By Chris McManus
Summary: Tea Party activists and some North Bay liberals team up to defeat affordable housing. The Housing Element process is explained. The fight for an elder housing project in Fairfax, California becomes bitter and divisive. The participation by Koch Industry controlled astro-turfed think tanks is explored. Agenda 21 is used as a rationale to stop sustainable development. Possible federal legal outcomes are predicted. Strategies for the housing advocates are suggested.
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 2.
An alliance of tea party activists and some misled progressive liberals has united to defeat affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a concerted effort to protect property values and a perceived quality of life, the Koch Brothers’ libertarian think tanks have developed strategies, talking points, and tactics to repel any efforts to provide affordable housing.
Although the open-space environmentalists and traditionally liberal Marin County citizens deny they have anything to do with the tea party, at the same time they are utilizing these same tactics and talking points in order to stop low income housing developments.
Today, the median home price in Marin County for a home is roughly one million dollars. The rent for a one room apartment costs between 1500.00 and $2000.00 a month. The San Francisco Bay Area is the most expensive real estate in the United States. There is little affordable housing. In the efforts to oppose affordable housing to protect their own property values, a peculiar coalition of open-space environmentalists, property rights neo-libertarians, some progressive democrats and Tea Party reactionaries has formed. This coalition in Marin County has been referred to as “The Herbal Tea Party” or “The Green Tea Party”.
As directed by the federal and state governments, local municipalities are trying to address the problem of affordable housing. There has been a vicious backlash to any sustainable planning as Tea Party activists combined with some misled democrats persuaded by the Koch Bros. arguments have organized vocal opposition to housing and transportation plans. Local Marin County neighborhood groups have emphasized the fears of increased crime, depressed property values and issues with traffic and parking. Local anti-affordable housing groups such as Citizen Marin, Quiet and Safe San Rafael, Save Marinwood, Tamalmonte, and the Marin Republican Party are supported by or affiliated with the likes of the Tea Party. Koch Brothers- funded CATO Institute and other CATO front groups such as the Thoreau Institute, Reason, and the John Birch Society have joined the fray. The “libertarian” Pacific Legal Foundation has represented groups in their lawsuits against the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)
Heather Gass – Mimi Steel Propaganda Classes
East Bay Tea Party founder Heather Gass, along with Mimi Steele, property rights advocate, hosted tactical training workshops for anti-affordable housing groups. This was based on Koch Brothers John Birch Society films. Mimi Steele, Gass’ partner, calls it Property Rights Tactical Training Workshops. It is an intensive workshop “to prepare us to take on the Bureaucrats plan to infringe on our personal freedoms and property rights. She will show us how to engage in community organizing for the Constitution.” (meetup.com/RonPaul/SF/Events/75735192)
In an article in the New Yorker titled “Covert Operations” Jane Meyer explored the role of the Koch Brothers in local communities.”The role of the (Koch Funded) Americans for Prosperity is to help “educate” Tea party activists on policy details, and to give them “next-step training” after the rallies, so that their political energies could be channelled “more effectively”. Americans for prosperity also provided Tea party activists with a list of elected officials to target. Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity has provided “Tea Party Talking Points”(Meyer, The New Yorker, 08/30/2010).The Koch Brothers are shaping, controlling and channelling a populist uprising that has come to the Bay Area.
Elder Housing in Fairfax, California
In Fairfax in Marin County California, a backlash to any development has come in the form of the opposition to the General Plan which contains the Housing Element. Many feel that any development at all will destroy the character of the town. Their tactic is to defeat multiple unit zoning while promoting suburban sprawl. One example is the Christ Lutheran Church’s proposal for affordable elder housing. The tactics and strategies of Koch Bros. front groups are employed to defeat affordable housing. The Church Project is one project.
Around 1990, the Lutheran Pastor and the elders of the Christ Lutheran Church in Fairfax decided to develop two acres of the twenty acres the church owns to provide affordable housing for seniors. The forty units of senior housing were to be called “Peace Village.”
Ten years later, the town of Fairfax developed its General Plan that included a Housing Element. The Fairfax Planning Commission began the process of land inventory, zoning, and general plan designations among other considerations. According to state law, every one of the 553 incorporated cities and county jurisdictions in California are mandated to produce a General Plan, and every General Plan must include a Housing Element. The Commission incorporated the forty units of “Peace Village” into the Housing Element. They rezoned the site to accommodate the senior housing. Some were not happy with the rezoning plan. Here in Fairfax, as well as other cities and in the unincorporated parts of Marin, it is the Housing Element that causes so much conflict.
The Housing Element
The Housing Element is only one of seven elements to the General Plan; the others being land use, circulation, conservation, open-space, noise and safety. The Housing Element includes “a program of action items that are intended to resolve specific housing problems and needs” (H-1 Fairfax Housing Element 10/22/13). The Housing Element assesses how many people have housing now, what the projected need for housing will be, and what might be the barriers that will prevent the needed housing.
In order to accommodate the needs for housing, zoning ordinances are implemented. Sometimes areas are rezoned. The senior housing was rezoned to Planned Development District (PDD).It was ready to go. In the planning for Housing Element process, determination of construction trends and available housing sites is done by a regional agency called the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). They analyzed the Fairfax data, as well as all the other jurisdictions in the Bay Area. This agency compiles updated information to determine housing conditions, housing needs, and then the constraints on those same needs that may occur. They also determine how many units of affordable housing will be built.
That is called a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).
ABAG, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), published its findings in a document called Plan Bay Area. Two goals of Plan Bay Area are to propose affordable housing and reduce greenhouse gasses by designating Priority Development Agencies (PDA) near transit hubs. This strategy is a way to create sustainable communities in response to California State Bill 375. The Tea Party, the NIMBYs, and the anti-affordable housing advocates hate ABAG because they believe that this is an outside agency usurping local control.
The local Fairfax town opposition to the Church Project claims that the Housing Element is a result of the ABAG mandated a housing plan that originated from outside the community. According to the Fairfax Planning Commission in concordance with Fairfax values, the General Plan was truly “homegrown”. Many of the council members had directly or indirectly worked on the General Plan. All had voted unanimously for it.
The critics of affordable housing believe that ABAG is forcing the people of Fairfax to confront face- to-face what they call “urbanization”. The strategy of those who oppose the Church project believe that by defeating the senior housing project, that may be the first step in defeating the Housing Element and ultimately the General Plan. The ideal would be no plan at all for Fairfax. All projects would be taken on a case- by- case basis.
Most all projects need to be in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Minor projects are exempt along with some public buildings like schools and fire stations. Whenever an affordable housing project is proposed such as the Church Project, a CEQA report is required. If the environmental study shows that the project will not cause “significant” impact on the environment or no impact at all, a “negative declaration” (Neg. Dec.) is prepared. A CEQA report was prepared for all of the Fairfax General Plan’ including the Church project. The critics of the plan complain that “no CEQA plan will be prepared in the future for the Church Project.” They are right-there will be no CEQA in the future because it has been already done.
The opposition to the Church Project (and the Housing Element) had a trick up their sleeve. Led by Frank Egger, former Fairfax City councilman and ex- mayor who holds the record for longest serving councilman in California, Egger circulated a referendum petition that was designed to rescind the Ordinance 778, that ordinance that was passed in order to implement the General Plan, and thus rescind the Housing Element. Over a thousand signatures were collected. A weak challenge by the town hall was levied against the petition, charging that the proponents of the referendum failed to include a declaration that people obtaining signatures were at least 18 years old. It was dropped.
Those who circulated the petitions urged citizens to “Save Fairfax. Many did not know what they were signing, and publicly regretted it later. “Many felt duped later”, one city councilman explained.
The petition to rescind the implementation of the General Plan with its Housing Element was crafty political move by the xenophobic political operatives of Fairfax, California led by Frank Egger, former mayor. He and his group proclaim their environmental “progressive values”. It seems they all belong to the Sierra Club and the ACLU. They consider themselves progressive liberals.
However they are NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) by definition, and they have thrown their hat into the political ring with the likes of the Tea Party, CATO, the John Birch Society, and the Koch Brothers, who are all deeply involved in this fight against affordable housing. Four neighborhoods in Marin have defeated local plans for affordable housing, causing a greater burden on the other neighborhoods to bring up the number of affordable housing units in order to be in compliance with State and Federal Law.
This affordable housing fight has had some serious implications at the polls. The bright and hard-working Marin County District 5 Supervisor from San Rafael, Susan Adams, was defeated by a Tea party NIMBY Damon Connally on June third. He was backed by the local Real Estate Broker Melissa Bradley who proclaimed quite famously “Don’t turn our neighborhood into a ghetto!”
In the recent June elections, District 2 Supervisor Judy Arnold narrowly won the Novato Supervisor’s race by only 200 votes against a novice Toni Shroyer. It nearly went to a recount. Shroyer is a Melissa Bradley Real Estate Agent who was quick to explain why elder housing increases crime. She claims when there is affordable senior housing, the grandchildren of the residents move into the units to deal crack.
Shroyer as District 5 Marin County Supervisor candidate also elaborated on a type of “Broken Window” perspective on crime. She claimed that 80% of all police calls in Novato were devoted to the few apartment complexes in Novato that still take Section 8 housing vouchers. Of course a quick browse of the Police Blotter supports no such claim. However the fear- mongering is quick on allegations and short on facts. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You are entitled to your opinion; you just aren’t entitled to your own facts.”
The misleading scare tactics have some elected officials fed up. The game of course is to keep the pro-housing advocates refuting the endless fear-mongering allegations like a game of whack-a-mole, until they throw up their hands in disgust and walk away. Game over. Supervisor Judy Arnold read into the record at the July 8 Supervisor’s meeting a hate-filled rant by a local M.D. named Dr. Robert L. Freinkel.
In the letter the Doctor said “Marin does not want high density housing… We do not want ill-behaved, ignorant welfare landfill dumped in our communities to trash our neighborhoods and our schools. Do let me know when the multi-generational welfare clients in Marin City behave like civilized persons instead of attacking bus riders and law enforcement”.
This is the level of discourse has exposed some of the comfortable affluent here in Marin as tea party reactionaries. It has exposed a racist underbelly. These same arguments defeated the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in Marin County many years ago.
In Fairfax a last minute flier was circulated on the day of the historic vote to rescind Ordinance 778, the ordinance that blocked the implementation of the General Plan and the Housing Element. Residents awoke to fliers in their mailboxes and posted around town on July 16 that the owner of the downtown School Street Plaza, Fashid (Fred) Azazi had an approved project for 30 to 50 condos in the middle of town. That was news to everyone, including the owner of School Street Plaza, Fred Azazi.
The flier screamed in block letters “LAST CHANCE TO SAVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD IS TOWN COUNCIL MEETING JULY! DEMAND ORDINANCE #778 BE REPEALED OR PUT ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT”
The problem was that the zoning for 30-50 condos was neither approved, nor was there an application for such a project, nor was there an entitlement to build without one. There was talk about 9 condos. But that didn’t stop the NIMBYs. No such development would ever be considered without aCEQA analysis, and, in this political climate, the city council is now requiring workshops that the Planning Commission and the owner (Fred) of this proposed projects of any magnitude will attend.
It has gotten so we are up to four city council meetings (special meetings) already in July in Fairfax and August is a long way off. Normally only one is scheduled a month. By 11:30 at night in the warm summer evening heat, the special meetings have droned on for hours.
But it is the best seat in town. Fairfax Town Council meetings are famous for speeches by crack-pots, odd balls, the deranged and assorted strays, providing the county with a dose of small- town entertainment.” Only in Fairfax” is the unofficial town motto. “Mayberry on Acid” is also an unofficial town motto. Because the meetings are televised, the whole county tunes in on the local community cable television station. It is, after all, great entertainment.
“You might want to confine your comments to agenda 7,” Mayor David Weinsoff suggests pleasantly and patiently as another resident veers off into the benefits of astral-traveling, Zoroastrianism and Hemp Cookery. It is a little comic relief in a deadly take-no-prisoners political fight. That is why the television audience for Fairfax Town Hall meetings is so large; it is some of the most entertaining programming on TV. Many in Marin watch, because it is the best show in town.
Pt. Reyes Station, the next fair -sized city to the West, just went through a massive land- use fight that polarized the community, and was fought all the way to the Supreme Court by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal group. The Department of the Interior decided to shut down the Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm in Point Reyes National Seashore once its lease was up.At the local oyster bar, Hog Island Oysters,, a resident of Pt Reyes Station said that the whole community was so polarized that life-long neighbors refuse to speak to each other, and in the fight no one would give an inch. No one would compromise, so it went all the way to the Supreme Court. The tactics of polarization leads to gridlock in the political process and allows for one side to dominate. After the Supreme Court ruled on the Oyster Farm, someone asked Ken Lunny, the owner of Drake’s Bay Oysters if he was going to take it to The Hague.
That is what is brewing next door in Fairfax. This fight is nasty and brutal, pitting neighbor against neighbor. There is no hope of compromise. In the unincorporated areas, the meetings (fights) are at the County level. Any sense of civility seems to go out the window at the Marin County Civic Center during the hearings for the County Housing Element in the unincorporated areas.Up at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin County Civic Center, there were meetings that had protestors so determined to obstruct the proceedings in any way or another that name calling and shouting people down became common place. These are Tea Party tactics.
Marin County Civic Center
At the Marin County Supervisor’s meeting devoted to affordable housing most people were from Marin, but there were strange contingents from other areas. One was the East Bay Tea Party Founder, Heather Gass, who seems to believe that Plan Bay Area is devoted to declaring eminent domain in order to take peoples’ homes, leaving them homeless. Heather Gass has led workshops devoted to teaching others disruptive tactics to shut down the governmental process and therefore stop the planning process.
Of all the speakers, the gentleman from the CATO Institute who spoke at the Marin County Supervisor’s meeting had to be the strangest. His name is Randal O’Toole, and he is not from Marin.. He represents the CATO Institute. He was allowed to sit with the Supervisors and lecture the residents on land-use planning and public policy.
Mr. O’Toole considers himself a Public Policy analyst, and he is indirectly on the Koch Brothers payroll. He neither believes in urban planning nor public transportation. He believes all these should be privatized. He lives in Camp Sherman, Oregon, just outside of Bend. He wears a bolo tie and a cowboy shirt, and sports one of those Wild West goatees. He is a showman, a huckster and a snake oil salesman, and he looks the part.
According to Mr. O’Toole, the New Urbanist design is a failure, and the accompanying smart growth strategies; light rail, mixed use, denser developments near transportation hubs, are against the values of the American urban sprawl ethic, and he campaigns vigorously against it.
In his book The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths: How Smart Growth Will Harm American Cities (Thoreau Institute, 2001) Mr. O’Toole takes on public transportation. He often criticizes the light rail system in his home town of Portland, Oregon as an abject failure. He holds it up as a model of what is wrong with public transportation. But it is not a failure; it is a huge success. This is part of the strategy of the far right Neo-Libertarians; attack the successes of public policy. The Tri-Met in Portland enjoys ridership of over 135,000 people a day, taking 10% of all commuters off the highways of I-5, US30, US26, I-84, and I205. Without Tri-Met (and the fantastic bicycle trail system that makes Portland the most bicycle friendly town in America) the traffic around Portland, Oregon would descend into hopeless gridlock, worse than it already is.
Mr. O’Toole dismisses this all as socialist hogwash, and claims that “nobody uses the Tri-Met public transportation system.” It is kind of like that famous Casey Stengel line when asked about a popular restaurant, he said, ”Nobody goes there anymore, it is just too crowded”
O’Toole also wrote a book called “Best Laid Plans” How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future (CATO Institute, 2007). O’Toole believes in free-market solutions to urban planning; that being no planning whatsoever. Of course in this model, the process gets more expensive, not cheaper, more complicated and less streamlined, as proposals for building units need an army of planning consultants and lawyers to get their project implemented on a case-by case basis.
At the same time a Mill Valley developer named Bob Silvestri wrote a book with the similar title called Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenge in Marin County (Kindle, 2012). Sivestri is the local darling of the anti-affordable housing crowd, and is invited to speak at many of the tea parties in the Bay Area. He writes a column in the Mill Valley Patch also called “Best Laid Plans”. In my home town of Fairfax at the Town Hall meeting, many anti –affordable housing advocates have asked the council to have Mr. Silvestri come and speak.
Bob Silvestri did attend the Fairfax for Affordable Housing Committee meeting. It seemed he was consulting with Frank Egger while checking out the opposition. Egger and Silvestri may have collaborated in the strategy of developing the petition to create the referendum to rescind the ordinance that implemented the local Fairfax General Plan and its Housing Element. This crafty move could become a template for other communities in California to defeat their own affordable housing projects. After the petition to rescind the ordinance that was to implement the General Plan was successful, The General Plan with its Housing Element is directed not be implanted by either (a) being shut down by the town council, or, (b) if the town chooses not to shut down the General Plan, the issue is put up to a general vote. There is also the option of (c): a “no action” vote by the town council, doing neither and allowing the ordinance to implement the General Plan to proceed. But that opens up the town to a huge lawsuit.
Marin County is home to many lawyers.There is a possibility of threatened litigation so far into the appellate process that it will bankrupt the town of Fairfax. It is difficult to feel the love from people who claim they care so much about my community that they are willing to bankrupt it with litigation in order to save it. There is also a group of lawyers called “Pacific Legal Foundation” (PLF). The main headquarters are in Sacramento. Pacific Legal Foundation calls itself “the first freedom-based public interest legal organization”. It was started by Ronald Reagan’s and former Attorney General Edmund Meese’s senior legal staff. It originated as a welfare reform organization, ever vigilant to Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens. It now litigates land-use policy.
Pacific Legal Foundation just lost a lawsuit in Alameda Court on July 2, called Citizens v Bay Area . ABAG and MTC. Pacific Legal challenged the Association of Bay Area Government and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission claiming that they were not in compliance with CEQA. It seems that the neo-libertarians are concerned about environmental quality when it suits them. They got thrown out of court. MTC and ABAG must prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to inform citizens and decision makers of potential environmental impacts that could result from implementing Plan Bay Area.
The EIR examines a range of reasonable alternatives, identifies the environmentally superior alternative, and recommends measures to mitigate the impacts of the selected alternative. Plan Bay area is a result of SB 375 that determines regional needs and locates housing near transit hubs in order to diminish greenhouse gasses in a sustainable approach to housing.
Recently PLF represented the Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm all the way to the US Supreme Court in the case of Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm v. Salazar, where they also lost. This was another high visibility land use case in West Marin that did not serve their clients well, but exhibited the no-compromise ideological attitude of this group. They do a lot of coastal commission litigation. They proclaim property rights over all. They do not compromise. They do not settle. Neither do their clients.
There is definitely a convergence between the Tea Party and the anti-affordable housing groups. The East Bay Tea Party, headed by Heather Gass, has hosted Bob Silvestri to her tea parties to talk about housing. Richard Hall, here in Marin County, founded Quiet and Safe San Rafael, another Tea Partyesque front group. Hall is also the de facto spokesman for Citizen Marin.
The league had written a piece called “the Myths Surrounding Affordable Housing” concerning the fear mongering around crime, property values, transit, traffic and of course the possible diversity that Marin might face with affordable housing. How Mr. Hall dispelled the dispelling (his words, not mine) is that he simply repeated all the just debunked myths that were dismissed by the League of Women Voters as if they were facts. The strategy of driving public discourse to the level of “he said, she said” simply shuts down any real discourse. ” He” being Richard Hall and “she” being the League of Women Voters.
The jeremiads by the tea party- connected anti- affordable housing groups are breathless with their pseudo-intellectualism. They are prolific. They publish quasi-academic treatise with an air of elitist skeptical distrust for all things government and especially the planning process, with its burdensome mandates. They claim they have the best interest of the community at heart, and then they threaten the community with ruinous lawsuits. Silvestri and O’Toole are especially imaginative with citations in their endless screeds, logrolling (O’Toole cites Silvestri then Silvestri cites O’Toole, or in a real coup, they just cite themselves). They provide end notes that cite academic studies supporting their ideology with research I have yet to find.
The anti-housing people claim that they are the real environmentalists, offering a concern about CEQA regulations, global warming, and density housing near highways that could affect the residents’ health. It is they who are truly concerned with the welfare of low income folk. Better to have the low-income folks live under the freeway than next to it.
One argument that they proffer is that affordable housing is not really affordable. Somehow, the reasoning goes, if it is reasoning at all, that by slashing housing costs it will cost the residents more, not less. According to HUD rule of thumb is 30% of your income should go to housing. Currently, some low income folks are paying 70-80% of their income to housing in the Bay Area. Because of the high cost of housing, being low income in Marin County is defined by $44,340 for a single person and 63,300 for a family of four. To Steven Nestel of savemarinwood.org, the incomes of the low income people are so high; it does not seem fair that someone somewhere, might be getting something for free if they make that much money. In a county where mortgages commonly are $6000.00 a month and up, it seems unfair if someone gets a break. Because of the high cost of housing, a comfortable living is defined in six figure salaries. At any lower income levels, families qualify for housing assistance. In many other communities, that would be a decent living. Not here.
To Steven Nestel and the anti-affordable housing advocates, this attempt at housing is a social engineering scheme. They quote a John Birch Society video that equates affordable housing is the same type of totalitarian tyranny that produced the Red Chinese one-child policy. The SB 375 bill that demands sustainable communities echoes the attempt of Red China to limit families to one offspring. The Tea Party activists point to one thing: It is Agenda 21.
At the same time that the elders of Christ Lutheran Church were planning ecumenical housing, there was a summit near Rio de Janiero in 1992. It was the Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and it created an action plan with regard to sustainable development. It was called Agenda 21, the number 21 referring to the 21st Century.
Sustainable development was the theme of Agenda 21, and it has become one of the most misunderstood and maligned international agreements today. It was such a threat to American hegemony that the radical environmentalist George H.W. Bush happily signed it. It is opposed by the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the State of Arizona, the John Birch Society, the CATO Institute, and the Koch Brothers. It is neither a treaty nor a law. It is voluntary and non-binding.
It also is a very bad novel by Glen Beck. In the book “Agenda 21” (Threshhold, 2012) Mr. Beck explores the dystopian future in the United States through the experiences of a family trying to navigate the oppressive regime that Agenda 21 has wrought. The Tea party and the anti-affordable housing advocates point to Agenda 21 as a conspiracy to deprive individuals of their property rights. Mr. Beck illustrates this loss of rights in his work of fiction. In the minds of the Tea Party, this fiction has become reality. They believe that it is Agenda 21 that drives SB 375 and the sustainable housing mandates of ABAG. The logic is this; Fairfax, California is subordinate to ABAG, ABAG is the regional Authority for the California State Department of Housing and Community Development which oversees the RHNA, which determines the number of the regional housing needs. The State of California is part of the United States which is a UN signatory for this non-binding voluntary implemented action plan called Agenda 21.
Obviously, the people of Fairfax, California are now subjected to an international conspiracy. Connect the dots.
“Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of an UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.”
There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.” Beck implores in his novel “Agenda 21”
What are the draconian measures imposed if the mandated affordable housing numbers are not met? According to a former Fairfax City council member Niccolo Caladarro who co-sponsored the petition to rid Fairfax of the General Plan, there is no record of any one of the regional or state agencies actually imposing sanctions for non-compliance. A recent article from the Orange County Register indicated that approximately half of California’s jurisdictions are out of compliance with the General Plan mandates, according to Niccolo Caladarro, former Fairfax City Council member.
At the same time,The Orange County register also writes that non-compliance could result in “3rd party lawsuits and (municipalities) would not receive some state funding it normally would”.
However, in Westchester County New York, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sued that county 64 million dollars for being out of compliance with federal rules in terms of civil rights. In the lawsuit, the court found that Westchester County, in refusing to provide affordable housing, created an” impediment to the Fair Housing choice”. Judy Arnold, District 2 Supervisor, in an interview on the Peter B. Collins Show, pointed out that Marin County may be going down the same road.
The coalition of some “progressive democrats” and Koch Bros. fueled tea party activists illustrate a propaganda model that has become very successful in recent years. People want answers to “where is all the traffic coming from?” and “how do we make housing affordable without wrecking the character of our town?”. The tea party anti-affordable activists have answers for all these questions by framing the issues. They characterize low to moderate income apartment buildings as “stack and pack” and “high density”. The group Marin Against Density (MAD) is very active in framing arguments, claiming that high density stack –and- pack housing, otherwise known as apartment buildings, only benefits big developers, the same developers that brought us to the brink of ruin in September, 2008. They even spout a type of anti-capitalist rhetoric, claiming that these are for-profit enterprises. MAD welcomes us to a type of new Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, when it suits their agenda. They are not Marxists.
Tea Party Tactics
This is an illustration how Tea Party propaganda infiltrates the process and changes the discussion. The Koch brothers have been running a covert operation with their think tanks.
These are a well- oiled propaganda machine, disseminating misinformation and scare tactics.
Tactical maneuvers and strategies have been deployed into the town hall meetings in order to
create an atmosphere where the neo-libertarian agenda prevails. These tea party talking points are created to maintain the status quo, effectively duping many of the citizens who hold liberal views concerning the environment and the nature of their community.Some of the tactics include, but are not limited to:Endlessly repeating talking points until they are “Facts”.
Disrupting town hall and civic center meetings which intimidate the normal citizen, and shouting down the opposition. Personally attacking the opposition with ad hominem attacks. Abusing the referendum process by petitioning the government by accumulating signatures through false and misleading statements.
Denying all of the above.
The tactic of defeating the General Planning process with its Housing Element reverts the zoning process back to a good-old-boy network of planning that is very profitable if you are
in the loop, very frustrating if you are not. When zoning becomes a case-by-case rather than
generated by a General Plan with its Housing Element zoning for multiple units, the one with
the most capital rules. Not just traditional capital, but also political capital.
What to do
Those who believe in a Fair Housing policy need to counter attack these tactics with their own campaigns. There are facts that need to come to light in this morass of lies. The anti-affordable housing rhetoric is very prolific, and refuting the allegations becomes a full time job.
Organizations such as The Coalition for a Livable Marin (CALM), Fairfax for Affordable Housing (FAH) and The Greater Marin organizes and speaks out in the face of a very well organized and financially supported opposition. Once people hear the truth, they can make informed decisions about housing policy.