Saturday, April 13, 2019

Why the proposed Marinwood Maintenance Compound will be a Mess.

The proposed Marinwood Maintenance Compound won't have a grassy area in front.
This area must be used for loading/unloading of landscape materials.

The Marinwood CSD maintenance crew generates big piles of landscaping debris and trash each week. They store this in the large open area next to the horse shoe pits in Marinwood Park to allow the convenient loading/dumping of material.  

Large piles of landscaping waste and trash is stored in the open at the Maintenance shed

A bucket loading operation requires much space as you can see in this video.   Generally, the dump trailer is loaded from the side into the center of the trailer. The operator must do this to balance the load for safety.  This means the bucket loader requires a large area for scooping material and turning.

The truck and trailer must be parked perpendicular to the bucket loader.  

In the site plan of the proposed Maintenance Facility below, you can see that the only area where this operation can take place is IN FRONT of the Maintenance Facility.  The architect has drawn a walking path in this area to deceive the planning department.  There is NO ROOM inside the walled maintenance compound to perform a mechanized loading operation.

Our Ford F250 is 22 feet long.and the dump trailer is approximately 20 feet long including tongue.

This means that 42 feet of space will be required for the truck/trailer and an additional 40'  to 60'  to the side will be required for the bucket loader and material.  This will occupy all the area between the maintenance building and Miller Creek.

Proposed Maintenance Facility with old facility overlay in brown

This drawing shows the footprint of the proposed Maintenance Bldg and the old building footprint in brown. The brown box on the left is the area the architect calls open storage. In fact the entire area from the current building to the horse shoe pit is used for landscaping debris, parking and tool storage.  Clearly there is no area suitable for loading and unloading material within the proposed Maintenance Building above. The architect shows this area as green space and a walking path but it will not happen. It will be used for parking and storage of debris and landscaping materials. The is no alternative.

What happened to the access road that the architect showed in previous drawings?  It has disappeared.  This is highly deceptive.  The architect must show where essential activities will take place on the building site. Safety vehicles and pedestrians must pass through this area.

The drawings do not show the true impact to the stream conservation area and Marinwood Park.

The proposed Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility is simply too big and inefficient,  harms the environment and occupies land that should be used for recreational purposes as intended.

Friday, April 12, 2019

California may soon pay more than $4 a gallon on average

When folks voted No on Prop. 6 last November, they voted YES on another gas tax increase—up another 5 cents a gallon. Then, on 1/1/20, thanks to cap and trade, the gas tax could go up another 73 cents a gallon. Remember, one reason the price of gas has skyrocketed recently is because Sacramento—not the market place, demands a special gas blend, starting April 1. That is more expensive to produce.

Government—via taxes and regulations—is the major cause of the price of gas and making people in California poorer. Thought you should understand we need to control government. Oh, do not forget we have to IMPORT oil for gas, since Sacramento will not allow the drilling in many places—and then you have counties like Santa Barbara that gave up one billion dollars from the oil companies for the right to drill for oil,

Poverty? A construct of government.

Gasoline prices up 8 straight weeks, with California on track to pay the most in nearly 5 years

California may soon pay more than $4 a gallon on average: GasBuddy

MyraP. SaefongMarket Watch, 4/8/19

Gasoline prices at the pump have climbed for eight weeks in a row, and California is expected to soon pay an average of more than $4 a gallon for the first time in almost five years, according to GasBuddy.

“The national average gas price has now risen for 2 months straight, tacking on a total of 50 cents per gallon in the last 90 days,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for fuel-price tracker GasBuddy. That’s the longest run of consecutive weekly gains since 2015. It also means Americans will pay nearly $200 million more at the pump today than back in early January, he said.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded stood at $2.745 early Monday afternoon, according to GasBuddy. That’s up 27.3 cents a gallon from last month’s average of $2.472.

California and the West Coast has been hit particularly hard, after “seeing a surge in unexpected refinery outages, leading to an extremely tight supply of cleaner summer gasoline and causing prices to skyrocket,” said DeHaan. California’s average price for regular unleaded was at $3.793 a gallon early Monday afternoon, up 49.1 cents from last month’s average of $3.302.

“California will soon be home to something not seen in nearly five years: a statewide average of over $4 per gallon, with some of the largest cities there swelling to averages as high as $4.15 per gallon before any relief arrives,” he said. “It really is going to be ugly this week in the West Coast, and any further issues could lead to more spikes, but for the rest of the country, expect the rise to continue for a ninth straight week with little good news on the horizon.”

A rally in oil prices has contributed to the fuel-price spike, with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude trading at their highest in five months. May WTI oil CLK9, -0.87% was up $1.02, or 1.6%, at $64.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in Monday dealings. May gasoline futures RBK9, +0.58% were also up 1.5 cents, or 0.8%, at $1.984 a gallon.

The Energy Information Administration recently reported a surge in U.S. crude inventories for the week ended March 29. The data, however, also revealed that gasoline and distillate fuel inventories dropped “as refinery utilization rates fell due to maintenance and a high level of unexpected outages in the West Coast, where utilization fell nearly 2%,” according to GasBuddy.

Refinery outages hampered the rollout of California Air Resources Board-mandated summer gasoline that began just a week ago, and with extensive seasonal refinery maintenance in the region, gasoline prices saw a nearly 50-cent-per-gallon average rise in California in the last month, GasBuddy reported.

Looking ahead, gas prices will likely continue to surge along the West Coast this week, “while the rest of the country generally continues to see prices slowly marching higher,” the fuel-price tracker said. “Peak gasoline prices may be at best still a few weeks away as the transition to cleaner gasoline and refinery maintenance season continues.”

Will SB50 kill Marinwood?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Unlimited Density is Scary. Stop SB50

Keeping Two Sets of Books

Keeping Two Sets of Books

Jon Coupal Sep 22, 2013

It’s been said that after Al Capone was sentenced to prison for tax evasion in 1931 his chief financial and legal advisor Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik told other mobsters how to avoid Big Al’s fate. They must keep two sets of books. One set that could be made public would show “honest income” from a legitimate business and would be maintained to satisfy the IRS and other government types. The other? Well that would show the real income.

This story comes to mind now that new strict Government Accounting Standards Board requirements have forced the revelation that the unfunded liability being carried by the California State Teachers Retirement Fund is more than double what was previously disclosed. The GASB rules compel state and local governments to stop hiding their pension costs in their financials and to report more realistic rates of return on investments.

What had been presented to the public as a $71 billion liability has been newly calculated to show that the teachers retirement fund’s net pension liability is $166.9 billion. No one is suggesting CalSTRS is involved in criminal activity but like numerous other agencies it has engaged in an effort to downplay the extent of its debt. The impact of the implementation of the GASB requirements is similar to the IRS finding a mobster’s second set of books the one that reveals actual income only in the case of these government agencies what is being exposed is actual debt.

This is important for several reasons. First it has been revealed by respected reporter Ed Mendel in Calpensions that if CalSTRS “Net Pension” liability is distributed among school districts the share of debt for a typical smaller district might jump from $21 million to $49 million and for a larger district it could go from about $280 million to $728 million. To investors this increased liability implies risk and would make it more expensive to sell school bonds. Ultimately this higher cost is borne by property tax payers.

Second CalSTRS has already been projected to run out of money in 30 years. While the retirement fund may go broke the obligation to retirees will continue and taxpayers will be on the hook for the full amount.

Expect much more bad news like this in the coming year as other government entities are forced to come clean. Cities expect to be shown in serious financial trouble include San Francisco San Jose Los Angeles Azusa and Inglewood and cities already declared bankrupt like Stockton and San Bernardino will be exposed as being even deeper in the hole.

When the full amount of the unfunded liability — a debt that taxpayers will be forced to cover — is revealed by the new more honest accounting standards expect voters to demand the heads of the politicians and government officials who created this crisis by approving unsustainably high pensions for government workers. Unfortunately many of those responsible for these past decisions are themselves now enjoying these rich benefits themselves in luxurious retirement settings.

Such is politics in the People’s Republic of California.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Marinwood CSD Meeting April 9, 2019

Marinwood CSD approves tax increase with a discussion.

Under the Table Business of Homelessness in San Francisco

San Francisco’s Slow-Motion Suicide

San Francisco’s Slow-Motion Suicide


April 8, 2019 6:30 AM

(Stephen Lam/Reuters)The city by the bay has survived earthquakes and fires. Can it survive itself?

It’s not what celebrants want to hear when the champagne is exploding out of shaken bottles of Dom, the confetti is falling, and their stock is up 8.7 percent at the market’s close, but I have an announcement to make: San Francisco is past its prime and the fires of creation have abated.

With all the millionaires newly minted by Lyft’s IPO, and with those set to be minted by Uber’s and Palantir’s and AirBnB’s, you might expect this enclave to become the next Babylon of American capitalism. While our moralists in the media — Nellie Bowles, Emily Chang, et al. — busily tsk-tsk the greed and the lust and the hypocrisy and the hubris, there is a story here they miss: The city’s current concentration of wealth likely doesn’t represent the beginning of a golden-if-sinful era, but the end.

Magnificent in the distance, San Francisco is now shockingly ugly up close. In the decade I have lived here, the city has achieved the seemingly impossible: It has combined the expensive and the bland and the appalling into a new form of decadence. To the untrained eye, it looks magical: a city of the future, a city of gasps. Then, slowly, it reveals itself to be a city of lies, one that dismisses the idea of city living.

The distant future Silicon Valley sells with the zeal of a crusader — all the lip service it pays to making the world a better place — shimmers like fool’s gold, monopolistic surveillance capitalism cloaked in the language of the common good. Billboards off the highway announce the coming of artificial intelligence as new nonprofits pop up to defend us against HAL and Skynet, but in reality “AI” is machine learning — pattern-recognition software parsing out subtle statistical connections to win board games and show you better ads.

With a devilish consistency, this city sets you up for disappointment.

Running a venture-capital fund that invests as early as possible in startups, I now see fewer and fewer companies choosing to come launch here. When we opened our doors in 2015, maybe 80 percent of our investments were in Bay Area companies. Last year, half of them were, and we expect to see that number decrease even more in the years ahead. Andreessen-Horowitz, the famed Silicon Valley VC firm, has announced that it’s becoming more or less a hedge fund, presumably to focus on later-stage opportunities. Peter Thiel, who had lived here since the mid 90s, has now decamped to Los Angeles, and says there is a less than 50 percent chance the next great tech company will arise in an increasingly expensive, conformist Silicon Valley.

“Silicon Valley is now more fashion than opportunity,” Thiel told the Swiss newspaper Zeitung. “The heads are the same.”

Lack of independent thought aside, the Economist has identified the source of the problem: You can’t build a successful startup from a garage if a garage costs a million bucks. The flow of new creations is being choked off first and foremost because there are fewer cheap places for new things to start.

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco recently hit $3690 per month, 30 percent greater than in New York City. Over the last decade, the Bay Area has added 722,000 jobs but built only 106,000 new homes. Proposition M, passed in the 1980s to avoid “Manhattanization,” limits the supply of office space. The city’s average Class A asking rent has risen 124 percent since 2010 to over $80 per square foot.

The legendary urbanist Jane Jacobs once remarked that new ideas come from old buildings, the types of places you can alter without permission because no one cares about them. This is one reason why so many garage startups and garage bands and artists spilling paint in discarded warehouse lofts have left their mark on the world. The true creative class can’t afford to rent expensive new studios.

But in San Francisco, the true creative class can’t afford to rent any space anymore.

The artists have fled. Sadie Valeri, an artist who has been painting and drawing in San Francisco for over 20 years, recently announced that she is closing her famed Potrero Hill atelier. “Our studio lease is ending,” she wrote in an email to her students last month. “And we have been informed that our rent will be increasing significantly to more than we can afford.”

There is no longer a San Francisco music scene, either. The house the Grateful Dead lived in at 710 Ashbury Street during their formative years in the 1960s is surrounded by Victorian townhouses that today sell for $3 million and more. A tourist review of the location puts it well: “Unless you knew who lived there, you wouldn’t know.”

If you can stomach all that blandness, I wish you luck with the appalling. Up and down the city’s disorienting hills, you notice homeless men and women — junkies, winos, the dispossessed — passed out in the vestibules of empty storefronts on otherwise busy streets. Encampments of tents sprout in every shadowy corner: under highway overpasses, down alleys. Streets are peppered with used syringes. Strolling the sidewalks, you smell the faint malodorous traces of human excrement and soiled clothing. Crowded thoroughfares such as Market Street, even in the light of midday, stage a carnival of indecipherable outbursts and drug-induced thrashings about which the police seem to do nothing.

The confused mumble, the incoherent finger-pointing tirade, the twitch, the cold daemonic stare, the drunken stumble and drool — these are the rhythms of a city on the edge of a schizophrenic explosion.

The cause of this blight is codified nostalgia and greed. (Nellie Bowles where are you?) Baby Boomer civil servants act as urban taxidermists stuffing and mounting a dead city so it always resembles the past. The San Francisco Chronicle tells us that there is indeed a mayor, and maybe even a chief of police, but it is not known who is actually in charge. Housing and zoning committees obscure responsibility for governance. But somewhere in the bureaucratic hierarchy faceless city functionaries administer labyrinthine regulations that benefit the rich over the poor, the old over the young, the here over those to come, the past over the future.

In one of the more comical examples of this sclerosis, a real-estate developer worked for five years and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to show that a proposed housing development wouldn’t cast shadows on a nearby playground or destroy the historic character of the laundromat it sat atop. In another, it took two years for a woman to open an ice-cream shop.

And yet the days pass in a foggy calm. Coit Tower, the Painted Ladies, both bridges, and Alcatraz all stand serene. It is not a city of urgency and restless insomnia, not a city of any discernable power. It never roars like New York or snaps cold like Chicago. It is a pastel city that optimizes its sleep with a device.

I’m not holding my breath for a revolution.

San Francisco has been overwhelmingly Democratic since the 1950s. The last Republican mayor won an election in 1956. It is a one-party city touting a civic philosophy with its back to the wall. From afar city Democrats pay lip service to helping the poor. But up close the facts tell a different story. None of their policies in the last half-century have done much to rescue the poor from poverty. Inflexible limits on the housing supply push marginalized groups even further to the margins. The stratospheric cost of housing has flung minority families to the outer edges of the Bay Area, reinforcing segregation. A UC Berkeley study found that a 30 percent increase in the median rent led to a 28 percent decrease in the number of minority households in a neighborhood. Whole neighborhoods from the city have decamped to the hinterlands of Antioch and Vallejo. Stories of three-hour commutes from Stockton have become more common.

Alas, the media seems to have never taken an economics class, much less read Paul Krugman. It is quite simply baffling. Housing restrictions have made the situation worse and worse for decades. No one seems to notice that the same debates play out time and again to no positive end. Instead, for commentary, reporters invariably trot out someone who disguises greed with the piety of a San Franciscan born and raised. Ah, those picturesque locals! Whatever sad story they tell, they shamelessly aim to limit the housing supply, inflating the prices of their own properties. Meanwhile, the media prints their moralistic scolding of the gentrifiers, i.e. anyone with an urge to build affordable housing. No one seems to care about the unseen: the people who never get to live here because the apartments they would live in aren’t ever built, the bookstores unopened, the dance steps untried, the poetry never recited because the rent’s too damn high.

Cities are nearly immortal; though they decline, they rarely die. But creative clusters can and do bite the dust. They are fragile, fleeting things. Rome survived the fall of a civilization and two world wars; Ancient Athens and Quattrocento Florence dazzled and faded. Now, San Francisco has passed its prime and settled into a sad late-middle age.

“Cities that become dominated by a single industry, cities that reward generation of wealth and financial success over a sense of shared humanity and community have a hard time preserving social capital,” Sam Altman, the president of YCombinator, told the economist Tyler Cowen in a recent interview. “Where I grew up, no one would walk past a person collapsed on the side of the street on their way to work and not do something about it. I hope I never get used to the fact that that happens in San Francisco.”

True revolution would involve curbing the authority of the San Francisco Planning Commission. If Democrats in the city or in Sacramento actually cared about the poor or the environment (density is green), they would enact a land-value tax and establish a redistributive policy to align the interests of the city, current residents, and future citizens. Strong government housing policy could spur growth and redistribute the city’s wealth fairly. But most of all, the freedom to build and experiment is the engine of Silicon Valley dynamism. Allow the experiments of the few to become the prosperity and fulfillment of the many, and the city could thrive once again.

This is unlikely to happen anytime soon, of course. But If the dream is lost, the skills and funding remain . . . for now. I’m advising all the startups I meet with to consider staying in other cities. And anyone else who comes here should be aware that most bathrooms require a code to enter.

MICHAEL GIBSON is a co-founder of 1517 Fund and was previously the vice president for grants at the Thiel Foundation.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Marinwood CSD Agenda for April 8, 2019

The Secret History of the Suburbs

Steve Bronstein/Getty

The Secret History of the Suburbs

We all know the stereotypes: Suburbia is dull, conformist, and about “keeping up with the Joneses.” But what about the suburbs of utopians and renegades?

The following is an excerpt adapted from the new book Radical Suburbs(Belt Publishing, $16.95).

Back in the early 1960s, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song called “Little Boxes,” inspired by a drive past rows of lookalike pastel-hued houses in a new suburban housing tract in the Bay Area. (Her friend Pete Seeger had a hit with the song in 1963.) Reynolds saw the cookie-cutter houses as both symbols and shapers of the conformist mindset of the people who lived in them—doctors and lawyers who aspired to nothing more than playing golf and raising children who would one day inhabit “ticky-tacky” boxes of their own.

But Reynolds was wrong about who lived in this suburb, Daly City, just south of San Francisco. It was not originally home to the martini-chuffing doctors and lawyers she imagined, but to working-class and lower-middle-class (white) strivers who were the last group to get in on the postwar housing boom.

Then, only a few years after Reynolds wrote the song, Filipinos and other immigrants from Asia began arriving in Daly City. The “ticky-tacky” architecture that Reynolds scorned proved amenable to them remodeling and expanding homes for extended families, and Daly City became the “Pinoy capital” of the U.S., with the highest concentration of immigrants from the Philippines in America.

Clichés and misconceptions still define suburbia in the popular imagination, and it drives me crazy. I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C. I’m a suburbanite, but my life doesn’t revolve around manicured lawns, status anxiety, or a craving for homogeneity. My suburban experience is riding the bus as people chat around me in Spanish and French Creole. It’s having neighbors who hail from Tibet, Brazil, and Kenya as well as Cincinnati. It’s my son attending a school that reflects the diversity—and stubborn inequality—of America today.(Belt Publishing)

The basic story of the suburbs that most Americans know goes something like this: In the 19th and early 20th centuries, country retreats for the wealthy and “streetcar suburbs” popped up on the outskirts of cities. Then, after World War II, new roads and cheap government mortgages drew millions of people—white people, that is—from apartments and rowhouses in the city to freshly graded suburban subdivisions. Many of them were fleeing neighborhoods and schools that African Americans had recently moved into, the destructive phenomenon known as white flight.

Suburbia was where these white, middle-class Americans could isolate themselves from perceived urban ills, in a static and regulated environment where private space, property ownership, racial homogeneity, and the nuclear family were the dominant values.

This isn’t untrue—but it’s far from complete. Radical Suburbs is about waves of idealists who established alternative suburbs outside of Eastern U.S. cities, beginning in the 1820s and continuing through the 1960s. These groups had very different backgrounds and motivations, but all of them believed in the power of the local community to shape moral and social values, and in the freedom provided by outskirts land to live and build in new ways.

As opposed to the groups who went far into America’s interior to settle isolated communes, these were, in a paradoxical-sounding phrase, practical utopians. Staying close to the city let them try out new ways of living with a financial lifeline and emergency exit. Now, at a time when—it could reasonably be argued—the future of the country hangs on what suburbs do over the next 20 or 30 years, their history shows that bold social and architectural experimentation is not alien to suburbia. In fact, it’s a suburban tradition.
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The suburb is not an American or even Western invention. Suburbs have been around as long as cities have. In the third millennium BCE, the suburbs of Ur stretched miles beyond the city. In ancient Rome, the urban outskirts were where the nobility kept “country” retreats. But this zone was also where the Romans pushed what they didn’t want to see, hear, or smell—noxious industries like tanning and brickmaking, for instance.

Even in the Middle Ages, city walls were not the hard boundaries they seemed to be. Suburban zones spilled out beyond them, and people and goods moved back and forth. “[W]alled medieval cities in Europe and elsewhere enlarged their walled areas several times to accommodate their fringe belts and to prepare for future expansion,” writes the urban scholar Shlomo Angel. Prostitutes, gypsies, and lepers were often consigned to live sub urbs, literally “below the city.” The very term implies the height of the protective wall and the uncertain status of those outside its embrace.

The American suburb dates back much further than European colonization. Near St. Louis, archaeologists recently found the remains of a 900-year-old suburb of Cahokia, once the largest Native American city north of Mexico. (The site of the ancient suburb is in the modern town of East St. Louis, Illinois, “halfway between a crumbling meat packing plant and a now-closed strip club,” as NPR reported.)

Boston, New York, and Philadelphia all had suburbs before the Revolutionary War. As was (and still is) the case in Europe, they were mostly for lower socioeconomic groups. The elite stuck to the city center. But the mid-19th century saw the founding of the first suburbs we would easily recognize as such—pastoral upper- and middle-class enclaves including Frederick Law Olmsted’s Riverside, Illinois, and Llewellyn Park in New Jersey. Not coincidentally, this period also saw the rise of a cult of domesticity that promoted the housewife as “the angel in the house,” and the freestanding suburban villa, located a safe distance from urban grime and vice, as the ideal American family residence.A Currier & Ives lithograph of idealized upper-middle-class family life. (Library of Congress)

Well-to-do suburbs that blossomed around American cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the leafy realms of Anglo-Saxon families living in elegant Queen Anne and Tudor Revival houses, such as Kansas City’s Country Club District, Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill, and Beverly Hills, California. Industrial and most commercial activities were often banished from these suburbs, and blacks and Jews were prohibited from purchasing homes by restrictive covenants.

However, even in their heyday, elite enclaves weren’t the norm on the urban periphery. Agriculture still thrived there, often practiced by foreign-born and non-white farmers, while factories encroached. Shantytowns dotted the city’s rim, as did no-frills developments in which people built houses on raw lots, dug wells, kept chickens and cows, and grew vegetables. In his book Places of Their Own, historian Andrew Wiese recounts the history of Chagrin Falls Park, a self-built black suburb of Cleveland, which grew to have hundreds of residents, four churches, an elementary school, and a community center.

Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, communes, colonies, and other intentional settlements kept popping up near cities, too. Among many examples from the early and mid-1800s, a celibate, German-speaking religious sect called the Harmonists built a handsome and prosperous town called Economy, in what is now Ambridge, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s. Proximity to the Pittsburgh market was important for their manufactures and the tourist trade (the town had a hotel and even a museum, one of the first in the U.S.).

The Harmonists kept no private property, holding all goods in common, and the town’s architecture reflected this, with infrastructure like shared bread ovens and a community kitchen for preparing holiday feasts. Unrelated adults sometimes lived together, not unlike in a modern group house. Friedrich Engels wrote admiringly of the Harmonist social system—minus the religion. The sect gradually dwindled in number and finally dissolved in 1905.Friedrich Engels wrote admiringly of the Harmonist social system—minus the religion.

Ten years later, in 1915, a loose band of anarchists and socialists boarded a train in New York and disembarked in central New Jersey, where they set up a colony and progressive school—and evaded police scrutiny back in the city. When they flew the red flag from the water tower, locals climbed up and tore it down. But they were more or less left alone, and the Stelton colony lasted, through the Great Depression and much political infighting, into the 1950s.

Some of its residents commuted into New York, boarding a 5:45 a.m. train to get to their jobs in the Garment District or to sell eggs from the chickens they raised. Many of them lived in basic two- or three-room cottages. They were tiny-house dwellers long before it was a fad—not out of a yen for minimalism, but because that was all they could afford. Renting out any spare rooms to boarders was a common way to supplement incomes. As anarchism waned as a political movement, some colonists trickled away, and the opening of a large Army base nearby when the U.S. entered World War II hastened Stelton’s demise.A child plays a violin in front of a cottage at the Stelton colony in New Jersey. Some middle-class visitors to the colony were shocked by the crude buildings and infrastructure, but the residents, mostly working-class anarchists and socialists, were able to purchase lots and build homes here despite having little money. (Special Collections and University Archives, Rutger University Libraries)

After the war, private homebuilders—armed with techniques of mass production and boosted by government policies—stamped their “little boxes” across thousands of square miles of suburbia. But there were alternatives and challenges to the new tract suburbs.

For example, one unusual homebuilder named Morris Milgramcontested the white supremacy of Levittown almost in its back yard. A former socialist activist, Milgram opened an integrated subdivision of 140 houses called Concord Park in 1954. It was just northeast of Philadelphia, and a few miles away from Levittown, Pennsylvania. Homebuyers included several interracial couples, a few communists, and many nonconformists. Their children played together, while their parents formed a babysitting co-op and bowling, photography, and sewing clubs—just like the residents of any other new suburb.

“SUBURB BREAKS RACIAL BARRIER,” announced a headline in the New York Times. “New Private Housing Project at Philadelphia Integrates Negroes and Whites – NO INCIDENTS OCCUR – Not a Family Has Moved From Colony That Ideals and Tenacity Built.”A monthly neighborhood meeting at Concord Park in 1957, as portrayed in Ebony magazine. (Morris Milgram papers [Coll. 2176], Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Concord Park was close enough to Levittown that in 1957, when Daisy and William Myers, Levittown’s first black residents, were being harassed by an angry mob, the neighborhood dispatched an interracial group to walk over and stand guard over their house.


Even in its counter-cultural variations, the postwar suburb was planned around stay-at-home Mom, Dad, and little Jack and Sally. America now has more single people, one-parent families, and multigenerational clans than nuclear families with young children. Millennials, with anemic wages and lots of student-loan debt, often can’t afford the suburban split-levels they grew up in. And many of them wouldn’t want to buy them if they could, anyway.

It’s the stuff of countless trend pieces, but Millennials really do have a preference for urban living. Polls show they value being able to walk to shops and restaurants and having short commutes. Young adults also report being happier in cities than previous generations did at the same stage in life.

We could be in the middle of the “Great Inversion,” as the writer Alan Ehrenhalt terms it: a national shift from the postwar pattern of wealthy suburbs and poor city, back to the historic norm of elite city and downmarket suburbs. Even if we aren’t, though, rising social inequality and demographic shifts—and above all climate change—make it imperative to rethink who and what our suburbs are for.

Already, some suburban jurisdictions are adapting to new realities, transforming themselves into “urban ’burbs” with pedestrian downtowns, light-rail lines, and denser forms of housing. This conscious urbanization is savvy in terms of meeting younger people’s preferences. But it’s also the only responsible course. The October 2018 report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only a short window of time—until the year 2030—to bring down emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming, and doing so will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Research shows that sprawl-style land use increases greenhouse-gas emissions by decentralizing jobs and services and prompting us to drive more. People who drive everywhere are also less active and therefore more liable to chronic conditions such as diabetes. Suburbs, like cities, need many more neighborhoods where residents can meet daily needs on foot; streets that give priority to walkers, cyclists, and light rail and buses over cars; and high-quality public spaces. Retrofitting suburbia, to quote Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, who wrote a book with that title, is “the big project for this century.”Children play in a fountain in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. (Jose Luis Magana/Reuters)

Unfortunately, the suburbs carry a stigma among the very people who could improve them: architects. The design elite has alternately patronized or inveighed against suburbia for years, ever since the International Congress of Modern Architecture called the suburb “a kind of scum churning against the walls of the city” in 1933.

“The suburb hates itself,” claims the Belgian architect Léon Krier, known for his polemical writings and cartoons in praise of traditional urbanism. For Krier, the suburb is by definition a parasite, a malignancy. “It knows that it is neither countryside nor city and wants to conquer the world because it cannot be at peace with itself,” he has written. “The suburb strangles the city by surrounding it and kills the city, tearing out its heart. A suburb can only survive, it cannot live.”

The idea that they lived in zombie-communities would have been laughable to the early residents of experimental suburbs, who believed they were trailblazers and threw themselves with gusto into public life. In Greenbelt, Maryland, a progressive demonstration town built by the federal government as part of the New Deal, some residents thought they offered a pattern for a society redrawn along different, more cooperative lines. One Greenbelter wrote in a letter to a Washington newspaper on the eve of World War II:

We in Greenbelt have learned that, though as individuals we are feeble, as a group we have power. We have learned the significance and potentiality of united social action—and what greater lesson must our people learn if our democracy is to survive?

Jon Thoreau Scott, a retired university professor who grew up in the Stelton colony, told me, “I think it was the best kind of childhood anybody could ever have.“ Laura Thomas, a retired math teacher, remembers going to see the integrated New Town of Reston, Virginia, in the 1960s with extreme skepticism. She was African American; why would she move to Virginia? But she ended up settling there, raising a family and becoming involved with the civic group Reston Black Focus.The idea that they lived in zombie-communities would have been laughable to the early residents of these experimental suburbs.

“Whatever [Reston’s founder Robert] Simon did, whatever the message was, however he advertised it—I can’t put my finger on it,” Thomas said. “He attracted people who were very different ethnically and socioeconomically. But they had a commonality of point of view about people. And that became the pervasive thing in Reston.”

Behind Krier’s words is a revulsion at the hybrid quality of suburbia—how it confounds the neat binaries of town and country, manmade and natural. I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed in complaints that the suburbs are the “worst of both worlds”—more built-up and trafficked than the countryside yet less exciting than the city.

But what if we chose to embrace suburban in-betweenness instead of condemning it? Over the past 150 years, suburbanites have lived in large communal dwellings and tiny shacks, Modernist apartments and neo-Gothic mansions. They’ve been renters and homeowners, domestic servants and corporate executives. They’ve cultivated both emerald lawns and food crops. They’ve sought escape from social progress, and freedom from convention.

Heavy-handed zoning and land-use regulations might try to make time stand still, but nothing is predestined about the future of suburbia, where most Americans live. Instead of despairing over the suburbs’ problems, we should be inspired by suburban history to try to solve them. As the anarchists at Stelton knew, and the Concord Park residents who stood vigil over the Myers’ house in Levittown: Suburbia is what we make it.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fable: The Fox and the Stork

One day, Mister Fox invited Miss Stork for dinner.
Miss Stork was very pleased with the invitation and accepted.
However, Mister Fox only pretended to be a gentleman and had a very sly personality.
He thought about how he could deceive Miss Stork.
Mister Fox prepared a delicious soup. He arranged the food on flat plates.

It was impossible for Miss Stork to eat from the plate with her long beak.
Any effort from the stork to try to grip some food was useless. Miss Stork was so very sad.
Mister Fox could easily finish his plate with his lapping muzzle.

A few days later, Miss Stork returned the invitation from Mister Fox.
Without a moment of hesitation, he replied that he would go to Miss Stork’s dinner party.
He hurried to be right on time.
Mister Fox praised the politeness of Miss Stork for the re-invitation.
Miss Stork was preparing wonderful meat. She cut the meat in bitesize pieces.
The appetizing smell made his desire for the food irresistable. Mister Fox was very hungry.
But Miss Stork had made her plan how to serve dinner.
She had thought about how she could torture the fox.
She arranged the food into tall and slim vases.

For the stork, it was a convenient way of eating.
Her long beak could go in and out the vase easily.
By all means, the snout of the fox wouldn’t enter the vase.
Mister Fox left the dinner party with drooping head and tail,
The hungry guest had to leave without having any food.
Miss Stork had her revenge on Mister Fox.


Moral of Aesops Fable: "One bad turn deserves another."


San Francisco Homeless and Opiod Epidemic