Tag Archives: Hamilton Redevelopment Agency

Points in favor of Hamilton

Marin Independent Journal March 26, 1989

 By Dwayne Hunn


Dwayne Hunn is assistant ex­ecutive director of Novato Ecu­menical Hous­ing and co-di­rector of the North Bay Transportation Management Association

 Opponents of the Hamilton project have used their interpretation of Novato’s redevelopment agency financing to lure supporters to their camp. They would benefit by contemplating Arthur Vandenberg’s wise words from the past.

It is less important to redistribute wealth than it is to redistribute opportu­nity. If the Hamilton project is rejected by the voters in June, the costs of doing business as usual will continue, forcing long Sonoma commutes that gridlock Highway 101, depriving the region of in­creasing and balancing the supply of jobs with affordable housing, and weakening the possibilities of making the train eco­nomically viable on the Northwestern Pacific right of way.

Rejecting the Hamilton project will force us to find more expensive means “to redistribute wealth to regain those lost opportunities in the future.” From this perspective I address some of the is­sues raised by the opponents.

The 400-plus acres purchased by Berg and Revoir for $45 million will be a mas­ter planned community. Opponents compare Hamilton to non-master planned communities where haphazard, piecemeal development at higher densities has occurred.

The Hamilton project calls for 215 acres to have 2,550 housing units, about 12 units per acre. Seventy acres have been set aside for parks, open space, lighted ball fields and so on. Woven throughout the project are bike and walking-running paths.

Hamilton Field’s boarded-up barracks, unused and rundown hangars and decay­ing underground utilities make it a blighted, stagnant area. Hamilton gener­ates no tax revenue to the city of Novato, which has the lowest tax revenue per person of any city in the nine Bay Area counties.

In 1985 the use of redevelopment agency bond financing was an option available to the purchaser. Then, the cost estimates to improve the freeway and frontage road and to add inter­changes (which until the Hamilton pro­ject have never been required of a private developer) were S7 million. In 1988, those cost estimates are $24 million.

The costs to totally replace sewers, electrical and water utilities, drainage and flood control improvements —which benefit the extended region in which Hamilton lies, including the Lanham Village, the mobile home park and the Hamilton School — also increased.

When these escalating redevelopment costs were added to the $33 million of Berg-Revoir site improvement costs, fi­nancial logic dictated that available re­development agency bond financing be requested.

Opponents claim that using redevelop­ment financing will steal Novato taxpay­ers’ dollars. The law says:

“Blighted areas are an economic and social drag upon the community and it is good public business to eliminate them. By the adoption of this constitutional amendment, it will be made possible for the property to pay its own way and if­nance the cost of redevelopment without any additional levy upon the already overburdened taxpayers.”

Project opponents claim there is same deep, dark conspiracy involved in rede­velopment funding. Those weak sisters whom opponents must believe were blindfolded and arm-twisted into giving support include the Novato city staff, the Novato Unified School District, the san­itary district, the fire district and the po­lice department, as well as every member of the Mann County Board of Supervi­sors.

After every new Hamilton-generated city service— every police, fire, school, park and road expense— is paid for, the city will annually receive about $165,000 in general revenues for about 30 years while the redevelopment agency bonds are paid off. After that, the city will re­ceive between $2 million and $2.5 million per year. In addition, the city’s sales-tax revenues will jump by about $500,000 a year.

Perhaps most importantly, redevelop­ment agency financing will generate $32 million (non-inflated) or $92 million (in­flated) to assist on-site workers in own­ing or renting at Hamilton. This assis­tance, mandated by the Community Redevelopment Act, along with the de­velopment and use of the adjacent rail­road lines, is a strength that wasn’t even considered in the environmental impact report, which estimated the amount of traffic Hamilton could generate or the number of workers who could live on site.

In one fell swoop of about 10 years, Hamilton does more than 100 smaller projects to balance jobs and housing, to increase Novato revenues, to encourage the first of many needed pedestrian pockets which will promote transit use and traffic reduction, and to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Why is it that so many of the tradi­tional naysayers want to push those op­portunities off onto future generations where the cost will be much higher?

  Building a better Marin

Marin Independent Journal    Friday, December 16, 1988

 By Dwayne Hunn, Co-Director of North Bay Transportation Association

TWO guys, an avid health nut and an ex-Vietnam helicopter pilot, return to Marin.

From the rough-and-tumble of life, they have learned to be pleasant gents and not pushy cowboys. In reputed red­neck Novato, they are refreshing fellows.

On their return, they venture about as far west as they can, buy 400 acres and propose to build 3,500 homes and 7,000 jobs at Hamilton Air Force Base.

They knew they had emptied their pockets. They didn’t know they had put their necks in a noose laid by self-appointed posses.

When the necktie party started, the noose wasn’t too tight. Coolly these two listened and responded to concerns from community activists, Marin and Sonoma officials as well as the typical Marin naysayer.

Sometimes they backed off, totally changing their plan to mollify Sonoma officials. Other times they stood eyeball-to-eyeball with the Department of Defense and wouldn’t flinch, forcing a toxic bowl to be cleaned.

Now, long before the rubber hits the road of 101, and while their feet are still on the ground and not dangling from a tree, other peoples’ boots are starting to step on theirs. “Too many rentals! Too much traffic! Too many households earning less than $35,000 a year — what a troublesome ghetto It’ll be. Too much biomedical research! Too few bird sanctuaries!” All this because two pleasant gents want to go back to the future.

Part of the reason the Old West was won was because we had men with steel nerves who found that steel rails were a more efficient means of sending trade, doing commerce and cutting through frontiers to build the future.

Every now and then, a city with shops. schools, businesses and homes grew up around the rails of the Old West. Then and for some time thereafter, America was known as a “can-do nation.”

Then America had no choice but to become melting pot of rich and poor, colored and clear to get a job done and build a future. Do Marin, Sonoma and Novato want to go back to the future?

America has become great from the strength it built during those bursts when it acted with vision. Hamilton should be looked on as part of a vision. Hamilton should not be just another de­velopment that the gang of naysayers attacks as though no answers exist for any problem that bedevils us.

You want to deal with the lack of affordable housing? Allow solid residential intensities to be built into projects that also set aside a lot of adjacent open space and that provide recreation and child-care facilities.

To fund city services? Use funds from the Hamilton Redevelopment Agency to fund essential city services as well as generate rental subsidy and affordable housing financing.

To deal with 101 gridlock? Build these intense residential projects along another transit way — like the Northwestern Pacific right of way.

To cut the single-occupant-vehicle commute? Build office and commercial space within this residential community and build 10 to 12 of these along the NWP right of way so that people are given both opportunity and reason to climb aboard a train, work at one rail stop and live arid love at another.

America is weak when it fails to turn problems into opportunities. Mean when it shuts its doors as an answer to problems. Hamilton is a microcosm of problems faced in the North Bay and America. If the Berg-Revoir Hamilton development results in  a small number of exclusive homes or an enlarged military barracks, Novato had voted for the America  of weakness and meanness.

The 21st century will not be controlled by nation, that generate the most law-’suits or commute the farthest to jobs and affordable housing. If American communities choose the weak-and-mean route, then America can expect Arabs to fuel our inflation as Japan buys our productive facilities and real estate.

Participatory democracy gives its participants precious gifts. Moderate-income households, renters, commuters, and those who ignore the intricacies of housing development should learn about and support projects like Berg-Revoir’s.

All of Marin and Sonoma’s projected population growth could be housed in 20 mixed-used projects built along the Northwestern Pacific rails. If we take that route we will be emulating the visionary periods of America when steel nerves turned problems into opportunities that built our nation’s strengths.