TAM Is Already Looking For Consultants To Prepare A Community Based Transportation Plan For Novato

"The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) requests proposals from qualified consultants to update the Marin City Community-Based Transportation Plan, and to prepare a Community-Based Transportation Plan for Novato. Questions will be accepted through Monday, February 10 and responses regarding this request for proposals (RFP) will be posted online.

The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) serves as the Sales Tax Agency and Congestion Management Agency for Marin County and will take a lead role in this process as contract administrator.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: The proposal shall be dispatched in order to be received at TAM's office (781 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 160, San Rafael, CA 94901) no later than 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, 2014."

On Tuesday February 4th, the Novato city council was asked to vote on an agenda item that designated the entire city of Novato as a Low Income Community for the purpose of accessing transportation funding through the Transportation Authority of Marin.

  • The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) has designated Novato as a Low Income Community to access funding through a program called: Community Based Transportation Planning (CBTP).
  • TAM suggests that they took this action at the behest of Novato's city staff and council and yet no one is certain who started the ball rolling and why it wasn't voted on before TAM took the reigns.
  • Novato already has access to Lifeline Funding as part of the Bus Stop Improvement Project with a grant of $985,000. Why would the city want or need to designate itself Low Income if access to Transportation grants is possible without a CBTP? Shouldn't council members be asking the same question?
  • Linda Jackson of TAM and Erica Erickson of Marin Grassroots tell the council how important it is to accept CBTP funding. Erica Erickson describes the benefit to San Rafael's Canal area, when it accepted a CBTP in 2006. 
  • What Ms. Erickson omits is the fact that the city of San Rafael rejected ongoing participation in the TAM program when TAM ignored one of the most critical elements of the Canal project which was a bicycle/pedestrian bridge on Grand Avenue. The city described eight years in which it worked with TAM only to lose funding for the most important part of the process. The dedication of staff time, and the involvement in a technical advisory committee was no longer worth the funding it might receive.
  • At Tuesday's meeting, Two council members, Eric Lucan and Madelaine Kellner, voted yes without any attempt to vet TAM's offer. Two council members, Pat Eklund and Jeanne MacLeamy voted no and began asking the question, "How will a CBTP, declaring the whole of Novato, a Low Income Community, affect residents, businesses and city staff?
  • The only two other communities that have access to this grant are Marin City and the Canal area in San Rafael. Marin City achieved this status when TAM declared that more than 30% of their residents had incomes at twice the federal poverty level.
  • Novato's median income for the 2010 U.S. census is approximately $80,000 a year and persons living below the poverty level are 7.4%. 
  • It would seem that the city of Novato as a whole has not earned the designation of Low Income.
  • Community Development Director, Bob Brown, ask's TAM's Linda Jackson if there are any "strings" attached to the funding. Linda replies no, without acknowledging that every project creates a domino effect of requirements including a reassessment of RHNA. 
  • In response to questions from the audience and council members Eklund and MacLeamy, Linda Jackson also prepared an explanation of how TAM manages CBTP grants.
  • CBTP is a "grassroots" approach, led by TAM; low income residents are identified by 2010 census data and demographics, including interviews and focus groups led by outside consultants; guidelines require a map of the project area; consultants develop an outreach program with the help of Novato city staff; meetings of the "Stakeholder Groups" are open to the public; Focus Meetings are by invitation only; Council will have the option to reject, modify* or accept the plan (San Rafael was unable to modify the plan after 8 years of working with TAM); CBTP's include One Bay Area grant money; "the Board, including Eric Lucan and Judy Arnold, voted unanimously to approve the funding recommendation of $175,000 for the CBTP project."
  • What are the unintended consequences of accepting a designation and a grant program managed by TAM that will specifically identify areas throughout Novato as Low Income?
  • Community Based Transportation Planning and Environmental Justice Grants are "expected to help foster sustainable economies, increase affordable housing, improve housing and jobs balance, encourage transit-oriented and mixed-use development, expand transportation choices, increase safety, improve health, and reflect community values." according to the California state website.
  • If CBTP funding is tied to the development of Mixed Use and Affordable Housing how will accepting grant money affect our current zoning and general plan designations?
  • Who is best equipped to identify transportation and planning needs of a city of 52,000+ residents: City Staff, TAM, Outside Consultants?
  • Why would Novato residents want TAM to designate and pay an outside Consultant to decide which areas of our community need transportation related repairs and improvements?
  • Do we really believe that people who live outside Novato, who work outside Novato and who have no ties to Novato are in the best position to make land use, planning and  financial decisions for Novato? 
  • Even with the participation of Novato's low income residents it is ultimately TAM, "Stakeholder's" and Consultants who make the decision of what is needed where. If Novato were to say no once a need had been identified what are the potential consequences?  Could Novato be sued by Stakeholder groups, like Public Advocates or Marin Grassroots?  Lawsuits and land use and planning decisions seem to go hand in hand.
  • If CBTP is only being done for the money, how much will it actually cost to access funding? Can we afford to put CBTP projects first?
  • CBTP is a Net Negative program where all the grant money goes to TAM and outside consultants but has city staff and the city council doing tracking,  record keeping, accounting  to be eligible to receive funding. If mistakes are made, Novato pays for them.
  • What else does Novato pay for?  At least 10% of the funding for any project will come directly from Novato's general fund. In some cases that 10% is increased to as much as 50%. Who decides?
  • The only two other communities in Marin receiving money from TAM through CBTP are Marin City and the Canal area of San  Rafael. Are staff and council members suggesting that Novato's demographics are comparable to Marin City and the Canal Area of San Rafael?
  • Nancy Mackle, the city manager of  San Rafael rejected TAM's offers to continue CBTP funding for the Canal area neighborhood because TAM rejected the city's view of critical project needs "quelling an important opportunity to complete the most critical pedestrian and bicycle transportation link to downtown for the canal neighborhood."
  • If CBTP's were optimal wouldn't San  Rafael continue down this road by accepting TAM's offer to make additional improvements to areas where predominantly low income residents live?
  • What happened to Novato's focus on Transparency and Local Control?  Why the rush to engage outside consultants to complete a study of Novato's transportation needs?  Doesn't city staff have a good estimate of what projects, in order of importance, most need to be funded? 
  • Is it worth any amount of money to risk fracturing the relationship between the city and its residents by handing over a planning decision to an outside consultant? In 2009, when we were working on the Housing Element wasn't that what got us into trouble to begin with?

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Stephen Nestel February 11, 2014 at 07:57 PM
This is amazing. The middle income communities get dumped on in Marin so the rich communities can claim that they have "done something" when in fact they are avoiding their fair share. Where is Judy Arnold on this? Doesn't she want to be re-elected? Why won't she stand up for the community?
Tina McMillan February 11, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Stephen: Judy is behind this. The professional politicians can't turn down government funding even when it will cost more in staff time than Novato can afford. Novato needs to create its own list of transit priorities and then decide which ones are most critical. There is nothing wrong with funding projects that will serve lower income residents but Novato, unlike San Rafael's Canal and Marin City, does not have segregated populations where you can label any one neighborhood as impoverished. In reality for all of Novato to benefit we need a city wide plan designed by city staff, not outside consultants. Novato and MTC did a Transit Plan in 2011 and we have a plan to rehabilitate our central bus stop at Redwood and Delong/Grant but no money to do the work. You can't say the commercial/industrial areas are impoverished because they aren't and you can't predict which projects the consultants will choose. What you are left with is a cluster of crazy that means city staff time will be taken up to create an assessment thus distracting from the real need to find funding for projects that don't qualify as CBTP's. It's so backward thinking as to be prehistoric but career politicians dont' think when they see what appears to be free money. CBTP's require 30% of the population to live at twice the federal poverty level and they do not fund 100% of any project. No matter what we will be dipping into the general fund at a time when we have not a penny to spare. It should be interesting tonight. The swing vote is with Denise Athas.
Elvis February 13, 2014 at 04:14 AM
good luck NOvato, this is all just a reminder that it is ALWAYS important to read the fine print, especially when there is "free" money involved.


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