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Op-Ed: Local Includes Our Workers and Our Seniors

Mill Valley Affordable Housing Committee member explains its slogan and its interest in making Mill Valley a town that proudly declares that its income distribution mirrors the American average.

This summer, on a one-too-many really clear day, I flew from North Carolina to Colorado. The dusty devastation I saw down below made it impossible not to wonder if the watershed moment has finally come, that breaking point when all but the most entrenched just say no to the “Climate Deniers" and turn on a dime, en masse, and demand true remedy, even if it means applying the federal sustainability protocols calling for changing settlement patterns where they live.

Perhaps it’s still not bad enough yet. Perhaps it is.

Regardless, the , on its face, appears ready for change. But representing myself only as a resident since ’72 and nothing else, I see many far from convinced that what they are going to get out of sustainability comes close to offsetting what they feel they are going to give up.

This op-ed column is in lock step with a Mill Valley Affordable Housing Committee bylaw, “You can’t make anyone do anything, but changing what they want to believe is fair game. The committee meets Wed., Aug. 15 at the Redwoods at 7:30 p.m. 

All parties on all sides of MV2040 so far have urged the preservation of Mill Valley’s “Small Town Character.” Last time I looked, a small town is a place where everyone lives inside the city limits. Some argue it’s better now, with the poor living 60 miles from the middle class and the middle class living 60 miles from the rich. A 60-mile drive is required each time one group needs something from the other.

A bright ray in all this is our very own U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development seeing all this coming (as planners are paid to do). Despite being surrounded by intensely partisan politics, HUD’s sustainability guidelines provide a soft landing from unsustainable sprawl to what looks a lot like we were before autos.

Summarizing the literature as it applies to Mill Valley, sustainable means:

  • Mixed Land Uses - Integrate mixed land uses for greater and more convenient service choices and vibrant town living.
  • Walkable neighborhoods - Minimize distance between home and job school worship and play keeping people out of their cars, mucking up East Blithedale.
  • Local market capture - Promote walking to local shops like shoe, drug and hardware stores rather than driving to the Mall and mucking up of East Blithedale.
  • Existing communities - Moving workforce into town leverages existing infrastructure and keeps their commute trips from mucking up East Blithedale.

In the name of promoting sustainability the first 10 minutes of each MVAHC meeting for the past year was spent on what sign to put on our float: a message that speaks not to just our friends and enemies but to the whole town about what MVAHC stands for. After a 12-month collaboration where scores of candidates were dismissed as too harsh, too cruel or too smug, the winner was the word smithing the collective sentiments of no less than six MVAHC members!

Pulling these words apart a bit:

  • Workers are the work force and other persons of all other pursuits who both live and work in the town.
  • Seniors are elderly residents finishing their days where people know their name in a town geared to their needs.
  • Local is everyone else in town. Many like this slogan. Many do not like it, but say nothing for reasons perhaps best left to speculation.

Local includes our workers and seniors.

MVAHC offers this slogan for use by anyone anytime it might come in handy to get the opposition to explain what is wrong with it. Further, another idea developed by the MVAHC is the American Town and their interest in making Mill Valley the first one, a town that proudly declares that its income distribution mirrors the American average while quietly savoring what this exclusivity means to their real estate values.

At the center of this story is the mega rich looking to settle where their kids can be in a real town mixing in a real mix in schools that can only be this exceptional when everyone is nurtured from top to bottom. Services aimed at the top do not go unnoticed by the rest, making all property values ever more bulletproof. Ironically, this most sweet success story can only be sustained by innovation and enlightened self interest making sure that it happens.

The next installment will be a “mapping feature story” about a spatial modeling able to optimize this change.

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