October 21, 2003

PRNC Agenda, 10/29 Meeting

Ripped from the headlines, here is the agenda for the Wednesday, October 27 meeting of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council, and the draft minutes for the September PRNC meeting, to be reviewed and approved 10/27.

The Point Richmond Neighborhood Council meets every month at the Community Center.

Note: the November meeting is a week early--Wednesday, November 19--to accomodate the Thanksgiving vacation.

Posted by countblogula at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2003

Nicolas Armington, 41, Dies in Accident

Fred Arm reports the sudden death of Nicolas Armington, who was involved in Points goings-on and was an all-around good person.

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October 19, 2003

Review: Great American Hamburgers & Pie Co.

35 East Richmond, 94801, 510-233-2223
(Corner of Richmond and Tunnel, near the Cone of Confusion--the traffic mess triangled by the railroad, the Plunge, and traffic coming in from Cutting Blvd)

With its good food, friendly service, fountain sodas, opportunities for neighborhood schmoozing, and hot dogs so good they're almost a sacrament, Great American Hamburgers & Pie Co is a Point destination in its own right.

This unprepossessing restaurant, with the patched ceiling and dowdy exterior, has what former Point booster Tom McGowan called the second-best hamburger in the Point (the Mac has the best, for three times the price). It is hands-down the best burger for casual a la carte dining, particularly if you are lucky enough to be downing your lunch as a parade of old cars tootles through the tunnel, or a soccer game starts up across the street. The burger is hot, the bun toasted warm, the vegetables crisp and cold, the soda just plain syrupy-good--and everyone else in Great American is just as blissfully content as you are. Can there be a better way to dine?

Great American also offers what is the best hot dog I have experienced in over 30 states and four countries. This is no wimp of a weenie: they completely transform the prandial experience by quartering the dog, griddling it lightly, and layering it on a toasted hamburger bun under a generous pile of the same crunchy-fresh "works" used for their delectable burgers.

I've been told the pies and breakfasts are irresistable, which is why I'm not writing about them. I don't need a jones for hot cakes available less than ten minutes from my house (although those pies keep talking to me while I'm trying to focus on my hot dog, and I know one day I'll lose my mind and have three slices at once), and based on the lines, it's obvious the food is good if you drive past Great American during breakfast or lunch. But if you want to torture me, comment on the rest of the menu in the blog space below.

Bon appetit!

Posted by countblogula at 08:25 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

October 18, 2003

Zoning Changes: Let the Process Work

I watched the October 16 Planning Board meeting and was struck by two things.

First, it impressed me how the remote video cameras managed to hone in on the backsides of the speakers from the community. I thought back to July, when I spoke briefly to the Planning Board, and swore to myself at future meetings I'd wear only long, flowing dresses or long jackets over skirts.

Second, and far more on topic, from their comments and expressions, the Board itself was clearly not listening to anyone from either side of the issue. They had made up their minds, as was obvious hours after the meeting began when the Board quickly voted to forward its plan to the Planning Council.

Where's the Beef?

Who could possibly object to affordable housing? Not I, for one. In my profession, librarianship, the average starting salary is $30,000, although our work requires an increasingly costly master's degree for even the worst-paying jobs. Even in the Bay Area, where librarians' salaries are higher than average, owning a home is still a pipe dream for most of my peers, a problem we share with our colleagues in other public services, such as police, fire, and education.

Also, quite frankly, quite a bit of development in the Point has been on substandard plots. If you have enough money and the right connections, you can pretty much build what you want. Right now, throw a stone in any direction in the Point and you'll find a construction crew finishing a luxury home squeezed onto a substandard lot. Let's be fair: exceptions to local zoning laws should not be a privilege restricted to the rich and well-connected.

But I object to the plan forwarded by the Redevelopment Agency because it establishes a dangerous precedent for circumventing the approval and permitting process that is central to ensuring local residents can participate in decisions affecting their lives, and because I also don't see enough assurances that the substandard plots will be guaranteed for low-income housing.

The proposal recommends establishing a "Pattern Book" offering five standard housing patterns builders can choose from; this proposal would "eliminate further DRB [Design Review Board] action" since these building patterns had been preapproved. The availability of this "Pattern Book" is the main rationale for elimininating the checks and balances of the planning process. But in the hilly, narrow streets of the Point, the selection of a pitched roof or a flat roof, or the placement of a house's entrance, can have significant impact on the effect of housing construction. It is the community, and often only the community, that is in a position to point out how any one particular house impacts an entire neighborhood.

I'm also concerned that someone will eventually point out that if expedited approval processes are acceptable for low-income housing, these processes should be acceptable for any housing. It's obvious to most people who have presented concerns to the Planning Board that this agency can barely contain its boredom and impatience with community concerns and input, and that it considers the democratic process a significant inconvenience. This board does not need any more tools enabling the circumvention of the reasonable, and quite minimal, checks and balances of the planning process.

From the point of view of those backing the proposal, there may be a concern that rampant NIMBYism will prevent roadblocks to reasonable construction. To this I offer a compromise: have the planning and review process, but make it clear that the city will not be stonewalled in its efforts to create affordable housing on these substandard lots.

My second major concern is that I don't see any guarantees for ensuring that this housing is actually available to first-time low-income homebuyers. My fear is that the actual selling prices of these homes will place them out of the reach of the people we are presumably targeting.

Many of these plots are worth far more than the value of a small prefab house. It takes more than a very low down payment to place a home within purchasing range of a first-time home buyer (not that programs intended to reduce the "down" aren't important, particularly in places such as the Bay Area where housing costs are stratospheric). The total cost of the house has to be within reach of the family's ability to make monthly payments. For inner Richmond, a home on an undeveloped plot may indeed be within reach of its target purchasers. But in the Point, what will ensure that these homes are affordable to a family of 4 living on less than $80,000 (the Area Median Income)?

What is the answer? First, keep the process open. Democracy may be messy and time-consuming, but it works. Second, directly address the issue of housing costs. If we are developing substandard costs in the name of lower-income families, prove that this group will benefit.

The November 6 City Council meeting will be interesting and important. Wear something slimming, and get there early. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, your voice is important!

Posted by kgs at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

Fred Arm's New Blog

Fred Arm now has his own blog! Please visit Point of view:


His posts that were on this site can now be found there.

Welcome, Fred, to the blogging world!

Posted by countblogula at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Documents for October 16 Planning Meeting


Background Document

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October 11, 2003

Count Blogula's Take on the Substandard Zoning Issue

Fred's entitled to his point of view, but I'll go squarely on the record in support of a plan to provide affordable housing for the working low-income folks in the Bay Area. It's fair, it's right, it's just, and using urban planning to intentionally provide low-income housing is another way to both improve the revenue stream for the city through property taxes and ensure Point Richmond remains a lively, heterogeneous, growing community, rather than becoming another boring Bobo outpost.

My hesitation about the city's plan, which I have been reading, is that I'm not fully convinced the city is able or willing to provide adult supervision. I'm skeptical that the plan as written will ensure that these substandard lots are actually used to provide affordable housing.

We need to attend the October 16 meeting, and we also need to read the plan--which I'll scan and upload.

Posted by countblogula at 06:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2003

Not So Close, Arnold

One of Arnold's latest commercials:

"It's happening--you can feel it!"

Um, yeah... I hope that's not Arnold I'm feeling!

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October 03, 2003

"No on Recall" Posters to Download

Moveon.org has provided these excellent posters to share. Remember, VOTE on October 7 and say NO TO THE RECALL.


Posted by kgs at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

The Car Theft Incident

To clarify an earlier post... this event was reported 9/13 in the Contra Costa Times. I had heard about it, it just seemed unconnected to the report at the PRNC.

Posted by kgs at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack