Saturday, October 21, 2017

Progressive Cities: Home of the Worst Housing Inequality

Progressive Cities: Home of the Worst Housing Inequality

October 18, 2017 By Wendell Cox Leave a Comment

America’s most highly regulated housing markets are also reliably the most progressive in their political attitudes. Yet in terms of gaining an opportunity to own a house, the price impacts of the tough regulation mean profound inequality for the most disadvantaged large ethnicities, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Based on the housing affordability categories used in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for 2016 (Table 1), housing inequality by ethnicity is the worst among the metropolitan areas rated “severely unaffordable.” In these 11 major metropolitan area markets, the most highly regulated, median multiples (median house price divided by median household income) exceed 5.0. For African-Americans, the median priced house is 10.2 times median incomes. This is 3.7 more years of additional income than the overall average in these severely unaffordable markets, where median house prices are 6.5 times median household incomes. It is only marginally better for Hispanics, with the median price house at 8.9 times median household incomes, 2.4 years more than the average in these markets (Figure 1).

The comparisons with the 13 affordable markets (median multiples of 3.0 and less) is even more stark. For African-American households things are much better than in the more progressive and most expensive metropolitan areas. The median house prices is equal to 4.6 years of median income, 5.5 years less than in the severely affordable markets. Moreover, for African-Americans, housing affordability is only marginally worse than the national average in the affordable market.

Things are even better for Hispanics, who would find the median house price 3.8 times median incomes, 5.1 years less than in the severely affordable markets. This is better than the national average housing affordability.

Among the four markets rated “seriously unaffordable,” (median multiple from 4.1 to 5.0) the inequality is slightly less, with African-Americans finding median house prices equal to 2.2 years of additional income compared to average. The disadvantage for Hispanics is 1.5 years.

In contrast, inequality is significantly reduced in the less costly “moderately unaffordable” markets (median multiple of 3.1 to 4.0) and the “affordable” markets (median multiple of 3.0 and less).

The discussion below describes the 10 largest and smallest housing affordability gaps for African-American and Hispanic households relative to the average household, within the particular metropolitan markets. The gaps within ethnicities compared to the affordable markets would be even more. The four charts all have the same scale (a top housing affordability gap of 10 years) for easy comparison.

Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: African American

African-Americans have the largest housing affordability inequality gap. And these gaps are most evident in some of the nation’s most progressive cities. The largest gap is in San Francisco, where the median income African-American household faces median house prices that are 9.3 years of income more than the average. In nearby San Jose ranks the second worst, where the gap is 6.2 years. Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area suffers by far the area of least housing affordability for African-Americans compared to the average household.

Portland, long the darling of the international urban planning community, ranks third worst, where the median income African-American household to purchase the median priced house. Milwaukee and Minneapolis – St. Paul ranked fourth and fifth worst followed by Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago (Figure 2).

Largest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanics

Two of the three worst positions are occupied by the two metropolitan areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The worst housing affordability gap for Hispanics is in San Jose, a more than one-quarter Hispanic metropolitan area where the median income Hispanic household would require 5.0 years of additional income to pay for the median priced house compared to the average. Boston ranks second worst at 3.9. San Francisco third worst at 3.3 years. Providence and New York rank fourth and fifth worst. The second five worst housing inequality for Hispanics is in San Diego, Hartford, Rochester, Philadelphia and Raleigh (Figure 3).

The San Francisco Bay Area: “Inequality City”

Perhaps no part of the country is more renowned for its progressive politics and politicians than the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, in housing equality, the Bay Area is anything but progressive. If the African-American and Hispanic housing inequality measures are averaged, disadvantaged minorities face house prices that average approximately 6.25 years more years of median income in San Francisco and 5.60 more years of median income in San Jose.

Moreover, no one should imagine that recent state law authorizing a $4 billion “affordable housing” bond election will have any significant impact. According to the Sacramento Bee, voter approval would lead to 70,000 new housing units annually, when the need for low and very low income households is 1.5 million. The bond issue would do virtually nothing for the many middle-income households who are struggling to pay the insanely high housing costs California’s regulatory nightmare has developed.

Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: African-American

Tucson has the smallest housing affordability gap for African-Americans. In Tucson, the median income African-American household would pay approximately 0.4 years (four months) more in income for the median priced house than the average household. In San Antonio, Atlanta and Tampa – St. Petersburg, the housing affordability gaps are under 1.0. Houston, Riverside – San Bernardino, Virginia Beach – Norfolk, Memphis, Dallas – Fort Worth and Birmingham round out the second five. It may be surprising that eight of the metropolitan areas with the smallest housing affordability gaps for African-Americans are in the South and perhaps most surprisingly of all that one of the best, at number 10, is Birmingham. (Figure 4).

Smallest Housing Affordability Gaps: Hispanic

Among Hispanic households, the smallest housing affordability gap is in Pittsburgh, where the median priced house would require less than 10 days more in median income for a Hispanic household compared the overall average. In Jacksonville the housing affordability gap for Hispanics would be less than two months. In Baltimore, Birmingham, St. Louis and Cincinnati, the median house price is the equivalent of less than six months of median income for an Hispanic household. Detroit, Memphis, Virginia Beach – Norfolk and Cleveland round out the ten smallest housing affordability gaps for Hispanics (Figure 5).

Housing Affordability is the Best for Asians

Recent American Community Survey data indicated that Asians have median household incomes a quarter above those of White Non-– Hispanics. This advantage is also illustrated in the housing affordability data. Asians have better housing affordability than White Non-– Hispanics in 37 of the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population).

The Importance of Housing Opportunity

Housing opportunity is important. African-Americans and Hispanics already face challenges given their generally lower incomes. However, by no serious political philosophy, progressive or otherwise, should any ethnicity find themselves even further disadvantaged by political barriers, such as have been created by over-zealous land and housing regulators.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

Wendell Cox a is visiting professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Smart Growth is just a new wave of Bland development.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Big Brother's warm embrace (yikes!)

I wonder how the new "communications system" in Marin is doing?

Capitalism is the greatest Antipoverty program with PROVEN results.

Dr. Yaron Brook is the president of the Ayn Rand Institute, here he argues with a smug student on the morality of capitalism. Clip from "Equal is Unfair - The Inequality Advantage" at The University of Exeter, to The Undergraduate and SEE Talks.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Imagine a World without Taxes

Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools makes an emotional plea to the Board of Supervisors to support a sales tax increase to pay for free preschool, childcare, healthcare and expanded social services for low income families.  Of course, most Marin families will not qualify for free benefits.  Many families must work two or more jobs just to pay for the essentials in Marin County.  Marin has the dubious distinction for having the highest property taxes in the State of California.  

Will California Ever Thrive Again?

Will California Ever Thrive Again?

July 7, 2016 11:23 am / Leave a Comment / victorhanson

The state is sinking, and its wealthy class is full of hypocrites.
By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

There was more of the same-old, same-old California news recently. Some 62 percent of state roads have been rated poor or mediocre. There were more predications of huge cost overruns and yearly losses on high-speed rail — before the first mile of track has been laid. One-third of Bay Area residents were polled as hoping to leave the area soon.

Such pessimism is daily fare, and for good reason.

The basket of California state taxes — sales, income, and gasoline — rates among the highest in the U.S. Yet California roads and K-12 education rank near the bottom.

After years of drought, California has not built a single new reservoir. Instead, scarce fresh aqueduct water is still being diverted to sea. Thousands of rural central-California homes, in Dust Bowl fashion, have been abandoned because of a sinking aquifer and dry wells.

One in three American welfare recipients resides in California. Almost a quarter of the state population lives below or near the poverty line. Yet the state’s gas and electricity prices are among the nation’s highest.

One in four state residents was not born in the U.S. Current state-funded pension programs are not sustainable.

California depends on a tiny elite class for about half of its income-tax revenue. Yet many of these wealthy taxpayers are fleeing the 40-million-person state, angry over paying 12 percent of their income for lousy public services.

Public-health costs have soared as one-third of California residents admitted to state hospitals for any causes suffer from diabetes, a sometimes-lethal disease often predicated on poor diet, lack of exercise, and excessive weight.

Nearly half of all traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area are classified as hit-and-run collisions.

Grass-roots voter pushbacks are seen as pointless. Progressive state and federal courts have overturned a multitude of reform measures of the last 20 years that had passed with ample majorities.

In impoverished central-California towns such as Mendota, where thousands of acres were idled due to water cutoffs, once-busy farmworkers live in shacks. But even in opulent San Francisco, the sidewalks full of homeless people do not look much different.

What caused the California paradise to squander its rich natural inheritance?

Excessive state regulations and expanding government, massive illegal immigration from impoverished nations, and the rise of unimaginable wealth in the tech industry and coastal retirement communities created two antithetical Californias.

One is an elite, out-of-touch caste along the fashionable Pacific Ocean corridor that runs the state and has the money to escape the real-life consequences of its own unworkable agendas.

The other is a huge underclass in central, rural, and foothill California that cannot flee to the coast and suffers the bulk of the fallout from Byzantine state regulations, poor schools, and the failure to assimilate recent immigrants from some of the poorest areas in the world.

The result is Connecticut and Alabama combined in one state. A house in Menlo Park may sell for more than $1,000 a square foot. In Madera, three hours away, the cost is about one-tenth of that.

In response, state government practices escapism, haggling over transgender-restroom and locker-room issues and the aquatic environment of a three-inch baitfish rather than dealing with a sinking state.

What could save California?

Blue-ribbon committees for years have offered bipartisan plans to simplify and reduce the state tax code, prune burdensome regulations, reform schools, encourage assimilation and unity of culture, and offer incentives to build reasonably priced housing.

Instead, hypocrisy abounds in the two Californias.

If Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg wants to continue lecturing Californians about their xenophobia, he at least should stop turning his estates into sanctuaries with walls and security patrols. And if faculty economists at the University of California at Berkeley keep hectoring the state about fixing income inequality, they might first acknowledge that the state pays them more than $300,000 per year — putting them among the top 2 percent of the university’s salaried employees.

Immigrants to a diverse state where there is no ethnic majority should welcome assimilation into a culture and a political matrix that is usually the direct opposite of what they fled from.

More unity and integration would help. So why not encourage liberal Google to move some of its operations inland to needy Fresno, or lobby the wealthy Silicon Valley to encourage affordable housing in the near-wide-open spaces along the nearby I-280 corridor north to San Francisco?

Finally, state bureaucrats should remember that even cool Californians cannot drink Facebook, eat Google, drive on Oracle, or live in Apple. The distant people who make and grow things still matter.

Elites need to go back and restudy the state’s can-do confidence of the 1950s and 1960s to rediscover good state government — at least if everyday Californians are ever again to have affordable gas, electricity, and homes; safe roads; and competitive schools.

Idiocracy, Novato candidate makes tough decisions by asking "smart people"

Kevin Morrison candidate for Novato City Council explains that he builds consensus by "listening to smart people" and patronizing his opponents with empty words. He will dismiss costs and risks to the community because "smart people" told him the right thing to do. The man is either a genius or a fool.

World's First Aerial 360 Video Over North Korea 2017

Pyongyang is the ultimate urbanist utopia.  Smart Growth planning celebrates the lack of traffic and high density development like Pyongyang.  Plan Bay Area advocates similar urban development and central planning. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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.

Kevin Morrison, Novato City Council Candidate Says Nothing for 1:33 minutes

Political Candidate, Kevin J. Morrison, expels air for 1:33 minutes trying to avoid an answer about building heights in Hamilton neighborhood of Novato, CA.  He is a first time candidate running for office in Novato

Smart Growth and the Ideal City- a model for the Bay Area

Smart Growth and the Ideal City

May 6, 2005

American suburbs are "a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of buildings covering enormous stretches of land." The cost of providing services to such "monotonous stretches of individual low-rise houses" is too high. As a result, "the search for a future kind of residential building leads logically to" high-density, mixed-use housing.

This sounds like typical writings of New Urbanist or smart-growth planners. In fact, these words were written nearly forty years ago by University of Moscow planners in a book titled The Ideal Communist City. The principles in their book formed a blueprint for residential construction all across Russia and eastern Europe. With a couple of minor changes, they could also be the blueprint for smart growth.

Mixed-use developments, wrote the Moscow planners, allow people easy access to "public functions and services" such as day care, restaurants, parks, and laundry facilities. This, in turn, would minimize the need for private spaces, and the authors suggest that apartments for a family of four need be no larger than about 600 square feet. Prior to the late 1960s, such apartments were built in five- to six-story brick buildings, but the authors looked forward to new, reinforced-concrete building techniques that would allow fifteen- to seventeen-story apartment buildings.

Like the New Urbanists, the soviet planners saw several advantages to such high-density housing. First, it would be more equitable, since everyone from factory managers to lowly janitors would live in the same buildings. While New Urbanists are less concerned about housing everyone in nearly identical apartments, they do promote the idea of mixed-income communities so that the wealthy can rub shoulders with lower-income people.

Second, the soviets believed apartments would promote a sense of community and collective values. Single-family homes were too "autonomous," they said, while the apartment "becomes the primary element in a collective system of housing." Similarly, many New Urbanists claim that their designs will produce a greater sense of community.

Third, high-density housing was supposed to allow easy access to public transportation. "Private individual transportation has produced such an overwhelming set of unresolved problems in cities that even planners in bourgeois societies are inclined to limit it," the Russians prophetically observed. With their high-density apartments, as many as 12,000 people could live within 400-yard walking distances of public transit stations. That's about 70,000 people per square mile, slightly greater than the density of Manhattan. "The economic advantages of (public transit) for getting commuters to and from production areas are obvious," says the book, "and it is also an answer to congestion in the central city."

Urban Planning, East German-Style

Soviet-block countries were building such new cities even as the University of Moscow planners were writing their book. In 1970, East Germany developed a standard building plan known as the WBS 70 (WBS stands for Wohnungsbausystem, literally, "house building system") that was applied to nearly 650,000 apartments in East Berlin and other East German cities. "The WBS 70 was the uniform basis of the accelerated housing construction until the end of the GDR," says a paper titled Architecture as Ideology. According to page 23 of this paper, the WBS 70 offered a generous 700 square feet in its three-room apartments, not counting 75 square feet of private balcony.
To get an idea of just how small 700 square feet is, take a look at this photo from someone else's web site of the living room of a WBS 70 apartment in Halle. The WBS 70 was one of the major designs used in Halle-Neustadt, a bedroom community built between 1964 and 1990 for about 100,000 people on the outskirts of the manufacturing city of Halle. I first became aware of Halle-Neustadt at a 1998 conference on sustainable transportation at which two planners from the University of Stockholm declared it to be one of the most sustainable (i.e., least "auto-dependent") cities in the developed world.

As shown on a vintage postcard, Halle-Neustadt consists of rows of apartment buildings surrounded by pleasant-looking green spaces, with a central commercial area and road corridor featuring large, articulated buses. The new city was also connected to Halle by an extensive streetcar system and an S-Bahn (commuter-rail line), and the city met the "Ideal Communist City" density of about 70,000 people per square mile.

The Stockholm planners' paper noted that almost all the apartments had two bedrooms because government planners decreed "that the ideal family consisted of four family members and that the number of flat rooms should be one less than the number of family members." They also noted that the government discouraged car ownership by placing most of the parking on the outskirts of the city "at a relatively large distance from the residential houses."

What the Swedish researchers failed to note in their 1998 presentation, but faithfully recorded in their full paper, was that Halle-Neustadt was only "sustainable" during the socialist period. When Germany reunified, many residents moved out, and those who stayed bought cars so that auto ownership "reached nearly the level of western Germany." Naturally, this created major congestion and parking problems: "The cars are parked everywhere -- on pavements, bike-ways, yards and lawn." The Swedes feared that proposed construction of new parking garages would "undermine" the "planning concept of concentrating the parking places on the city's outskirts." (See page 263 of The Vanishing Automobile for a somewhat greater discussion of the Stockholm paper.)

Visiting Halle-Neustadt

On April 27, 2005, I had the opportunity to join Wendell Cox on a tour of Halle-Neustadt and other formerly East German cities. The first thing we noticed is that the "parking problem" is gone, as are most of the green spaces, which have been turned into parking lots.

The city center also enjoys a modern new shopping mall supported by a multi-story parking garage.

The apartment buildings themselves range from reconstructed to totally abandoned. According to various web sites on the city, Halle-Neustadt's population peaked at 94,000 in 1990 but since has fallen to 60,000. After reunification, the apartments were privatized and are now owned by various housing companies. These companies have successfully lobbied the federal government to fund the demolition of unneeded buildings, and more than two dozen high-rises in Halle-Neustadt are scheduled for destruction. Yet the population of east German cities is declining so fast that demolition cannot keep up: despite numerous demolitions, the region is expected to have even more vacant housing in 2010 than it does today.

Wendell and I looked closely at two basic styles of building. First was a six-story apartment structure that probably represented the pre-mass-produced buildings described with such fanfare in The Ideal Communist City. These buildings had no elevators, so it is not surprising that many of the top floor apartments appear unoccupied.

The second building type was eleven stories tall and probably represented the previously mentioned WBS 70. Some of these were in good condition, obviously reflecting investments made by the new private landlords.

But many others were clearly abandoned and ready for demolition. We saw a few other building types, including some with even more stories, but did not examine them closely.
Germans pronounce the letter "H" as "ha" while "neu" is pronounced "noi." So residents often refer to Halle-Neustadt as "Hanoi," an ironic reference to the bombed-out nature of much of the suburb. They commonly refer to the apartments as "die platte," meaning "the slab," referring to the method of construction.

Following reunification, many of Halle's inefficient factories went out of business. The city has partly compensated by doubling the size of its university. Halle-Neustadt's central corridor still has frequent streetcar service to the university, but the commuter line connecting Hanoi with Halle's factories receives little use.

From a distance, the S-Bahn station still appears attractive.

A closer look reveals many of the windows are broken, the inside is covered with graffiti, and the restaurant and other facilities advertised on the outside are abandoned. The actual loading ramp has room for fifteen-car trains, but today four-car trains are more than sufficient.

Where did all the people go? Many found jobs in western Germany; since reunification, east Germany has lost more than 1.25 million people. But many of those who stayed got away from the slabs by moving to suburbs of new duplexes and single-family homes.

Wendell and I did not have to search very far to find such suburbs, mostly added onto existing villages.

But well away from any village, in the middle of farmlands, we found several big-box stores, including a home improvement center, a furniture store, and a hypermart.

Today no one in Germany refers to such suburbs as "monotonous." This term is instead reserved for the grey slabs of concrete that most people are abandoning as fast as they can. Throughout Europe, high-rise apartments are increasingly becoming ghettos for Muslim and other foreign "guest workers." While the houses shown above are admittedly smaller than ones found in modern American suburbs, the Germans are fast catching up. A little further from Halle we found a suburban village that included many large homes with large backyards such as the one below.

After leaving Halle-Neustadt, Wendell and I went to Berlin where we found Corbusier House, the 1957 prototype for much high-rise housing. Planning historian Sir Peter Hall calls Le Corbusier "the Rasputin of the tale" of authoritarian urban planning, because his "Radiant City" inspired so many bad urban plans around the world, including Halle-Neustadt and American public housing projects. But I suspect the 1,400 people living in Corbusier House are pleased with their setting. This is partly because, though a bad urban planner, Le Corbusier was a master architect, but mainly because Corbusier House residents chose to live there, whereas residents of soviet-block countries had no choice.

There will always be a market, though probably a small one, for high-density housing, whether in Radiant-City high rises or New-Urban mid rises. The problems arise when planners ignore the market and try to impose their ideology on people through prescriptive zoning codes, regulations, and subsidies.

A Communist Plot?

I have always resisted the notion that smart growth and sustainability are some kind of international plot to take away American sovereignty. Even if it were true, saying so marks one as a kook and eliminates all credibility. But I don't think it is true; we have enough central planners in our own midst that we don't have to look for them elsewhere.
And yet I get a creepy feeling when I look at the publication date of "The Ideal Communist City." Though written in the mid 1960s, the book was first released in English by a New York socialist publisher in 1971.
The earliest mention of smart-growth concepts I can find in the planning literature came out just two years later in the book, Compact City: A Plan for a Livable Urban Environment. Like The Ideal Communist CityCompact City advocated scientific or "total-system planning." Like The Ideal Communist City, but unlike New Urbanists, Compact City advocated high-rise housing. Like the New Urbanists, it quoted Jane Jacobs' book, The Life and Death of Great American Cities, in support of mixed-use and transit-oriented developments.

By 1980, research by Northwestern University economist Edwin Mills had thoroughly discredited the hypothesis that more compact cities would have less congestion and air pollution because people would be more likely to walk and ride transit. That didn't stop the U.S. House of Representatives from holding hearings titled Compact Cities: A Neglected Way of Conserving Energy. In 1996, compact cities were tied to sustainability in a book titled, Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

Which brings us full circle to 1998 when University of Stockholm researchers tell an international group of planners that Halle-Neustadt is one of the most sustainable cities on earth -- knowing full well (but not mentioning) that the prerequisite for Hanoi's sustainability was keeping its residents poor and oppressed.

While I don't seriously equate urban planners with communists, the similarities between the Ideal Communist City and smart growth are far more numerous than their differences. As the table below shows, both seek to use planning to create a sense of community and promote collective rather than individual transportation. Beyond the superficial difference that the soviets preferred high rises and smart growth prefers mid rises, the main difference is that the communists tried to put everyone in identical small apartments while smart growth allows people to have as big a house or apartment as they can afford, but just tries to get them to build those houses on small lots.

The Ideal Communist City vs. Smart Growth

Concept                        Ideal Communist City    Smart Growth
Higher density housing                 Yes                 Yes
Mixed-use developments                 Yes                 Yes
Mixed-income housing                   Yes                 Yes
Transit-oriented development           Yes                 Yes
Discourages auto parking               Yes                 Yes
Calls suburbs "monotonous"             Yes                 Yes
Minimizes private yards                Yes                 Yes
Maximizes common areas                 Yes                 Yes
Minimizes private interiors            Yes                  No
Height of residential buildings     High Rise            Mid Rise
Though they publicly claim they want to reduce congestion, most smart-growth plans admit they seek to increase congestion to encourage people to use transit. Though they publicly claim to worry about affordable housing, smart-growth plans drive up land and housing costs with the hidden agenda of encouraging people to live in multifamily housing or at least on tiny lots.

Before visiting Europe, I spent a few days in Madison, Wisconsin. After returning, I spent a few days in Hamilton, Ontario. Though neither region is growing particularly fast, in both places politicians talk about the dangers of uncontrolled growth and how the firm hand of government planning was needed to prevent chaos and sprawl. Part of their plans, of course, call for packing more of that growth into urban infill than the market would build.

In particular, the plan for Hamilton requires that 40 percent of all new development be high-density infill. Currently the rate is just 18 percent. Now, 40 percent is a lot less than the near-100 percent imposed by Russia and East Germany. But Hamilton's plan means that 22 percent of its new residents will be forced to live in housing that they wouldn't normally choose. Experience in Portland and other cities shows that regulation that attempts to make much smaller changes in the housing market can lead to huge increases in housing costs.

Planners call this giving people more "choices"; what they mean is forcing people to accept lifestyles that they would not choose for themselves. How is this fundamentally any different from the philosophy of the Ideal Communist City?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kevin Morrison on fixing Novato's Financial Problems

Novato town council candidate Kevin J. Morrison answers how he'll fix Novato's  financial problems by taking direction from staff and raising taxes on businesses and people.   "Math is not my strong suit" says Kevin.  We'll say.

Fires in Sonoma/Napa may force development in Marinwood/Lucas Valley

Fires in Sonoma/Napa will likely force the redevelopment in Lucas Valley

Housing activists are now promoting a most cynical and nasty campaign of maligning Marin County and forcing the redevelopment of Marin by using the firestorm tragedy in Sonoma/Napa as justification for their agenda.  Previously, I had predicted that they would not wait until the embers cooled before they started talking about "the enormous opportunity" to build new multifamily housing.  I was wrong.  The fires are still burning.   

I truly feel sorry for the people who lost their homes.  Fire destroyed their homes but politics will destroy their neighborhood and force the re-location of thousands. Check out this latest propaganda by the Bay Area Council.  Once again they make the outrageous and false claim that Marin was granted "special privilege" to be named a suburban county like Sonoma/Napa.  Developers wanted the Metropolitan designation so they could force the urbanization of Marin with high density development. HERE.

Because of SB35, do not be surprised when you suddenly see heavy equipment appear in our neighborhoods.  Developers will no longer need to consult the community before building or get environomental review if their development meets certain criteria.  

Lucas Valley is seen as a prime prospect for redevelopment.  We are freeway close and have good schools.  We will fight back.

Blatantly Pro-Gentrification SB 35 Sneaks Through California Legislature

Blatantly Pro-Gentrification SB 35 Sneaks Through California Legislature

In late September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of state-level laws related to housing. One of these, Senate Bill (SB) 35, is blatantly pro-gentrification, pro-displacement, pro-developer profits, and anti-local democratic control.
Though this measure is not the end of the world, as it is just an extension of the existing, skewed balance of power that characterizes development at the local level, it represents yet another blow to historically marginalized communities fighting against the rampant displacement caused by gentrification and rising rents.
SB 35 mandates that certain residential development proposals be granted “by-right” approval, meaning they cannot be subjected to environmental review or public hearings of any kind — exactly the tools local residents use to exercise some basic measure of democratic control over what is built in their neighborhoods. Subscribing to the wishful idea that profit-driven housing construction will “trickle down” to low-income residents, this bill is designed explicitly to speed up the construction of new buildings, regardless of what local community members want.
To be fair, within the legislation there are some important limits. Projects can only qualify if they adhere to existing zoning codes and do not destroy any rent-controlled units (although there is nothing in the legislation that protects against the indirect displacement caused by rising rents). Furthermore, in certain cities where market-rate construction is booming, including Los Angeles, qualifying projects must include 50% “affordable” units. This, the L.A. Times assures us, will ensure that SB 35 will bea win for low-income residents.
But there’s a catch: “affordable” for L.A. is defined as a household of four earning under $72,100 a year — double or even quadruple the average income in rapidly gentrifying areas like Crenshaw, Leimert Park, or Boyle Heights! This means that a project that is half market-rate, half “affordable,” will be automatically approved, with no chance for local residents to voice their objections to the inevitable displacement that will result, even when what’s deemed “affordable” is radically unaffordable for a neighborhood’s current residents.
The reasoning behind this bill, which we see all over the place in the debates on housing in California, buys into the deeply flawed, outdated demonization of local opposition to development that John Perry identified in his recent essay, “Stop Saying ‘NIMBY.’” Proponents of this viewpoint (the YIMBYs) try to paint any and all local struggles that oppose new construction as the modern equivalents of the white-dominated “slow-growth” movement, prominent in California in the 1970s-1990s, that sought to keep wealthy white communities segregated by race and class. But the urban landscape has changed, with capital now flooding to the previously red-lined central cities, rather than the suburbs. Today, those opposing unbridled, profit-driven development are often low-income people of color seeking to maintain some basic sense of community and habitability in the face of capitalist displacement. SB 35 willfully ignores this basic truth.
It’s clear that this law is not intended to help low-income communities of color, but profit-seeking developers and investors that want to build as they please. Just look at who supported the bill: the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce; various landlord/property owner groups, including the California Apartment Association; and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (“totally in the developers’ pockets,” according to Hollywood historian Greg Williams)

Quora: Why aren’t guns banned in America?

Art Clack
Art Clack, former gunsmith, former target shooter, veteran

Story Time: A post-graduate student from Africa visited our store. He looked at all those rifles on the wall and wanted to talk. He did not ask to handle one. I offered to let him handle one. He declined to touch, although his desire was obvious. He said, “In my country, only the police and the bandits are allowed to have guns.” I asked how you told the difference between the police and the bandits. He hesitated before saying, “Sometimes you can’t.”
I read an article written by a retired policeman with thirty-years experience. He judged from personal experience, that one-third of the cops were honest, one-third crooked, and one-third could be influenced by their partner.
To me, this sounds very like the rest of American society, except that I’d point out that a whole lot of whether one is a hero or a scoundrel depends on things outside your control… such as who wrote the history.
On Quora, last night, I read about a man who captured a peeping tom standing on a window air conditioner to watch the author’s wife taking a shower in a second-story bathroom. He held the peeping tom at gun point until police arrived. The lawyer for the peeping tom claimed that the citizen’s arrest was in fact kidnapping. Made a convincing enough argument to get the charges reduced. That is good …history re-writing.
But I digress. The answer to your question is in another question; Who will watch the watchers?
In America, the media has the job of watching the watchers, and John Q. Public has the job of reading the media, protesting if necessary (taking to the barricades, as the French say), and throwing the rascals out come election time.
The question is, who will replace the rascals? The problematic answer is, more rascals. This is an unending cycle, because two-thirds of the people - including officials - are sometimes crooked and sometimes weak.
Guns aren’t banned in American because those who are feeling honest and strong standup and say “No.”
Twenty, thirty, forty years ago, the District of Columbia was sued by the parents of a woman killed by her estranged husband. She had been calling police for weeks saying that her husband was violating his order court order and that he was going to kill her. The suit proceeded to court, the Supreme Court(?), whose ruling was that police had no obligation to *prevent* crime.
Combine those two elements: Government has no obligation to protect me and some officials are criminal.
Now explain to me why I should give up my gun.
Digression: There have been a lot of recent stories about police being caught staging evidence or people to pleading guilty to possession of drugs that later turn out to be powdered sugar fallen off a doughnut. You know, even if all of officialdom and the public think the convict is guilty, the convict knows the truth. That knowledge that some police are criminal and that the system is broken, that personal knowledge undermines the legitimacy of government. Some day a demagogue might come along fire those victims with a righteous indignation. I wonder what percentage of the population they are. In 1776 one-third of the colonists supported the King, one-third didn’t care, and one-third were in rebellion. Have one-third of our present population been victimized by government - been forced to taxes they didn’t owe? How would we know? Sociologists may know, but there is no place on a government form to record that a prisoner or ex-con is serving or has served time for a crime he did not commit, or for being born black, or speaking with an accent, or being poorly educated, or being the object of a policeman’s fear and a prosecutor’s bias. In Riley County, KS, a soldier was convicted of murder because he drove past the scene of the crime at 0500 hours on his way to work. The officers who framed him had moved on or retired by the time the truth came out. The soldier had spent a decade-plus in prison. As citizens, what is our obligation to the soldier? What is our obligation toward the officers?
Who watches the watchers?

Governor Brown will allow Proposition to increase Bridge Tolls up to $1000 annually!

Governor Brown and the Democrats in Sacramento approved a proposition to increase our bridge tolls up to $3.00 costing the average commuter up to $1000 per year (or $2000 per couple). They say it is needed for highway improvements but that is only because California diverts billions each year to projects like the high speed train to nowhere in the Central Valley and other massive wastes of public resources. 

The Marin IJ wirh its typical propaganda spins the story as "Traffic Projects approved".  It is actually not true as no projects have been approved prior to the taxes being levied.  A HUGE proportion of the tax goes to San Jose, San Francisco and Peninsula communities who don't use the bridges and therefore will not pay. See the Marin IJ Story HERE

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Why did Kevin J Morrison for Novato City County post this nude selfie until October 3, 2017?

Kevin Morrison is running for Novato City Council in 2017

Politics has gotten really strange recently.  The election of Donald Trump,  Senator Anthony Wiener going to jail for sending naked photos of himself to minors and now a new local candidate for Novato City Council, Kevin Morrison posts naked selfies on his personal blog during his campaign.  


Morrison, a 57 year old, married man posts this old nude photo of himself as a 40 year old newly divorced man.  I can't imagine his reason for doing this but he removed it after the Marin IJ contacted him on October 3, 2017.  No one is calling him a sex predator like Hollywood mogul,  Harvey Weinstein or sexting minors like Senator Wiener but one wonders what he was thinking.

When he attacked Pat Eklund, incumbent on Novato City Council and did not present his own platform for Novato, we were curious and googled him.  We found his personal blog and various other media postings and hoped to find more about his politics.  We didn't find much.  Instead we found a man that loves to talk about himself, post selfies, videos and complain about his neighbors.  Not much on the future of Novato and Marin County.

If you are a Novato voter, choose your vote wisely.  



  A VERY young Mouse, who had never seen anything of the world, almost came to grief the very first time he ventured out. And this is the story he told his mother about his adventures.
"I was strolling along very peaceably when, just as I turned the corner into the next yard, I saw two strange creatures. One of them had a very kind and gracious look, but the other was the most fearful monster you can imagine. You should have seen him.


"On top of his head and in front of his neck hung pieces of raw red meat. He walked about restlessly, tearing up the ground with his toes, and beating his arms savagely against his sides. The moment he caught sight of me he opened his pointed mouth as if to swallow me, and then he let out a piercing roar that frightened me almost to death."

  Can you guess who it was that our young Mouse was trying to describe to his mother? It was nobody but the Barnyard Cock and the first one the little Mouse had ever seen.

"If it had not been for that terrible monster," the Mouse went on, " I should have made the acquaintance of the pretty creature, who looked so good and gentle. He had thick, velvety fur, a meek face, and a look that was very modest, though his eyes were bright and shining. As he looked at me he waved his fine long tail and smiled.
"I am sure he was just about to speak to me when the monster I have told you about let out a screaming yell, and I ran for my life."
"My son," said the Mother Mouse, "that gentle creature you saw was none other than the Cat. Under his kindly appearance, he bears a grudge against every one of us. The other was nothing but a bird who wouldn't harm you in the least. As for the Cat, he eats us. So be thankful, my child, that you escaped with your life, and, as long as you live, never judge people by their looks."

Do not trust alone to outward appearances.

Don't judge a book by it's cover

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Liberty and Private Property

Liberty and Private Property

“The pillars of our prosperity are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.” Thomas Jefferson
The Founders were firm believers in private property rights.  In their minds, private property rights and liberty were intertwined.  Does this make sense?
Charles I receiving crown from God
Let’s go back to 1776.  At the time, we revolted against more than the British; we also revolted against Divine Right.  A short time earlier only nobility owned property and the great mass of humanity were serfs.  As this system withered, the common man developed property rights, and with property, gained political voice.  The Enlightenment preached that all men possessed God given rights, including the right to own property. By the second half of the eighteenth century, most British subjects equated property rights with liberty because they had seen that one followed the other.
In their view, prosperity and broad distribution of wealth depended on the protection of private property.  Even before the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Declaration of Rights led off with “all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which … namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property.”
James Madison said, “The government is instituted to protect property.”
Some argue that a benevolent government should control property, because the government can distribute the fruits of ownership more fairly.  This sounds good, except that these proponents can’t point to a single good example.  Concentrated property ownership always inflicts oppression.  This is not black and white.  It’s a sliding scale.  The more private property is protected, the freer the economic system and the more liberty is enjoyed by the citizenry.  The more property and planning are centralized, the more liberty is eroded.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s feudalism, fascism, communism, theocracy, socialism, or even crony capitalism.  To one degree or another, liberty is eroded in all these systems.
The alternative to private ownership is to confiscate property through force of arms, taxes, or legislation and then place it in the hands of a few.  It doesn’t matter if the property is confiscated by bullies, warlords, or government.  It’s all the same.  Individual liberty is destroyed.  Here’s why:
  1. The people robbed fight back, politically or physically. Those resisting the will of the government must be suppressed.
  2. Government control requires bureaucratic judgment, instead of reliance on the marketplace. Bureaucrats always fail at this herculean task, but won’t give up, so the government ends up dictating more and more of the everyday life.
  3. Miscalculations result in scarcities. Complaints and criticisms must be suppressed. Black markets and underground corruption are overlooked.
  4. When events don’t go as planned, the government uses indoctrination—and worse—to create a common mindset. Leaders come to believe that if everyone has the greater good in mind, then everything will work as planned.
  5. Concentrated power corrupts.
If government allows bullies to take what they want, anarchy reigns.  If government gathers up property unto itself, oppression reigns.
Spain provides a current example.  Until 2004, Spain was the “economic miracle” of Europe, with huge job growth, surpluses, and declining debt.  Then the Socialist Workers Party gained power. After only six years of progressive leadership, Spain is experiencing negative growth and unemployment is 20% (43% for youths).  The government has increased taxes, arbitrarily interfered in business, and blithely disregarded EU regulations.  Basic freedoms—like speech and religion—have been impaired.
Socialists never learn.
Government confiscation does not have to be at the level of Venezuela to erode liberty. In Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court said government could take property from one private owner and give it to another private owner if it was for the public good. True liberty never allows the government to take a person’s property.  James Madison said, “It is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties.”
If private property enhances liberty, then wouldn’t equal distribution of property be even better.  No, the world doesn’t work that way.  Private property and free markets go together. Whenever you have free markets, some will build wealth faster than others.  The only alternative is to restrain the industrious, the inventive, and the entrepreneurial.  The result might be more even distribution of wealth, but there would be less wealth for everyone, including the government, due to decreased tax receipts.
Thomas Jefferson said, “To take from one because it is thought that his own productivity has acquired too much, in order to give to others who have not exercised equal industry and skill is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association: the guarantee to everyone of a free exercise of his hard work and the profits acquired by it.”
Property may not be distributed equally, but rights are. All men are created equal. James Madison said, “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”  He meant that even if a person owns nothing, he still owns his rights, which are the most valuable property of all.
Look around, and examine history.  The wealthiest countries have the most limited interference by government.  They enjoy free markets, private property rights, a large middle class, societal improvement, cleaner environments, and the people enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Founders were right.  Private property rights and liberty are intertwined.
James D. Best is the author of Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

Take the Nut out of Novato- Kevin Morrison evades the NAKED truth.

Why would the 57 year old Kevin J Morrison running for Novato City Council leave this entry on his personal blog kevinsonofken.wordpress.comHe attacks incumbents as "not doing anything for twenty years". What has Kevin done in the same time to prepare himself for Novato City Council?

From Kevin Morrisson's personal blog on Oct 3, 2017

Kevin Morrison claims he was a victim of smear while smearing his opponent in the Novato Town Council race.  Elsewhere on the web he claims he was unfairly treated on the Novato Historical Commission.

Friday, October 13, 2017

How The Spanish Police Got Trolled by Catalan Farmers

How The Spanish Police Got Trolled By A Bunch Of Farmers In The Days After The Catalan Referendum

The story goes like this: Spanish police thought Catalonia’s farmers were going to shut down the border. So they went to the border. When they tried to go back, a bunch of tractors were waiting for them.

Nurphoto / Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain — The buzzing excitement in the square outside Barcelona's Ciutadella Park — which houses Catalonia’s parliament — had been building all day. Separatists of all ages trickled in, first in spurts, and then by the hundreds as the clock edged closer to Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s big moment But one of the most important moments of the day was the arrival of some of the real heroes of the Catalan revolution, the farmers. Hours before Puigdemont’s address on Tuesday night, they rode their tractors through the city's Arc de Triomf to the applause of the hundreds of pro-independence Catalans already gathered there.

The Unio de Pagesos, or the Catalan Farmers Union, have become proper folk heroes for separatists. Catalans are quick to tell you that their independence movement is a peaceful one.

And it’s true, the region doesn’t have a military. There are no Catalan guerillas. And so it’s been the farmers here who have embraced a role closest to something of a defensive force, using their agricultural equipment to create blockades between protesters and Spain’s national police. But one moment that really helped solidify their hero status here was how a group of farmers pulled one hell of a fast one on Spanish police and gave Catalans something to laugh about during the tense days following October 1’s fateful vote.

Two days after the Catalan referendum on independence, which the government in Madrid declared illegal but went ahead anyway, thousands of people took to the streets for the Vaga General, or general strike, to protest the shocking acts of police brutality carried out by Spanish police officers who wanted to stop the vote. The farmers’ participation in the strike was crucial. Their tractors acted as protective cover in areas all over Catalonia, allowing protesters to gather in the streets peacefully, blocking any intervention attempts from the Spanish police.

Here’s how the story goes:

During the general strike on October 3, Catalan farmers had said that they were going to close off the border with France with their tractors.

Hundreds of Guardia Civil, or Spanish national police, went to the border to stop it from happening.

It was a trap. Once the police got there they found out that there was no one there.

What the farmers had actually done is closed off the motorway and all of the roads going back into Catalonia and now the police can't get back.

The whole thing ended up being shared in a few viral Facebook posts, versions of which got screenshot and made their way to places like Reddit and Twitter.

According to Catalan media, this all happened in a northwest region of Catalonia called La Jonquera, about six kilometers from the French border. Rumors started circulating the night before the strike, all saying that the farmers were going to try and shut down the border.

So at the crack of dawn, the Spanish police all gathered at the edge of a major toll road. Then, in a maneuver that would make military generals jealous, a large number of farmers and townspeople went south and cut off the highway. Tractors and cars successfully cut off 52 of the 57 possible roads back into the area, leaving the police stranded outside of town.

Kassy Cho / BuzzFeed

Joan Caball, president of Catalonia’s farmer’s union.

When asked by BuzzFeed News on Tuesday in Barcelona about where those rumors about shutting down the border came from, Joan Caball, the president of Catalonia’s farmer’s union laughed and said, “The Guardia Civil just didn't have any good information.”

“They went to another point because the Guardia Civil thought the border was going to be closed, but we didn't want to close the border, we just wanted to close down the railway,” he said. “And then when Guardia Civil tried to come back, they found all the farmers and they couldn't get through.”

Pau Banès, a milk farmer who came down into Barcelona from the city of Girona on Tuesday told BuzzFeed News that he wasn’t sure if the whole trap was planned, but he thought it was really funny. He also said he thinks some of the reports were a little exaggerated.

“When police wanted to come back from the highway, some of the protesters did let them pass, because we didn't want any violence from them,” he said. “We knew they were really angry, like hornets on a summer day. And the image for that day was not showing violence.”

Local reports say that the blockade stopping the police from reentering the region lasted several hours and did manage to keep the authorities at bay during the most crowd moments of the protest.

Kassy Cho / BuzzFeed

Pau Banès and Marc Xifra, two milk farmers who came down to Barcelona from Girona, Spain, to support Catalan independence.

Another milk farmer named Marc Xifra, who came down from Girona with Banès repeated the same line about “bad information.”

“We just closed the highway and the police had been somewhere else,” he said with a shrug. “They had bad information. That happens. In the strike, the other day, we weren’t trying to do anything to the Guardia Civil. We wanted people to be peaceful.”

The farmers’ role in the independence movement is one they take very seriously. On Tuesday, as the sun began to set over Ciutadella Park, they posed by their tractors, cracked open cans of beer, and snapped photos with separatists draped in the Senyera estelada — the flag of Catalan independence, nine bars of yellow and red, a blue triangle, and a white star.

Nurphoto / Getty Images

Monste Matas, the only woman farmer to arrive with the Farmers Union, said she traveled 30 kilometers by tractor to get to Barcelona to watch Puigdemont speak.

“The farmers are a symbol of Catalonia. It's the person that cares for the land and works with the soil and it's a symbol,” she said. “We came here to give support to our president because today maybe will be a day that is very important. We don't know.”

The farmers outside Ciutadella Park on Tuesday afternoon didn’t know at the time that they weren’t crossing a finish line, only making a pitstop, when they passed under Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf.

On Tuesday night, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont would go on to deliver an address, laying out his arguments for why Catalonia should be independent from Spain, only to conclude it by postponing a serious declaration of independence for several more weeks to allow dialogue between Spain and Catalonia. The cheers in the crowd outside parliament, spilling out passed Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, would quickly turn to confusion and then palpable frustration. There are more protests and demonstrations are planned on both the unionist and separatist sides. The situation here doesn't seem like it will be ending any time soon.

Kassy Cho / BuzzFeed

Xavier Safront, a farmer from Maresme, Spain.

But no matter what happens, you can absolutely expect to see Catalan farmers — and their tractors — out and full force, defending separatists, come whatever may to the region.

“The government of Catalonia doesn't have a military, we only have the power of the people and we think we must be in the street to defend our government,” Xavier Safront told BuzzFeed News. Safront was one of the many members of the Farmers Union to ride his tractor into the city on Tuesday from Maresme. For him, an independent Catalonia is a chance for a new beginning for everyone.

“The new republic is a window to a new state, a new state that defends our producers of vegetables and cereals, and we want to change the politics of agriculture,” he said. “A new politics that benefits the little farmers and the little producers. Not the big ones.”