The Coastal Post - September 1999

Pt. Reyes Village Association Getting Flack
For Questions Over EIR,
Cluster Sewage Systems,
349 More Living Units

By Jeanette Marie Pontacq

Core proponents of pushing the EAH (Ecumenical Association for Housing) proposed 49-unit mixed development in little Point Reyes Station "at any cost" are pulling out the stops. The target of choice these days is the Point Reyes Station Village Association. To believe their spin, one would have to assume that each and every member of the Association who has a question concerning the EAH project is a wild-eyed, xenophobic fanatic, allergic to affordable housing.

The Association is being discretely and not so discretely "blasted" by this small group of "no questions to be asked" proponents for having simply decided to live up to the association's long-standing bylaws and mission statement. The vote to do so was overwhelming. The association's bylaws have always stated that a voting member must be a resident, property owner or have a business within the Point Reyes Station Planning Area. This is common practice in most towns.

If this were not true, and voting membership was open to people throughout West Marin, the logical result is that someone living and working in Seahaven or even Bolinas could turn a vote on whether or not someone living in Point Reyes Station could have a permit for a second unit or a storage shed.

This does not, of course, stop people from outside the planning area from participating in discussions and offering opinions. Further, the Association is already in the process of reaching out to other village associations in Inverness and Marshall to search for a consensus on an area-wide vision of how West Marin sees itself growing/changing in the next decades.

What is not understood is that most members of the Point Reyes Station Village Association support affordable housing. Most do not, however, support it at the expense of environmental damage or of setting a wide precedent for other high-density developments throughout West Marin. They want affordable housing that is suitable for the town and suitable for the land. That is why they have questions they want answered on the EAH project. And there are lots and lots of unanswered questions. Big questions. Questions for which we should all be demanding answers.

The truth is that the Point Reyes Station Village Association members, and all those that can see the future ramifications for the watershed in such a development pattern, will have a hard go in being truly heard and paid attention to by the county powers that be. Right after the May 11th EAH "vote" by people from all over West Marin, outlying ranches, East Marin towns and even Petaluma, Supervisor Steve Kinsey went to the full Board of Supervisors and told them that the West Marin "community" had voted overwhelmingly for the project in Point Reyes Station. Since he failed to impress upon the other supervisors that the people of Point Reyes Station itself had been seriously disenfranchised by the procedure, the supervisors gave support to the project.

Now you can understand why it is important to core proponents of the development that the voices of the Point Reyes Station Village Association and others questioning the project be demonized, kept disempowered and silenced. The story in the main media and at the county level is those questioning the project on any level are fanatics and not to be paid attention.

Those who are spinning that line, however, are shooting themselves in the foot. Because if they really care about the future of both Point Reyes Station and West Marin, they themselves should be asking the same questions as the Village Association.

For example, Alex Hinds of the Marin County Planning Department came to the last Village Association meeting with planners Kim Hansen and Tom Lye. All three were very open and honestly admitted that the county and the planning department have no real guidelines, experience or knowledge in permitting or oversight of alternative/community septic systems. Such honesty is refreshing. They intimated that getting "up to speed" on this issue would be a long process. In the meantime, the county is faced with the request from EAH to use three such septic systems in their development. Use of such systems by developers opens a whole new world of land use in West Marin. Any questions?

Another example that needs questioning is the fact that Point Reyes Station itself has multiple potential developments all coming up at the same time. The Grandi Building is coming closer to being developed; the Red Barn has been purchased and is to be developed; the Senior Partners private community (36 units) is in gear; and two other large Giacomini parcels are for sale or sold for development. Add to that the 49+ market rate and affordable units proposed by EAH and one gets an idea of the scope of what is happening in Point Reyes Station (365 units).

Many of the environmental questions have been promised an answer via a full EIR. EAH publicly promised multiple times at multiple meetings that they stood squarely behind nothing less than a full EIR. Unfortunately, the first official request for approval by EAH contained a demand for a lesser study, the focused EIR. One aspect of such an EIR is that it does not have to look at any other developments that may aggravate the impact of EAH's own project for the town. So much for standing behind ones word.

Unfortunately, the formerly sleepy town of Point Reyes Station is waking up to a great

demand for our very limited resources. The need to provide more affordable housing is only one of many considerations. All of the proposed developments must be seen as part of a whole. To do otherwise is folly and will destroy the town as we know it.

Water quality issues, traffic and parking increases, town sewer issues, storm drains, precedents for high-density development throughout West Marin, the long-term affordability of affordable housing, loss of town character, intrusive lighting and noise, multiple environmental issues, costs to the town and the merchants.....all of these demand answers. Core proponents of the EAH project should stop wasting their time demonizing those with questions and join them in the effort. If one truly wants real affordable housing that fits the town and the land, the place to start is at the Point Reyes Station Village Association. Bring your questions.

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