or kitchens, but separate shared buildings do.
They've done it all for less than $100,000, which is about half the median home price in Eugene, all from private donors with no taxpayer money. He said the story has changed from how tent cities were a problem in America to how the community is banding together.
"It's an American success story. ... Now we see in different cities people coming up with citizen driven solutions," Heben said.
Ministries in Texas and New York also are developing communities with clusters of small houses.
Mobile Loaves and Fishes plans 135 small homes and 100 recreational vehicles on 27 acres near Austin, Texas.
The Christian ministry that started 15 years ago bringing food and clothing to the homeless hopes to raise $7 million to build the homes, streets, utilities, sewers, a farming operation, medical facility and sanctuary, President and CEO Alan Graham said.
Residents would pay rent that ranges from $90 a month for a 150-square-foot home to $375 for 400 square feet.
"The goal is to reach everybody where they are economically," Graham said.
He expects a staff of 15 will run the village, with residents having the option to get paid to help with upkeep.
Community Faith Partnership near Ithaca, N.Y., has built six of up to 18 planned 320-square-foot houses as transitional living for homeless men, said Jim Crawford, the group's executive director.
The men will pay rent on a sliding scale that looks at their situation and whether they receive government aid.
The heart of the operation will be a community center where people who aren't social can learn to relate to others in a safe environment, Crawford said.
"We are bringing people into tangible housing but we are bringing them also into much less tangible human framework of social relations and that is the more difficult work," he said. "That is the more sophisticated work."

Editor's note: The average price of subsidized housing is $400,000-$800,000 in the Bay Area and the community receives almost no taxes.  While we are not advocating the tiny house solution, it is a creative approach to the problem of the homeless. Tens of thousands of these could be built for the cost of a single "affordable" housing complex like the proposed Marinwood Village. The ridiculously high cost of so called "affordable complexes" built with generous taxpayer subsidies makes you wonder what they mean by "non profit".
Bridge Housing Celebrates Affordable Housing at the America's Cup with Movie Star Edward Norton, Mayor Ed Lee, Cabinet Officials from the Obama Administration and the Who's Who in International Finance.
So much earnest celebration while earning Tax Free Subsidies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SF Chronicle: San Rafael's allure for homeless creates some tension

San Rafael's allure for homeless creates some tension see article in SF Chronicle.

For two years, Eric Lloyd was a denizen of People's Park in Berkeley, a regular fixture in that city's homeless panoply.

But about a month ago, he got tired of getting robbed - and arrested for public drunkenness - so on the advice of a friend he moved to San Rafael.

"It's great here," he said Wednesday while basking in the sun on Fourth Street, the city's main commercial strip. "It's safe. No one hassles me. Will I stay here? Yeah, I think so. I like it here."

Lloyd is one of 900 or so homeless people in Marin County, most of whom are concentrated around a soup kitchen, park and free clinic in downtown San Rafael, drawing the ire of residents and merchants who say the middle-class city of 58,000 is bearing the brunt of Marin County's homeless issues.

"We have a small downtown - we can't absorb it," said Carol Thompson, director of the downtown business association. "People say they don't want to come to downtown San Rafael because they're afraid of the homeless. It's very frustrating because there's very little we can do about it."

San Rafael, the county seat and one of the oldest North Bay cities, has had homeless people for decades, as least since St. Vincent de Paul opened its doors in the 1940s. St. Vincent - or Vinnie's, as it's known - provides the county's only free dining room and a large array of services for low-income Marin residents. The city is also home to shelters, a free clinic, domestic violence and substance abuse centers, and several other nonprofits that serve Marin's low-income residents.

A huge increase

With the economic downturn, the number of people seeking help from St. Vincent has more than doubled, from about 6,000 a year to 15,000 annually, said Christine Paquette, the agency's development director.
Some of them suffer from chronic drug abuse or mental illness, and many are longtime Marin residents who lost their jobs in the recession and fell behind on their rents, which at an average of $1,900 for a two-bedroom apartment are among the highest in the nation.
The homeless population further swelled in the past year or two with the steady flow of transient young people making their way up and down the West Coast. With its mild weather, low crime rate and generous homeless services, San Rafael is a popular stop for those migrating up the coast.

Support services

Typically, San Rafael's homeless sleep in Boyd Memorial Park, then head to St. Vincent and the nearby Ritter Center for food, health care, showers, clothing, substance abuse counseling or other services.

The result is a triangular path bisected by Fourth Street, the city's historic shopping district, which San Rafael has spent at least a decade sprucing up and which now hosts myriad festivals, parades, farmers' markets and other attractions.

"Some of the homeless certainly cross the line. The pit bulls, the tossing of the f-word when you're walking down the street with your 6-year-old and Grandma - people aren't used to that, and they don't expect it. Especially in Marin," Paquette said. "For some people, an experience like that can ruin their afternoon."

More than 70 percent of downtown merchants say their business has been affected by the homeless, costing thousands of dollars in lost sales and tax revenue, Thompson and city staff members said.

Annie Bowman, who opened the furniture store Sunrise Home downtown 37 years ago, said she feels compassion for those who have no place to go but worries about the safety and comfort of her employees and customers.

"When I came to San Rafael, it was the epitome of a charming, vibrant downtown," she said. "It does break my heart to see it like this. It's a complex issue that's happening in other cities, too, but it seems the pendulum here has swung too far."

Librarians help

At the public library, staff members have "absolutely seen an increase" in the homeless population, said library director Sarah Houghton. Librarians have become de facto social workers, handling everything from fistfights to untreated mental illness to screaming and drug abuse, she said.

"More than anything, it means the staff has less time to help regular library patrons," she said. "It's no different than what's happening in San Francisco, just on a smaller scale."
San Rafael has taken many steps to address the issue: hiring the homeless to clean the streets, deploying more police downtown, clearing out encampments in the parks and adding more beds to a downtown detox center.

Merchants and homeless advocates both agree that those steps appear to be working. And, although the homeless sometimes defecate and urinate on the sidewalks, they don't often aggressively panhandle or commit crimes, Thompson said.

"Pops," 64, lived on San Rafael streets for nine years before recently moving in with a friend in Novato. He still dines at St. Vincent and said he sympathizes with both sides.
"No one wants to walk down the street and feel harassed or threatened. I'm not happy about it, either," he said last week while eating lunch. "But what can we do? We can't just put people on a bus to Richmond or Vallejo - that's where a lot of them came from to begin with. It's not an easy problem."

Praise for San Rafael

Lloyd, meanwhile, is enjoying his stay in Marin. The 49-year-old Missouri native has been homeless most of his life, he said, and he appreciates the quiet of San Rafael and generosity of its residents.
"Nice people. And St. Vincent is great," he said as he relaxed next to the Rafael Film Center. "I'm not out to get on people's nerves. ... I don't want people bothering me, either. Just like anyone, I want peace and quiet."

Editor's Note:  Homeless Shelters have been zoned somewhere in the unincorporated areas of the county near or in Marinwood.  I never was able to determine the location.  Someone needs to research this.  Thee winters ago, the sitting Marinwood CSD Board consisting of Bruce Anderson, Cyane Dandridge, Leah Green, Tarey Reed and Bill Hansel, voted to make the Marinwood Community Center an emergency homeless shelter.  It was never used.