Saturday, July 27, 2019


California’s Green Bantustan

California’s Green Bantustans

One of the core barriers to economic prosperity in California is the price of housing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Policies designed to stifle the ability to develop land are based on flawed premises. These policies prevail because they are backed by environmentalists, and, most importantly, because they have played into the agenda of crony capitalists, Wall Street financiers, and public sector unions. But while the elites have benefit, ordinary working families have been condemned to pay extreme prices in mortgages, property taxes, or rents, to live in confined, unhealthy, ultra high-density neighborhoods. It is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, but instead of racial superiority as the supposed moral justification, environmentalism is the religion of the day. The result is identical.

Earlier this month an economist writing for the American Enterprise Institute, Mark J. Perry, published a chart proving that over the past four years, more new homes were built in one city, Houston Texas, than in the entire state of California. We republished Perry’s article earlier this week, “California vs. Texas in one chart.” The population of greater Houston is 6.3 million people. The population of California is 38.4 million people. California, with six times as many people as Houston, built fewer homes.

And when there’s a shortage, prices rise. The median home price in Houston is $184,000. The median price of a home in Los Angeles is $530,000, nearly three times as much as a home in Houston. The median price of a home in San Francisco is $843,000, nearly five times as much as home in Houston. What is the reason for this? There may be a shortage of homes, but there is no shortage of land in California, a state of 163,000 square miles containing vast expanses of open space. What happened?

You can argue that San Francisco and Los Angeles are hemmed in by ocean and mountains, respectively, but that really doesn’t answer the question. In most cases, these cities can expand along endless freeway corridors to the north, south, and east, if not west, and new urban centers can arise along these corridors to attract jobs. But they don’t, and the reason for this are the so-called “smart growth” policies. In an interesting report entitled “America’s Emerging Housing Crisis,” Joel Kotkin calls this policy “urban containment.” And along with urban containment, comes downsizing. From another critic of smart growth/urban containment, economist Thomas Sowell, here’s a description of what downsizing means in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb Palo Alto:
“The house is for sale at $1,498,000. It is a 1,010 square foot bungalow with two bedrooms, one bath and a garage. Although the announcement does not mention it, this bungalow is located near a commuter railroad line, with trains passing regularly throughout the day. The second house has 1,200 square feet and was listed for $1.3 million. Intense competition for the house drove the sale price to $1.7 million. The third, with 1,292 square feet (120 square meters) and built in 1895 is on the market for $2.3 million.”

And as Sowell points out, there are vast rolling foothills immediately west of Palo Alto that are completely empty – the beneficiaries of urban containment.

The reason for all of this ostensibly is to preserve open space. This is a worthy goal when kept in perspective. But in California, NO open space is considered immediately acceptable for development. There are hundreds of square miles of rolling foothills on the east slopes of the Mt. Hamilton range that are virtually empty. With reasonable freeway improvements, residents there could commute to points throughout the Silicon Valley in 30-60 minutes. But entrepreneurs have spent millions of dollars and decades of efforts to develop this land, and there is always a reason their projects are held up.

The misanthropic cruelty of these polices can be illustrated by the following two photographs. The first one is from Soweto, a notorious shantytown that was once one of the most chilling warehouses for human beings in the world, during the era of apartheid in South Africa. The second one is from a suburb in North Sacramento. The scale is identical. Needless to say, the quality of the homes in Sacramento is better, but isn’t it telling that the environmentally enlightened planners in this California city didn’t think a homeowner needed any more dirt to call their own than the Afrikaners deigned to allocate to the oppressed blacks of South Africa?

The Racist Bantustan
Soweto, South Africa  –  40′ x 80′ lots, single family dwellings

When you view these two studies in urban containment, consider what a person who wants to install a toilet, or add a window, or remodel their kitchen may have to go through, today in South Africa, vs. today in Sacramento. Rest assured the ability to improve one’s circumstances in Soweto would be a lot easier than in Sacramento. In Sacramento, just acquiring the permits would probably cost more time and money than doing the entire job in Soweto. And the price of these lovely, environmentally correct, smart-growth havens in Sacramento? According to Zillow, they are currently selling for right around $250,000, more than five times the median household income in that city
The Environmentalist Bantustan
Sacramento, California  –  40′ x 80′ lots, single family dwellings
When you increase supply you lower prices, and homes are no exception. The idea that there isn’t enough land in California to develop abundant and competitively priced housing is preposterous. According to the American Farmland Trust, of California’s 163,000 square miles, there are 25,000 square miles of grazing land and 42,000 square miles of agricultural land; of that, 14,000 square miles are prime agricultural land. Think about this. You could put 10 million new residents into homes, four per household, on half-acre lots, and you would only consume 1,953 square miles. If you built those homes on the best prime agricultural land California’s got, you would only use up 14% of it. If you scattered those homes among all of California’s farmland and grazing land – which is far more likely – you would only use up 3% of it. Three percent loss of agricultural land, to allow ten million people to live on half-acre lots!

And what of these lots in North Sacramento? What of these homes that cost a quarter-million each, five times the median household income? They sit thirteen per acre. Not even enough room in the yard for a trampoline.

There is a reason to belabor these points, this simple algebra. Because the notion that we have to engage in urban containment is a cruel, entirely unfounded, self-serving lie. You may examine this question of development in any context you wish, and the lie remains intact. If there is an energy shortage, then develop California’s shale reserves. If fracking shale is unacceptable, then drill for natural gas in the Santa Barbara channel. If all fossil fuel is unacceptable, then build nuclear power stations in the geologically stable areas in California’s interior. If there is a water shortage, than build high dams. If high dams are forbidden, then develop aquifer storage to collect runoff. Or desalinate seawater off the Southern California coast. Or recycle sewage. Or let rice farmers sell their allotments. There are answers to every question.

Environmentalists generate an avalanche of studies, however, that in effect demonize all development, everywhere. The values of environmentalism are important, but if it weren’t for the trillions to be made by trial lawyers, academic careerists, government bureaucrats and their union patrons, crony green capitalist oligarchs, and government pension fund managers and their partners in the hedge funds whose portfolio asset appreciation depends on artificially elevated prices, environmentalism would be reined in. If it weren’t for opportunists following this trillion dollar opportunity, environmentalist values would be kept in their proper perspective.

The Californians who are hurt by urban containment are not the wealthy elites who find it comforting to believe and lucrative to propagate the enabling big lie. The victims are the underprivileged, the immigrants, the minority communities, retirees who collect Social Security, low wage earners and the disappearing middle class. Anyone who aspires to improve their circumstances can move to Houston and buy a home with relative ease, but in California, they have to struggle for shelter, endlessly, needlessly – contained and allegedly environmentally correct.

San Francisco Bay Blues

Friday, July 26, 2019

Why doesn't the Marinwood CSD Brewfest make money? The CSD isn't telling

Asking a simple question about the Marinwood Brewfest held on July 22, 2017 gets an evasive response. While a similar brewfest held in Novato recently made $40,000, the brewfest in Marinwood made only "about $400" for an estimated 315 attendees despite the FREE BEER DONATIONS. Tickets for the event were $15. which entitled a small sample of beer. More beer was available for additional cost. Also, childcare was available for $10 for the five hour event. At the very minimum the event brought in $4750 in gross revenue but it is likely to be double that amount through additional sales. Many of the beer pourers were volunteers and so the cost of the event was quite low. The tent rental was $1000 and the bands were paid an unknown sum by the CSD. Notice how pointed questions were evaded by the staff and the board. Chief Roach interrupts the public saying that "we don't know the costs". Leah Kleinman Green, Marinwood CSD director, claims that there is no need to know the details of the event since EVENTS ARE NOT MEANT TO MAKE MONEY. Strange answers from a board who claims to look after the public interest and manage our CSD interest. This absolutely stinks and deserves further investigation by an unbiased higher authority. Why isn't our General Manager, Eric Dreikosen asking the same questions? Leah Kleinman Green reminds the public that SHE IS IN CHARGE and doesn't need to respond to public demands for accountability. As typical Green interupts and bullies the public whenever they are challenged. This is a total abuse of power and the civic process. She is not a queen.

Shane Demarta announced his resignation shortly after this video was made in 2017

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The best way to evaluate your beliefs? Engage with people who disagree with you

The best way to evaluate your beliefs? Engage with people who disagree with you

Art of a couple.
(Anthony Russo / For The Times)
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously observed that if everyone is a Lutheran then no one is a Lutheran. What he meant is that if you’re born into a culture in which everybody has a similar worldview, you don’t have an opportunity to develop genuine belief because your convictions are not subject to scrutiny.
Put another way, if you don’t talk to people who hold different views, you will not know what they believe, and you won’t even know what you believe. Having conversations with people who hold beliefs different from yours affords you the opportunity to reflect — and only then can you evaluate whether your beliefs hold true.
Immigration. Abortion Gun control . The seemingly impossible issue du jour is irrelevant. What is relevant: To justify your confidence you must sincerely engage people who have solid arguments against your position.
Over the last few years, Americans seem to have convinced themselves that not speaking to people who hold different moral and political beliefs makes us better people — even on college campuses where intellectual sparring has historically been part of the curricula. It does not. However, it does make us less likely to revise our beliefs and more likely to convince ourselves that others should believe as we do.
Over time, failure to have conversations across divides cultivates a belief myopia that strengthens our views and deepens our divisions.
Forget about healing political divides, overcoming polarization or the dangers of mischaracterizing people who hold different beliefs. Reaching out and speaking with someone who has different ideas is beneficial, not for utopian social reasons, but for your own good — for your “belief hygiene.” You engage in dental hygiene not to bring insurance costs down for the masses, but because you don’t want cavities, pain and gum disease.
You should engage in belief hygiene for similarly selfish reasons: It’s an opportunity to reflect upon what you believe and why you believe it. If other social goods happen to occur as a byproduct — friendships, increased understanding, changed minds — that’s great.
Having conversations across divides isn’t particularly complicated.

Figure out why someone believes what they believe. The best way to do this is simply to ask, “Why do you believe that?” and then listen. Don’t tell them why they’re wrong or “parallel talk” and explain what you believe. Figure out their reasons for their belief by asking questions. Then ask yourself if their conclusions are justified by the rationale they provided.
Call out extremists on your side. Identify the authoritarians and fundamentalists who claim to represent your views and speak bluntly about how they take things too far. This is a way to build trust and signal that you’re not an extremist. (If you can’t figure out how your side goes too far, that may be a sign that you are part of the problem and need to moderate your beliefs.)
Let people be wrong. It’s OK if someone doesn’t believe what you believe. Far more often than not, their beliefs don’t present an existential threat — they’re just one person — and you’ll be just fine. Don’t even bother to push back or point out holes in their arguments. Listen, learn and let them be wrong. Conclude by thanking them for the conversation. (As a good rule of thumb, the more strongly you disagree with someone’s position, the more important it is to thank them for the discussion and end on a high note.)
In our highly polarized environment, talking to those who hold different beliefs isn’t easy, but it’s easier than you think. Fewer people talking across divides creates a hunger for honest, sincere conversation. But what there should really be is a hunger for truth. And the best way to achieve that is to subject your beliefs to scrutiny.
Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay are the authors of the forthcoming book “How to Have Impossible Conversations.”
Twitter: @peterboghossian and @ConceptualJames

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Miller Creek School Construction wrecks Heritage Tree

Miller Creek Middle school has embarked on a major construction project in Marinwood and "forgot" to tell the neighbors.  It involves replacing old portable classrooms but the details are not known.  No construction notices or plans announced this project. This 6/20/19 clip shows a backhoe hacking branches off a heritage California Bay Tree (Umbellularia californica ) in violation of Marin County policy.  The backhoe is also digging on a protected  Heritage Site of the Miwok Tribe who occupied this land for 4500 years until 1820.  It was a Miwok village known as Cotomko 'tca.

I believe the Marinwood community will support a responsible project and construction.  We urge the Dixie School district to halt questionable construction practices that harms heritage trees and a cultural site.  

Open communication will go a long way to bridge misunderstanding.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.'