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Op-Ed: We Don't Want 'One Bay Area'

Co-founder of Marin coalition says regional housing plan won’t solve the core problem of providing quality housing choices for those most in need.

These are uncertain times. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that no one decides to live in the Bay Area because it's "One Bay Area."

If anything, we’re the poster child (and the butt of endless jokes) for diversity of people, ideas and "place."

But lately, we’re inundated with guilt-giving Op-Ed pieces extolling the virtues of central planning and a dystopian vision called the One Bay Area Plan. It’s wrapped in politically correct phrases like “affordable housing” and “reducing greenhouse gases” and comprised of a truckload of contradictory laws, terms and agencies like SB375, AB32, RHNA, ABAG, MTC, TAM, BCDC, BAAQMD, PDAs, SCSs and APDs — enough to take a thousand lawyers a thousand years to comprehend.

This “nexus of nonsense” is the work of prominent politicians, backed by deep pocket development and construction interests, “ladder climbing” staff and local elected officials, and a non-stop chorus of shaming from brown-nosing, wannabe bloggers and agenda-driven, nonprofit academics, funded by anti-local control social engineers.

The only problem with this cacophony of "smart" growth advocacy is its complete lack of common sense and factual basis.

We’re told we can “build our way out of climate change” (SB 375), which, even disregarding for a moment its complete lack of scientific basis, defies even a 6th grader’s sense of logic. We’re told that “housing is the key to sustainability,” though all evidence points to the exact opposite.

Truth be told, housing has nothing to do with sustainability, economic, environmental or otherwise. Las Vegas, Denver and Atlanta all bore the worst of the housing bust because they overbuilt their real housing needs. Manhattan and San Francisco have never had enough affordable housing yet they thrive. The South Bronx and Oakland have always had an excess of affordable housing and they continue to struggle. From the Sumerians to the Mayans, the real cause of unsustainability has been resource depletion from too much growth, as will be the case with water in Marin.

And who’s to say it wouldn’t be better for the planet to build entirely new “green” towns hundreds of miles north, where a balance of development and impacts could be better achieved? I don’t know, but I do know it’s not Sacramento central planners who should decide.

But then why let facts get in the way of a good jobs program in an election year?

Still, even as ABAG pressures us to build, we’ve had the comfort of believing that as an unfunded mandate, very little development was actually going to happen. However, now comes SB 1220, brought to us by some of the same people who brought us SB 375 (Steinberg). It proposes a $75 tax on recording every document related to real estate transactions and sends its $700 million to $1 billion a year in proceeds into a bureaucratic black hole called the “Housing Opportunity Trust” in Sacramento. Decisions about how the money is spent will now be governed only by politicalcagendas and big money special interests.

SB 1220, combined with SB 375’s plan to “warehouse” the poor in high-density developments next to highways and rename open space “resource areas,” may represent the final nail in the coffin of local control of zoning and property rights. Generations of efforts to create Marin’s unique quality of life will be dismantled.

And in the end, my bet is that One Bay Area’s stillborn vision of homogenization still won’t have solved the core problem: providing quality housing choices for those most in need.

Bob Silvestri recently , which was formed in response to recent housing and zoning legislation such as SB 375 and housing allocations in the One Bay Area plan.

Tina McMillan March 31, 2012 at 03:27 AM
continued Expecting government to be the primary source of charity in a society grossly underestimates the ability of individuals to help one another. "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime..." People can choose to donate money to build affordable housing but to add yet another tax at a time when the state is bankrupt and the Governor just closed the RDA's makes absolutely no sense. Your personal attacks reflect more on you than on those that you criticize. This is not about good versus evil. When government does everything for its citizens it takes away their initiative, freedom and power. Unlike you I believe in people. I believe as a society we are capable of helping one another without government over- regulation.
Tina McMillan March 31, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Monica Thank you for speaking out even with the risk of ongoing personal attacks. I have also found myself at the end of the same stick but I think if we continue to collaborate on these issues we may be able to find a solution that works for our community. Government on a local level is far more effective than regional or state. SB1220 has not passed yet. We need to write our representatives and let them know that this is not the solution. People need to know that they have a voice and they need to feel it can be heard.
Trish Boorstein March 31, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Tina, Novato is so fortunate to have a jewel of a commentator like you. Novato Patch is a first class e-publication because it can draw, hopefully in a welcoming way, all folks to the table whatever their opinion. When government serves the people, citizens begin the process of self-empowerment by developing initiative, freedom, and power. When the people serve government, the opposite happens and local control becomes a threat. Tactics of undermining and shaming a community to surrender to government over-regulation are not productive.
Al Dugan March 31, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Here is the wording for SB 1220. CURRENT BILL STATUS MEASURE : S.B. No. 1220 AUTHOR(S) : DeSaulnier and Steinberg (Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Atkins). TOPIC : Housing Opportunity Trust Fund Act of 2012. HOUSE LOCATION : SEN TYPE OF BILL : Active Non-Urgency Non-Appropriations 2/3 Vote Required State-Mandated Local Program Fiscal Non-Tax Levy LAST HIST. ACT. DATE: 03/08/2012 LAST HIST. ACTION : Referred to Coms. on T. & H. and GOV. & F. COMM. LOCATION : SEN TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING TITLE : An act to add Section 27388.1 to the Government Code, and to add Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 50470) to Part 2 of Division 31 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to housing. Note this is a state mandated local program.... Please contact Jarred Huffman our assembly representative And our senator Mark Leno to request they vote against this state mandated local program that is nothing more than a subsidy for builders and institutional investors to the tune of $1B. Use it to balance the stat budget. Al Dugan
Ben Boyce March 31, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Well, I'm glad to see that I've drawn a response to my moral critique of the Tea Party/ Agenda 21 political faction. When a political movement attempts to wrap itself in the mantle of morality and an appeal to some bygone days when private charity met the needs of the homeless and hungry, a moral examination is in order. The Easter season may be prompting my thoughts to go to WWJD? The unholy alliance of local Tea Party and NIMBY's to oppose workforce housing and regional planning is fortunate to have their unpalatable and selfish position represented by soothing PR voices. I've been to the meetings where the real face of this group is represented, and it is frightening and disturbing to see the level of venom directed at public officials and progressive policy advocates. That's the real voice of this right-wing faction, not the carefully measured tones of their PR arm.I realize that moral critiques are not part of everyday political discourse, but it is past time to call it out for what it is, social Darwinism masquerading as a concern for "liberty" and "local control".
Ben Boyce March 31, 2012 at 09:41 PM
On the policy level, let me add this note: the era when privately funded charity projects might have been adequate to address a regional problem of the magnitude as the severe shortage of workforce housing is long past, if in fact it ever existed. The call for 'local control' is a mask placed over fundamentally classist and racist attitudes, much like 'states rights' were invoked for decades to block civil rights. Finally, we have reached the stage in the complexity and scope of the crisis in land-use, housing, natural resources, transportation, and energy systems that they can no longer be addressed by 19th century political jurisdictions with little fiefdoms and hidden vetos. We have evolved to the stage where we need to have regional planning bodies, like ABAG and One Bay Area. Where reasonable people can have meaningful politcal discourse is around how the regional palnning entities interact with local political jurisdictions. There are legitimate questions and deep negotiations that need to occur around those new boundaries. That's a discussion I'm willing to engage in.
Trish Boorstein March 31, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Ben, I haven't seen you at the ABAG Board meetings in Oakland. Maybe we just haven't crossed paths yet. I can tell you when I've been there to speak and hear everyone bantering around on the Board, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It is far from any meaningful political discourse. Many of the same arguments arise over and over. There are always jurisdictions who have hardly any if any AH and always others who get dumped on and resources depleted. Revised Scenarios are ricocheting RHNA numbers that get thrown from one side of the room to the other. Wealthy communities everywhere in the Bay Area walk away unblemished.
Tina McMillan April 01, 2012 at 02:50 AM
http://asmdc.org/members/a06/ Senator Jared Huffman http://sd03.senate.ca.gov/ Senator Mark Leno Please contact Huffman and Leno about SB1220 and let them know that you do not agree to a new tax/fee being levied on property owners and all transactions that include property. For our voices to be heard we must speak loudly and in large numbers. http://www.car.org/governmentaffairs/getinvolved/sb1220opposetransfertax/ C.A.R. Opposes Transfer Tax Legislation "C.A.R. is opposing SB 1220 (DeSaulnier), which imposes a transfer tax to generate funds for affordable housing. C.A.R. is opposing SB 1220 because it will add to the cost of buying a home at a time when the housing market is struggling to recover. C.A.R. is an aggressive advocate for affordable housing, but believes it is bad policy to fund affordable housing by making housing less affordable and to fund affordable housing at the expense of homebuyers. Sen. DeSaulnier has introduced SB 1220 to permanently fund an affordable housing trust fund. Unfortunately, SB 1220 creates a real estate transfer tax of $75 per document to fund this program. In virtually all transactions, a minimum of three documents are recorded – the grant deed, the release and reconveyance, and a trust deed. SB 1220 will create a minimum $225 transfer tax, and the amount could be even higher, depending on the total number of documents recorded."
Tina McMillan April 01, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Ben Marin Community Foundation is a privately funded charity that is currently supporting many community programs that the government has cut. Your perception that government must take over these responsibilities makes little sense given our financial predicament. Local planning means a common sense approach to land use and development. Your view that people cannot be trusted to govern themselves is disheartening. Your presumption that anyone that disagrees with you is classist or racist makes a reciprocal dialogue all but impossible.
Bonnie C April 01, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thank you Ben for writing for me and most people I know. Many of us have concern about local control. There are some things were local control is important but too often local control means people who are only out for themselves get there way and the rest of the people are left to suffer. Some times this is about the environment we all share, sometimes it is about economic or education opportunity sometimes it is about fairness or equal rights. I am thankful for the elected people who have tried to figure out ways to help those who have struggles that are not our fault. I am aslo thankful that they are trying to save our planet for our children. I am hope the people of Novato stop and think about how it is for those needing some help, like transportation and housing. Why should we have to move from our city? Where are we suppose to go? I would guess that the "local control" people have a car and a decent place to live. I would also guess that they think they know what the rest of us need. Well unless you live every day with poverty I dont think they do.
Tina McMillan April 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Bonnie C I am not sure what help you need but here are some organizations that provide support to families that are struggling: http://www.nhnc.org/ Novato Human Needs Center http://marinfoodbank.org/ Marin Food Bank http://www.marinclinic.org/patient2apptdir.html Marin Community Clinic Novato http://www.fsamarin.org/ Family Service Agency of Marin http://www.hbofm.org/ Homewardbound of Marin These agencies work together to help individuals and families in need. I think you will find there is help out there if you call. Marin County has many resources that other communities lack due to the generosity of its nonprofit foundations and the individuals that support them. I agree it is difficult for people who have a roof over their heads and food and medical care to understand what it is to be homeless. I don’t agree with Ben that the government through more taxes is the best solution to this problem. Ben is saying that unless we provide food, housing and medical care to people in need there will be no end to their suffering. Even the Marin Community Foundation has a different approach. They believe that providing education and training can break the cycle of poverty. They want to help people help themselves. SB1220 is a punitive tax that will affect rich and poor alike at a time when we cannot afford to punish individuals and businesses that are struggling to remain afloat. It is not the answer to the crisis in affordable housing.
Christine April 01, 2012 at 11:55 PM
@ Novatomom and others who feel they are entitled to live in an area they cannot afford: Move to an area you can afford to live. What's up with this sense of entitlement? Why do you feel entitled to live here if you cannot afford it, but can afford to live in on other nearby area?
Al Dugan April 02, 2012 at 12:55 AM
If you don't believe SB1220 is a $1B subsidy for developers, builders and institutional investor look at the two sponsors of the bill and check out their web sites: SB 1220 - Housing Opportunity and Market Stabilization (HOMeS) Trust Fund sponsored by California Housing Consortium and Housing California SB 1220 imposes a $75 fee on the recordation of each real-estate document to provide a permanent funding stream for the Housing Opportunity and Market Stabilization (HOMeS) Trust Fund to support the development, acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income households. They both work closely with CAL-ALHFA and they have a very interesting web site.... It is always the same story....follow the money... Al Dugan
Roger April 02, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Ben, whem you say affordable housing for our Novato workers, I am not sure that is true. When a large amount of affordable housing was built in Hamilton, there were not enough Novato or Marin workers to take all the slots, so people from East Bay were encouraged to move in and seek work here. My question to you, Ben, is "What is the true level of demand for subsidized housing?" We have many social needs, but we have to learn from what happened to Greece.
Marla April 02, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Actually, this is a rumour that I fell for too until it was dispelled at our ad hoc working group on housing. Turns out that affordable homes in Hamilton did draw extensively people who live and work locally. For Meadow Park, which is home ownership, there are many local teachers, people who work for water district, and stores and restaurants in town or in nearby cities in Marin. I can tell you that is consistent with my experience after canvassing Meadow Park and meeting many of the Homewoners. In fact, both the President of Novato's Federation of Teachers and the President of Novato's non-teacher school district employee union both bought homes in Meadow Park (they won the lottery that was offered for this option). The manager of Bay Vista, (large community of over 200 homes at low density of only 13 units/acre) which is the rental below market rate homes at various levels of affordablility, did a presentation to our working group. Her data reveals that they drew over 90% of their tenants from Marin County and there is still a lengthy wait list for the homes at the lower level of rent. There is little disagreement about the pressing need for some reasonably priced rental options as demand is increasing and that is pushing rents even higher and meanwhile many people are in distressed situations with their homes and need to find other options. Hope that helps clarify this issue for you.
Mark Burnham April 02, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Marla, Your statement is incorrect. "There is little disagreement about the pressing need for some reasonably priced rental options as demand is increasing and that is pushing rents even higher . Rents are NOT going higher. In fact if you track craigslist and the few property manager's inventory in Novato you will note an increase in supply (both homes and apartments) and lower more affordable rents in comparison to what has been available over the last year. It is true that "many people are in distressed situations with thier homes and need to find other options". However to imply that they will not be able to find rentals or afford the current rents in Novato because rents are "higher" is simply untrue. Rents are lower Marla. Supply is greater in the low, middle, and high end of the Novato rental market. Hope that clarifies the issue for you.
Tina McMillan April 02, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Marla There are different types of housing at Hamilton: market rate, below market rate, private rental and nonprofit rentals. The private, market rate and below market rate homes owned by individuals rather than nonprofits, all pay property taxes. The nonprofit rentals do not. The below market rate homes have agreements that keep them from appreciating at the same rate as the market rate homes to preserve the number of affordable homes. Many of the below market rate homes were built before the housing market crashed in 2008. Homes and condos have dropped in price since the crash. There are currently condos on the market for less than $250,000. A 30 year mortgage at 4% on a loan of $250,000 is a payment of $1200 a month. By purchasing a market rate condo you get the benefit of appreciation when the housing market improves. This appreciation allows you to move up from a condo to a home as you save more money. This is how many individuals and families in Novato became first time homeowners. Teachers in Novato have been without a contract for three years. Their salaries are noticeably less than comparable communities. If you read the Op-ed by the head of the Novato Teacher's Federation it is clear that teachers would like to be able to afford market rate housing. The idea that building more and more subsidized housing will solve the problem of teachers being underpaid is a red herring. We need to pay our teachers a living wage.
Tina McMillan April 02, 2012 at 07:28 PM
continued When I moved to Novato it included the families of police and firemen, many from San Francisco. When you mix the concept of workforce housing with subsidized rental housing for impoverished families you are talking about two completely different populations with different needs. Many of the working families that live in Novato have made huge sacrifices in order to own a home here. It is difficult for them to understand why select groups of people are given a leg up to join the housing market when they were not. If we want to subsidize the housing of city employees, teachers, fire and police we could achieve the same goal by providing some money toward the down payment on a home. In the long term the cost is less. When talking about affordable housing we must separate out city/county workforce housing as the options are greater when you are talking about a population that has the capacity to earn a living wage. I think the risks associated with below market rate housing are not an advantage to the purchaser. There was an article in the Patch by a senior couple that purchased below market rate housing and then, when the market fell could not sell their unit back to the RDA as promised. Everything in life involves some level of risk and some level of sacrifice. One Bay Area does not address the entire picture of the impact on communities of rentals that pay no property taxes. SB1220 is not the answer to the housing crisis.
John Parnell April 02, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Ben Boyce – Please stop your continued bullying of Marin residents who just want a say in what happens to their community. Your typical-M.O. false "Tea Party/Agenda 21" accusations aren’t going to work this time. For the record, the 60 yr-old woman you bullied to tears in January, is a chemo patient – and she is a Democrat, just like you & me. Another of your victims is the Novato Patch Citizen of the Year, and she’s a lifelong Dem too. I don’t consider a man who bullies women & senior citizens, and physically blocks people from signing a petition, to be one who engages in true “meaningful political discourse.” You are one of the SmartRiders who came down to Marin & broke election law to bully our RepealSMART volunteers. As you told me, you are the “real Democrat & environmentalist”. I’m only an “Environmentalist 1.0”, whereas you are the “more evolved Environmentalist 2.0”. Why do you so arrogantly believe that you know what’s best for our community? Also, don't you ever worry about jeopardizing your non-profit's tax-free status? Bob – Thanks for another great article & for all your work.
Marla April 03, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Tina, Bay Vista pays 1% of their rent directly to the City of Novato annually. This was also mentioned at our working gorup presentation. That comes to about $70,000 a year, plus they pay parcel taxes for the school district. According to NovatoMom above (thank you) that is more money to the City than a $100 milllion dollar market rate development would offer because the City only gets 6.5% of the 1% property tax.. The property tax argument seems a bit of a red herring to me. Should we eliminate all schools and churches since they don't pay property taxes? Of course not, they are providing a "common good" just as homes that are affordable to people making less than 6 figures or retired and on fixed incomes are. As for the schools, they need more students, the district is paid by student attendance. We have a lack of starter homes and an aging community and thus we will keep seeing school closures. BTW, a $250,000 house is out of reach for most people. Aside from needing a down payment, credit and the abililty to get a mortgage, their is upkeep, PG&E, water, condo fees etc that add up quickly. Often times the homes in the lower end of the price range also need a lot of repairs and maintenance. It just is out of reach for many of the people I know who are struggling with high rents. Especially seniors, signle parents, discabled, young families. I do agree with the living wage idea though!
Tina McMillan April 03, 2012 at 07:43 AM
Marla I am not sure what you are referring to when you say Bay Vista pays the city 1% of its rental revenue. If this is part of the tax increment financing that was included in the RDA, it is now defunct. Please be more specific as to what agreement provides this income. We both know from previous posts that parcel taxes do not cover the cost of education in Novato. Southern Marin districts make double and triple the revenue per student that we have in here because their property taxes are so much higher. What the city receives directly is not the same as what the state pays to support the schools. This sleight of hand when discussing where taxes go is part of the problem when you look at the affordable issue through too narrow a lens.
Pam Drew April 03, 2012 at 02:58 PM
If Bay Vista renters collectively pay $70,000 per year to the city, this represents $318 per unit per year because there are 220 units at Bay Vista. I pay nearly $11,000 per year in property taxes on a 1200 sq. ft rancher plus a 400 sq. ft garage built in the 50's. Where ever the $11,000 goes, it pays for services for the common good (government, schools, etc). No matter how deserving the families at Bay Vista are, the subsidy cost per family does not stop at the $8,000 per year subsidy. The City of Novato says that even my $11,000 per year doesn't pay for the services the city provides and neither do the sales taxes I pay. How much would the city say that the Bay Vista family costs? We, as a city, need to be able to limit the number of subsidized units that we provide in order to be able to continue providing those subsidies and services. The new ABAG housing numbers for the"preferred scenario" are doable. Pray that they stay that way and hope that the city can/will reorder their finances so that their costs are in line with the ability of the citizens to pay.
Pam Drew April 03, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I misspoke in the previous column about an $8,000 'subsidy'. I meant to say 'differential', meaning just the difference between $11,000 and $3,000. I know there are many differences in family size, square footage, etc to take into consideration. I am not making any sort of argument re economic justice, just a simple point that all the revenues taken in must at least equal the expenses going out.
Ben Boyce April 03, 2012 at 11:28 PM
John Parnell, We meet again. I regret to see that you continue to perpetuate the Big Lie about the failure of your RepealSMART campaign. You continue to make the false claim that the SMART Riders Coaltion harassed and intimidated your volunteers. Man up and admit that you failed to meet your targets as the administrator of the field campaign. All of our volunteers were given clear written instructions on how to legally conduct themselves in the public education campaign. We were to stand 20 feet away from the repeal petition tables, holding our sign encouraging folks to get the facts before they signed, and hand out leaflets correcting the false statements in the repeal literature. During my volunteer stint, I followed those instructions to the letter. I did not even talk to your petitioner at the Farmer's Market until she came over to me and asked me if I was going to continue to leaflet. When I said "yes", she packed up her ironing board and left. That's the extent of it. There was nothing illegal or improper. I'm sorry that she was in poor health and found it stressful that another point of view was being offered to the public. My best wishes for her recovery. As for you Mr. Parnell, please stop telling lies and issuing slanders to cover your failure. You should be ashamed.
Ben Boyce April 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Part II: As a North Bay resident who lives a half hour drive from Novato, is often in Marin County on business, and has friends in Novato, I have every right to talk about regional issues that affect all of us. Your implication that somehow anyone out of the Novato city limits has no right to comment on public policy decisions that impact the entire region is absurd. The lack of workforce housing in Marin is why so many Sonoma County residents have to make long commutes to work in Marin County. That's why these issues must be done on a regional, not on a city or even county basis. That was my point in my earlier comments. You have succeeded in one thing, however...driving me off posting on the Novato Patch.
sherry April 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Marin Voice: We need a local 'Council of Governments' "ABAG's unspoken goal is to homogenize all the Bay Area counties, and the results would be devastating to Marin." http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_20335043/marin-voice-we-need-local-council-governments
Susan Clark April 06, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Pay taxes in Marin like the rest of us and you can have your say. It's absurd that people feel they a right to live in any town when they cannot afford it. A half hour drive is nothing and your sense of entitlement puts a bad taste in my mouth!
Amie April 08, 2012 at 03:07 PM
California Declares War on Suburbia - Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577323353434618474.html
Al Dugan May 05, 2012 at 07:44 PM
SB 375 is a flawed law based on false theories on centering housing in density around transportation corridors and has no scientific data to support it. This law was sponsored by and is used by developers, builders and institutional investors (the follow the money "triad") looking to build high density affordable housing that is currently the only way to keep the building industry going after the housing bubble broke.   SB 375, used to rationalize affordable housing calculated on flawed growth projections fortunately is often not built as it does not make sense except to the "triad" that benefits from it.  The elimination of the Redevelopment Fund by Governor Jerry Brown also brings reality to the affordable housings as it eliminated the 20% subsidy. Well buckle your seat belt...the same developers, builders and institutional investors "triad" have sponsored SB 1220 and the same politicians who proposed SB 375 have submitted SB 1220.  SB 1220 the proposed CA senate bill will add a $75 fee to each filed document of a property sale to fund a $1billion fund administered by the state of CA to fund affordable housing but in reality is a massive subsidy for developers, builders and institutional investors to build affordable housing based on flawed SB 375 assumptions and unsupportable growth assumptions. Please contact your CA senator and congress person to oppose SB 1220. Regards, Al Dugan
Katie C. September 12, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Another Developer Trojan Horse: Marin Voice: Choosing the future we want for Marin http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_21520187/marin-voice-choosing-future-we-want-marin

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