I love the Coastal Post! Kudos to Don Deane for not succumbing to the obnoxious journalistic practice of using letters to the editor as opportunities to dip into a huge barrel of ink and push his own agenda, preach to the public, or belittle the writer with "Editor's notes." Kudos to news staff reporter Jim Scanlon for his monitoring, research, insights, and consistent reports about French Ranch, the Lagunitas School District, the County, and Supervisor Kinsey.
Then there's Steven Simac. I owe him a debt of gratitude for helping me learn more about the ancient redwoods/Julia Butterfly issue as well as generally thought provoking columns including: freedom and responsibilities of our right to bear arms; alternative medicine; the heart: cancer: toxics... His views of extraterrestrial intelligence and a personal experience he described when he was on Maui during his hippie days was "far out"-and engendered some skepticism given my view that hippies and drug use were pretty much synonymous after the Summer of Love. But that alien adventure is nowhere near as "far out" as the recent piece he wrote lauding Supervisor Steve Kinsey, describing the French Ranch project (doesn't this ever go away?), and maligning Valley residents. Simac says he received a three page list of Kinsey's accomplishments and met with Kinsey "to hear his side ofthe story." My first read was pure interest, the second was disbelief, and the third-abject horror! The Kinsey Campaign Committee should be charged for advertising space in the Post. Kinsey should be embarrassed by the inaccuracies in Simac's article taken from their conversation including quotes attributed to him. Simac must have been in lala land to write what he did without some research with the County to check his "facts". For the other side of the story I wish he had called me given that I was the chair of the French Ranch Committee for the Planning Group when it went before the Board of Supervisors during the Master Plan Phase; never missed a meeting; that Kinsey and I "negotiated" with Burman and that Kinsey and I met with individual Supervisors before the Board meeting.
Despite its glaring errors, the Kinsey Campaign Committee must be ecstatic about the content and tone of Simac's article. I predict that a Noble supporter will write glowingly about French Ranch (again) and denigrate the enemies (again) and laud Simac's article as worthy of a Pulitzer. With that thought in mind I am duty bound to respond to the inaccuracies of Simac's article.
Calling Giacomini "thin skinned, arrogant, and puffed up" may be debatable but saying that, "Kinsey works a lot harder representing the 4th District.", is utter nonsense! Furthermore, I don't recall Giacomini's first 3 1/4 years in office supporting full buildout in an ARP-20 zone in a rural area; or putting elite housing on the edge of a golf course; or being accused by a county employee Whistleblower of interfering with the Environmental Health and Safety Dept; or accepting a vote of several rural towns that would increase the population of one town by 25% overnight; or used his involvement with the School District to urge the Board to go down a track with an adjacent developer, and then leaving them high and dry at a critical juncture, rather than urging them to divest themselves of their involvement. A striking difference is that Gary was never obsessed with lists telling people of his accomplishments nor had he any need to exaggerate or mislead his involvement.
Simac makes an embarrassingly large number of errors about French Ranch after his conversation with Supervisor Kinsey "to get his side of the story." For starters, the ARP-20 zoning simply doesn't allow "mansions sprouting all over the hills." The developer was required, as part of the Master Plan, to develop houses on no more than 5% of the land with the remaining 95% to be preserved as an agricultural conservation easement. And to say that "Kinsey was the point man for community resistance" is nonsense. The Planning Group was the "point man" of resistance. Kinsey designed a plan to give the developer full buildout! Originally, he supported no building on the Back Nine (golf course) and then facilitated a meeting whereby a small group voted to put houses on the Back Nine, to the anger of some of their supporters who didn't learn about the switch for several months. Furthermore, a 2000 sq. ft. house is not a "cottage" and to say that the "senior housing is clustered and combined with 4000 sq ft. ranch houses." is simply not true. The senior housing along with 6 density bonus houses are crowded into area #1 next to the Forest Knolls Trailer Court, which was originally designed for three affordable houses. When the Precise Development Plan was reviewed in 1997 Kinsey was Supervisor. He had the opportunity and obligation to insist that affordable housing be mixed in with expensive housing and that it be open to a community public process. He bypassed that opportunity in favor of the developer because Kinsey and the developer knew that nobody with a large home would want senior or affordable housing next to them nor could the developer profit by building such housing on prime land overlooking the golf course. Lastly, Simac's statement that, "They (houses) all share a sand filter septic system with San Geronimo School." is wrong. They don't. The systems are separate.
Kinsey credits himself with getting French Ranch open space for the county. The fact is that the developer was required in the Master Plan to maintain 95% of the land as an agricultural conservation easement. This gave him the following options: he could keep the land but would be required to create and implement a Management Plan or arrange to give it to an organization like MALT or the Open Space District. Given the advantage of a significant tax write off if he gave it to the Open Space Dist. it is not difficult to guess what the developer chose to do. French Ranch and Kinsey's involvement will be long remembered as will the communities memory of the school board's rejection of a petition signed by about 600 residents demanding that the school not be involved with the developer. French Ranch was a "win-win" for Kinsey and the developer. It was a "lose-lose-lose" for the community, the school, and the environment. French Ranch is Supervisor Kinsey's albatross. French Ranch is his legacy.
Evidently, Kinsey expressed some strong views about his "enemies' that Simac swallowed whole and passed on with some ornamentation. Besides being called the "enemy", and "basically irrational people", opponents of Kinsey's environmental standard and lack of public process are compared with "Miami Anti-Castro Cubans", and described as, "NIMBY folks who hate all development but their own houses." "They say they love the environment so much that affordable housing is unthinkable." "The Valley reeks with revulsion now, most of it generated by these "Save the Valley" opponents." Kinsey described them as someone "who has gotten theirs then wanted a living history museum without diversity." (Hey! They're talking about me and my friends. Oh -- Meadow Muffins!) Pretty harsh words by Simac and/or Kinsey. . . totally incorrect, but an understandable attack. After all, the credibility of Kinsey and key supporters has been badly shaken. Supporters were misled and they are learning it didn't have to be this way. There are also a growing number of people disenchanted with his stance on protecting the environment, lack of public process, community sewage systems, health issues, transportation solutions, and garbage. Some nice folks just wish French Ranch would go away or that people would simply drop the issue. It won't and people won't.
Save the Valley
Save the Valley (STV) organized with one purpose -- to defeat locating AIWPS, an industrial type, open sewage pool system, next to the school, a wetland, and San Geronimo Creek on SF Drake Blvd. This is the "more natural system" that Simac says, "Kinsey and team successfully lobbied for." After the demise of AIWPS, STV monitored housing construction on French Ranch during winter rains. In October '98, disappointed that the Planning Group never dealt with the French controversy about wastewater systems nor monitored winter construction, STV decided to take on the role of informing and educating the community about a variety of issues that impact the Valley environment, its rural character, and quality of life. To date five articles have reached the home of every valley resident. Interestingly, STV got lambasted in print by a resident who blamed STV for something that happened four years before STV organized and last year STV was blamed for long term picketing that went on at French Ranch. STV had nothing to do with those demonstrations.
Simac says that challenger Louis Nuyens has not convinced him that he can do a better job. He might try talking to him. It's nice to agree with Simac that voting is "relatively easy" and even nicer that it is done in private. There are voters whose public political stance does not reflect their private concerns. So be it. Hopefully, they will do the right thing in the privacy of the voting booth and support Louis Nuyens.
Jean Berensmeier discovered the San Geronimo Valley in 1953. She is a founder of the SGV Planning Group, the Cultural Center, and Save the Valley. She is a member of the Sierra Club, Marin Audubon, SPAWN, Environmental Action Committee, and MALT, as well as a board member and past president of the Marin Conservation League.