Mid-Week Links: Freedom

Freedom. Image by the author.

Marin Lesser and Greater

  • Freedom in the city: It’s difficult for someone to give up the keys, especially when living in a rural or suburban setting like Sebastapol. Doing it in the city makes everything easier. Walks are shorter, transit is better, taxis are available at all hours, and people keep active longer. (PD, SFGate)
  • A form of justice: Novato has settled out of court with the family of Melody Osheroff, a 9-year-old killed by a drunk motorcyclist in 2009. The Osheroffs sued the city for poor street design but the city settled for $675,000. A memorial will be built for Melody. (Advance)
  • Autism linked to car pollution: Prenatal exposure to highway pollution has been correlated with increased risk of autism. The research underscores how imperative it is for Marin to develop solid regulations on housing near Highway 101. (Streetsblog)
  • One for the money: BART has plans to double capacity in the next 30 years, from longer trains to express service, and it will need it. Now it just needs to find a few billion dollars somewhere. (SFist)
  • Engineered danger: Speed limits set to match how fast most people drive puts the safety of drivers above the safety of pedestrians or bicyclists that also need to use the road, a dangerous metric for cities trying to take back streets for other modes of transportation. (Copenhagenize)
  • Engineered failure: To really get trains and transit to take off in the United States, the next Secretary of Transportation should be as technically savvy as he or she is visionary. The Department of Transportation needs to stop simply distributing money and start reforming how it does business. (Bloomberg)
  • Minimal damage: Adding people to cities is good for the environment as a whole, but part of the point of density is to concentrate the damage rather than spread it all over a region. If we want to maintain our green Marin cities, we need to bring nature into new developments. (Switchboard)
  • And…: Marin’s median income is only middle of the pack in the Bay Area, falling even lower than Contra Costa. (IJ) … Tiny homes from Santa Rosa are making inroads in the District of Columbia. (WaPo) … San Francisco to be awarded for excellence in affordable housing, confusing urbanists. (SFGate) … San Rafael considers raising parking rates. (Patch)

The Toll

Two people were injured since Monday.

  • The 53-year-old man who died last week in Tiburon has been named. Kurt Sears, a resident of Washington State in town for work, died when he flipped his car. (IJ)
  • The teenage Novato driver responsible for injuring himself and five others in a crash last week has plead guilty to a DUI and driving beyond the limitations of his provisional license. His sentence has not yet been determined. (IJ)
  • Marin injury: A teen driver injured himself by hitting another car and sliding off the road in Novato. (Advance)
  • Sonoma injury: A pedestrian was injured by a driver in Santa Rosa. (PD)

Have a tip? Have an article idea? Email us at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com.

Don’t Walk in Sonoma County


Crash by Fabio.com.ar, on Flickr

Sonoma County, as you may have noticed from my weekly Toll segment, has a significantly higher tempo of death and injury from cars than does Marin. Though road design is a large part of the problem, another might be unjust enforcement of the law.

Last month, Jared Whisman-Pryor severely injured a bicyclist and fled from the scene on his motorcycle, only to be identified later in surveillance tapes. Unfortunately, Rohnert Park police aren’t even trying to arrest him, saying the bicyclist may have been at fault. So rather than try to prosecute Whisman-Pryor for a hit-and-run that left a bicyclist unable to walk, they’re looking for a way to lay the blame on the bicyclist. They don’t want to arrest Whisman-Pryor; they just want his side of the story.

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa police have determined that the death of Joseph Von Merta, 44, and the injury of Robert McKee were their own faults because they were drunk when crossing the street. McKee, the victim of a hit-and-run drunk driver, was in a crosswalk at the time of the crash. Pedestrians in the roadway have the right-of-way, so how he could be at fault simply for being drunk, especially when in the crosswalk, is beyond me.

The police’s finding that Von Merta’s death was his own fault is more understandable.  He was crossing against the light, and so should have yielded to the right-of-way of vehicles, but his level of intoxication at the time should not come into play. Indeed, in this instance, it is still the responsibility of roadway designers to ensure the natural speed limit is a safe one. Von Merta didn’t need to die that night.

In the cases of Jared Whisman-Pryor and Robert McKee, it’s unconscionable that we don’t hold drivers accountable for their own actions, especially when so often they result in injury and death. Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park need to get their acts together.

Monday Links: Long Weekend

Art on the Farm: "Historic L Ranch Beach"

Art on the Farm: “Historic L Ranch Beach” by cproppe, on Flickr

Marin Lesser and Greater

  • Hard winter: It’s harder to providehousing for the homeless this winter thanks in part to San Rafael’s crackdown on the homeless. The city has barred pick-up of the homeless in front of St. Vincent’s kitchen this year, and organizers have yet to find a church to house people on Thursday nights. (IJ)
  • The marriage continues: The final contract between MT and GGT has been approved, allowing GGT to continue on as MT’s local service contractor. The deal shaves costs by 3.7 percent and cuts the annual cost increase from 5 percent to 2.7 percent. (IJ)
  • MTC shifts priorities: MTC shifted $20 million earmarked for local rail station planning grants to Congestion Management Agencies like TAM. Normally not a problem, the motion was passed spur-of-the-moment without a staff report or motion text, so it’s unclear if CMA’s would be required to spend the money in any particular way. (Greenbelt Alliance)
  • Seminary delays development: A 117-unit redevelopment in Strawberry is on hold pending a review of the plans by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary had faced opposition from the Board of Supervisors and is likely retooling the plan to address supervisors’ concerns. (IJ)
  • Faster trip to the Headlands: Muni’s 76-Marin Headlands got a makeover last weekend, with faster and more thorough service to sites in the famed recreation area. Marinites can catch the bus Saturday and Sunday at the Golden Gate Bridge. (Muni Diaries)
  • Aged out: Elderly drivers disproportionately cause car crashes, but it can be difficult for them to give up the keys when they’re no longer safe behind the wheel. In areas like Sonoma and Marin, where alternatives are few or expensive, it can be even more difficult. (PD)
  • And…: A special tax district that requires developers to actually pay for city services is under attack in Santa Rosa. (PD) … Just because a ridiculous proportion of California drivers are drunk or on drugs, legal or otherwise, while driving doesn’t make it any less of a bad idea. (SFist) … Dave Alden is only cautiously optimistic on community-funded real estate, saying it could open the door to exactly the kinds of abuses the SEC wants to avoid. (WDWGfH?)

The Toll

The roads killed two and left 16 injured since the 15th.

  • Emile Smith severely injured himself and killed his passenger, Selena Ross, after Smith crashed his car on Friday in Santa Rosa. Selena Ross was 33. (PD)
  • An unnamed man rolled his car and killed himself in Tiburon last Friday. Nobody else was injured. The driver was 53. (IJ)
  • Marin’s Injured: A driver caused one minor injury while trying to pull into the Drake High School parking lot in San Anselmo. (IJ) … A driver injured himself in South Marin by striking a rock in the 101 shoulder, causing his car to flip. (IJ) … A teen driver injured himself and five others while speeding through Novato last week. He has been arrested under suspicion of driving while drunk and high. (IJ) … A police officer on a motorcycle injured himself in Tiburon by crashing his bike into a driver in another car. The other driver was unhurt. (IJ) … A drunk driver stopped on Highway 101 and was swiftly struck by two others, one of which was injured in the pile-up. (Patch)
  • Sonoma’s Injured: A speeding and reckless driver crashed into two cars and flipped his own in Petaluma, injured himself and one of the other two drivers. (PD) … A driver injured himself by crashing his tanker truck in Salt Point State Park. His accident spilled oil and antifreeze into the sensitive area. (PD) … A driver crashed his car in Sonoma County last week, injuring himself and no others. (PD) … A driver struck and injured a pedestrian in West Sonoma. (PD)

Have a tip? Have an article idea? Email us at theGreaterMarin [at] gmail.com.

Marin Should Invest in Marin

by Greenbelt Alliance, on Flickr

A couple of guys out in DC are making waves in the real estate investment world, and I think it’s worth Marin taking a look.

While The Atlantic Cities has a fuller rundown who Dan and Ben Miller are and what they’re up to, the basics of it are simple. The Millers want to enable local, individual investors to invest in shares of real-estate. Normally, the SEC makes it illegal for anyone to invest in someone else’s property:

You can invest in buying your own home. But you can’t buy into a true real estate deal unless government regulators believe you’re wealthy enough to know how to handle your own money. Until now, the Millers themselves have been restricted to raising funds from accredited investors they personally know. This is how the system works: If you want in, you must know the right people and have enough money – six or seven figures’ worth.

This stifles investment in small properties because the folks with the money typically also don’t want to invest in small projects with low margins, or in the eclectic business plans that make retail corridors so diverse and interesting.

Long story short, they figured out how to do it legally, through the SEC’s little-used Regulation A, and they want to expand the idea.

Now, the Millers’ pilot project was renovating a store on a half-blighted retail corridor in the District, but the concept, which they’ve packaged under the company Fundrise, is transferable to anywhere in the US, and that’s where Marin comes in.

To for-profit developers, Marin poses a bit of a problem. The development environment –very short height limits, restive neighbors – makes it unprofitable to invest in most small projects. Yet nonprofit developers pose a problem for county and local budgets, immune as they are from parcel and property taxes.

Yet Marin has fantastic wealth and a highly involved, business savvy people. Entrepreneurs should be able to tap into this talent pool to fund projects that really aren’t outside developers. Perhaps those restive neighbors who drive out developers could end up funding their own developments.

There’s no shortage of vacant lots or sub-par uses. San Anselmo has that rotting partially-finished building on Sir Francis Drake. San Rafael has a huge vacant lot on Lincoln and Mission. Novato has its own vacancies, as does Mill Valley. The Town of Corte Madera took up the role of investor by buying out a rapidly declining shopping center. From Dillon Beach to Sausalito, there are a huge number of opportunities. Rather than walk by and wish something else were there, you and your neighbors could actually do something about it. Why wait for George Lucas or Phil Lesh to swoop in?

If the community wants something in a location, Fundrise could offer a way for the town not just to build or renovate but to literally reinvest in the community. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life, but with real estate securities instead of bank loans.

Well, you might say, this is a bit crazy. It’s too risky, too legally convoluted, for use outside of a few projects out in DC. But it’s not just the Millers who want to do this; it’s coming from California, too.

“There’s a real disconnect between capital flows in real estate and the communities to which money and opportunity go,” [LA City Council President Eric] Garcetti says from Los Angeles. He was skeptical at first that average citizens would want to bridge that divide. The investment sounded too risky. But the culture is changing, he says, particularly among technological early adopters and Millennials who are demanding all kinds of new hands-on roles in their communities. “In neighborhoods like mine,” Garcetti says, “where people are very savvy about the particular grind of the particular kind of coffee that’s in a particular café, I think they’re going to be pretty well-informed real estate investors.”

A common complaint about me is that I live in DC, that I don’t ‘get’ Marin, and so have little right to comment. It’s a silly argument, but it does reflect a zealous protection of Marin’s quirks and special character. Who gets Marin better than Marinites? And who would know better than Marinites how invest in their own community?

In other words, Marinites, not big developers, would build the towns they want. Marin wouldn’t need big developers to swoop in and fill vacancies. All we need is an entrepreneur and a business plan the community could get behind. Ruin Marin? Hardly. It would be Marin.

San Rafael Bikeway under official consideration… in San Anselmo

There are details for each of the segments on Google Maps. Click to go there and browse. Green lines mean sharrows (Class III), brown means cycle track (Class I) without parking, red means Class I with parking, and blue means a traditional bike lane (Class II).

Long-time readers of The Greater Marin will likely remember my proposal for a protected/Class I bike lane through downtown San Rafael. I hoped the San Rafael Bikeway would spark some discussion about integrating bicycling infrastructure into the primary arteries of Central Marin, and I got a bit of positive response from the blog but not much officially.

Now, the San Anselmo Quality of Life Commission has taken up my proposal and could endorse it at tonight’s meeting, which would be a first step to making the Bikeway a reality.

The San Anselmo Quality of Life Commission doesn’t have much pull on San Rafael policy, but the work of the commission is taken seriously by the San Anselmo Council. An endorsement by the town council would be a next step, and I’ll be lobbying for it when I’m in town for the holidays.

So consider this an action alert. Though I sadly won’t be able to attend and advocate on behalf of the Bikeway plan, I’ve submitted a letter urging the commission to adopt the resolution, and a show of support would be most appreciated.

The San Rafael segment of the East-West Bicycle Plan is woefully inadequate, forcing cyclists far from downtown so as to avoid Third and Second. The San Rafael Bikeway would not take away any traffic lanes during commute hours. It would spur far more bicycling along the whole corridor – studies have shown that protected bicycle lanes double the number of cyclists along a given corridor – and would help support downtown business.

Since residents of San Anselmo would be just as likely to use the Bikeway as the people of San Rafael, the quality of life in San Anselmo is very much tied to how San Rafael designs its infrastructure. Show your support, and tell the commission to vote yes tomorrow.

What: San Anselmo Quality of Life Commission meeting
When: 7pm, Monday, November 19
Where: San Anselmo Historical Museum, 525 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo
Agenda: Here
Plans: The San Rafael Bikeway Proposal

Mid-Week Links: Novato Moving

Looking at Novato and Beyond

Looking at Novato and Beyond by udpslp, on Flickr

Things are starting to move in Novato, six weeks after the tragic crash that killed Hailey Ratliff. A memorial walk two weeks ago saw hundreds turn out, with city officials and residents expressing support for safer streets. Elisabeth Thomas-Matej joined my call for protected bike lanes in the city while a neighborhood group is investigating ways to lobby for safer streets. And, now that the driver who killed Hailey was cleared of wrongdoing, the Ratliff family has decided to sue Novato for negligence. The suit argues that poor road design, high speeds, and untrimmed vegetation all contributed to the tragedy.

Only time will tell if this movement is permanent. For the sake of the city and its people, I hope it is.

Marin Greater and Lesser

  • Marin County has the second-lowest number of people commuting alone to work in the Bay Area, bested only by San Francisco itself. Though it’s still somewhat high at 65.2 percent, fully 19 percent don’t drive, take transit, or carpool at all, and that probably means a lot of walking and bicycling. (CoCo Times)
  • Santa Rosa faces a tough decision with its Coddingtown SMART rail crossing. It can spend $1.7 million for a pedestrian overpass, or close one at-grade crossing so state regulators would allow the city to open a new at-grade crossing here. (PD)
  • Parklets could come to Fairfax, that is if the concept passes through all the governmental hoops alterations to parking usually have to jump through. (Patch)
  • The Italian Street Painting Festival is back! After a hiatus and concerns it wouldn’t return, organizers received enough seed money to revive San Rafael’s biggest street festival of the year for next summer. (Patch)
  • Sprawl in Tiburon is being subsidized by Marin and the costs are skyrocketing. A court ordered the county to pay half the cost of a housing development’s EIR, and the cost has now reached $468,000. (IJ)
  • Larkspur has the worst roads in the Bay Area. While not much of a problem for drivers, bicyclists have a tough time navigating the cracked and buckled pavement. (Bay Citizen)
  • Marin’s mountain biking history and culture is on display at the SFO gallery, so stop by next time you pass through. If you really want your fix, don’t forget that we have an express bus; for a $40 round-trip, it’s actually not much more than a high-class theater. (Pacific Sun)
  • A fighter pilot is trained to keep watch for any movement and to use his or her eyes to maximum effect. Drivers and cyclists, who aren’t trained in the fine art of attention, should be. An RAF pilot has some tips for how to detect cyclists if you’re a driver, and how to avoid getting missed if you’re a cyclist. (London Cyclist)
  • And…: Caltrans hit with record fine for breaking water quality rules in 101 construction. (PD) … A new Boston rail station is being funded by New Balance. (Archpaper) Could Fireman’s Fund do the same for SMART in Novato? … Fare hikes and service cuts are coming to Santa Rosa’s CityBus. (PD) … Marin Transit’s Muir Woods Shuttle awarded for excellence. (NBBJ) … Corte Madera’s long-awaited park cafe has finally opened. (IJ)

The Toll

One person died and two others were injured this week.

  • Richard Giacomini drowned after crashing his truck into a West Marin reservoir this week. The well-known rancher was 71. (IJ)
  • Joe Kwai Lee, the driver accused of killing Alvine Heese with his car last week, has plead not guilty in Santa Rosa court. He was driving to a doctor’s appointment on a suspended license. (PD)
  • A woman was injured by a driver backing out of their driveway in Santa Rosa. (PD) … A motorcyclist injured himself by crashing his bike in Sonoma County. He suffered only minor injuries. (PD)

The 101 Bus Pocket Guide

By popular demand, I’ve reworked the Highway 101 Strip Map into a printable version and added a timetable. Print this out and stick in on your wall, shove it in your (man) purse, or gloat to friends that you actually know where you’re going. Because you deserve it. If you’re a bus driver, defy your superiors and put this on display where passengers can see it when doing a 101 run. Seriously, they’ll thank you.

Click for the three-page PDF.

Guides like this one are extremely useful for complicated, but important, pieces of transit infrastructure. How all the routes come together to form a single bus system from top to bottom is what makes 101 the trunk line that it is. Leaving it unmapped, as GGT and Marin Transit have done, simply hides from the public how much transit is actually available to use.