Strawberry’s future – Join us 4/27/14 at the Rec Center

Congratulations to the Strawberry community for making itself heard and successfully resolving the PDA question at the board of Supervisors meeting.  Thanks to Supervisor Sears and the Board for hearing our request.

What now?  Two critical related items are showing up very quickly:

1) We’ve all seen the news about the deal to sell the Seminary property to a family trust from Ross.  There is the potential for this to be either very positive or very negative, but it could have a transformative effect on Strawberry in very real ways within 2 years.  Despite the nuance in the papers, this process isn’t over, it’s just starting.  Supervisor Sears suggested that their reps contact us to reach out to the community, a role we’re happy to take.  As this unfolds, it’s important that everyone participate in raising our concerns and communicating our wishes to the proposed buyers and their developers as they think about land use.

2) Supervisor Sears asked her fellow Supervisors to remove Strawberry’s PDA designation in order to give us room to vision what we want Strawberry to be.  We think it’s time to review and reaffirm the 1973 and 1982 Community Plans, and update them to reflect what’s been done and what needs to be done to maintain that high level vision of Strawberry as the town we all love today.

To get the community’s thoughts on these issues, we’re hosting an event at the Strawberry Rec Center 4/27, where we’ll:

* distill the key points of the Strawberry Community Plan for those who aren’t familiar with it
* distill the key points of the Seminary Master Plan for those who aren’t familiar with it
* share research and information we’ve found regarding the Strawberry infrastructure (traffic, schools, water, etc.)
* share what we’ve learned about the plans to develop the Seminary property from the proposed buyers based on our meetings with them
* find out what YOU think about the new plans and where they match or miss against our Plans so the developers can hear community issues

Look for more information here on the website in the next couple of weeks, or subscribe to our blog to stay up to date.  Please mark your calendar!

Sunday 2/23 4-8pm PDA Open House – Strawberry Rec Center

If you…

* still have questions about the PDA
* are looking for something to say
* have more to say than can fit into 2 minutes and want to share a perspective for someone else to read
* need a ride
* want to donate to SCA
* need to know where to go on Tuesday

…then please drop by the Strawberry Rec Center (downstairs) between 4-8pm today (Sunday).  Volunteers will be on hand to help make sure that anyone wishing to speak Tuesday on the PDA feels confident in doing so.

Be sure to check out the PDA information here as well (also in the “PDA Overview” menu above).

Above all, be sure to show up at the Board of Supervisors meeting this Tuesday at 1:30 at the BOS chambers on the 3rd floor of the Marin Civic Center!


URGENT: PDA Meeting 2/25 with the Board of Supervisors

On February 25, at 1:30 pm in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the 3rd floor of the Civic Center, the Supervisors will be considering the Priority Development Area designation for Strawberry.

This is a critical meeting, where the PDA can be
– approved and move forward, inviting aggressive high density development
– rescinded, like other PDAs in TamAlmonte, Marinwood, San Rafael and elsewhere
– modified and approved

This meeting is the culmination of the efforts of many to keep Strawberry from becoming a focal point for high density housing, with an invitation and incentives to developers to begin changing the nature of our community.

We STRONGLY urge every Strawberry resident who can attend to do whatever is necessary to be there.  It will be important that the Supervisors see that the community is strongly opposed to this novel and uncertain designation that carries so much risk with it. Look here to get more information about the PDA.

If you can’t be there, please write a letter to the board and let us know on the contacts page, we’ll find someone to read it..

If you can be there but don’t know what to say, consider one of the following, or look here, or contact us and we’ll find letters from people who can’t be there (including several former members of the Strawberry Design Review Board) that you can read aloud.

The Voice of Strawberry
The not-so-innocuous PDA
No PDA – AT ALL – in Strawberry
What the Strawberry Community Plan REALLY Says
The PDA is about High Density Housing, not Affordable Housing

Look for more 2-minute points you can make here in the coming week.  If you would like to write a 2-minute pitch to share with others, please contact us on the “Contact” page.

If there’s ONE event this year you need to be at to have an effect on the outcome of this debate, this is the one!  We’ll see you there!

Strawberry Editorial and Meeting Reminder

Please be sure to read this informed opinion from a Strawberry resident that appeared on January 20th in Marin Independent Journal:  Marin Voice: Strawberry Housing — A Flawed Process.

Don’t forget the the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) board meeting this Thursday, January 23 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the 3rd floor of the Marin Civic Center. We need your participation at this important meeting.

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 – 1/12/14

Over 100 people joined us at the Strawberry Rec Center Sunday night for an update on the Priority Development Area activity, and to hear Bob Silvestri discuss the flaws inherent in Plan Bay Area.

For more from Bob, go here.

At the meeting, we asked members of the community to do 5 things:

1) Sign up to this blog, to get the latest developments

2) Please come to the board meeting of the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) at 7pm on January 23, in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the 3rd floor of the Civic Center, and tell them that we don’t want to be in a PDA.  The topic doesn’t belong at the TAM meeting, which the TAM board acknowledged at their last meeting, but the Board of Supervisors (who should be considering the issue) has told us that it does, so that PDA money can be reallocated.  So we’re going there to say, “we don’t care how much money you allocate, we don’t want to be in the PDA!”  The price of being the focal point of development in Marin for the next 25 years isn’t worth the extra $350,000 they may allocate to us.  In fact, the more money they focus on us, the worse it may be!

3) Take one of the one-page “Please remove us from the PDA” petitions we printed out and get 5 of your neighbors to sign it.  We’re not asking people to pound the pavement (though if you want to, that would be great too), we’re just asking everyone to get 5 new signatures. Our target is to get over 1000 signatures, even 1500, and we’re currently at over 750,  We want the Supervisors to know that as many people as possible are opposed to this new PDA designation and the unknown consequences it may have.

4) Donate what you can on the right-hand side of our website.  You can read more about us here.  What do we do with your donation?  We try to marshall and communicate with the community (you may have seen our ad in the Marin Independent Journal, you’re reading a website that we built, and it costs every time we have a community meeting).  We can contribute to the lawsuits against Plan Bay Area (where PDAs come from), and the recently passed Housing Element.  We can hire consultants to help us more effectively affect the county.  We can contribute to candidates running for District 3 positions (in Sausalito, Tiburon or Mill Valley) or Supervisor positions (like Arnold’s and Adams’ seats this year) who aggressively take positions against development.  We have a lot to accomplish, and everything that’s not volunteered costs us money, as does influence in the county.

5) Donate your time.  There are many things we need to do – gather signatures, help update our website, research the MV School District capacity and plans, research the Marin Municipal Water District capacity and plans, show up at the Board of Supervisors meeting or other meetings through the county.  We have volunteers doing a variety of things.   If you can think of something you can contribute, or if you have time but don’t know what to do, contact us.

We also shared important communications from our group, including Sunday’s IJ ad; an Op-Ed piece from volunteer Chuck Ballinger, former member of the Strawberry Design Review Board; a letter to the TAM board drafted by volunteer Ray McDevitt; and Bruce Corcoran’s latest missive to the Board of Supervisors asking for consideration.  These will be posted on the website here.

We’l update more specifically about the PDA, the TAM meeting, and what you can say in upcoming posts.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for joining with us.

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.


Welcome to SCA

This is the home of the Strawberry Community Association, a non-profit established to improve local government and make it more accountable to the residents of Strawberry, and to improve policy regarding development in the area, through research, public education, public advocacy and other programs and activities.

We’re all residents of Strawberry who share an interest in having a voice in our community and how it’s developed, and we have a deep concern that our neighborhood is about to be changed significantly by special interests, regional planners and laws from Sacramento who shouldn’t have a say, and that our elected officials aren’t standing up to protect us adequately.

The biggest issue right now is that Strawberry has been designated a Priority Development Area (PDA) in “Plan Bay Area,” a multi-year plan concocted by regional planners from all over the Bay Area.  We want our Supervisor, Kate Sears to withdraw us from this purely voluntary designation (as others in Marin have been) but she refuses to acknowledge us.

Go here for more information on the PDA