What you might say to the TAM Board at 7pm January 23 in the Civic Center

Most importantly, feel free to say what you think.  Everyone in Strawberry should say what they believe.  The following is our perspective, which you are welcome to share.

First, why are we at the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) Board? 

After 12 straight weeks of requests by Bruce Corcoran for the Board of Supervisors to hear the Strawberry PDA issue, then-BOS President of Judy Arnold and current-BOS Kate Sears announced in October that TAM was the appropriate forum for the discussion, because it had to do with financial allocations.

It’s been later clarified that, since so many other  PDAs have been removed, Sears and Arnold would like to reconsider the allocations, which currently include $251,000 for Strawberry – maybe enough for a “study.”

But here’s the thing – none of the other Planned PDA areas were heard by TAM.  None.  Not the county, not San Rafael, none.   So, the allocations didn’t affect their inclusion (or not) in the PDA.

And on a higher level, why should they?  Really, is that how we want to decide our inclusion as a targeted area for development for the next 25 years?  On how much money – $251,000 or even $500,000 – they will give us in the 2014 budget?  Is that how we’ll be bought?  For the promise of better sidewalks so Supervisor Sears can walk our kids to school (even though some of our residents send their kids to Old Mill and Edna Maguire, since Strawberry is too full)?  Is that the only way we’ll get better sidewalks, to sign up to a designation almost no one else in the county does?

So if, like us, you don’t want to sell out Strawberry for 251 pieces of silver, there are a couple of arguments you can make.

If, like me, you’re not a land-use lawyer, a city planner, an architect, a design review board member, you can build your comments around these simple points

1) There is no question that inclusion in the PDA is 100% voluntary.  It’s written in Plan Bay Area, it’s been said and written in a Marin IJ Op-Ed by the Director of the Association of Bay Area Governments (which runs Plan Bay Area), it’s been said by Supervisor Sears.

2) It is, as Supervisor Sears has said, a “statement of intent” – and that intent is to develop high-density, transit-oriented housing.  That’s what Plan Bay Area is all about.  It is an intent to develop Strawberry with high-density housing, and to develop Strawberry with additional transit to support it.  Looking around the county, that would make us like, say, the San Rafael Transit Center, or maybe Larkspur Landing (now being considered for over 900 new high density units).  Those aren’t even PDAs – what will they build here, if we accept this “statement of intent?”

3) There are only 4 PDAs left in Marin County – Marin City, Strawberry, Greenbrae and a square mile of San Rafael.  As has been stated, 40% of new development in Marin is intended for PDAs (or maybe in the long term, the 80% target in Plan Bay Area), do we really want to bear the brunt of almost half the development in Marin for the next 25 years?

4) The PDA is a relatively new concept.  State legislature under Darrel Steinberg has been passing more and more aggressive development laws on behalf of developers, including SB743, SB 365 and the impending SB1.  We don’t know – long term – what being in a PDA will mean.  How many more of these laws will get passed?  Even if they get stopped, how do we know they won’t then be applied just to PDAs?  After all, PDAs are areas that are intended for the lion’s share of development.  As San Rafael City Councilwoman Kate Colin said when rejecting the Civic Center PDA, “there isn’t an obligation, but there is an expectation.”

The Supervisors say that there’s a “blizzard of fear.”  That this PDA designation doesn’t actually do anything.  But here’s what it does – it takes away any ground we have to say for the next 25 years “stop developing, you are destroying our community!”  Of course we fear that!  Supervisor Steve Kinsey said just this week “the course of Marin development has been set for 40 years.”  Do we want them – in 2028 – to look back and say “Hey, the future of Strawberry has been set since 2013.”

So, why would we – voluntarily – sign up to have the fabric of our community destroyed, to become the housing and transit center for Marin, one of only 3 areas with this novel land-use designation of unknown long-term consequences?   Is there an amount of money that is worth it?  We think no.

If you have more advanced knowledge, like our former design review board members, or our local attorneys, and want to get into a policy-based debate with the Marin Planning Board, there are any number of policy-based objections.  For a start, read Chuck Ballinger’s Marin IJ Op-Ed here.

But I’m not.  I’m just a business guy, who is looking at the arguments made by the county, and they don’t hold water.

So on January 23rd, we want to tell TAM, “Keep your $251,000 of PDA money, we’re not signing up.”

We want to tell the leaders of Marin County (most of whom are on the TAM board – mayors, city council members, supervisors), “Kate Sears is here asking you for money for Strawberry.  We, Strawberry, are saying she doesn’t represent us.”

And we want to tell the Board of Supervisors at that meeting, “When you do in fact listen to us and put Strawberry on the BOS agenda in February (or whenever you finally acknowledge your constituents), we want out.”

Strawberry Community Meeting 7pm, January 12 at the Rec Center

Please join us for a community meeting (our 3rd) at the Rec Center at 7pm Sunday, January 12 (the football game should be over!).

It’s a new year, and the window is officially open for PDA designations to be removed, so now is our time!  In addition, the planning is just beginning for the 2015 Housing Element discussion.  Now is the time to start having an effect on county planning.

Guest speaker Bob Silvestri, author of “The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin,” will join us to talk about “Beyond Plan Bay Area” – what else we can expect to deal with now that Plan Bay Area is in place.

We’ll follow that with a review of the progress we’ve made, what’s happening throughout the county, and how you can help us keep our Strawberry neighborhood from being the focus of development for the next 25 years.  It’s a critical time to get the PDA designation removed, and we’ve never had a higher profile or more support throughout the county.  But we need to be the loudest voice in our destiny.

Sign up for blog updates on the right side of this page to stay current on events.  Join us Sunday night at the Rec Center at 7pm.  And tell a friend or neighbor to join us as well.


Strawberry PDA to be reviewed at TAM 1/23

Supervisors Sears and Arnold confirmed at the Board of Supervisors meeting in December that the matter of the Strawberry PDA will be considered at the Transportation Authority of Marin meeting at 7pm on January 23 at the Marin Civic Center, in the Board of Supervisors room on the 3rd floor.

No other PDA has been considered at the TAM Board.  Supervisor Arnold indicated that the question for discussion is whether the amount of funds allocated to the Strawberry PDA should be changed.

When questioned during “open comment” time at the last TAM Board meeting, confused TAM board members told us that it’s not a matter for TAM to consider.   The San Rafael mayor (a TAM Board member) pointed out that the decision of whether a community wants to volunteer for a PDA is something for only that community to consider, and he wouldn’t be comfortable having a role in deciding Strawberry’s PDA destiny, any more than he would be comfortable having other groups determining whether San Rafael has a PDA area.

We don’t believe that TAM is the appropriate forum for this discussion either, but since that’s where we’ve been directed, we need to show up in force to make clear to the Supervisors (who are all on the TAM board) that we don’t want to be included in this novel land-use designation with uncertain long-term consequences.

As for funds, the only thing worse than accepting a designation for focused development with limited funding behind it is accepting that designation for focused development with a lot of funding behind it.

Please join us at the January 23 TAM Board meeting and add your voice. And join us at the January 12 Strawberry Community meeting at 7pm at the Strawberry Rec Center gym, for more information.