Marin IJ Readers Forum August 13, 2022

Sue State Legislature on Housing Mandate

On August 1, I pointed out to the San Rafael City Council that the state legislature was approving housing bills that violated the California constitution and that the city should sue the legislature to regain local control. This letter is provided to clarify my comments.

The California Constitution (Section 5, Article XI) states: “The regulation and control of the design and improvement of subdivisions shall be vested in the legislative bodies of local agencies. Each local agency shall, by ordinance, regulate and control the initial design and improvement of developments of common interest.

The Legislature circumvents Citizen Protection by referring to Section 4 of Senate Bill 9, which reads, “The Legislature finds and declares that ensuring access to affordable housing is a matter of interest to the entire state and not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI.

However, lawmakers are using their repeated “housing crisis” refrain without providing solid evidence. Their reference to a shortage of 3.5 million housing units was proven wrong by an auditor. Their regional housing quota allocation is currently under review by the state auditor.

The state legislature should not have the power to rewrite the Constitution to suit their wishes and those of their backers. Instead, they should restore funding for subsidized social housing, much like the old redevelopment agencies.

Our cities and counties should unite and sue the state legislature to return the Constitution to its original form and return local control to our city and county governments.

For more information on the lawsuits against the Legislative Assembly, visit the Catalysts for Local Control website at and sign up to watch the town hall series on housing and litigation .

— Ray Lorber, San Rafael

Understanding homelessness throughout history

In her recently published letter to the editor, Michelle Hope Martinez raises a recurring issue regarding references to people living on the streets in urban areas and in a variety of temporary shelters outdoors (“Use homelessness phrases with care in discussions”, August 4).

It covers both the evolution of lifestyles in Europe from the 15th to the 19th century and colonialism. It smacks a bit of missionary work to believe that anyone who is not in some type of shelter that you deem necessary is “homeless”. European ideas about hunter-gatherers and most nomadic peoples of the 18th and 19th centuries were considered “homeless”.

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, people who lived in tents, lean-tos, or windbreaks in the United States and Europe were called vagrants or vagabonds, although vagrancy was made illegal in most countries. European countries much earlier. Anthropologist Michel Foucault notes that this was a way to enforce uniform control of the landscape.

In five decades of studying housing issues in the Bay Area and several international locations, I can say that some people who are considered “homeless” prefer a life on the streets. Certainly, many of these people have drug and alcohol problems. They suffer from mental illness. However, the same is true for a significant percentage of people accommodated.

Homelessness, in the modern use of the idea, is a fact of economic conditions, inequality and personal choice. This is not an isolated story. It is repeated throughout the Bay Area, in our country and around the world, as documented by Robert Neuwirth in his book “Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World”.

We can solve the problem by promoting family planning, building single-room housing and increasing funding for education.

—Niccolo Caldararo, Fairfax

MMWD director failed to resolve board issues

To read Marin Voice recently published by Larry Bragman (“MMWD director details response to county’s water supply crisis”, August 6), one would think that the Municipal District Board of the eau de Marin is doing an outstanding job of addressing our water crisis. Bragman’s comment tells a one-sided story.

There are 16 findings from the recent Marin Civil Grand Jury report on MMWD. All criticize the utility for its lack of judgment and mismanagement of our most precious resource. For quick access, please go to page 21 of the report posted on the county’s website. I think it’s fair to say that the jury gave a failing report card.

The directors put us in an almost impossible position. We have less than two years of supply. We need at least four years. Why did this happen? Clearly, the council decided that historic rainfall records were an excellent predictor of the future. The Grand Jury reports say so. Unfortunately, the directors did not take climate change into account. So for years they never tried to increase our supply.

The Grand Jury Report does an excellent job of detailing the history and failures of the board to do anything. The report concludes that this was a lack of judgment and mismanagement on the part of the MMWD. Bragman has nothing to brag about.

The first thing is to change the board. Bragman represents District 3, primarily the Ross Valley. He is up for re-election and should not be supported. He doesn’t deserve to keep making the same mistakes for another four years. We should elect Ranjiv Khush, a water scientist, to have new thinking and new energy.

We need to pressure the MMWD Board to follow the seven recommendations listed by the Grand Jury. Finally, tell your neighbors about our water crisis and encourage them to vote.

—Steve Isaacs, Greenbrae

Vote no on the Prop. 27 for online gambling

A coalition of online sports betting companies, along with Las Vegas casinos, are funding Proposition 27 for the November election. This would allow Californians to place bets through their computers and mobile apps.

Gambling companies hoping to offer online sports betting would each have to pay a $100 million fee. Proponents claim that these expensive licensing fees will primarily be used to address homelessness and gambling addiction issues. I believe this is totally hypocritical.

The game is notoriously addictive. Allowing every cell phone, laptop, tablet, and even video game console to be a gaming device will obviously lead to far more financial ruin and homelessness for some. Gambling issues will be exacerbated.

TV commercials are enticing, but I urge everyone to vote no.

—Larry Lack, Novato

Disappointed by some in the Mill Valley community

I have lived in Mill Valley for 36 years. I’ve heard people call my hometown “Me Valley”. Today I understand why.

My wife and I had lunch at a local restaurant sitting outside. A family sitting next to us had two quiet dogs with them. Suddenly a woman with a dog appeared. She stood so close to me that it was difficult to eat. Then all the dogs started barking loudly. We had lunch cramped and unable to chat. Those involved were unconscious.

Later that same day, my wife and I walked around the corner to the community center. On Friday nights there is free live music and food for purchase. I went to buy a beer and a glass of wine. There were two lines. A man stood between the two lines. I decided to pick a line and stood on the left lateral line. The guy in front of me left his position to stand in front of me. I moved to the other line only to be blocked once again.

After taking my wine and beer, I returned to the table. What happened next is remarkable. A woman approached the table and without a word placed a used mug right next to our beer and wine. My wife and I were puzzled. I decided to ask the woman why she left trash on our table. His response surprised us: “I didn’t see a trash can. There were garbage cans within 10 meters.

I like to think the events of the day were an aberration. Unfortunately, they are not. I would like to challenge our community to change its culture. Open your eyes – be aware of what is happening. Your needs don’t always come first.

—Norman Shore, Mill Valley

Melvin B. Baillie