Category Archives: Land Development

Smart land use revolves around linking transit to land use that includes concepts like Pedestrian Pockets, SunTrain, solar, affordable ownership housing, etc.

Joe Sixpack Belches On NIMBYism

COASTAL POST –  SEPTEMBER 17, 1990

Joe Sixpack Belches On NIMBYism

As some of you know, Joe Sixpack re­cently took a job with OLTP (Office of Long Term Paining) in Sacramento. His job de­scription, outside of his after hours environ­mental responsibility for crushing his weekly average of 47 aluminum cans, in­cludes “Monitoring the Progress of Pain in the Capitol of NIMBYism.”

Aware of Maria through his advancing politics/law studies at the BAR (earned through seminar work at Smiley’s Schoo­ner, The Cantina, and the Alvarado Inn), Joe was miffed by his job description. In May he asked his boss, Ulysses Stephen Shirkit, this question:

“Sir, how does one monitor pain in the Capitol of NIMBYism when everyone

knows that everyone wants to live in that idyllic oasis. I mean, everyone knows that every 4th car in Marin is a BMer or Porsche, that every one either has a twin screw, 6 sleeper cabin cruiser or a hot tub, that even the torn and tattered Levis wearers are mil­lionaire rock stars or have cultivated millions through other magical habits…How can I monitor pain there?”

Mr. U.S. Shirkit explained to Joe that he had to get by the surface superficialities and into the basics of life, which Joe’s studies for the BAR should have made him aware.

Joe’s first assignment turned out to be study­ing the St. Vincent’s/Silveira (SVS) initia­tive launched by Robert Marx, obviously a cousin of Groucho Marx. The basic he stud­ied on SVS was land and the future of little kids’ lives.

The other basic his boss wanted to awaken him to was more down and dirty—politics. His computer analysis and tutoring from U.S. gave him his first lesson in illogical (termed “stupid” by BAR friends) land use planning. Joe’s computer monitor informed him that passage of the SVS initiative would cause an SOS to be floated by: low and moderate income households—Marin’s most endangered species; the Catholic Youth Organization—which is trying to continue generating finances to help troubled kids; the embryonic rail system—the long term answer to gridlocked 101, air pollution, and someone named Sadham Pastrami Who-sane.

Joe learned a lot in that assignment. So much so that he had to crash more than his normal after-work quota of six light, empty aluminum cans against his sweaty forehead. Today he thought he might have a similar post work need.

“Joe, find out what’s behind these stories from the Coastal Post saying that the Marin Conservation League, Sierra Club and Audubon Society are against the Marin Sales Tax, which will put 52 percent of its revenues into making railroads operational again in the North Bay,” U.S. said, as he handed Joe a stack of papers and a 1.44 megabyte computer disk.

Joe rubbed his bloodshot eyes, went to his 486 chip powered, LAN networked, laptop computer and asked his first question.

“Why are these environmental groups against the train? Isn’t the train more envi­ronmentally sound than a bunch of people driving around in cars?”

Against the liquid gel video came, “That is the same question former Mill Valley Mayor Ruth Schneider publicly asked a MCL spokesperson. MCL’s standard an­swer avoids the ‘environmental’ question by claiming a train would be growth induc­ing. Therefore, MCL says don’t let the train happen until there is ‘more’ growth con­trol.”

“Does Marin have a growth problem?” Joe input on the keyboard.

Red bold letters flashed on the screen: “I TOLD YOU THIS BEFORE, STUPID!…Marin’s population growth has average 4/l0ths of 1 percent per year for the last 15 years, equaling about 1,000 people per year. Only 4 percent of the total of 12 percent of developable land remains to be developed. 2 percent of that is flat land lying along the railroad right-of-way which these environmental groups and Groucho Marx’s cousin want to acquire for open space. This potential acquisition will bring 90 percent of Marin’s land into “sorely” needed open space.

Incidentally, California’s population grows about 2,000 persons per day. Most of them, however, don’t earn $90,000 a year and have $30,000 for a downpayment to allow them to purchase the median priced Marin home. Most of them are normal, hard working families who are only allowed to drive through Marin.”

A bit embarrassed by the computer, Joe read some of U.S.’s reports before inputting another question. One of the reports dealt with the National Sierra Club calling for housing and commercial development along lines. Joe input: “Why is the Marin Sierra Club against mixed use develop­ments at SVS and other suggested sites when their national chapter says that is how we must sensitively handle future growth throughout the nation?”

A gentle green filled the screen: “GLAD YOU ARE DOING SOME READING, JOE. IF MORE PEOPLE HAD TIME TO READ AND LOGICALLY ASSEMBLE THEIR THOUGHTS, INSTEAD OF BEING STUCK IN TRAFFIC AND GRINDING JOBS, I WOULDN’T NEED TO WASTE SO MANY PIXELS ON THE SCREEN. The Regional Sierra Club looks on the Marin Sierra Club as an anomaly in the environmental movement. In more basic BAR studies talk, of which you are more familiar, they would on this crucial 20th century issue of energy conservation, logi­cal land uses, and jobs/ housing balance be called an environmental hypocrite by any intelligent, logical, sober, poker player who knows how to call a spade a spade.”

Confused by so much information, and thirsty, Joe input “Does that mean the Sales Tax will win even with opposition from these recognized Mann environmental groups?”

“Joe, reread what I said earlier about what the National and Regional Sierra Club chapters say are the development patterns that can address out affordable housing, traffic and air pollution problems. Then, if you use environmental facts to draw logical conclu­sions, you will begin referring to these groups as “so-called” environmental groups.

‘To you question: If voters read in depth and understand the Marin Sales Tax Issues and use logic and common sense, they will pass the Marin Sales Tax. Politics, however, more often is determined by emotion and rhetoric rather than facts, real long term needs, logic, and common sense.”

Joe was thinking about that answer when he glanced at the clock. It was 5:05. Earlier the afternoon heat had him looking forward to his couch, a few beers, the Giants game and his favorite show, “Married With Chil­dren.”

“Enough of this serious stuff, I’m outta here.”

DWAYNE HUNN

(Dwayne sweats over affordable housing and traffic issues with Novato Ecumenical Housing. He sometimes studies and quenches his thirst with Joe. He recycles, too.)

CASA housing explained

Workplace Housing

Skylark Meadows, Novato sets state affordable ownership record
Skylark Meadows, Novato sets state affordable ownership record

Affordably Owned by not-super rich folks

Section 8 rental subsidies for generations?

Section 8 tax dollars taken from your taxed wallet to help low income households for generations?

Or

Own a home and its appreciation in the North Bay?

One time financial partnership assist to boost your toward financial independence?

FANNIE MAE

(Federal National

Mortgage Association)

1990 Blue Book National Model

CASA (Community Assisted

Shared Appreciation)

FANNIE MAE recommends emulating CASA across the nation

What is CASA?

Allows low and moderate income households to share in the benefits of homeownership in overpriced areas.

How?

The household buys in partnership with a non-profit, public benefit trust fund, foundation or public agency.

Why?

Allows civil servants, teachers, nurses, small businessman to live in their work community, share great American dream of equity appreciation thereby building true community and reducing traffic and environmental pollution caused by forced commutes to distant housing.

Town house, condo, starter home costs $225,000.

3 person household =  $40,000 income, good credit

Saved, family gift     =  $20,000 down

 Qualifies $125,000 9% mortgage, $1,0005 monthly

 Sales price                   $225,000

Less down & mortgage    -(20,000+125,000)

Shortfall                        $80,000

$80,000 = from Affordable Ownership Fund (CASA)

Funded from?

MCFoundation Affordable Ownership Trust Fund

Redevelopment Agency Fund

Open Space District or replica

Marin’s Most Pressing Need Trust Fund

Developer in-lieu fees…

Combination of above

How repaid?

Deferred principle and interest 2nd mortgage

“Sleeping Second Mortgage”

How is financial independence gained by homeowner?

Homeowner shares proportionally in appreciation.

20,000 down + 125,000 mortgageHomeowner’s share

$225,000 Sales Price                         Unit Sales Price

$145,000          =      65% homeowner’s share

$225,000

Homeowner will live in home, maintain and care for it, take tax write-offs, and if and when he/she sells it reap 65% of the appreciation.

How is solvency of CASA (Workplace/Affordable Ownership Housing Fund) maintained to continue program?

CASA contributed $80,000 toward purchase price.

$80,000    =  35% CASA’s share

$225,000

At sale CASA will receive 35% of appreciation which will return to the CASA fund to provide funds to repurchase that same or another house for the low/moderate income household seeking affordable ownership housing at that time.

X years later the CASA assisted buyer sells

Selling Price  =             $400,000

Less original costs         -225,000

Appreciation                 $175,000

CASA fund receive 35% or $61,250

of appreciation/contingent interest to assist next low/moderate income buyer.

Homeowner receives 65% of the appreciation or $113,750 to buy another home.

General Plan Update

San Rafael should add this to Housing Element as:

  • Corner stone of its affordable housing program.
  • In-lieu fee contribution to CASA Fund should be option available to developers rather than just prescribed %age of low income units in their developments
  • Benefits employers whose employees want to own and not commute long distances.
  • Adds option to developer’s available tools.
  • Workers prefer owning to renting.
  • Builds community pride.

Fund this program via:

  • Budgeting it as line item
  • Transferring some Redevelopment Agency funds to it
  • Proactively pressing the Marin Community Foundation to fund it
  • Educating the community on the more pressing need to fund it versus such less needed well-funded programs such as the Open Space Acquisition Fund.

The dearth of affordable housing – and the traffic congestion it causes – is Marin’s most pressing need – not more open space.

The family is best educational source children will ever be exposed to.

The house you live in is the schoolhouse you’ll learn the most from.

Every family should have the opportunity to proudly own a home near where they work.

To build strong families and the benefits they bring to the community, this should be a priority program in every General Plan and every endowed public benefit agency in pricey Marin.

3 person household =  $40,000 income, good credit

Saved, family gift     =  $20,000 down

 Qualifies $125,000 9% mortgage, $1,0005 monthly

 Sales price                   $225,000

Less down & mortgage    -(20,000+125,000)

Shortfall                        $80,000

$80,000 = from Affordable Ownership Fund (CASA)

Funded from?

MCFoundation Affordable Ownership Trust Fund

Redevelopment Agency Fund

Open Space District or replica

Marin’s Most Pressing Need Trust Fund

Developer in-lieu fees…

Combination of above

How repaid?

Deferred principle and interest 2nd mortgage

“Sleeping Second Mortgage”

How is financial independence gained by homeowner?

Homeowner shares proportionally in appreciation.

20,000 down + 125,000 mortgageHomeowner’s share

$225,000 Sales Price                         Unit Sales Price

$145,000          =      65% homeowner’s share

$225,000

Homeowner will live in home, maintain and care for it, take tax write-offs, and if and when he/she sells it reap 65% of the appreciation.

 

CASA program a model

Novato Advance       May 9, 1990

Viewpoint

 CASA program a model

        By DWAYNE HUNN

Some interesting things have been happening at Novato Ecumenical Housing recently. Last month NEH was notified by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FANNIE MAE) that our Community Assisted Shared Appreciation (CASA) home ownership program for low and moderate income households will re recognized in FANNIE MAE’S  1990 Blue Book as one of two national models shared equity home ownership programs. FANNIE MAE uses its prestigious annual publication to recognize programs that it believes should be emulated by other cities across the nation.

The national recognition does not come without some irony. For years, NEH  has struggled to obtain additional funds to expand our CASA program in Novato and throughout the county. So many political, environmental, and bureaucratic boulders have been placed in our path that we often feel like Sisyphus, the mythological figure who was compelled to roll a stone to the top of a slope, the stone always escaping him near the top and rolling down again.

Perhaps the uphill fight, taking place among the rolling hills of exclusive Marin, is part of the reason the program has been recognized. CASA has assisted more than 60 low and moderate income families in purchasing their first homes in Novato. Families earning as low as 34% of Marin’s median income have purchased homes through this deferred principal and interest second mortgage home ownership program. Our average second mortgage assistance been $37,000 per family and their average income has been $22,700.

NEH is proud of the award. We are prouder, however, that we have been able to help many starting families obtain the Great American Dream. Our assisted owners are not, as our uninformed opponents like to portray them, low-lifes. They are nurses, sheriff and police department employees, private entrepreneurs, secretaries, hard-working, single moms, etc. They are essential service providers and they have an almost  non-existent mortgage failure rate.

NEH has been able to raise more than $2 million to fund this program. The sources from which we raised the funds might help explain to some who oppose our work why we often argue on behalf of sensible, long-term environmentally sound developments. Source of Affordable Ownership Housing Trust Funds:

  • 53 percent developer contributions. Densities have been cut so drastically in Novato that no new sources of in-lieu fees are foreseen in the near future.
  • 18 percent Community Development Block Grants. We have not received and additional CDBG funds since 1984.
  • 15 percent NEH’s recapture of its equity share and second mortgage. Soon NEH will be the second largest supplier to its own program. Unfortunately, that means the program is not growing to handle the increased need.
  • 11 percent San Francisco Foundation. The San Francisco Foundation was replaced by the Marin Community Foundation.
  • 4 percent Marin Community Foundation.

As you can see, most of our funds which allow us to assist Novato residents in purchasing their own Novato homes come from developer contributions. When reasonable densities are drastically reduced to such a low point  that developers cannot justify the expense of affordable unit development or developers are not required to contribute in-lieu fees, we cannot help balance the jobs/housing imbalance.

The Brookside development is an example of how drastic density reductions hurt Novato’s ability to balance housing with the purchasing power of local residents. Ten years ago Brookside was approved for 120 units, of which 34 were  to be affordable. The Novato City Council then cut the allowed development to 70 units on 59 acres with no affordable units. Now come “concerned” citizens want the density to be cut to 0 units and want to you to assess yourself a parcel tax to purchase the Brookside  land for open space.

This desire for more open space is taking place in a county where more than 84 percent of the land is set aside in open space, agriculture reserve and park land. The petitions are being gathered in a city where, in 1980, the city averaged four units per acre and where today that average has dropped to about 2.4 units per developed acre. Politics, like awards, often has an ironic character to it.

For more information, call 892-8136.

 

 

 

General Plan Update is missing big climate change tool

Coastal Post online

Also in Marin IJ Marin Voice October 16, 2007

General Plan Update is missing big climate change tool

By Dwayne Hunn

If you find our self-imposed Iraq War much more than inconvenient, then prepare for scaring self-flagellation from the tsunami of climate change.

To prepare for the tsunami, Marin’s General Plan Update cultivates the right slogans. However, it doesn’t provide enough tools to grow the smart development needed for the affluent isle of Marin to do its share to combat global climate change.

Global climate change (GCC) requires every governmental level to develop an aggressive plan that, as Board President Kinsey says, “Walks the talk.”

Each Marinite’s ecological footprint requires 27.4 acres to recoup its damage. It is one of the nation’s largest, yet doesn’t include the damage Marin’s exclusive developmental pattern causes by fostering clogged commutes.

Marin’s General Plan (GP) espouses a call to action, but it doesn’t provide strong enough tools to allow some of today’s children to live here affordably tomorrow.

At the 1200-acre St. Vincent Silveira property, the GP fails in combating GCC. Allowing a paltry 50-221 senior units there does not provide the planning tool needed to increase the supply of worker housing, build new, resource conserving communities, provide senior housing in the state’s oldest median aged county, or reduce bloodying our troops supporting our automobile addiction.

The GP lauds “smart growth… building community… transit oriented development…” Yet, it fails to provide Marin’s largest undeveloped parcel with a mixed-use overlay map option that would allow designers, architects, and property owners the opportunity to offer a smart, new, rail oriented community to your children.

GCC’s devastating implications require we fight it as a war, which requires building sustainable, compact, mixed use communities along rail lines that preserve space, air, and your children’s military exemption.

Segregating seniors on 1200 acres in a county that already preserves 87% of its land continues ceding the GCC battlefield to clogged freeways. In a carbon war, winning armies will develop their rail infrastructure to help reduce resource consumption.

Europeans leave a much smaller environmental footprint than Marinites. In the 21st century, we have the design and rail opportunities to better European standards. Imagine a village on 10-15% of the land encircled by a neighborhood of porched-homes and small parks that encourages residents to walk to their mixed-use 2-3-story town center. Included in it would be the retirement community. Running through the town center would be the train, whose second generation would be fuel cell driven.

As the clock ticks toward climate change’s midnight, isn’t it time Marin offers designers and property owners the planning tools that provide as many environmentally healthy developmental options as possible?

Marin should not allow planning tools to be controlled by environmental sounding groups, who oppose providing new pedestrian oriented villages along rail lines that bolster train rider ship. The climate change crisis requires building smart transit-oriented communities at every opportunity. If a state law makes that difficult in Marin, change the illogical law.

While working as an affordable housing developer with North Bay Family Homes, we pushed the Vintage Oaks developer to add second story residential units to his Novato shopping center that fronted the rail line. His response, “We know how and would love to, but we are so sick of 13 years of politics here that we just want to get out of town.” We worked with the Berg-Revoir’s Hamilton proposal to provide a pedestrian rail oriented community that would have provided a windfall of worker units, start-up costs to the train, and $32 million (non-inflated) or $92 million (inflated) to assist on-site workers in owning or renting at Hamilton.

Both projects would have dramatically increased rail rider ship and reduced climate-warming pollutants. Both failed because too few provided the vision for a more sustainable today.

We are in the 11th hour of moving the black gunk of ancient sunlight into the atmosphere. For about 7 billion people, Mother Nature is about to vehemently respond. The Isle of Marin’s General Plan should provide the 21st century planning tools, so skilled visionaries can offer environmentally designed communities that takes Mother Nature’s anger seriously.

Dwayne Hunn consults for the Kerner Canalways Partnership www.canalway.hypermart.net and is Executive Director of People’s Lobby, sponsor of the American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposals. www.WorldServiceCorps.us

 

Developers need a new strategy

Developers need a new strategy

Dwayne Hunn

Article Launched: 03/25/2007 11:05:29 PM PDT

Marin Independent Journal

HERE WE GO AGAIN. Roughly every decade, the county updates its general plan.  Not many pay attention.  Those who do usually have a perceived problem with something in it.

If you build homes or commercial space, you pray you don’t have a project in Marin.

Why?  Because in Marin, developers can’t win for losing.

Developers propose building substantial affordable and workforce housing, whose marketability they prefer, and what happens? A political fear machine scares elected officials who further slash housing densities. Developers are forced to build mega-estates, with just a few deeply subsidized workforce units. Then, the public blames them for the lack of affordable housing.

Developers are willing to work with those of us who develop workforce housing and push for mixed-use European villages along the rail line, but are rebuffed by groups parading as environmentalists. Had rail-oriented mixed-use developments been built at Vintage Oaks, Hamilton and the St. Vincent’s School for Boys-Silveira Ranch sites (seemingly losing to the illogical minuscule-development myopics) our freeway would be less congested, workforce more balanced, train ridership solidified and, in our interconnected world, oil addiction a little less deadly for our troops.

What’s a winning strategy for developers? It’s similar to what the Bush administration needed for Iraq.

Developers need to build a coalition of landowners, affordable housing advocates, businessmen, etc., and build a vision that captures hearts and minds. After getting some media attention, the vision must be good enough to capture the belief of the too-busy, but still thinking, activists of both counties.

That is doable with a comprehensive development scenario that truly delivers good development, not merely mouths it. Unfortunately, when you have public officials overly influenced by scaremongers offering falsehood and simplicities, you do not develop smart, healthy programs.

Scaremongers have won most Marin battles by twisting facts and ignoring logical, visionary answers, while scaring politicians and citizens into buying into shortsighted nonsense.

What is some of the nonsense that scaremongers have foisted on too-busy people and politicians?

– That each new general plan has too much population growth, developable land, affordable housing and commercial space,

– That each general plan must be dramatically reduced so as to save our quality of life. This is said in California’s oldest median-age county where about 88 percent of its land is protected, only about 5 percent can have some development, and population growth has averaged about 3/10th of 1 percent per year for the last three-plus decades.

– That the Bay Area Association of Governments unfairly calls for too much affordable housing because Marin doesn’t have enough developable space.

– Therefore, the answer is to do less of everything in this new general plan update.

Consequently, each successive general plan fails to reach its goals. Then, the next general plan lowers it goals for previously unmet affordable housing, population, land use, transit oriented development, etc.

The scaremongers have developed a self-fulfilling decreasing development loop that hurts neighborhood, city, county, state and nation by scaring Marin residents into buying a small-minded view of how one of America’s wealthiest counties should be.

Developers, of course, are not faultless. They continue to fail to provide a vision of environmentally sensitive developments that feed mixed-use rail-oriented villages that should have been built for decades along North Bay rail lines.

By failing, they failed to build an army of supporters. Had they articulated that vision, in conjunction with supporting unobjectionable to all in-fill development, developers might reverse their long Marin retreat, and maybe save Baghdad. Oops, wrong battlefield.

Had pedestrian-pocket developments been built over recent decades, fewer would buy into scaremongering about “quality of life, my property values, parkingÉ”

If developers had built the vision and army, there would be fewer complainers sniping at the general plan’s social and housing benefits. Oh, yeah. Had that happened, Marin would be cutting our oil-trafficking addiction and reducing the underlying pretext for bleeding our troops in Baghdad.

wonrerase?

Dwayne Hunn consults on land development projects and is Executive Director of People’s Lobby, sponsor of the American World Service Corps Congressional Proposals.

Collected wisdoms on why Marin housing is so expensive:

…… because the opposition to any more housing is so well entrenched politically – as aides, on committees, trained through self-proclaimed environmental groups….

……. because there is little concern for costs that the well executed political actions of housing opponents force upon developers and thence onto those hoping to buy…..

For example, from the Marin IJ of June 11, 2001:

… After Kress’ (Marin Supervisor) departure, the group began talking strategy for the fight ahead.

Sitting in the chair occupied by his boss just a few minutes earlier, Kress’ assistant, Rick Fraites, offered advice to the group. He served on the steering committee for the Citizens to Save Bahia, the group that last month successfully blocked expansion of the Bahia subdivision project in Novato.

“Anything you can conjure up to get the developer to look at and spend money, throw it out there,” Fraites said. “That’s my advice, having just gone through this with Bahia.”

“That’s one of the reasons housing is so expensive in Marin County,” Schwartz said about Fraites’ comment. “If frivolous studies are asked for by the community and included in the environmental impact report, the cost of those studies get reflected in the cost of each home.”

Of Fraites’ comment, Leland added, “That’s probably good advice if your objective is to stop it. The classic paradigm in Marin County is an antagonistic one and we are going to do our best to make it a collaborative one, to work with the residents there.”

Source Marin IJ of June 11, 2001. For the whole story on a Santa Venetia development fight against 28 houses on 30 acres, click Development fight in Santa Venetia.

From Marin IJ Page C1 of August 26, 2001, “Center could hold key to ferry parking woes.”  In this section a paragraph reads:

Earlier this month, GGBD (Golden Gate Bridge District) officials said they had to delay plans to restripe and reconfigure the existing 1,370-space parking lot because the sole bid for the job was almost double the amount budgeted.  Ghilotti Brothers Inc. of San Rafael bid $1 million for the work, which officials had estimated would cost $520,000.

Beneath the more obvious points of this Larkspur Ferry area story that parking is dreadful because we failed to deliver a train and nearby workforce housing is this important point.  Contractors such as Ghilotti do not strenuously compete for Marin jobs because they have closed shop here.  Ghilotti has to bid high on these jobs since he must pay his employees either enough to buy homes in Marin or to commute long distances from where Marin provides its workforce housing – i.e. from Sonoma and the East Bay.  We are losing moderately priced workers since we force them to live elsewhere.   f

More collected wisdoms to be added….

Federal bay refuge simply is too much

Editorial

Marin Independent Journal July 29, 2001

 NO ONE should be surprised by the chilly welcome the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Marin baylands refuge proposal is receiving from local landowners.

Those landowners feel as if they are the target of a bureaucratic sneak attack, where local environmentalists quietly invited the feds and our tax dollars to Mann to coerce landowners into selling their land for a baylands refuge.

Public concern for and protection of the bay’s remaining wetlands is warranted.  Local, state and federal land use regulations, decision makers and, most importantly, voters are already doing a good job.

Local and national environmental groups are already doing a terrific job coming up with the financial resources to save and preserve Marin wetlands.

This proposal to draw a federal boundary around 17,300 acres is simply overreaching, both politically and bureaucratically. Its size is too sweeping, encompassing a giant slice of the eastside of the county, from Tiburon to Novato, and its chilling effect on future development is significant.

Backers of the proposal (and those who initiated the refuge proposal) say this is “a golden opportunity,” where Mann can protect the bay’s eco-system from the pressures of development by giving the property owners a potential buyer —  us, the taxpayers. They add that landowners will never be forced to sell. Refuge backers say landowners won’t even be stopped from developing their property. But they make no promises that they will support development.

In addition, a Marin Baylands National Wildlife Refuge would have tremendous tourism and recreational benefits for this county, they say.

But realistically, the picture is not that rosy.

By simply being within the boundaries, landowners who want to develop would be faced with the Goliath-sized political hurdle of trying to build in a wildlife refuge in a county where development is not often welcomed. The designation alone will be a huge club no-growthers could swing to defeat any proposal.

For the same reason, landowners are worried that by simply being drawn into the refuge they will lose potential buyers who aren’t interested in becoming a ripe target for environmentalists.

In particular, the promising potential of the open lands of St. Vincent’s and the Silveira Ranch in San Rafael of being developed and designed in a way that both answers the community’s need for workforce housing and is sensitive to its landscape would be lost. No doubt, once included in the refuge’s boundaries, development opponents would use its designation as a rallying cry against building anything.

What could happen to the potential of St. Vincent’s/Silveira could become a pattern for other sites.

Worse, landowners feel they’ve been left out of the process; that this regulatory train started and is moving ahead without care for their interests.

The Fish and Wildlife Service cautions it is only in an exploratory stage, that it is studying the physical and political lay of the land. It will be preparing an environmental study that assesses the benefits of various boundary scenarios.

But unfortunately the trenches have been dug deep and a pitched battle has begun. Because of the way this debate has taken form, there is now little room or promise for compromise.

Marin over the years has done an impressive job of increasing public awareness about the environmental value of the baylands and has become a model for protecting them.

We’ve done that without a federal boundary and we should continue that local initiative.

 

 A ’golden opportunity’ for whom?

Marin Voice,  Marin IJ July 22, 2001

DWAYNE HUNN

RECENTLY THE IJ ran a column entitled “A golden opportunity for Marin,” supporting the federal government in acquiring 17,600 Mann acres that are being studied as a proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge (USFWS).

The four authors wrote of the refuge program being voluntary, USFWS management applying only to properties acquired, the government paying fair market value, and of available funding.

Sounds reasonable. The devil, however, is in the Marin details.

As explained by exemplary USFWS officials, their programs should be lauded and supported — yet everyone of the so-far notified property owners strongly wants out of this voluntary, fair-market-value program. Why?

How would you feel  as a farmer, rancher, land holding Catholic organization, raw landowner, bay front rod and gun club, or homeowners association — if you learned that for ten years, self-proclaimed environmental groups pushed the federal government to include your land in a Baylands Refuge and supplied them with the initial maps that started this process?

Or that the first few meetings were held without you, the property owner, being notified?

Might you skeptically see this as a strategy to overlay your land with a government program that causes costly headaches later? Ah, then you feel the pain of those 17,600-acre holders.

Most of these landowners know something about Marin. They know that 85 percent of the county is undevelopable, only about 4 percent of the land remains to meet community needs, housing and population growth has been minimal and for decades our transportation and workplace housing system is hemorrhaging.

Most of them also know about land and development.

They know the hardest part of doing something with the land lies not in the can-do building, but in politics and regulations.

The authors, who for decades have had the time to swap leadership roles in their respective organizations, know politics much better than the fanner, rancher, home and landowner. They have learned and acted on setting the political table to their advantage innumerable times, such as:

Ø     Having the Marin Supervisors rule out a train stop at the St. Vincent’s /Silveira properties in Marinwood so their organizations could design the owners’ properties;

Ø     Forcing developers to constantly spend money on arguments, studies and referendums, thereby wasting affordable housing and transit-solution resources;

Ø     Hoodwinking the USFWS and the initially unknowing landowners a governmental overlay that could drain more time and money from landowners. A brilliant political bleeding strategy.

The authors imply that only they and the government can properly care for Mann’s lands. Yet, Tony Silveira’s family has for 100-plus years taken better care of his cherished land than any agency will.

Developers have turned toxic-sludge ponds into thriving pools. Shoreline homeowners have assessed themselves to dredge spoils and keep their bay thriving with wildlife. Farmers have monitored their land and runoff to keep their production clean, safe and profitable. Most of them have also supported the pollution reducing, community-building train plans and supported providing more housing for Mann’s tapped-out and increasingly bussed-in  work force.

Why do all the property owners oppose being included in even the mapping study? Because they have learned enough politics to not trust anything that has – the blessing of Marin groups who mouth myopic environmental phrases but do nothing creative or imaginative for families, housing, traffic and pollution and energy conservation.

Our local agencies, groups and property owners are good at protecting Marin lands. Putting any of the 17,600 acres in a federal refuge is not a golden opportunity for families, housing, transit, pollution or energy conservation.

Dwayne Hunn of Mill Valley was part of a team that tried to build a 237-unit, solar-energy retirement community in an old quarry near downtown San Rafael.

 

Preservation proposal is elitist  

Marin Independent Journal June 29, 2001

Marin Voice

PATRIK SMIDA

I WOULD LIKE to add my thoughts to the Marin Voice printed in the IJ (June 19), titled “A Golden Opportunity of Marin” by Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salz man and Boessenecker. In this article we are presented with an opportunity of preserving more wildlife wetlands in Marin County.

Before I present my thoughts, I would like to give my background I am 24 years old, raised and living in Marin County, with a white-collar job.

Now, no one is a greater admirer of nature preservation than I.  I believe in the preservation of the rain forests, the restoration of the fish stocks in the world’s oceans and utterly appreciate the bountiful beauty of Marin County’s open space. I support the fact that Marin County is and should remain 83 percent open space, without any development in the open space.

But to insist that we start preserving more land in Marin County, land originally slated for development, outside of the 83 percent already preserved, is going too far.  Where are people supposed to live? Where are the people who do not own their own homes, or cannot afford to buy a home in Marin County, supposed to live? Has anyone checked out the rent rates in Marin County lately, if you can even find a place to rent? Has anyone surveyed how expensive it is to live in Marin County? Well maybe these ladies should look into the cost and availability of housing before wondering how to preserve more land for the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge.

With more and more work shifting to the North Bay, and more young people wanting to live in Marin, how are they supposed to afford to live in our county? If Marin is to grow and prosper, we need more affordable housing in already established areas such as San Rafael, Larkspur and Novato. Instead of talking about including more land in the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge, maybe we ought to think about how to make development of housing more available without ruining the natural beauty of Marin.

To bring this situation to a more personal level, let me give you my situation. I have a great job with a technology company, making a mid five-figure salary, am college educated and not a frivolous spender. I have lived in Marin since  I was 9 years old, and have only left Marin for four years to go to school.

I started looking for an apartment a month ago and nearly had a heart attack when I saw the prices for apartments. For a one-bedroom apartment, I was looking at anywhere between $1,000 to 1,500 per month, without utilities, expenses and deposit. At this rate, I will be lucky to be able to buy a couch in a year. And please do not mention a roommate, as two-bedroom apartments are really out of range.

If you think I am the only one who feels this way, I can name at least 10 people between the ages of 27 and 40 who have given up and left Marin (North Bay Area) because of the cost of living. Realize that this is the future of our community that is leaving our area because of the cost. And just so you know, I still don’t have a place of my own and have been forced to move back with my parents.

Has anyone also thought about whether wildlife so close to the cities of the North Bay will flourish? Not only do you have the unwanted intrusion of humans, but what of the waste, noise, and stress caused to the wildlife? Ultimately, this refuge will cost Marin in maintenance and preservation, as well as the talent of individuals who choose not to settle in our community because of extravagant prices.

The submitted proposal of Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salzman and Boessenecker is very elitist. It is all nice and well to think about such grand proposals when you do not find yourself in the financial situation that most of the young and underprivileged find themselves in. Or maybe we ought to only allow those who have a certain amount of money to live in Marin County.

Think about it!

Patrik Smida is a Marin resident.

 

A teacher’s salute to his mentors

Marin Independent Journal,

Marin Voice June 20, 2001

Thomas A. Thompson

IN 19741 began my first year of teaching at Terra Linda High School, a time enriched by the opportunity to work with experienced teachers who influenced me a great deal with their advice and by their example. This year, sadly, the very last of that group are leaving the profession to which they have brought so much. Barry Amsden, Pat Skinner and Pete Paolino, very much part of the fabric of TLHS, its identity and tradition, will be missed.

As his assistant coach, I remember well Barry Amsden’s remarkable ability to enthuse and encourage each member of the track team to reach for his or her personal bests. With stopwatch in hand, he would often sprint joyfully alongside a young runner during his or her final stretch down the track. From Barry I learned the value and reward of coaching kids whether in athletics or other extra-curricular activities.

Throughout the years, Barry Amsden has maintained his bounding energy and enthusiasm for kids and their achievements. His positive spirit has animated the students he has taught, the athletes he has coached and all the many colleagues with whom he has worked. They will miss his generosity, his knowledge of Terra Linda High’s history, his stories and even his jokes.

As a first-year English teacher, I remember passing Pat Skinner’s room hours after the final bell and  seeing him sitting behind his desk painstakingly correcting his students’ essays. From Mr. Skinner I learned the worth of inviting students to exceed their own expectations.

Mr. Skinner’s classes have been a rite of passage at Terra Linda. The most demanding of teachers, he has consistently pushed his students to read challenging works of literature and to think and write with clarity, coherence and correctness. Always, he insisted on providing students with an enriching intellectual experience, one that reverberates, that is appreciated even more in retrospect.

And I remember Peter Paolino’s consistent patience and kindness in counseling or comforting students who were having a difficult time emotionally, socially or academically. As a first-year teacher, I learned from my dealings with Peter an appreciation of the complexity of the individuals in my classroom.

In his nearly 40 years of service, Mr. Paolino has been a competent and compassionate advocate for several thousand kids in helping them make a more successful transition through adolescence and the various demands of high-school life.

Other excellent teachers with more than 25 years of experience — Bill Costello, Bill Monti, Bret Tovani, Dave Wylie, Dolores Pena and Monika Nimeh of San Rafael High — are retiring this year.

As are many others who have been teaching since before 1970— Bill Allen, Peter Schmidt, Lorraine Coppola, Justin Kielty, Lala Zuniga-Briggs of Davidson I Middle School; Jan Armour, Mary Breeze and Pat Geiger of Glenwood Schdol; Barb Dittman, Gay Leonardi and Doug Taylor of San Pedro School; and Marcia McQuillan and Linda Newton of Gallinas SchooL They deserves kudos, as do others like them in other school districts.

What make their deserving tributes a bit sadder this year is a growing awareness that having people in our schools with their tenure of experience may be a thing of the past, that schools in Marin may be losing the real benefit of such teachers who were able to dedicate their entire careers to particular school communities.

The cost of housing in Mann and its corollary, the long commute, may make teachers who make their careers here members of a vanishing species. And that, indeed, is very sad.

Thomas A. Thompson is a teacher at Mann Catholic High School and is a member of the San Rafael City School Board.