Marin County is one of the bluest of blue counties in America. Lynn Woolsey, the ineffectual and unintelligent Marin representative to Congress garnered close to 80% of the votes in the last election, if I remember correctly. But its easy to be Blue if you’re talking environmentalism and war. How about being blue when it affects something very personal, such as your property values and neighborhood atmosphere. That’s when the red starts trickling out:
A group of residents in the pricey Marin County community of Strawberry are mobilizing against an affordable housing plan by the renowned charity Habitat for Humanity, saying it would blight their neighborhood.
The group is convinced that the plan to build four three-bedroom units of low-income housing in their neighborhood would result in increased traffic and parking congestion and lower property values.
About three dozen residents who live near the proposed construction site — 16.5 acres just west of the Tiburon city limits — are attempting to raise $100,000 for legal fees to challenge the project, which still must be approved by the county Planning Commission.
“Habitat for Humanity goes into blighted neighborhoods and fixes them up. Here they are going into an enhanced neighborhood and blighting it,” said Bill Duane, a 58-year-old resident of Bay Vista Drive, near the proposed site. “I’m not against low-cost housing, but this is social engineering. The county does not have the right to choose my neighbors.”
Such a ruckus is not unusual in Marin, where homeowners have been notoriously hostile to development, especially the kind that threatens to lower the value of their property. But the charity made famous by former President Jimmy Carter would seem an unconventional target.
I should add that I’m completely sympathetic to the residents’ complaints. Because of a court order (we love those social activist judges), low income housing is being built near my up-and-coming neighborhood. Mr. Bookworm explained to the kids that we needed this housing so poor people could have a place to live. He seemed unimpressed by the fact that there is all sorts of non-government sponsored low-income housing (we’re talking marketplace here) within 5 miles of our home. But noooo — thanks to some do-good activists and the courts, we face the very real risk that our neighborhood will see a degradation, not only in value, but in quality. Both matter.
Value matters because we paid a lot for our house, and it is our primary asset. To have some dubious social engineering destroy my nest egg is deplorable.
Quality matters too. I know from the myriad government housing experiments in San Francisco that government sponsored housing always degrades quickly and is a crime magnet. This proved true even when San Francisco tried what’s going on here in Marin — placing low income housing in the middle of affluent neighborhoods, on the theory that the poor people would live up to the neighborhood.
In San Francisco, in every case, the low income housing brought down the neighborhood. People do not take care of rental property the way they take care of owned property. People do not even take care of property they own if they haven’t sweated and slaved to earn it. In addition, the low income housing invariably brought in the drug trade. Even if the home owners/renters were decent, hard working people, the same could not be said for their children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc. These youngsters had attitude and it transcended anything the older generation tried to teach them.