The Coastal Post - November, 1996

French RanchÑThe Real Story

BY WENDI KALLINS

Brian Staley ought to take up fiction writing. He certainly tells a good yarn. However, despite his throwing out words like truth and facts, there is very little of either in his fairy tale about French Ranch in last month's Coastal Post.

French Ranch was a development proposal that came to the San Geronimo Valley asking for 6000+ square foot homes scattered all the way around the golf course and all the land remaining in private hands. The local community responded with their own plan which asked that all the houses be clustered close together near our existing community and the remaining land be donated as public open space.

This was a unique approach to development, in which we chose to be pro-active and tell the developer and the county what was appropriate for our community. We even went so far as to invite the developer to participate in our process. As a result we changed the development far more than any other community ever has before.

Through our efforts the County reduced the size of the homes, clustered them and reduced the sizes of the lots; there will be more affordable housing and more diversity in housing sizes and price, and the vast majority of the land will be donated to the county as public open space. Plus there will be an innovative waste treatment system shared with our school district that will provide recycled water, and a reconstructed wetlands that has been degraded for years.

Even now, we continue to have an effect on the process. Just recently, in response to our desire to preserve the native grasses on the property, the developer has voluntarily decided to give up some of the privately held land and turn that over to the Open Space District as well.

Throughout this process, Steve Kinsey has been invaluable. Kinsey worked for the community, not for the developer. He didn't re-draw any plans and he certainly didn't give the developer "everything he wanted." Quite the contrary. When it looked as though the County Planning Department was going to cut a deal with the developer that would have left the community coming up short, Kinsey went in and secured additional concessions that were of the highest priority to the community.

Contrary to Staley's assertion, The public open space was hardly assured. The County was perfectly comfortable with all the land remaining in private hands, and if not for Steve's intervention it would have. The six extra units that Staley blames on Steve, is actually the fault of a state law which supersedes local ordinances. The developer indicated that he was intending to invoke that law. Steve secured strict controls on those units that otherwise would have remained out of our control. I'm surprised that Staley does not know about the state law because we discussed it at quite a few meetings.

It is a shame that Staley is passing himself off as an expert. He came to meetings sporadically and certainly wasn't involved in the last minute negotiations even though he and his organization were invited to participate. They decided that they would rather go down with the ship, demanding all or nothing, than take the opportunity to get a positive result. That is his loss.

I was a part of this process from the very beginning. I attended every meeting of the Community Based Plan, did a lion's share of the work, and went to every public hearing and stayed till the bitter end. I also participated in the agreement that Steve Kinsey shaped on behalf of the community-with our full input-and which was signed by six community organizations including our own.

There were certainly times when I was bitterly disappointed, but in the end, I found that taking a positive approach paid off. The vast majority of people in the San Geronimo Valley appear to be satisfied as well, as is evident by the hundreds of Valley endorsers Steve has received for his campaign for County Supervisor, including a majority of our leading activists.

Staley, who heads up Dotty LeMieux's campaign in the San Geronimo Valley, has been waging a negative campaign that would make Newt Gingrich proud. This French Ranch "story" is just one of many distortions they are putting out there as "fact." Don't be fooled.

scription donated. I'll be here for at least a year.

JAMES SAMUEL K-¼½ysm€€$-