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Con: Separate Zoning Board For Castro Valley Would Hurt Flatlands

San Lorenzo resident Keith Barros says Ashland and Cherryland and the rest of Eden Area need Castro Valley's civic clout to help lift up the entire unincorporated area.

 

(This letter was written by San Lorenzo resident and Eden Area activist Keith Barros and circulated via email. It is reprinted here with permission. Barros opposes part of a notion advanced by Castro Valley resident Michael Kusiak. He wants CV to have a separate Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). Barros offers no opinion here on the other part of Kusiak's idea, which calls for electing the Municipal Advisory Committee.)

The CV MAC obtaining it's own Board of Zoning Adjustments and/or Planning Commission powers is contrary to the purpose, mission, goals, and objectives stated in the pages of the Eden Area Livability Initiative

EALI cannot support this divisive proposal. It would make a sham of the EALI project, its documents and its authors. 

It would be disastrous to the flatlands and detrimental to Castro Valley as the problems in Ashland and Cherryland get worse, spread and spill over. 

None of us wants any of the Eden Area to be a place we are afraid to even drive through.

The formation of the Board of Zoning Adjustments to displace the singe-person Zoning Administrator was the one thing that united the entire Eden Area. 

And we would have never gotten the BZA if it had not been for San Lorenzo's "Tacogate" movement and the exposing of the Zoning Administrator/Code Enforcement Officer's rented and sub-let San Lorenzo county-owned house violating the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, which he was employed to enforce.

If the CV MAC gets BZA powers, we will probably get a Zoning Administrator back in place for us. That would be a painful injustice.

Here in the flatlands, we struggle to fill a couple of seats on the BZA. We need Castro Valley to help us lift the ENTIRE Eden Area to a higher quality of life. It's in their own best interest and it's their civic responsibility. The population and demographics in Castro Valley are able to provide more board-qualified citizens who are willing and able to sustain a Municipal Advisory Council.

Many people in the flatlands are struggling to just to make ends meet or find employment.  I wish it were possible to have a MAC that covered the entire Eden Area instead of just Castro Valley.  The non-CV members of this MAC could be brought up to speed very quickly following the lead of their CV counterparts.  

As the Blue Ribbon Steering Committee's priorities state, "We must determine a process for indentifying community members who are willing to sustain committed participation in civic involvement." 

I know our current system is far from perfect. But we've made headway:

  1. We displaced the Zoning Administrator with a Board of Zoning Adjustments.
  2. We increased the representation of majority of Eden Area in the county Planning Commission. 
  3. We created a public process and involvement in Board of Supervisor's recruitment of appointees to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Planning Commission. 
  4. We implemented the "Soft Remand" between the Board of Supervisors, Board of Zoning Adjustments, and Planning Commission, yielding more accountability, better decisions, and less cost.

What do you think about electing the MAC? (Have you read the Pro argument?)

Should Castro Valley have its own BZA?

Leave a comment or attend the meeting at the Castro Valley Library from 6-9 pm tonight where these issues will be aired.

Michael Kusiak April 30, 2013 at 05:18 PM
I really appreciate your perspective. You provide context, in particular about the replacement of the Zoning Administrator and outlining the progress that has been made since the West County BZA was established. I will disagree that this proposal is divisive or even against the goals and purpose of the EALI process. The unincorporated communities should not be preserved into the same category just because that's how they have been previously sorted by the County. This is not a slight to our neighbors. This is about self-determination for the clearly distinct community of Castro Valley.
Keith Barros April 30, 2013 at 07:27 PM
I was heavily involved in EALI Phase 1 when this battle had already been fought. Here are some EALI principles that are being contradicted: 1. "The goal of EALI is to develop an integrated strategic plan that formulates a UNIFIED vision for the Eden area that is CONSISTENT with the Livability Principles and Factors and expresses the interests and concerns of the community." 2. "To create , strengthen and sustain a livable community in the urban unincorporated areas of Alameda County." 3. "To encourage planning and action across disciplines and interest areas." 4. "To find a shared community vision." 5. "Social Networks & Trust is characterized by strong social ties among all people in the community - regardless of their role. These relationships are ideally built upon MUTUAL obligations, opportunities to EXCHANGE information, and the ability to enforce standards and sanctions." 6. "Racial Justice is characterized by policies and organizational practices in the community that foster equitable opportunity for all." 7. "Participation and Willingness to Act for the Common Good is characterized by local leadership, involvement in community or social organizations, participation in the political process, and a willingness to INTERVENE on behalf of the COMMON GOOD of the community." The integrity of Nate Miley's Eden Area Livibility Initiative, its authors and facilitators is on the line. More importantly, this is about the future of the entire Eden Area.
Michael Kusiak April 30, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I really don't think the integrity of the process is on the line if at the end of the day different parts of unincorporated Alameda County implement different solutions within their communities to address their local government needs. Respecting the uniqueness of a community and allowing stakeholders in that community to directly influence governance in that community is a basic democratic norm, a concept that can very much be part of a unified vision for the Eden area. San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, Castro Valley, and other parts of unincorporated Alameda County should work together to ensure that the County listens to us, returns revenue to support our communities, and deliver the local government services it is charged to provide us. I am open to creative ways of working in common with other parts of non-incorporated Alameda County. But, I don't think this process should presume that the unique communities of the Eden area should never implement community specific solutions to their local government needs.
Tom Abate (Editor) April 30, 2013 at 09:51 PM
I want to thank both of you for so much time and effort to write about these issues. Keith neatly separated out the issue of electing the MAC from creating a CV BZA. But here is the turd that I see in the punch bowl: the Eden Area communities, taken together, have about 140,000 people living in several identifiable communities, none of which seem to want to take upon themselves whatever tax burden or responsibility would be involved in city or town status. So how much local determination can there be? There is a good discussion from the 2008 process at this link: http://www.acgov.org/edenareavision/documents/votersguide.pdf If/when you get there type command-F to search for 140,000 to be taken right to a discussion apropos of these points being discussed here.
Michael Moore May 01, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Tom, I am still chuckling as I read your analysis of the differences between the two points of view. Without trying real hard, I think that you can see the following priorities right below the surface. 1. Castro Valley MAC and the efforts of Mr. Kusiak champion the oft defeated mantra of CV Incorporation. The CVA BZA is one more example for the Nate Miley faction that wants to see CV become a city. As a partisan opposed to incorporation, it does not take a genius to figure out that there is no base to support incorporation. There is no real business base, no industrial base, only real estate magnates and dilettantes. In short CV with Incorporation will become the slave to be sold to the first bidder with cash. Just look at Dublin. They bought and sold their Representative to all of us. 2. Keeping the Unincorporated communities: Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Cherryland and Ashland free from the tyranny of government is a good idea. Despite the obvious, that Nate Miley is bought and paid for as is Bob Swanson, his paid lackey, we who live in the UI are better off with County Representation than we are with Incorporation. All any of you naysayers out there need to ask yourself is this simple question. Am I better off with government or without it? How much do you want. In the UI we are better off without government.
Anne Krysiak May 01, 2013 at 01:37 AM
I view an elected MAC as a way for a politically-active faction in Castro Valley to have their cake (get themselves elected to public office) and eat it too (without paying higher taxes as an incorporated city). They know that Castro Valley citizens do not want incorporation and higher taxes. That means no political figureheads: no Mayor, no City Council. As Mike notes, many of the elected MAC proponents are also pro-incorporation. If they can't be elected Mayor or City Council members, they will settle for being elected to some other self-aggrandizing Council. Unfortunately, most of these people are also involved in and controlling the EALI process. As a resident of El Portal Ridge in Castro Valley, I am all too aware that economic downturns and decay in Ashland and Cherryland only draw crime and social problems up the hill into my neighborhood. I would prefer to see the tax money I pay to Alameda County used to improve business and infrastructure in the ENTIRE unincorporated area rather pay for "distinct communities" to build their own fiefdoms at the expense of the citizens in other areas.
Michael Kusiak May 01, 2013 at 06:27 AM
The law establishing MACs allows for them to be elected: http://law.onecle.com/california/government/31010.html The law mentions "elections" before "appointment". There are quite a few communities in California, with populations much smaller than CV's with an elected MAC. And what motivates me to advocate for an elected MAC is not as self-interested as you would suggest. I am not looking to be elected to anything. I just want to see more participation in CV community affairs, and I believe an elected MAC will not only compel more participation, but would also compel the MAC to be held accountable to the citizens of CV, not the supervisor who appointed them.
Keith Barros May 02, 2013 at 07:56 AM
The integrity of the process is lost if the process (EALI) facilitates an action that is in direct opposition to its own stated principles, goals, and mission statement as I listed above. It would be violating its own constitution. I am not opposed to "different communities implementing different solutions within their communities to address their local government needs." I respect the right of freedom for everyone unless it infringes upon the freedom of others. I am happy that there is such a thing as a Castro Valley MAC. I think it can indirectly help the entire unincorporated Eden Area. I do not oppose the idea of the CV MAC being chosen by the residents of Castro Valley. Taking the power from one individual and spreading it among the residents is the same principle we used to displace the Zoning Administrator with the BZA. What I do oppose is any divisive action that drives a wedge anywhere in the unincorporated Eden Area. Dividing us from eachother (even in small break-out groups) weakens every resident's power and influence in government. Communication between ALL parties concerned leads to identifying the REAL problems and finding a consensus. When the majority is wronged, it's usually for someone's personal gain of money, power or both. An all-inclusive MAC working together would have kept a lot of things from being sneaked by any of us or shoved down any of our throats, AND it follows the EALI principles. We would have eachother's backs.

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