The Story of How Marin Was Ruined


Marin County is a a picturesque area across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco of quaint walkable towns, with homes perched on rolling hills and a low rise, unspoiled feel. People typically move to Marin to escape the more urbanized South and East Bay and San Francisco. Eighty-three percent of Marin cannot be built on as the land is agricultural and protected open space. 

This is not stopping ABAG, developers, social equity, housing and transit advocates from pushing for high density housing near transit in Marin. Plans for high density housing have sprung up the length of the county - multiple Marin communities found themselves declared Plan Bay Area "Priority Development Areas" (PDAs) making them targets for intense high density development. These designations occurred with little or no consultation by the elected officials that had volunteered them, and without any clear understanding of obligations to develop or impact.

Residents finally came together and said they'd had enough after an unsightly 5 story, 180 unit apartment complex appeared adjacent to an existing freeway choke-point - the city that allowed it had little choice due to onerous ABAG housing quotas that if unmet left the town open to litigation by housing advocates with crippling legal bills and penalties. The last straw was the publication of a station area plan to generate transit ridership that suggested 920 more high density units be built in nearby Larkspur - another freeway bottleneck. 

This video, put together by Citizen Marin, a coalition of neighborhood groups seeking to restore local control, was put together to drive awareness of this accelerated urbanization. For Marinites the video serves as a wake up call - most moved to Marin to live in a more rural / suburban location. Marin offers some of California's most walkable and attractive downtowns already: Sausalito, Mill Valley and San Rafael. All offer the kind of small town charm that are a model for others to emulate and attract visitors and residents.

The video was written and produced by Citizen Marin's Richard Hall. The video's narrator is from San Rafael - not San Rafael in Marin County but San Rafael, Argentina, and the animation was put together by a team from Kathmandu Nepal.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


kitsalano If you wonder where all this rhetoric, conspiracy theories, etc. come from take a look at this. If you want to learn more about Mr. Hall's position on these issues you may want to attend this! You'll even have the privilege of hearing East Bay Tea Party founder Heather Gass speak and others on regaining local control and fighting UN Agenda 21 to take over the world!!! Don't miss it! Seating is limited!!!!!

Gish Gallop

Mr. Hall, you may think of yourself as intellectually honest, but if you keep parroting the B.S. spewed by the likes of Wendell Cox and Randal O'Toole, you most certainly are not.

Instead of listening to the Cox/O'Toole gibberish, I suggest reading the latest by a REAL expert (much better than myself!), Richard Metz from England. His latest book is only $4.00 for a Kindle version:

Richard, Be More Productive

Such as helping transit advocates fix one problem with the SMART train, e.g., the half-baked plan to build the Larkspur station 1/3 mile west, rather than a cross-platform connection between SMART and the Larkspur ferry, as the Swiss would strongly urge.

The entire video is a pack of distortions and speculation based on b.s.

Ignorance of Marin and Liars

For the record, the pattern of ALL the "charming and walkable" downtowns in Marin County was created originally by rail transit, specifically the Northwestern Pacific Railroad commuter rail network that connected with ferries to San Francisco in Sausalito. The "Citizen Marin" people are led by intellectually dishonest people like Hall, and by biased anti-urban types who believe their own propaganda.

They wouldn't have even been stirred up if there hadn't been a foolish proposal for multiple-unit housing in the Lucas Valley-Marinwood by the County, which even most local New Urbanists agree was the wrong location, away from walkable areas and frequent transit.

Halcyon pasts existing in the imaginations of certain advocates

".....the pattern of ALL the "charming and walkable" downtowns in Marin County was created originally by rail transit....."

How sweet. Break out the soothing violin music. But cue in the sinister sounding stuff shortly after.

Back in those days, most of the population existed in poverty either in rural areas or in urban tenements or informal housing. The lovely amenity you refer to was enjoyed by the top 10% of the day.

Such locations only ever remain "for the exclusive enjoyment of the elites" - as in numerous still-developing countries - unless automobile based development crashes economic land rent and democratizes the ownership of decent housing. Re-imposing strict planning restores the elite land-owning rentier classes to their exclusionary gains once more. "Save the planet" ideologues are useful idiots of these fat rentier gainers, and some of them that are not, are worse - they are corrupt accomplices knowingly aiding and abetting a political coup d'etat by the rentier class, often for lucrative remuneration.

Here is Patrick Troy, Australian National University, in his 1998 book, "The Perils of Urban Consolidation":

".....yearning by some commentators and policy advisors to return to some halcyon past, such urban lifestyles (eating out, engaging in the pursuits of a romanticised cafe society, enjoying the morning coffee over newspapers, exploring antique shops, bookshops and art galleries) never were the daily life experience of more than a small minority.......The proliferation of coffee shops, bistros, restaurants and sidewalk cafes in parts of our cities over recent years is a response to changing social behavior, increasing affluence, the commodification of leisure, and to the needs of tourists, but most of us use them only on special occasions or as part of our recreation.... ...The street gangs and their associated territorial disputes now evident in some American cities mostly come from high density environments but proponents of high density presumably do not wish to argue that they are a result of density......."

A few mixconceptions

The author, Richard Hall, used the term "quaint walkable towns" and "walkable and attractive downtowns" to describe the existing character of Marin County. Msetty correctly pointed out that these "walkable towns" and "pleasant downtowns" (author's phrases) were the development pattern that resulted from fixed-path transit ie rail. It stands to reason then that in order to continue contributing to Marin County's character of quant walkable towns and pleasant downtowns, development should be oriented towards rail transit. Whether or not these new developments actually acheive that goal is a separate discussion from how the goal is theoretically acheived (rail vs. automotive). What is clear is that auto-oriented development will not enhance the character of Marin County. I suspect that large monolithic housing blocks and towers also isn't the way to go, but perhaps some other form of transit-oriented development that has a central green surrounded by shops and a mix of housing on narrow side streets would be a more appropriate pattern.

Also, Troy's correlation of density and crime is bunk. Gang-related crime is the result of a small group of socio-economically disadvantaged people within a given population who have suffered multiple generations of chronic unemployment and social marginalization. This was true in the high-density high rises of Chicago's Cabrini Green and it continues to be true today in sprawling low-density auto-oriented subdivisions in the Frayser neighborhood of Northern Memphis.

The industrial city (and some larger towns) had 4 basic types of residential enclaves; the urban estate, the trolley-line suburb, the working class neighborhood, and the slum. Urban estates might consist of a series of large estates on high-ground near the outskirts of the city owned by the area's industrial capitalists. Trolley-line suburbs were usually extented from older areas of the city housing a rising upper middle and middle class population. Working class neighborhoods, like their wealthier counterparts, tended to be oriented around trolley-lines, but were developed with a mix of speculatively-built rental apartments in addition to small owner-occupied dwellings on low-lands of the city, which housed established (multi-generation) immigrant laborers. Slums were older parts of the city that were occupied by recently arrived immigrants who rented small rooms and walked to work in adjacent factories. This spatial hierarchy and segregation was a product of industrialization, particularly transportation investments, which enabled people to live outside of walking distance from their daily needs. The pre-industrial city was usually more of a village or a series of villages each containing their own social mix of rich and poor within close proximity to goods and services.

Automotive transport has essentially accomplished two things. 1) Practically replaced heavy rail, resulting in the dispersion of the metropolitan economic center into a series of edge cities. 2) Expanded on the spatial hierarchy and class segregation, which was first enabled by trolley-lines. Cars and trucks have reversed heavy rail's centering effect while expanding on light rail's segregating effect.

I also don't see much difference between the land-owning gentry class of yesterday and the mortgage-backed security derivatives-trading gentry class of today. Things have always been pretty rough for the working and under-classes, but I think things were relatively better for the middle class in streetcar neighborhoods than they are in edge city sprawl today.

Explain "intellectually dishonest"

"Intellectually dishonest" is an easy accusation to make; yet msetty fails to articulate even one single opposing fact. Either back it up, or back down.

The proposals for multiple unit housing have sprung up in multiple locations in Marin - Marinwood, Strawberry, Civic Center San Rafael, Larkspur, Corte Madera, Downtown San Rafael; and a further 12 locations in Sonoma - another suburban area. The process behind this has been not just dishonest, but concealed and rigged. Many residents became aware that their neighborhoods had been volunteered for high density housing without any outreach or consultation. (at least one public document states this in black and white). Other neighborhoods were committed by grant contracts from MTC obligating them to "maximize housing" (contract language) and "adopt the plan" or forfeit planning grants.

This is covered in detail here:

When I discovered my elected officials had volunteered my neighborhood for high density housing, and then a rigged committee had somehow arrived at a plan proposing over three times the housing identified by the city's general plan as the capacity - I realized the true definition of "intellectually dishonest".

"Citizen Marin"

I stand by my statement, Mr. Hall. You are intellectually dishonest.

You claim to be a liberal Democrat but your NIMBY movement is populated heavily by Tea Partiers and Agenda 21 conspiracy buffs. There has been plenty of material from these "sources" posted on the "Save Marinwood" and other Marin NIMBY websites that Citizen Marin is affiliated with.

Your movement is just warmed-over Marin NIMBYism that was discredited by the racist/exclusionist activities of the Marin Conservation League. it's very interesting that they don't seem to surface much anymore.

Ad hominem attacks. Failure to substantiate your arguments

msetty: These are ad hominem irrelevant attacks and name calling:

Opposition to the flawed transit oriented development and rapid growth spans the entire political spectrum.

The argument you are presenting is akin to saying - Hitler was a vegetarian (which he was) therefore all vegetarians are evil.

You have failed to substantiate your allegation. I have directed you to dozens of articles I have written, each containing many citations and references to sources.

Sadly this is the level of argument we have been facing in Marin. The facts remain:
- public transit emits more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than transit
- significant increased investment in public transit in the Bay Area has resulted in a decline in per capita ridership since the 1980s
- the gap between car emissions and transit emissions per passenger mile is growing
- transit oriented development is a flawed experiment, it does not work in suburban and rural areas (such as Marin). This has been proven out in East Portland.
- if the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases then what is being advocated does not move the needle, or moves the needle the wrong way at immense cost (Plan Bay Area will cost $92 billion to Bay Area residents).

You had your chance to present facts, you failed to. You resorted to name calling and irrelevant attacks. Conversation over.

"Intellectually Dishonest" in Marin

I stand by my statement. Attacking your dubious reasoning and work as intellectually dishonest is not an ad hominem attack. Whatever I think of you as a person is irrelevant. I also add that your talents at using the "Gish Gallup" are improving, though.

Regarding the many sources you cite, most are very dubious, untrustworthy sources such as Wendell Cox, who almost never passes up twisting facts into taffy if it suits his purposes, keeping his paymasters happy. And then there was bringing Randal O'Toole and Tom Rubin to town for that "debate" event last spring, both sources at least as dubious as Wendell Cox. In association with a lot of other people, I've repeatedly debated and debunked these guys over the years, but I'm not going to waste many valuable hours of continued debate with third level stringers like you, since it would be a waste of time (too much spent here already!) and you seem to be on the way to mastering the "Gish Gallop", as Cox and many other anti-urban, anti-transit types have. Besides, Kotkin's spam filter won't let me post the number of links I'd need to do this thoroughly.

To debunk just one dubious point you made, the only sort of transit that uses more energy and emits more carbon dioxide than the typical automobile is low occupancy paratransit and low ridership fixed route services in low density suburbs and rural areas--the purpose of which is mainly to provide "lifeline" services. The West Marin shuttle routes are a good example, as are minor bus routes in Marin.

In contrast, most rail lines are significant energy savers, especially when indirect savings are considered, as documented by a recent USC study of the LA Expo Line (Google it). This study confirms something that many transit advocates have known for decades, e.g., that when people switch to transit, they drive a lot less, e.g., for every passenger mile on transit, there is a minimum of 2 auto miles removed, and 3 passenger miles by auto removed. As far as I know, no one on your side has yet debunked this study , though I'm sure they'll do their propaganda best. Unfortunately Kotkin's "spam filter" won't let me post more than one or two links here.

To reiterate, you are intellectually dishonest, in both tolerating Tea Partiers, the Agenda 21 conspiracy buffs and relying on highly dubious sources such as Wendell Cox.