Coastal Post Online


May, 2004

Walking Fast in West Marin

I found the perfect dog-personality plus, great hiker, cute and cuddly, and ignores the cat. He is also smarter than a number of people I have met. He was rescued from the shelter in Madera (San Joaquin Valley) and given the name of Scrunchie by the wonderful people at Second Chance Rescue ( He came to me as a foster dog to care for, but it only took two days to see that he was special and was meant to live in West Marin. So the dog print around Tomales Bay has been increased by one.

Dogs need to go for walks... a big plus for their "owners." I note that I tend to walk faster when thinking of things that piss me off and slower when just pleased to be out in the beauty of West Marin. The rest of this column consists of some things I have thought of while walking fast..

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Have you been to Albertson's in Petaluma or Home Depot in San Rafael lately? Both stores (and probably others as well) have initiated new, self-service checkout lines. This is a means of reducing the overhead (i.e. getting rid of employees). It reminds me of the time, decades ago, when gas stations introduced self-service-which wiped out a great "first job" for kids. What with outsourcing of jobs overseas, reducing staffs to cut costs, and the destruction of manufacturing jobs per se, we are creating an untenable situation of too many people and not enough jobs that pay decent wages.

Housing that is affordable for the beleaguered workforce is few and far between. A little known fact is that the price of market rate houses is continually pushed upward by developers placing the costs of legally-mandated affordable housing onto the backs of market rate buyers. Which pushes such houses even further away from the hands of the workforce. A Catch-22 situation.

Further, the offer of building "some" affordable housing is often used by developers to obtain permission to build otherwise unwanted market rate developments. A case in point is the French Ranch development in the San Geronimo Valley. The builder of French Ranch was able to obtain a "density bonus" because affordable housing was to be included.

As you drive near the old gas station on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in the Valley, you pass the cluster of houses that everyone seems to assume are the affordable units. In reality, however, only the first three smaller buildings are affordable senior housing, with two seniors in each house (with communal kitchens, 2 bedrooms, mini-fridges, etc.). Six seniors thus got housing in those three buildings. HOWEVER, four existing units of affordable family housing were eliminated to create the French Ranch development. So there was a net loss of affordable housing in the Valley, which allowed French Ranch to build those million dollar plus mega-homes you see proliferating over the hillside.

And to add insult to injury, you probably think that the French Ranch developer built and paid for those three little senior cottages in exchange for what he got. Wrong. He actually sold the land to the San Geronimo Valley Affordable Housing Association. Then the association got funding from the good folks at the Lions Club and other good people to build the cottages. As I understand it, the SGVAHA even has to pay full association fees to the developer, just like the big houses. And don't forget that the local school almost went bankrupt over being involved with French Ranch's "iffy" septic system... and that the original promises of having a stable and organic farming going on were never delivered. Further, two major hiking trails required under the existing ordinance for French Ranch have still not been built after all these years.

In my opinion, the county and community proponents of French Ranch were snookered. But none can admit it now without looking like fools. Developers and politicians believe, rightly, that the public forgets and is satisfied with unprovable sound bites and platitudes. The fact that so few people know the real story of what went on at French Ranch is a case to prove their point. (PS remember that developers both market rate and affordable housing developers) have an agenda to build....and they spin and weave the story to communities to get by.

What really matters is what the final ordinance to build (which almost no one reads or knows about) says. Point Reyes Station may want to take a look at the EAH final ordinance-to-build to see the future of their town and know what they are getting for all those dog and pony meetings.

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April 15 was Tax Day. Just so you know, the IRS is much more likely to audit you or hassle you in some way if you make relatively little money. There are thousands and thousands of Daddy Warbucks who are never tagged by the IRS because it would be too much trouble. It is sooo much easier to pick on those who cannot fight back very well. It is interesting to note that if the huge amount of money owed to the IRS by the rich were collected, it would make a very nice dent in our deficit. There have been multiple articles on this issue in the print media, but I don't see anyone making a fuss about it. Odd.

I have to admit that I walk very, very fast when I think about the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan. The issues in Iraq are all over the networks, print media and internet, but the result of our "war" on Afghanistan is being mostly ignored. The ugliest result is the everyday terror of being a woman in that hell. Rapes, forced marriages, outright slavery is the norm. And lots of fear. Wasn't it sweet Laura Bush who said, back then, that our goal was to bring freedom to Afghan women? Afghanistan is also now the primo purveyor of opium to the world market. The so-called President of Afghanistan only really controls parts of Kabul. The rest of the country is held by warlords. With the Taliban and Osama's people regrouping. Ugly mess.

I must end this column now, because Scrunchie wants to take a walk on the beach. And I intend to walk very slowly.


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