The Coastal Post - June 1999

Affordable Housing Vote Will Change Point Reyes

By Janet Schlitt

Under the guise of "affordable housing", our little coastal town and its surrounded environs is about to be changed for ever.

On May 11th, I along with my fellow Pt. Reyes Station neighbors watched in anger, frustration and bewilderment as huge numbers of people, many unknown, "flocked" to the Red Barn to cast their ballot in favor of a 49 unit development to be built in a 19 acre pasture overlooking our town.

Well-meaning residents from Inverness and elsewhere, who support the concept of "affordable housing", but may not have read the fine print of this proposed EAH development, formed an unwitting liaison with people, many of whose voting credentials were dubious at best

At a final "community" meeting, EAH's Lamar Turner, in explaining the rules as to who would be eligible to vote, said that ID would naturally be required however ... "if anyone had forgotten to bring their ID, they could be approved by someone already validated and they in turn would then be able to vote."

An eye witness saw Turner's interpretation of the voting rules put into effect when "... a member of a large family not only validated his entire family, but also showed a teen-age boy who read no English where to mark his ballot in order to vote for the project."

Obviously this was not a vote of local registered voters, nor was it necessarily a vote of people who actually live and/or work in one of the four zips which had been decided would produce the required number of votes for approval. The delicate question could also be raised, as to whether all of the 700 voters who did vote for the development, are in fact legal residents of the United States.

Turner says a community dialogue has been conducted. This is untrue. People with legitimate questions as to the validity of this 49 unit development, have been smeared repeatedly by those in favor of the project. It is rumored that some avid supporters have already been "promised" housing in this development ... can this be legal, if federal funds are to be solicited? Also, our local newspaper which is in favor of the project, has not felt it necessary to grant equal time for discussion of both sides of the issue. Subsequently Point Reyes Station residents who may have attended the initial "town" meetings led by Steve Kinsey, have been offended, turned off and in some cases become afraid to speak their minds.

It is a travesty that this vote may set a precedence for future development in West Marin.

With this vote we are endorsing the use of three communal septic systems, which will serve 44 units of new construction.

With this vote we are endorsing the maximum possible use. In this case almost tripling the density of larger pieces of land that are put on the market.

With this vote we are endorsing dubious voting procedures, together with the deliberate manipulation of the perimeters of a vote.

Under these circumstances, I hope that EAH will reconsider whether it has a mandate to proceed.

As a local resident, I along with the 310 people who voted against the project, demand that Pt. Reyes Station residents be given the opportunity to be heard regarding our concerns as to how this major local development will not only impact the environment, but also how it will impact our quality of life. We should have the right to discuss whether the addition of 26 rentals crammed into one small area on this 19 acre property, is a good trade off for the 23 additional units needed for EAH to make this project viable. We also need to understand that Turner is uncertain as to the affordability of these 23 additional units, since it will depend on who gets to build them and whether subsidies will become available.

In addition, I request that the steering committee, created to walk in lock step behind Turner, and modeled after the one formed by Kinsey for the French Ranch development, be disbanded and replaced with an advisory panel consisting of Pt. Reyes Station residents and businesses.

Finally, I urge all West Marin organizations and businesses, to join with the residents of the small towns that make up the West Marin community to come together to discuss other solutions to this very real problem. I agree with the need for appropriate affordable housing, however we must be very careful that we do not start the process of destroying West Marin in order to provide it.

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