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Op-Ed: Fighting Back Against the 'Monster' Known as ABAG

Lloyd Pittman urges the City of Novato to produce a housing element based on "our town's needs, our willingness to help, and move forward in providing real housing to those here in need."

By Lloyd Pittman

Once again a new deadline, Sept. 19, looms over us for the proposed 2014-2022 RHNA (low income housing) comments.

The Association of Bay Area Governments not only mandates an allocation of low-income housing but goes further and oversteps its mission by attempting to force Novato to build and provide what it terms moderate-rate and above-moderate-rate housing. It is demanding we increase the housing supply in Novato with forced high-density development.

This is a disguised effort to regulate not only affordable housing but all market rate development using SB375 as a justification. If we are serious about greenhouse gas reductions, we must reject ABAG mandates of unfunded new housing brought about by the importation of new residents and first provide for our current senior and working class residents.

ABAG demands high density projects of 30-plus units per acre. Without community support for this density, there no reason to name specific parcels and re-zone for these imaginary homes. This is a feel-good political practice that accomplishes little except the self-promotion of the images of Sacramento politicians and bureaucrats. Builders will continue to fee out or try to donate some less desirable portion of land in order to avoid any negative perception that could taint their overall housing project.

The concept of forced zoning and onerous unfunded housing elements is no longer acceptable to the general population. Draconian reductions in services for schools, fire, police and public works have brought several cities to bankruptcy and threaten to spread like a wildfire. An apparent socialist housing cabal in Sacramento has gone too far and unelected bodies such as ABAG with no authority to legislate foist demands upon the counties and cities.

This small well-organized group has managed to subordinate the fair, common-sense practice of allowing local jurisdictions to provide for the needs of their citizens. The use of unwitting front organizations claiming to serve the public good have not produced results because of the real motivator of for-profit, tax-exempt affordable housing development that is only feasible with intensely dense development. This type of development requires a system of infrastructure such as mass transportation, adequate school capacity and availability of employment including a vibrant local retail service base with restaurants, shopping, and entertainment that allows the exclusion of vehicle trips to actually have an effect on greenhouse gas reductions.

Failing to have these systems in place beforehand dooms the project to failure from the onset.

The result from ABAG and the Metropolitant Transportation Commission, its vassals and supporters has been a failure to produce any meaningful partnerships to further their goals. They have managed to polarize and antagonize the entire state through their own inflexible methodology that defies explanation and apparent justification or fairness.

Planning for population increase without the economic means of support condemns our cities and towns to failure and collapse of vital services. The imposed stacking of human beings like cargo containers along non-existent transportation veins violates common sense and every doctrine of property and personal rights ceding control to “the state” to act on our behalf for their misperception of the greater good. This is a nightmare scenario that even George Orwell would have found terrifying.

The recent insane MTC proposal ( study) for tagging our population like cattle in order to exact money for miles driven solely by Bay Area residents brings calls for civil disobedience. It is time not only for the citizens of Novato and other reasonably-minded towns and cities, but for all local governments to put a halt to any cooperation or participation with MTC, ABAG, and any other quasi governmental organization, dedicated to the destruction of our constitutional rights and our ability of self-determination. These agencies need to be shut down and dissolved.

The need for afforable housing is real. It is time for some real, honest, fairly-apportioned, common-sense approaches to be utilized. Our political system in Sacramento appears beyond repair. Real progress can only be accomplished by consensus of smaller county, city and town attitudes. ABAG has grown into a monster and it is not capable of garnering the support of its members. Unfair representation, unreasonable demands for density have forced otherwise civic-minded communities from making any real inroads dealing with the real issues, problems and solutions.

Corte Madera has announced its . I believe Novato and other cities should band together and promote our own Housing Elements that fulfill our responsibilities in a manner that provides AH, helps promote greenhouse gas reduction and brings a truly integrated community that benefits all concerned.

We can do more now without the meddling of outsiders with no stake in our community. You, our city council, have shown the willingness to take on the unfair density and unreasonable mandates from ABAG. I applaud your efforts and beg you to continue to represent all of your constituents equally.

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Bob Ratto August 29, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Lloyd Very cogently written and informative. Here is something from today's Chronicle, made my eyes pop early this morning: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/MTC-project-may-cost-Bay-Area-drivers-more-3822760.php What we have are unelected bureaucrats telling us what to do, even though they have no ability to do things correctly or honestly. We really should all think about grouping together and putting the kibosh on these alpha soup agencies before we all wake up and say "what happened"
TLV August 29, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I'd have to know more about all points raised; what this rant sounds like, is Not In My Backyard, in Righteous Indignation Disguise.
Roger August 30, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Lloyd, I wish you would reconsider running for City Council. I like the public testimony you have given at Council meetings. You might have to accept Chamber money contributions though in order to have a chance at winning. Will the Council have a public meeting about their draft letter to the State or just send the letter 9/19/12?
Miller August 30, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Dear TLV, you are very correct- you have to know more. Do some digging on your own, its a real eye opener. Unless you are investing your inheritance with Marin Community Foundation and/or receiving tax credits for building high density, this isn't the utopia ABAG, MTC, Non Profit Housing, SUNN, etc... are selling. Look into it before its too late for Novato.
Robbie T August 30, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Its funny how the people who are the most vocal champions of "property rights" are the also the most vocal against people developing their properties as they see fit. How about loosening zoning restrictions and letting the free market figure it out hmmm?
Susan Wernick August 30, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Robbie T, this isn't an issue about "property rights". The issue is sensible and practical land use planning for the future - not only for Novato, but for the whole Bay Area. Read up on "One Bay Area". And closer to home, take a look at what's going on in San Rafael right now: http://sanrafael.patch.com/articles/op-ed-council-slaps-public-in-face-with-civic-center-smart-station-plan
Help Novato! August 30, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Mr. Pittman, Please run for City Council. We need someone like you who has the passion and the smarts to make a positive change in Novato and in the county of Marin. You would have our votes!!!!:)
Bob August 30, 2012 at 02:23 PM
TLV, it's good to see that this article caught your eye, I hope others in the community are attracted by it too. As Susan Wernick stated, check into what "One Bay Area" has planned for us. One of the major reasons that folks don't want these projects in their backyard is that they are exempt from paying property tax that support the city's infrastructure and services. You and I will have to pick up the costs of Police, Fire, schools, sewer, water, roads etc. That is why it is called subsidized housing. In major cities they are called "Projects". "One Bay Area" will tell you how to grow your town. Look it up.
Tina McMillan August 30, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Our own Steve Kinsey was part of the MTC decision to purchase the building and the state took MTC to court for it but to no avail. These regional agencies have unlimited power in their current incarnation. The county needs to leave and form its own COG.
Tina McMillan August 30, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Then you weren't part of the adhoc housing group discussions that occurred when Michael Frank hired out of towners to designate housing sites. The impact on schools of Sacramento's heinous ongoing cuts as well as the loss in revenue to the city that required a sales tax increase through measure F are all part of what many California cities are experiencing that in some cases are leading to bankruptcy. This is not about nimbyism. This is about local planning and fiscal responsibility. Lloyd is spot on in all his concerns.
Jay Strauss August 30, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Lloyd--glad to see you're still engaged and fired up--local control is the heart of the matter---bureaucrats go to the same conferences, read the same stuff and seem to want everything to be the same--well meaning, perhaps, but misguided--why can't cities like Novato define their own identities and destinies? Gov. Brown took away redevelopment, which was a tool for local control, on the premise that Sacramento will do a better job spending our property tax revenues than we could on our own--its an aspect of the same centralist philosophy that promotes the ABAG/MTC hegemony over regional 'planning' issues--not only is it philosophically misguided but it is wrong in its practical application because the so-called 'experts' who drive the numbers game (i.e., the RHNA mandates which are based on flawed projections) depend for their livings on the perpetuation of that homogenizing philosophy--the Planning Commission will be working on the Housing Element this fall and I hope to see and hear from you as we go through it
Dave Robertson August 30, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Perhaps I sound conservative (I am not), but the "planning and growth" of our cities should be left to a Darwinian model - only the best improvements should be allowed to survive. Gov. Brown has none nothing (and will do nothing) for our state budget issues because he hasn't the stomach to cut where it is necessary. Instead he wants to raise income tax in the likeliest highest income tax state in the country. Why don't all the Marin cities collectively tell ABAG (and similar groups) to put it where the sun doesn't shine? I can't believe that Palo Alto or Mountain View listen to them - and they CAN afford it! It certainly is not what Marin is really set up for. Our city council members haven't a clue how to protect the interest of this city's residents. Yes, the author should run for CC. With 100K of donations even a hamster could beat our current council members in an election and outsmart them in office. The author seems far more intelligent than that. I am guessing that very few people ever want to run for city council because it is 1. not worth it, or 2.) embarrassing to be associated with it. Right now it may be worth it because our current council is running this city into a financial toilet! Instead of saving this city they are intent on destroying it - as long as they have something to be "in charge" of!
Roger September 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Great letter in the IJ today on housing mandates written by Stephen Nestel in Lucas Valley. He mentions supervisors Kinsey and Adams having leadership roles in the regional agencies pushing the mandates. The basic concept of the suburbs is under attack.....to fill the housing mandates he says Marin would have to import more people from other areas.
Roger September 02, 2012 at 04:35 PM
IJ editor today says affordable dense housing near Civic Center SMART station should proceed but be smaller. Missing point is that ABAG's housing quotas basically want Marin to import more people....goal is shorter commutes to SF to lessen pollution. But shifting poor people to Marin from East Bay won't affect commutes, I say. Lots more dense housing for bringing more poor people into Marin in good though for tax credits for the developers that got SB 375 into law. I say social equity should also mean the developers should pay for the longer term cost of AH on local services, such as schools.
Al Dugan September 03, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Lloyd, great job of teeing up the issues in a clear and efficient manner. You have my money, time and vote for a city council run. It certainly is time for someone that represents property owners rather then ways to meet ABAG's goals. Novato needs to determine their own needs, not top down planning by ABAG allocating housing like a monopoly game without real credit for all the past afforadable housing built by Novato.

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