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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