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Update on Community-Based Transportation Plan Passed by Council 2-11-14

On February 11, 2014, the Novato City Countil voted to support the Community-Based Transportation Plan (CBTP).  Participation in the CBTP results in our city accepting a county agency TAM (an outside consultant) and other stakeholder groups (like Marin Grassroots, an outside service provider) to determine appropriate transportation projects for "low income areas."  This post summarizes the issues and suggests what we can do proactively to engage with Council and staff.

Madeline Kellner and Eric Lucan supported the plan, Jeanne MacLeamy and Pat Eklund voted against and Denise Athas, the swing vote, voted in favor of giving the go-ahead to Transportation Authority of Marin to include Novato in their already advertised request for proposals (RFP). This RFP is to hire a consultant and possibly a community-based organization (a group like Novato Human Needs, Novato Youth Center or like the county group Marin Grassroots) to conduct a study of the transportation needs of the low income community of Novato, in short, to conduct a Community-Based Transportation Plan. Novato Community Alliance opposed the study for the reasons below, with updates.  Our objections were countered with an amendment to the staff's recommendation regarding the plan. That amendment stated that a Novato staff member shall be the project manager and take the lead in order to keep the plan within the control of the City of Novato. Whether this arrangement proves workable remains to be seen.  It looks like, no matter what the outcome of the study, that the data gathered in the process will be a matter of public record as is the data from the Marin City study and the Canal District study.

The first step is to monitor the Transportation Authority of Marin's (TAM's) choice of consultants and possibly their choice of a community-based organization. Check the TAM website for project updates.  The first news about which consultant(s) is awarded the CBTP contract is due around February 28.   The county organization mentioned by TAM, Marin Grassroots, tends occasionally towards over the top rhetoric. To read a particularly egregious example of this go to Marin housing advocates alarmed at 'lynch mob' bullies in the Marin IJ 7-23-13.  The deadline, February 13th, for submission of proposals was only two days after the City Council meeting which approved the project. 'Hastily considered' comes to mind.

1) A CBTP is net negative; it is not fiscally sustainable.

Novato still cannot afford to pay for these transportation projects even if a Lifeline funding grant materializes because of the 20% to 50% matching requirement, unless the need for funds is put before other projects which Michael Frank has prioritized in his Sustainability Plan. TAM has gone outside usual practice and is, in essence, setting this study as a priority for Novato. Pat Eklund made it very clear how abnormal the process was.

2) Novato could still become the 45th "Community of Concern" in the Bay Area.

If Novato accepts $75,000 of CBTP funds for a transportation study the resulting designation will have far-reaching effects well beyond the money or the improvements that such a study might lead to.  Linda Jackson says that Novato will not become a "Community of Concern" because Novato does not meet the requirements for such a community.  That raises the question of how we qualified for the study in the first place.

3) A CBTP is not inclusive and will fracture the community by targeting "low income" neighborhoods.

Novato citizens and council members spent the last three years creating a fair, equitable housing element, which has been approved for Novato's General Plan.  TAM does not consider their methods divisive and repeatedly stresses that housing quotas and transportation priority areas have nothing to do with this study.  TAM repeatedly ignored the Canal District and Marin City as comparisons and mentioned Healdsburg instead. Jeanne MacLeamy pointed out that a unified electorate is necessary if there is a ballot measure for raising the sales tax and/or other revenue measure.

4) Novato could have applied for Lifeline funds without a CBTP.

This can be done by asking the Council and staff to list needed transportation improvements appropriate for the Lifeline program and by setting up our own Transportation Working Group to solicit input from the community. TAM insisted that by their rules, towns which cooperated with the Community-Based Transportation Plan mechanism, had a better chance to get Lifeline funds.

5) Decision for the CBTP was a flawed process.

Aside from the one-week delay, there's been almost NO community input and NO time for City Council members to carefully study the CBTP or the issues it is certain to raise, but the project goes ahead.

6) Accepting TAM's terms means loss of local control.

The City of Novato would be obligated to cooperate with and to fulfill accountability requirements to consultants, the CBTP, and TAM. After this investment of staff time, the City's only option would be to accept or reject the questionable results of the CBTP study, but the study itself, already completed would be likely to remain in the public domain and available to 'appropriate boards and agencies'.  Whether our staff person is the lead or not, the options are the same.  The ability to say no to the recommendations in the study or at several points later on was referred to as "off-ramps".  Ms. Athas emphasized that there were many "off-ramps" which was meant to reassure everyone.

Stay tuned.
 

The video clip below is Interim President of NCA, Trish Boorstein, speaking out against the CBTP at the Novato City Council Meeting on February 11, 2014.

Trish Boorstein, Interim President of NCA

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This aerial photo shows the Petaluma Arts Center and Petaluma Visitors Center with reddish roofs at bottom photo. The property behind the buildings, bordered by Copeland, East Washington and D streets, is slated for development. The city is beginning to kick off planning for Petaluma’s two Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station stops, a much-anticipated process that will shape development in town for years to come.

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