Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Hearing on January 14, 2014
I’m appearing before this Board today for the twelfth consecutive hearing to ask you to please put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation on your agenda for consideration and a vote.
Your refusal to hear us is a selective and unjustified abuse of power.
Is this what fairness in government looks like? Is this the new normal?
Given her recent elevation to President of the Board of Supervisors, one person, Kate Sears, has absolute control over an entire community of Strawberry because she not only sets the agenda for our own District 3, but, as President, she now sets the agenda for the entire County.
Every citizen of Marin should be deeply concerned because if President Sears can single-handedly block the will of the majority of her own constituents in Strawberry, then she now is in a position to single-handedly do the same thing to you and your community.
President Sears has told us repeatedly that there is no rush to get out of a PDA because a PDA does not change zoning. Her statement is a half-truth.
PDAs didn’t change zoning; each one of you (Supervisors) did by unanimously approving an amendment which set the default density for Marin to 30 units per acre and imposed Affordable Housing zoning in every pre-existing residential zoning category, with the exception of agricultural areas.
The net effect is the same: the Strawberry PDA now has 30-unit per acre Affordable Housing zoning which did not exist before, and for tiny Strawberry, that impacts about 40% of our total land area, including the Seminary.
We are anxious to opt out before a developer announces a new high density project and expects to receive the tax-payer subsidies and incentives to build it, and then sues the County if there is any resistance.
Inclusion in a PDA comes with an expectation that if we agree to accept tax-payer funded transportation grants, then we agree to accept high density housing projects in return.
The overwhelming majority of us have indicated that we don’t want any transportation grants with such strings attached. We believe that transportation grants should be based on a priority ranking of need, and not on a system that rewards PDAs with grants, and punishes non-PDAs by withholding them.
And the overwhelming majority of us oppose new high density housing because Strawberry already has a higher percentage of renter occupied housing units than the 50 % target Plan Bay Area aspires to achieve. Sixty-one percent of Strawberry’s housing stock consists of renter occupied units compared to only 37% for the County as a whole. You can’t achieve the purported goal of sustainable communities when there are far more renters than owners because renters do not pay property taxes or taxes for essential services.
Residents of Strawberry are rejoicing with our friends in Novato over the recent news that the State has approved a default density of only 20 – 23 units per acre for their city. Nevertheless, we can’t help to see the hypocrisy of Transit Oriented Development. While Novato’s leaders were working hard to lower the default density for the second largest city in Marin, and one that will be served by the Smart Train, President Sears and Supervisor Arnold were content to stick tiny Strawberry with 30-units per acre, even though it never will be served by the Smart Train.
We are seeking fairness and consistency in government, but you are failing us.
Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Hearing on January 7, 2014
I’m appearing before this Board today for the eleventh consecutive hearing to ask you to please put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation on your agenda for consideration and a vote.
It is utterly inexcusable that this Board has not held a hearing by now. We have been respectfully pleading with you for six months, but, as we start the New Year, you still have not set a date for a hearing.
Frankly, I believe your refusal to put the Strawberry PDA on your agenda is an intolerable abuse of power and an obstruction of democracy. It smacks of hubris and tyranny, which will not endure much longer.
I want to address an audacious comment by outgoing President Judy Arnold at the Board of Supervisors hearing on December 10, 2013 that concerns this Board’s requirement that Strawberry must appear before the TAM (Transportation Authority of Marin) Board, which was not required of any other PDA
In response to a Strawberry resident’s comments during open time for public expression, Supervisor Arnold said:
“As President, let me just respond to one statement that you made that is incorrect.
No one has said that this issue (the Strawberry PDA) must be put on the TAM agenda before it can be decided.”
Are you kidding? We have your own words on video recordings to refute you!
At the September 17th hearing, Supervisor Arnold said that “TAM was the place where the discussion (of the Strawberry PDA) belongs, and TAM has the added benefit of bringing the topic to a County-wide agency.”
Then, at the October 29th hearing, Supervisor Sears said:
“So, on September 17th, our Board Chair, Judy Arnold, announced that she and I would be working with Diane Steinhauser, Transportation Authority of Marin, to agendize an item regarding Strawberry’s status as a PDA, which is really where that issue belongs.”
All of us are witnesses to those mis-statements of jurisdiction. Each of you heard them. And each of you had an opportunity at those times to show leadership by standing up and saying, “Excuse me, but in my opinion, Strawberry’s PDA status is a matter for the BOS (Board of Supervisors) to decide,” but instead, each one of you chose to sit in silence and let those mis-statements stand.
Moreover, each one of you had 10 additional opportunities to show leadership during the last 10 consecutive hearings when citizens of Marin and I challenged President Arnold and Supervisor Sears’s position, but once again you chose to sit in silence instead of supporting fairness and equal justice for all.
If this weren’t enough, as recently as December 5, 2013, an article written by an Independent Journal reporter stated:
“Southern Marin Supervisor Kate Sears…repeated her belief that the issue (of the Strawberry PDA) more appropriately belongs before the Transportation Authority of Marin Board.”
Supervisor Arnold’s attempt to whitewash history is self-serving and unjustified, and your silence is unbecoming of members of this Board.
We urge you to put the Strawberry PDA on your agenda right now before you tarnish your good reputations and the integrity of this Board any further.
Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Hearing on December 10, 2013
I’m appearing before this Board today for the ninth consecutive hearing to ask you to please put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation on your agenda for consideration and a vote.
At the BOS hearing on October 29th, Supervisor Sears issued what amounted to a policy statement for the Strawberry PDA. She stated that at an earlier BOS hearing held on September 17th that President Arnold announced that she and Supervisor Sears would be working with Diane Steinhauser, who is the Executive Director of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) to put the Strawberry PDA on TAM’s agenda. Both President Arnold and Supervisor Sears proclaimed that the Strawberry PDA issue should be decided by the TAM Board, rather than by the BOS because it affected grants of transportation funds.
Strawberry residents have been arguing for months that the Strawberry PDA is a matter for BOS to decide at its sole discretion.
Last Thursday, December 10th, Strawberry resident Rob Martyn and I attended the TAM hearing to find out for ourselves the answer to the question about which entity had authority over PDAs.
After delivering our prepared remarks to the TAM Board, which consists of the 5 Supervisors and the 11 mayors, or their alternates, of Marin’s cities and towns, Gary Phillips, who is the mayor of San Rafael, made some very telling comments.
Qualifying his comments by speaking as the mayor of San Rafael, who had just completed the extensive process of rescinding the Civic Center PDA, including gathering and analyzing voluminous information, holding public workshops and public hearings, and finally gaining the approval of a split City Council, Mayor Phillips said:
- It didn’t even cross his mind that he would have to come to TAM for prior approval to rescind the PDA because the issue of maintaining local control was so paramount to the process, and
- From San Rafael’s experience, coming before the TAM Board was not required.
Mayor Phillips went on to say that:
- He would be very surprised if the Strawberry PDA must come before the TAM Board, and that
- He would be very uncomfortable if it did because he does not want to inject himself into Strawberry’s affairs.
After the meeting, TAM Chairwoman Alice Fredericks approached Rob Martyn and me to tell us that TAM had absolutely no authority to decide the outcome of Strawberry’s PDA.
My conversation with Executive Director Steinhauser confirmed the answer to our question. She said the TAM Board has no authority over land use issues such as PDAs.
ED Steinhauser also confirmed that the Strawberry PDA still is not on the TAM agenda. Apparently, Supervisor Sears has not been working very hard to put the item on the agenda and to advocate for Strawberry because she was absent from the past two TAM hearings. The last hearing she attended was on September 26th. Supervisor Kinsey and Supervisor Adams were the only Supervisors in attendance at last Thursday’s hearing.
All of you are complicit in delaying Strawberry’s choice to opt out of its PDA, because all of you know, that TAM has no authority in this matter, and all of you know, based on a letter from ABAG that the County Board of Supervisors can, at any time, modify or eliminate all or part of the Potential Highway 101 PDA, of which Strawberry is a part.
[And all of you know that you don’t have to wait for an arbitrary window set by ABAG to take action, as Supervisor Sears claims, because Marinwood, Tam Valley/Almonte, Manzanita, and San Rafael Civic Center did not have to wait. We don’t want to wait; we want to opt out now.
I’m left with deep concerns about fairness under President Arnold’s leadership. And Supervisor Sears has lost our trust, and I don’t see how she can serve the remainder of her term as an effective and trustworthy leader.
All of you have treated my requests with utter disrespect and disdain, and by extension, you have treated the citizens of Strawberry and Marin County with disrespect and disdain because all of you are complicit in allowing President Arnold and Supervisor Sears to make statements that you know are untrue and to set policies that you know are not valid.
BOS Hearing December 10, 2013. President Arnold’s response to Rob Martyn’s comments about the Strawberry PDA during Open Time for Public Expression.
(Video at 00:41:31)
As President, let me just respond to one statement that you made that is incorrect.
No one has said that this issue (the Strawberry PDA) must be put on the TAM agenda before it can be decided.
What Supervisor Sears wanted was to get information on the amount of transportation money that would be available to Strawberry if they left or if they stayed in a PDA, which, I understand, (garbled: members of her community were approved of.)
So that’s why she had asked that TAM (garbled: discuss the whole range of transportation funding that is available,) so that a more informed decision could be made.
BOS Hearing on December 10, 2013. Supervisor Sears’s comments about putting the Strawberry PDA on the Transportation Authority of Marin calendar on January 23, 2014 and possibly putting the Strawberry PDA on the BOS agenda sometime in February 2014. (Video at 00:20:05)
“I’d like to address folks who have raised issues about the Strawberry PDA and to let you know that the Transportation Authority of Marin, the TAM Board, will agendize an item on its Board calendar on January 23rd (2014), which will be an update of allocations and re-designations of funds for One Bay Area grants in light of changes to the PDAs in Marin County.
TAM is an appropriate place for this conversation about the OBAG funds, and the grants to PDA and the non-PDA areas because decisions that specific jurisdictions make about whether there is a PDA designation or there is not a PDA designation in their jurisdictions affects all of the areas that are members of Transportation Authority of Marin, and it affects the funding decisions that the TAM commissioners make.
So that will be on the TAM Board agenda on January 23rd, and, then, in February we are looking for a day to agendize an item on our Board of Supervisors calendar to specifically consider possible changes to the Strawberry PDA.
So keep posted. We will let you know once that date has been identified.”
Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County
Board of Supervisors Hearing on December 3, 2013
I’m appearing before this Board today for the eighth time to ask you to please put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation on your agenda for consideration and a vote.
By now, all of you should be embarrassed by your lack of leadership on this issue, but not one of you has stepped up. Instead, you all have been dismissive of us, and your dismissiveness has been pervasive.
For instance, on August 22, 2013, I wrote a letter to Matthew Hymel asking him to please explain the rules for putting an item on the BOS agenda, and appealing to him directly to please use his authority as County Administrator to help us because Supervisor Sears was singlehandedly blocking us.
Mr. Hymel blew off my request for agenda rules, but on September 11, 2013 he responded to me in total as follows:
“I work with the Board President to establish our Board meeting agendas. As you may imagine, there are always many pending items from a variety of sources that are requesting time on our future agendas. Typically, we plan ahead for policy items over a 2 – 3 month period. I will work with President Arnold and Supervisor Sears to consider your request and let you know when a decision has been made.”
Well, Mr. Hymel, we already have waited 2 – 3 months and more, and we have not heard from you, so exactly what have you done in the meantime to place Strawberry’s PDA on the agenda.
You certainly can’t hide behind the excuse that the Supervisors had more pressing business to attend to, because business was apparently so light that BOS did not have to meet for the past two Tuesdays. So your not that busy; just too busy for Strawberry.
But the overarching blame for the stonewalling and inept handling of Strawberry’s PDA lies with each member of this Board because each of you can put the item on the agenda if you want to.
It’s one thing to give Supervisor Sears deference for a reasonable amount of time to resolve an issue that involves her District, but when she stubbornly refuses to listen to her constituents and fails to deliver a solution, then the rest of you must act to preserve the integrity of this Board.
The Strawberry PDA may have seemed like an insignificant issue to all of you at first, but you have allowed it to mushroom into a bigger one with unexpected and far-reaching political consequences. You have made it a campaign issue.
For example, President Arnold will have to account to voters next Spring for:
- her lack of leadership that enabled the Strawberry PDA to fester for so long during her Presidency
- her unfair and inequitable treatment of Strawberry’s PDA compared to other PDAs, and
- her bogus excuse that the Strawberry PDA should be the business of TAM’s Board and not the business of BOS.
And Supervisor Adams will have to explain to voters next Spring:
- why she sat silently and showing no leadership when she knew for certain based on the letter from ABAG posted on her Website that “the County Board of Supervisors can, at any time, modify or eliminate all or part of the Potential Highway 101 PDA.”
After all of this time, the vexing question remains: Who among you is going to show leadership by putting the Strawberry PDA on your agenda where it rightly belongs? How long are you going to block democracy?
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Hearing on November 12, 2013
I’m appearing before this Board today for the seventh time to ask you to please put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation on your agenda for consideration and a vote.
The matter shouldn’t be this difficult:
- It wasn’t this difficult for Marinwood
- It wasn’t this difficult for Tam Valley/Almonte
- It wasn’t this difficult for Manzanita
- And it wasn’t this difficult for the Civic Center in San Rafael
I’ve come to the conclusion that you are not leveling with us; that you have a hidden agenda that you are not sharing with us. What is absolutely clear to me is that you are not representing us.
I expect fairness in government. I expect transparency from our leaders. But we are getting neither.
When you see an ordinary citizen like me standing before you seven times, then you better take notice, because it’s a sure signal that government is not working, and that political change is in the wind.
There are thousands of voters across our County who feel the same way I do. We saw evidence of it in Marinwood last Tuesday on Election Day. More will follow. The question is: Do you feel it?
When we started our campaign last June to opt out of our PDA, Supervisor Sears asked for more time to canvass her constituents in Strawberry to make sure that they were making the right decision. We complied. We arranged a town hall meeting for her. We arranged several small group meetings for her. We invited her into our homes. We trusted her, but she has betrayed our trust.
By the end of August, most of us recognized that Supervisor Sears was not going to support us because the outcome of each meeting was exactly the same:
The overwhelming majority of attendees would express their strong preference to opt out of the PDA, but Supervisor Sears was unmoved.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Kinsey opined that he would support any community that wanted to opt out of a PDA because participation in a PDA is voluntary. His statement compounded our frustration with Supervisor Sears for refusing to put our PDA on the BOS agenda.
Opting out of our PDA is Strawberry’s decision alone, but Supervisor Sears is blocking us out of her personal sense of “the greater good” for Marin County. The “greater good theory” may be rational when it is applied consistently and evenly, but Supervisor Sears applies it selectively. She didn’t apply it to Marinwood, Tam Valley, or Manzanita. She has reserved it exclusively for Strawberry.
Have you ever considered that letting Strawberry opt out may have a silver lining? It would allow us to funnel transportation dollars into downtown San Rafael and Cal Park, two PDAs that lie on the Smart Train line. If we are going to build the missing link to Larkspur, then those PDAs will need all of the transportation funding they can get.
All we are asking for is a vote. I admonish all of you not to stifle democracy by preventing a vote on Strawberry’s PDA. Any of you can put this item on your agenda.
Don’t be afraid of holding a vote. The results may surprise you. Voting is the ultimate way of establishing fairness and transparency in our system of government. We certainly don’t have fairness and transparency now.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Prepared Remarks Delivered during Open Time for Public Expression at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Hearing on November 5, 2013
I’m appearing today for the sixth time to ask this Board to please put on its agenda, for consideration and a vote, the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation, just as you already have done for Marinwood, Manzanita, and Tam Valley/Almonte.
We are seeking equal treatment and equal justice before this Board, but all we have received so far is stonewalling.
At last week’s hearing, we all witnessed an extraordinary event: Supervisor Sears used her authority as a sitting Board member to rebut my comments during open time.
Now I had thought that the period for public expression was a time for Supervisors to listen to and learn from their constituents. I didn’t know it was a time for public debate.
I would be delighted to debate Supervisor Sears on the issues provided that I would have equal time. Under house rules, I have only 3 minutes, but she can hold the floor as long as she wants it.
Equally extraordinary was the content of Supervisor Sears’s rebuttal. She informed us that the Strawberry PDA was not a matter for this Board, but more appropriately belonged before the Board of the Transportation Authority of Marin, on a schedule concocted by ABAG and MTC.
Unlike other unincorporated areas, Strawberry will just have to wait until TAM gets around to putting the item on its agenda, presumably to either deny or grant us permission to opt out of our PDA.
Supervisor Sears’s statements are utter non-sense. If they were true, then why did this Board approve, on its own, the removal of PDAs for Marinwood, Manzanita, and Tam Valley/Almonte? I can find no record in TAM’s agendas or minutes that TAM voted to approve these actions first. Nor can I find any record that San Rafael needed TAM’s prior approval to rescind the Civic Center PDA.
If they were true, then why did ABAG inform each of you in a letter dated July 2, 2013 that the Board of Supervisors could remove a PDA designation at any time?
The TAM Board consists of the 5 Supervisors and 11 elected officials from each city or town council in Marin.
Why should the mayor of Novato, or Fairfax, or Tiburon have any say about what goes on in Strawberry? Strawberry residents don’t have the authority to tell them what to do in their towns. We don’t vote for them, and they are not accountable to us.
You keep telling us that we can keep local control, but Supervisor Sears is showing us that this is not true. She is not representing the local interests of Strawberry. She is advocating that this Board should relinquish its authority to unaccountable regional agencies.
No, Supervisor Sears, issues concerning unincorporated Marin County PDAs most appropriately belong before this Board; not before some unaccountable regional agency.
We vote for all of you, and you are accountable to us. We expect you to act on our behalf.
Supervisor Sears’s statements and stonewalling are making all of you look foolish.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
BOS hearing October 29, 2013. Supervisor Sears’s response to Bruce Corcoran’s comments during Open Time for Public Expression regarding the removal of Strawberry’s PDA designation at Video time 00:18:27:
“May I respond briefly?
So, on September 17th, our Board Chair, Judy Arnold, announced that she and I would be working with Diane Steinhauser, Transportation Authority of Marin, to agendize an item regarding Strawberry’s status as a PDA, which is really where that issue belongs.
All of us are members of the Transportation Authority of Marin Board. The issue belongs there because it really affects transportation dollars.
In addition to that, it is my understanding that ABAG and MTC are having sort of an open season…beginning January 2014 through June 2015…there will be an open period where communities can consider whether they would like to add themselves into a PDA, and become a PDA, and also consider status of withdrawing from a PDA.
So, the time is coming in the future when that conversation is really most appropriate. And we will be agendizing that item on the Transpotration Authority of Marin Board.”
Prepared Remarks during Open Time at the Marin County Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday, October 22, 2013
I am here once again for the fourth time in 5 weeks to ask this Board to please put on its agenda the removal of Strawberry from the unincorporated County PDA.
Bear in mind that Strawberry residents submitted in writing their first request for a hearing on this matter prior to the Board of Supervisors hearing on July 9th, which was more than three months ago.
The delay is inexcusable and unacceptable. Supervisor Sears’s refusal to support the will of her constituents in Strawberry has become an embarrassment, not only for her, but for each one of you, because it calls into question the legitimacy of this Board to represent the people of Marin County fairly.
Strawberry deserves a hearing and a vote, just like the ones Marinwood, Manzanita, and Tam Valley/Almonte got, because inclusion in a PDA is supposed to be voluntary, and Strawberry wants to opt out. It’s patently unfair for this Board to treat Strawberry differently.
Your unfair treatment of Strawberry is endemic of a larger and growing trend in the way this Board conducts business. When citizens of our County present you with issues that you personally don’t agree with, you simply choose to ignore these issues, rather than to debate them openly.
For example, when Strawberry residents complained that high density affordable housing does not conform to the Strawberry Community Plan because it states that “development plans should give the highest priority to incorporating detached single family homes into the plan,” you said, “We don’t care. We’re just going to ignore that law.”
And when we complained that high density affordable housing did not conform to the Seminary Master Plan because the Seminary was not zoned for it, you said, “We don’t care. We’re just going to ignore that law, too. What’s more, we’re going to overlay and Affordable Housing Combining District on the Seminary’s property to circumvent the normal process of amending the Master Plan.”
And so it goes for the Strawberry PDA. “We don’t care, just ignore it.
The problem for you is that choosing to ignore your constituents is not the way a democracy works.
We have eyes and ears. When residents of Marinwood felt that their Supervisor was ignoring them, they mounted a recall petition. As a result, they got exactly what they wanted. This Board removed Marinwood from a PDA, and deleted Grady Ranch as an Affordable Housing Combining District.
But when residents of Strawberry tried to work with Supervisor Sears, without raising even the threat of a recall when she ignored us, we got no relief. This Board has refused to remove Strawberry from a PDA, and it has imposed an Affordable Housing Combining District on the Seminary over our strong objections.
Is a recall the only remaining option for dealing with a Supervisor who continues to ignore us? I certainly hope not. I have resisted calls for a recall, but time, patience, and all other options are running out.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Prepared Remarks for the Board of Supervisors Hearing on October 1, 2013
I’m here once again to ask this Board to please put on its agenda the removal of Strawberry from a Priority Development Area.
We deserve a hearing and a vote, just like Marinwood and Tam Valley, and now the San Rafael Civic Center, because inclusion in a PDA is supposed to be voluntary, and Strawberry wants to opt-out.
We have been very patient with Supervisor Sears. She wanted time to gather facts and opinions by holding small group meetings, and we complied. We also arranged for her a Community Meeting that was attended by over 350 residents. In each case the overwhelming majority of residents indicated that it wanted to opt-out of a PDA, but Supervisor Sears has refused to put the item on the BOS agenda.
Consequently, on August 22nd, I wrote a letter delivered via e-mail to County Administrator Matthew Hymel asking for written rules of procedure for putting an item on the BOS agenda, and specifically requesting his assistance as chief administrator to help us put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA status on the calendar for consideration and a vote because Supervisor Sears was blocking us. I received no reply.
On September 10th, I wrote a letter delivered via e-mail to each of you complaining that I had not received a reply from Mr. Hymel, and asking each of you to provide written rules of procedure, or at least an explanation, for putting an item on the Board’s agenda. None of you has replied.
At the BOS hearing on September 10th, Mr. Hymel approached me privately to tell me that he had not received my original letter. I handed him a copy.
On September 11th, Mr. Hymel responded via e-mail in a purposely general and oblique way. He said that he works with President Arnold to set the agendas, but because of the busy calendar, it could take 2 – 3 months to put a new item on the agenda. May I remind all of you that it already has been at least two months since other residents of Strawberry made the first request for a hearing?
On that same day, I wrote back to Mr. Hymel via e-mail that his reply was unresponsive because he had not answered my specific and clear questions. I asked him to please answer my questions. Mr. Hymel has not replied.
On September 23rd, I wrote a letter delivered via e-mail to the BOS, County Counsel, and Mr. Hymel complaining about Mr. Hymel’s evasive reply, and asking each of you to answer my specific and clear questions, and asking each of you individually to put the removal of Strawberry’s PDA status on the agenda. None of you has replied.
And so it seems to go. “Business as usual” for officials of Marin County has become as follows: If you don’t like the complaint, or if you don’t want to provide information, then you simply ignore the inquiry.
We expect our County administrator to rise above partisan politics, and to treat everyone equally and fairly. My experience shows that those expectations are not happening here.
When citizens of this County take the time to write letters to officials, then they deserve the respect and courtesy of a reply.