Monday, April 10, 2006

Marin Land: How Much is Out There?

The following is a submission by REskeptic. Blogger has been having troubles so I am posting it on his behalf:

Marin land: how much is out there? Despite talk about the exclusivity of Marin real estate, this composite satellite image should allow readers to visually compare those areas which are densely developed to the remaining open land. Please note: in the interest of space, Pt. Reyes and the Tomales coast are truncated in this image. Out of a total of 521 square miles, how much land is actually used for housing? Sofar, I've read that about 48% is undeveloped, but whatever the exact figure is, it's pretty obvious Marin has plenty of land to accomodate future growth. Is our best option a more heavily urbanized 101 corridor, while much of land remains undeveloped and unaccessible to future families? Even if a better-managed development approach is taken in the future, Marin should be able to provide for future growth, especially given the flat to negative population rate. So, how does current population stats and land resources reflect on the notion that Marin prices are based on normal supply and demand? Regarding MALT, which priorities should take precedence in Marin's future? Should a few Marin dairy farms, whose land use actually harms* the environment, determine the future availability of housing?

Granted, we need more information and ideas to suggest what should be done with Marin's land. In the meantime, take a look at this image and decide for yourself where Marin stands in terms of land availability.

*Agricultural land use masquerading as environmentalism actually harms the environment because land converted for grazing denudes the natural biodiversity, introduces alien feed plants that displace native species, and runoff from fertilizer and waste contributes to aquifer contamination, coastal pollution, and red tide effects on marine life and toxicity in shellfish and other seafood.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a recent article about the proliferation of land trusts:

Apr 10, 2006, 2:27:00 PM  
Blogger fredtobik said...

Everyday at 6pm my daughter (19 months), points out the window at the open space accross the street and says 'deer'over adn over again, until I take her outside to watch them graze.

No point to this story I guess... except maybe, I don't think she would be pointing and saying 'satelite dish'.

Apr 10, 2006, 2:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the REIT crowd would be interested in investing in Marin ag land given what MALT reports.

According to Marin County Agriculture Commissioner Stacy Carlsen, there are 24 registered organic producers (including the Straus Dairy) in Marin, farming 1,560 acres and producing a total gross value of $3.9 million.

That would be gross income of $2500 per acre presumably based on finished product. The value of the milk is probably much less than 1/3 of that.

How about grapes?

Last year around 100 acres of wine grapes were grown with a value of $465,000.

Marin vineyards produce grapes worth 4650 per acre? Gee, for an inferior terrior to Napa, that is highly priced.

Lastly, here is one last impressive figure.

In 2001, fruits, nuts, and vegetables were harvested here with an economic value of almost $841,000.

Most of that appears to be McEnvoy's high priced olive oil.

Malt enables marginal farms to remain in business, or worse, enter business, at the expense of the familes of would be homeowners in Marin.

My point. Marin ag and MALT is a joke. Compare this to the values of agricultural products coming out of places like napa or san benito county. Compare it to santa barbara county if you want to see something interesting - at least they have some real farms.

Reality. The highest and best use of a much more significant part Marin's ample land is as close in housing for the workers that live in the bay area. Marin is a suburb of san franciso.

Apr 10, 2006, 2:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred, if you live in any part of San Rafael, you can see deer in your neighbor's front yard.

Marin does not even give the appearance of an authentic ecosystem. The deer are yet another symptom of a highly modified environment that the residents belive is natural and must be protected.

(hunting should be allowed)

Apr 10, 2006, 3:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link to the Chron story was excellent. It is a wonderfully biased anti-development piece that describes how the people with means or who were here first in Cal use the rules to limit what everyone else can have. But that is ok, since the have locked it up for their children in perpetuity.

California hypocrisy and greed plain and simple. Not of the developers, but of the current owners that want to keep theirs "as is" for ever. Even beyond the grave.

Apr 10, 2006, 3:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The statistics I've seen are that something like 90% of the area of the county is undevelopable.

I've lived in Marin for 46 years. When I was a kid the 101 corridor was not that densely developed. Part of the appeal of Marin is that you can drive 10 minutes from the freeway and have open space as far as the eye can see.

Some of the other commenters seem upset that the agricultural land is not being developed to its highest economic potential sites for affordable McMansions for all.

First, the transportation infrastructure is barely adequate to support the existing amount of development, much less widespread development of agricultural areas. Secondly, anyone interested in living in an area with a more aggressive approach to developing ag. land needs to look no further than Silicon Valley.


Apr 10, 2006, 5:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred, if you live in any part of San Rafael, you can see deer in your neighbor's front yard.

Marin does not even give the appearance of an authentic ecosystem. The deer are yet another symptom of a highly modified environment that the residents belive is natural and must be protected.

Roaches of the road, I call 'em, as I nightly swerve to avoid hitting the f***ers on my drive from Mill Valley to Bolinas. They are g.d. everywhere on Panoramic Highway and Highway 1. It's a serious, life-threatening road hazard.

Apr 10, 2006, 8:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha, I love the malevolent cow looming over Marin!

"Sorry, puny humans, but this is Cow Country. You'd best move to Sonoma County, which used to be Cow Country but is now nothing more than Marin's designated population overspill area. Marinites need lots of open space so they can know it's there but never actually visit it."

Apr 10, 2006, 8:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No point to this story I guess... except maybe, I don't think she would be pointing and saying 'satelite dish'.

My kid would.

Apr 11, 2006, 2:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see some contradiction here over the cause of the housing bubble. On the one hand, Marinite has made the point that we are short on land because of MALT, County Open Space and onerous land use policies and protracted approvals process by city and county governments. OTOH, Marinite acknowledges that we have a declining population (since 2000) with more housing built over the last 5 years. That means we have more housing available for fewer people and prices are nearly 2x what they were in 2000? Also, rents have been declining, which means REAL demand for somewhere to live(as opposed to demand to own a house) has also been falling.

I don't think more construction is a fix for this. There is plenty of construction going on in CoCo County and Alameda (and LA for that matter) and they are ALL expensive by national standards. The CA median is over $500k when the national average is $200k and there is plenty of developable land in the central valley (just look at how quickly it gets paved over!) yet it is still more expensive than most parts of the country.

Expensive construction costs (labor and permits) is a huge contributing factor here. There was an article in the Chron that quoted a national developer (Shea, KB, Pulte, one of those guys) as stating that the cost of building in CA was around $100-$150k/house higher than anywhere else in the country because the approvals process here often requires developers to "fix" natural habitats, pay for endless EIR's, go through multiple reviews and redesigns and pay for infrastructure normally provided by the city or state, such as arterial road improvements, utility upgrades, traffic lights, highway interchanges, etc. (thanks to Prop 13 because the local gov'ts are strapped)

Other states don't require as much due process from developers as CA does. I am not saying that unchecked development is a good thing (I spend alot of time in Denver where prices are 1/3 what they are here and it ain't pretty) but this is a significant contributing factor that has nothing to do with supply and demand but just the cost of doing business in CA.

Apr 12, 2006, 6:22:00 PM  
Blogger marine_explorer said...

Here's a bit of levity I had intended on posting earlier. Thanks Marinite!

words and music by Marinite and REskeptic (apologies to Woody Guthrie)

This land is your land, this land is my land
From Sausalito, to north Novato
From the county border, to the Marin headlands
This land was made for mostly me

As I was grazing a ribbon of pasture
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me your pricey homesteads
This land was made for mostly me


I've mooed and munched and I've followed my hoofsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond beaches
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for mostly me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice came chanting
This land was made for mostly me


As I was grazin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - you can't buy here
But on the other side .... it said in foreclosure
Now that side was made for mostly you!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see your people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for mostly you.

Apr 13, 2006, 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger marine_explorer said...

Thanks for posting that observation; it rings true to me as a very real factor to bay area housing costs. I also hear the development situation is becoming similarly difficult around Seattle. However, the intent of this post was to simply respond to the oft-heard notion that Marin has no more land to build upon. On that note, anyone is invited to look at that sat photo and decide for themselves.

Apr 13, 2006, 5:05:00 PM  

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