Tag Archives: Open space

…but, from where I sit, they’re part of the problem

Marin IJ April 11, 1999  by Dwayne Hunn

 In  February the IJ reported that Senator Boxer introduced legislation that would guarantee $2 billion of oil companies taxes be siphoned off to maintain public parks, expand urban parks and protect the country’s wildlife. It would be titled “Permanent Protection for America’s Resources 2000.”  Ann Thomas of Marin Baylands immediately saw the most pressing need for this money, “We would love to acquire Canalways.  It would be an absolute jewel for San Rafael to preserve that site.”

Because the nation’s people face  more pressing needs and spending  $2 billion differently could better help the environment, why not have a better title and spending program?   Although comfortable Marin does not typify national needs, even here it is easy to spend on more humane and environmental needs..

In the last 20+ years Marin has:

  • spent $32.3 million acquiring 13,107 acres of open space ($2,466 per acres)
  • allowed only about 12% of its land to be open to development, much of what little remains rings the freeway
  • consistently forced developers, thanks to myopic environmentalists, to downzone developments so that affordable units became fewer and harder to deliver
  • grown .08% per year over the past 29 years, with about half of that growth due to people born into or inheriting homes in the county
  • averaged a yearly growth of —-that modest increase is not the overpopulation causing Marin’s traffic congestion
  • pressed to become the oldest median age county in California
  • seen the median home cost rise to a Bunyonville number of $545,000
  • gagged its freeway with solo caring northward workers unable to live in Marin
  • leached more congestion pollutants into canals, farm fields, air and lungs due to its myopic land use policies

Where should conscientious leaders spend the $2 billion in oil  revenues?  In Marin, and elsewhere, take the oil money and put it where Californians need it more, into:

Þ     transit (so freeways won’t continue sucking quality time out of  people’s lives)

Þ     logical land use (quit talking about smart land use and start building smart communities for regular people) along transit corridors

Þ    delivering affordable workplace housing (state statistics show …..

Marin could have had several 100% + more affordable workplace housing units if myopic environmentalists  HADN’T CONTINUOUSLY opposed physically reviving the train. Worse than that, these so-called environmentalist have strategically tried to kill the train’s future by drastically downzoning and forcing designs on communities (Novato Oaks, Hamilton Air Force Base,  the areas surrounding the Civic Center, and now St. Vincent’s Silvera)  that could have produced mixed used communities that provided train ridership, jobs and ridership for the environmentally beneficial train. How environmentally healthy it could have been to have compactly built along Marin and Sonoma’s train tracks a string of  compact communities whose residents walk, work, live, shop and ride the train..

Since about 88%  of  Marin’s land is set aside in open space, agriculture or park land, perhaps it’s time $32.3 million of that $2 billion be shuttled into a Workplace Housing & Transit District  rather than into acquiring St. Vincent’s and Canalways.  Why not treat people as well as we have treated open space?  Let some smart, truly environmental politician, who is concerned about the quality of peoples lives,  call for using the expertise in the Open Space District to perform the same miracles for today’s crisis needs — workplace  housing and transit.

Let St. Vincent’s be a affordable town oriented to give ridership to the train.  Let Canalways be a mixed use project that provides workplace housing, perhaps a neighborhood school and a high tech campus for the Lucas company types who consistently leave this aging, too narrow minded  and pricey county.

Would Senator Boxer and  Congressman Miller re-title their legislation “Permanent Protection for America’s Resources and  Working People 2000”? Would Marin’s leadership support such?

Dwayne Hunn, a public educator, knows Senator Boxer’s fax number is 415-956-6701    and her email is senator@boxer.senate.gov.

Above is unedited version run by Marin IJ on April 11, 1999.

Additional notes not published:

Since its formation in the 1970’s the Open Space District obtained contributions from Proposition 70 money, Marin Community Foundation, Assessment Districts, CSA {County Services Agreements.

Open Space district collected $32,316,931 and acquired 13,107 acres…

This amounts to $2,466 per acres spent in acquisition.

1995 largest acquisition year = 2,426 acres

1996 = 206 acres

1/97 – 6/98 285 acres (18 months)

Acquisition money is approaching bottom of barrel.

Marin, why not think ‘regional’?

Marin, why not think ‘regional’?

Dwayne Hunn  Marin Voice

Published Marin IJ February 15, 1995

Everyone’s knocking government.  From Rush Limbarf and Orphan Newt’s cat calls to Gaebler and Osborne’s Reinventing Government advice — everyone’s ripping or reinventing it.   But you know, some public sector ideas are worth a private sector pick up.

In the early 90’s Sacramento and the Bay Area were abuzz with “regionalism.” Transportation, housing, pollution, employment and local revenue needs required a more relevant, comprehensive approach.   By the 90’s Minnesota’s Regional Fiscal Disparities Act had decades of experience addressing 9 counties ‘regional’   needs through sharing a small percentage of sales taxes from each county.  Why not does creative stuff like that in California?

That vision/goal brought together some high-powered Bay Area leaders. Unfortunately, in their pursuit they didn’t hear the warnings that their power profile and media pitch wouldn’t sell parochial locals on the vision. Too many local politicians saw ‘regionalism’ weakening their authority, and its benefits too difficult to convey to constituents.  Given the choice of spreading more common   good   through regionally confronting problems or re-electing themselves. Through simplistic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) – oriented needs analysis, these politicians opted for the well-worn, yellow political brick.

Unfortunately, the supposedly smarter entrepreneurs also didn’t, and still don’t, see the benefits and inevitability of regionalism.

Take Marin, for example. Whether developers propose projects, which include affordable housing, office complex, light industry or pedestrian pockets, Nimbys turn out in droves   crying: Traffic! Neighborhood Character! Cut Trees! Open Space!  Property Values!  The Environment!……….A Bombay Slum Is Falling From The Sky!

Result?  Each developer succumbs to putting up fewer, more expensive homes or spaces.  The middle class, whom all politicians support, commutes longer for an affordable home, workspace, childcare, or community atmosphere.

In Marin this happens to every noteworthy development. Hamilton Air Force Base could’ve been a large, rail oriented, affordable pedestrian pocket instead of an expensive suburban sprawl community.  Bel Marin Keys could have provided a significant number of affordable homes through innovative financing.   St. Vincent/Silveira could’ve been another affordable rail and pedestrian oriented community whose development could provide Catholic money to keep kids out of trouble and orphanages. (It is still in the  “thousand cuts” stage, as the so-called environmentalists fight to boost Marin’s meager 88% protected space, and lessen reasons for a railway.)

Only benefits would accrue if the major landowners in any region sat down together and said, “How can we cooperatively structure each of our plans so that our land, effort and profit will address the region’s pressing economic and social needs?   How can we educate the public and politicians so that they will understand the benefits?  Can we do this as a united front, so we don’t suffer a thousand slashes from environ­mental guerrillas?”

If they did that as smartly as they are supposed to be, middle America might find time to break out of their freeway chains, bring their latch key kids to project approval meetings, and break the strangle hood ‘naysayers’ have in throttling progressive developments.

Result?   The private sector would have profitably answered huge, pending public needs.    There would be less government maligning.   A fresh public-private chapter would be opened in America’s New Covenant.

The Renaissance Faire space, planned as a pricey housing mecca with a golf course mural shining through its windows, after cutting its project in half, still got slashed and burned.  All developers should learn from Robin the Regional Hood.  Robin gatherer a regional band of the weary addressed their needs and became loved leader of an improved hood.

Dwayne Hunn, a freelance writer, has consulted on affordable housing, land development and transportation issues.

(Uncut version. Boxed text includes text not included in published IJ edition.)