Marin Scope: January 31 – February 6, 1990
Taking a more careful look at growth
Here in Marin County, new ideological lines are being drawn that blur the traditional party lines. People are less likely to describe themselves (or label their opponents) as Democrats or Republicans, but rather as pro- or no-growth, with the latter group carrying a solid majority. This shift is changing alliances as well. Affordable housing advocates and environmentalists, who in the past both occupied the liberal side of the Democratic Party, are now finding themselves at odds over decisions affecting how some of our undeveloped lands should be used.
In many cases, committing some of our open space lands to meeting the compelling social goal of providing enough housing for Marin’s future needs is of higher priority than preserving more open space, particularly when more than 84% of the County is permanently protected as open space. This is not to minimize the importance of efforts to save especially scenic or ecologically significant parcels, but rather to urge a more discerning and discriminating approach to planning open space acquisitions.
The cause of environmentalism has reached such epic proportions in Marin that the forces of politics and government are lined up solidly in favor of open space protection, and for once it is the would-be developer who’s the underdog. Agencies ranging from the Open Space District and BCDC to the planning departments of most of our cities are all looking out for open space interests, and now the Marin Conservation League is pushing for a new Countywide Planning Agency to deal with regional growth issues and transportation.
Regional planning is probably a good idea, but only if it includes the proposition that we must protect the human environment as well as the natural one. Overdevelopment of commercial centers, which cities have approved in the move to recapture revenues lost from Proposition 13, and under-development of housing stock due to community opposition, have combined to create an imbalance between jobs and housing which upsets the pattern of orderly growth, frustrating planners and commuters alike. While we may not want newcomers despoiling our high quality of life here, we must remember that quality of life includes more than just green hillsides. Without more housing, we are losing our younger generation to adjacent counties and worsening our commute woes at the same time.
The North Bay Transportation Management Association is sponsoring a conference on regional land use on February 2nd. There, participants will have the opportunity to discuss sensible ideas for management of our remaining land resources with state legislators, planners and traffic abandon labels and just try to be good citizens by giving more careful thought to the growth/no growth issue, and look for ways to protect our total environment, not just the natural one.
Julie Rubenstein, an attorney, is a partner in Private Advocates, a public relations and government advocacy firm specializing in land use matters in Marin County,