Friday, June 7, 2019

Will Mega Dormitories be built in our Neighborhood too?

A rendering of Starcity's proposed co-living complex, slated to be built in downtown San Jose. Starcity

The Largest Co-Housing Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

The co-living startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

Jon Dishotsky likes to tell the story of how he grew up in a co-housing compound, of a sort. His father, a Stanford professor, hosted dozens of students over the years, who paid low rent and cycled in and out of his suburban Palo Alto home. They’d share meals with his family and pitch in to take care of Dishotsky when his parents were busy. They helped build a zip line. It was a kind of ad-hoc community; he’s still in touch with some of these ex-students.

Dishotsky, the co-founder/CEO of the co-housing start-up Starcity, is now working to fill America’s housing-strapped cities with a scaled-up version of his childhood idyll. Since launching in 2016, the company has broken ground on seven developments in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In most Starcity buildings, renters get a furnished 130- to 220-square-foot bedroom and share a communal kitchen and living space. In a addition to a “generous bathroom to room ratio,” the company touts a range of Millennial-friendly amenities, including an honor library, “locally sourced foliage,” and Bob Ross painting nights. Rents range from $1,400 to $2,400 a month. “We’ll make the living arrangements delightful and sustainable so that people can stay in cities long-term,” Starcity’s website promises. “We will do this by redefining the meaning of home.”

That definition is about to get a whole lot larger. Last week, the company got the green light to start work on its biggest project—an 18-story building with 803 units in the heart of downtown San Jose, a city in the crosshairs of California’s housing crisis. This Titanic of co-housing is set to be the biggest shared-living-space-cum-mega-dorm-for-emerging-adults ever conceived. Rents will start in the low-$2,000s, including furnishings, utilities, WiFi, and rapport-building building-wide events.

Starcity is just one of a growing cadre of startups offering variations on this communal-living theme. Bungalow has converted more than 300 single-family homes to co-housing spaces in 10 U.S. cities. Common offers shared suites in six cities. WeLive, owned by the co-working goliath WeWork, rents studio and one-to-four bedroom apartments as well as communal ones in New York City and Washington D.C. And The Collective, a global brand, has high-rise co-housing complexes in London, New York, and soon, Chicago.

These outfits all seem to speak the same aesthetic language. Their sleek promotional materials scream “Instagrammable Friends episode, but more diverse,” or perhaps just “Coke commercial sponsored by Wayfair.” Their roots, however, lie someplace older and grubbier: the low-budget single room occupancy hotels, or SROs, of the early 20th century. Just as industrial cities looked to SROs and flophouses to shelter their booming young urban workforce, Starcity is making buildings that can accommodate the live-work-play (but crucially, always-work) demands of a new labor class.

Starcity considers itself distinct from SROs, however, in how it uses each building, as Curbed SF reported: “95 percent of the usable square footage in an SRO is renters’ rooms, with the remaining five percent mostly hallways. By comparison, a Starcity building is about 65 percent bedrooms, and 20 percent of the building is dedicated to ‘communal spaces and kitchens.’” And renters commit to living there longer than the transient characters who once bunked at week-to-week boarding houses: More than 70 percent of tenants want leases longer than month-to-month, Dishotsky told Curbed.

See Article HERE

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Russian Street Musicians

It's not Yes in My Back Yard -- it's Yes in Your Back Yard.

It's not Yes in My Back Yard -- it's Yes in Your Back Yard. A perspective from a long-time working-class family home owner (aka Land Baron).

JUNE 4, 2019

There are no Yimbys.

Yimby stands for Yes In My Back Yard. But Yimby advocates don’t have backyards. It’s other peoples’ backyards they want. They just can’t say that.Yimbys shout down a rally against SB 827, which would have allowed more density in other people’s back yards.

I was struck by the fact that advocates of limitless market-rate housing adopted this term to describe themselves. Politically, they don’t support backyards, believing backyards are land that should be developed instead of being preserved as gardens, gathering places, or open space for families.

The Yimbys fiercely support the state eliminating most local zoning altogether — the zoning that is the bedrock of lasting stability in communities. They ardently support development “by-right” without restrictions, and also strongly support the right of the state to allow developers up to six exemptions from such mandates as rear yards, open space, and set-backs. I note that their advocacy aligns perfectly with right-wing deregulators.

So it struck me that Yes In My Back Yard is a myth. The term should be “Yes In Other People’s Back Yards,” or Yes in Your Back Yard, Yiybys, as Calvin Welch put it when we talked recently.

After reading a recent NY Times op-ed, and a recent piece in Nation Magazine, and listening to the dominant narrative from Yimby spokespersons, I have learned that as a progressive working-class native San Franciscan and homeowner, it is my fault and the fault of other progressives who have blocked the development of sufficient housing for the thousands upon thousands of high tech workers who want to live in San Francisco. Damn! My bad.

Never mind that I and other community residents have over years — decades — of volunteer and full-time nonprofit work caused to be constructed more truly affordable housing units for working class and low-income folks than all the Bay Area Yimbys put together. The affordable housing has been promoted by community activists, not by developers.

Senator Wiener’s SB50 literally spells out that developments of ten units or less, such as will be allowed in areas zoned RH-3,RH-2 and RH-1, will be exempt from building any affordable units, and alternatively developers will be allowed to build McMansions in lieu of mid-rise condos.

I am clear that the housing we need the most is for existing lower income working class and middle-class residents. Over decades our city leaders have allowed, invited and with huge tax breaks, encouraged the influx of a massive concentration of capital in San Francisco. The huge public investment that has enabled the concentration of capital has never been recovered by our city. Instead, our city continues to use taxpayer money to pave the way for Google, Uber, and Facebook, et. al despite the obvious need for regulation and limitation to sustain livability for the city’s residents and workers.

The population that is to be the chief beneficiary for the current Yiyby narrative is that portion of the top 30 percent of wage earners who work in the tech industry and who want to live where there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and gyms, and reside in the cool areas of town, usually ethnic and working-class communities.

What they are saying about development is: Yes in Your Back Yard. Because Nimbys don’t have back yards.

Article in  HERE

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Marinwood Drive Through Maintenance facility is a bust

The Marinwood "Drive Through" Maintenance Facility now before the Marin County Planning board is completely unworkable for the maintenance department and our service vehicles.  The video below shows why. Our maintenance department has a 2018 Ford F250 truck that is 22 feet long and a 16' dump trailer. Just like the truck in the short video, our F250 needs 51.9 feet to turn around .   
This means that our truck will be on the edge of Miller Creek stream bank every time it needs to turn around, rain or shine. More likely it will drive to the meadow to turn around and destroy this lovely area too.

In 2007, a catastrophic flood destroyed the stream bank below the current maintenance facility to prevent it from being lost.  If you look at the eastern edge of the maintenance shed, you will see the edge of the stream bank.

While the proposed maintenance facility is further away from the current garage area, it is still far too close to the stream bank where flooding occurs.  It is COMPLETELY within the restricted area under the 2007 Stream Conservation Ordinance.

This would be bad news for the CSD but fortunately,  Irv Schwartz, noted Marin Civil Engineer and former CSD Director came up with the best solution in 2017 called "Option 3".  It is a conventional maintenance facility design that is long and narrow and is situated next to the fence line.  It is the same size as the McInnis Park facility or about ONE THIRD the size and cost of the proposed Marinwood Park facility.
Option #3 is the "environmentally preferred" option for our next maintenance facility.

Tell the Marinwood CSD/ Marin County to stop wasting money on a maintenance compound that will destroy our park.  Design a new facility based on Option Three. 

Send your comments to
and Michelle Levenson, Marin County Planner  

Marinwood CSD Turnaround Lies

The actual turnaround radius is 51.9 feet according for a Ford f250 according to manufacturers data.  We apologize for the estimate of 30 feet in the video. The architect Bill Hansell is not telling the truth.  There is not enough room to turn the truck at the end of the Maintenance facility. It would result in the truck driving at the edge of the streambank.This is a fatal flaw that could have been avoided if the architect consulted the manufacturers turning radius data.

Marinwood CSD has paid Former CSD director Hansell over $30,000 so far for plans that must be discarded because of this simple error.  Marinwood CSD manager, Eric Dreikosen allowed this costly mistake that easily could have been avoided.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Why "Zoning Shock Therapy" doesn't make housing less expensive.

Falling Rock Story

Falling Rock Story


An Indian chief, Rising Sun, was concerned with how white men were expanding across the forests, plains, and mountains. His tribe was very small, but as every tribe and nation was being overpowered and sent to reservations, he came up with a plan to save the People.
His son, Falling Rock, was a strong, intelligent, and trustworthy young man and Rising Sun loved him very much. Rising Sun asked Falling Rock to travel across the whole of the country and talk to every tribe he met. He was to convince them to join forces and repel the invasion of the white men.
Falling Rock left in the spring with 4 other braves.

When the leaves fell in late summer, one brave returned to Rising Sun to tell him that they had contacted all the tribes in the desert SouthWest.
When the snow began, another brave returned telling of their success with the Great Lakes tribes.
A third brave arrived home just as the spring flowers bloomed and told how the strong tribes of the Rocky Mountains were ready.
Finally, the last brave returned in high summer from the Eastern tribes with their promise to fight. This last brave also said that Falling Rock was now racing back to all the tribes, telling them to meet at the Mississippi river in the spring for the great war.

Rising Sun's small tribe prepared for battle and, when the snow melted, they traveled to the Mississippi. They waited there through spring and summer, but no other warriors arrived. At the end of summer, Rising Sun sent braves out in all directions to track down Falling Rock while the tribe waited.
By snowfall, all the warriors had reached the other tribes and returned to Rising Sun. All the tribes had waited to hear when the war was to take place, but Falling Rock had not been seen by any of them so they had stayed put. This worried Rising Sun terribly since he loved his son and missed him terribly.

The small tribe was forced to wait there through the harsh winter and when spring arrived, so did the white soldiers. They surrounded Rising Sun's tribe. Rising Sun knew they could never win without the other tribes so he talked to the leader of the soldiers.

Rising Sun promised to go peacefully to a reservation if the white men would promise to help him find his lost son. This was a small price for avoiding a fight so the white men agreed and Rising Sun's tribe did not resist.

To this day, Rising Sun waits for his son to return. And, to this day, the white men have held up their end of bargain struck that day. People across the country are still searching and everyone is asked to help. That is why you will see signs along the road that say, "Watch for Falling Rock".

Most of Britain's Parliament is not elected... Meet THE LORDS (Lesson for MTC)