Thoughts of a progressive urbanist

The author on a Citibike.

The author enjoying a docked Citibike.

When Citibike debuted in NYC in May of this year I happened to be visiting while on tour with a choir I sing in. As a pro-bicycle, three-year car-free San Franciscan I was giddy about the Citibike launch, I even posed for a photo on one out of sheer exuberance on the day before they were made available.

The Citibike launch is now history and the prediction of the streets of NYC running with the blood of neophyte bikers turned out to be overblown but one impression from that weekend has stayed with me: two of my friends there, both life-long New Yorkers, one progressive, one conservative, agreed: they hated Citibike.

The conservative friend parroted the Murdoch papers’ complaints: it will be a bloodbath, old ladies will be knocked over willy-nilly, cyclists are lawless, non-taxpaying “hipsters” and clueless liberals heedless to the safety of themselves and others. The progressive friend, equally scornful, rattled off the progressive objections; Citibank is the Great Satan; why are we plastering our city with ads to these robber barons? Why is this program confined to wealthy white neighborhoods?

These positions illustrate the extreme political poles of the urbanism debate Jason Henderson so brilliantly frames in his great book, Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. The middle position or “third way “ not depicted in my representation of the Citibike debate is the neo-liberal position (pro-Citibike), with which I think most self-described urbanists would identify. David Edmondson [ed. - founder of this blog] is an example.

It’s doubtful conservatives in the US can be won over to some of the core tenants of urbanism. Automobility is a defining characteristic of American conservatism. Fears of Agenda 21 and “one world government,” hostility towards the nanny state, and climate change skepticism make urbanism anathema to even mainstream conservatives.

Progressives however, can and should be persuaded to support urbanism’s goals. While progressives and urbanists often clash, recently and most visibly in the Bay Area over the question of gentrification (the Google Bus phenomenon) and labor issues (the BART strike), I believe these two groups have much more in common than they have in conflict.

Progressives and urbanists are united over the urgency of climate change and environmental degradation. In general, progressives and urbanists can agree on the need for revitalized cities as a solution, but they often part company with how to get there.

Neo-liberal urbanists offer market solutions to these problems, and view “livability” as an urban quality best viewed as a commodity. Progressives stress state solutions and social justice as integral to the project of urbanism.

Many progressives perceive “livability” as synonymous with gentrification. These progressives see parklets, bike lanes, bike share and events like Sunday Streets in San Francisco as part of an insidious march towards a city of privilege, for the rich only. I have even encountered progressives who defend access to cheap parking and automobility for the poor and working classes as a social justice issue.

My experience with these issues comes from my perspective as a resident of San Francisco. As a progressive sympathetic to urbanist goals, my desire is to appeal to both sides in this debate and harness the energy of both groups to drive a move towards dense, low-carbon, livable cities. If I could talk to both sides in this debate in this moment I would say this:

To urbanists

Stop focusing your support on high-end development and be more sensitive to the problems caused by gentrification. Gentrification reduces economic and class diversity and decreases a city’s cultural capital by displacing the creative class that makes the city attractive to begin with.

As well, it displaces the poor and working class folks who are the perfect constituency for public transit. These people end up moving to the outer urban core and contribute to increased automobility as a result. Likewise, high-income folks are generally wedded to automobility, their injection into the urban fabric in parking intensive developments increases automobility in the city.

The optics of luxury developments, like San Francisco’s 8 Washington, further drive a wedge between progressives and urbanists.

Urbanists are part of a professional class (architects, planners) who are by their nature and training data-driven thinkers. This fact blinds urbanists to the importance and validity of emotional responses to the use of urban space. Nothing could be more emotional in some ways than an individual’s identification with the place they live.

Urbanists should be wary of their own predilection to dismiss and belittle emotional reactions to development and gentrification particularly when they enter the political realm (as through Proposition B, which would approve 8 Washington) to further their goals.

To progressives

Livability is not gentrification, and anti-growth is not anti-gentrification.

Improvements to livability in the public space benefit all classes. Stop singling out parklets and bike lanes as evil, and learn to support increased density near transit. Dense development will increase housing stock and drive down displacement, reducing dependence on automobility among the poor and working class by providing a more robust (and yes, partially higher-end) constituency for public transit.

Acknowledge that dense development is inevitable, and that some of it will be luxury. As Edmondson has written before, luxury developments can and do take pressure off the housing market by shifting demand from existing “low-end” housing stock, thereby easing the market and slowing displacement.

Opposition to automobility should be a progressive social justice issue. The primacy of cars in the city places undue strain on poor and working class folks. It clogs our streets and slows public transit. A bifurcated, inequitable system, where the poor depend on transit slowed and made unreliable by the rich driving around them, is the result. The costs of car ownership – insurance, maintenance, and parking fines – are all borne disproportionately by working folks. Freeing them from automobility will engender increased social mobility.

Poor and working class neighborhoods near freeways and high-traffic city streets disproportionately suffer the worst health effects of automobility’s pollution. High rates of cancer and respiratory problems are the result. Globally, the effects of climate change brought about largely by car- and carbon-intensive cities will hit the world’s poor hardest.

Mostly, let’s all break free of the zero-sum tenor of internet discourse. Stop yelling past one another and listen. If we agree to do that, progressives and urbanists working together can achieve the common goal of sustainable cities. The time to make history is now. Let’s be the change we want to see.

Cross-posted with Vibrant Bay Area.

A fragmented BABS is bad for the region

UPDATE: Bay Area Bike Share has confirmed that you can, indeed, dock bikes between any participating city. It’s unclear why Peter Colijn was unable to dock his bike.

UPDATED UPDATE: Well, the BABS website has been updated saying that San Francisco and the rest of the system are separate, in that you can’t bike from SF to other parts of the system, nor vice versa. But if you wanted to, say, bike from San Jose to Mountain View, you could dock your bike.

It took less than a week for an intrepid bicyclist to decide it was time to ride a Bay Area Bike Share (BABS) bike from San Francisco to Mountain View. Given our region’s strong corps of Bicyclists, it was only a matter of time, really.

But when the bicyclist, Peter Colijn, got to Mountain View, he couldn’t dock his bike. It seems BABS has set up not just different clusters of stations, but different systems altogether, where bikes from different clusters won’t dock at another cluster’s stations. This does not bode well for BABS.

As BABS expands, the clusters will get close enough that users could easily ride from one to the other.  By splitting what purports to be a unified system into chunks, riders won’t be able to do what it clearly seems like they should be able to do: ride across city lines. It will make rebalancing more difficult in the future, too, as the bikes won’t be interchangeable with one another.

There is a simpler reason why this is a bad idea: people will do dumb and unusual things with BABS, and splitting the system up will exacerbate the consequences.

As a long-time observer of Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) program, which uses the same technology as BABS, I can say that I’ve seen just about everything. People take out their bikes for the day, lock them to bike racks, take them on the Metro, bring them into the office, and all sorts of other things you definitely shouldn’t do with a bike share bike. (CaBi has assured me and others in DC that they are very willing to cut overage fees, especially for bikes out more than 24 hours, when people didn’t understand the system.)

The same thing will happen in the San Francisco Bay Area. People will take the bikes on Caltrain, do long-distance group rides, and other things that will cost them a great deal in overage charges, often unwittingly. If users can’t dock their bikes in different cities, they’ll get double pain. Not only will they get hit with overage fees, but they’ll be stranded with the wrong bike in the wrong area.

I suspect BABS separated the systems to make rebalancing easier. There’s no way for a cluster’s bikes to migrate away from it, so each city keeps its “fair share” of bikes. But this doesn’t account for users’ creativity or lack of knowledge about the system.

BABS should give people allowance to do things outside how they want users to ideally use their system. Let the hardcore cyclists do their marathon runs and brag about them on Strava – it’s free publicity! Let the inexperienced and the tourist take the bikes on Caltrain or ride them from San Jose to Mountain View. It would be easier to pick up bikes that people ride to the “wrong” place on BABS’ own time than to force innocent users to travel all the way back to wherever they came from. It would certainly beat the bad the publicity of an angry customer who, quite understandably, thought that all BABS stations were the same.

I have an email out to BAAQMD, BABS’ manager, to find out which clusters are interoperable and which aren’t. A comment on Cyclicious says Palo Alto and Mountain View bikes are interoperable, but I don’t know anything beyond that. See update above.

Mid-Week Links: Back to School

Max's 14 speed Rohloff

Max’s 14 speed Rohloff by Richard Masoner

If back-to-school traffic seems bad, that shouldn’t be surprising. Nationwide, only 13% of kids walk or bike to school, and 75% get a car ride. The inevitable result is more traffic, more congestion, and a worse commute for everyone. As the birthplace of Safe Routes to School, Marin County has it better than most, with few schools isolated from neighborhoods with busy streets and an active bicycling culture. Walking and biking to Wade Thomas was one of my favorite parts about growing up in San Anselmo. Consider sending your kid off to school tomorrow on a bike, or biking with them. Maybe you’ll find out how close things really are on two wheels.

Marin County

  • There is a lot going on with the Civic Center Station Area Plan: new heights, different densities, and a new “promenade” around the station’s neighborhood, and opponents who object to half of it. At the core of the current dispute lies the question, How urban should Marin’s Urban Corridor actually be? (Pacific Sun)
  • Given the sprawl that would be any affordable housing at Grady Ranch, and given the outcry over envisioning new housing near the Civic Center, the IJ wonders where Marinites actually want to put affordable housing.
  • As Marin City ponders incorporation, perhaps Marin ought to consider reincorporating into the City and County of Marin. The dozens of overlapping boards and districts, not to mention the baker’s dozen local governments could get a haircut and consolidation, saving taxpayers at all levels some money. I wonder if town character could be maintained with such amalgamation. (IJ)
  • Transit ridership hit record levels last year around the Bay Area as the local economy continued its recovery. GGT was not immune: the Ferry hit a record 2.2 million riders last year, and even Golden Gate Bus saw a third straight year of increasing ridership, to 6.7 million. (Mercury News, GGT)
  • It’s the definition of selective attention that drivers coming from 101 are complaining about the blight of a 17-foot blank firewall being erected by the Ritter Center in downtown San Rafael. Perhaps they haven’t bothered to walk down Second recently. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Cutting car usage isn’t just about the environment or public health. Given the sheer amount of space we need to use to accommodate cars, cutting the use of cars is just common sense. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • A freeway bypass is coming to Willits in Mendocino County. The 5.9-mile project, which will cost $210 million, is intended to skirt the town and remove a frequent backup on Highway 101. Environmentalists call the project wildly unnecessary and damaging. (Press Democrat)
  • After introducing all-door boarding on all Muni routes, it turns out that people haven’t been cheating the agency out of money as feared. Instead, it’s been all positive, with people boarding more quickly and buses moving faster along their routes. (SFist)
  • Downtown Santa Rosa apparently had a spare 400 spots available, as parking income has surged from city-owned garages in the city center. The income seems to be from the 400 or so downtown workers that used to park at the mall’s free parking garage but have stopped now that the mall has started to charge after 90 minutes. (Press Democrat)
  • And…: Napa inaugurated VINE Route 25 this week, restoring a bus connection between the City of Napa and the City of Sonoma. (Napa Valley Register) … The luxury Embarcadero development 8 Washington will go before San Francisco voters in November, 2013. (SFist)

The Toll

This week, one man was killed and four people were injured from driving in Marin and Sonoma.

  • Last weekend, Kevin Kight crashed his motorcycle near Windsor, killing himself. The father of three was 44. (Press Democrat)
  • A car driver pulled onto River Road in Sonoma and a motorcyclist ran into the car. The victim, Joe Oliver, suffered moderate to major injuries. The car driver was unhurt. (Press Democrat)
  • The man who crashed his Vespa and launched off the San Rafael Skyway is a 42-year-old man named Timothy Bergman. Bergman survived the 40-foot fall with a laundry list of broken bones and is now recovering at Stanford Hospital. (Patch)
  • Harry E. Smith, the 82-year-old Oakmont man who ran down 47-year-old bicyclist Toraj Soltani with his car on a golf course, has been charged with attempted murder. (Press Democrat)
  • A man crashed a stolen car into a bank in Santa Rosa, causing himself minor injuries and wrecking a good deal of the bank. He is being held in Sonoma County jail. (Press Democrat)
  • A crash on southbound 101 in North San Rafael on Tuesday resulted in no injuries. (IJ) … A driver was injured after he and a truck driver collided near Forestville. (Press Democrat) … A 22-year-old woman severely injured herself by crashing her car at the Tiburon Wye on Saturday. She was given a DUI citation at the scene. (IJ) … An 86-year-old man injured himself by crashing his car into two others in Novato. The drivers of the other cars were not injured. (Patch)

Got a tip? Want to contribute? Get in touch at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook using the links on the right, and don’t forget to get up-to-date transit news at #NorthBayTransit.

Mid-Week Links: Area Plans

2006.34.5175.sm

Pre-development North San Rafael. Image from Marin History Museum.

Marin County

  • The Larkspur SMART station should be moved, at least according to attendees of a Station Area Plan workshop. While the town can’t do much to change the station’s location, the delay in that leg of the system means it could be moved to be near the ferry terminal. (Twin Cities)
  • Up the tracks, there is concern brewing that the Civic Center Station Area Plan would bring too much traffic and detract from the iconic Civic Center itself. (Patch)
  • Test results at a number of Bay Area bridges were falsified, according to an internal Caltrans investigation. The Bay Bridge and the Richmond Bridge both were the subject of false testing, though Caltrans is sure the two spans are safe. The Golden Gate Bridge is administered by a separate agency and was not part of the testing. (IJ)
  • Fairfax passed a balanced budget for coming fiscal year. The $7 million plan is bolstered by surging sales tax revenue, thanks to the new Good Earth store, and savings from empty posts, including that of Town Manager. (IJ)
  • Robert Eyler argues for a more reasoned approach to approving new development, one that separates fact from opinion and the interests of a neighborhood from the county at large. (NBBJ)
  • And…: One person thinks former RVSD GM Brett Richards deserves some praise; another thinks the San Rafael Airport rec center absolutely doesn’t. (IJ) … Mill Valley Lumber could be saved. (Pacific Sun) … Highway signs are in the offing for The Village shopping center. (Twin Cities)

The Greater Marin

  • The Richmond refinery fire disrupted a major transportation hub, not to mention a city of over 100,000 people, and residents are pissed. Unfortunately, while other agencies announced service disruptions, GGT was, once again, silent. (SFist)
  • San Franciscans will likely vote on luxury development 8 Washington in November, 2013. Opponents dislike the size, amount of parking, and the fact that it’s for rich people. (SFGate)
  • Preliminary reports on Muni’s all-door boarding experiment show marked increases in speed on some major routes. Before GGT copies its maligned cousin, though, it may want to adopt all-door exiting like every other major transit agency. (Streetsblog)
  • Healdsburg unanimously approved a sprawl project of 28 homes far from the city center. Though the homes aren’t terribly far out, they will be far from the city center and transit. (Press Democrat)
  • If you think you know everything there is to know about Marin’s old streetcars, you might want to find out about Contra Costa’s. The Museum of the San Ramon Valley is putting a number of artifacts on display detailing the history of mass transit in CoCo. The exhibit runs through August 19. (CoCo Times)

The Toll

  • This week: one pedestrian with severe injuries, six drivers or passengers with unspecified or minor injuries, and two crashes with no injuries.
  • The man who died riding a bike in Santa Rosa last week was a PE teacher in town for an educational conference and leaves behind a young family. The intersection where Ruben Hernandez was killed will soon get a stoplight as part of a new development, though it’s unclear if the city council would have done anything otherwise. (Press Democrat)
  • Two drivers hit one other on Highway 101 last Thursday morning. No injuries were reported. (IJ)
  • A driver had a seizure and crashed his SUV into a ravine off Shoreline Highway. The driver was transporting kids to a surfing day camp, but thankfully nobody was injured. (IJ)
  • The driver of an armored vehicle lost control and crashed after nearly being struck by the driver of a horse trailer on Lucas Valley Road. The armored vehicle’s driver was hospitalized, and his passenger was treated at the scene. (IJ)
  • A semi was struck from behind on northbound Highway 101 and its driver lost control, sending the truck into the southbound lanes near Tiburon. The driver suffered minor injuries, though no word on who hit the truck. (IJ)
  • A Porsche (it’s unclear if anyone was driving it or not) hit a woman in Greenbrae after literally going under an SUV. The woman has been hospitalized with serious injuries. (IJ)
  • A drunk driver pulled in front of someone driving a Jeep in Larkfield, causing an accident. One of the drunk driver’s passengers was injured, and the other – a 4 year old girl – was unharmed. No word on the condition of either driver. (Press Democrat)
  • A motorcyclist was injured on Highway 101 in San Rafael last week, though it’s unclear how he was injured or the extent of his injuries. (Patch)

Mid-Week Links: Past to Present

The View From Work

photo by deminimis via flickr

SF Public Press continues its series on smart growth in the Bay Area. Though spotty at times, the series has shown a light on the issues facing our vast region now that Plan Bay Area is en route to its final approval.  This week:

  • Former Patch editor Kelly O’Mara chronicles Marin’s rebellion against Plan Bay Area. From Corte Madera’s bogus claim of build-out to Fairfax’s fight against three-story buildings, the piece explores the lay of the land though not its roots.
  • Sprawl’s 50-year march across the Bay Area is clear in a new map, showing each community’s “growth rings”. The East Bay, Delta, and Santa Clara grew the most.  Inner-ring suburbs and San Francisco grew the least.
  • The foreclosure crisis was exacerbated by transportation costs. Even in Marin, this is clear from unstable housing prices in Novato vs. stable housing prices in South Marin.

Marin County

  • Belvedere City Hall got all shook-up last week. Four staff members, two planners, the building chief and the city manager, have quit. Though criticized for conflicts on interest, the staffers’ departure was apparently a coincidence. (Pacific Sun)
  • MALT snatched a 126-acre dairy farm from the market just as it was receiving interest from non-agricultural buyers. The land is now permanently off-limits to development. (Pacific Sun)
  • San Rafael is gaming out residential parking permits, as street parking has become increasingly scarce on unmetered residential streets. Perhaps, rather than a blanket prohibition on non-permitted cars, streets could be metered and time-limited for non-permitted cars. (IJ)
  • One Bay Area officials got an earful of ugly at a meeting intended to solicit input on Plan Bay Area, now going through environmental review.  Rather than anything constructive, they got protests against human settlement gulags and global warming fabrications.  Have any of these listening meetings have yielded useful feedback? (Patch)
  • Closure of the Novato Narrows got another $56 million in state funds, enough to extend the carpool lanes three miles. The project is part of a $700 million plan to widen the freeway in the area. The cost is roughly double that of SMART, and for a far shorter distance. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Santa Rosa has approved dramatic zoning changes to its Coddington Mall area, ensuring transit-oriented development around the new SMART station. Over a millions square feet of office space, nearly 3,000 housing units, and a whole lot of retail will feature in the infill development. (Press Democrat)
  • Roundabouts, central to Cotati’s planned (but floundering) downtown road diet, would be illegal in city limits if a ballot measure passes. (Press Democrat)
  • A county, divided into rural west and urban east, questions what its future should be. Held in thrall by a development-happy Board of Supervisors, the county now faces whether the region’s urban metro system should extend into its borders for the first time. Loudoun County, Virginia, is an alternative future of Marin, facing many of the same challenges we dealt with in the 1960s but without the geography and coalitions that were so instrumental to our success. (Washington City Paper)
  • A transportation bill has finally passed the House and Senate, but it’s not exactly what was hoped for. The transit tax reimbursement remains half that of the parking reimbursement, funds for transit have been slashed, and dedicated funding for active transportation like walking and bicycling have been cut in half. About the only consolation is that things aren’t nearly as bad as they could have been. Oh, and it blocked $850 million in funding for Muni’s Central Subway while gutting Safe Routes to School. (Streetsblog, Examiner, Pacific Sun)
  • And…: The ATF has ruled last month’s BART-disrupting fire as arson, but there are no suspects. (SFist) … People seem to like Muni’s new all-door boarding policy. Now if only GGT had all-door exiting… (SFGate)

Mid-Week Links: Decisions

Petaluma River

Clearly this is worse than an office park. Why would SMART ever want to move here? Photo by Andrew Storms

Marin County

  • SMART will consolidate its offices in a transit-unfriendly Petaluma office park, far from downtown and far from the city’s planned rail station. A finalist property was downtown but even transit agencies can fall victim to the siren song of sprawl. The lease is up in six years. (Press Democrat, NBBJ)
  • Norm Solomon has conceded the race for Congress to Republican Daniel Roberts, all but ensuring a smooth election for Assemblymember Jared Huffman to Lynn Woolsey’s seat. (Patch)
  • Golden Gate Transit, along with a host of other regional agencies, is hiking fares on buses and ferries on July 1. Drivers, alas, will keep paying the same tolls. (IJ, GGT)
  • People are excited about closing the Novato Narrows by adding carpool lanes, the least bad kind of freeway expansion. On the downside, it’ll suck ridership away from the other big transit project on that corridor, SMART. (IJ)
  • The San Rafael Street Painting Festival is may not return again this year, or any other year. The wildly popular festival closes down Fourth Street for a day but has proven to be a money-losing enterprise for Youth in Arts, the sponsoring nonprofit, and they’ve called it quits. (IJ)
  • Nobody likes waiting in line to exit the parking lot after the Marin County Fair, so why not take the bus instead? You could even park at your local Park & Ride. (GGT)
  • And…: GGT’s bus stops are now on Google Maps as the agency continues its new-found affinity for customer service. (Google) … A Marin City housing activist will not be evicted for hosting her dying mother after all. (IJ) … On the opposite end, a Belvedere couple bought and demolished a $4.2 million home to expand their views and, presumably, their yard. (SFist)

The Greater Marin

  • Healdsburg is getting serious about bike infrastructure now that its petition to be an official Bicycle Friendly Community has been rejected by the League of American Bicyclists. (Press Democrat)
  • Housing growth projections are notoriously difficult to get right, and the numbers ABAG is using for Plan Bay Area is complicated by internal and external politics to boot. (SF Public Press)
  • SFMTA has its proposed alternatives for the Geary Bus Rapid Transit line available to browse and comment. Though the current plan is to give only the 38-Limited access to the route, GGT’s Route 92 runs as a limited-stop service along Geary, so Marin City commuters stand to benefit from the process as well.  As well, Van Ness BRT has been approved has a preferred alternative, meaning one more step to better service for Muni, as well as GGT’s Routes 10, 70, 80, 93, 101, and 101X. (Streetsblog) [edited per Viktoriya Wise's correction.]
  • California High Speed Rail faces a major funding hurdle in Sacramento today. The Legislature needs to release $2.7 billion in bond money so construction can begin on the central part of the line in the Central Valley. But lawmakers have also released a Plan B that would focus the funds on LA and San Francisco improvements instead, and there’s always the chance that no rail will pass at all. (Streetsblog)

Mid-Week Links: Dusk

Golden Gate Beyond the Seat

You can actually enjoy the view if you let a bus driver do the driving. Photo by Orin Zebest.

It’s national Dump the Pump Day! Leave the car at home and take transit to work.

Driving to work costs you and Marin a ridiculous amount of time and money while degrading the environment. Switching to transit means you’ll have time to work on the bus or ferry and don’t have to worry about traffic. Switching to a bike means you can cancel that gym membership, and anytime you walk to or from a bus stop you’re making yourself healthier.

This year GGT and Marin Transit have made it easy to find a way to your job without 511.org (though the app is still handy). Google Maps has integrated the two agencies into its transit directions system, so you can figure out how to get where you need to go.

If you’re already at work, don’t worry; just take the bus tomorrow. Let us know how your commute goes in the comments.

Marin County

  • Tam Valley’s Evergreen sidewalk will be built. A judge threw out a lawsuit to stop the project, arguing that because the suit had come after construction had begun it wasn’t timely. Neighbors, though, have vowed to continue the fight. (IJ, @scottalonso, MV Herald)
  • It’s now legal to rent your home, or part of your home, for less than 30 days in Sausalito. The council voted to lift the prohibition in anticipation of the America’s Cup, but don’t get too comfortable. Participating homeowners need to pay for a $238 permit and collect the 12% transient occupancy tax, and the law expires in October, 2013. (Marinscope)
  • Sausalito resubmitted its draft housing element to the state with only minor tweaks and a letter addressing HCD’s criticism of the plan. Sausalito’s plan had been rejected by the state for a number of reasons, including over reliance on second units and liveabords. (Marinscope)
  • San Anselmo is pondering whether to ban chain restaurants and shops from downtown or anywhere in the town, but the existence of local chain High Tech Burrito has thrown the plans a bit of a curveball. (Patch)
  • SF Public Press has a wonderful series on Plan Bay Area and smart growth in general. So far the series has tackled local resistance to Plan Bay Area, reviews Forum’s conversation on the plan, and why smart growth actually is a good idea. Despite a half-bungled report on carrying capacity, the whole series is a must-read. If you can’t find a dead tree copy of the quarterly around, you can either wait for the slow drip of news online or just get it hand-delivered by the postman for $4. (SF Public Press, KQED)
  • Critics of Plan Bay Area ignore history when declaring Marin doesn’t grow, ignore environmentalism when declaring Marin must not grow, and ignore facts when declaring it a conspiracy at the highest levels. (Pacific Sun)
  • GGT’s @GoldenGateBus account tweeted about a bus service disruption caused by the Pier 29 fire. Though the tweet didn’t include a link to the site that actually described which stops were effected, it’s a good start and hopefully a sign of things to come. Great job, GGT! (Twitter, SFGate, GGT)
  • Go see West End at tomorrow’s Culture Crawl from 5pm-8pm. The neighborhood’s merchants see far less traffic than downtown San Rafael just over the hill, though the neighborhood is far from dull. (IJ)
  • And…: An unwalkable bit of south Novato is set to become home to 12-14 affordable housing units. (NBBJ) … County supervisors passed a $473 million budget for the year. An unallocated chunk of $22 million will be divvied up in coming weeks. (IJ) … It looks like San Rafael will pass a budget without cutting the Street Crimes Unit. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Plans for a car-free Market Street are chugging along in San Francisco under the aegis of Better Market Street. The plan would close Market from Embarcadero all the way down to Octavia, improving transit travel times and pedestrian and bicycle safety. If approved, expected opening date would be 2016. (SFist)
  • Apartments are booming in downtown Windsor with 1,200 units on track to open over the next five years. The rapid pace of development near its future SMART station has left some wondering whether the city can absorb such growth, and whether it even ought to allow it. (Press-Democrat)
  • Sacramento’s light rail now reaches its riverfront, part of a major redevelopment plan for the capital’s central neighborhoods. The city’s step is to get it over the river, though there’s no telling when the money will come in. (Sacramento Bee)
  • The next phase of the American Dreamwill not look like the last 50 years of sprawl as people finally learn what Marin knew so long ago: that the heart of a place is its downtown, not its shopping mall. (NYT)
  • The problems facing cities are as old as cities themselves. Ancient Rome had traffic jams, restrictions on freight travel within the city, noise pollution, slumlords, sky-high rents and poets to document it all. (The Iris via Planetizen)
  • A 10-story development in downtown Santa Rosa got another permit extension as developers continue to face financial problems. (Press-Democrat)

Got a tip? Tweet @theGreaterMarin, email thegreatermarin [at] gmail.com, or post something on Facebook.

Mid-Week Links: Reclamation

Fairfax Festival  MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

People enjoying closed streets at the Fairfax Festival. Photo by MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

Marin County

  • Fairfax is hashing out how to implement Streets for People, its own version of San Francisco’s incredibly successful Sunday Streets program. The town would close Bolinas for part of the day, opening it up to anyone on foot, bike, or other human-powered conveyance. (Patch)
  • New blood on the Ross Valley Sanitary District board promises a management and policy shift. New member Mary Sylla is opposed to new bonds and rate hikes intended to speed the district’s century-long pipe replacement cycle. Marcia Johnson, who lost her re-election bid, was a supporter. (IJ)
  • Tonight, chat with Blithedale Terrace developer Phil Richardson about his proposed 20-unit condo development in lower Mill Valley7pm, The Forest Room of the Mill Valley Community Center. (Patch)
  • A new sidewalk is under construction in Homestead Valley’s Evergreen Avenue under the county’s Safe Routes to School program. People still don’t like the plan, saying it undermines the community’s semi-rural character. There may be an injunction filed to stop the project, which is designed make the route to school safer. (IJ, @mikesonn, Mill Valley Herald)
  • A new Santa Venetia subdivision will not go forward as planned, at least not yet. County Supervisors rejected the 14-unit sprawl project pending a few more months of study. Unfortunately, the area is zoned for 15 units on one-acre plots, so it’s unlikely the project can be stopped entirely. (IJ)
  • Ever wondered how much your town’s Director of Public Works was paid? Bay Area News Group has created a searchable database of all public employee salaries in the Bay Area, so you can know at last. (IJ)
  • Ross faces dramatic cuts now that the town declined to pass the $642,000 public safety tax. Two police officers, a firefighter, and a firefighting apprenticeship program are all on the chopping block. The town will cut other areas to keep the damage minimal. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • The draft Civic Center Station Area Plan has been released to the public and to the Board of Supervisors, who are reviewing the draft now. The plan creates more housing, rezones parts of the auto-oriented neighborhood, and creates a better pedestrian circulation pattern through the area. (Pacific Sun)
  • And…: A yard that has encroached on open space for more than 20 years will finally be returned to San Rafael, though the owners have a history of ignoring officialdom on the subject, so who knows? (IJ) … In a picture of sweetness and light, a Corte Madera father and daughter spent the whole school year biking in tandem to kindergarten. (Twin Cities Times) … Brad Breithaupt goes deeper into the voting numbers from last Tuesday’s election. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • A comprehensive report on San Francisco’s multifaceted and crowded transit system has been released. The 103-year-old report details the pre-Muni world of streetcars and rails in the aftermath of the earthquake and fire. Among the recommendations? Getting rid of horse-drawn cars. (Muni Diaries)
  • Apple will stop using Google Maps on its iPhones, and it won’t include transit directions. You may have to go back to using that 511.org app… (Streetsblog)
  • It turns out Muni has been neglecting maintenance for years as the agency has sacrificed long-term financial stability for short-term savings. Be glad you have GGT managing your fleet, Marin. (SF Weekly)
  • A bill to create a statewide ceiling on parking requirements around transit has shown signs of life in the state Senate. AB 904 would force localities to require no more than one parking space per housing unit, 1,000 square feet of retail, or other measures. (Around the Capitol via @MarketUrbanism and @mottsmith)
  • If you want to encourage transit ridership, the best way is to price driving. While expanding a rail network by 10% nets a 3% gain in ridership, effective car regulations (like congestion pricing) nets a 10-20% increase in ridership and a commensurate decrease in driving. (Atlantic Cities)
  • And…: Santa Rosa mulls electing its councilmembers by district rather than at-large. (Press-Democrat) … The small-government aspects of smart growth appeal to at least some conservatives. (Next American City) … Frank Lloyd Wright hated cities. (Atlantic Cities)

Got a tip? Tweet @theGreaterMarin, email thegreatermarin [at] gmail.com, or post something on Facebook.

Mid-Week Links: Build to the Boom


If you have 45 minutes, listen to Chris Leinberger’s presentation in Kansas City about walkable housing development. He makes a strong argument for building more walkable centers for those that want it – exactly the sort of thing Marin and Sonoma are planning around their SMART stations and exactly the way our towns were built a century ago. (SGA)

Marin County

Golden Gate 75th Anniversary Fireworks

Apparently I missed the best fireworks show ever. Happy 75th, GGB.

  • Caltrans has allocated another $112 million to widening Highway 101 between Sonoma and Marin, not quite enough to bridge the $177 million gap in its billion-dollar widening project, duplicating much of SMART’s future service. (NBBJ)
  • Golden Gate Ferry workers went on a surprise strike last Saturday to draw attention to stalled contract negotiations. Terminal attendants want a raise as compensation for new duties they took on after ticket takers were laid off, while sailors and captains want private quarters aboard the ferries, among other complaints. (IJ)
  • The Board of Supervisors spent $75,000 in discretionary funds this quarter on items ranging from high schools to the opera. Where did your Supervisor invest discretionary funds this quarter? (IJ)
  • As expected, Novato will move ahead with its downtown office plan, voting 3-1 to proceed with construction. (Pacific Sun)
  • The Drake’s Bay Oyster Company has been farming oysters in Drake’s Bay for over a century, but the National Park Service may not renew their lease. Though the arguments for and against renewal have revolved around science, the basic question is philosophical – whether a wilderness area should have commerce. (Pacific Sun)
  • A nifty tool developed by the Greenbelt Alliance shows the various greenfield developments on open space. Though it doesn’t seem comprehensive, for what it has it’s quite useful. (Greenbelt Alliance)
  • If your bike was stolen recently, it may be in police custody. Hundreds of bikes were found after SFPD busted up a ring of thieves, and they’ve released pictures of the merchandise. (SFist)

The Greater Marin

  • As it turns out, Marinites aren’t the only ones who value their walkable town centers. Homes in walkable neighborhoods command significantly higher prices than places that are not. Even Des Moines, IA, is getting in on the action. (NYT, Des Moines Register)
  • The explosive growth and new-found prosperity of Washington, DC, is based on childless singles and couples, who each net the District about $6,000 more per year than those with children. (These are the same folks Marin excludes due to density policies.) Now that these singles are getting married, can Washington adapt? (Atlantic Cities)
  • About 25,000 San Franciscans were forced off the road when a handful of people driving private automobiles, with police escort, pushed their way into a street fair on Sunday. The action ended the celebration and opened the way for through traffic. (Examiner.com)
  • The Golden Gate Bridge was never in danger of collapsing on its 50th Anniversary, despite the spooky sight of a bridge flattened by the massive crowd in the middle. (Mercury News)
  • How hard would it be to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge were it done today? Given environmental review, agency oversight, and a more contentious political environment, it’s safe to say it would be tough. (IJ)
  • The tallest building in the West will redefine San Francisco’s skyline and serve as the centerpiece of the new Transbay Terminal. The building was approved over objections from people concerned about shadows. (Chronicle)
  • The sector plan for Santa Rosa’s northern SMART station is coming together nicely, with a great deal of effort to move people away from cars, reconnect the street grid, and apply the kind of density this sort of project can support. Not everyone is happy, however, with Coddington Mall managers especially concerned over new rights-of-way called for in the plan. (Press-Democrat)

Mid-Week Links: Until Next Time

Mt. Tam with Long Shadows

Mt. Tam with Long Shadows by cproppe

Thank you all who came out to last week’s happy hour!  We had a small group – a couple of planning commissioners, a couple of regular readers – and it was good fun.  The next one will likely be around the end of September, so keep an eye out.  In the mean time, I’m back in DC keeping an eye out for the goings-on in Marin.

It’s been two weeks with no links, so let’s get caught up.

Marin County

  • What might One Bay Area learn from other regions as it crafts its Sustainable Communities Strategy?  First of all, make sure to do good outreach, and second, make sure to invest enough in transit. ABAG’s outreach has thus far been horrifically bad, at least in Marin, but at least MTC is on the ball with transit investment. (SPUR)
  • As it turns out, San Rafael’s red light cameras at 3rd & Irving are good for safety, reducing accidents by 12% over the last fiscal year while also reducing the total number of citations. Win/win, in my book. (IJ)
  • The Board of Supervisors wants San Rafael to take its due diligence regarding the proposed San Rafael Airport sports complex. While most of the neighbors are in unincorporated areas like Santa Venetia and so fall directly under the county, the airport itself is under the city. (IJ)
  • Apparently, George Lucas was serious when he proposed building affordable housing at Grady Ranch.  I can scarcely think of a worse place for it, though the irony is rich. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • Then again, perhaps Grady Ranch wasn’t such a slam-dunk for the environment after all… (IJ)
  • Are you a smoker living in an apartment or condo in unincorporated Marin? Better quit now – the Board of Supervisors is likely to ban smoking in apartments and condos, both indoor and outdoor, next week. (IJ)
  • West Marin tourists, park rangers, and bobcats got a pedestrian upgrade when two bridges were installed near Sausalito – one 180-foot span that bridges a creek and wetland, and another one 60-foot span. They were built so walkers could bypass nearby traffic. (IJ)
  • Sausalito’s Housing Element has been rejected by HCD, which cited a lack of 20-unit-per-acre developments and zoning. The city will take a second look and consider revisions. (Marinscope)
  • The 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, celebrated on May 27, will be a grand affair with no parking, so take transit!  There’s free bike parking at the Presidio, both Muni and GGT will boost their buses, there will be buses to the Larkspur Ferry (a shock!), and it will generally be a good time. Alas, Marin Transit doesn’t seem to be adding service so be prepared to walk, bike, or taxi from your bus pad or transit center of choice. Oh, and I recommend getting Clipper Cards for the family – saves you money and time boarding the bus and ferry, not to mention that it makes transfers to Muni easier. (Patch, GGB75, ClipperCard, IJ)
  • And…: The upcoming June 5 election?  Yeah, there’s an app for that. (Patch) … This week there were five DUIs on 101 in just a day. Be careful out there, people. (News Pointer) … Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness is a go, and is set to open in 2016. (Chronicle) … Dispelling rumors on bike lanes and bike safety. (Mercury News) … The Golden Gate Bridge had its share of detractors. (SFist)

The Greater Marin

  • If you missed it (I did), there’s a proposal winding through Sacramento to consolidate MTC, ABAG, BAAQMD, and BCDC into a single agency called the Bay Area Regional Commission governed by 15 commissioners elected from new districts in the Bay Area.  Fearing a loss of influence, Napa is fighting this one tooth and nail. (Napa Valley Register)
  • Martinez may soon join the city of Napa in switching its downtown streets to two-way. Ought San Rafael follow suit? (Contra Costa Times)
  • In a move that defines ambition, Chicago declared that it would have no road fatalities in 20 years. (Streetsblog)
  • Sometimes we go so long without transit that we forget how to behave, or we are so used to transit we never unlearn our bad habits. SFist has a great series of articles on transit and walking etiquette that I heartily recommend to you.
  • If you want a better street and live in San Francisco, check their new website for info on how to get some street improvements on your own.  Marinites, well, check it out for some street envy. Perhaps one day even Novato will warm to the parklet. (Streetsblog)
  • Cincinnati is giving form-based zoning a try, allowing neighborhoods to develop along the lines of how they wnat to look, rather than just based on how buildings are used. (Cincinnati.com via Planetizen)
  • UPDATE: People that live where it’s easy to walk from home to work or stores tend to do so, and also tend to bike significantly more than their more thinly-spread compatriots. Though the study was done in some of DC’s more tony neighborhoods, I suspect you’d find the same thing in the old TOD downtowns of Marin. (Washington Post)
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