Saturday, July 13, 2019

Marin County waives permit fees on Junior Accessory Units

The Granny Flat War … From Someone Who’s Been In It

The Granny Flat War … From Someone Who’s Been In It


UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL--On August 31, 2016, the LA City Council could make a huge mistake that will have lasting impacts on our community.

Once upon a time, the city of Los Angeles created regulations that protected the characteristics of single family home zones.

In essence, some of these regulations prevented homeowners from building big second homes on a single family home property. Makes sense, right? Because that’s what “single family home zone” means.

So, in LA, a wide variety of different neighborhoods are zoned R-01. And these R-01 neighborhoods are really a great place to live, partly because our city’s zoning regulations have helped to keep them that way.

These regulations did allow homeowners in those zones to build another detached home on the property. But that structure had to be small, low profile, and it couldn’t have a separate address. According to LA’s regulations, homeowners were free to build “granny flats” for their relatives to live in. And remember, they are always free to add an addition to their home. That was never in question.

This worked, for the most part, to protect the character of the neighborhood. It guarded against overdevelopment.

But one day, in 2010, the Planning Department made a mistake, based on incorrect legal advice, instructing officials to ignore the City’s standards, and instead, to follow the state standards, which are much more lenient. For the next six years, the City issued about 75 permits each year for second units in these single family home neighborhoods. Almost all of the permits were for structures that exceeded the City’s adopted standards.

Earlier this year, a judge determined that the Planning Department’s “ZA Memo 120” was not legal. Since then, permitting for these structures (even the small ones that would have met the city’s regulations) has been halted.

But instead of amending the City’s regulations, City Council is now considering throwing out the regulations entirely and defaulting to the considerably more lenient state’s standards. In essence, this would mean returning to ZA Memo 120, which a Judge has already revoked.

Why does LA have different zoning standards than the state of California? Because LA has specific needs. Just like every other major metropolitan city in this country, our city has adopted regulations to protect against overdevelopment and against negative impacts on the environment, infrastructure, and the character of neighborhoods.

All of this may seem silly to Angelenos who live on larger parcels of land or in apartment buildings. They might say, what’s the point? If it is your land, you should be allowed to use it any way you want. Right?

I can see why some may think that. But imagine if you lived in my neighborhood:

Welcome to the quintessential San Fernando Valley single family neighborhood. Our houses are very close together. In my cute, quiet little neighborhood known as “Kester Ridge” in Van Nuys, our mostly small houses sit on mostly small lots. Our fences (which cannot exceed eight feet in our backyard) create the barriers which afford us some visual, if not acoustic, privacy.

Our backyards aren’t huge, but they offer a great place to relax; most of them are big enough to accommodate a small pool or a nice little garden. Most of the lots are approximately 50 feet wide and average about 6,000 square feet. Almost every house in the neighborhood is only one story high.

So imagine you've just bought your dream home, right here in this cute little neighborhood. It took every penny you had. But you've worked hard, you turned it into a beautiful home, and you’ve promised yourself that you are finally going to relax and lay out by the pool in your lovely backyard.

A few months later, the property right behind you goes up for sale. And the guy who buys it is a developer. He tells you that he doesn’t have any intention of actually moving to your little neighborhood. His car, an Aston Martin, gives you an idea of where he calls home.

He’s going use the property to generate rental income. His plan is to rent out the main property, and, thanks to ZA Memo 120, he's also going to rent out a second house which he plans to build in the backyard! It’s going to be two stories high with just as much square footage as the main house.

The backyard isn’t very big, so he’s going to have to build as close to your back fence as the law allows. He tells you that he's got properties like this all over LA.

This developer has started an LLC for the property, and between the two homes on a single lot, he will be generating $6,000 a month in rental income. He doesn’t care one bit about the fact that your ability to enjoy your yard (to say nothing of your property value) just went down as a result of his actions.

He says: “This isn’t my first rodeo.”

So, you take a moment. You try to process this: A large, two-story tall, very visible structure in the small backyard -- even though the very concept of a single family neighborhood means that this sort of thing isn't supposed to happen.

But he gets the permit. And no one in the City even notifies you that this was happening. You live right next to the property, well within the 500-foot range. How is this possible? If there had been a particular time to voice your opinion on the matter, no one in the government told you when it was.

You try to talk to your political representative in City Council. They keep calling it a “granny flat.” But it’s not a granny flat. It's huge. It’s a fully functioning second home, with its own house number, mailbox, and soon, a whole bunch of tenants.

You do some research online. Even California’s Legislative Analyst has determined that this type of “urban infill” in single family home zones is not going to solve the affordable housing crisis. In fact, this type of new structure isn’t even going to make a dent in the affordable housing crisis, because there is no requirement to price it affordably. They’ll be renting at market rates. But the politicians keep throwing around the term “affordable housing” when they discuss this issue. Strange, isn't it?

So this developer builds -- full steam ahead. The framing goes up. It’s big. And tall. And man, it’s close! You think, well, maybe we’ll get used to it. And then one day you come home to see the framing for the second story window: it looks right down onto your pool, your yard and into your bedroom!

The building is so close to its own property line that the people living in it won’t be able to see their own yard from the window. But yours? Well, they’ll be thrilled that you've given them such a lovely view. Too bad that you can’t say the same about your new view. (See photo above.)

This is how it happens. And because this unfair and previously illegal thing has happened to you, you decide to sell your dream home. And the winning bidder? Well, wouldn’t you know it -- a developer. If this process continues ad infinitum, say goodbye to the very notion of a single-family neighborhood.

Wealthy developers will have a huge opportunity to make a lot of money for themselves if the SDU ordinance is repealed. They will be able to outbid the average homebuyer and will overdevelop every property they can get their hands on.

I have read a few misinformed articles that frame this issue differently. The politicians who are in favor of the repeal of the SDU Ordinance are likely in the pockets of wealthy developers whose projects have been put on hold. These smart politicians are smart to hold actual, legitimate granny flats hostage: they know all too well that if you create a crisis that arouses public sympathy, you can exploit it.

This is all about greed. It opens the door to rampant overdevelopment…not granny.

Here’s what I’m hoping my City Councilmembers will do:

Investigate the environmental impacts of any possible changes to zoning laws before they make those changes. For instance, more “urban infill” means more concrete, therefore less groundwater is absorbed, making both the drought and the flooding, due to the lack of storm drains in my neighborhood, even worse.

Discuss this issue with the public, and do it in a way that is intellectually honest. Don’t tie this repeal to the creation of affordable housing. And that includes you, Mr. Mayor! California’s Legislative Analyst's Office has determined that urban infill will not solve the affordable housing shortage in Los Angeles. In fact, the LAO has determined that this repeal won't even offer a small supply of "affordable" housing for anothertwenty-five years. Our politicians need to stop spinning this issue. It's unethical to confuse constituents into submission. We deserve better.

Remember, this isn't about granny flats. While I strongly oppose the repeal, I support the public’s right to build granny flats that are appropriate for the size of one’s immediate community. We just need our politicians to create the right laws -- or common-sense amendments to existing regs -- to make that happen.

Our politicians have a number of potential solutions that don’t involve repealing the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance, leaving us vulnerable to overdevelopment. They should do their due diligence and behave with integrity. If revisions to the Second Dwelling Unit ordinance are necessary, at the very least they must be considered with adequate public outreach. It is not in LA's best interest to discard our protective local standards.

I repeat: the politicians have several options at their disposal. Those options should not include throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Please contact your LA City Councilmember before Wednesday, August 31 about this important issue. We need a lot more support because the developers have been lobbying the City Council hard for the past six months.

(Dannielle Langlois is film and television actress who lives in Van Nuys, next door to the above “second unit dwelling.”) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Editor's Note: Something to consider when approving granny flat ordinances. Would you like a tall structure staring down into your backyard everyday?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Marinwood CSD will install Story Poles for the Maintenance Shed

Friends of Marinwood Park gathered over 200 signatures in 2018 to object to the Maintenance Shed.  When people saw the huge size of the facility that will be imposed directly on our walkpath, they became outraged.

The Marinwood CSD called us liars.  We asked for "official story poles" and were denied.  Finally the Marin County Community Planning department insisted on them in April 2019.  The CSD appears finally ready to install the poles in July 2019.

The story poles will show the massive size of the facility that is THREE TIMES the size of a similar McInnis Park facility. McInnis Park employs double the staff and manages 26 times the acreage yet Marinwood Park "needs" a maintenace building THREE TIMES the size?!!

Friends of Marinwood Park support a facility in scale of our tiny park and staff needs.  They do NOT support the current Marinwood Park design.

The Marinwood CSD REF?USES to accept 200 petitions to have a hearing on the Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility

Architect Bill Hansell, a former Marinwood CSD politician claims that story poles don't tell the truth.

How not to be ignorant about the world | Hans and Ola Rosling

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Marinwood CSD meeting July 9, 2019

LAFCO  presents initial study of Marinwood and CSA 13 and makes recommendations for increased Capital Asset planning and possible full merger of Marinwood with adjoining departments. Wildfire Safety report by Marin Grand Jury discussed .  Discussion from public regarding the lack of transparency of fire commission, that holds few meetings, no detailed meeting notes or recordings of any kind. Eric Driekosen presents plan for storm drain replacement in park and the park maintenance facility. Board reminded that the Architect, former Marinwood CSD Director Bill hansell is well over 300%  over budget and has not produced a  drawing that conforms with Marin County building codes.  The plan is unworkable since it fails to take account for space needs for vehicles and loading operations.  Eric Dreikosen did not respond.

Dixie changes name to Miller Creek Elementary School District

Dixie changes name to Miller Creek Elementary School District

Elementary school name changed to Lucas Valley Elementary School

The sign for Dixie Elementary School sits at the school’s parking lot entrance in San Rafael, Calif. on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

By KERI BRENNER | | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: July 9, 2019 at 9:10 pm | UPDATED: July 10, 2019 at 6:12 am

Despite a strong pocket of objections, Dixie School District trustees voted 3 to 1, with one abstention, on Tuesday to adopt a new district name: Miller Creek Elementary School District.

“It is Dixie by proxy,” said Marin name change activist Kerry Pierson, referring to the new name’s connection to the founder of the Dixie School District, James Miller. “All the arguments that it’s after the (Miller Creek) watershed are just — it should be clear to any observer what this is about: it’s about white privilege, white power, in a little district.”

District parent and resident Jason Lewis, a supporter of the name change and a petitioner for Miller Creek, disagreed.

“I don’t believe the word Dixie and the name Miller have the same (racial) significance in this country,” he said. He said accusations that were brought to the naming advisory committee about James Miller “were not based on fact; they were based on speculation.”

Board members Alissa Chacko, Brooks Nguyen and Brad Honsberger, who voted in favor of Miller Creek, said they saw widespread support for the name, not only from former “We Are Dixie” members who wanted to keep the name Dixie, but from people, like Lewis, who wanted to change the name.

“I saw names of people (on the petitions) I never saw before,” Chacko said. “That was inspiring.”

Trustee Marnie Glickman voted against Miller Creek, saying she wanted to respect the work of the naming advisory committee, who rejected Miller Creek twice because of its association with James Miller. The advisory committee recommended Kenne, Creekside and Laurel Creek, all of which were denied by the board. Trustee Megan Hutchinson abstained.

The board also voted 4 to 1 in favor of changing Dixie Elementary School to Lucas Valley Elementary School. Glickman cast the sole no vote.

The new names are intended to be put in place by the time the new school year starts Aug. 22. Marin Community Foundation has pledged to help with the cost of the name changes, which will include new signs, letterhead, business cards, website edits and other items..

Tuesday’s decisions came after the board of trustees in April voted 3 to 1, with one abstention, to change the name of the district and the elementary school to remove the word Dixie. Critics said Dixie was a nod to the racism and slavery of the Confederacy in the Civil War-era South, and was hurtful to people of color and others who found it objectionable. People who wanted to keep the name Dixie said it was part of the community heritage and that they didn’t want to erase history.

After the vote in April, the district formed two naming advisory committees — one for the district and the other for the elementary school — to gather community feedback and narrow down choices for new names for presentation to the board on June 25. Petitions with 15 valid signatures of district voters were required for the district name proposals; the elementary school process did not require petitions.

The issue, which has come up several times before over the past two decades but was not resolved, has roiled the north San Rafael community — and burned through a harsh and bitter trail on social media and at public meetings — for almost nine months. That was after some name change supporters appeared on local TV news in August 2018, including trustee Marnie Glickman, who attended Tuesday’s meeting via teleconference. Some residents who objected to those actions have launched a petition drive to recall Glickman, whose term is up in 2020.

Former Dixie School District Superintendent Jason Yamashiro, who was also one of the people in the TV news broadcast, quit the job earlier this year and left at the end of June. An interim superintendent, Becky Rosales, had her first day on the job Tuesday and was introduced to the community at the start of the Tuesday’s meeting, just before the public hearing. The board is expected to launch a search for a new superintendent in the fall.  See the full article HERE

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Marinwood Maintenance Facility- Truck Turn around will destroy Meadow

Here is an approximation of the area needed to turn around our Ford F250 in the Meadow several hundred feet east of the proposed maintenance facility.  You can view the crushed plant life in this meadow where the Marinwood Maintenance workers use it to turn around today.  It is visible in the high grass but it is difficult to show in a photo.   

Marinwood CSD's Ford F250 truck has a turning radius of 51.9 feet.  It is 22 feet long and often carries a heavy dump trailer that is approximately 20 feet in length.   The proposed maintenance facility allows NO ROOM for turn around of these vehicles and so they will need to continue to this spot in Marinwood Park to turn around.

We think this is unacceptable.  Marinwood Park is valuable open space, a recreational path and a nature education trail.  The architect did not include this area in the Site Plan submission to Marin County Community Planning.  They did not consider the impact to the landscape or the architectural treasures known to exist from the Miwok settlement Cotomko'tca.

If the proposed Maintenance Facility is allowed to be built without modification, this area will become a heavily beaten road with muddy ruts in wet conditions.  

Unfortunately, the proposed "drive through facility" is THREE TIMES the size of McInnis Park's Maintenance facility completed in 2018 and covers more area.  It is grossly over sized for our tiny park and takes away valuable land for recreation and preservation.  

We urge Marinwood CSD to consider a simple narrow facility in scale with our park using Option #3

I urge you to visit the site and note the erosion from ephemeral steams and also the sinkhole in this same meadow.  This is NOT an area for heavy vehicles.

The proposed Marinwood Maintenance facility should be rejected in its current form or at least require a true site plan of impacted land and require adequate environmental study.
The sink hole is still not repaired since February 2019.  Management wants to hire an expert to inspect the hole before they fix it. They have already hired one expert for $1700 to render an opinion.  Filling it up for public safety immediately seems like a good idea. 
Maintenance Shed Option #3 designed by Irv Schwartz is the environmentally preferred option.

The CSD is running into problems with the FATALLY FLAWED Maintenance Shed Design a.k.a. "White Elephant"

Received this note from Michelle Levenson of the Marin County Community Development Department

"Hi Stephen-On May 29, 2019, the District requested an extension to the 60-day time frame to submit those items requested in my April 2, 2019 “Project Status” letter. The extension was granted and the District now has until July 31, 2019 to submit the requested items."

So it looks like the CSD is running into problems.  This is not surprising since their great obstacles are PHYSICAL limitations of the Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility design.  As you have seen from my previous posts, the lot and the building do not allow the necessary movement of vehicles for a landscape operation.

No amount of the architect's arrogance can overcome this reality.  

We have demonstrated the CSD Maintenance Facility site plan grossly under estimates actual amount of space needed for vehicles.  The meadow and the area in front of the building must be used for the movement of vehicles.  The CSD site plan shows these areas as open space a recreation walking path.  This is an outright deception.  The vehicles must use these areas for turn around and loading operations.  The area is now used for landscaping waste despite safety and aesthetic concerns. This will be unchanged.

The current Marinwood CSD plan cannot be salvaged due to the thoughtless design.  Had the architect, Bill Hansell actually considered early comments from the public, he would have avoided this problem entirely and designed a building conforming to the lot constraints.   I estimate that the CSD has now paid former CSD Director and architect Bill Hansell $40,000 for a plan that is essentially useless.

Had the CSD chosen one of the many attractive kit barn alternatives available ($20 to $50k), we will have a completed project by now for much less.

We must continue to submit substantive comments to the planning commission.  Your voice is important to show the diversity of public opposition to the current Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility  Plan seen here.  Please send your comments to .

Examples of prefab garage/offices that are available for less than $40k

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Occupational Licensing Parody



 THE FROGS were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. I n mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.


"How now!" cried Jupiter "Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes."
Be sure you can better your condition before you seek to change.

‪The “virtue” of government charity‬