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April, 2004

Condolences to Point Reyes Station and Congrats to Bolinas!
By Jeanette Pontacq

This month's column is dedicated to the proposition that many are blinded by their own agendas and cannot see their own contribution to the results they decry.

In a recent Point Reyes Light editorial, Dave Mitchell quoted the Point Reyes Station Village Association's Phil Fradkin: "they complain that downtown Point Reyes Station doesn't feel like their town anymore." Mitchell's offered solution is to light the town up at night so that "young adults" can "promenade" around on the streets after dark. Assuming that these comments are not an outright put-on, I can only respond as follows:

Please think back to 1999, when the Red Barn was used as a voting venue for/against the imposition of the EAH affordable housing development in Point Reyes Station. Many a PRS resident commented ruefully that they were being swamped by voters from Inverness, Marshall, Olema, Petaluma, local ranches, Santa Rosa and even Mill Valley and beyond. The overheard conversations in line to vote were too often about how they were "going to teach those Point Reyes people about affordable housing, in both English and Spanish." This, of course, from many who would never allow such housing in their own towns! The most-heard comment from long-time residents was that they "didn't feel like this was their town anymore." Most boycotted the voting in the first place or walked away from the Red Barn.

Later, a large-sized group of old-time residents of Point Reyes Station showed up at the Village Association to join because they wanted their say on the EAH project. When they took their seats at the table en masse, instead of being welcomed, member Phil Fradkin publicly let them know he disapproved of their joining. His arrogance and snobbishness against the families that were born here and composed the town before he ever arrived, was embarrassing. Again, many older community members commented that they "didn't feel like this was their town anymore."

Let's also remember that the Point Reyes Station Village Association then held a vote on the EAH development among its members. The vote was anticipated to be against the project due to environmental concerns and perceived manipulation by proponents....so Association leaders, not wanting to have that happen and be politically incorrect for those who only hear the sound bites of issues, opened the voting to non-members. This, of course, negated the vote of the actual members. Once again, the most-heard comment from long-time residents who had taken the time to join the Village Association for this purpose was that they "didn't feel like this was their town anymore."

So excuse me if I don't have much sympathy for either Fradkin or the rest of the small coterie that composes the core of the non-representative Point Reyes Station Village Association. The hypocrisy on this issue is more than knee-deep. Fradkin and the Village Association "don't feel like this is their town anymore" because they think it is becoming a tourist trap. And why are they saying that, you ask? Because Fradkin doesn't like the barbecue in front of the Palace Market on summer weekends. Because Fradkin doesn't like the fact that local businesses cater to tourists some of the time. He thinks bicyclists are oddly-dressed invaders. They obviously offend Phil's iconoclastic sensibilities. Because Fradkin doesn't like Point Reyes Station. He thinks we're tacky. Fradkin, Buxbaum and others at the association must be badly-traveled.....or they would know what a real tourist town looks like. This ain't it, folks.

Many others think that Point Reyes Station "doesn't feel like their town anymore" for different reasons. They see that the county, and Supervisor Steve Kinsey, depend on the few regulars at the Point Reyes Station Village Association and the West Marin Chamber of Commerce for direction as to what the town wants, even though the association and the chamber are absolutely not representative of the town's residents. In defense of Steve and the county, the association and the chamber are "what the county has to work with" since this is an unincorporated area with no real government or town structure to represent the people. A better solution would be to directly poll residents on issues. But that, of course, takes more work, involves everyone and would give a real result....one neither the county (nor the association/chamber coterie) might like to hear.

The Village Association does not seem to understand that many of the jobs around here are based on visitors. The Village Association facilitated the coming arrival of the EAH housing development for, supposedly, people who "work" here, jumping over environmental and social issues that made many long-time residents feel "that this was no longer their town." It seems a bit nutty to then complain about the very jobs that support many of our people in the first place. It is also nutty that the Association has had no impact at all on the proliferation of unwanted night lights in PRS. Even the coming EAH development will need to add all-night lights for safety among residents.

There are quite a large number of long-time residents who would not set foot in a VA meeting just because of the insulting and undemocratic response to them on the EAH issue. Many in Point Reyes Station have not forgotten being demonized if they had any qualms about a housing development in downtown Point Reyes Station. Often by Phil Fradkin & Co. They were labeled "anti-affordable housing" or "anti-poor people" if they tried to think outside the box on affordable housing instead of believing that the housing development was "the only way," and they needed to "get over it."

There were/are serious environmental and water issues still existent in peoples' minds on such an intense development on that particular site. There were those who worked against the project because their vision of affordable housing was different: it was about integrating such housing into the community rather than imposing a housing development upon it. It was about non-ghettoization, about negating isolation and separateness. And about the integrity of Lagunitas Creek. Their vision is now being seen in Bolinas, where real creativity and widespread local consent is producing affordable housing in already-existent buildings downtown. Congratulations to Bolinas!!

And condolences to Point Reyes Station.

 

 

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