Saturday, January 27, 2007

More on Habitat for Humanity Tiburon Project

There's been more written in the IJ about the Habitat for Humanity project in Tiburon that I blogged earlier. I found the following revealing quotes in the print edition of the IJ (Jan 25, 2007, pp. B1-2).

// Begin sarcasm //

The first quote that I want to pull from the article shows to the rest of the world how we wealthy, white Marinites now deal with our non-Caucasian residents here in Marin. You see, we like to keep them in specific areas where we can keep an eye on them and as far away from where we Caucasians want to live as possible (i.e., the nice areas). These areas are where we Marinites will allow property values to be weak and where it is ok to build affordable housing. And for you socio-psychologists out there, this is how we can pretend to be "doing our part" and ignore our guilt. It wasn't always so, but it is now.
But Patri [principal planner for the Marin County Community Development Agency] said it has been exceedingly difficult to find any place to squeeze in low-cost housing [in Marin] outside of the predominantly African American enclave of Marin City and the largely Latino neighborhood of San Rafael known as the Canal area.
// End sarcasm //

And then a couple of counter-points were made against some of the claims in the original argument made by the Tiburon residents fighting against the Habitat project:
"The argument that affordable housing lowers property values is a specious argument," Kilbridge [executive director of Habitat for Humanity's San Francisco chapter] said. "It doesn't hold water."
What a surprise. After all, by their own admission many of the residents who are fighting this project obtained their houses in the 50s and 60s and are making $50-60K annual income. In other words, they couldn't afford their own houses if they had to buy them today yet they have no objections being Tiburon residents themselves. If low income folks such as themselves are acceptable residents, then why do they think that other such folk would be bad for the community? Why do they think introducing new residents, who are financially like themselves, would automatically cause property values to fall, crime to increase, etc?

And then...
He [Kilbridge] said it is "a shame" that residents would raise $100,000 in an attempt to keep less fortunate families out of their neighborhood. "Do you know how many nails that could buy?" Kilbridge asked. "To us that's a lot of money that could be of such incredible use to the community."
Not to mention that $100,000 could be used to remedy the traffic and other problems in that neighborhood used by the Tiburon residents to fight against the Habitat project. Or is it that they don't really want to fix the problems; they would rather use them when needed to keep out other people? More of the "if we don't improve our infrastructure, people won't move to Marin" line of reasoning which has been thoroughly discredited by the test of time.

"The idea that everybody is entitled to an affordable house wherever they want one is not valid," Duane [one of the Tiburon residents who is fighting against the Habitat project] said. "I would like to live in Cannes."
First off, no one has mentioned or implied a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is not the issue here but I can understand how one would want to make the issue about entitlement as that is an issue that is easier to fight. And secondly, yes, without doubt Duane could not afford a house in Cannes today. Yet nor could he afford his own Tiburon house if he had to buy it today. Another specious argument.

It seems to me that the arguments against this project are more about property values and Marin's systemic white-flight fear than anything else.

Well, don't despair. The following letter-to-the-editor in the IJ gives hope; as long as there are still people like this in Marin, all is not lost:
Neighbors cheer Habitat plans

This letter is in regard to Habitat for Humanity's proposed four small family homes in the Eagle Rock area near where we live. These homes might house people who educate our children, protect our neighborhoods and keep our local economy going.

Residents have voiced their opinion that four small homes are going to cause more traffic and safety issues than 6,000- to 7,000-square-foot houses would.

This NIMBY (not in my back yard) opinion is mistaken.

The probability of lower-income families having more than two cars each is unlikely, based upon Mill Valley demographics in the 2000 census. Building larger homes for higher-income families will likely bring in more than the average two cars, plus those of their landscapers, house cleaners, nannies, etc. This is what will generate more traffic. The $100,000 that neighbors hope to raise to fight Habitat for Humanity would be better utilized in improving the neighborhood by putting in sidewalks and stop signs.

Our family has lived here in the same [Mill Valley] house since it was completed in 1950. Our grown children are all productive members of their communities. Our income is about half of the $56,000 maximum required by Habitat for potential buyers. Does this mean we have to move out because we might lower the home values of the neighborhood?

Let's give three cheers for Habitat for Humanity and bring this area back to the family oriented area it once was.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago I helped to build some Habitat for Humanity homes in San Diego. A few years later I drove by and the homes (two were next to each other) were run down and looked like crap. It turns out that is what usually happens to Habitat for Humanity homes. Poor people that are too lazy to go to college or save money are usually too lazy to do yard work or maintain homes. Marin has enough poor people in MC and the Canal Area...

Jan 27, 2007, 6:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 2003 we rented a house located 3 blocks from the "Old St. Hilary's Church" landmark, just above downtown Tiburon. The homeowner lived 1 block away and owned 3 other homes in the neighborhood. Shortly after we moved in he commented on how all of the open space made Marin such a special place to live. I grew up in Mill Valley circa 1970's and knew firsthand the true childhood value of open space, exploration and room to roam, not hoarding land to increase ones property values and keep others out. The homeowner went on to tell us that a couple of years earlier, he and a few neighbors pooled their finances (in the millions) to purchase 8 acres of land on the hill above our house. He proudly explained that they had done this to protect a specific bird. My first thought was what a liar and my second was what kind of people place more value on protecting a bird than allowing young families the chance to live in an area so wonderful for children. Their reaction to Habitat for Humanity does not surprise me but it is very sad.

Jan 27, 2007, 8:18:00 PM  
Blogger cajun100 said...

I am afraid that fear and selfishness will triumph over social consciousness every time, eventually. The previous comments about "run down housing" are to be expected. Are there not "run down houses" in areas that were not placed there by affordable housing groups? I can think of 3 notorious dwellings not 5 blocks from me here in good old, expensive Mill Valley. Flippers are probably eyeing these carefully. But somehow everyone seems to co-exist.

We have a couple of perception problems here. First, that allowing anyone a "break" on housing is somehow, well, un-American. Even if the complainers were eased into THEIR home by exceedingly good, competitive market prices and low interest rate FHA, Cal-Vet, VA and similar loans. When I bought my last home in MV, my neighbors on both sides were retired -- this was 35 years ago -- on SS benefits they had hardly "earned", on WWII GI disability payments, on rather good retirement pensions, on taxes reduced for seniors, with Prop 13 benefits, having bought with government-subsidized loans, and so on. They complained incessantly about "boomers" and others moving into MV "who had it too easy".

Second, there is the oft-expressed belief that "those people" in themselves who might purchase or rent the affordable units are inferior because they do not now have the COMPARATIVE incomes that people have to enjoy now to buy market-priced units. Which of course means that "those people" would have been seen inferior 50 years ago, as well -- and were. No slack is cut for, say, people who might well be on an upward standard of living curve: young couples with children, certain young professionals, students with promise, artists, local public agency employees, etc. etc.

Finally, one common whine from locals regarding housing values is that "our children can't live here anymore". Balance that against the usual opposition to any form of affordable housing. Or reasonable second units. Curious, huh.

Jan 28, 2007, 3:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The remaining middle class is terrified of losing what they have,and rather than oppose the fraction of 1% who control the resources and reap the benefits of crony capitalism...we spend half the states budget on health care, declining wages,no job security.the bill of rights used to light one of Dick cheneys who do you want to blame? little green men? or poor people?

Jan 28, 2007, 5:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Christ's sake. I get so tired of hearing the whole "overcrowding" argument over and over again from these people.
If this really and truly was the reasoning, then you wouldn't live in the Bay Area. You would move to another state, in another town and live somewhere that had plenty of open space. In fact, I can't help but feel that anyone that lives in the BA and is retired is rather stupid for staying. Think about it- if you sold that dilapidated 60 year old 2 bedroom house stuck on the side of a hill for a cool 700k, you would have your choice pick of 90% of the country. You could live in the most upper class crust section of any given metropolitan area in the nation where you would be protected and gated, pampered, and looked after round' the clock. You would have a nicer, bigger, and more beautiful house. You would in fact be living like a rich person.Don't give me that " bbbb-but the Bay Area is "special". Exactly how much are you willing to pay for liberal-elite political perception that in of itself is artificial and contrived?

But no- instead everyone here seems to be so caught up in this little tit-for-tat battle just so they can desperately cling to their little piece of paradise.

The sad part is that if you look throughout the BA, the group in power are the homeowners. The generations of younger families that have to rent or have moved away have dwindled and now we are in an environment where almost half the population rents ( mostly younger families) and the other half "owns" -those in the 45-70something age bracket. So where does this inequality reverse itself? Will it ever?

Jan 29, 2007, 8:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Jan 29, 2007, 9:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Don't You Know That You Can Count Me Out (In)...

Jan 29, 2007, 3:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Jan 29, 2007, 4:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, we have crowded prisons because of 3 strikes and because 30% are illegals. Yeah, 30%. And that's not the legal immigrants, just the illegals who have been identified as such.

Chew on that while you're trying to save the lazy, slovenly, crowd who expect to live off of MY hard work.

Jan 29, 2007, 4:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And so what if whites want to live around whites."

Nothing, I suppose--but if that means you must avoid people unlike yourself to be happy, you could be missing out. But that's up to you.

I find that one great aspect of the bay area is its diversity. Even as a European, I often find the white bread climate of Marin homogeneous and dull. Whenever we can, we're off to Berkeley for interesting food, produce, and great shops--that are far scarcer around our home here. Marin's isolation can often be its curse.

"What race on earth has done more to accommodate everyone than whites? NONE."

Ah yes, the great "white race" of Americans (and Europeans) have an impeccable track record there. I suspect it's easy to forget history when one is comfortable and socially unchallenged.

Jan 29, 2007, 6:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was reading this post, I lapsed into a daydream. Here's what I saw...

I saw Marinite sitting in a nice First Class seat on British Airways, jetting over to London over the weekend for some good theater. Marinite shelled out 10K for the seat, but hey what the hell. Marinite went to the best schools, and has worked very hard to get to where he is in life. After all, what does wealth mean if you can't enjoy it, eh?

As Marinite was polishing off his second glass of Cristal, the empty seat next to him was suddenly occupied by someone who, well, really didn't look like he belonged in First Class. Marinite's new seatmate was rather shabbly dressed, rather poorly groomed, and had the faint smell of leftover food about him.

Marinite chatted him up, and found out that his name was Bob, and was employed as a dishwasher in Mill Valley.

Needless to say, Marinite grew increasing curious about how this man found his way into First Class, particularly on a salary that a man like Bob probably earned. But before Marinite gathered up the nerve to ask this question, Bob volunteered the information himself.

It turned out that the cabin staff on the airplane decided that Bob was a nice guy who was just trying to earn a living, and probably would like to be upgraded (despite the fact that his seat in Economy Class was perfectly adequate). They realized that there was an empty seat in First Class, so out of the goodness of their collective hearts, they moved Bob up there, even though he only paid a small fraction of what Marinite paid for the same seat.

Unfortunately, that's when I snapped out of my daydream.

So, boys and girls, how do you think this story would end? After hearing that Bob got a short cut to the good life, did Marinite:

(a) welcome his new friend Bob to the neighborhood, and order up another glass of Cristal for him?


(b) do what 99.99999% of the rest of us would do, and complain loudly to the cabin staff (and airline management) about how unfair it was for them to have given Bob something for free that others had to pay dearly to obtain.

My money is on (b), despite the holier-than-thou BS that was spewed forth by Marinine in his post. What do the rest of you think?

Jan 29, 2007, 8:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey anon, you describe the typical white south Marin resident snob incredibly well. Your ability to deflect the argument away from the issues to one of a character assasination is remarkable. Your attitude is so clearly representative of what is so wrong with Marin. Why are you so bitter? Did you over pay for a Marin POS? Did you lose a bidding war?

Jan 29, 2007, 9:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marinite shelled out 10K for the seat
My guess is Marinite used miles to get the seat, and I think its sad you feel so bad about it.

Jan 30, 2007, 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know where to post links, so I offer this off post link.

He seems to have a pretty good handle on this whole deal.

What a mess!

Jan 30, 2007, 1:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, it didn't fit the first time.


I don't know where to post links, so I offer this off post link.


He seems to have a pretty good handle on this whole deal.

What a mess!

Jan 30, 2007, 1:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, boys and girls, how do you think this story would end? After hearing that Bob got a short cut to the good life, did Marinite:

(a) welcome his new friend Bob to the neighborhood, and order up another glass of Cristal for him?


(b) do what 99.99999% of the rest of us would do, and complain loudly to the cabin staff (and airline management) about how unfair it was for them to have given Bob something for free that others had to pay dearly to obtain."

What a bunch of trite B.S. Nobody is coming onto this site realistically believing that Marin will ever be cheap and affordable.

The case, as in mine and many countless others who live in the Bay Area is that we worked hard, climbed in our careers, make the money, save our incomes, try to study the market and housing costs, yet despite the fact that many of us make more than double what current residents in Marin make, we still cannot afford to buy anything there.

The argument isn't as you're trying to indicate: a bunch of lower income, slacker, college dropouts trying to get something for free. The whole argument is based on basic economic fundamentals. I have personally gone as far as I can in my professional career. I make a 6 figure income. I have savings and investments. I have no debt. I drive very modest cars. I have business prospects enough to keep my gainfully employed into the foreseeable future. Why? Because I invested in myself and my financial well-being.

So to answer your question, I have done as much and likely more than even the average Marin citizen. If your argument is whether hard work and financial success has it's rewards in the form of a decent living, then your reasoning isn't tied to economic reason. Anyone trying to reason self-worth via professionalism and economics in the BA is basically trying to explain something that simply isn't there: the BA has no economic standard.

I might as well ask all those old foks who worked in ice cream factories, clerk's offices, and book stores how THEY deserve a little house anymore than someone who made better for themselves by investing in upper education and upwardly mobile careers.

The short answer is that we shouldn't be having this conversation. A community that cannot provide for all it's class levels is essentially a dysfunctional model thrown off balance.

Does anyone recall what Ross Perot said way back in 1992 when NAFTA was proposed? " Can you hear that sucking sound?" Well, perhaps the phrase could better serve current times by asking if anyone hears that sucking sound- the sound of anyone with a brain and intelligence leaving the state for greener pastures. And as far as 'diversity' and all that other liberal-elite garbage? hardly worth it.

Jan 30, 2007, 9:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kind of wierdo would want to live in Tiburon anyway? Come on, leave it to the wealthy and transnational, and leave the rest of the US to us.

Jan 30, 2007, 5:50:00 PM  
Blogger marine_explorer said...

"A community that cannot provide for all it's class levels is essentially a dysfunctional model thrown off balance."

And yet, many people pride themselves at the "exclusive" nature of the Bay Area. Whatever. And, I agree with you. I suppose my coastal hometown would be considered "prime" around here, but it lacked much of the social stress and poor infrastructure that is our Bay Area life. More people could afford homes, and even the smaller fishing towns were better kept than many local cities.

I find it a bit ironic that people who lived less extravagantly up there actually enjoy better homes, less stressful lives, and more sense of community. Contrast that to the hyenas that emerge when someone proposes four (4) affordable Marin homes. Gag.

Jan 30, 2007, 7:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Habitat for Humanity homes can't be flipped. So much for the drivel these Tiburon residents are spewing.

Habitat maintains right of first refusal at a preset purchase price -- it's written into the deed. So if a Habitat family moves up or out, the local organization will buy it back and offer it to another qualifying family. I should mention that qualifying families are required to put in substantial amounts of "sweat equity" on Habitat projects -- usually 1,000 hours.

As a former Marinite, I'm dismayed to hear about the reaction to this project. I've never heard of anything like this even in my current abode, Orange frickin' County.

Feb 1, 2007, 4:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least with the East Bay, there is something. Oh I know what you are thinking....and you are right...the East may be the where the working people live....but it is the closest thing to American life you can find in the Bay Area. No plastic surgery disasters. Good pizza. Hyper symetic segragation from dirty poor others and Yoshi's.
What do you have in Marin? Sean Penn running around with a little pistol? Oi vey!Too many mercedes on the road only cheapen their 'classiness'. Come back home, come back to Oppenheimer's reason for inventing the Bomb. After all there is not there here.

Feb 1, 2007, 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@anon 1/30/2007 09:20:52 AM
"A community that cannot provide for all it's class levels is essentially a dysfunctional model thrown off balance."

I see several problems with this argument.

1) Sloppy definition: provide *what* for all its class levels? Home ownership? Rental housing? A good job? Clearly Marin does provide good jobs for a lot of people who live elsewhere and work here. Even with the commute, they have freely chosen to live in X and work in Marin, as an option preferable to living and working in X. Must Marin provide them with more? With what, exactly?

2) Micro/macro confusion: Marin (pop. 247K) is a tiny fraction (3%) of the Bay Area (pop. 7.2M). Viewed as a whole, the SF Bay Area community does an OK job of accommodating various class/income levels. What if Marin is the SFBA's way of "providing" for its rich? By forcibly "diversifying" Marin against its will, arguably the Bay Area diminishes its ability to provide what its rich "class level" wants. (Or does Anon's argument only apply to providing what poor folks want?)

3) Circular reasoning: the whole question is whether these new residents will be aided in becoming part of the MV/Tib residential community. They are not currently part of it.

4) Counter-example: is Marin "providing for" residents of Marin City? What exactly is Marin providing for them? Do they really want what Marin provides? Does the rest of Marin really want what Marin provides them? Does anyone look at Marin City and exclaim, "there's a success I'd like to see duplicated!"?

-Well-Meaning Skeptic

Feb 6, 2007, 11:43:00 AM  

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