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.”