Thursday, January 23, 2014

Transit-oriented development in Marin

More good commentary by Bob Silvestri on Marin's struggle with dense development and transit-oriented development:

Controversy about Priority Development Areas (PDAs) in Marin has been in the news. After more than a year of growing public protest, focused mostly on two communities: Marinwood and Manzanita/Tam Valley/Almonte, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) reversed their long standing position and voted this week to remove the PDA designations from those areas. 

This leaves three other unincorporated areas as designated PDAs: the Strawberry Village area, the Gateway Shopping Center community in Marin City, and the California Park area of San Rafael (other than the fact that in 2007 the BOS designated the entire 101 corridor a PDA, subject to the zoning and planning of the incorporated cities it encompasses).

The only other specific PDA designations remaining in Marin are in the city of San Rafael: downtown at the bus depot and at the Civic Center.

PDAs are land use zoning designations that the Board of Supervisors assigned to these areas in 2007 in the interest of promoting higher density growth and as part of an application for federal and state transportation funds that were designed to encourage that kind of development (the ABAG/MTC “FOCUS” program).

Recently, those designated areas became a part of Plan Bay Area, the regional planning initiative created by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), in response to the passage of SB375 in 2008. But, again, the PDAs were not something imposed on Marin by higher authorities or Plan Bay Area. They were willingly volunteered by our BOS in the hopes of getting grants....

Meanwhile, with regard to unincorporated parts of Marin, for more than a year the BOS took the position that the PDA designations were an essential part of the overall planning process and Plan Bay Area, and that it would be so difficult and potentially costly to attempt remove or revise them, that it could not even be considered. We’ve been told that potential penalties and huge amounts of “transportation dollars” would be at stake if we even considered removing PDAs, even though no one could say with any certainty how much (if any) funding was really at risk.

Endless hearings and debates, both in BOS chambers and in the press, have argued this issue back and forth. The community was put through thousands of man hours of work, organizing, petitioning, researching, writing public comment letters, and attending meetings, all in an attempt to correct what they felt were poor planning decisions and a flawed planning process.

The community’s biggest and most legitimate ongoing complaint has been that important planning decisions like these were and continue to be made without any correspondingly broad-based notice to the thousands of tax paying residents throughout the county who would be affected by them. After all, we all get a written notice in the mail when a neighbor a block away wants to do a bathroom addition but for something of this magnitude people got no notice at all.

This failure by local government and elected officials to improve their methods of notifying their constituents and communicating and listening to their concerns about major planning and financial decisions seems to have become epidemic in Marin County government affairs....

The comments to the article are also good.

Silvestri's earlier posts.

See also San Rafael rescinds two high-density housing plans

And Assemblyman Marc Levine introduces bill to reduce Marin's housing densities

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Islam, anti-semitism, and Iran

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