Tag Archives: St. Vincent’s / Silveira

 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.


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.


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.

With no train can we really clean…

Unedited version published in Marin Independent Journal 7-14-98.  Pictures added.

Marin Voice

With no train can we really clean the air?

Dwayne Hunn

Let’s ponder an imaginary debate on the following topic.  “Is the Marin Conservation League good for the world?”

Team Beemers’ Jennifer Comfy, of Marin’s Platitude High, opens the debate as Team Bikers of Oakland’s Tanning Vocational look on with big eyes.

“The Conservation League merges all those individuals and groups who work to ensure that tomorrow’s children have an environment that blooms with flowers,  billows with fresh ocean breezes, cascades with hiking trails and soothes our eyes with scenic vistas.  Without such a league of the environmentally conscious, not only would the greenery of  our lands and blue of our skies fade and darken, but the tranquility of our lives and creativity it provides our minds would dissipate.   Working locally, these courageous environmentalists institute programs that make the universe an extraordinary partaking….”

While shuffling to the podium, the Bikers’ Dirk Maloney responds, “Well, beam me and my crew up to your world, where life’s a beach and everyone bathes in sunshine and stellar lights.    Conservationists devour resources to save you the blue and green in wavy fields, while leaving others to view concrete and asphalt etched by bars and orphanages…

Zane Farr, the supervising teacher interrupts, “Refrain from being personal.   Use factual references to make your points.”

Bobbing his head, Dirk continues, “A true environmentalist measures his works by how they impact the world beyond the greenery of their county, their hiking trails and their tranquility.  He learns to see beyond a few pretty colors and local scenery when he views the impacts of his efforts.  Thank you.”

“Specifics points, Ms. Comfy,” interjects  Mr. Farr.

“In what is often referred to as Marvelous Marin, we have a richness and beauty of life creditable to the environmental  movement.  Years ago we stopped BART.   Recently we stopped hundreds of beautiful, bucolic St. Vincent’s / Silveira acres from being plied with development, so that our scenic, serene view from Highway 101 will remain.   By disallowing a future train stop and drastically cutting St. Vincent’s developmental potential, we insured minimal nature impacts.  It is such farsightedness that provides for a heavenly, ecologically sound atmosphere.”

“Wonderful vision,” Dirk grumbles.  “While here in Oakland none of your Marin Community Foundation money helps our  serenity.   Yet that money continues supporting Marin’s sereneness deprived environmental organizations.    We support Amtrak and BART to reduce the pollutants your self-imposed congested freeways cause.  Your Golden Drawbridge makes comfortable lives for the rich and famous, while the East Side Bridge relives West Side Stories.   Oakland scrapes for money to make our poverty programs work and spread rail transit, because we want hard working parents to spend as much time as possible with their kids.  Rail-less,  you force hard working families to pollute and commute hither and yon, trading thousands of parental quality hours for  latch-key kiddom.

“You think you’re saving the neighboring pearly mouse and pretty bird, while forcing working folk to exhaust stuff in the air that hurts those same and other critters outside your neighborhood.   The commute time you force on parents increases the likelihood their latch-kids will do time.”

Rolling her eyes, Jennifer retorts, “Conservation, Mr.  Maloney, is not about juvenile delinquency.  It is about saving the environment, so that future generations can enjoy its wonders…”

“Right, Ms.  Comfy.  For you there is no connection and I’m confused…   Someday rest your BMer for a rickety bike adventure on some mean streets or sweat in some poor country, where land use planning for million dollar estates lags far behind putting 1500 calories on tomorrow’s plate.  Then come back and explain to me why your environmental land use crusade to hurt middle class Americans, their kids, and the world’s air is so groovy good for the rest of the earth?”

Mill Valley’s Dwayne Hunn sometimes supervises debates, rides bikes, and gets confused.

“Bad Train….”