PEOPLE OFTEN SAY, “I always read your column, but don’t always agree with you.” That’s fine, just as long as we continue talking. Here’s a review of columns from the past 10 years, with some insight as to how Marin’s most important issues are developing.
In 2006, because of constant acrimony, Marin General Hospital (MGH) and Sutter Health agreed to an early termination of a 30-year lease. My viewpoint was MGH’s problems were so great — a struggling stand-alone hospital could never pass the $400 million bond required to make it seismically safe — that MGH should be sold to an experienced health care provider. It never happened: it wasn’t sold, not even close. A new CEO, Lee Domanico, stabilized operations, staff morale improved and in November 2013, the $400 million bond issue was passed — and construction on a new hospital will start next year. I was way off, there.
In 2008, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) was on the ballot and I urged a yes vote. Needing a two-thirds majority, it barely passed. It upped our sales tax by .25 percent for the next 20 years. Then the Great Recession forced downsizing and SMART’s length was reduced from 70 miles, Larkspur to Cloverdale, to 38 miles, San Rafael to Santa Rosa. Construction started in early 2012, and in 2014 President Obama put $20 million in his budget to extend the line to Larkspur. An initial two-car train has arrived in Marin and service starts in 2016. Will SMART provide an alternative to being stuck in traffic on Highway 101? I sure hope so.
In 2009, Marin Clean Energy (MCE) was very controversial. It would allow residents to choose to receive electrical power from renewable sources (while still being billed by PG&E). I timidly endorsed the concept. At first, only the county and seven cities joined MCE. Now, all of Marin’s municipalities and the county are participating, as are the cities of Richmond, Benicia, San Pablo, El Cerrito and Napa County — and San Francisco is considering joining. MCE has been a rousing success.
This next controversy has lingered as long as POV columns have appeared: as I stated in Marin Magazine’s August 2007 issue, “A judicious amount of the herbicide glyphosate is necessary to control invasive Scotch broom vegetation on Mount Tam.” And that viewpoint of mine hasn’t changed. Broom’s yellow blossoms are attractive, but the invasive plant, if unchecked, will someday eliminate all other plant life; equally bad, it supports no animal life and is highly flammable. “The judicious use of glyphosate has been approved,” stated this column in May of 2013, “by the National Audubon Society, the National Park Service, Marin County Parks and most Marin cities.” I still maintain there is no valid reason it can’t be used to eradicate the hundreds of acres of flammable Scotch broom on Mount Tamalpais. It would not be used near a reservoir or in areas that drain to a reservoir.
Finally, let’s discuss dense affordable housing near available public transportation. I’ll continue to listen to other viewpoints, but at present I favor this concept. In 2008, California approved the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act. Its goals are to contain suburban sprawl, limit freeway traffic and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by locating development near transportation corridors. Most likely this would involve higher-density affordable housing. Cities planning, not building, in this manner would receive grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to enact the transportation improvements their leaders and residents chose. Moreover, since the 1970s, Marin has practiced this type of city center corridor planning along Highway 101. As a result, an astonishing 80 percent of our land mass has not been — nor will it ever be — developed. In modern times, Marin has grown at a snail’s pace of only .01 percent a year (that’s 250 units a year); I maintain that the slow growth rate will continue to be concentrated along Highway 101 in the form of higher-density affordable housing.
The above represents several of my more controversial points of view. As always, I want to hear what your viewpoints are.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Marin Magazine and its staff.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Let’s Keep Talking.”