Mid-Week Links: Afternoon on the Bay

late afternoon above Richardson Bay, Sausalito, CA

by Stephen Hill

Marin County

  • Neighbors to the proposed Grady Ranch development have appealed the county’s approval of the project. The Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association alleges Grady Ranch would cause too much noise, light pollution, and be a general nuisance. (News Pointer)
  • The San Rafael Airport Rec Center project could run afoul of new California regulations on development near airports.  Though the project fit the old standards, a consultant has been hired to ensure it meets the new ones as well. (IJ)
  • Now that nobody is running for Ross Town Council, it’s up to potential candidates to file for a write-in candidacy.  If there’s an insufficient number of write-in candidates, the three positions will be appointees. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • Sausalito wants to ease the problem of bike tourists getting stuck in town by setting up a ferry reservation system for cyclists, a far more efficient method than the current first-come-first-served method.  Expanding San Francisco’s bikeshare system to town may also help the more casual riders that don’t want to cross the bridge. (IJ)
  • San Anselmo’s moribund nightlife will get a boost this summer, as two wine bars are slated to open downtown – a near-first for the town. (Patch)
  • Novato’s revenues are better than expected, to the tune of $600,000.  Though the city is still in austerity mode, an expected transfer of $300,000 from the rainy day fund has been canceled. (Advance)
  • Southern Marin’s bikepaths got a $118,000 infusion of maintenance money from TAM.  Though chump change compared to road maintenance, the grant is a welcome recognition of the paths’ importance. (Marinscope)

The Greater Marin

  • San Francisco’s performance parking experiment is finally yielding positive results, with spots opening up around high-priced areas and filling up in cheaper areas. (New York Times)
  • Meanwhile, New York City is suffering thanks to its onerous parking minimums, which drive up the cost of housing in an already expensive city.  Though the practice of banishing parking minimums in favor of parking maximums is recommended in the draft Plan Bay Area, Marin’s transit districts would be wise to take heed. (Streetsblog)
  • Then again, pushing for strictly infill development and densification by loosening regulation won’t solve our housing problem given the pace of infill development, the extraordinary costs of consolidating properties, and political wrangling necessary to actually build the thing.  (Old Urbanist)
  • A 2001 study argues that transit-oriented development is not a traffic cure-all, as much of the benefits of TOD comes from densification and better location than simply better travel modes. (Half-Mile Circles)
  • If we want biking to take off, we must take it seriously as a form of transportation first and recreation second, something Americans typically don’t do. (RPUS)
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Mid-Week Links: This Part Hurts

This is a rather long presentation, but it lays out the essence of how car traffic hurts culture, hurts neighborhoods, and what to do about it.  I’ve been to talks like this in DC but this is the first time I can really share one with you.  And if you work in transportation or the planner’s office, this ought to count as continuing education, so bust out the earphones and popcorn.

Marin County

  • Former Supervisor Hal Brown died this week of cancer, and the respect Ross Valley and Marin had for him was evident in editorials and memoria. (Pacific Sun)
  • Mill Valley urbanists, attention!  Have a say in the direction of your town and join one of the Mill Valley 2040 committees charged with drafting the new general plan.  Applications are due March 14, so get on it. (IJ, Town of Mill Valley)
  • San Anselmo urbanists can have a bit of their own fun, too, as this Saturday the town council will weigh resident priorities for the next 2-5 years at a special meeting from 10am-12pm.  After the meeting, a survey will be put online for people who could not make it. (Patch)
  • SPAWN, a nonprofit whose goal is to restrict construction near creeks had its own San Geronimo demonstration home red-tagged by the county for building without a permit next to a creek. Neighbors that had run afoul of the group in the past were furious at the hypocrisy. (IJ)
  • There may still be some useful Q&A to be had with Fairfax Councilmember David Weinsoff, who happens to be Fairfax’s delegate to ABAG, though the discussion may have descended into Agenda 21/CittaSlow madness. (Patch)
  • Untangling the affordable housing mess caused by redevelopment agencies’ abrupt closure on February 1 will take quite a while to untangle, but surely the State Legislature can handle it, right? (Pacific Sun)
  • Marin is the least affordable place to live in the Bay Area, if one adds the cost of transportation to the cost of housing.  A new study shows that Marinites spend an average of 56.3% of their income on housing and transportation, compared to the 39.5% San Franciscans spend. (Chronicle)

And…: Sausalito repaves a street that hasn’t seen work in 70 years. (IJ) … San Rafael’s plastic bag ban chugs along despite a threatened lawsuit by plastics makers. (Patch) … Stand Up for Neighborly Novato will merge with Novato Housing Coalition so as to better focus their efforts to promote affordable housing in the city. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Arlington County, Virginia, has a number of bikes in its vehicle fleet, saving them money on gas, car maintenance, and also on employee health benefits and sick days.  How might Marin’s communities utilize bicycles in their vehicle fleets?  (Patch)
  • SimCity 5 announced, and the shouts of urbanists around the world rose as one. (Stop and Move)
  • Amtrak wants to restrict the number of bikes allowed on Capital Corridor trains, as around 10% of riders now bring their own bicycle and it’s becoming a nuisance to non-bikers.  Amtrak ought to strongly encourage bicycling, however, as active living and bicycling culture tends to go hand-in-hand with rail ridership. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Since the ban on cell phones while driving went into effect in California, traffic deaths have dropped an astounding 22%, the largest drop since CHP started keeping records. (Mercury News via IJ)

Mid-Week Links: Good Times

10000 trips through 10000 points

Image from Eric Fischer.

Local techno/transit geek Eric Fischer wrote a program to approximate travel routes from geotagged Twitter posts, revealing the desire lines of area.  Looks like he forgot Marin is there, but apparently we don’t have a whole lot of Twits to track anyway.

Marin

  • Glad that’s over with: The RepealSMART effort failed to meet its minimum signature requirements and will not be on the next ballot.  This frees SMART to use $171 million it had in escrow, although the effort may return for November. (Press Democrat)
  • Then again…: Whistlestop has filed suit against SMART over the loss of its parking spaces and the effective loss of its building.  SMART and San Rafael are reportedly willing to strike a deal to solve the problem, but there are no details yet. (IJ)
  • Novato will give up its affordable housing oversight role to Marin Housing Authority, as it cannot afford the administrative costs without redevelopment funds. (IJ)
  • Today, Novato will unveil a model of its new downtown offices, which are proceeding despite newly-elected Councilmember Eric Lucan’s opposition. (IJ)
  • The Marin History Museum has received an anonymous 1 to 1, $50,000 matching gift pledge to restore the Boyd House.  If you care at all about Marin’s history, and about San Rafael’s old housing stock, this is your time to donate. (IJ)
  • The Muir Woods Shuttle, aka the 66 bus, is slated for a fare hike, but the exact details aren’t known yet.  A $5 round-trip fare, complete with bus day pass, is the likely outcome. (IJ)
  • SMART and California High-Speed Rail are getting their knocks, sometimes deservedly so, but they’re nothing new: BART faced similar criticism before it opened, and Marin lost out as a result. (IJ)
  • Marin will upgrade its library lobbies into “market places” for its most popular material. I’ve always figured, though – if Border’s died because people treated it like a library with a coffee shop, why not get coffee shops in the libraries? (IJ)
  • San Quentin, currently zoned for 1,500 new homes, could get “priority status” in order to deflect ABAG mandates elsewhere in Marin.  It doesn’t change the fact that adding 1,500 homes at San Quentin is, to put it mildly, a little daft. (IJ)
  • Marin tweaked its zoning rules, adding an exemption from affordable housing requirements for some unincorporated communities, including Strawberry. Other changes were made to permitting and smart growth planning areas. (Pacific Sun)
  • Sausalito will include some of their harbor docks as affordable housing in their Draft Housing Element, as live-aboards pay significantly less rent than their land-lubbing fellow Sausalitans. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Windsor has approved their downtown station-area plan, although they won’t see any train service until after 2015. (Press Democrat)
  • The House and Senate are moving forward with their respective Transportation Reauthorization bills.  Activists, including myself,  aren’t so keen on the House version. (The Hill, Streetsblog)
  • Nationally, the number of renters has grown significantly, while the number of homeowners has declined, meaning cities are likely well-equipped for the demand.  (Atlantic Cities)
  • The BART extension to Livermore is giving voice to an existential question facing the system: should it expand ever outward, or should it keep what it already has?
  • Mountain View rejected bus rapid transit because it would have taken up left-turn lanes.  This is a step back for the city’s efforts to put moving people, not cars, first.

And…: A beautiful new subway in Kazakhstan. (Architizer)… One Bay Area falls flat in San Ramon, too. (San Ramon Express)… Stockton Street survived just fine without any parking for a week. (Streetsblog)

Monday Links: Go Abroad


We often imagine that the Dutch were always cyclists.  While that’s correct in some sense, the Netherlands faced sprawl and auto-centric development in the 1950s and 1960s, just as the United States did.  Unlike Americans, though, the Netherlands fought back, and the result is the Netherlands we see today.

Marin County

  • Corte Madera’s abandoned Madera Vista apartment complex will be renovated. They have sat vacant since a 2008 fire. (Twin Cities Times)
  • Infill development near freeways should take into account auto pollution and take steps to mitigate it.  This is especially important in Marin, as the SMART corridor runs parallel to 101 for much if its route, and to the One Bay Area process. (California Watch)
  • San Anselmo wants to buy Bald Hill, currently in Ross, but nobody knows how to get in touch with the owners.  The hill is owned by Asian Alliance LLC, and the founder and last contact the town had died years ago. (IJ)
  • Downtown San Anselmo is undergoing a bit of a shake-up, with a number of storefronts vacant and a Goodwill moving in.  A group wants to convince George Lucas to open a theater in town, but making that happen could be difficult (IJ)
  • Sausalito’s Housing Element is nearly complete and will be submitted officially to the City Council on January 31.  If approved, it goes to the state on February 2.  (Marinscope)
  • Mill Valley wants to update their General Plan, refocusing on transit and traffic-calming.  With sometimes half-hourly buses it stands a better chance than some areas, but hopefully it will work with Marin Transit and GGT to enhance transit options. (Mill Valley Herald)
  • Larkspur Landing might get $2 parking after all, given a tepid Board response to a premium-space idea. This will help manage demand a bit at the terminal, which tends to fill up early. (IJ)
  • West Marin’s open space portfolio will soon increase by 22 acres after a successful fundraising drive. (IJ)
  • San Rafael’s red light program will be studied to assess its impacts on driver behavior, including rolling right turns, which can be unsafe to pedestrians. (IJ)
  • A 90-year-old driver struck and killed a pedestrian at Second and G in San Rafael.  The exact circumstances are unknown. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • Looks like downtown living really is good for you.  Residents of areas with a high density of businesses walk three times as much as others, but the areas need to draw in non-residents to succeed. (Atlantic Cities)
  • San Francisco’s SFPark project is dramatically increasing hourly revenue on its meters.  The project gives drivers the option of paying by credit card, phone, or cash, which is useful for the large hourly charges in popular locations. (SF Examiner)
  • California’s ability to establish cycletracks, bikeways, and other proven bike facilities is stymied by too-conservative design guidebooks that call these “experimental” facilities.  Sadly, AB 819, which would change that, is slowly being gutted. (Streetsblog)
  • The American Public Transit Association (APTA) has published a rundown of how to talk to opponents of high-speed rail projects with a new report of common criticisms and appropriate responses. (Streetsblog)
  • Head of the California High Speed Rail Authority has stepped down, as has the chairman of its board, citing personal reasons. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Caracas has a gigantic, abandoned office tower in its center, and some entrepreneurial folk have set up their own town inside. The best part, they say, is having so much transit access in the middle of the city. (Foreign Policy)
  • It’s estimated we’ve paved about 3,590 square miles for parking, about 2 spaces for every man, woman, and child in the United States, and it’s time to take them seriously not just as blight, but as public space. (NY Times)

Mid-Week Links: The Right Kind of Parking

So people sometimes think I’m a geek; I bore them to death with talk about LOS and bike lanes and units per acre, but when so much can be done with just bike parking I can hardly shut up.  Marin, despite its cycling culture, has very little bicycle parking in its downtown cores.  Replacing one car space every other block with bike parking in downtown San Rafael, for example, would add 50 bicycle parking spaces for only 5 car spaces.  As well, putting the bikes where drivers need good sight lines would make the program even better.

The North Bay

SMART construction has officially begun!  For the moment it’s just survey teams and a sign, but the $103 million contract has sparked the first construction work of the project.  Construction will be from Santa Rosa’s Jenning’s Road station, added back in during contract negotiations and now relocated to Guerneville Road, to the Civic Center.  Meanwhile, RepealSMART is turning to paid signature-gatherers to qualify for what they claim is the qualifying target: 14,902. They’ve acknowledged they wouldn’t be able to meet either of the two higher proposed numbers: 30,000 or 39,000. (Press Democrat, IJ, Business Journal, Watch Sonoma County)

  • Tea party protesters interrupted a One Bay Area public planning meeting in Santa Rosa.  I hope Marin’s meeting will be more civil. (Press Democrat)
  • There is a problem with the Wincup development in Corte Madera.  Apparently the parking garage is going where a new freeway ramp – part of the Greenbae Interchange Project – is supposed to go, and TAM isn’t happy. (Pacific Sun)
  • Larkspur has a pedestrian bridge design. (Patch)
  • BioMarin is expanding to the San Rafael Corporate Center, lowering the city’s office vacancy rate from 40% to 12%. While office employees only support 4 square feet of retail, it is a chance to build more street life in eastern downtown. (Patch)
  • The Novato pot club has done what the Fairfax club could not: survive. Although neighbors and city and federal officials want to shut down the club, owners are soldiering on after winning an eviction suit from their landlord, who complained there was marijuana smoking on the premises. (IJ)
  • The driver of an Aston Martin caused a four-car crash on Highway 101 after losing control of his vehicle and clipping another driver’s car.  The highway closed for 30 minutes. (IJ)
  • Larkspur Landing could get parking fees on 160 of its “prime” parking spots for only $65 per month.  GGT is mulling the move to help close the Bridge District’s 5-year, $87 million deficit, although the program would only amount to $625,000 over that time frame. (IJ)
  • A cyclist severely injured himself on Alexander Avenue on Wednesday when he lost control of his bike and crashed into a guardrail.  Sausalito wants to redesign Alexander Avenue to make it safer for the many cyclists who use it to get to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. (IJ)
  • Terrapin Crossroads lives, and it’s heading to the Canal to take over the site of Seafood Peddler. The approval process is expected to be handled administratively, as Seafood Peddler already had most of the appropriate permits. (Pacific Sun, IJ)
  • Design and zoning issues could become a political issue in San Anselmo now that Councilman Jeff Kroot is involved in a spat with a neighbor over a planned expansion of Kroot’s home. (IJ)
  • High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are not financially viable on Highway 101 through Marin, according to a TAM study, without upping the carpool requirement to 3 passengers. It’s just as well, as HOT lanes would cripple any casual carpooling initiative in the county. (IJ, The Greater Marin)
  • Healdsburg wants to fix an old bridge for $12 million, but don’t have the money to do it.  Federal officials are skeptical of the plan and appear to prefer replacing the bridge for $25 million. (Press-Democrat)

Mid-Week Links: Onward and Upward

Dipsea to Tourist Club

The Dipsea Stairs

It has been an extremely busy weekend apparently, with retrospectives, bond sales, HSR criticisms, new laws, and more.

Marin County

  • Mill Valley’s alleys and stairs, pedestrian shortcuts up and down the hills that cars can’t manage, are one of the signatures of the town. Photographer Skip Sandberg has taken it upon himself to document them all. (IJ)
  • Golden Gate Transit is now 40 years old.  Born out of a transit victory in 1969 that stopped a second deck on the Golden Gate Bridge, GGT – despite its many faults – has proven itself invaluable to the North Bay time and again. (IJ)
  • SMART has jurisdiction over the Measure Q repeal effort, according to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters. This bodes ill for RepealSMART, as they have called the signature threshold SMART wants unobtainable. (IJ)
  • The monthly federal tax exemption for transit decreased on January 1 from $230 to $125 – roughly half the cost of a Marin-SF commute – thanks to Republican obfuscation in Congress. The exemption for parking increases from $230 to $240.  (SF Examiner)
  • Sausalito wants to redesign Alexander Avenue to be more bike-friendly, widening shoulders and potentially adding a tunnel.  Public comment on the plans are open until January 27. (IJ)
  • Mill Valley wants to update their 1989 General Plan in just 18 months. They met last night and will meet again on January 17 to discuss the scope of work. (Patch)
  • A driver struck a teenager in Petaluma just after New Year’s.  The boy suffered major injuries but is in stable condition. (Patch)
  • Richardson Bay’s Aramburu Island will be transformed into a nature preserve 50 years after the development that spawned it fizzled in the early 1960s. (SF Chronicle)
  • Marin’s plastic bag ban and paper bag fee are now in effect.  If changes from Washington, DC’s similar bag fee are any indication, Marin’s fee will work wonders on peoples’ habits. (IJ)

The Bay Area

  • The Sustainable Communities Strategy, branded as One Bay Area, will mean major changes for the region as regional agencies try to limit greenhouse gas emissions. ABAG and MTC are planning a tour to explain the state-mandated plan as its development gets under way. They’ll be at the Marin Civic Center on January 17. (Mercury News)
  • San Francisco now allows storefronts facing the street to build “parklets”, extensions of the sidewalk that use up at least two parking spaces, and they’re popping up everywhere. (SF Chronicle)

State of California

  • Most of California’s redevelopment agencies will likely be shut down after losing their court fight against Governor Jerry Brown’s austerity budget, although cities promise there will be more litigation. The agencies captured property taxes to fund themselves, which the Governor said was a drain on local and state budgets. (LA Times, Pacific Sun)
  • LA will soon follow San Francisco’s example and install a downtown performance parking system. While performance parking seems to be the future, it may be wise to understand parking’s past. (Los Angeles Magazine)
  • California communities can now round down their streets’ calculated speed limits, rather than being forced to round up. (Land Line)
  • CAHSR should not be funded just yet, according to a review group with heavy clout in the state Legislature.  Governor Brown may push forward anyway. (LA Times, SF Chronicle)

The Greater Marin

  • Ottawa, Ontario, is planning out the areas around its light-rail stations stations.  The city – as big and diverse as a county – specifically wants to upzone in choice areas, and doing so is just as complicated as one might think. (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Vancouver, BC, is building new micro-apartments in a trendy neighborhood and renting them for $850 a month, showing the folly of the unit-per-acre density limits ubiquitous in Marin. (Grist)
  • Don’t abandon the public process so easily – project outcomes are positively correlated with participation.  I’m looking at you, SMART. (Next American City)
  • A whole mess of new transit projects start construction starts up this year across North America.  It’s a good thing. (Transport Politic)

Mid-Week Links: Bike for Your Life

The most baffling thing about Marin is how unbikeable its thoroughfares are.  Sir Francis Drake, Second & Third Streets, Miller Avenue, Redwood Boulevard – they’re all sorely lacking in bicycle amenities.  We shunt our cyclists onto side roads or put down sharrows but it’s honestly not enough.  The video above highlights the progress made in New York City, and they’ve done absolutely spectacular things in the past five years.  But why should they have all the fun?  Marin County invented the mountain bike and Safe Routes to School.  Our cafes are hangouts for spandex-clad biker gangs.  We have the culture, we have the towns, but we just need the will.

We’ve done the flashy projects – CalPark Tunnel, the Novato north-south path – but they’re out of the way.  Instead, I want to bike down Miracle Mile and Third Street.  I want to lock my bike to something other than a tree in San Rafael.  I want to feel safe biking in Tam Valley and on Delong Avenue.  Marin is still one of the best places to live, but New York is showing us up.  In 2012, let’s show New York what we’re made of.

SMART

SMART featured prominently in the news this week.  Rohnert Park officially (wait, no, unofficially) moved its station north to be closer to housing and commercial development, which allowed SMART to reintroduce the Atherton Avenue station [Patch] to the IOS.  SMART had cut Atherton because it relies on MTC funding, which requires that an average of 2,200 housing units to be zoned for within a half-mile of the system’s stations.  Atherton has very few housing units nearby, as it is located to bring workers to the Fireman’s Fund office park, and so lowered SMART below the minimum TOD threshold.  Rohnert Park’s move added enough housing units to the system that Atherton could be added back in, and that’s good news for everyone.  (Patch, IJ, Press Democrat)

In other news, SMART has rehired their old CFO to replace her own replacement.  Erin McGrath is taking over once David Heath, who was fired for undisclosed reasons, leaves on Friday.  As well, the District wants to run shuttle buses on the deferred parts of its line, from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale and San Rafael to Larkspur.  This would duplicate current Sonoma County and Golden Gate bus service, but the District is in talks with GGT about coordination, raising hopes that they won’t waste money creating a sixth bus service in two counties. (IJ)

Marin County

  • Ross Valley’s Flood Control District has been awarded $7.66 million to retrofit Phoenix Lake into a water detention facility, decreasing the odds of flooding downstream. (IJ)
  • San Rafael will spend $213k to repair a bump in Anderson Drive that slows down cars, although I think the bump is more of a feature than a bug. (IJ)
  • Marin County supervisors have discretionary funds, and they’re giving away $38,650 at the end of the year.  Prince William County, Maryland, has something similar but is considering ending the practice. (IJ, Washington Post)
  • Marin has pumped another $1 million into litigation against SAP and Deloitte Consulting for the wretched accounting system they installed for the County. (IJ)
  • The County needle-exchange program will not expand as planned. Congressional Republicans reinstated a ban on federal funding for needle exchanges, meaning AIDS testing and prevention money from the CDC will not be forthcoming. (IJ)
  • A four-car collision on the Golden Gate Bridge resulted in no serious injuries, but shut down all northbound lanes for 30 minutes. (IJ)
  • More bizarrely, a driver ran a car through a Sausalito living room.  No injuries were reported. (IJ)
  • A third crash this week came from Novato, where a driver crashed into a telephone pole along Highway 101. (Patch)
  • The Ross Valley Sanitary District will borrow up to $1.5 million to fund repairs and upgrades to the valley’s waste water systems. The District plans to replace 200 miles of pipe at the glacial rate of 2 miles per year. (IJ)
  • Caltrans shut part of the Manzanita Park and Ride lot due to high tides, but reopened it on Monday.  It’s unclear why the tides would be a problem last week, but not this week. (IJ)
  • Doyle Drive’s Phase I is almost complete, and it will include a temporary signalized intersection. It will be interesting to see if the traffic gets as bad as people think it will. (Spotswood)

The Greater Marin

  • What does it take to make good downtown retail?  A bit of rule-bending. (PlaceShakers)
  • Transit agencies should sell personal mobility if they want to compete with the car, the ultimate mobility machine. (Human Transit)
  • Mode share: Apparently, teens rely on cars if they live in spread-out, rural environments.  But the town in question, Owens Sound, ON, has room to improve, as it seems to have little bike infrastructure and only a roundabout bus system. (Owen Sound Sun Times)
  • Environmental considerations have been cut from the federal TIFIA transportation loan program, part of a deal cut by Sen. Barbara Boxer to get Republican support for the transportation funding extension.  The considerations may still be amended into the bill, as it has not yet passed the Senate. (Huffington Post)
  • Eliminating California state funding of school transportation funding is made at the expense of broadly-spread rural school districts that need busing but can’t afford it on their own. (Sacramento Bee)
  • The City of Sonoma wants to ban “formula [i.e., chain] stores” after a Staples moved into town, but the town doesn’t seem to be addressing the zoning codes that encourage the blandness they want to ban.  The Council is deeply divided on the issue, which will be taken up at the next council meeting. (Sonoma News)
  • Work to widen Highway 101 in Sonoma has sucked up $720 million so far and needs another $250 million to get through the Novato Narrows, all for more developments like Deer Park and Hanna Ranch.  SMART will cost $280 million less at full build-out. (Press Democrat)