A smooth, new academic generation of developer flak is upon us
Only with a university would Joeville be viable. I’d put mine in the city center, not on the outskirts as was done, mistakenly, with the new UC campus in Merced. I’d also put my university in charge of the local school district—creating a teachers college in the process. Mathews, Zocalo, June 11, 2018
While we happen to agree with the sentiment expressed above and were in favor of the UC Fresno, located in downtown Fresno or even one occupying the Fresno State campus and replacing it as was done in Santa Barbara, this is the limit of our agreement with this shill for the Irvine Foundation. The foundation seems to be producing very sophisticated flak for the California development special interests (finance, insurance and real estate) and Mathews "ironic" twist on the scofflaw visions of developers is just the latest iteration of the same-old, same-old tune. Don't we have a developer in the White House proving every day his hatred and ignorance of government and law?
Regarding Mathews' puny suggestions about how to create citizens (assuming a blank slate in the minds of adult Americans), we have added an article of our own below Mathews' piece that treats the problem of citizenship seriously rather than regarding it as a merit badge earned in a weekend workshop designed and performed by developer propagandists.
Earning a corporate salary to teach contempt for California environmental and public-meeting law seems to us to be a contemptible way to make a living. -- blj
Zocalo Public Square
Welcome to 'Joeville,' Where the First Rule Is Not to Play by the Rules
By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/06/11/plan-building-perfect-calif...
Recently a startup founder in San Jose asked me a question: What would you do if you were starting a California city?
My first answer: Get my head examined.
For 40 years, the state government and California voters have steadily reduced the revenues and limited the discretion of municipal governments; anyone who starts a new city in such conditions is insane by definition. Our newest cities—like Jurupa Valley and Menifee in Riverside County—have struggled to survive.
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Then I reconsidered. No, I don’t believe in the advanced dream cities that technologists at Google parent Alphabet or startup accelerator Y Combinator want to conjure. But maybe you could form a workable California city—by exploiting California’s present-day realities, rather than bowing to them.
I certainly know how I wouldn’t start a new city: by electing a city government, building expensive housing, or hiring the police and firefighters whose salaries and retiree benefits swallow municipal budgets whole.
Instead, I’d start my California city—let’s call it Joeville—by bringing on board the most important person in any California city: the developer.
Spit out your coffee if you must, but cities thrive or wither by the quality of their developers. California laws on politics, open meetings, and open records so greatly restrict the power of our public officials that they often can’t talk freely and legally to each other. As a result, developers don’t just create projects—the good ones become the hubs of communication, the head coach through which all the players in a city talk and plan.
What would my developer develop first? Certainly not streets, houses, or businesses. Those can come later. If you want a great California city, you should start with a big research university.
It’s no accident that California’s most successful post-war city—Irvine—got a University of California campus in 1965, six years before the city incorporated in 1971. Or that Stanford started in 1891, three years before Palo Alto incorporated in 1894. Universities also can transform small and sleepy towns. Look at La Jolla: Once a retirement village for Navy people, it became an international center for research and technology after it got a UC campus.
Universities perform many roles in building community: They are economic engines, provide a look for the city, and attract talented people from around the world. The good ones work to address social challenges, too. And California needs more of them, given our shortage of college graduates.
If you doubt their impact on cities, consider San Bernardino and Riverside, as James and Deborah Fallows do in their terrific new book, Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America. “Riverside and San Bernardino were similar-sized cities with similar economic prospects at the end of World War II,” they write, but now Riverside is 50 percent bigger. “Their prospects began diverging in the 1960s—Riverside’s up, San Bernardino’s down—when Riverside was chosen as the site of a new University of California campus and San Bernardino was not.”
Only with a university would Joeville be viable. I’d put mine in the city center, not on the outskirts as was done, mistakenly, with the new UC campus in Merced. I’d also put my university in charge of the local school district—creating a teachers college in the process.
With the schools in place, the developer could turn to developing a tax base. Under California’s misbegotten tax system, the best-off cities often are those that collect the most sales taxes. That’s why retail-poor San Jose, despite having so many rich homeowners, has a weak city government, while the city of Cerritos, with its auto mall, is rich.
My city would be designed around two highly attractive retailers that produce huge sales and taxes: Costco and an Apple store. I’d attach the Apple store to a luxury hotel so that I could tax its rooms, too. And since those retailers pay well, many of their employees could become, along with the university students, my city’s first residents.
You probably think that, at this point, we’d establish a city government to set up services. Think again. Local officials in California are so weak as to be useless. Better to have citizens take the lead.
California’s preeminent expert on local participation, Pete Peterson, dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, offered a number of suggestions for Joeville. First, it should be a charter city with its own mission statement, drafted by citizens, that answers the questions: What are we for? Why are we doing this? These ideas would help the town form its own distinct identity. Joeville could have its own local holiday—Founding Day—in the town’s public square, called the zócalo (which happens to be the name of the media nonprofit where I work), at which the mission statement would be read.
Peterson suggests that since the citizens would be leading the governance of their city, residents should attend a multi-day “Citizens Academy” where they would learn the basics of municipal government, including budgeting. Then citizens would be asked to serve on government commissions and local nonprofits.
Peterson says that Joeville could increase citizen engagement through its design. To encourage neighbors to get to know each other, city code might require porches to be built on the fronts of houses, with no attached garages.
Once Joeville’s citizens are engaged, we’d be free to set up whatever municipal departments are required. Joeville wouldn’t be afraid to contract out services, especially police and fire, given the expense, so as to have more money for libraries, parks, and civic forums. In this, Joeville would be typical: Fewer than one-quarter of California cities are responsible for all of their own municipal services.
Now, by this point, you’re thinking that Joeville is fantasy. Wouldn’t Joeville be stopped in its tracks by California’s regulation and litigation? Yes, which is why we’d lobby state legislators to have the entire city declared to be a stadium—not for sports, but of civic experimentation. The state, you see, routinely gives environmental and regulatory exemptions to stadiums, if little else.
Of course, Joeville still needs to find financing. In the meantime, California’s nearly 500 cities, struggling with state restrictions on funding and governance, might adopt Joeville’s civic motto: “You’ll Never Win If You Play By California’s Rules.”
Reply to a local planning official
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
From: Lydia Miller, President San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Merced CA
Steve Burke Protect Our Water, Modesto CA
To: Merced County Board of Supervisors Merced CA December 21, 2004 (via fax and email)
Re: December 21, 2004 Board agenda item: 10:30 a.m. Planning - 2004 Cycle III General Plan Amendment; University Community Plan.
The following is submitted for the record regarding the Board’s consideration of the University Community Plan.
An article titled “Reply to the Chancellor on UCP” was recently posted on the Badlands website (http://badlandsjournal.com). A local planner responded with the question: What do you think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced?
It is a serious question, we appreciate it, and will try to articulate what we think about Merced County/UC Merced planning. The first word that caught our attention in the planners question was the word, we. Who, we wondered was the planner intending to include in the word, “we”?
Participants in the sordid political deal in which Merced got the UC in return for Condit delivering the Valley for Davis in 1998, ripping the campus from the talons of Fresno where they had committed to locate at least a medical school as early as 1965, and had land already donated in Kearney Park?
Participants in the whole cover up, inconsistency, tendentious obfuscation, regulatory-agency avoidance in the process to streamline UCM permitting run out of the governor’s and congressman’s office?
Participants in the process of gagging the press, buying the press, and intimidating reporters so that no critical questions would appear in the media about the UC project?
Participants in the UCM propaganda machine, which featured huge, UC-produced, publicly paid-for PR supplements in the local paper?
Local paper regurgitation of UCM press releases as objective journalism? Tiny tots in UCM T-shirts lining state Capitol corridors?
Greenlining Institute, proclaiming all Hispanic students would, should, and could go to UC if only they could stay in their family homes here in the Valley?
Promoters of a campaign to name a mascot that gave the prize to a species that does not appear in Nature?
Great Valley Center’s smart-growth propaganda, emanating from that tower of planning rectitude, Modesto?
Dot-driven public focus groups confronting lists of projects that contained all pre-cooked possibilities but no project?
The Nature Conservancy?
Producers of meaningless planning documents like the CAA, CPAC, CAPS, various MCAG plans, Merced Water Supply Plan, NCCP/HCP, storm drain master plan?
Grant hustlers using the East Merced Resource Conservation District to legitimize bogus plans and be a conduit for mis-spending public funds?
Authors of numerous General Plan amendments that have rendered a weak document utterly unintelligible as a planning tool?
The red and green teams?
The black-and-blue team?
Scientists scouring the pastures for endangered species who also found a dead baby Black Bear?
Participants in the political process of suppressing ground-truthed science about the biological inventories on UCM land?
The political geniuses behind adopting a blanket Agricultural Preserve over most of the county to mitigate for UC, the most significant restriction of private-property rights in the history of the county?
Right-wing propagandists who whipped up a mob of land owners against the much less intrusive Critical Habitat Designation?
Every scofflaw in the county Planning Department?
Members of a county bureaucracy that systematically obstructs public access to public documents?
Aggregate-company and developer lawyers who write planning documents and General Plan amendments?
Private and publicly funded indemnifiers against lawsuits opposing local land-use decisions? Politically directed judges?
Contemptuous EIR-writing, finger-flipping, harassing consultants?
Packard Foundation money launderers?
Venal, punitive local political staffers, hit squads for congressmen, state legislators and the special interests who pay them?
Land-boom speculators in elective and appointed public offices?
Elected officials that constantly, publicly harass members of the public who object to what only the county calls a planning process?
Returning to the question: “What do you think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced?”, the next word that perhaps requires more definition is the word “plan” itself.
Now, what could the planner have meant by this pregnant term?
A hopelessly out-of-date General Plan created in 1992 as the result of a lawsuit brought by the public against a county that could not provide the court with evidence that there was a Merced County General Plan; a General Plan the state Attorney General directed the county to update at least every decade; a General Plan that was never followed anyway, but has now been rendered absurd by the superimposition of huge development amendments over a plan that valued the county’s agricultural and natural resources?
The donation of a large tract of land to UC by a land trust too hapless to run a golf course during the height of popularity of that sport, manipulated by a local water lawyer, (his partner under indictment for defrauding Waterford), and a county planning department unwilling to enforce environmental law on its wetlands takes?
The wholesale use of programmatic UC EIRs to secure mandates for “plans to make plans” that avoid any concrete analysis of inevitable negative impacts to natural resources, public health and safety that set a new, low, irresponsible planning standard for Merced County?
Lawyer-guided, side-stepping of inconvenient permits, and building without them?
The policy of UC to continually whine that UCM is the first campus it has attempted to build since serious environmental protection laws were passed, therefore it can’t really be held accountable to laws of the land? The splitting of land-use authority in two pieces: the county and UC?
The splitting of local planning offices in two: the county Planning Department and the UC Development Planning Office? Wholesale confusion and lack of coordination between the two offices and between one or the other or both of them with the City of Merced?
The complete lack of an adequate, comprehensive water plan for eastern Merced County?
The disturbing eagerness and insanity of UC and its speculating boosters, landowners, and surrounding developers to double and triple the size of the Merced population in what has become the worst air-pollution basin in the nation?
The willingness of the City of Merced to break its own ordinance to supply water and sewer services to UCM, once UC promised to indemnify it from legal challenges to its decision?
A resource-easement program designed to fail?
The wholesale, unrelenting stream of planning propaganda in place of accurate information, leaving the public in as much dark as could be decently managed at every step in the process? (For just one example, the completely bogus presentation of the Williamson Act as mitigation for UC and its induced development.)
Leading the public into unpleasant speculations about future suburbs that could be named Smithville, Kelseyville, Crookhamton, Cardoza/Coelho Azorean Estates, Cuidad Cortez-Keene, Lynch-Adam-dAdamoville, Tatum Corners, Wellman Retirement Community, Lyons Industrial Park?
Every project in the county driven by the heretofore not really, fully, completely permitted location of UCM?
Rumblings of bribery and corruption in the county Planning Department?
In conclusion, what do we think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced? Well, Mr. Planner, the only answer we can give is: what’s happening at the moment. Merced’s agricultural and natural resources are being auctioned off to the highest bidders because of what you and your fellow planners did, while subjecting the public to an endless barrage of bureaucratic procedures and documents claiming you would not do exactly what you have done, are doing and will continue to do until your actions become so transparently corrupted that even the local judiciary will be unable to blind itself to them.
Cc: Interested parties
What if all the lies had not been told?
What if the Great Valley Center and the University of California had not advocated the faith that “growth was inevitable,” and simply respected the environmental laws and regulations on the books?
What if Great Valley Center had said that the growth projections of their developer sponsors and contributors and the California Department of Finance were unacceptable?
What if the Pomboza (representatives Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced/Maryland) had not tried three times to gut crucial provisions in the Endangered Species Act to allow even more construction of half-built subdivisions losing homeowners by the day?
What if there had been any concern in local governments for environmental law and regulation beyond how to avoid both?
What if there had been more than a tiny handful of people willing to resist publicly the wholesale destruction of environmental law and regulation in Merced County during the speculative real estate boom that has now, catastrophically, busted?
What if development had actually paid for itself?
What if local McClatchy outlets, the Merced one led by a squalid speculator in a half-million-dollar house, had written accurate journalism instead of being the chief pimp for finance, insurance, real estate, University of California. Riverside Motorsports Park and the WalMart distribution center?
What if Valley judges had ruled to uphold environmental law and the laws of public process in cases involving the permitting of developments that not only ruined the environment but, if not the entire global finance economy, at least the economy of these Main-turning-Mean streets?
What if people opposed to their own environmental destruction had been able to withstand the public hazing dished out by rightwing politicians on the dias and in the audience that they were “socialists” and “anti-growth nuts,” “tree-huggers,” “fairy shrimp lovers,” etc.?
What if more people in Merced had regarded the economy as something other than a casino and politics as more than a high school popularity contest?
What if agricultural special interests, who benefit constantly from the help of eco-justice advocates, had not demonized them completely behind their backs, as if farm and ranchland ownership were a license to lie, cheat and steal? What if agriculture could escape its schizophrenic state – are we farmers or are we owners of parcels for development? What if local, state and federal government did not perpetually subsidize our yeomen stewards of attractive real estate parcels for future development?
What if our esteemed local business and political leaders had conceived of economic growth as something – anything – other than housing construction? What if they had realized that housing is about the most wasteful economic growth investment possible? What if they began to cope with the contradiction between their “free-market” ideology and their abject begging of government for grants and loans, bailouts and subsidies for the stupidities of the Merced Main Street?
What if the term “jobs-housing balance” had ever been taken seriously?
What if, as Mayor Ellie Wooten recently said, 80 percent of the entire Merced housing market actually was speculative?
What if local government had actually retained any meaningful control of growth after the arrival of UC Merced?
What if landowners, developers, financial and insurance institutions and local, state and federal politicians had not conspired o destroy the environment and economy of Merced, in some instances including their own institutions?
What if any elected or appointed official among Merced County’s land-use boards and councils had ever taken their responsibilities as anything other than to enrich themselves and their cronies?
What if planning and administrative staff had planned rather than accommodated growth that is both environmentally and economically ruinous?
What if any of these complacent, overpaid, incompetent officials had ever had a clue about the relationship between the environment and the economy, between protection of natural resources and the greedy, speculative boom, or the difference between housing growth and economic growth? What if they had ever had any sense of the balance of things, rather than becoming experts in coercion of the public and corruption of the laws?
Joe Mathews is Connecting California columnist and California editor at Zócalo Public Square.
A fourth-generation Californian, Joe studies his home state and its politics, media, labor, and real estate. He is co-author, with Mark Paul, of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California Press, 2010). His previous book was The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy (PublicAffairs, 2006), an account of Governor Schwarzenegger’s first term and his use of ballot measures as governing tools.
Joe also serves as a fellow at ASU's Center for Social Cohesion and as a professor of practice in ASU's School of Public Affairs, where he has launched an online course and global academy on direct democracy. His work appears in The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The American Prospect, POLITICO, The Scientific American, Los Angeles Magazine, and Fox & Hounds Daily.
Before joining New America, he was a reporter for eight years at The Los Angeles Times, where he covered state and presidential politics, education, labor, and the city of Compton. Previously, he covered the Justice Department for The Wall Street Journal. He began his career in 1994 as a reporter on the city desk of The Baltimore Sun, where he wrote about urban issues and the environment. His coverage of a down-on-its-luck neighborhood of former slaughterhouses earned him the incomparable title, “Bard of Pigtown.”
As a Los Angeles-based fellow, Mr. Mathews examines California’s governing system and issues of voting and political engagement. He also serves as co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy — which brings together academics, journalists, activists and other experts on initiative and referenda.
About James Irvine
James Irvine was a pioneer of California agriculture who built his family’s Southern California ranch into one of the state’s earliest, most productive large-scale agricultural enterprises.
After inheriting the vast ranch in 1886, Mr. Irvine brought most of its 110,000 acres under cultivation, introducing myriad crops, including grains, vegetables, and citrus. He had a keen business sense, and many credited his success to his practice of heavily reinvesting his ranch’s earnings back into his enterprise. Later, it would be this same belief in reinvestment that would spur his interest in philanthropy.
History of Irvine
Mr. Irvine decided to establish a foundation that would promote the general well-being of the citizens and residents of the state of California.
· Establishing the Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation was created in 1937 as the primary stockholder of The Irvine Company, which in turn held Mr. Irvine’s most valuable asset: his 110,000 acres of prime ranch and agricultural land — almost a third of present-day Orange County.
The new Foundation made its first grant in 1938 for $1,000. By the time of James Irvine’s death in 1947, the Foundation had distributed $30,950, primarily to educational, cultural, health care, and community-service organizations. After his death, the Foundation began receiving the full proceeds from Mr. Irvine’s stockholdings, which greatly increased its grantmaking.
From Agriculture to Real Estate
The growth of Southern California during the 1940s and 1950s changed the nature of Mr. Irvine’s investments — and increased their value. New residents poured into the state, moving into sprawling cities built upon prime agricultural land. The Irvine Company, located in one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, increasingly felt pressure to open its holdings to real estate development.
In contrast to the unplanned sprawl nearby, The Irvine Company’s more deliberate approach to community planning ensured a wide range of uses, including higher education and agriculture. (The company provided the initial land for the University of California, Irvine campus.) Just as the ranch had become known for adopting new agricultural techniques, the real estate company became known for its large-scale planned communities.
In 1977, the Irvine Foundation was forced to sell its share in the company to comply with new federal legislation. When James Irvine died in 1947, his bequest to the Foundation was valued at $5.6 million. Thirty years later, when the Foundation sold its share of The Irvine Company, its value had grown to $184 million. Today, the Foundation’s assets are fully diversified and stand at about $2 billion.
Nurturing a New Generation Of Public Intellectuals
New America Foundation"
Four years ago, New America and The James Irvine Foundation saw an opportunity to bring a similar kind of new thinking to Californias policy discussions. Here in the nation's largest laboratory of democracy — with the world's eighth largest economy, an increasingly diverse population and the birthplace of world-changing technology and entrepreneurship — choices on major policy issues are often constrained by polarized discussions and pressures from the usual players in state policymaking.
Today, the Irvine Fellows Program) by Douglas McGray.) author of the recent bestseller Oil on the Brain, a lively and thoughtful look at how oil moves from the well-head to your gas tank, felt a similar transformation as she immersed herself in New America Foundation's solutions-oriented culture. "Getting the fellowship really changed how I went about thinking about the oil supply chain. At first I was mainly observing and diagnosing the problems with it," she said. "But after getting the Irvine Fellowship, I started looking at how to offer constructive ways of viewing these problems, and how to potentially move beyond them."
Once the book came out, to great acclaim, she worked with New America to organize a policy event in Sacramento, something that never would have occurred to her as a freelance journalist. "For the first time, California discussed setting up a market-based system to encourage energy efficiency and we had a lot of key policymakers in the room and listening in on the Webcast," she said. "It was great to be in a position to pull these groups together and start a dialogue."
Among the Fellows Program's senior members is Rick Wartzman,) an award-winning former reporter, editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times who now directs the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. As a Senior Fellow, he writes about the state's business climate, income inequality and regional development. New arrivals, like journalists T.A. Frankand [Joe Mathews, sociologist Toms Jimnez, and education researcher Camille Esch in a competitive process much like faculty members at a university, with an eye both to their emerging talent and to how their areas of interest complement the work of existing fellows and the key challenges facing the state.
"With the James Irvine Foundation's support, New America got off to a fast start in California," says Gregory Rodriguez, the popular Los Angeles Times columnist, author of the new book Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, and longtime New America Fellow, who assumed leadership of the Irvine Fellows Program last year. "Our Fellows have sweeping new projects in the works. And we've added some emerging stars to the mix. We're proud of the last three years, but New America's best work here is still to come."