Saturday, January 13, 2018

Treat ‘Mental Health’ Talk Against Trump Like The Coup Attempt It Is

Treat ‘Mental Health’ Talk Against Trump Like The Coup Attempt It Is

'Many lawyer groups have actually volunteered, on their own, to file for a court paper to ensure that the security staff will cooperate with us. But we have declined, since this will really look like a coup...'

By Mollie Hemingway
JANUARY 8, 2018

In the second season of the TV show “24,” President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) is removed from office for failing to launch a war against three Middle East countries purportedly behind a nuclear attack on U.S. soil.

Palmer has reason to doubt his intelligence agencies’ assurances of who was behind it, and it turns out the attack was orchestrated by a cabal of business and military leaders who want to launch a war for personal gain. The means by which Palmer is removed from office during the 4:00-5:00a hour on Day 2 is the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a portion of which reads:

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide… to the Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Palmer’s chief of staff explains, “it seems there are people, cabinet members, who question whether you’re fit to continue as chief executive.” The conniving vice president says in the cabinet meeting putting the president on trial, “What I intend to show is a pattern of erratic behavior since this crisis started.” Using half-true innuendos and rumors as well as deliberately false information, he convinces enough of the cabinet to depose Palmer. In other words, Palmer is the victim of a bloodless coup.

Now, “24” was so over the top that its dramatic twists became something of a punch line. How preposterous to imagine that a president’s handpicked cabinet would vote to oust him in a palace overthrow! But that fantasy land is precisely what some of the mostly unelected opposition hopes to see happen with President Trump as part of the more-than-a-year-long temper tantrum against the results of the 2016 election.

In the last debate of 2016, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would accept the election results, and he said “I will tell you at the time.” Hillary Clinton responded to Trump by calling his remark “horrifying.” The general media environment was to react with unabashed horror for at least 72 hours.

Trump’s comments were wrong — undermining confidence in the electoral process is unbecoming of a political leader of this great nation. But it’s doubtful that even Trump would have done a tiny fraction what his unelected opposition has done to undermine and overturn the results of the election had he lost. Even if he had thrown a year-long temper tantrum, he would not have been aided and abetted in it by a majority of the media or other members of the establishment.
Since his surprise win, the country has been subjected to attempts to delegitimize Trump’s election by blaming “fake news” for tricking voters into supporting him, or a year-long obsession, still noticeably unsubstantiated, with the idea that he conspired with Russians to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. We’ve heard people desperately attempt to keep the Electoral College from voting for him, been told that damaging information from intelligence agencies would keep him from being inaugurated, and that the cabinet should pull a “24”-style move and oust him via the 25th Amendment.

Among those struggling to accept the fact that the American people elected Donald Trump in 2016, the 25th Amendment has been a go-to fantasy for a while, particularly among those who strongly dislike Trump’s less-interventionist foreign policy. Eliot Cohen reached for it in the very first week of the presidency.

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker waited until February 10 to say that the cabinet should use that amendment’s provisions since Trump is “so incompetent — or not-quite-right” that he poses a threat. Perhaps most famously, New York Times‘ conservative columnist Ross Douthat went hard for the 25th Amendment solution to what ails him in mid-May.

We’re coming in on the close of an unexpectedly successful first year for Trump, despite the media’s Sturm und Drang against the presidency, Trump’s lack of political allies, and his political naïveté. Trump’s year ended with corporate tax reform passed for the first time in decades. Individual tax rates were cut for the vast majority of Americans. Regulations have been slashed. Trump changed direction on the Paris Climate Accord, on the Clean Power Plan, and the Iran nuclear deal. Foreign policy has been reoriented, with results including real success against ISIS. He appointed numerous judges to federal courts. Last week, the stock market topped 25,000 for the first time, despite the prediction of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman that the stock market would “never” recover from Trump’s election. It was also the week that Michael Wolff’s gossipy if less-than-true book came out about the early chaotic days of the Trump White House, and the talk of mental unfitness — and accompanying fantasies about ousters — reached ever-new heights.
Wolff was transparent about his desire to raise this point as he went around to media outlets asserting “the story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job” and his hope or belief that it “will end this presidency.” Even as various journalists and media outlets admitted the book was false, that it had made-up quotes and anecdotes, and that it didn’t grasp basics of the Trump White House, they said they believed it was fake, but accurate.

Despite the veracity problems, journalists used the book to ask any manner of guests about mental health concerns. “Meet The Press” pushed out Wolff’s undoubtedly false message about the 25th Amendment without a moment’s hesitation:

At the same time, media leaders of the movement to oust Trump used a book by an academic who has been ranting and raving about Trump and mental fitness for more than a year. She claimed to meet with Democrats and a Republican senator (it turned out she had embellished that last part) to discuss Trump’s fitness. This was used for segment after media segment discussing the same.
Politico got the ball rolling with “Washington’s growing obsession: The 25th Amendment.” The not entirely stable “Morning Joe” has been obsessed about a 25th Amendment removal for months, and here’s MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeting outa New York Times article that quotes the academic who is trying to get Trump ousted. Here’s that New York Times article. It mentions a 25th-Amendment ouster five times. It being a day ending in -y, the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin was talking about a coup.

CNN host Brian Stelter used to oppose questions about the health of politicians when the politician was named Hillary Clinton, but he’s been on a tear about Trump’s mental health since at least February, more so recently, making claims of not being comfortable slightly hard to buy:

The Yale psychiatrist everyone is promoting is quoted in a Vox interview saying people should “contain” Trump against his will, force him to undergo an evaluation, and have him declared unfit, adding “many lawyer groups have actually volunteered, on their own, to file for a court paper to ensure that the security staff will cooperate with us. But we have declined, since this will really look like a coup…”

Yes, removing a president by force tends to look like a coup. Nevertheless, CNN and other media outlets are mainstreaming this conspiracy plot. Here’s The Atlantic getting in on the action:

Trump is unlike any previous president of the United States. Voters knew this when they chose him over Hillary Clinton. And there is nothing about Trump now that suggests his mental state is any different or worse or dangerous than when voters elected him, or when they first encountered him on gossip pages and in reality television decades ago.

To suggest otherwise is to undermine the democratic election of presidents, and to do so would be far more damaging to the country than anything Trump’s actually done. It is particularly noteworthy that members of an elite are calling for his ouster when Trump’s election was partly in response to anger at mismanagement by members of the media and political establishment.

Talk of mental health and a 25th Amendment removal, “by force if necessary,” is talk of a coup, just as it was in the TV show “24.” Responsible parties should consider how this is perceived by the part of the electorate they rarely speak to and cease.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway

What Marin will look like if SB827 passes.

What Marin will look like if SB827 passes.

On January 4th, 2018, California State Senator Scott Weiner announced a series of proposed housing bills. By far the most attention has been directed at Senate Bill 827 (SB 827), which would override local zoning controls on height, density, parking minimums, and design review on properties within a certain distance of major public transit infrastructure.

I was really interested what that would look like on the ground in California, so I spent a few days attempting to make a map that would show how SB 827 would affect zoning as currently proposed. Please note that I am not an expert in this area, and that this map should only be used as a beginning point for the policy discussion around the bill and not for making any important decisions. I cannot state strongly enough that there are multiple errors with this map, due to missing and incorrect data, probable misinterpretations of the proposed law as written, bugs in my software, and multiple other reasons.

See the website and  amazing urban map HERE

The pink area represent 85 feet height limit and eight stories. (For comparison, Wincup is only five stories.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Larkspur Rebellion May 22, 2014

Little Boxes by Pete Seeger Conformity and Overdevelopment

This song was written in 1960 by Housewife and Activist Malvina Reynolds to protest the overdevelopment of Daly City, CA.    It's message is a warning to YIMBYs and Plan Bay Area who want to destroy places like Marin County for high density housing.  They pretend it is for "social justice" and "combat global warming" but in the end it is about developers making money from the Tech Boom.  When the quality of life in the Bay Area is destroyed, where will you go?
Daly City, CA

They Saved Marin in the 50s and 60s from this Awful Future

Editor's Note: You simply must go to this wonderful new website to see the San Francisco Bay that might have been HERE .  It is a wonderful tribute to the gallant efforts of people to save our treasured county.  It is a positive crime that the same forces of urbanization are being championed by Steve Kinsey, Kate Sears and Katie Rice under the false flag of environmentalism. Plan Bay Area imposes rapid urbanization of Marin and the other counties in the Bay Area. These are just a few of the stories.  We will Save Marin Again!

Marincello: Invisible City

Marincello may be the iconic example of “what might have been”. Instead of miles of hiking trails, epic vista points, and the occasional bobcat or hawk sighting, one could find themselves standing amongst cul-de-sacs ringed by multiple-car garages and private backyards.

Such was the aim of Marincello, a planned community for 25,000 residents on 2,100 Headland acres proposed in 1964 by Pittsburgh developer Thomas Frouge. The plan included model homes, a mile-long mall, and central high-rise hotel. Financially backing the project was Gulf Oil.

Support for the plan came from local newspapers and on November 12, 1965, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved the Marincello plan. According to John Hart: “Three attorneys labored on this seemingly lost cause: Robert Praetzel of San Rafael, and Martin Rosen and Douglas Ferguson of Sausalito… ‘I got involved not so much for an environmental purpose as a civic purpose,’ says Rosen, later a founder of the Trust for Public Land. ‘I just felt it was terrible that these few people could turn around an entire landscape, and not even consult the local citizens. I was more Jeffersonian than Thoreauvian.’ ”

Construction in Tennessee Valley. Praetzel, Rosen, and Ferguson skillfully maneuvered and brought suits against the development company on grounds of process, and progress to build Marincello ceased in 1967. Public opinion began shifting in opposition of the plan. Thousands of petition signatures were gathered.

Then, on November 2, 1970, a state appellate court ruled that Frouge and the developers had violated process, and their plan would have to be submitted all over again.

According to Doug Ferguson in the “Rebels With a Cause” documentary, Gulf Oil’s attitude was that they could keep the litigation running for years, causing the “conservationists” to run out of money. But, Doug notes, there was something Gulf Oil didn’t understand. “[Those fighting Marincello] are unpaid—and they’re crazy.” Praetzel alone estimates he volunteered over 1,000 hours of his time.

Meanwhile, Huey D. Johnson, then Western Regional Director of The Nature Conservancy, had started pressing Gulf Oil. He visited their headquarters time and time again, pressing for them to give up the battle. He would get laughed out of the boardroom.

At the end of 1972, Gulf Oil capitulated and sold the Marincello site for $6.5 million dollars to the Conservancy. The area was re-named Gerbode Valley and later transferred to the National Park Service for the newly-forming Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

All that remains of the battle is the fire road constructed for development. It is now used as a train, and from its highest point, one can see public, open space for miles in all directions.

Where to learn more:

Marincello UnSoundwalk is a project by local artist Aaron Ximm:

“Saved by Grit and Grace”, Bay Nature article written by John Hart

Resource Renewal Institute is a nonprofit founded by Huey D. Johnson. His project, “Forces of Nature: Environmental Elders Speak” is a collection of interviews with Bob Praetzel and others.

“Rebels With a Cause” is an excellent documentary about Marincello and other defeated projects.

Tiburon Bridge: Linking Telegraph Hill to Angel Island

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936. Golden Gate Bridge began connecting San Francisco to lands north in 1937. By the mid-1940s, planners were at work imagining other possible Bay crossings to respond to increasing automobile traffic.

Proposals included a twin Golden gate Bridge, an underwater tube between Aquatic Park in San Francisco and Sausalito in Marin, and several bridge designs linking lands south and north via Angel Island, an uninhabited landmass in between. Nearly a dozen additional crossings were also proposed linking San Francisco to Oakland and Alameda to the east.

In the 1960s the federal government proposed transferring Angel Island to the state, making the option for a Tiburon Bridge and new freeway up the Tiburon Peninsula seem possible. The bridge would have exited San Francisco from either Telegraph or Russian Hill, two of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. California’s Highway Department (CalTrans) acquired State Route 131 in Tiburon as the planning advanced.

According to an interview with Harold Gilliam, who was working with the US Department of Interior at that time, then-Interior Stewart Udall devised a condition in the Angel Island transfer that stipulated that if the island be used for any infrastructure purpose that it would revert back to the feds. This meant: no bridge.

According to “Bridging the Bay”, a project out of UC Berkeley: “That none of these various schemes came to pass can perhaps best be attributed to a general lack of public consensus over choosing a route that made sense financially and environmentally. Today, over a half century later, consensus remains elusive, and, in the near term, a renewal of ferryboat fleets on the Bay seems more likely than any grand scheme to cross its waters with additional bridges.”

Where to learn more:

Interview clip with Harold Gilliam, via FoundSF:

UC Berkeley Library, “Bridging the Bay” Primary Source page with newspaper clippings:

Information on San Francisco’s “Freeway Revolt” of the mid-1950s:

Marin Highway System: The “Los Angelization” of the Bay Area?

Before the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, accessing the lands north of San Francisco required ferries, trains, and a bit of gumption. With the bridge complete, what had been ranch lands soon were considered for networks of mid-century suburban sprawl.

In 1958 Governor Pat Brown launched an ambitious statewide highway development project, on the promise of building 1,000 new miles of road. This plan included 200 miles of new coastal and cross-cutting highways in Marin and Sonoma. All of this was laid out in the 1964 West Marin General Plan, a “nightmare vision for Marin conservationists.”

The plan prescribed turning the two-lane Highway One along the coast into a four-lane parkway, and to cut across ridges from Point San Quentin to Point Reyes Station with east-west thoroughfares. A 1959 Army Corps of Engineers report estimated that as facilitated by the highways, Marin would grow from 151,000 in 1960 to 780,000 by 2020. Stinson Beach and Bolinas Ridge would balloon to 50,000 residents. Point Reyes, Limantour, and Tomales would host a staggering 150,000 people. A water pipeline from Sonoma would feed the suburban sprawl.

As Dr. Marty Griffin writes in “Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast”: “By coincidence perhaps, [Governor Brown’s] chief of advance freeway planning for the state was Harold Summers, whose wife, Mary, headed the Marin County Planning Department.” By 1961 the Board of Supervisors in Marin had adopted the plan, with Mary Summers calling it a “done deal”. There seemed little in way of hope.

Dr. Marty Griffin and Stan Picher of Marin Audubon Society decided to try the impossible: save Bolinas Ridge, and by doing so, block the path of the highway. Achieving this could save Bolinas Lagoon, Stinson Beach, and the rest of the West Marin corridor.

Marty was tipped off he could purchase a division of Canyon Ranch on Bolinas Ridge. Meeting at a polo match, the owner, William Tevis, informed Marty that the land cost $800/acre— making the price of a singular parcel $400,000.

Marty took the chance. He put down a $1,000 deposit and brought the news to his co-conspirator, Stan Picher, who told him: “Marty, as treasurer, the largest check I have ever written for [Marin Audubon] Society was $125.” Still, they decided to move forward to try and convince Marin Audubon to serve as the nonprofit agency to acquire the land.

Tevis gave Marty and Stan 90 days to raise $9,000, and nine moths to raise $90,000. The remainder of the balance would be due in nine years. Marty and Stan hit the phones and doorstops of well-heeled Marin conservationists. Caroline Livermore chipped in, and Elizabeth Terwilliger made introductions. Marty and Stan gave tours of the land and expanded the donor base (by doing so they also organized an environmental voting constituency in Marin). After five years, Marty personally delivered the payment check to close on the property. The path of the highway was blocked.

The newly organized environmental constituency played a key role in halting the sprawl development in the rest of Marin. More environmentally minded challengers ran for—and won— seats on the Marin Board of Supervisors. Led by Peter Arrigoni and Michael Wornum, the new Board retracted the sprawl-focused West Marin General Plan and later withdrew its support of the Marincello Plan. The Board adopted a “precedent-setting” ecological study called Can the Last Place Last? in 1971, the basis for the new Marin Countywide Plan of 1973. The implications were far-reaching and lasting for Marin, as well as Sonoma and Mendocino to the north.

Under the new plan, agricultural zoning allowed only one house per 60 acres in an area covering one fifth of the county, thereby preventing ranchettes and subdivisions. The compromise was for development to happen along the existing Highway 101 corridor, soon to be home to the SmartTrain.

Where to learn more:

Today, Audubon Canyon Ranch is a 100-acre wildlife preserve of Douglas fir, coast redwood and California bay forest. In 2010 it was renamed the Martin Griffin Preserve. Information at

An article about the San Francisco “Freeway Revolt” in FoundSF:

The Freeway Revolt of 1956-1966 proves Citizens can make a difference.

The Freeway Revolt

Historical Essay
by Chris Carlsson
Freeway protesters in City Hall, c. 1960
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Image:Picketers protesting against the Southern Freeway marching at City Hall April 18 1961 AAF-0671.jpg
Picketers protesting against the Southern Freeway marching at City Hall, April 18, 1961.
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Save the Panhandle Park rally in Golden Gate Park, May 17, 1964.
Photo: Bancroft Library
Image:Malvina-Reynolds Save-the-Park-rally-in-Golden-Gate-Park-to-stop-a-freeway-from-being-built-on-Panhandle-Parkway,-May-17,-1964.jpg
Malvina Reynolds sings her anti-freeway ballad at the May 17, 1964 rally to save the Panhandle in Golden Gate Park.
Photo: Bancroft Library
New ramps to Washington and Clay Streets from the Embarcadero Freeway, August 15, 1965.
Image:Embarcadero Freeway mid-1950s AAB-3553.jpg
Construction of the Embarcadero Freeway stopped here at Broadway due to popular anger.
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Freeway protestors walk along Embarcadero, old Embarcadero Freeway and Ferry Building in background, c. 1964
Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
In the 1950s, the California Division of Highways had a plan to extend freeways across San Francisco. At that time the freeway reigned supreme in California, but San Francisco harbored the seeds of an incipient revolt which ultimately saved several neighborhoods from the wrecking ball and also put up the first serious opposition to the post-WWII consensus on automobiles, freeways, and suburbanization.
Image:Fwy NBeachIntx.jpg
Early plan for 8-lane freeway to cut under Russian Hill on its way from the Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge
The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), one of the city's oldest and most persistent neighborhood groups, dates its origins to the initial struggles against the proposed Panhandle-Golden Gate Park freeway, which was to extend the central freeway up the Oak/Fell corridor, slice 60% of the Panhandle for the roadway, and tunnel under the north edge of Golden Gate Park before turning onto today's Park Presidio towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
On November 2, 1956 the San Francisco Chronicle graciously published a map of the proposed and actual freeway routes through San Francisco even though its accompanying editorial was already chastising protestors: "The remarkable aspect of these protests and claims of injury is their tardiness. They concern projects that have for years been set forth in master plans, surveys and expensive traffic studies. They have been ignored or overlooked by citizens and public official alike—until the time was at hand for concrete pouring and when revision had become either impossible or extremely costly. The evidence indicates that the citizenry never did know or had forgotten what freeways the planners had in mind for them."
Highway 101 just south of Cesar Chavez exit, 2007
Photo: Chris Carlsson
James Lick Freeway under construction in 1953: San Francisco's first. Seals Stadium, the old ballpark is visible in center-left of photo
Photo: Ed Brady
Just three years earlier San Francisco had opened what became known as "hospital curve" both for its location behind General Hospital and its high rate of accidents. On October 1, 1953 the Bayshore Freeway opened from Army to Bryant/7th Street, nearing a later direct link with the Bay Bridge. San Franciscans could now drive three unmolested miles of "divided no-stop freeways" from Alemany to Bryant. The new Bayshore Freeway was the first highway to open after the failed effort of state highway authorities to build a 2nd Bay Bridge right next to the first, a plan they pursued from 1945-49 before it was finally defeated, in part thanks to Mayor Elmer Robinson appealing to military authorities to halt it because it would reinforce the bottleneck the Bay Bridge already presented for getting in or out of the City.
California passed the Collier-Burns Act in 1947, which allowed the construction of freeways to proceed without charging tolls. The Act reoriented the state highway system from multipurpose rural roads to limited-access superhighways and extended them into the cities for the first time. The assumption, which was borne out by developments, is that by building the new highways into the cities, the state gas tax revenues (which were raised 50% in the same bill) would rise rapidly because of all the additional driving the highways promoted among urban dwellers. As it turns out, it was California’s lead that shaped the 1956 Interstate Highway System, which followed the same funding formula. As Katherine M. Johnson has written, the “major flaw of this solution to the rural bias of American highway[s] was precisely its fiscal logic.” Focusing on solving a funding problem ignored basic issues of design standards and integration into the urban fabric. Instead, new highways were marketed as solutions for urban blight, dovetailing with the massive urban renewal programs that were gutting central city neighborhoods in dozens of cities from the late 1950s into the 1970s.
As the plans unfolded, public opposition grew. By the time the Embarcadero Freeway was nearly under construction in 1958, a loud opposition had formed, going on to campaign for its removal after its completion. Over 30,000 people signed petitions at meetings organized in the Sunset, Telegraph and Russian Hills, Potrero, Polk Gulch and other threatened areas. In 1959 The Supervisors voted to cancel 75% of planned freeway routes through the city, much to the shock of the Department of Highways and the state government. But that was not the end of the freeway revolt.
Image:Proposed freeway routes embarcadero.jpg
Proposed freeway routes
Freeway builders continued to resurrect various routes, encountering persistent, well-organized resistance by San Francisco neighborhoods, especially in the Sunset and Richmond where neighbors were dedicated to stopping the proposed Western Freeway. Supervisor William Blake was a key opponent of the freeway planners.
Lost in the story of the Freeway Revolt is the role it played in helping BART get institutional support. After the 1959 Supervisorial defeat of freeway plans, BART advocates got surplus Bay Bridge tolls allocated to the proposed transbay tube. After the 1961 vote against the Western Freeway, Mayor George Christopher and the influential Bay Area Council both endorsed the proposed BART system. As freeway proponents continued to advocate for their plans, Supervisor Blake proposed burying a freeway in a “crosstown” tunnel as an alternative to the “beautified” Panhandle freeway. But state highway officials derided it as an unrealistic and costly plan, and after a year of study, ruled it out. San Francisco officials, including new Mayor Jack Shelley, made it clear they wanted the Embarcadero Freeway taken down and replaced with an underground route, the proposed Golden Gate Freeway, that would connect to the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1964 the Panhandle-Golden Gate Freeway plan reached a climax, with a May 17 rally at the Polo Grounds to save the Park, featuring a "Natural Anthem" and a dedicated tune by Malvina Reynolds, the famous left-wing folk singer, and a speech by poetKenneth Rexroth. Months later, in a final, climactic 6-5 vote, the Board of Supervisors rejected the Park Freeway on October 13. Black supervisor Terry Francois cast the deciding vote, delivering a point-by-point six-page rebuttal to the pro-freeway arguments. (It is interesting to note that the other No-votes on that Board were future mayor George Moscone, future CAO/auto dealer and consumer of sexual services Roger Boas, future Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy, William Blake and Clarissa McMahon. In favor of the freeway were "progressive" supervisors Jack Morrison, Joseph Casey, Jack Ertola, Joseph Tinney and Peter Tamaras.) Mayor Jack Shelley was all for it, as was the Labor Council from which he hailed. The Supervisors' Transportation Committee had received a petition with 15,000 signatures, 20,000 letters and telegrams, and had received opposition from 77 community organizations.
After all that, it seemed to be decided. But it wasn’t. More bureaucratic studies and fears of losing several hundred million in federal financing for the City’s highways led to another climax. In 1966, the Panhandle and Golden Gate Freeways were once again brought forward, pissing off the thousands of people who thought they’d already stopped the plans. Ultimatums from the State Highway Commission and much bluster from pro-freeway politicians failed to carry the day. Mobilized citizens and their community organizations won over organized labor, who now opposed the plans too, arguing that jobs would actually be lost if the city became “one long strip of concrete for commuters with bigger and better ghettoes.” Finally, on March 21, 1966 both the Panhandle and Golden Gate freeways were defeated 6-5 by Supervisorial votes.
New Bayshore Freeway soon after opening, April 7, 1955. View from Bernal Heights southeast, with Bayview Hill in background.
View southeast from Bernal Heights towards Bayview Hill, 2009.
Photo: Chris Carlsson
Today, San Francisco's freeways have changed again, thanks to the Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake. The much maligned Embarcadero Freeway has been removed, as has an unsightly spur of the Central Freeway. A raging debate over the future of the Central Freeway ramps that go north across Market was finally resolved and has now been replaced by the surface Octavia Boulevard. The 101-280 interchange was a mess from 1989 to 1996. New offramps were added to I-280 to serve a new waterfront roadway and the planned Giants ballpark at China Basin in 1997, but no new freeways will be built in San Francisco. New transit money goes to BART and MUNI, while Caltrans and SF Dept. of Public Works continue to spend vast quantities of social wealth on maintaining the San Francisco road system. The rapid rise in value in both areas where freeways were removed, along the now open waterfront, as well as the rapidly gentrifying Hayes Valley/Civic Center area, show that profits can be drawn from forward looking urban planning, de-emphasizing cars and re-emphasizing neighborhood, community, and nature. But most U.S. urban planners still adhere religiously to the cult of the car, hence constant efforts to expand roads and parking at the expense of numerous more sensible alternatives, from decent mass transit to ubiquitous bikeways.
For a deeply detailed account of the 1956-66 freeway revolt, see Katherine M. Johnson’s article “Captain Blake versus the Highwaymen: Or, How San Francisco Won the Freeway Revolt” in Journal of Planning History 2009; 8; 56, originally published onlineNov. 28, 2008.
See also, William Issel's excellent article "Land Values, Human Values, and the Preservation of the City's Treasured Appearance: Environmentalism, Politics, and the San Francisco Freeway Revolt" in Pacific Historical Review 68, no. 4 (1999).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Marin County's Green Pioneers

Marin County's Green Pioneers

In the mid 1930s four Marin women in lives of comfortable circumstance, who did not have to take on the task of saving Marin’s natural resources, did so. Sepha Evers, Caroline Livermore, Portia Forbes and Helen Van Pelt, environmentalists before the term was coined, shook the powers that be to start a movement that eventually saved many of Marin’s open space treasures – and founded an organization that still carries on their activist tradition.
The four women, members of the Marin Garden Club, became alarmed that completion of the Golden Gate Bridge would make Marin an easy car commute from San Francisco and bring an influx that would jeopardize the county’s open hills and valleys.
Calling themselves The Citizens Survey Committee, they raised $2,500 to pay for a planning study that produced Marin County’s first set of planning maps and a report to guide the county’s future growth. Many of the report’s recommendations had to do with the preservation of open space “before it was too late.”
The Marin Independent Journal wrote in editorial alarm in January 1934: “Our picnic spots are nearly gone. ‘No Trespassing’ signs are posted all over. We must act if we believe in building for the future. Papermill Creek, inviting bay beaches, from Tiburon to Santa Venetia, must be saved. No community on earth is more favored than Marin with the wealth and beauty of potential playgrounds. If we don’t acquire some of these lands, the opportunity will surely slip away from us.”
MCL’s first conservation battle was Mount Tamalpais State Park. Together with groups such as the Tamalpais Conservation Club, MCL worked to expand the park from its beginning nucleus of 200 acres in Steep Ravine. From Mount Tam MCL turned westward, envisioning a major park effort that would preserve the County’s western shore. MCL efforts created Tomales Bay State Park and assisted in the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. MCL also fought to save the Marin headlands and Richardson Bay and helped to purchase a number of other park and natural resource areas in both east and west Marin.
One of the most dramatic chapters in MCL history was the battle to stop 879 acres of Richardson Bay from being filled - by bulldozing the Tiburon hills and depositing the fill into the bay - and turned into a town for 10,000 people. The regulatory agencies that would have halted such a tideland development did not exist in 1949 when this proposal came forth. MCL leaders worked their political and fundraising magic to bring together a coalition of local forces to defeat the development and effect purchase of the property. It took a decade but in 1958 clear title on lands from Belvedere to Strawberry Point established the sanctuary that is now known as the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
m7_lyford_dparkerRichardson Bay Audubon Center
Another of MCL’s most publicized achievements was thwarting plans for commercialization of Angel Island when it was declared surplus by the federal government and negotiating to have it added to the state park system instead. The island is the site of military installations and immigration encampments dating back to 1775 and home to abundant and diverse animal and bird life. When the government decided to abandon it after World War 2, MCL jumped in to underwrite interim fire and police services rather than let it go on the auction block for private development, and then led the charge to fold it into the state park system. When Angel Island became a park in 1954 MCL worked for another 14 years to ensure that its master plan precluded commercial enterprises and protected its wildlife and habitat areas.
“We really saved that from becoming a cheap Coney Island, which a Nevada firm hoped to develop,” MCL leader Caroline Livermore said later about the campaign to preserve Angel Island.
In the early 1960s MCL worked with the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Canyon Ranch to defeat plans the Bolinas Harbor District had to build a resort hotel and yacht harbor complex in Bolinas Lagoon. It was a scheme that seems bizarre today: dredging mud from the upper section of the lagoon and placing it on Kent Island to increase the size and height of the island to make it possible to build a hotel, parking lots, an office, a helicopter pad, docks and other facilities. MCL worked for a year and a half to assemble funds to buy the island and arrange to have it given to the County. The island passed into the public domain by a vote of the Board of Supervisors which took place only hours before the Harbor District was going to file a condemnation suit to block the County’s action.
MCL worked in 1972 for the passage of a measure to create the Marin County Regional Open Space District. In the late 1970s MCL campaigned vigorously to protect sensitive areas of California’s coast from offshore oil drilling.
The early 1970s were also the time of Marin’s battles with logging. Events leading to Marin’s ordinance regulating logging began in November 1968 when MCL learned that an Oregon logging firm had purchased timber rights to a ranch on Bolinas Ridge. MCL leaders went to battle, the logging firm wound up in court and eventually was restrained from lumbering due to environmental and public health issues. In 1971 Marin enacted a ordinance regulating logging, which, however, became moot in 1982 when regulation of timber harvesting was turned over to the California Department of Forestry.
The League’s Water Committee’s efforts contributed directly to defeat of a peripheral canal in 1982 – a massive political effort to divert Northern California water to the Southland and a threat that continues to periodically raise its head. MCL President Ted Wellman served as Chair of the Marin County Unit of the California Coalition against the Peripheral Canal and was a major force in halting the water diversion plan at the ballot box.
Increasingly, MCL found that it was important to help develop public policy relative to environmental issues and work toward implementing that policy. This involves constant research, careful evaluation and preparation of position statements.
Today MCL takes stands on government proposals, development projects and ballot propositions. Its citizen watchdog committees are monitoring dozens of projects at any one time and their members constantly appear before governmental bodies to encourage decisions that protected the environment.
Each year, MCL honors local environmental activists at the Annual Dinner with the Marin Conservation League Environmental Awards. Past winners have included Peter Behr and Elizabeth Terwilliger.

SB 827 will destroy local land use control


SB 827 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) will destroy local land use control

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 02:12:00 PM

The purple areas in Berkeley will be upzoned if the Skinner-Wiener SB827 passes and is signed by Governor Brown.

State Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are again lusting after our remaining affordable neighborhoods on behalf of their developer patrons, who are fronted by the astroturf YIMBYs:

As reported by Liam Dillon in the L.A. Times:

“A dramatic increase in new housing near transit stations could be on its way across California under new legislation proposed by a Bay Area legislator. Subject to some limitations, the measure would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses allowed to be built within a half-mile of train, light-rail, major bus routes and other transit stations, and block cities from imposing parking requirements. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, said the state needs the housing to address affordability problems, maximize recent multi-billion-dollar transit investments and help the state meet its climate change goals.’Here’s a link to the bill, authored by Scott Wiener and co-authored by our own State Senator Nancy Skinner:

SB 827, as introduced, Wiener. Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus.

Transit-rich is the new buzz word in the title, and how ironically apt it is. This bill effectively removes all local planning controls in areas served by transit, opening up enormous swaths of our historically low-income urban neighborhoods (think southwest Berkeley) to gentrifying market rate development.

And no, it won’t make the current residents, especially renters, rich—but it will certainly make rich developers richer. That's who get the housing bonus.

This plan doesn’t seem to have been reported in the Bay Area press as yet, but Damien Goodmon, founder and Executive Director of Los Angeles’ nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition, already has their number. He’s posted a stinging denunciation of the bill’s backers and its effect on low-income residents on the organization’s web site. I was intending just to link to it, but so much of the analysis also applies to the urban East Bay that I’ll quote most of it:

“Like the Colonizers before them, YIMBYs claim the 'Hood as Theirs!

“The bill is backed by group that calls themselves YIMBYs, which stands for "Yes in my backyard." Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement/supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in or are new to as "theirs." It's NOT their backyard - it's ours. And we're not about to give it up. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!

“YIMBY groups are the very definition of "astroturf" - fake grassroots organizations backed by a corporate industry. The overwhelming white 30s-somethings-led groups push to remake our community of established institutions and organizations led by people of color. They aren't long-time residents of places like our South Central.

“That's why they could care less about the predatory lending that led to the greatest evisceration of Black wealth in decades - it wasn't their grandma whose mortgage became unaffordable overnight.

“They don't talk about or prioritize legislation to address modern-day redlining (Blacks are being denied home loans and refinancing in our community that are being granted to Whites with the same credit score and incomes), because they're not the ones being discriminated against.

“They never discuss the role of foreign money, Wall Street investors and rampant speculation in driving up land values that has made the communities our parents bought into completely unaffordable to even working middle-class Black people today.

“They never propose solutions to fight the expansion and rise of Wall Street landlords like Blackstone, the largest private equity firm in the world, which in one day bought up 1,400 homes in Atlanta, because YIMBYs are largely funded and supported by the real estate investor industry.

“YIMBYs are completely indifferent and nowhere to be seen on the strategies of protection and preservation of our dwindling affordable housing stock, because they're not being asked to move-in their cousin who makes less than $30K a year and was harassed out of their $850/month two-bedroom in Baldwin Village by the new corporate landlord who can now collect $2,200/month for the unit.

‘As just one example, not a single major YIMBY group has expressed strong support for what will be the biggest mobilization of housing justice groups in Sacramento this year - next week's Assembly Housing Committee hearing on AB 1506 - the bill to repeal the horrible Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which all housing justice groups in the state consider the top legislative goal for 2018.

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”

I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.

What in the name of heaven is Berkeley’s state senate representative Nancy Skinner’s name doing on this horrendous bill along with Wiener’s? We haven’t done the same research on her contributors that Damien Goodmon’s group did on Scott Wiener’s backers, so we don’t know if developers are funding her the same way they are him, but it’s time to find out.

And what does all this mean for Berkeley? Thanks to Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Thomas Lord for spelling it out for us on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition list-serv:

“Scott Wiener has proposed SB827 which I am guessing will sail through both houses and get an easy signature from the governor. You must see the attached map to really appreciate it.

“Odds are, your street - your block - will be upzoned. Every place with purple shading on the map. “

“Oh, and, by the way -- the areas on the map that are not shaded? AC Transit will have land use authority over those. For example, all they have to do is decrease the peak commute schedule for the 88 bus from 15 minutes to 5 minutes and then all along Sacramento street will be upzoned.

“What do I mean by upzoned? I'll quote this bill which puts every low income household on the chopping block:

(b) Notwithstanding any local ordinance, general plan element, specific plan, charter, or other local law, policy, resolution, or regulation, a transit-rich housing project shall receive a transit-rich housing bonus which shall exempt the project from all of the following:

(1) Maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio.

(2) Minimum automobile parking requirements.

(3) Any design standard that restricts the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code.

(4) (A) If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

(B) If the transit-rich housing project is within one-half mile of a major transit stop, but does not meet the criteria specified in subparagraph (A), any maximum height limitation that is less than 55 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 45 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 55 feet or 45 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

(C) For purposes of this paragraph, if a parcel has street frontage on two or more different streets, the height maximum pursuant to this paragraph shall be based on the widest street.

“ Another aspect of this: it creates a much greater incentive than ever before to empty and demolish rent controlled buildings in Berkeley. Berkeley charges some fees for this but they are peanuts compared to the potential windfalls.

“Why will a bus service [AC Transit] have land use control over land use?”

A good question, and it sheds light on something I’ve been wondering about.

Within the last year, two new bus lines, 80 and 81, have been added to Ashby Avenue, with a stop right in front of our house. When our kids were at Berkeley High, we much appreciated the old 65, which took them from home to school in 15 minutes, but that’s been long gone. These new lines are part of a circuit which seems to go to the El Cerrito Plaza mall and the pricey 4th Street shopping area, neither one of which appeals much to me.

Evidently, these lines are not filling any huge demand for others either.

Since the service started, we’ve observed that very often there’s not a single passenger on these buses, and we have literally never seen more than two on any bus, day or night, since we’ve starting watching for them.

AC Transit does not publish figures on operating costs per passenger mile, but the cost of transporting these few passengers in lonely splendor on huge gas guzzlers must be astronomical. We've been wondering why these lines keep on going.

However, though I don’t want to go all conspiracy theory on you, it’s not hard to conjecture that the mere existence of these two routes in the next five or ten years, if SB827 passes, will dramatically increase the land values on Ashby for the benefit of speculative developers. The west end in particular, now devoted to nice well-maintained small single family homes, many minority owned, and small rental apartment buildings, will certainly be targeted for Build It Bigger market-rate projects as bad as the one on the corner of Ashby and San Pablo (which by the way was originally promoted as affordable housing, though it's now rented at market rates. )

A little history: The old “red-line” in southwest Berkeley used to be Grove Street, now re-named Martin Luther King Way. Minority residents had a mighty hard time buying or renting homes east of Grove, with the collusion of development and real estate interests, so as a result they clustered on the city’s west side.

The area was home to Berkeley’s substantial Japanese-American population until they were interned during World War II, when African-Americans who migrated to the Bay Area to work in defense manufacturing bought or rented there. As a result Berkeley’s vaunted diversity tends to be concentrated in the southwest quadrant of the city, along with a substantial percentage of our rent-controlled units.

If Berkeley’s control over its zoning is lost through the passage of the Skinner-Wiener SB827 bill, it’s highly probable that well-paid commuters to San Francisco jobs will soon gentrify southwest Berkeley, which is tantalizingly convenient to the Ashby freeway entrance. This will have the effect of forcing current residents to move to distant places like Antioch, Pittsburg and even Tracy, from which they will need to drive long distances to reach poorly paid service jobs in the urban core.

At the very least, passage of this bill could motivate residents in all kinds of areas, including the rest of Berkeley, to oppose the extension of rapid transit to their neighborhoods, which in the long term would have detrimental consequences for those who already live there and do need right-scale bus service.

This is a knotty topic which deserves a book of its own, for which we don’t have time or space here. Better to just reprise Damien Goodmon’s call to arms:

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”

Blacks may have been abducted by Aliens in South Central Los Angeles.

When Your Renderings Suggest the Black Population Has Been Abducted by Aliens, It May Be the Least of Your Problems

A look at the TOD proposal for two lots at Exposition and Crenshaw.

The transformation of Crenshaw at Exposition - the gateway to a historic black neighborhood - apparently also includes the rapture of the entire black population... save one undoubtedly confused person in cargo shorts. Source: Metro
The transformation of Crenshaw at Exposition - the gateway to a historic black neighborhood - apparently also includes the rapture of the entire black population... save one undoubtedly confused person in cargo shorts. Source: Metro
I should be focused on the content of the staff report regarding the mixed-use project proposal from WIP-A, LLC, a subsidiary of Watt Companies, for two Metro- and L.A. County-owned lots (below) at the South L.A. intersection of the Expo and (under-construction) Crenshaw/LAX Lines as part of Metro’s joint development program.
The site map. The project will straddle Crenshaw Blvd. south of Exposition. Source: Metro
The site map. The project will straddle Crenshaw Blvd. south of Exposition. Source: Metro (Attachment A)
There certainly is a lot to be said about it.
  • Of the 492 residential units planned for the lots at the intersection of two rail lines – one of which was sold to South L.A. residents as their connection to jobs – only 73 (the minimum 15 percent required by Measure JJJ) will be designated as affordable. Those affordable units will be reserved for families earning under 50 percent of the area median income (families of four must earn $45,050 or less to qualify, but also earn a minimum of around $30,000 or approximately three times the proposed rent);
  • The project will also feature 47,500 square feet of commercial and retail spaces, including restaurant spaces intended for locally-owned and operated businesses and a grocery store (Watt Companies owns the Slauson/Crenshaw and La Brea/Rodeo properties, both of which are home to a Ralphs grocery);
  • The project will feature open plazas, a bike hub, and car-share connections;
  • And, in line with Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development Guidelines, Watt would commit to having a business incubator-type space as well community-serving spaces.
A rendering of the proposed project, looking south along Crenshaw from Exposition. Source: Metro (Attachment C)
A rendering of the proposed project, looking south along Crenshaw from Exposition toward the proposed District Square mixed-use project. The buildings also appear to feature rooftop gardens. Source: Metro (PDF: Attachment C)
And there is something to be said about the fact that, at a meeting of the Executive Management Committee this Thursday, staff will recommend Metro enter into a 6-month interim Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with the developer before entering into the standard 18-month ENA.
A standard ENA gives the developer the space to further develop their plans, work out the terms of a Joint Development Agreement, work out ground leases with Metro, and pull together the appropriate construction documents before the project gets the full approval. The interim ENA would allow for Metro and the developer to communicate directly “about project scope and team composition, and to have an open dialogue with community stakeholders before committing to a long term ENA,” according to the staff report. It would also require the developer “to identify and enter into a letter of intent with a community-based organization for its participation in the development of the project, including the opportunity for an economic interest” during the first three months of the ENA period. [Scroll down for full text of the report.]
The more prevalent use of the interim ENA option is thanks, in great part, to the uproar over way Metro tried to rush what appeared to be a gentrifying and non-community serving project for Mariachi Plaza through official channels without even a minimum of community engagement. The community, particularly some very activist youth and their mentors, demanded that Metro do better by communities.
At what will essentially serve as the gateway to the historic Crenshaw community, it is just as imperative that the community have a chance to engage the project and the developer as much as possible.
The project from above. Source: Metro
The project from above. Source: Metro
Truth be told, however, I found it really hard to stay focused on some of those details after spotting the rendering Metro tweeted yesterday (also found at the top of article).
It that made me think that six months might not be nearly long enough for the Metro, the County, and the developer to get things right with the community.
That image portrays a historically black community as a white mecca.
Metro's tweet, which has since been deleted.
Metro’s tweet, which has since been deleted.
White people stroll, white people bike, white people regale each other with fascinating tales as they cross the street with fashionable purses, white people gaze at the tracks in deep thought and talk on the phone, and white people keep their distance from the lone black person wearing what appear to be cargo shorts across the way.
There seems to be some awareness that the overwhelming whiteness of this vision is problematic: the same rendering submitted to the Metro board for consideration includes some black cyclists (below, see also: PDF of Attachment C).
Which could be a step in the right direction if a) it didn’t appear that the women had been lifted directly from a brochure on equity in active transportation (ahem, behold); b) there were more people of color who resembled people I actually see in the community; c) I didn’t actually recognize the woman on the right as Ayesha McGowan, a badass cyclist on a quest to become the first female African-American professional cyclist; and d) the image didn’t seem so devoid of any indications that these people are in a historically black neighborhood on a historic street adjacent to an important church that is deeply rooted in the community and at a corner that used to provide both really good community eats and services to folks trying to transcend the damage done to the community by white flight and disenfranchisement.
The less blindingly white version. Source: Metro
The only slightly less blindingly white version, as seen in the documents Metro submitted to its Board of Directors. Source: Metro (See Attachment C)
Which raises the question: where is the actual community that lives there now?
Where are the impeccably dressed churchgoers? Where are the black families? Where are the elders? Where are the black and Latino students, artists, and entrepreneurs? Where are the low-riders, area fixie riders, and folks biking out of necessity? Where are the black and Latino workers and job seekers? Where are the vendors? And where is that gentleman from the Nation of Islam that sells bean pies near Rodeo?
Are we planning for them?
The image suggests we might not be.
For one, Metro chose a for-profit developer over three teams that included affordable housing developers and promised more affordable units, including one offering 51 units at 30 percent AMI (and 300 fewer parking spaces). It also declared that the proposal by the Crenshaw Corridor Venture, LLP (helmed by the West Angeles Community Development Corporation) while very competitive, scored relatively low “in proposed development program/vision and financial offer” by promising nearly $40 million less in rent over the duration of the lease. Meaning that Metro eschewed nurturing a potentially more community-serving project in favor of one that was more lucrative. [See Attachment B: Procurement Summary]
Obviously, it is difficult to compare projects’ respective viability or potential without the actual proposals in hand. But it is still possible to say that with all the changes coming to the corridor that have the potential to fuel gentrification, including the revamping of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (at the King Blvd. station) and the construction of District Square (next door), it is disappointing that there isn’t more of an effort to secure more affordable housing for transit-dependent folks at the actual stations.
As of now, the Plaza project is reluctantly offering ten percent of its 961 units as affordable (only five percent will be reserved for those at or below 50 percent AMI) and the District Square project, which is expected to have 200 units, will also likely have just the minimum of affordable units, at best. There are a few affordable housing projects slated for that stretch of Crenshaw, but most are designated senior housing. Working-class families will likely have to look elsewhere.
Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it's a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)
Recognize this place? Me, neither. It’s Mariachi Plaza re-envisioned as a Mariachi-free Plaza del Mariachi. (Source: Metro)
For another, the lack of representation in images tends to signal either a lack of engagement with the community in the planning process or the lack of a deeper understanding on the part of the planners or consultants of who the community is and what its aspirations might be.
Too often, it means both.
In Boyle Heights, the rendering touting the transformation of Mariachi Plaza (above) not only erased the very Mariachis for whom the plaza was named, it replaced them with so many picnicking white people on a previously non-existent grassy knoll that there wasn’t room for the plaza’s current users: the Mariachis, the skaters, the dancers, the families, the community vendors, or the grassroots groups that do food distributions to community members in need.
What little trust Metro had had with the community was effectively shattered.
The project was so inappropriate and the uproar was so intense that Metro ended up having to start over from scratch – a process that has been underway for almost three years, at this point.
Metro's vision of what the Slauson corridor might look like once the project was complete includes a well-dressed couple who might be on their way to go dancing and a white guy. Source: Metro
Metro’s vision of what the Slauson corridor might look like once the project was complete (including a well-dressed couple who might be on their way to…go dancing? and a white guy…?) proves that an attempt to check all the right diversity boxes can actually show just how deeply out of touch an agency can be. Source: Metro
The graphic for the Rail-to-River project – the conversion of the Slauson corridor rail right-of-way from Crenshaw to the Blue Line (and eventually to the river) into a path for walking, cycling, skating, and relaxing – also hints at the struggle Metro has had getting planning with communities like South L.A. right (above).
When I first started covering the project in 2013, I was explicitly told by Metro and the consulting team that Metro was limiting its engagement with the community so as not to raise residents’ hopes in case funding didn’t come through.
What that meant in practice was that they studied the feasibility of the project they felt was needed – an “active transportation corridor” people could use to connect to transit on foot or by bike. There was very little consideration of what a project would look like that was more in line with what the corridor communities wanted or how they would be likely to use it.
There will indeed be those that use it to commute across South L.A., especially by bike and by skateboard, and to connect to transit.
But the dearth of opens spaces and safe public places where families and friends can gather, exercise, and relax means the most frequent users of the path are likely to be joggers and exercise station aficionados, families out for a walk with small kids, young kids learning to ride bikes, youth seeking safe and smooth places to skateboard with friends, area low-rider and other groups staking out neighborhood meet-up spots, and existing vendors (many of whom have been there a decade already) looking to grow their clientele while continuing to serve as eyes on the street.
To its credit, Metro has worked to be more transparent and responsive on the project over the last two years. But because it began designing in a vacuum, the effort to adapt that original sterile vision to the cultures, needs, and aspirations of the communities that live, work, move, and hope to recreate along it has remained somewhat hit or miss.
Even where Metro has made a genuine effort to partner with local groups representing lower-income communities of color, as it recently did with bike-share, those groups have continued to feel tokenized, misunderstood, and undervalued. [See video above; an in-depth look at the bike-share partnership with Metro coming later this week.]
Metro, they have argued, has been unwilling to hear and incorporate the full range of their concerns into planning. All of which has made them feel that their communities – the core of Metro’s transit ridership – are less likely to be properly served. And all of which has caused them to raise questions about the extent to which Metro can be counted on to help guard against displacement and gentrification as it continues to build out its system.
Rendering of
Rendering of ground floor retail in the east building of the Crenshaw/Exposition proposal, as seen in the document submitted to the Metro board. Several white people (including a hipster biker) have been removed from this rendering to make it look less overwhelmingly white, even as the sterility and generic design of the space remain the same. (See the comparative image, published last week in The Source, here.)
This may seem like quite the tangent to go on based on a couple of images. But it’s not.
These aren’t the first images that have erased the physical, cultural, social, or economic presence of particular communities, nor will they be the last.
The images we use are aspirational – they tell us something about what we hope a space can be and who it will attract. The whiteness of the figures used signals newness, upward mobility and disposable income, safety, civic engagement and vibrancy, and the notion that the space is open to all (where a black- or brown-populated space might signal the project was “for” a specific group, type of activity, or culture). For private investors tracking public investment in disenfranchised communities, in particular, these sorts of images help prime the area for speculation and facilitate its rebranding as one that is “up and coming” and ready to be remade.
The shortage of folks of color and those with varying shapes, sizes, abilities, occupations, incomes, and gender identities who can be placed into renderings suggests we aren’t ready to tackle those biases – either in the way we think about what constitutes a community or what vibrancy really means.
Perhaps more telling, it suggests we aren’t interested in recognizing and celebrating the communities that are already in our urban cores and that we do not value all that they contribute to the life of our cities.
But being able to present renderings that are truer to the communities we build for also means more than dropping in the occasional Ayesha McGowan – awesome and fierce as she may be.
For public agencies like Metro, in particular, it means historically disenfranchised communities must be the starting point, not the thing to be sanitized or molded to fit a project after the fact.
In the case of joint development projects like this one, where Metro and the County own the land but will lease it to a developer, both entities have a responsibility to make sure that engagement is ongoing and meaningful. And that we end up in a much better place than we are starting from with a much better and more community-serving project.

The proposal for an interim ENA with this developer goes before the Executive Management Committee for approval this Thursday, November 16, at 11:30 a.m. Should it be approved, the interim engagement period prove fruitful, and the project be found to be acceptable to both Metro and the community, Metro will seek a standard 18-month ENA to allow the design and preparation for construction to move forward. Find the project-related documents here.