Tag Archives: mixed use 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.

NEH, NBTMA, County letters on Hamilton Proposed Development

Costal Post May 31, 1989

 Hamilton Housing And Jobs

 Based on an analysis of the Redevelop­ment dollars that the Hamilton project would generate and the state-mandated 20% minimum set aside for Affordable Housing which total $105 million, I have computed that by year five of the project up to 330 of the lowest salaried families (earning up to $20,000/year) could be receiving $250 per month rent assistance payment for up to 30 years. By year seven, a thousand local fami­lies will be eligible to receive that level of assistance and there will be sufficient funds to provide it.

NEH has recently assisted over 100 fami­lies to secure newly affordable housing in Novato. We have found displaced Novato families with young children will move back from Sonoma to Novato when they can be guaranteed as little as $250/month rent reduction/rent assistance.

Thus, the estimated worse case traffic figures in the EIR are very wrong. The back­ups, both a.m. and p.m., are based on an erroneous assumption that only 16% of the people will be living and working on site at Hamilton. Our analysis shows that over 50% of families working at Hamilton can and will live on site, especially if at least 50% of the first housing units built in phase One will not be generating the 101 peak hour traffic feared.

Additionally, our analysis shows that many of the newly created entry level jobs at Hamilton can and will be filled/held by spouses of active duty military personnel. These spouses will need neither new hous­ing nor will then need to get on the freeway to get to Hamilton—they will already be there at Capehart and Rafael Village. They can be at Hamilton without ever going onto any freeway as it exists or as improved by Berg-Revoir. The EIR did not adequately evaluate the traffic reducing impact of these available workers—already in affordable military housing—on site.


Novato Ecumenical Housing Novato

Traffic Impact Of The Hamilton


Letter to Dwayne Hunn

North Bay Transportation Management Association:

You have asked for a clarification of the County’s projections for the traffic impact of the proposed Hamilton project on High­way 101 as outlined on Page 9 of the County letter submitted to the Novato Planning Commission on September 12, 1988.

The morning queue of bumper to bumper traffic on Highway 101 currently backs up 6.8 miles from the bottleneck at Puerto Suello Hill to Highway 37. As our Septem­ber letter to the Novato Planning Commission indicates, the County estimates that the addition of 1,150 southbound vehicles per hour on Highway 101 headed for Hamilton in the morning would add 9 to 17 lane miles of queue to the existing queue beginning at Highway 37. The addition of 9 to 17 lane miles to the existing queue would back up traffic on the freeway an additional 3 to 6.5 miles extending the bumper to bumper traf­fic from its current beginning at Highway 37 up to San Marin Drive or past Gnoss Field.

The evening queue of bumper to bumper traffic currently begins north of San Marin Drive where the freeway narrows to 4 lanes and extends 1.8 miles to DeLong Avenue. As our September letter indicates, the County estimates that the addition of 865 northbound vehicles per hour on Highway 101 from Hamilton during the evening commute would add 7 to 13 lane miles of queue to the existing queue beginning at DeLong Avenue. The addition of 7 to 13 lane miles to the existing queue would back up traffic on the freeway an additional 2.3 to 4.3 miles extending the bumper to bumper traffic from its current beginning at DeLong down to Highway 37 or Alameda del Prado. In summary, the County estimates that the Hamilton project would add 3 to 6.5 miles of congestion to the freeway during the morning commute hours and 2.3 to 4.3 miles of congestion to the freeway during the evening commute hours. I hope these figures provide the clarification you requested.


Marin County Planning Department San Rafael

 NBTMA Supports The Hamilton Project

North Bay Transportation Management

Association (NBTMA) believes that the public and private sectors working together can create traffic solutions that will improve the community’s quality of life.

NBTMA asks you to support the Hamilton Project for the following reasons:

Hamilton traffic reduction strategies; first right to rent for those who work at Hamilton; Redevelopment Agency funds of$105 mil­lion guarantee low and moderate income households funds to live and work at Hamil­ton; and optimal use of the Northwest Pa­cific Right-of-Way by designing to build a live/work community within a 1,2 mile walk of the transit corridor.

The correct County estimates that the project would add to miles of added queues are 3 to 6.5 miles in the morning and 2.3 to 4.3 in the evening. This is without factoring in the traffic mitigations listed above.

When phased traffic mitigation require­ments are coupled with developers who listen, traffic reduction can be the result.

Local Jobs Data Bank would place pres­ent Novato out-commuters into jobs at Hamilton. Transit providers could shuttle workers from Sonoma to their Hamilton jobs, such as the Santa Rosa Airporter.

Federal Entrepreneurial Capital Grunt funds are available to put a jitney on the road, but to receive them the recipient must show a 3 year business plan which shows that non-public money will make the jitney self-supportive. Hamilton’s developers would consider paying the fares of their workers who commute from Novato to work at Hamilton.

Hamilton is a model that can encourage the development of other mixed-used com­munities along Marin and Sonoma’s rail­road right-of-way. To build those workable communities, a model must be created. Hamilton is the model.