Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lawmaker’s proposal to extend ‘urban’ zoning in Marin

Dick Spotswood: Lawmaker’s proposal to extend ‘urban’ zoning in Marin


“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in session.” New York newspaper editor Gideon J. Tucker is as correct today as when he wrote the quip in 1866.

The latest example of legislative perfidy is Senate Bill 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. Its negative impact on Marin, unless altered, is hard to exaggerate.

Frustrated by Marin Assemblyman Marc Levine’s successful effort to define most Marin communities as “suburban” instead of the preposterous state designation of “urban,” Wiener reached in classic bureaucratic fashion by changing definition

SB 35 uses an entirely different geographical term to define communities subject to fast-track, by-right rules fostering high-density housing.

Instead of applying the rules to “urban” communities, Wiener’s criteria is that if even a village is an “urban cluster,” then rules encouraging big-time development without pesky environmental review are applied.

Basically any community outside a county crossroad is an “urban cluster” for the purposes of SB 35 and state housing mandates.

The Census Bureau indicates “an Urban Cluster is a new statistical geographic term ... consisting of a central core and adjacent densely settled territory that together contains between 2,500 and 49,999 people. Typically, the overall population density is at least 1,000 people per square mile. Urban Clusters are based on Census block and block group density and do not coincide with official municipal boundaries.”

Under this definition most of Marin east of Olema and Bolinas is in “urban clusters.” Travel to that bustling “urban cluster” of Woodacre and the stupidity of using this obscure census term to define housing rules is apparent.

It wouldn’t be as bad if Wiener’s San Francisco wasn’t hypocritical when it comes to addressing the so-called “housing crisis.”

High-rise condos and apartments belong in job centers like San Francisco with comprehensive public transit networks.
To see a model city providing high-density housing, much transit and high quality of life, visit Vancouver, British Columbia.

If San Francisco was as committed to housing as it self-righteously claims, it would resemble the forest of high-rises that dominate western Canada’s metropolis. Then the Sunset District’s Taraval Street would be lined with 10-story apartment houses. The untouchable corners of Castro and Market served by four subway-light-rail lines and three bus routes would see 25-story housing towers on each of its five corners.

Even Telegraph Hill could follow another Pacific city that Wiener might emulate: Hong Kong, with high-rises running up the slopes of Victoria Peak.

If Sen. Wiener displays true political courage by suggesting Vancouver or Hong Kong-style development, his San Francisco constituents will see that he soon returns to the dreaded private sector.

North Bay legislators Levine, D-Greenbrae, and Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, should fight fire with fire. Submit an amendment to SB 35 mandating fast-tracking Vancouver-style high-rise residences as a matter of right in urban areas served by subways or three light-rail or bus routes.

That coincidentally defines Castro and Market and St. Francis Circle, next to posh St. Francis Wood, in the city’s fog belt. What’s good for Marin ought to be good for the city’s cherished people-scaled neighborhoods.

Note that SB 35 includes a requirement that for all housing built under its mandates: “The development proponent shall ensure that the prevailing wage requirement is included in all contracts for the performance of the work.”

“Prevailing wage” is legislative lingo for paying all covered workers union scale. Requiring affordable housing be erected exclusively by union workers will result in the units not being “affordable” without taxpayer subsidies.

Drop this political giveaway for state Democrats’ core labor constituency and much support for SB 35 evaporates.  See ARTICLE HERE

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