Tag Archives: BART

With no train can we really clean…

Unedited version published in Marin Independent Journal 7-14-98.  Pictures added.

Marin Voice

With no train can we really clean the air?

Dwayne Hunn

Let’s ponder an imaginary debate on the following topic.  “Is the Marin Conservation League good for the world?”

Team Beemers’ Jennifer Comfy, of Marin’s Platitude High, opens the debate as Team Bikers of Oakland’s Tanning Vocational look on with big eyes.

“The Conservation League merges all those individuals and groups who work to ensure that tomorrow’s children have an environment that blooms with flowers,  billows with fresh ocean breezes, cascades with hiking trails and soothes our eyes with scenic vistas.  Without such a league of the environmentally conscious, not only would the greenery of  our lands and blue of our skies fade and darken, but the tranquility of our lives and creativity it provides our minds would dissipate.   Working locally, these courageous environmentalists institute programs that make the universe an extraordinary partaking….”

While shuffling to the podium, the Bikers’ Dirk Maloney responds, “Well, beam me and my crew up to your world, where life’s a beach and everyone bathes in sunshine and stellar lights.    Conservationists devour resources to save you the blue and green in wavy fields, while leaving others to view concrete and asphalt etched by bars and orphanages…

Zane Farr, the supervising teacher interrupts, “Refrain from being personal.   Use factual references to make your points.”

Bobbing his head, Dirk continues, “A true environmentalist measures his works by how they impact the world beyond the greenery of their county, their hiking trails and their tranquility.  He learns to see beyond a few pretty colors and local scenery when he views the impacts of his efforts.  Thank you.”

“Specifics points, Ms. Comfy,” interjects  Mr. Farr.

“In what is often referred to as Marvelous Marin, we have a richness and beauty of life creditable to the environmental  movement.  Years ago we stopped BART.   Recently we stopped hundreds of beautiful, bucolic St. Vincent’s / Silveira acres from being plied with development, so that our scenic, serene view from Highway 101 will remain.   By disallowing a future train stop and drastically cutting St. Vincent’s developmental potential, we insured minimal nature impacts.  It is such farsightedness that provides for a heavenly, ecologically sound atmosphere.”

“Wonderful vision,” Dirk grumbles.  “While here in Oakland none of your Marin Community Foundation money helps our  serenity.   Yet that money continues supporting Marin’s sereneness deprived environmental organizations.    We support Amtrak and BART to reduce the pollutants your self-imposed congested freeways cause.  Your Golden Drawbridge makes comfortable lives for the rich and famous, while the East Side Bridge relives West Side Stories.   Oakland scrapes for money to make our poverty programs work and spread rail transit, because we want hard working parents to spend as much time as possible with their kids.  Rail-less,  you force hard working families to pollute and commute hither and yon, trading thousands of parental quality hours for  latch-key kiddom.

“You think you’re saving the neighboring pearly mouse and pretty bird, while forcing working folk to exhaust stuff in the air that hurts those same and other critters outside your neighborhood.   The commute time you force on parents increases the likelihood their latch-kids will do time.”

Rolling her eyes, Jennifer retorts, “Conservation, Mr.  Maloney, is not about juvenile delinquency.  It is about saving the environment, so that future generations can enjoy its wonders…”

“Right, Ms.  Comfy.  For you there is no connection and I’m confused…   Someday rest your BMer for a rickety bike adventure on some mean streets or sweat in some poor country, where land use planning for million dollar estates lags far behind putting 1500 calories on tomorrow’s plate.  Then come back and explain to me why your environmental land use crusade to hurt middle class Americans, their kids, and the world’s air is so groovy good for the rest of the earth?”

Mill Valley’s Dwayne Hunn sometimes supervises debates, rides bikes, and gets confused.

“Bad Train….”

Interviewing Angelo Siracusa — Bay Area Council boss

Marinscope / Mill Valley Herald  March 29–April 4, 1993
 Dwayne Hunn

In 1966 he began working for the Bay Area Council (BAC). Today he runs it. In 1973 he moved to Sausalito, and his Berkeley girlfriend followed. In 1983 Angelo and Diana Siracusa bought their Hawk Hill home overlooking Tam Junction.

If you enjoy an engaging speaker who pulls few punches and knows his subject, listen to him when you can. Until then, read this.

What does the Bay Area Council do?

BAC is a business supported membership organization that engages in public policy issues that have an economic and social dimension. We are involved in housing, transportation, job training, economic development and growth management.

Our economic perspective is through the eyes of business so some in the environmental community dispute whether we act in the public interest. We believe we do. Housing affordability, for example, is a public interest issue, effecting peoples’ livelihood as well as corporate location and business expansion.

How has BAC’s agenda changed over the last 20 to 30 years?

Oddly, not very much. When the Council was first formed almost 50 years ago, we were almost exclusively an economic development, growth-oriented organization concerned about promoting post-war growth.

For the past 20 years we have been close to the stuff that is affected by and affects land use. For a while, when the Association of Bay Area Governments was doing the Bay Area Management Plan, we were more deeply involved in environmental questions. We are now in environmental issues largely because of the relationship between air quality and transportation.

Oddly enough, almost 20 years ago we were deeply involved in regional planning when then Assemblyman Jack Knox introduced regional planning and governance bills. Now they are back at the top of our agenda. Recently, we were significantly involved in the development and legislative work of SB 797 which would have created a regional growth management for the Bay Area.

Prior to the 1962 ballot election on whether to issue $792 million to construct 75 miles of the BART system, San Mateo and Marin dropped out. Why did Marin drop out?

Marin dropped out for the same reason Marin resists transportation today. They thought transit would be growth inducing.

They may have hid under the argument of the Golden Gate Bridge’s inadequate engineering capacity to handle fixed rail, but the real reason was the attitude that exists today. That is Marin doesn’t want a transit system that would generate what transit systems should generate–higher density development close to transportation corridors.

How would BART or a light rail system through the North Bay effect land use?

Tough to say. When we were first thinking about BART in the Bay Area, the Mayor of Toronto gave us a presentation showing how well theirs works. His slide presentation showed clusters of high density activity around their subway stations. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on where you stand, Toronto has a metropolitan system that was able to force not just transit decisions but related land use decisions. We don’t have that in the Bay Area. Here a city or a county can say, “Even though there’s a transit station here, we don’t want to change the land patterns.” The transit station’s existence should promote development there. Instead, the will of the local government too often stymies that sensible land use.

Do you think increased rail systems development would increase the development of Sausalito architect Peter Calthorpe’s Pedestrian Pockets?

Calthorpe’s PPs is really founded on the notion that you can get a home to work environment. A jobs-housing balance creates less of a necessity for either highways or transit. Therefore, I don’t see a necessary causal relationship between PPs and transit.

The Calthorpe idea, which I strongly endorse, is “let’s create a physical, psychological and economic environment where a person can and will want to live and work in the same general area.” That “will want to” is very important.

What’s one thing you’d like Marinites to think more deeply about?

Their narrow view of their own self interest. We all want open space next to us and less traffic. It’s part of our view of quality of life. Yet that can be a very narrow, parochial, selfish view. Marin is the worse example of that.

Marin’s density pattern is appallingly low. Density can be good for the environment — although others will disagree. There is nothing wrong with protecting the dairy lands of West Marin, but I don’t buy anti-development arguments surrounding Hamilton Field or Silvera (Ranch). We need to have the jobs-housing balance that sensible development at those sites can provide.

I’m unhappy with Marin’s extreme NIM­BYism. Yet I can understand it. All of us believe that our view of the environment is the world view of the environment, but Marin’s predominant view isn’t environmentalism. It’s extreme NIMBYism.

Do you think the 11 cities in Marin have dif­ferent attitudes regarding these problems?

No doubt about it. The political philosophies of southern and northern Marin are terribly dif­ferent. As it turns out, NIMBYism happens to transcend political philosophy. Even conservatives who love the market place and property rights can be as exclusionary as extreme environmentalists. So while they are different, it’s as difficult to get things done in Novato as in Mill Valley.

When you are on the social circuit, maybe at Marin parties, are you…

I’m the outcast. Yeah, I’m not too popular.  A lot of people think I state my beliefs with respect to other communities but not Mill Valley. My beliefs are also true for Mill Valley. We should develop different kinds of density patterns even in my hometown.

Somebody wanted to build a home in my neighborhood, and somebody else passed a peti­tion to not allow it. I testified on behalf of the developer. Not because I liked the developer, but because that person had a right to build there. An infrastructure existed. Homes were already there. Development did not change the character of the community.

Could hearing characters like Angelo Siracusa improve Marin or just hurt the gray stuff between exclusive ears?

Pedestrian pockets

Mill Valley Herald  March 15–21, 1993

Meandering by Dwayne Hunn

This Is the first of a series, of columns on land use and transit problems facIng the North Bay, as well as the nation. Whether you live In San Rafael, Novato, Ross, Mill Valley or a big city, the way we use our most basic resource–the land– affects you, your loved ones and the environment. If you have comments, address them to Letters to the Editor or to the columnist.

 Across much of our nation short-sighted land use and transit planning burdens us with traffic congestion and longer commutes. In a failing economy, when the. full cost of car ownership is added to the cost of insufficient affordable housing not dependent on a car for work, the sum soon adds homeless, cardboard shacks and Safeway carts to the streets.

With one clogged artery running through its verdant body. Maria County frustrates workers pumping the North Bay’s economic life blood. With its penchant for downzoning developments to allow only pricey estates, Marin has a dearth of affordable housing. Each feeds off the other, sapping the diversity that provides quality and economic security to life.

Like the human body, what you put into the region’s body determines Its health. As one of the richest counties in the world, Marin fools itself by believing only exclusive estates and lack of diversity make a healthy economy.

Answers exist. Answer-givers live in our backyards. But politics and lack of visionary leadership, keep the answers out of town.

Sausalito architect Peter Calthorpe has been offering us an answer for more than 10 years, yet Marin politics has stopped him from doing a Pedestrian Pocket answer In his backyard. Recognized nationally, he is one of the members of the St. Vincent’s-Silveira Design Competition Review Board, which is looking across the nation for land use answers for one of Marine most significant pieces of land.

Marinites concerned about traffic, the environment and a jobs-housing balance should know the. benefits of Pedestrian Pocket development. The next three columns as. drawn from updated Interviews I did with Peter Calthorpe for our North Bay Transportation Management Association’s 1990 Land Use Conference.

What are Pedestrian Pockets?

 A simple and old strategy that builds communities around a mix of jobs,  housing and recreational activities. Our traditional towns were designed around pedestrians to provide a mix of walking, biking, mass transit, auto use and recreation. Recreating that mix Is the goal of pedestrian pockets. Beyond transportation, however, the goal of the pedestrian pocket (PP) concept is to cluster development and thereby save valuable open space and environmentally sensitive lands.

Hand in hand with transportation and land use objectives rides the Issue of affordability In housing end its corollary – a healthy regional economy. it has been shown time and time again — regions which do not balance jobs with appropriate and affordable housing lose their economic base. The loss occurs In both public services and in overall market place activity. Pedestrian pockets go a long way toward creating diversity and opportunity for affordable housing by creating more affordable life styles, as well as by reducing housing development casts.

PP’s three goals are: 1) support alternative transportation without denylng  the car; 2) cluster development to preserve open space/ag land and sensitive areas; 3) provide a development pattern which Is efficient and, thereby, affordable to a, broader range of citizens.

Physically, the PP is bounded by a .not-so-arbitrary 1/4 mille walking radius from the town’ center, which should include neighborhood retail, jobs and a transit station. Within the 14 mile, which is equivalent to about 100 acres of land, there could be 1,000 to 2,000 units of housing and up to 3,000 jobs. Beyond the simple mix and clustering of activities Is a critical design factor– design for the pedestrian.

In most of our suburban growth we seemed to have lost the talent for designing spaces, streets and plazas which are comfortable and enjoyable to walk in. It Is not enough to just have a destination within walking range. We must also begin to rediscover the scale and quality of our traditional pedestrian world. For example, a store or transit stop may be within walking distance, but if you have to cross a four-lane arterial and acres of parking to get there few people take the trouble. Therefore, the essential ingredient for a PP becomes a mix of uses and activities that results In a highly refined pedestrian environment. This pedestrian environment must also allow for free access of the auto in all areas.

Why did you develop the Pedestrian Pocket idea for the NWP right-of-way?

I had been working on the concept of ecological and sustainable communities for many years. Its so doing, It became apparent to me that no matter how efficiently or ecologically Isolated communities or stand-alone towns were designed, they would fail because It was unlikely that people would live and work in the same place.  So it occurred to me that we needed  a corridor of sustainable communities that were linked, so that people could get from one to the other without having to use their car. The North West Pacific right-of-way offered such an opportunity.

A very important study just completed on BART has documented that 40 percent of people who live and work within five minutes walking distances of a BART station, use BART. Only I percent of those who live outside of that five minute walking radius use BART. This Is significant because BART stations are not even designed to be walked to. They are designed for the car.

In a Pedestrian Pocket one may have 3,000 job opportunities, but if the NWP right-of-way were developed with a series of PP’s, one could have 60,000 job opportunities within walking distance of the transit line. Those numbers allow one to conclude that transit would become usable and convenient. So the guiding block of the concept has to be a transit corridor.

 What’s the benefit of PPs to Marin and Sonoma?

 Benefit would include: reduced traffic on 101, land use patterns would support and make viable a mass transit system, the preserving of open space and the opportunity to provide more affordable housing and more desirable job location. It’s becoming apparent that many businesses would rather locate in mixed use areas than in isolated office parks. They understand that areas In which people can walk for their midday errands are desirable. They also understand that a region which has a good balance between affordable housing and jobs provides them a better work force.