Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lucas Valley Elementary school sign installed

An Email to LAFCO that gave Eric Dreikosen a panic attack

Dear LAFCO director, Jason Fried:

Thank you for your July 11th presentation to the Marinwood CSD about the future for this district.

I think you have identified a few important areas for the Marinwood CSD and I agree with your early conclusions.

1.) Marinwood CSD needs better capital planning 
2.) A merger of Marinwood Fire Department with another agency or outsourcing of our fire protection services is necessary.   

Both of the above should be implemented aa soon as possible for the benefit of the community.

As a long time participant in Marinwood CSD politics as both a Parks and Recreation commissioner, a political candidate and active community volunteer, I am very interested in the long term stewardship of our community.

In addition to the above issues, I have observed many unethical business practices and flagrant abuse of the political process to benefit a small circle of insiders.  We have briefly discussed this by phone in June.

1.) The Marinwood CSD has TWO sets of accounting books but only one is reported the Marin County and the public.  The second set of books for cash business of the parks and recreation department is "self reported income" and is unaudited. In other words, funds are being skimmed from recreation programs to pay for prizes, special events, cash bonuses, etc.  

I believe this is illegal and ALL the CSD Directors know and approve of this "accounting" as a way to reward staff.  This has been occuring since the recession when staff salaries were frozen due to budget constraints.  The practice continues to this day.

For example, this weekend the Marinwood CSD brewfest will be happening.  It is a huge money maker but they hardly ever make money.  The CSD sells tickets @ $20.00 a piece to an hundreds of attendees. (We don't actually know the number since they will not reveal it).  Breweries provide the beer for FREE.  The CSD somehow never seems to be able to "clear expenses" after costs and makes just a few hundred dollars. The other costs are entertainment, tent rental, contract labor costs, etc.  

Brewfests in other communities regularly earn $25-$75k and are fundraisers for charity.  In Marinwood the revenue is poured back into "the cash fund" that is used to pay for "off budget" items.

Skimming is fraud.    I don't know what extent the Marinwood CSD is skimming revenues.  Only a forensic audit can determine this.  I do know that it has been occuring for years and must stop.  Here is a portion of a Q and A with the former CSD Rec Director, Shane DeMarta discussing the brewfest revenue. Note how he dodges questions and the CSD board defends this practice.

At the center of much of this activity is former CSD Director Bill Hansell.  He manages all of the entertainment events as a "volunteer". Of course he also is the manager for the bands and we assume he is paid a "management fee" from the band aka "kickback"

2.) The Marinwood CSD has NEVER properly solicited bids for work as required by law.  All of the work goes to "friends" of the CSD board.  The recent"Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility" architect was hired in secret and not surprisingly,  Bill Hansel, former CSD manager was hired for an estimated cost of $13,000.  His current billing is expected to be around $40,000 despite not completing a satisfactory plan that complies with Marin County Building regulations.  The current Marinwood CSD director, Eric Dreikosen was hired by Bill Hansell while he was a CSD director.  It is a classic case of conflict of interest.  Here is a portion of the meeting.

Note how the board rushes to quiet up the controversy.  This is an "open secret" that the CSD board does not want to address.  I do believe Leah Green and the board are complicit in the illegal accounting and contracting practices. Only a full investigation by an outside agency can arrive at the truth.

I have more but this is a good start.  I believe that LAFCO has a great opportunity to improve the delivery of government services for the people of Marinwood CSD.

Eric Dreikosen Attacks me for daring to Criticize the Marinwood CSD

Eric Dreikosen, Marinwood CSD General Manager, hired by former CSD director Bill Hansell, and current directors Leah Green, Izabela Perry and Bill Shea. He had no prior government management or accounting experience. He has been learning on the job since 2016 and it shows. 

Dreikosen submitted his comments attacking me at the last minute and I did not have a chance to respond.  I stand by my original comments and will provide a detailed response in the near future.

Friday, August 9, 2019

My Email to LAFCO that set Marinwood CSD's hair on fire

Dear Lafco Director, Jason Fried:

If Marinwood CSD is to regain financial stability and position itself for the future, it must have accountable business practices, open political process and address long term problems like pensions.

1.) The Marinwood CSD fire department must be merged or outsourced.

The Marinwood Fire department is in a JPA with San Rafael but PAYS for the privilage. Long term statistics show that roughly 70% of our calls are in the City of San Rafael. In addition 80-90% of all emergencies are medical calls.
Clearly our Firemen are needed in the city of San Rafael but only the Marinwood CSD pays their salaries and benefits. This is an unsustainable model. We pay MORE per household for fire service than residents in the City of San Rafael and we are subsidizing their fire service.

This is not fair for the residents of Marinwood CSD or the Safety personnel of Marinwood FD.

We cannot afford to indefinitely subsidize San Rafael and be expected to pay for their pensions too.

By merging the departments, San Rafael will benefit with the ability to deploy a larger trained fire service across a larger geography. There would have more resources available and the staff will have a greater career opportunities.

2.) The Marinwood CSD general manager needs to be replaced by a business manager with experienced in accounting and management of personnel working closely with the Recreation director.

3.) The Marinwood CSD recreation department is the best in Marin County and potentially a profitable business. It has overflow demand for its programs but seems never to make much money due to the mismanagement of financial resources. A business manager can address this.

4.) The parks departmenet can be merged and/or outsourced to the county or private contractors for a huge cost savings. Land Design has replaced much of the greenery maintenance but the Marinwood CSD staff was reduced modestly. Compared to Marin County parks workers, there is a very small amount of property being maintained. McInnis Park, for example has six workers for 450 acres and many park amenities. Marinwood Park is 14 acres of which half is unmanaged open space and has three workers. They only maintain 6 tennis courts, a pool and a rec center. It is not unusual to see all the parks staff leave by 2 pm everyday despite much deferred maintenance throughout the CSD.

5.) Marinwood CSD must engage in proper government contracting procedures and stop giving contracts to "insiders". Accounting must adhere to ethical business practices.

6.) Marinwood CSD has spent hundreds of thousands in legal fees on unnecessary lawsuits that could be invested back into the community. For example, they spent $100k to settle a $10k dispute with the Firefighters. The CSD is now embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with a 90 year old couple who actually wanted to settle amicably when CSD property destroyed their back yard. Such unnecessary legal adventures have cost the Marinwood CSD dearly.

The Marinwood CSD is potentially strong financially. Unethical business practices, abuse of the political process and inexperienced business management is the cause of its current financial woes. Corrective action today will ensure the long term financial stability of the district.

Editor's Note: This was presented to LAFCO's 8/8/2019 meeting.  Not surprisingly, Marinwood CSD manager Eric Dreikosen responded with several letters of his own.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Death of Melody

Housing is a right, not a Wall Street commodity

California Legislature should recognize that housing is a right, not a Wall Street commodity

(Aerial shot of neighborhood. )

By Susan Kirsch, Special to CalMatters

We remember the pain and dislocation brought about by the housing melt-down of 2008, when foreclosures spiked by more than 81% and more than 3 million people lost their homes. It was precipitated by deceitful, predatory loans, subprime mortgages, and fanciful financial tools like derivatives.

Many individuals never recovered, but banks, developers, and real estate investors scored big. While property values have largely recovered, an ominous trend has occurred: a shift from individual home ownership to corporatized housing.

The language has shifted, too, from “home” as a safe abode where a middle-class family could acquire a significant asset to “housing unit” where investors could acquire a commodity to produce return on investment.

“We’re in a whole new world of organized, global financial investment into the housing market,” Michael Storper, a professor at UCLA and London School of Economics, explained when asked what changed between 2008 and 2019.

He called it the financialization of housing.

Components of the financialization of housing include giant construction companies such as Florida-based Lennar which is behind the controversial San Francisco Bayview-Hunters Point housing project, and national and global private equity investment firms such as The Blackstone Group, with California offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Why does the financialization of housing matter? It is fueled by corporate greed, not civic values or care about community. Mortgage or rent payments flow out of the community, stewardship diminishes, and global wealth goes into unknown, gold-lined pockets.

In 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council warned that the financialization of housing “undermines democratic governance, exacerbates inequality, dehumanizes housing, and causes displacement and homelessness.”

The UN report cautioned “unprecedented amounts of global capital are being invested in housing as security for financial instruments and traded on global markets, which is having devastating consequences.”

Against this corporate backdrop groups such as Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Team have curried favor with California legislators. They’ve created a simplistic narrative: We have a housing crisis. Cities are to blame. The state must assert itself with top-down, one-size-fits-all bills that undermine local control.

What they don’t say is that by reducing local control, global investment firms and national builders will gain easier access to community wealth, including individual homes, land, and public places.

Certain bills introduced by Sens. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, and Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco would weaken elected city councils’ planning authority and financial stewardship, and ultimately deepen the affordability crisis.

For example, a stripped-down version of Chiu’s Assembly Bill 1487 seeks to gain approval for a 2020 ballot measure known as the “San Francisco Bay Area Regional Housing Finance Act.”

It would provide a regional financing mechanism for affordable housing and would apply to all cities, including charter cities.

This new entity estimates an annual budget of $2.5 billion. It would be governed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, but identified as a separate legal entity.

Critics, myself included, are alarmed because a regional authority to raise, administer, and allocate funds is likely to reduce their capacity to raise local tax revenue for local projects. Small cities worry that big cities will rake off the majority of the funds, and they’ll be taxed for big city successes.

Supporters of putting the regional tax on the ballot try to quell opponents’ fears saying they merely want to give citizens the right to decide. However, imagine the unequal playing field.

The national/global corporations that stand to gain from the financialization of housing will invest millions in messaging, push polls, ads, and social media.

We have a housing problem, but the crisis is the loss of democracy brought about by the financialization of housing. When legislators become champions of the simplistic explanation that cities are to blame, they abandon critical thinking, their constituents, and their oaths of office.

Legislation that diminishes local control by expanding developers’ rights, investors’ profits, and regionalism will worsen the affordability crisis. Take a breather. Adopt a collaborative approach. Review housing policy and projects at the local level that are proving successful.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Johnny Cash Greatest Hits

How will Landscape Architect be Hired for Marinwood CSD ?

How will Landscape Architect be Hired for Marinwood CSD ?

Resident wants to know how Landscape Architect will be hired and approved and he receives a "non response" from Leah Green Marinwood Board President and Eric Dreikosen, CSD Manager.  The fact is that several local landscape architects are part of the "inner circle" that also hired Bill Hansell, Architect with zero budget constraints.  We expect it will also be a closed process and may require an independent audit of business practices.

Four Options for the Maintenance Shed that were REJECTED

The following four options for the Marinwood Park Maintenance Facility were REJECTED in February 2017 in favor of Maintenance Compound currently under review.  All of these options are much smaller than the current design (aka. "White Elephant")  

Option 1 and 2 are too close to Miller Creek.

Option 2 was rejected because it blocks the walking path JUST LIKE THE CURRENT DESIGN.

Option 3 and 4 respects the Miller Creek Stream Conservation ordinance and sound design principles.

Option 4 next to the firehouse was rejected because it required a long narrow access making it difficult to move vehicles JUST LIKE THE CURRENT DESIGN.

Option 3 is the clear winner with its narrow footprint that maximizes access and space efficiency, low cost that is far away from the creek bank.

Side access garages like this can be made attractive and provide the best access for vehicles, tools and work space.
Option 3 uses a side access garage.

Why did the Marinwood CSD select the current proposal that was never discussed publicly?   We need answers from the Marinwood CSD board.

We still don't know the proposed budget and Bill Hansell, former CSD Director is the architect.  His fees have exceeded the estimate of $12,000 for the entire project even BEFORE site plan approval. 

The current design creates the most impact to the park and Miller Creek watershed.  It is also the most expensive and consumes the most park land.  Hansell came up with the "drive through" design that wastes 1/3 of the interior space so he can eliminate "ugly garage doors"  (It's a GARAGE!).  His design requires vehicles to turn around in the Meadow 450' to the East and because of its awkward design a large parking lot will be needed to store debris and vehicles next to the creek just like before.

We believe that the only public space remaining in this area will be a narrow pathway and possibly the horse shoe pit.  

Is this the way you want our precious park space used or is there a better design?

Why spend our resources on such a "White Elephant"?   Don't we value the park more than a massive building?  Of course we need a replacement but it should be in scale and temperament to the rustic setting.  Sign the Petition HERE

Four Options for the Maintenance Shed that were REJECTED


Monday, August 5, 2019

Developer funded ‘Sue the suburbs’ group will be coming to Marin

‘Sue the suburbs’: 

Bay Area housing advocacy keeps up attack Advocacy group attempts to force cities to approve projects

Sonja Trauss is founder of the San Francisco-based California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

PUBLISHED: August 4, 2019 at 7:16 pm | UPDATED: August 4, 2019 at 9:56 pm

In a low-key San Francisco office decorated with “legalize housing” T-shirts and a fluffy, avocado-shaped throw pillow, a tiny group of advocates is trying to sue their way out of the Bay Area housing crisis.

The four-person California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CaRLA, has one reason for being — to sue cities that reject housing projects without a valid reason. The litigious nonprofit with YIMBY roots struck again last month, suing Los Altos after the city rejected a developer’s bid to streamline a project of 15 apartments plus ground-floor office space.

It’s a bold strategy and one advocates say fills the enforcement hole in California housing policy. But it’s also helping push housing decisions out of city council chambers and into the courtroom — removing those key issues from local control and further stoking the flames of bitter contention that often surround Bay Area housing debates.

As the Bay Area struggles with a housing shortage that’s driving up home prices and rents, and some building proposals that could alleviate the crunch get bogged down or denied amid pushback from neighbors, CaRLA’s founder, Sonja Trauss, sees her mission as simple:

She’s here to enforce the law.

“Something, by hook or by crook, has to make these cities actually build housing,” said Trauss, a 37-year-old law school dropout turned housing advocate, who has a lawyer on staff and also works with an outside law firm to file her cases. Her group’s unofficial motto is “sue the suburbs.”

But critics argue suing the suburbs is not the best way out of the housing crisis. Development decisions should be made locally and with community input, not in courtrooms under pressure from outside groups such as CaRLA, said Mill Valley resident Susan Kirsch, founder of slow-growth group Livable California.
“These people (city councils) are so dedicated and are working so hard to find the solutions, to get the right affordable housing mix and the right jobs-housing balance,” she said. “And then to have the threat of a lawsuit, it’s just unfortunate, I think.”

In late July, Trauss’ group sued Los Altos over the city’s ruling that a residential and office project proposed on North Main Street did not qualify for streamlined approval under the state’s new SB 35 law. That law requires cities to expedite approval of certain residential and mixed-use projects. The city said the project didn’t have enough residential space to qualify under the law, among other issues, but the lawsuit takes issue with how that calculation was reached.

Los Altos Mayor Lynette Lee Eng said the city remains confident in its decision to reject the application.

“This project would result in a five-story building surrounded by two-story buildings, which goes against our General Plan and is completely out of character with our downtown aesthetic,” Lee Eng wrote in an emailed statement.

Trauss’ cases are based on the argument that rejecting zoning-compliant projects not only exacerbates the housing crisis — it’s illegal. Her weapon of choice is the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which says officials cannot deny or reduce the density of a housing project that complies with the city’s general plan and zoning rules, unless the project poses specific public health and safety concerns. Since 2016, CaRLA has sued nine cities over allegedly improper project denials or illegal housing ordinances, including San Mateo, Berkeley, Lafayette and San Francisco. Of those, four have resulted in settlements that forced officials to approve the housing.

Dublin, for example, was forced to approve a 220-unit apartment building next to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station last year as part of a settlement with CaRLA. Four other cases are ongoing, and one case settled without the project getting approved. CaRLA also has sent dozens of letters to cities — including Cupertino over the contentious Vallco Mall site — warning officials against taking action that would violate state law.

“I think the bigger impact they’re having is that cities are now on notice that they can’t be scofflaw cities and not face any consequences,” said Matt Regan, senior vice president of public policy for the Bay Area Council.

Trauss says she learned her techniques from the other side. She watched residents opposed to new housing derail projects with lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The Housing Accountability Act is her way of fighting back, Trauss said

To wage that fight, CaRLA raised almost $400,000 last year from donors and grants, Trauss said. She shares an office with the more well-known housing advocacy group YIMBY Action, an organization she helped found and still works closely with.

The state already has methods in place to make sure cities build enough housing, but advocates have long complained they lack teeth. To begin with, every city has a certain amount of state-mandated housing it’s required to plan for — known as its Regional Housing Need Allocation, or “RHNA” number. Cities must create general plans and zoning rules that allow for that amount of housing to be built, but until recently, there was little punishment if jurisdictions fell out of compliance. Gov. Gavin Newsom has started to change that, suing the city of Huntington Beach for failing to set aside enough land for housing. In June, he laid out a plan to fine other noncompliant cities up to $600,000 a month.

But none of those measures force cities to approve individual housing developments. That’s where the Housing Accountability Act comes in. Enacted in 1982 and strengthened since, it requires cities to abide by their own general plans and zoning rules. Until CaRLA came along, it was rarely used.

Now more rejected projects are ending up in court. Dublin Mayor David Haubert, whose city was sued by CaRLA last year, doesn’t think that’s good. Litigation is costly and risky and it makes the city look bad, he said.

“While I respect their right to sue cities,” Haubert said, “as mayor, I would prefer that they would sit down with me and talk in person. I’m not sure why they didn’t seek to do that.”

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Blues Masters



     IT happened once upon a time that a certain Greek ship bound for Athens was wrecked off the coast close to Piraeus, the port of Athens. Had it not been for the Dolphins, who at that time were very friendly toward mankind and especially toward Athenians, all would have perished. But the Dolphins took the ship- wrecked people on their backs and swam with them to shore.
Now it was the custom among the Greeks to take their pet monkeys and dogs with them when ever they went on a voyage. So when one of the Dolphins saw a Monkey struggling in the water, he thought it was a man, and made the Monkey climb up on his back. Then off he swam with him toward the shore.
The Monkey sat up, grave and dignified, on the Dolphin's back.


"You are a citizen of illustrious Athens, are you not?" asked the Dolphin politely.
"Yes," answered the Monkey, proudly. "My family is one of the noblest in the city."
"Indeed," said the Dolphin. "Then of course you often visit Piraeus."
"Yes, yes," replied the Mon- key. "Indeed, I do. I am with him constantly. Piraeus is my very best friend."
This answer took the Dolphin by surprise, and, turning his head, he now saw what it was he was carrying. Without more ado, he dived and left the foolish Monkey to take care of himself, while he swam off in search of some human being to save.

One falsehood leads to another.