Tag Archives: San Rafael General Plan

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

  East San Rafael’s needs

Marin Independent Journal Sunday, June 12, 1988


By Dwayne Hunn

During many of the meetings on that San Rafael general plan, we heard vari­ous citizens talk about reducing density in their neighborhoods. Maintaining their neighborhood’s character is one of the reasons often given for allowing less density in the future.

This attitude has spawned strong dis­cussion among East San Rafael resi­dents. The discussion goes something like this: Other neighborhoods have for a long time had political representation on the City Council and Planning Commis­sion. East San Rafael has not. This area hears the other neighborhoods demand less density, less diversity more exclusiv­ity. In East San Rafael, that plea sounds like NIMBY — not in my back yard.

While NIMBY echoes around the city, the city’s fundamental needs remain:

  • More affordable housing to offer more opportunity to balance the jobs-housing imbalance and reduce traffic.
  • More tax revenues.

Where then must the city look to sup­ply the fundamental (not the parochial or often selfish) desires of individual neighborhoods and needs of the larger community? The city’s political structure forces it to look to two neighbor­hood.: St. Vincent’s-Silveira and East San Rafael.

Many East San Rafael community leaders look at infill lots in more exclu­sive neighborhoods and believe more affordable units should be built in those ar­eas. That doesn’t happen because of the NIMBY attitude, the political structure and the belief that maintaining neighborhood character is some kind of constitutional guarantee plugged into the general plan.

So in more exclusive neighborhoods, fewer homes are built on larger lots to guarantee that what exists today appreciates astronomically in value tomorrow.

It would take tremendous political courage to do what is best for the larger city and county community and put more affordable housing in the more ex­clusive neighborhoods. The present Political structure does not make that seem likely. So when these frustrated East San Rafael discussions move to the reality phase, what does that neighborhood want?

Does East San Rafael want other areas to pay a fairness assessment and send the money east to help subsidize the afford­able housing the other neighborhoods will not allow?, Yes, East San Rafael would see a program that buys and up-grades existing units for affordable owner­ship and/or rental as fair and equita­ble. Can such a program be implemented? Yes, if the political will exists to wrestle with a neighborhood political powder keg.

If East San Rafael is going to bear the brunt of the city’s tax-generating enter­prises and much of its future housing—affordable and otherwise—then the city should implement programs that reflect some fairness and equity. Implement is an important word here.

Socially conscious words written in a general plan are not enough. The city should enact programs that will give East San Rafael additional resources to carry the ex­tra burden placed on this neighborhood to carry density, diversity and tax-gener­ating activities that others have success­fully locked out of their neighborhood.

Citizens from more exclusive neigh­borhoods have complained about not baying their trees cut enough. From less politically wired East San Rafael have come the anguished cries of residents

Saying they want drugs and crimes cut. East Rafael does not understand the cost effectiveness of removing a limb that blocks the sunshine when it is pitted against a budgetary line item that can re­move a drug pusher who will take the light from a little child’s life.

Bringing more affordable housing and even more affordable ownership to low-income families in East San Rafael will help deter crime, keep the streets clean­er, raise smart, healthy kids and bring pride to the city.

Dwayne Hunn of MW Valley is a assistant ex­ecutive director of Novato Ecumenical Hous­ing and a Ca­nal Community Alliance Board Member.