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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

March, 2006

 

West Marin Media 101A (3 credits)
By Marie Pontacq

LET'S TALK ABOUT MEDIA IN WEST MARIN--- Starting with the Point Reyes Light (other media to follow another month), let me say that West Marin needs this paper to be financially sustainable, as well as truly reflective of who we are out here, and what is important to us. For that reason, and out of common courtesy, I wish the new editor well. I want him to succeed and be happy here. I say this not because of any so-far expressed, in-depth understanding of West Marin on his part, but because if he gives up, the next buyer could be USA today, Rupert Murdock or me.
Practicality and common sense thus demand that we all get over ourselves, and the tendency by some "holier than thou" souls to go into attack mode when an "outsider" shows up and speaks up, rather than just invite him and his family over for barbecued oysters. The new editor needs to get himself together and not see an enemy behind every bush. There is mischief afoot that needs to have a light shone upon it. West Marin needs their local paper to hold the flashlight.

While we wait until the paper recharges its investigative batteries, let's take a look at one such piece of mischief-making: the on-going controversy over the proposed land swap between the Park Service and the Giacomini ranch in Point Reyes Station.

The basis of the deal is that the Park Service wants to acquire two small parcels of land near the Inverness shore (parcels 119-040-12 and 114-213-03). One is mostly under water and the other is in a bit better shape, but muddy. Neither is really good enough to develop. The reason the Park wants those parcels, as explained to me by John Dell'Osso at the Park is because they have been told by hydrologists that the runoff from Inverness Ridge (probably via Haggerty Creek) can be "controlled" via these parcels. According to Dell'Osso, if the Park doesn't get those parcels and control the outflow of the creek, the to-be wetlands will be degraded.

Horse patooties! Water runs off Inverness Ridge into the wetlands, not just at one spot now owned by the Giacominis, but at other spots through private land as well. Why is it that only the water going through Giacomini land will somehow "degrade" the wetlands, but no "degradation" happens when the water flows through property owned by others? If the Giacominis want to trade their undevelopable land for a parcel to develop, why not trade them parcel #114-262-04, which already has a house on it and is owned by the Park, right along the Inverness shore, down from the unusable Giacomini parcels?

The market rate (based on development potential) of the parcels the Park says it must have (market rate=Zero) versus the market rate of the to-be-swapped land on the edge of Point Reyes Station is wildly unequal. The Giacominis want the land edging the town in order to develop it. Expect as much housing or office space as they can squeeze onto it (max potential: 20 houses so far) and/or a feed lot of cattle stuck in one place, unable to graze. Part of the desired property is zoned for residential already, along with agriculture. Whoever at the Park is responsible for negotiating THAT deal (to the detriment of the taxpayer), needs to take remedial math.

Even further, the Park buried notice of all this in the back of the Light, in the public notices section (along with all the other many notices no one reads) for three weeks. It was only when Peter Jamison of the Light wrote about it that the general public got a clue of what was going on. At that point, however, the public officially had one week left to even make a comment to an Oakland address.

It is true that Don Neubacher of the Park Service had gone to the Point Reyes Station Village Association a week before Jamison's article appeared, to discuss this issue. The PRVA, however, did not bother to advise the public even then, and downplayed what was happening. It turns out that Wiebke Buxbaum (the design review committee Herself!) knew about what was proposed for quite a while and never thought the public needed to know. That village association does not at all represent Point Reyes Station. Its 10+/- active members have no right to speak for me or any other resident. The association is useful, however, to developers and the county, both of whom pretend it does represent the populace and use it to bypass the rest of us. The EAH fiasco is a good example of that. Ms. Buxbaum gave cover to the EAH cabal to push it through to its present fiasco for the town.

The environmental "community," it turns out, pretty much signed off on the possibility of development on the edge of the wetlands and the town some time ago. Catherine Caufield of EAC didn't seem to think it was important to even announce the nuances of what was being proposed to her own membership. Only the Sierra Club, once informed, has shown alarm. This highlights the deplorable nothingness of most of what we call environmental organizations here. One thing our local environmental organizations do quite well, however, is collect money.

What jumps out at once from this sad tale is the fact that public decisions are too often made by a closed group of people, who talk to each other and not to us, the public. The new editor of the Point Reyes Light was quoted recently by Paul Liberatore in the IJ as saying that he thought West Marin somewhat "ossified." Well, he was right. We have put up with this kind of thing for too long. We need to wake up and see the development coming on the edge of the wetlands we paid so heavily for. [email protected]


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