East San Rafael’s needs

Marin Independent Journal Sunday, June 12, 1988


By Dwayne Hunn

During many of the meetings on that San Rafael general plan, we heard vari­ous citizens talk about reducing density in their neighborhoods. Maintaining their neighborhood’s character is one of the reasons often given for allowing less density in the future.

This attitude has spawned strong dis­cussion among East San Rafael resi­dents. The discussion goes something like this: Other neighborhoods have for a long time had political representation on the City Council and Planning Commis­sion. East San Rafael has not. This area hears the other neighborhoods demand less density, less diversity more exclusiv­ity. In East San Rafael, that plea sounds like NIMBY — not in my back yard.

While NIMBY echoes around the city, the city’s fundamental needs remain:

  • More affordable housing to offer more opportunity to balance the jobs-housing imbalance and reduce traffic.
  • More tax revenues.

Where then must the city look to sup­ply the fundamental (not the parochial or often selfish) desires of individual neighborhoods and needs of the larger community? The city’s political structure forces it to look to two neighbor­hood.: St. Vincent’s-Silveira and East San Rafael.

Many East San Rafael community leaders look at infill lots in more exclu­sive neighborhoods and believe more affordable units should be built in those ar­eas. That doesn’t happen because of the NIMBY attitude, the political structure and the belief that maintaining neighborhood character is some kind of constitutional guarantee plugged into the general plan.

So in more exclusive neighborhoods, fewer homes are built on larger lots to guarantee that what exists today appreciates astronomically in value tomorrow.

It would take tremendous political courage to do what is best for the larger city and county community and put more affordable housing in the more ex­clusive neighborhoods. The present Political structure does not make that seem likely. So when these frustrated East San Rafael discussions move to the reality phase, what does that neighborhood want?

Does East San Rafael want other areas to pay a fairness assessment and send the money east to help subsidize the afford­able housing the other neighborhoods will not allow?, Yes, East San Rafael would see a program that buys and up-grades existing units for affordable owner­ship and/or rental as fair and equita­ble. Can such a program be implemented? Yes, if the political will exists to wrestle with a neighborhood political powder keg.

If East San Rafael is going to bear the brunt of the city’s tax-generating enter­prises and much of its future housing—affordable and otherwise—then the city should implement programs that reflect some fairness and equity. Implement is an important word here.

Socially conscious words written in a general plan are not enough. The city should enact programs that will give East San Rafael additional resources to carry the ex­tra burden placed on this neighborhood to carry density, diversity and tax-gener­ating activities that others have success­fully locked out of their neighborhood.

Citizens from more exclusive neigh­borhoods have complained about not baying their trees cut enough. From less politically wired East San Rafael have come the anguished cries of residents

Saying they want drugs and crimes cut. East Rafael does not understand the cost effectiveness of removing a limb that blocks the sunshine when it is pitted against a budgetary line item that can re­move a drug pusher who will take the light from a little child’s life.

Bringing more affordable housing and even more affordable ownership to low-income families in East San Rafael will help deter crime, keep the streets clean­er, raise smart, healthy kids and bring pride to the city.

Dwayne Hunn of MW Valley is a assistant ex­ecutive director of Novato Ecumenical Hous­ing and a Ca­nal Community Alliance Board Member.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.