Tag Archives: Hamilton Air Force Base

All aboard! The future…

Published Marin IJ Wednesday May 15, 1996

Traffic in Marin:  Where do we go now?

Opinion  Marin independent Journal

 All aboard!  The future won’t wait

Dwayne Hunn

In the late 1970s, Peter Calthorpe was an associate of State Architect to-be Sim Van der Ryn, working to establish a Solar Village at Hamilton Air Force Base.   By the 1980s, Peter was on his own, preaching development Pedestrian Pocket communities where people could walk to and from parks, schools, work places and transit options other than the car nestled in suburbia’s omnipresent garage.

Pedestrian Pockets offered the opportunity to develop the community that ethnic neighborhoods of the 40’s and 50’s and Peter Calthorpe’s Sausalito houseboat neighbors had.  Unfortunately, Marin’s presumed environmentalists — and the power structure they supported, wouldn’t listen to concepts that allowed clustered communities of affordable housing to be built on at least 13+ large parcels that then laid adjacent to Marin and Sonoma’s Northwest Pacific Right of Way.

For years, few seemed to pay attention to Calthorpe’s rejuvenated concept or to pay for his services.  Luckily, his Berkeley students helped keep him going until the rest of the country realized the good sense of Pedestrian Pockets and paid him to do them.

In a shrinking world where our lifestyle consumes more than its proportional share, and our lack of community produces an abundance of dysfunctional acts, Pedestrian Pockets design part of the needed solutions.

In 1991 Peter was the keynote speaker for the region’s first Land Use and Transportation Conference sponsored by North Bay Transportation & Management Association, the first such association in Northern California.  Twenty regional leaders participated in the all day conference, where 400 listened and participated with the panels.

On Saturday, a similar conference will be held with Phil Erickson of Calthorpe & Associates serving as a keynote speaker.  Phil will report on a study that Peter has tried to fund for 20 years — a Sonoma/Marin transportation and land-use study.    Twenty years ago those 13+ large parcels were less fettered, with planned or existing expensive suburban sprawl homes entwined amid a morass of costly curbs, gutters and dead end streets.

But it is better late than never for Marin and Sonoma counties to use their remaining land to support uses that enhance the environment through more sustainable developments that allow for beneficial reuse of the rail line with passenger and freight traffic.

Thanks to narrow-minded planning, Marin rates at the bottom of the Bay Region’s nine county list when its labor market independence is ranked.  In Marin, 70 percent of county workers live here versus Sonoma’s comparable 94 percent.  In Marin, 59 percent of employed county residents work here versus Sonoma’s comparable 82 percent.   In Marin’s construction transportation, communications and public utilities industries, inbound-commutes hover near 50 percent versus Sonoma’s 10 percent.

Let’s hope Marin will waste no more time in providing land uses that will help make the rail line more economically viable. Even before Pedestrian Pockets are built, the existing rail line can help reduce environmental impacts.  Consider:

  • As development moves forward on Bel Marin Keys, Hamilton Field and St. Vincent/Silveira, wouldn’t it be more environmentally beneficial to import needed fill and building materials by train rather than by road hammering, pollution belching trucks?

And when you consider how much more fuel efficient trains are than cars, and how they, too, add to community building:

  • Wouldn’t Marin’s true environmentalists want to start setting the environmental and community standards for other parts of the country that have the same opportunity we have?

Dwayne Hunn, who lives in Mill valley, was Executive Director of the North Bay TMA and now works on land use, transportation and political issues as well as with Excel Telecommunications.


Marin, why not think ‘regional’?

Marin, why not think ‘regional’?

Dwayne Hunn  Marin Voice

Published Marin IJ February 15, 1995

Everyone’s knocking government.  From Rush Limbarf and Orphan Newt’s cat calls to Gaebler and Osborne’s Reinventing Government advice — everyone’s ripping or reinventing it.   But you know, some public sector ideas are worth a private sector pick up.

In the early 90’s Sacramento and the Bay Area were abuzz with “regionalism.” Transportation, housing, pollution, employment and local revenue needs required a more relevant, comprehensive approach.   By the 90’s Minnesota’s Regional Fiscal Disparities Act had decades of experience addressing 9 counties ‘regional’   needs through sharing a small percentage of sales taxes from each county.  Why not does creative stuff like that in California?

That vision/goal brought together some high-powered Bay Area leaders. Unfortunately, in their pursuit they didn’t hear the warnings that their power profile and media pitch wouldn’t sell parochial locals on the vision. Too many local politicians saw ‘regionalism’ weakening their authority, and its benefits too difficult to convey to constituents.  Given the choice of spreading more common   good   through regionally confronting problems or re-electing themselves. Through simplistic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) – oriented needs analysis, these politicians opted for the well-worn, yellow political brick.

Unfortunately, the supposedly smarter entrepreneurs also didn’t, and still don’t, see the benefits and inevitability of regionalism.

Take Marin, for example. Whether developers propose projects, which include affordable housing, office complex, light industry or pedestrian pockets, Nimbys turn out in droves   crying: Traffic! Neighborhood Character! Cut Trees! Open Space!  Property Values!  The Environment!……….A Bombay Slum Is Falling From The Sky!

Result?  Each developer succumbs to putting up fewer, more expensive homes or spaces.  The middle class, whom all politicians support, commutes longer for an affordable home, workspace, childcare, or community atmosphere.

In Marin this happens to every noteworthy development. Hamilton Air Force Base could’ve been a large, rail oriented, affordable pedestrian pocket instead of an expensive suburban sprawl community.  Bel Marin Keys could have provided a significant number of affordable homes through innovative financing.   St. Vincent/Silveira could’ve been another affordable rail and pedestrian oriented community whose development could provide Catholic money to keep kids out of trouble and orphanages. (It is still in the  “thousand cuts” stage, as the so-called environmentalists fight to boost Marin’s meager 88% protected space, and lessen reasons for a railway.)

Only benefits would accrue if the major landowners in any region sat down together and said, “How can we cooperatively structure each of our plans so that our land, effort and profit will address the region’s pressing economic and social needs?   How can we educate the public and politicians so that they will understand the benefits?  Can we do this as a united front, so we don’t suffer a thousand slashes from environ­mental guerrillas?”

If they did that as smartly as they are supposed to be, middle America might find time to break out of their freeway chains, bring their latch key kids to project approval meetings, and break the strangle hood ‘naysayers’ have in throttling progressive developments.

Result?   The private sector would have profitably answered huge, pending public needs.    There would be less government maligning.   A fresh public-private chapter would be opened in America’s New Covenant.

The Renaissance Faire space, planned as a pricey housing mecca with a golf course mural shining through its windows, after cutting its project in half, still got slashed and burned.  All developers should learn from Robin the Regional Hood.  Robin gatherer a regional band of the weary addressed their needs and became loved leader of an improved hood.

Dwayne Hunn, a freelance writer, has consulted on affordable housing, land development and transportation issues.

(Uncut version. Boxed text includes text not included in published IJ edition.)

Marin power/a closer look

Marinscope newspapers.  Newspointer

October 13-19,  1993

Meandering , Dwayne Hunn

Marin’s Economic Conference talked about what affordable housing producers have bemoaned for over a decade. In countless council and planning commission presentations, housing advocates campaigned to bring jobs and affordable housing closer together to benefit economics as well as families.

Housing professionals from North Bay Ecumenical Housing, where I once worked, and the Ecumenical Association for Housing attracted little support relative to the need. Warnings that forcing latch key families into longer distance commutes would come back to harm the region were ignored. Why ignored? Because Marin’s power brokers:

1) Believe Marin is too rich and beautiful to suffer even from a national tidal wave of sick economics;

2) Have successfully convinced Marin that they are the White Knights protecting Marin from the omnipresent Darth Vader developers and businesses.

You know those Devious Vader characters — like one developer, who through an equity sharing trust fund wanted to make over half the 2500 units at his proposed Hamilton development affordable for ownership to people earning under $40,000; like the Buck Center on Aging which wants to build a research center dealing with aging ills; or just profit hungry developers who wanted to build 40 relatively affordable units on 20 acres of land but are told by Marin city councils that only six mega-expensive estates will be allowed.

Marin’s power brokers have done a superb job. It helps that the handful of them attach environmental sounding titles to their names. Titles that through much of the nation have done good things for the environment. Consequently, the good vibes created by those environmentalists working outside of Marin benefits Marin’s NIMBYIZED environmentalists.

Marin voters who are unable or unwilling to learn of true local needs believe that whatever Marin’s environmental power brokers have to say is good and right. Those who have tried to aid Marin’s housing and business needs have been ignored for years in front of permit approving agencies. To them Sacramento’s Marin moniker rings true, “the Capitol of NIMBYISM.”

Too many business and developers don’t realize where power lies. Today’s frontiers of growth do not hinge on conquering a physical frontier, resources, courage, skill on technology. Today’s frontiers are perceptual.

When I comment to the guy in the YMCA’s steam room about the IJ’s “Economic forum” headline that, “I don’t have to go to know what was discussed at the forum — expensive housing, long commutes — and the environmental community ignores their pleas.”

“Lucky for us, or we’d be like Oakland…” he responds.

There it is. Perception. A stellar PR selling job. Is he uninformed, unwilling to learn or baked as a rock hard NIMBY? How can you be like Oakland when 88% of the land is in open space agricultural reserve or parks? When only 3% of the land, mostly in the County’s developmental corridor along the railroad track east of the 101, remains for development? How can you become like Oakland?

Today perception scores victories. It’s not how well you can hit a line drive or build a business or create a user friendly, ecologically sound, affordable mixed used development. The skill and building is the easy part. Getting the chance to play the right bail game is the tough part.

A suggestion to businesses and developers. Realize the game is, unfortunately, early and long term politics and marketing. Give a quality product that addresses real environmental, family and economic needs. Join forces regionally to supply those answers.

For example, let me resurrect a regional answer I worked on years ago to little avail..  I tried to convince ten large land-holders along the Marin-Sonoma rail line to jointly draw up plans for what they would like to do with their land. Their planning limits would be to address regional needs with their combined regional developments.

Sonoma wants a train and less freeway. Sonoma wants Marin to provide more of it’s own affordable housing needs. Sonoma and Marin want to reduce 101’s traffic. Marin businesses need large office buildings which their office workers can easily reach. Some communities are hurting for sales tax revenues and a regional tax sharing plan would alleviate the trend toward over commercialization. So work together and draw up a master plan to address those regional needs. Don’t waste time, money and energy skirmishing with the power brokers one-on-one, community by community– without a unified grand vision. Landowners hold the most basic answer to many human and environmental needs–the dirt.

Don’t wait for the government to stumble through decades of devising a regional plan– do it better by yourself. With a plan that offers a host of beneficial answers, you can start winning the perception battle. The perception battle determines the economic and environmental winners.



Traffic reducing  proposals

Novato Advance Wednesday, May 24, 1989


The North Bay Transportation Management Association (NBTMA) believes that the public and private sectors, working together, can create traffic solutions that will improve the community’s quality of life.

It’s goal is to Advocate promote, develop and implement innovative traffic reduction and ridesharing strategies in Marin and Sonoma counties.

NBTMA asks you to support the Hamilton project for the following reasons:

  1. No other California project has undertaken, and is prepared to support, as many traffic reduction strategies, as has the Hamilton project. These include:

A full-time traffic system management coordinator who will also be responsible for insuring that those who work at Hamilton will have the first right to rent or own at Hamilton.

Redevelopment Agency Housing Set-Aside funds of $105 million that essentially guarantees that every low and moderate income household will have financial assistance to help find housing at Hamilton.

Optimal use of the Northwest Pacific right-of-way by designing to build a live-work community within a half-mile walk of the transit corridor.

Since no other project has implemented all of these traffic reducing strategies in one project, none of these three points were factored into the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). In other words, the EIR~ traffic projections are not nearly as bad as the opponents to the Hamilton project purport. If models had existed that would have allowed these points to have been factored into the EIR, traffic projections would have been significantly reduced.

  1. Hamilton’s opponents have been proclaiming that the project will cause 12 to 17 miles of added queues on Highway 101. The correct county estimates are that the project should add 3 to 6.5 morning commute miles of congestion and 2.3 to 4.3 evening miles of congestion to the freeway. This is without factoring in the traffic mitigations listed in the first point
  2. Seventy-seven percent of Novato’s and 64 percent of Petaluma’s residents daily commute out of town to work. If Novato built 51 projects of 50 residential units each (equaling. Hamilton’s 2,550 units) over the next 12 years (Hamilton’s projected build out), the number of people commuting through Novato for jobs would increase significantly.

Remember:    Those 51 projects would not have to develop EIR answers as comprehensive as Hamilton has. Those 50 projects, forcing continued long commutes in single-occupant vehicles, would have a harsher impact on air quality, jobs-housing balance, a shorter work commute and a rail transit option to replace many of the single occupant automobile commutes.

4.When phased traffic mitigation requirements are coupled with developers who listen and care, significant traffic reductions can be the result. Rather than saying “no” or “not possible” to every idea, as their opponents do, these local

developers want to and must listen.

What can be some of the results?

5.Novato Priorities’ idea of developing a local jobs data bank which could replace present Novato out-commuters into jobs at Hamilton could become a reality. Out-commuters could trade commute time for family time.

  1. Transit providers such as Santa Rosa Airporter, who are already preparing to do so, could shuttle workers from Sonoma to their Hamilton jobs.
  2. For years the Novato Jitney Committee has been trying to put a jitney on Novato’s streets. Federal Entrepreneurial Capital Grant funds are available to put a jitney on the road, but to receive them, the recipient must show a three-year business plan, which shows that non-public money will make the jitney self-supportive. Hamilton developers would consider paying the fares of their workers who commute from other parts of Novato to work at Hamilton in order to reduce auto use to-from Hamilton. This would help them reach the traffic mitigation levels required of them over their four developmental phases. Such a plan could simultaneously establish a base of self-sufficiency for the jitney.

Review the points made. Consider all the traffic mitigations and ideas outlined. Constructive ideas, developers who want to implement them and a project comprehensive enough to produce them do not come along often.

Hamilton is a model that can encourage the development of other mixed-use communities along Marin and Sonoma’s railroad right-of-way. When enough work-live communities are built, the train will be effectively utilized and that will also reduce traffic on the Highway 101 corridor.

To build those workable communities, a model must be created. Hamilton is the model.