Heroic efforts that made Marin shouldn’t be vilified

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 01/10/18, 12:16 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 01/10/2018

Author:Richard Hall

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

Senate Bill 827 “would upzone sizable parts of Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato, transforming them with apartment buildings higher and denser than the apartment complex (Tam Ridge Residences, shown here) approved and built on the old WinCup site in Corte Madera.” (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)


Marinites frequently talk about our county’s small-scale, walkable towns set amid rolling hills. The question rarely mentioned is, “How did Marin become such a wonderful place?”

Marin today is the result of actions by residents and elected officials championing sustainable, sensible growth; livable towns; environmentalism; health, and access to recreation.

Who deserves credit? The list includes rebels with a cause, among them Huey Johnson, Bob Praetzel, Amy Meyer and former supervisors Peter Behr and Gary Giacomini.

Challenging this legacy, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on Jan. 7 titled, “Marin County has long resisted growth in the name of environmentalism. But high housing costs and segregation persist.”

The story by Times Sacramento reporter Liam Dillon portrays Marinites as suburban, wealthy, racist environmentalists obstructing the solution to the housing crisis, income and racial inequity: rapid urbanization.

The sentiment reflected in the Times story is a vanguard of a developer-funded movement advancing radical changes to state housing laws that would transform Marin into a dense, urban county.

The rapid growth movement’s latest bill, Senate Bill 827, would allow eight-story market-rate developments with unlimited density around transit corridors. This would upzone sizable parts of Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato, transforming them with apartment buildings higher and denser than the apartment complex approved and built on the old WinCup site in Corte Madera.

You might assume Marin’s city councils can protect against such inappropriate overdevelopment. You would be wrong.

State laws changed in 2017, allowing advocacy groups to sue cities denying development proposals, with cities on the hook for legal costs and financial penalties. The new laws remove aesthetic, environmental, parking and infrastructure arguments and shift the burden-of-proof zoning that requirements are met from the developer to the city.

Rapid-growth advocacy groups appealed controversial development proposals in Sausalito and Berkeley, winning both cases.

The legislation would also upzone parts of Marin City and San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood, making them easy targets for gentrification, dislocating residents and worsening income inequality and lack of diversity.

Minority voices in Los Angeles oppose the poorly written pro-housing bills that Dillon’s article frames as the solution. Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, said: “Scott Wiener’s SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California — and especially our urban communities of color.”

People like Dillon are attracted to the “controversy” surrounding income and racial inequality and do little in reflecting the side of taxpaying, single-family homeowners.

Dillon writes, “In recent years, Marin residents have blocked housing of all kinds,” seizing on George Lucas’ failed attempt to build affordable housing in the remote location at Grady Ranch at the western edge of Lucas Valley. He fails to mention the denial had nothing to do with residents blocking housing and that state agencies repeatedly advised Lucas that his plans to divert existing creeks would never be approvable.

Dillon’s article vilifies residents who support sustainable growth through proper planning. Articles such as his never acknowledge the many valid reasons for opposing inappropriate development, such as significant negative financial burdens and impacts on schools, infrastructure, public services, water supply, traffic congestion and residents’ reasonable expectation to protect their decades of investment in their community.

In addition, Dillon fails to acknowledge that one-third of Marin’s population is over 50 years old and many live on fixed incomes.

The fact is “expensive” is not the same as everyone being “rich.”

Articles such as the Los Angeles Times’ story never acknowledge that with careful planning, people of all income levels and races could enjoy the beauty of Marin. But developer-promoted, poorly written bills, like SB 827, not only won’t provide affordable housing, but will ruin the quality of life enjoyed by people of all income levels in Marin.

*Richard Hall of San Rafael is a local activist who has been involved in debates over housing and transportation.

To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/opinion/20180110/marin-voice-heroic-efforts-that-made-marin-shouldnt-be-vilified


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