San Francisco Chronicle – Saturday, February 3 1990
Marin Official Rejects Cluster Housing
By Erik Ingram
Chronicle North Ray Bureau
An innovative housing concept that links high-density development with modern mass transit facilities might work in Sacramento, but it will never get off the drawing boards in Marin County, a north Bay conference on land use and transportation was told yesterday.
“There’s no way in this world that kind of high density will be acceptable to Marin County residents…and I suspect not to Sonoma County either,” Marin County Supervisor Bob Roumiguiere told the gathering of 300 people at the Petaluma Community Center.
Roumiguiere’s comments were aimed at the “pedestrian pocket” concept that was a featured part of yesterday’s conference conducted by the North Bay Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit group sponsored by developer and business interests.
“I think it’s great for places like Sacramento or Los Angeles, but (politically) It won’t work here,” he said, noting that high-density development proposals for the deactivated Hamilton Air Force Base and the nearby St. Vincent’s property drew strong and hostile opposition.
The “pedestrian pocket” concept is touted by some community planners and developers as a futuristic approach for building affordable homes with easy access to public transit, thus reducing auto traffic and freeway congestion.
The concept calls for clustering high-density neighborhoods along shady boulevards radiating out from mass transit stations. The design is being used to promote two large new towns for 175,000 residents near Sacramento.
The idea was conceived by architect Peter Calthrope of Sausalito. who attended yesterday’s conference and immediately took issue with Roumiguiere.
That some counties might see themselves as “exclusive enclaves for the rich,” Calthrope said, “Is ethically and morally repugnant.”
Each community, he said, must reevaluate traditional land-use practices and share in solving the problems of providing moderately priced housing and improved public transit.
Without new approaches, he said, the Bay Area ‘will continue to face endless traffic jams, and the price of homes will continue to climb beyond the reach of average wage-earners.
The conference drew a host of other speakers, all of whom agreed that there is no easy solution for changing the land-use policies that have encouraged suburban sprawl throughout the Bay Area.