Tag Archives: land development

Developers need a new strategy

Developers need a new strategy

Dwayne Hunn

Article Launched: 03/25/2007 11:05:29 PM PDT

Marin Independent Journal

HERE WE GO AGAIN. Roughly every decade, the county updates its general plan.  Not many pay attention.  Those who do usually have a perceived problem with something in it.

If you build homes or commercial space, you pray you don’t have a project in Marin.

Why?  Because in Marin, developers can’t win for losing.

Developers propose building substantial affordable and workforce housing, whose marketability they prefer, and what happens? A political fear machine scares elected officials who further slash housing densities. Developers are forced to build mega-estates, with just a few deeply subsidized workforce units. Then, the public blames them for the lack of affordable housing.

Developers are willing to work with those of us who develop workforce housing and push for mixed-use European villages along the rail line, but are rebuffed by groups parading as environmentalists. Had rail-oriented mixed-use developments been built at Vintage Oaks, Hamilton and the St. Vincent’s School for Boys-Silveira Ranch sites (seemingly losing to the illogical minuscule-development myopics) our freeway would be less congested, workforce more balanced, train ridership solidified and, in our interconnected world, oil addiction a little less deadly for our troops.

What’s a winning strategy for developers? It’s similar to what the Bush administration needed for Iraq.

Developers need to build a coalition of landowners, affordable housing advocates, businessmen, etc., and build a vision that captures hearts and minds. After getting some media attention, the vision must be good enough to capture the belief of the too-busy, but still thinking, activists of both counties.

That is doable with a comprehensive development scenario that truly delivers good development, not merely mouths it. Unfortunately, when you have public officials overly influenced by scaremongers offering falsehood and simplicities, you do not develop smart, healthy programs.

Scaremongers have won most Marin battles by twisting facts and ignoring logical, visionary answers, while scaring politicians and citizens into buying into shortsighted nonsense.

What is some of the nonsense that scaremongers have foisted on too-busy people and politicians?

– That each new general plan has too much population growth, developable land, affordable housing and commercial space,

– That each general plan must be dramatically reduced so as to save our quality of life. This is said in California’s oldest median-age county where about 88 percent of its land is protected, only about 5 percent can have some development, and population growth has averaged about 3/10th of 1 percent per year for the last three-plus decades.

– That the Bay Area Association of Governments unfairly calls for too much affordable housing because Marin doesn’t have enough developable space.

– Therefore, the answer is to do less of everything in this new general plan update.

Consequently, each successive general plan fails to reach its goals. Then, the next general plan lowers it goals for previously unmet affordable housing, population, land use, transit oriented development, etc.

The scaremongers have developed a self-fulfilling decreasing development loop that hurts neighborhood, city, county, state and nation by scaring Marin residents into buying a small-minded view of how one of America’s wealthiest counties should be.

Developers, of course, are not faultless. They continue to fail to provide a vision of environmentally sensitive developments that feed mixed-use rail-oriented villages that should have been built for decades along North Bay rail lines.

By failing, they failed to build an army of supporters. Had they articulated that vision, in conjunction with supporting unobjectionable to all in-fill development, developers might reverse their long Marin retreat, and maybe save Baghdad. Oops, wrong battlefield.

Had pedestrian-pocket developments been built over recent decades, fewer would buy into scaremongering about “quality of life, my property values, parkingÉ”

If developers had built the vision and army, there would be fewer complainers sniping at the general plan’s social and housing benefits. Oh, yeah. Had that happened, Marin would be cutting our oil-trafficking addiction and reducing the underlying pretext for bleeding our troops in Baghdad.


Dwayne Hunn consults on land development projects and is Executive Director of People’s Lobby, sponsor of the American World Service Corps Congressional Proposals.

Collected wisdoms on why Marin housing is so expensive:

…… because the opposition to any more housing is so well entrenched politically – as aides, on committees, trained through self-proclaimed environmental groups….

……. because there is little concern for costs that the well executed political actions of housing opponents force upon developers and thence onto those hoping to buy…..

For example, from the Marin IJ of June 11, 2001:

… After Kress’ (Marin Supervisor) departure, the group began talking strategy for the fight ahead.

Sitting in the chair occupied by his boss just a few minutes earlier, Kress’ assistant, Rick Fraites, offered advice to the group. He served on the steering committee for the Citizens to Save Bahia, the group that last month successfully blocked expansion of the Bahia subdivision project in Novato.

“Anything you can conjure up to get the developer to look at and spend money, throw it out there,” Fraites said. “That’s my advice, having just gone through this with Bahia.”

“That’s one of the reasons housing is so expensive in Marin County,” Schwartz said about Fraites’ comment. “If frivolous studies are asked for by the community and included in the environmental impact report, the cost of those studies get reflected in the cost of each home.”

Of Fraites’ comment, Leland added, “That’s probably good advice if your objective is to stop it. The classic paradigm in Marin County is an antagonistic one and we are going to do our best to make it a collaborative one, to work with the residents there.”

Source Marin IJ of June 11, 2001. For the whole story on a Santa Venetia development fight against 28 houses on 30 acres, click Development fight in Santa Venetia.

From Marin IJ Page C1 of August 26, 2001, “Center could hold key to ferry parking woes.”  In this section a paragraph reads:

Earlier this month, GGBD (Golden Gate Bridge District) officials said they had to delay plans to restripe and reconfigure the existing 1,370-space parking lot because the sole bid for the job was almost double the amount budgeted.  Ghilotti Brothers Inc. of San Rafael bid $1 million for the work, which officials had estimated would cost $520,000.

Beneath the more obvious points of this Larkspur Ferry area story that parking is dreadful because we failed to deliver a train and nearby workforce housing is this important point.  Contractors such as Ghilotti do not strenuously compete for Marin jobs because they have closed shop here.  Ghilotti has to bid high on these jobs since he must pay his employees either enough to buy homes in Marin or to commute long distances from where Marin provides its workforce housing – i.e. from Sonoma and the East Bay.  We are losing moderately priced workers since we force them to live elsewhere.   f

More collected wisdoms to be added….

Federal bay refuge simply is too much


Marin Independent Journal July 29, 2001

 NO ONE should be surprised by the chilly welcome the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Marin baylands refuge proposal is receiving from local landowners.

Those landowners feel as if they are the target of a bureaucratic sneak attack, where local environmentalists quietly invited the feds and our tax dollars to Mann to coerce landowners into selling their land for a baylands refuge.

Public concern for and protection of the bay’s remaining wetlands is warranted.  Local, state and federal land use regulations, decision makers and, most importantly, voters are already doing a good job.

Local and national environmental groups are already doing a terrific job coming up with the financial resources to save and preserve Marin wetlands.

This proposal to draw a federal boundary around 17,300 acres is simply overreaching, both politically and bureaucratically. Its size is too sweeping, encompassing a giant slice of the eastside of the county, from Tiburon to Novato, and its chilling effect on future development is significant.

Backers of the proposal (and those who initiated the refuge proposal) say this is “a golden opportunity,” where Mann can protect the bay’s eco-system from the pressures of development by giving the property owners a potential buyer —  us, the taxpayers. They add that landowners will never be forced to sell. Refuge backers say landowners won’t even be stopped from developing their property. But they make no promises that they will support development.

In addition, a Marin Baylands National Wildlife Refuge would have tremendous tourism and recreational benefits for this county, they say.

But realistically, the picture is not that rosy.

By simply being within the boundaries, landowners who want to develop would be faced with the Goliath-sized political hurdle of trying to build in a wildlife refuge in a county where development is not often welcomed. The designation alone will be a huge club no-growthers could swing to defeat any proposal.

For the same reason, landowners are worried that by simply being drawn into the refuge they will lose potential buyers who aren’t interested in becoming a ripe target for environmentalists.

In particular, the promising potential of the open lands of St. Vincent’s and the Silveira Ranch in San Rafael of being developed and designed in a way that both answers the community’s need for workforce housing and is sensitive to its landscape would be lost. No doubt, once included in the refuge’s boundaries, development opponents would use its designation as a rallying cry against building anything.

What could happen to the potential of St. Vincent’s/Silveira could become a pattern for other sites.

Worse, landowners feel they’ve been left out of the process; that this regulatory train started and is moving ahead without care for their interests.

The Fish and Wildlife Service cautions it is only in an exploratory stage, that it is studying the physical and political lay of the land. It will be preparing an environmental study that assesses the benefits of various boundary scenarios.

But unfortunately the trenches have been dug deep and a pitched battle has begun. Because of the way this debate has taken form, there is now little room or promise for compromise.

Marin over the years has done an impressive job of increasing public awareness about the environmental value of the baylands and has become a model for protecting them.

We’ve done that without a federal boundary and we should continue that local initiative.


 A ’golden opportunity’ for whom?

Marin Voice,  Marin IJ July 22, 2001


RECENTLY THE IJ ran a column entitled “A golden opportunity for Marin,” supporting the federal government in acquiring 17,600 Mann acres that are being studied as a proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge (USFWS).

The four authors wrote of the refuge program being voluntary, USFWS management applying only to properties acquired, the government paying fair market value, and of available funding.

Sounds reasonable. The devil, however, is in the Marin details.

As explained by exemplary USFWS officials, their programs should be lauded and supported — yet everyone of the so-far notified property owners strongly wants out of this voluntary, fair-market-value program. Why?

How would you feel  as a farmer, rancher, land holding Catholic organization, raw landowner, bay front rod and gun club, or homeowners association — if you learned that for ten years, self-proclaimed environmental groups pushed the federal government to include your land in a Baylands Refuge and supplied them with the initial maps that started this process?

Or that the first few meetings were held without you, the property owner, being notified?

Might you skeptically see this as a strategy to overlay your land with a government program that causes costly headaches later? Ah, then you feel the pain of those 17,600-acre holders.

Most of these landowners know something about Marin. They know that 85 percent of the county is undevelopable, only about 4 percent of the land remains to meet community needs, housing and population growth has been minimal and for decades our transportation and workplace housing system is hemorrhaging.

Most of them also know about land and development.

They know the hardest part of doing something with the land lies not in the can-do building, but in politics and regulations.

The authors, who for decades have had the time to swap leadership roles in their respective organizations, know politics much better than the fanner, rancher, home and landowner. They have learned and acted on setting the political table to their advantage innumerable times, such as:

Ø     Having the Marin Supervisors rule out a train stop at the St. Vincent’s /Silveira properties in Marinwood so their organizations could design the owners’ properties;

Ø     Forcing developers to constantly spend money on arguments, studies and referendums, thereby wasting affordable housing and transit-solution resources;

Ø     Hoodwinking the USFWS and the initially unknowing landowners a governmental overlay that could drain more time and money from landowners. A brilliant political bleeding strategy.

The authors imply that only they and the government can properly care for Mann’s lands. Yet, Tony Silveira’s family has for 100-plus years taken better care of his cherished land than any agency will.

Developers have turned toxic-sludge ponds into thriving pools. Shoreline homeowners have assessed themselves to dredge spoils and keep their bay thriving with wildlife. Farmers have monitored their land and runoff to keep their production clean, safe and profitable. Most of them have also supported the pollution reducing, community-building train plans and supported providing more housing for Mann’s tapped-out and increasingly bussed-in  work force.

Why do all the property owners oppose being included in even the mapping study? Because they have learned enough politics to not trust anything that has – the blessing of Marin groups who mouth myopic environmental phrases but do nothing creative or imaginative for families, housing, traffic and pollution and energy conservation.

Our local agencies, groups and property owners are good at protecting Marin lands. Putting any of the 17,600 acres in a federal refuge is not a golden opportunity for families, housing, transit, pollution or energy conservation.

Dwayne Hunn of Mill Valley was part of a team that tried to build a 237-unit, solar-energy retirement community in an old quarry near downtown San Rafael.


Preservation proposal is elitist  

Marin Independent Journal June 29, 2001

Marin Voice


I WOULD LIKE to add my thoughts to the Marin Voice printed in the IJ (June 19), titled “A Golden Opportunity of Marin” by Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salz man and Boessenecker. In this article we are presented with an opportunity of preserving more wildlife wetlands in Marin County.

Before I present my thoughts, I would like to give my background I am 24 years old, raised and living in Marin County, with a white-collar job.

Now, no one is a greater admirer of nature preservation than I.  I believe in the preservation of the rain forests, the restoration of the fish stocks in the world’s oceans and utterly appreciate the bountiful beauty of Marin County’s open space. I support the fact that Marin County is and should remain 83 percent open space, without any development in the open space.

But to insist that we start preserving more land in Marin County, land originally slated for development, outside of the 83 percent already preserved, is going too far.  Where are people supposed to live? Where are the people who do not own their own homes, or cannot afford to buy a home in Marin County, supposed to live? Has anyone checked out the rent rates in Marin County lately, if you can even find a place to rent? Has anyone surveyed how expensive it is to live in Marin County? Well maybe these ladies should look into the cost and availability of housing before wondering how to preserve more land for the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge.

With more and more work shifting to the North Bay, and more young people wanting to live in Marin, how are they supposed to afford to live in our county? If Marin is to grow and prosper, we need more affordable housing in already established areas such as San Rafael, Larkspur and Novato. Instead of talking about including more land in the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge, maybe we ought to think about how to make development of housing more available without ruining the natural beauty of Marin.

To bring this situation to a more personal level, let me give you my situation. I have a great job with a technology company, making a mid five-figure salary, am college educated and not a frivolous spender. I have lived in Marin since  I was 9 years old, and have only left Marin for four years to go to school.

I started looking for an apartment a month ago and nearly had a heart attack when I saw the prices for apartments. For a one-bedroom apartment, I was looking at anywhere between $1,000 to 1,500 per month, without utilities, expenses and deposit. At this rate, I will be lucky to be able to buy a couch in a year. And please do not mention a roommate, as two-bedroom apartments are really out of range.

If you think I am the only one who feels this way, I can name at least 10 people between the ages of 27 and 40 who have given up and left Marin (North Bay Area) because of the cost of living. Realize that this is the future of our community that is leaving our area because of the cost. And just so you know, I still don’t have a place of my own and have been forced to move back with my parents.

Has anyone also thought about whether wildlife so close to the cities of the North Bay will flourish? Not only do you have the unwanted intrusion of humans, but what of the waste, noise, and stress caused to the wildlife? Ultimately, this refuge will cost Marin in maintenance and preservation, as well as the talent of individuals who choose not to settle in our community because of extravagant prices.

The submitted proposal of Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salzman and Boessenecker is very elitist. It is all nice and well to think about such grand proposals when you do not find yourself in the financial situation that most of the young and underprivileged find themselves in. Or maybe we ought to only allow those who have a certain amount of money to live in Marin County.

Think about it!

Patrik Smida is a Marin resident.


St Vincent’s is a rare opportunity

Marin Independent Journal

Marin Voice June 20, 2001


CONGRATJLATIONS to the Independent Journal for the wonderful series on the housing crisis in Marin. Residents here need all the information you provided to understand that the lack of housing for our workforce is the principle reason for the present traffic mess and will be the cause of a huge loss of quality of life and diminishing property values in the near future.

Some of the subsequent letters to the editor from the usual “not-in-my-backyard” contingent provided an interesting contrast to your well-researched and factual reporting.

First came Don Dickenson, decrying that the proposed development of the St.Vincent’s/Silviera property will include only 20 percent affordable work- force housing.

In fact, the plan about to be presented by Shapell Industries, the development company selected by St.Vincent’s/CYO, will propose about 30 percent workforce housing with the possibility that this percentage could rise through attractive, well-planned, high-density housing developed in a partnership with a nonprofit organization.

Mr. Dickenson also complains about the inclusion of commercial and office space to be included in the community. Without these inclusions, residents would have to leave the property to shop, work etc., negating the very idea of a pedestrian friendly, self-contained village.

The inclusion of a minimum amount of commercial space offers some on- site jobs, in addition to the school, and helps finance the restoration of the historic buildings and preservation of open areas. The pedestrian-oriented neighborhood being planned will include van service and easy biking to the jobs in the immediate area, including the Civic Center, Kaiser hospital, Terra Linda High and adjacent office and retail.

Finally, Mr. Dickenson, who attended many of the St.Vincent’s/Silveira Task Force sessions, falsely states that the task force planned “filling East Marin baylands with traffic-generating urban development.”

He knows that less than 15 percent of the land will be developed and that the task force meticulously avoided all wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas, and also carefully planned for the maintenance of the environmental and historical assets of the property.

About a week later came a letter from Gil Deane of San Anselmo, alluding to the San Rafael City Council voting to “ruin this fabulous agricultural land He ends by saying: “There are some ways that the shortage of housing can be alleviated.” But typically, he gives no suggestions as to how and where.

The shortage of affordable workforce housing is enormous. Marin’s state quota for the coming five years is 3,585 units. Every well-conceived and well-designed project needs to be fast- tracked through the system. It is important for Mr. Deane and others to remember that these properties were zoned for development since the 1973 county plan set aside West Marin for protection and planned the majority of housing and jobs along 101. A legal attack on the agricultural zoning in the Central Mann corridor was turned back only because of this trade-off.

St. Vincent’s is near 10,000 jobs. Agriculture ha been problematic on a site this size and close to development. Highway 101, the cost of water, very high taxes and other realities have made it anything but “fabulous agricultural land.”

The only way to ensure that your favorite teacher, nurse, doctor, chef, policeman, gardener, salesperson, firefighter, paramedic, etc. continue to be close enough to help you in your coming time of need is to allow them some quality of life too, which allows them to live where they work and not have to commute long periods of time. The good ones don’t have to — they can get a job anywhere and enjoy a nice community life where they live and work.

When they are gone, our vaunted quality of life will be seriously diminished, as will our property values. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider this: 50 percent of the teachers in Marin schools will retire in the next five years. Their replacements, whose salaries will be in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, will be faced with median home prices of $700,000 or $2,000 or more per month rents.

All that we are talking about is allowing people who work here during the day be able to continue being apart of the community overnight.

Joe Walsh of Lagunitas is a former co-publisher of the Classified Gazette and was a member of the St. Vincent’s /Silveira Task Force.


‘Smart’ planning needed in Marin                        

Marin Voice, Marin Independent Journal

Published May 15, 2001 (unedited version)


Recently strategy/economic consultant Stephen Roulac spoke on Marin’s Economic Future to a Marin Community Development hosted public gathering.  He concluded that Marin’s # 1 priority must be bringing back rail. Then the IJ editorialized about the need not to forget the train as a means to address Marin’s land use instigated traffic mess. Then the Chronicle published a Texas Transportation Institute study listing San Francisco-Qakland commute as the 2nd worst in the nation and stated, “cities will have to judiciously invest in new roads, public transit, affordable housing along transit corridors…”

Several years ago local government commissioned a Calthorpe Associates Study that concluded Marin and Sonoma needed and can justify a train. Fifteen years ago Peter Calthorpe and I did local radio shows trying to educate people on the benefits of building European style communities along the large parcels adjacent to the existing rail line.  These villages would more effectively address affordable housing, traffic, resource conservation, and open space then would downzoning developments into auto-dependent suburban sprawl communities.  Peter gave up on Marin.  He moved his home and office to Berkeley where he designs projects through out the nation for developers and cities concerned about using the earth’s limited resources efficiently.

For decades, environmentalists world-wide have pushed for increased train and mass transit use to address air quality, resource conservation, and cargo and travel costs.

Back in Marin a handful of people continue controlling groups with environmental nametags who oppose the train, fight housing projects for decades and downzone them into mega-costly suburban sprawl, building resource devouring, auto-dependent exclusive enclaves.

Where did Marin lose its definition of enviromentalism?  It lost it when working people allowed the county’s policy decisions to be dominated by a handful of people with myopic environmental views. Consequently, too often Marin has a NIMBYized (Not In My Backyard) definition for environmentalism.  Marin lost a true environmental perspective when elected officials a decade ago would say to me, “Oh, but I can’t support pedestrian pockets along the rail line, my constituents won’t vote for it.”

Responding, “Well, gee, isn’t one of your responsibilities as a public official to educate the community on what might be in their long term best interests,” didn’t help.  Well, today we suffer the consequences of that short sightedness in California’s oldest median aged county with gridlock, high labor costs, outrageously priced housing and crowded rentals for our hard working, imported workers.

What’s part of the answer?  Involvement by people yearning for more housing who, unfortunately, are stuck wasting hours in gridlock while working a couple jobs and trying to raise a family.  Also needed is leadership, guts, and common sense foresight from elected officials as well as planners and media makers on land use issues.

How government officials force developers to use the land determines how the people who eventually live on it must get around.  St Vincent’s Silveira is Marin’s largest remaining developable piece of land, and it has a rail line running through it that can connect to Sonoma, Sacramento and Tahoe.  Environmentally conscious, far sighted, regionally concerned leadership would make sure that land was used to design a large, oriented to the train, mixed-use development.

What do policy makers continue to hear from the leadership of many of Marin’s s self described environmental groups on St. Vincent’s Silveira?  1) No development.  2) No train stop.  In fact, some of Marin’s misnamed environmentalists got the Marin Supervisors to put a Memorandum of Understanding into the two year St. Vincent Silveira Task Force Study to expressly remove the historical train stop from the site’s existing tracks.

Of course, governmental leaders can take these Task Force suggestions and make them better.  For the long-term benefit of the region – and by reverberation – the world, Marin should change the Task Force’s narrow parameters and help developers do smart land uses on the few big sites remaining.  Smart land uses helps true environmentalists get away from auto-dependently polluting our sky’s lovely birds and the people who share the same air.

Dwayne Hunn  provides solar  photovoltaic net-metering systems for homeowners and businesses and rides his bike to the rail road tracks to throw stones at the weeds covering the ties over which trains used to glide.


I see San Rafael in 2020, and it works

Marin Independent Journal October 13, 2000

 Marin Voice, Dwayne Hunn

September 23rd Michael Doyle, who guided San Rafael’s successful Downtown Visioning process, his troupers and many City staffers decorated the Shield Room at Dominican College with visions of San Rafael’s past and future.  The only waste during the productive day were the stacks of uneaten lunches, reflecting dashed hopes that more citizens would fortify the City’s future while nourishing themselves.

Probably over 200 people attended. Some left after limited participation.  Most graded the City on its handling of 26 issues (housing, traffic, parks and rec, homelessness, etc.) since the last General Plan and then voted on which of those issues should claim the City’s future General Plan guided efforts.  At any given time, probably a hundred people participated in 6-7 small group workshops.  These groups outlined weaknesses and strengths in one of the City’s four districts and then “Visioned” what they wanted San Rafael to be in 2020.

Or group choose Area 4, (roughly from Dominican and east from 101 to the Richmond Bridge and often referred to as East San Rafael) as their area of concentration, as did several other groups.  Our group had some initial trouble waking to this “vision thing,” so I produced my sleepy-eyed version.  It went something like this:

“Canalways, the largest parcel in East San Rafael between Bay Point homes and Home Depot, would be a mixed-use, pedestrian oriented development.  Many of the garage door and storage businesses that dominate East San Rafael would have been redeveloped under an umbrella plan that made this area of East San Rafael into a pedestrian friendly, mixed-use community that had jobs, shops, affordable ownership housing, a new  school and recreational fields and parks.  The completed Shoreline Park would be alive with walkers, joggers and bikers using it to connect to the San Rafael Canal, which would have been reoriented from emphasizing a parking lot to featuring the Canal with a Venice shopping and strolling atmosphere. A walking and biking bridge would span the Canal and complete a relaxed and scenic connection from East San Rafael to downtown. Downtown San Rafael would have even more sidewalk tables and increased day and night activities on its more often closed-to-vehicles main streets, a la Farmers Market nights.  St Vincent’s Silveira would be a pedestrian oriented mixed-use community designed around the train connecting Sonoma, Marin and more.  Spurs from the train’s 101 mainline  would run east and west from downtown San Rafael and the 580 interchange to and over the Richmond Bridge.  Of course, the train (or some futurized transit mode) would also continue south to other communities.  Gridlock would have dissipated.”

Our group wanted to see a “connected community.”  Connected physically and in “community enhancing” ways.  They wanted more shady streets, more walking and modes of transportation than the ubiquitous car, less traffic and less parked cars.  Even though the City and its visioning for its General Plan has little authority over educational policy, our group wanted more parental involvement, better facilities and more efficient use of them.  There was a call for schools to integrate community service as part of students’ learning experience.  Those calls ranged from working with Marin’s mushrooming elderly population, to working with the poor, to physically participating in returning beauty to San Rafael High’s now degraded campus look.  The group also wanted the Marin Community Foundation playing a greater and more coherent role in addressing the gaps that limit this community from achieving a healthier vision.

Our group was probably reflective of the other groups’ concerns and overall vision. All the groups dwelled on the need for more affordable housing for the low and middle-income households and less traffic.  One envisioned personal GPS (Ground Positioning Systems) linked to on-demand transit as an answer to today’s transit shortcomings.  Most groups also wanted a more involved community in policy guiding events like this “Visioning Day.”  Maybe next summer those who stayed home recovering from their long commute and work woes will find a way to beam themselves to Dominican to munch on a free lunch and visions of the future.


10 questions for San Rafael

10 questions for San Rafael

 Editor’s note: On June 24th, 550 people attended a meeting of a new group, San Rafael 2000, to discuss .San Rafael’s General Plan. This is an edited version of a speech delivered by Dwayne Hunn, which he asked San Rafael 2000 consultants and the City of San Rafael “to provide some community insight and answers to 10 questions. “Here are the questions:

By Dwayne Hunn

  • Two of East San Rafael’s concerns are traffic and affordable housing. If the Kerner street property owners have paid their traffic mitigation fees and some of their money has undergrounded utilities, put in a pond, a bike path, and Shoreline Park, why hasn’t Kerner been connected to help alleviate congestion at intersections like Bellam and throughout East San Rafael?
  • The proposed Irene Street Overcrossing is estimated to cost over $22 million. The Grange Plan Overcrossing  is estimated at $4. million. Shouldn’t the Grange Plan be analyzed in detail to see if it can more quickly and efficiently address East San Rafael traffic needs?
  • Does the overpass proposed from Merrydale to the Civic Center Drive with no offramps onto 101 really serve to alleviate traffic snarls, or does it merely make shopping at the Emporium easier for those at the Civic Center?
  • Does reducing the floor area ratios of future projects really reduce traffic generation? If you reduce the building footprint that can stand on a piece of land to half of what some nice buildings now have– will future buildings. be built?  In certain years Phoenix Leasing has generated more in sales tax revenues to the City of San Rafael than has Macys. Will buildings like Phoenix Leasing that generate minimal traffic, huge traffic mitigation fees, and gigantic sales tax revenues to the City be built in the future on expensive San Rafael land when only 1/2 of the floor area ratio is allowed?
  • How can adequate child care facilities be tied into the East San Rafael neighborhood through the General Plan? Child care overflows into land use, traffic and circulation, and low cost housing needs — so picking a spot to plug that into the General Plan is imperative.
  • By being more successful than anticipated, Federal Express has been forced to close its counter at 3 p.m. Because its service is generating too much peak hour traffic. If Federal Express is generating 100 excessive peak hour vehicle trips per day– rather than closing them down couldn’t they have been required to assist SMART– the local jitney program–to generate 100 more peak hour riders per day? Shouldn’t the General Plan have measures that encourage businesses to find or assist with traffic solutions rather than merely hurting businesses?
  • How can a General Plan allow for senior developments only on flat land while seemingly allowing for all other housing needs to be answered on only flat land? Will not starting families and others with flat land housing wants have inherent conflicts with such excessively specific policy findings? Elderly housing projects almost inherently have transit systems built into them. Doesn’t this policy make providing affordable senior housing much more difficult in California’s to-be oldest median age county?
  • As the hub of the county, San Rafael must find a way to produce housing affordable for it workers. Where are the implementation tools to provide housing to those households earning $16,000 to $30,000 dollars, the household incomes of the bulk of San Rafael workers whose Sonoma commute adds to regional gridlock? Where are the implementing tools that will allow San Rafael workers to own homes at costs between $50,000 and $75,000? These prices can be reached, as households whose average income was $17,000 paid an average of $51,000 for NEH’s Skylark Meadows condo/ townhouses.
  • The problem lies in how we have become accustomed to moving around in a suburban arena while mass transit solutions were designed for the urban arena. Nonetheless, we have the transit modes to handle our problems. The range from buses, light rail vehicles, jitneys, motorized cable cars, to car pools. What we need are transit systems that are managed better for our suburban arena and our moving patterns. How will the General Plan encourage and stimulate better transit management solutions? How will the General Plan encourage entrepreneurs and private developers to answer the community’s need for more effective transit when funds for government to do so have vanished?

Thanks for your patience, like Moses you are probably grateful  there were only ten.

Dwayne Hunn is a board member of. North Bay Transportation Management Association and Canal Community  Alliance

Oh, God, have mercy on our failures

This is unedited version published in Marin IJ  January 18, 2000

Heavenly pictures and angel added by forlorn altar boy author.


Oh, God, have mercy on our failures

Slipping into cushy slippers on a billowy cloud, he called out, “Gabriel, update me on my blue, green gem.”

“Sir, globalization is beefing up the bigs, strengthening some middies, while your poor continue arduously climbing their hill of needs.”

“Are my beefies being generous and creative in their good times?” he asks, as he sprinkles light into a black hole.

“Bill Gates and  Ted Turner have….”

“No, no, Gabe.  I don’t need to know of their endowments, or Ted and Jane trading aerobic sessions.  Give me an analysis of community actions addressing values extrinsic to mankind.”

“Extrinsic values, sir?

“Gabriel, you mastery of earthling jargon slips.  For planet Earth that means clean and ample water, air, food, shelter and peoples’ actions that help children’s eyes and dreams gleam from birth and far into their sunset years.  You remember, Gabe, it takes a village to raise a child?”

“Yes, sir, and extrapolations of that to raise a region and a world.  Shall I focus the window of your upgraded Deep Universal Problem Evaluating (DUPE) computer on your Golden State, sir?”

“Yes.  Zoom into my Garden of Eden County where they have set aside 301,314 of my 388,352 acres into open space, agriculture and park lands.”

“Zoomed, sir,” the archangel replies, as the 4-D panaview of Marin reels up over one of God’s universes.  “Goodness, look at the brake lights on their ‘freeway’.”

“Hmmh, looks like Chicago Bulls parking lot in the Airness days I dished them… Gabriel, where are those wonderful, friendly trains we watched years ago from this  view?  They zoomed north into surrounding counties, west into small towns and red wooded mountains.”

“Sir, big oil and auto companies derailed those trains 4 or 5 decades back.”

“Tssk, tssk,” God said, shaking His head, “Right.  My bigs sometimes think ‘Might makes right.’ But other parts of my Golden State are returning efficient, community enhancing trains.  What is My Golden Gated County doing?”

“Sir, four times in the last 40 years some have tried to revive them but…

“Who opposed them?” God interjected.

“Groups referred to as ‘environmentalists’ in your blessed county.”

“Gabriel, are you forgetting your earthling vocabulary again?”

“No, sir.”

“Environmentalists oppose trains that move more people while putting less pollution in my skies?  Trains that encourage friendly mingling and wondrous viewing of my open spaces?” God rhetorically asks.

“It is a little confusing, sir.  You might blaze read the DUPE computer folder “St. Vincent’s Silveira Stakeholders Task Force.”

God blinks His version of Evelyn Wood’s speed reading through 8,769 pages of county documents, “It says the environmental groups want no building on the ‘view corridor, flood plain or near 101 and some environmentalists want 37 units allowed on 1240 acres.  Where’s my colorful train that used to whisk people through this land and into Sonoma, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe?”

“Sir in the file titled, ‘Memo of Understanding’ the environmental stakeholders and politicians removed the train and station.”

“These ‘stakeholders’ are offering no alternatives for those stuck in traffic trying to get home to their loved ones?”

“Should we send them wings, sir?”

Hmmh, Gabriel, your jokes are far from divine… Wasn’t part of this stakeholders’ site owned by a Boys Town place?”

“Yes, sir.  Now St. Vincent’s wants to use development there to endow their future work with troubled children.”

“But without being more creative, thoughtful and logical how will these ‘tempholders’ of my land get the highest and best land uses to endow that hallowed work?  Provide enough housing for my middie and hard working strugglers?  If they continue being self-centered and deplete the region’s air and people’s quality time with myopic land uses, they will rob my not so well off children elsewhere.”

“What would you like done, Lord?”

“They must consider the bigger picture.”

“Shall I put some of them in space, for a bigger view, sir?”

“Perhaps it would be easier to put some of them in my struggling African villages, where the experience would adjust their priorities.”

“That would greatly alter their comfortable lifestyles…Should I zap them there now, Lord?” as Gabriel reaches for God’s staff leaning against a comet.

“For now, let’s just plant this with that IJ staff and see if they get people thinking more about values extrinsic to mankind.”



While listening to the St Vincent’s Silveira Task force meeting of January 6th discuss  “extrinsic values,” one-time forlorn altar boy Dwayne Hunn received this winged transcript from above.