dannyman.toldme.com


Politics, Technology

Notes from May, 2019

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2019/06/07/notes-2019-05/

Warren is bursting with what we might call “charisma” in male candidates: She has the folksy demeanor of Joe Biden, the ferocious conviction of Bernie Sanders, the deep intelligence of fellow law professor Barack Obama. But Warren is not a man, and so those traits are framed as liabilities, rather than strengths.

It’s significant that the “I hate you; please respond” line of political sabotage only ever seems to be aimed at women. It’s also revealing that, when all these men talked about how Warren could win them over, their “campaign” advice sounded suspiciously close to makeover tips. In his article, Payne advised Warren to “lose the granny glasses,” “soften the hair,” and employ a professional voice coach to “deepen her voice, which grates on some.”

Warren really is an intellectual, a scholar; moreover, she really is running an exceptionally ideas-focused campaign, regularly turning out detailed and exhaustive policy proposals at a point when most of the other candidates don’t even have policy sections on their websites. What’s galling is the suggestion that this is a bad thing.

The “schoolmarm” stereotype now applied to Warren has always been used to demean educated women. In the Victorian era, we called them “bluestockings” — unmarried, unattractive women who had dared to prioritize intellectual development over finding a man. Educators say that 21st-century girls are still afraid to talk in class because of “sexist bullying” which sends the message that smart girls are unfeminine. Female academics still report being made to feel “unsexual, unattractive, unwomanly, and unnatural.” We can deplore all this as antiquated thinking, but even now, grown men are still demanding that Warren ditch her glasses or “soften” her hair — to work on being prettier so as to make her intelligence less threatening.

Warren is accused, in plain language, of being uppity — a woman who has the bad grace to be smarter than the men around her, without downplaying it to assuage their egos. But running in a presidential race is all about proving that you are smarter than the other guy. By demanding that Warren disguise her exceptional talents, we are asking her to lose. Thankfully, she’s not listening. She is a smart woman, after all.

Sady Doyle, “The Media Gaslighting of 2020’s Most Likable Candidate

On average, cars left 10 inches (29 cm) less room when cyclists were using painted cycle lanes, 12 inches (30cm) less room when there were rows of parked cars along the curbs, and 15.7 inches (40cm) less room when a road had both parked cars along the curb, then a painted cycle lane. (In other words, cars left cyclists the most room on stretches of road with no painted cycle lanes and no parked cars.)

“We know that vehicles driving closely to cyclists increases how unsafe people feel when riding bikes and acts as a strong barrier to increasing cycling participation. Our results demonstrate that a single stripe of white paint does not provide a safe space for people who ride bikes,” said Dr. Ben Beck, lead author of the study.

Jonathan M Gitlin, “Bike Lanes need Physical Protection from Cars”

Over time, my husband and I started to suspect that Sam’s musings on doxxing and other dark arts might not be theoretical. One weekend morning as we were folding laundry in our room, Sam sat on the edge of our bed and instructed us on how to behave if the FBI ever appeared at our door.

Anonymous, “What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right”

Mr. Smart Phone sized me up — an elderly, decently-tailored gentleman with a walking cane — and thought I would immediately be on his side. He walked towards me and started to complain about how the gray-haired man and his hippie van were parked overnight on the street.

“Okay,” I said, “but why are you surveilling him?” It was a loaded question for Mr. Smart Phone. He knew “surveillance” was still not totally cool in San Francisco. As he was continuing towards me, his jaw hardened and his eyes grew cold. He said nothing. So I asked him another question, even though I knew it would be even more provocative. Like I said — I’m an idiot. We live in times when even the most everyday altercations can turn deadly. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

“I’m curious — I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a long time and I don’t recognize you,” I said. “How long have YOU lived here?” Since he was applying residency standards to the man in the hippie van, I thought it was a legitimate question. But Mr. Smart Phone didn’t. “Fuck you!” he exploded, just a few feet from my face. Here I was trying to calm things down and they were quickly spiraling out of control.

Just then a neighbor whom I’ll call Maria, whose fluffy little dog often plays with Brando, came to the rescue. “Why are you bothering people with your phone?” she bravely asked the menacing man. “We don’t like that sort of thing in our neighborhood.” And with that show of neighborhood solidarity — that clear expression that Mr. Smart Phone was violating our more tolerant community standards — he sheepishly backed down and walked away.

The hippie van-owner then hurried over to Maria and me and thanked us profusely for our intervention. “This gives me hope about our city,” he said. “You can’t treat people the way this dude was treating me — like I don’t belong here — like I don’t have a right to exist. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 35 years. I was a social worker, but I lost my home. I’m only going to park here for a couple more days, then I’m leaving the city.”

David Talbot, “A hippie van and an annoying smart-phone dude”

The spate of milkshake attacks in the United Kingdom follow on from the story of Australia’s “Egg Boy,” a swoopy-haired teenager who cracked an egg on the back of far-right lawmaker Fraser Anning’s head at a news conference in March. Following the attack, Egg Boy was punched in the face by the senator, as security officials scrambled to control the situation.

Last month, political eggings continued in Australia. Prime Minister Scoo Morrison was hit on the head with an egg – although on this occasion it failed to crack.

In Britain, it is believed that milkshakes have become the preferred weapon of choice as attackers sipping shakes appear far more inconspicuous than bystanders clutching eggs.

Jennifer Hassan, “What is ‘milkshaking?’ Ask the Brits hurling drinks at right-wing candidates”

The trackball was invented 11 years before the mouse, in 1952. It was invented by Tom Cranston and Fred Longstaff as part of a computerized battlefield information system called DATAR, initiated by the Canadian Navy. It used a standard five-pin bowling ball as its trackball, which is smaller than the more common 10-pin bowling ball.

“The History of PC Hardware, in Pictures”
“We need someone that people can see themselves getting a beer with, because drinking beer is one of the most important parts of being a president.”

“Legislators could have done nearly anything to alleviate California’s crippling housing crisis. Instead, they gave us vanity plates.”

Daily Bruin Editorial Board

“And then there is the ever annoying parking in the cycle lane.”

AT LAST! A bit of Dutch infrastructure that sucks in a way that an American can relate to!

I love watching these vehicles but it also makes me frustrated that the most cutting edge American bicycle infrastructure is already obsolete in the Netherlands. :)

In late 2014, Lieutenant Graves said he was back at base in Virginia Beach when he encountered a squadron mate just back from a mission “with a look of shock on his face.”

He said he was stunned to hear the pilot’s words. “I almost hit one of those things,” the pilot told Lieutenant Graves.

The pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. It looked to the pilot, Lieutenant Graves said, like a sphere encasing a cube.

The near miss, he and other pilots interviewed said, angered the squadron, and convinced them that the objects were not part of a classified drone program. Government officials would know fighter pilots were training in the area, they reasoned, and would not send drones to get in the way.

“We have helicopters that can hover,” Lieutenant Graves said. “We have aircraft that can fly at 30,000 feet and right at the surface.” But “combine all that in one vehicle of some type with no jet engine, no exhaust plume.”

Lieutenant Accoin said only that “we’re here to do a job, with excellence, not make up myths.”

New York Times

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Politics, Sundry

Notes from April, 2019

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2019/05/02/notes-2019-04/

“It’s like finding the Holy Grail clutched in the bony fingers of Jimmy Hoffa, sitting on top of the Lost Ark.”

The Day the Dinosaurs Died

The ambulance arrived, and the paramedics started treating the bleeding man for shock. A police officer took my statement, and the knife. I washed my hands at some point. Then my date and I got in a Lyft to the Palace Hotel.

We walked into a scene reminiscent of Versailles. A pair of models in red gowns stood in banded hoops from which one could pluck a champagne flute. There was food, dessert, wine, music. Dancing pandas. Live bands. A silent disco. Women in gowns, men in suits and tuxedos. A casino, with the buy-in going to a local charity. The night glittered. This time next year, I whispered, our heads will all be in baskets.

Richard Mehlinger

In many ways, the train crews practice railroading as it was done a century ago, from assembling the train in the yard and coupling one car to another, to climbing down to the tracks to maneuver heavy hand switches. As they lumber along through the dense urban landscape, passing highways, parks, cemeteries and shopping centers, the freight trains draw curious stares.

“The surprise on people’s faces when we go through their L.I.R.R. station — they’ve never seen anything like it,” said Alex Raia, a 50-year-old engineer, as he worked the throttle and brake on a 2,000-horsepower diesel locomotive to thread it between tight rows of sooty freight cars in the Glendale yard. He likened the task to “playing a game of chess every day.”

The railway also handles so many cars of flour and beer that Mr. Bonner has nicknamed it “the pizza-and-beer railroad.”

During peak beer drinking times — think St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl — that can mean 30 rail cars of beer a week — each car can hold 3,500 cases — including Modelo Especial and Corona that has rumbled by train all the way from Mexico.

New York City’s Hidden Railroad

I would prefer if I could take a bus to work, because then I would have a great swatch of time for reading. I have instead, on the bicycle, been listening to podcasts, which is sometimes difficult amid heavy traffic, but whatever.

On 99% Invisible, I was digging on the story of Froebel’s Gifts. Froebel pioneered the idea of kindergarten in the 19th century. Along the way, he developed the first educational toys. Starting with a soft ball of yarn at 6 weeks old, and progressing to more and more interesting objects, along with an educational curriculum where the objects could help teach a kid important concepts of how the world works. Before Froebel’s gift, kids basically played with whatever leftovers the adults had: the carpenter’s kid played with scrap wood, for example. When the idea was brought to America, our Capitalists seized upon this idea that parents and schools might be willing to pay money for objects that children would play with. Froebel gifts are cool and all, but how about an endless buffet of TOYS!?

Anyway, they claimed that early 20th-century design was influenced by Froebel, as Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and Le Corbusier each learned important geometric concepts in Kindergarten. Fuller conceived of the buckyball in kindergarten and Wright kept a set of blocks on his desk to inform his creativity.

The fact that I most dug is that around the time kindergartens were taking off, the very first playgrounds were created. And the very first playground was a “sand garden” where they got a huge pile of sand and dumped it in a vacant lot for the kids to play with over the summer. Over time, the “sand garden” became a smaller component in playgrounds which featured other things like swings and slides. Today the giant pile of sand is maybe a sandbox. When Tommy was a baby, there was a sandbox down at Murphy Park. I found it a nice place to lie down as I was often sleepy back then. They took the sandbox out when they fixed up the park. We have come so far … but, I feel that in one respect, Max has been cheated.

With Regard to Uncle Joe . . .

The last election seemed to go “choose between the politics of the late 90s, where we are super careful not to take any positions based on strong principles, just middle of the road stuff that doesn’t offend or inspire anyone, or vote for the guy who will tell you whatever you want to hear, lie to you with a straight face, while he grabs your pussy.”

Why did that second guy do far better than anyone believes he deserved? Because he speaks “straight” to the concerns of a lot of Americans and he doesn’t give a fudge whether his solutions offend your delicate moderate middle of the road do nothing sensibilities.

Now we have Warren and Bernie and AOC and dozens upon dozens of other Democrats who have taken the clue that the electorate is hungry, not for some kindly sooth-saying grandparent, but for someone who is willing to speak up for their beliefs, even if they make some folks feel uncomfortable.

I voted for Clinton. Both of them. But even in the 90s, I yearned to vote not for some warmed-over middle-of-the-road do-nothing compromise, but for leadership that spoke to and acted from convictions. Uncle Joe used to appeal in those days, but now he’s the warmed-over establishment.

I’ll vote for him in the general, if that is what we got, but Trump is good at beating up on the establishment, and I think we’d do better to ride with someone who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, to have a point of view that doesn’t focus test well with every last median-income household in Nebraska, someone who has plans to make up for all the time America has lost bending over backward to accommodate the right wing.

Remember Obamacare? That’s Romneycare. The uninspiring mush of consensus. It is adequate for liberals and hated by conservatives. Well, you know what? Screw those ungrateful jerks. If we’re going to have a system of universal healthcare that offends them, we might as well have at the very least a Public Option. (For example.)

I’m tired of compromise. Tired or compromise with right-wing extremists. And when it comes to the collapse of our planet’s climate stability, there’s no room for compromise and consensus anyway. We are decades behind on preventing a disaster that is beginning to truly unfold upon every last man, woman, and child on the planet and we have to stop Appealing to the Middle for the Politics of the Possible and engage instead in Policies of Necessity to make our planet and our country better for everyone.

An extensive thread regarding a tragic incident in Sunnyvale on April 23: 8 folks were deliberately hit by a car driven by an Iraq war vet, who is allegedly suffering from PTSD, and was allegedly targeting the victims because he thought they were Muslim.

The thalidomide tragedy was averted in the United States because Dr. Kelsey, alone and in the face of fierce opposition, did her job. Her perspective was educated, fresh and unique. If there had been no thalidomide crisis, the United States, with the rest of the world following, would still at some time have brought pharmaceutical regulation into the 20th century. But thalidomide created one of those moments when something had to be done. It could not be ignored in 1961-62, and it led immediately to a better and stronger regulatory system. Maybe someone else would have stopped thalidomide in the United States had Dr. Kelsey not been assigned the NDA, but, interestingly, no one else stopped it anywhere else until it was too late. Dr. Kelsey was the only person in the entire world who said no. She said no to a bad drug application, she said no to an overbearing pharmaceutical company and she said no to vested interests who put profits first. She was one brave dissenter. In the end, the question is not what made Frances Kelsey, but why aren’t there more like her?

William Kaplan, Why Dissent Matters

I don’t know what to do to help. There’s an informal memorial at the corner. You could leave some flowers there. A family member passing by will have another sign of love.

I think that driving with a bit of love, as posted above, is good advice. As a bicycle commuter who carries kids on a bike in mixed traffic, seeing the pictures of twisted bicycles and backpacks in an intersection I travel often was really disturbing. We need better bicycle infrastructure in Sunnyvale so that people can get around safely. Until then, when you’re behind the wheel of a car please do take a moment to appreciate the folks around you. Slow down and in a moment of frustration try to take a deep breath and count your blessings.

The girl in the coma, and all the victims, and I think even the perpetrator are all carrying different kinds of wounds. Please share your prayers and compassion with them and also for everyone on the road.

-Danny

A note I posted on NextDoor

The Earth’s climate is usually very erratic. Decades of drought, then decades of flood, for example. Humans have existed for a few hundred thousand years but only after the last Ice Age, when the planet hit an unusual period of climate stability, did humans manage to achieve agriculture and civilization.

I keep trying to rationalize an optimistic outcome, but as best I can read the situation, we are at a crucial point in history where humanity understands that we have an existential challenge that can be solved only through a spirit of shared sacrifice and cooperation. We know what adaptations we need to make to maintain these stable climate patterns, but so far we have not demonstrated a collective will to make these adaptations. The window of opportunity is shutting more and more rapidly. Mainly due to complacency, we’ll miss the opportunity, the climate will continue to deteriorate, agriculture will fail, and the long and delicate supply chains required to sustain technological civilization will fail. All in the next few decades.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe civilization will make it through the century. The last century was pretty dire, too, but we managed to avoid the worst outcomes. But my feeling is that civilization will collapse, in my lifetime, and that most of humanity will die, at first through war and tyrannical government but mostly of starvation. Humans, as a species, will survive. A few of the remaining hunter-gatherer tribes will adapt to the crisis. They will be joined by several new tribes peopled from refugees of our failing civilization.

Humanity will muddle through on a hostile planet amidst a mass extinction. Tens or hundreds of thousands of years will pass before the Earth enters a new stable phase. Agriculture and civilization will re-emerge, perhaps a bit faster due to whatever technological clues we leave behind, perhaps a bit slower and more sustainably, due to our having robbed them of the easiest fossil fuels. Perhaps there will even be a memory, perhaps uncovered through archaeology, and an understanding of The Fall of our First World Civilization. If we fail to survive this century, it is my hope that our distant descendants will avoid repeating our mistakes.

Tens or hundreds of thousands of years from now, our descendants will re-establish technological civilization, and they will find these well-preserved artifacts on the moon.

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News and Reaction, Politics, Sunnyvale

Restrictive Zoning Induces Partisan Shift

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2018/08/30/restrictive-zoning-induces-partisan-shift/

Here is a provocative article from CityLab: How Land-Use Restrictions Make Places Tilt Left

The gist of this is: restrictive zoning makes housing more expensive. The folks who can afford expensive housing tend to be college educated. College educated people tend to be more liberal, and vote Democratic.

If you restrict the amount of housing that can be built in a city, you squeeze out poor folks, and the folks who can afford to buy in are the “Liberal Elites.”

More restrictive counties tend to shed Republicans and become more Democratic over time—a pattern that seems to have accelerated since 2012. And, more restrictive counties tend to gain more college-educated people and shed fewer educated ones, which contributes to their partisan shift. As Sorens notes, college education may causally mediate a substantial part of the relationship between zoning and partisanship at the county level. In other words, a county’s becoming more educated as a result of building restrictions makes it more Democratic.

I think our policies, especially in the privileged suburb where I live, need to allow and facilitate more housing. As a Liberal Democrat, I do not want to live in a bubble community. While I take some pride in the idea that education leads to progressive politics, I am disappointed that a party that prides itself as a champion of the working class and the poor, gains a partisan advantage when the working class and poor get squeezed out of our communities.

As a Democrat in a Blue City, I think we owe a debt to our communities to correct restrictive zoning in order to redress the damage done to our own working class, who can not afford to live here.

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About Me, Politics, Religion, Sunnyvale

In A Nutshell: Bay Area Housing Shortage

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2018/03/06/in-a-nutshell-bay-area-housing-shortage/

A question was posed as to whether folks should fight for or flee from the Silicon Valley.

i wonder if defining question for Silicon Valley this next decade will be "fight or flight"

Do you stay here to help fix/solve the problems of the Bay Area (and US) or do you remove/isolate yourself (Midwest! New Zealand! Mars!) in some nirvana fantasy#YouBreakItYouBoughtIt

— 👨🏻‍💻☕️ (@hunterwalk) March 5, 2018

I answered that those who have bought homes here ought to fight for opportunities for the next group. The greater challenge is that a lot of folks who got theirs don’t want to make allowances for the next generations.

Too many people who bought in the past seem set on protecting theirs with little regard for the next or future generations. It’s sad that people put their views, their perception of neighborhood character, or their biases before building more housing and supporting more dreams.

— Zac Townsend (@ztownsend) March 5, 2018

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News and Reaction, Politics

Democrats Should Hold The High Ground

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2017/12/08/democrats-should-hold-the-high-ground/

I noted that:

On social media, my liberal bubble is split into two sub-bubbles of folks who aren't talking to each other. Some are upset that Franken resigned already and some are upset that he didn't resign sooner.

— Danny Howard (@dannyman) December 7, 2017

I was asked on Facebook how I felt. A summary:

I don’t know yet. I think I agree with both sides. I haven’t looked too closely, but it sounds like his errors were regrettable but forgivable. On the other hand, a controversy like this, deserved or not, impairs his ability to be an effective leader. His resignation draws a contrast with the other party. I respect him for falling on his sword, so to speak. Though, would he have resigned under a Republican governor? His seat is “safe” …

I think women need to be taken seriously. I also fear that we could enter an era of “Sexual Harassment McCarthyism” as someone put it. So, yeah, I guess I don’t know which bubble to hang out in.

A friend shared a pair of editorials:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/the_republicans_have_built_an_uneven_playing_field_of_morality.html
http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a14381583/al-franken-resign-moral-high-ground/

The gist of it is “good on the Democrats for holding themselves to the moral high ground while the other party digs a hole ever deeper but maybe we are harming the country because we’re the only ones playing nice.”

I wrote:

I think Democrats should continue holding themselves to moral and ethical standards. We are losing ground right now because of a lack of willingness to surrender our moral principles for political gain. But I think … you need to be good with yourself before you can be a good leader for your nation.

Our country badly needs good leadership. That the GOP is willing to fall behind Trump or Roy Moore illustrates just how badly deficient they are in good leadership. When you go too long without moral principle you lose your pipeline for good leaders.

National elections are won and lost in the middle. Hillary Clinton was tainted by old and unfair perceptions that she was morally compromised, so folks were able to toss a coin and take the other morally compromised candidate.

I supported the “Draft Franken 2020” thing … now I am hoping we find some fresh blood, who can be lifted up by a party which observes moral standards. That makes the next election a little easier for people to vote for a leader they believe will live by and lead from a place of ethics and moral decency.

I think we shouldn’t be afraid to fight hard within the system, but we should avoid the notion that we need to put forward leaders who can not uphold our principles.

Bill Clinton was a decent President, but we can do better than Clinton. We had Obama and now we have Trump: I know which direction I want my party to move.

We are at a time that will grow increasingly dynamic. When things get weird is when you need all the more to be centered and grounded and ethical. We need to weather the storms, but not at the price of losing ourselves.

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News and Reaction, Politics

US May Soon Allow High Speed Trains

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/12/01/us-may-soon-allow-high-speed-trains/

Good news via Streetsblog: the United States FRA are nearly done revising safety regulations which would allow for operation of high-speed trains in the United States!

A fleet of TGV waiting to serve passengers in Marseille in 2002. These French trains have a top speed of 200 MPH.

A fleet of TGV waiting to serve passengers in Marseilles, France in 2002. These trains have a top speed of 200 MPH. Proposed US safety rules would permit lighter, faster trains that meet European safety standards to run at speeds of up to 220 MPH.

Current US regulations, from the 1800s and the 1930s, mandate heavier trains to survive crashes. Unfortunately, heavy trains cost more to build, operate, and maintain. Heavier trains are also harder to stop in an emergency.

European train safety regulations are comparable to modern cars: lighter trains are cheaper to build and operate, and they stop faster. They feature “crumple zones” to absorb damage in an accident.

Since the United States is a small market for passenger trains, divergent safety standards make it even more expensive to buy trains. Instead of purchasing inexpensive, reliable, “off-the-shelf” European-designed train sets, vendors need to make alternate, heavier, slower, more expensive designs for American railroads. The adoption of European safety standards will make it cheaper and easier for American railroads to provide modern, comfortable, faster passenger service.

In anticipation of these new rules, Amtrak in September announced the purchase of 28 Avelia Liberty trains from the French company Alstom. The trains will be manufactured in upstate New York and will be used for Acela service starting is 2021. These trains can be upgraded to run at 220 MPH, but this will only be allowed after right-of-way upgrades on the Northeast Corridor.

These rules coming at the end of the Obama administration, with promises of infrastructure spending under the Trump administration, could help American rail transport see more rapid improvements in short order.

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About Me, Letters to The Man, News and Reaction, Politics

America 1956

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/13/america-1956/

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About Me, Letters to The Man, News and Reaction, Politics

America 2016

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/13/america/

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About Me, News and Reaction, Politics

Head Full of Doubts

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/09/head-full-of-doubts/

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

–Avett Brothers

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Politics

Evaluating California Ballot Propositions

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/11/06/evaluating-california-ballot-propositions/

A few rules of thumb I use in evaluating California ballot propositions:

1) Is it a REVENUE BOND? — Likely YES
2) Is it a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT? — Default NO
3) Endorsed by Jerry Brown? — Likely YES
4) Argument in favor/opposition use LOTS OF CAPITALIZED WORDS AND PHRASES — Those arguments are nutters
5) Wait, why shouldn’t the legislature, &c. be figuring this out?! — Likely NO

This time around I figure condoms, ammunition, and plastic bags are issues Cal/OSHA and the legislature need to figure out.

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News and Reaction, Politics, Sunnyvale

Housing in the Silicon Valley: Sunnyvale Planning Commission and 838 Azure

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/10/20/housing-in-the-silicon-valley-sunnyvale-planning-commission-and-838-azure/

On October 10, 2016, file 16-0548 was heard by the Sunnyvale Planning Commission. The item was to down-zone a condominium development per the General Plan, and to up-zone a one third acre parcel from Residential Low Density to Residential Low-Medium Density. By up-zoning the site at 838 Azure St, the property owner would be able to build four homes on the property instead of a maximum of two.

The Planning Commission passed the down-zoning proposal but denied the up-zoning at 838 Azure St. I do not believe the decision with regard to 838 Azure was consistent with the public interest of Sunnyvale residents. At a time of housing crisis, we should err on the side of providing more affordable homes for more families, and the location at 838 Azure is well suited to providing housing with minimal impact on congestion.

Current Status and Options

The property presently hosts two dilapidated structures which had recently housed squatters. There are dying trees and contaminated soil from Sunnyvale’s orchard days.

Proposed zoning for 838 Azure St

Proposed zoning for 838 Azure St

Present zoning is R0: 7 homes per acre, or 2 per 1/3 acre
Two lots of 7,200 square feet, homes up to 3,240 square feet

Requested zoning is R2: 12 homes per acre, or 4 per 1/3 acre
Four lots of 3,600 square feet, homes up to 1,620 square feet

Affordability

Status Quo Change Zoning
House Type Single Family Townhome
House Size 3200 sq ft / 5 bed / 3.5 bath 1600 sq ft / 3 bed / 2.5 bath
Home Price $2,400,000 $1,000,000
Monthly Cost $12,000 $5,000
Household Income $436,000 $182,000
Families Housed 2 4

The lot in question is about 14,400 square feet, and present zoning allows for up to two houses. At 45% FAR one can build two homes of 3,200 square feet. Comparable homes in the area are typically 5 bedroom, 3.5 baths at $2,400,000. With a 20% down payment of $480,000, a 30 year fixed mortgage at 3.875% with taxes and insurance runs nearly $12,000/mo.

On the other hand, a 1,600 square foot townhouse or condo in this area is typically 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath at $1,000,000. With a 20% down payment, a 30 year fixed mortgage, taxes, insurance runs nearly $5,000/mo.

If we assume that housing is “affordable” at 33% of Gross Income, then the big houses are affordable to a family with $436,000 annual income, and the smaller homes are affordable at $182,000.

See Also: Redfin
See Also: Residential Zoning Standards – City of Sunnyvale

Location: Pedestrian and Transit Quality vs Congestion

Much of Sunnyvale is poorly suited to walking or public transportation. Housing in such areas encourages automobile trips and results in congestion. If you want to increase housing while avoiding congestion, you want to place the housing in areas where walking and public transit are viable options: when people have the option not to drive they are less likely to add congestion.

The average Walk Score in Sunnyvale is 55. For 838 Azure the walk score is 78. The site is well within Sunnyvale’s walkable downtown core, a very close walk to multiple groceries, restaurants, and Murphy St. This pedestrian accessibility does not encourage automobile trips, thus it mitigates congestion.

Sunnyvale's walkable core: 838 Azure is at the Y of Mathilda and Sunnyvale in the lower right.

To avoid congestion, put housing in Sunnyvale’s walkable core: 838 Azure is at the Y of Mathilda and Sunnyvale in the lower right. Source: Sunnyvale Walk Score

The site is very near VTA’s premier bus route: the 22/522 El Camino Real, as well as the 55 and 54 routes for North-South mobility. Within an hour, public transit can get residents across Sunnyvale, including the offices on the North Side, as well as much of Cupertino and Santa Clara. The downtown areas of San Jose, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are accessible. At just over a mile to Sunnyvale Station, the site is not a convenient walk to Caltrain: residents may prefer to bicycle.

Via Walk Score: where you can get from 838 Azure via public transit

Via Walk Score: where you can get from 838 Azure via public transit.

Public Comment and Planning Board

Two neighbors spoke against the zoning change. A neighbor who lived in an adjacent townhouse was concerned that the development of townhouses on the neighboring property would not meet his aesthetic standards. A neighbor to the south was concerned that his dogs might get out if the property was developed, and that if the driveway were moved from Sunnyvale-Saratoga to Azure then there would be less street parking available on Azure.

Per the minutes:

Commissioner Melton noted that the benefits of the GPA and Rezone of the Azure site are the PD designation and an increase in housing density, and that the negatives include parking, neighborhood incompatibility and inappropriate density.

Commissioner Simons said he does not like the potential spot zoning of 838 Azure.

MOTION: Commissioner Melton moved and Commissioner Simons seconded the motion to recommend that City Council deny the General Plan Amendment and Rezone for 838 Azure Street.

Vice Chair Rheaume said he is not supporting this motion and supports increasing the density of this lot.

The motion carried by the following vote:

Yes: 4 – Commissioner Melton
Commissioner Olevson
Commissioner Simons
Commissioner Weiss

No: 1 – Vice Chair Rheaume

Absent: 1 – Chair Harrison

Next Steps

This item should come before the City Council on November 1. Anyone who might wish to speak up on behalf of the virtue of increased housing in Sunnyvale can contact the City Council or make a public comment of up to three minutes at the upcoming council meeting. I am hoping to attend and speak November 1. If you think you might also be interested, or would like to be notified of any updates, please drop me a line: dannyman@toldme.com.

Postscript

This item was considered by the Sunnyvale City Council on November 1, 2016. City Council heard testimony from City Staff and the Property Owner. City Council candidate John Cordes and I made public comments in favor of the change. A few neighbors made public comments against the change.

The City Council enacted an ordinance to change the zoning at 838 Azure from R0 to R2-PD. The vote was 6-1, with Council Member Pat Meyering in dissent. Council made it clear that they were only approving the zoning change, in order to provide more housing in an area well-suited to pedestrian, bicycle and public transit. Council was generally most concerned with how the development would transition from the adjacent R2 zones to the rest of the neighborhood, which is among the several considerations which will be addressed subsequently in the planning process.

The Property Owner is now at liberty to submit plans for development, which will be subject to review by the Zoning Administrator, with community feedback, and potentially by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Feedback Welcome


Politics, Sunnyvale

Sunnyvale City Council: Election Notes

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/10/15/sunnyvale-city-council-election-notes/

This year there will be an election for four of the seven seats on the Sunnyvale City Council.

Mapping Out the Council

I found a nice web site that summarizes campaign contributions for the different candidates. As I have only recently taken an interest in the City Council, it helps me paint a crude picture of the council as it exists today. There seems to be a core majority and an independent minority.

Caveat: it has been pointed out to me that my data source is not entirely accurate. Raw data can be obtained directly from the city. Unfortunately, that data is provided in PDF format. If I find a convenient way to parse the data out of those PDF files, I’ll take a crack a re-doing the Financial Backings visualization, below.

Heading up the “Core” are Mayor Glenn Hendricks and Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson, who have each received overwhelmingly large sums from the National Association of Realtors Fund.

Jim Griffith is an Software Engineer who has mainly bankrolled his own campaigns. He is the only second-term member of the council, thus his cumulative financial backing is larger than most members of the council, with the exception of Mayor Hendricks and Vice Mayor Larsson. Jim maintains a blog about city council activities at dweeb.org.

Next are what I would label the “Friends” which includes Larry Klein and Tara Martin-Milius. Klein very recently won a special election held in August after the resignation of Dave Whittum. Neither of these candidates have the volume of donations as Hendricks, Larsson or Griffith, but the Inner Core have made friendly contributions to the Friends. Martin-Milius has received contributions from Hendricks, Larsson, and Griffith while Klein has received contributions from Hendricks and Griffith.

The Inner Core and Friends make up a five-member majority. Council motions are often made and carried with minimal dissent.

Beyond the Core are the two “Independents.” Jim Davis‘ campaign contributions are mainly from non-resident individuals, none from the Core members. He generally votes along with the Core, though he did vote against the Maude Ave bike lane, an issue which I took a special interest in. Pat Meyering‘s campaign is completely self-funded. He often clashes with Mayor Hendricks and other members of the council.

Mapping Out the Election

The Deep Pockets (Hendricks, Larsson, Griffith) are not up for election this year, but everyone else is.

Seat 4: Recently won by Larry Klein, is challenged by John Cordes and Mike McCarthy. Klein, who recently served on the Planning Commission, is backed by a few Business and Real Estate PACS, and several residents, including the Core council members, and Stephen Williams, who ran against him in the special election. John Cordes, who also ran against Klein in the special election, is an environmentalist who serves on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. He is mainly self-funded, with an even split between resident and non-resident contributions, and a single PAC donation from the California League of Conservation Voters. Mike McCarthy is entirely self-funded.

Seat 5: Incumbent Pat Meyering is solely self-funded, and I could not find a campaign web site. He is challenged by Russell Melton, who has served several terms on the Planning Commission, and has the support of several developers, the Core council members, and numerous individuals. Melton also managed Mayor Hendricks’ successful 2013 City Council campaign.

Seat 6: Incumbent Jim Davis is a former Public Safety Officer who has served many government and community organizations. He is funded mainly by non-resident individuals. Challenger Nancy Smith has chaired the Santa Clara County Water District Environmental and Water Resources Committee, and is funded by several residents and non-residents.

Seat 7: Incumbent Tara Martin-Milius is funded in the main by several individuals, including Core council members, along with business and real estate contributions. She is challenged by unfunded Ron Banks and self-funded Michael Goldman.

Visualizing the Council and the Election

In an attempt at objectivity, I have compiled the following table to provide a quick reference to in understanding the Council and the election. I welcome feedback, especially factual corrections.

Seat Name Financial Backing Background Web Site Video Statement
Seat 1 Gustav Larsson ███ ███ ████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████ ████ █████ ███████ Engineer at Ciena
Planning Commissioner
Seat 2 Glenn Hendricks ███ ███ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██ ████ █████████ █████ ████ ██████████ ████ Manager at PayPal
Marine Corps
hendricksforsvcouncil2013.com
Seat 3 Jim Griffith ██ ██████ ███████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ████████ ██████ ██████████ ██ █████ ██████████ ██████ Software Engineer at Apple
Numerous Government Activities
dweeb.org
Seat 4 Larry Klein ████████ ███ ███████ ██ Staff Engineer at Qnovo
Planning Commission
larryforcouncil.com YouTube
John Cordes ██████████ ██ Consultant
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission
john4sunnyvale.org YouTube
Mike McCarthy █████ CEO at Green Galaxy Homes
Plaza Del Rey Residents Association
Navy
YouTube
Seat 5 Pat Meyering Attorney pat4residents.com YouTube
Russell Melton ██ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ █████ ███ ██ █████████ Campaign Manager
Planning Commission
Navy
meltonforcouncil.com YouTube
Seat 6 Jim Davis ███ ████████ Sunnyvale Public Safety Officer
Numerous Government Activities
YouTube
Nancy Smith ██████ ██████████ █████ ██████████ Program Manager at NVIDIA
Santa Clara County Water District Environmental and Water Resources Committee
nancysmith.org YouTube
Seat 7 Tara Martin-Milius ██ ████████ █████ ██████████ ████ ██████████ ██████ Teacher, UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley
San Miguel Neighbors Association
taraforcouncil.org YouTube
Ron Banks YouTube
Michael Goldman ██████ michaelsgoldman.com YouTube

Financial Backing Key
██████████ represents $10,000
█ represents $1,000

Business
Business PAC
Developer
Real Estate PAC
Candidate
Elected Official PAC
Political Party
Political Committee
Resident
Non-Resident
Environmental PAC
Social Issues PAC
Union PAC
Source: http://www.specialinterestwatch.org/, cumulative contributions through June 30, 2016

Feedback Welcome


News and Reaction, Politics

In A Nutshell: Climate Disruption

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/09/04/climate-change-in-a-nutshell/

A rant posted on a colleague’s Facebook wall in reaction to the New York Times:

I read The New Yorker too much when I had free time and the gist of it was: Earth’s climate is usually pretty erratic, but after the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, the climate entered an unusually stable phase. At that point, our species, after 200,000 years, for some reason, mastered agriculture and civilization, and that civilization has disrupted this stable phase and we are moving back into unstable climate patterns. Whether the world civilization can continue without the original agricultural lynch pin of a stable climate is a question which will be answered within our lifetimes.

Earth's Average temperature. Our species emerged around the 200 mark, agriculture and civilization start at around 11 where you see that flat red line, which ends .. now. CC:

Earth’s Average temperature. Our species emerged around the 200 mark, agriculture and civilization start at around 11 where you see that flat red line, which ends .. now.
CC: Glen Fergus

I had mixed feeling watching the Democratic National Convention because on the one hand they acknowledge that Climate Change is a Real Thing and we Ought to Do Something but then they kept reassuring us that it was just one of those kind of good things to do for future generations and not actually some kind of imminent shitfest that is going to be a bigger and bigger problem every year for the forseeable future, not to mention that we’ve already pretty much screwed the pooch anyway by ignoring the issue so we get to deal with it anyway but will still need to address climate emissions to keep it from going from pretty awful to worst case scenario.

Flash Flood in Australia

Flash Flood in Australia
CC: Nick Carson
It starts with floods and droughts, then crop failures, famine, mass migration, political turmoil, fascism … talking about sea level is burying the lead.

And like what that means is maybe or maybe not the Democrats have their hearts in the right place but the messaging is just as focus-grouped and they’re nearly as averse to disturbing the status quo. “Okay, so, your likely voters believe climate change is a big deal, but most of them would be reluctant to do anything about it, so you’ve got to acknowledge the problem without making anyone feel threatened.” And over on the right its like “Well, Climate Denial excites the base of excitable racist lunatics AND it pretty much guarantees PAC money from the oil companies so any time they ask you say that yeah, there is a climate change but that is in Jesus’ hands.”

See Also: http://xkcd.com/1732/ — a cartoon illustrating human history versus the temperature record depicted in the final panel.

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Excerpts, News and Reaction, Politics

. . . Convincing?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/07/18/sanders-endorses-clinton/

A “challenge” posted to Facebook:

clinton

A moment of thought and I realized the challenge was easy, and heartening. This speech has been given before:

“Hillary Clinton understands that we must fix an economy in America that is rigged and that sends almost all new wealth and income to the top one percent. Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.

She believes that we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she wants to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. – our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.

This election is about which candidate will nominate Supreme Court justices who are prepared to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision which allows billionaires to buy elections and undermine our democracy; about who will appoint new justices on the Supreme Court who will defend a woman’s right to choose, the rights of the LGBT community, workers’ rights, the needs of minorities and immigrants, and the government’s ability to protect the environment.

This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange, which will lower the cost of health care.

She also believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers throughout this country.

Hillary is committed to seeing thousands of young doctors, nurses, psychologists, dentists and other medical professionals practice in underserved areas as we follow through on President Obama’s idea of tripling funding for the National Health Service Corps.

In New Hampshire, in Vermont and across the country we have a major epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction. People are dying every day from overdoses. Hillary Clinton understands that if we are serious about addressing this crisis we need major changes in the way we deliver mental health treatment. That’s what expanding community health centers will do and that is what getting medical personnel into the areas we need them most will do.

Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. She and I are in agreement that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that we must expand the use of generic medicine.

Drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.

This election is about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that currently exists, the worst it has been since 1928. Hillary Clinton knows that something is very wrong when the very rich become richer while many others are working longer hours for lower wages.

She knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.

This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, the many others who cannot afford to go to college and the need for this country to have the best educated workforce in the world if we are to compete effectively in a highly competitive global economy.

Hillary Clinton believes that we must substantially lower student debt, and that we must make public colleges and universities tuition free for the middle class and working families of this country. This is a major initiative that will revolutionize higher education in this country and improve the lives of millions.

Think of what it will mean when every child in this country, regardless of the income of their family, knows that if they study hard and do well in school – yes, they will be able to get a college education and leave school without debt.

This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that if we do not act boldly in the very near future there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels.

She understands that we must work with countries around the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy – and that when we do that we can create a whole lot of good paying jobs.

This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools or at good jobs, not in jail cells. Secretary Clinton understands that we don’t need to have more people in jail than any other country on earth, at an expense of $80 billion a year.”

Bernie Sanders

All I did was remove the few paragraphs where the T-word was mentioned.

Feedback Welcome


Politics, Sundry, Sunnyvale

Notes on Maude Bicycle Lane in Sunnyvale

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2016/05/17/notes-on-maude-bicycle-lane-in-sunnyvale/

In 2006, Sunnyvale applied for funding to add bicycle lanes on Maude Ave from Mathilda to Fair Oaks.

Maude is a two-lane road with a center turn lane. It serves as a main thoroughfare for the immediate neighborhood: residential, commercial, and Bishop Elementary. It also serves through traffic. It is very congested at peak. In the past three years there have been a few dozen accidents: mainly between vehicles, 3 involving pedestrians, 1 involving a cyclist.

W Maude Ave

W Maude Ave: filling in a gap in Sunnyvale’s bicycle network

In March 2016, a community meeting was held at Bishop school. Three main alternatives were proposed:
Option 1: remove parking along Maude, replace it with 5′ bike lanes with 3′ buffers
Option 2: retain parking, remove left-turn lanes, add bicycle lanes between driving and parking lanes
Option 3: do nothing except add some signs and paint sharrows on the street

At the community meeting, many residents from the SNAIL neighborhood to the North took turns berating the city for any number of reasons. There was a lot of upset that Maude is already congested and that people might park in front of their homes. There was a “voting” board and the community poll came out something like:
Option 1: 35%
Option 2: 15%
Option 3: 50%

Sunnyvale Staff recommend Option 1: improve bicycle infrastructure but avoid increased congestion.

On April 21, 2016, the Sunnyvale Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) reviewed the proposal. Some observations from BPAC:

Further detail desired regarding the causes of vehicle collisions along the corridor — details were not included in the present study.

Project should extend the last half block between Fair Oaks and Wolfe Road — staff remarked that this was an oversight on the original grant request, but that this could be included for future improvement projects to the bicycle infrastructure on Fair Oaks or Wolfe.

Drivers might park in buffered lanes.

If left turn lanes are removed, drivers might use the bicycle lane to pass vehicles waiting for turn.

Maude has many driveways, and it is safer for bicyclists further from the curb, where they are more visible to drivers utilizing driveways.

Traffic impact analysis will be performed subsequent to the city selecting a preferred alternative, thus no traffic impact studies have been performed to distinguish the current proposals.

1 mile between Mathilda and Fair Oaks 10 intersections 1 grammar school 3 pedestrian crosswalks

1 mile between Mathilda and Fair Oaks
10 intersections
1 grammar school
3 pedestrian crosswalks

Community feedback:

I spoke first. I live adjacent to Bishop school:
I remarked on the lack of pedestrian crosswalks, asked the City to look at adding more as part of the project.
I noted the advantages of using the parking as a buffer lane for cyclists: route bike lanes at the curb.
I thanked BPAC for noting the desirability of an extension to Wolfe.
One gentleman who used to live in the neighborhood spoke in support of bike lanes.
One gentlemen from SNAIL explained his opposition to bike lanes, due to present low bicycle traffic.
One lady from Lowlanders spoke in support of a bike lane:
Leaning toward Option 2
Asked if there had been any Spanish-language outreach, as this is the population occupying the rental housing and attending Bishop who would be most impacted by the project, especially removal of parking.

BPAC made a motion to:
Support Option 1, per staff recommendation
Request 6′ bicycle lanes with 2′ buffer
Request project extension to Wolfe Road
Request inclusion of additional crosswalks

The motion passed with two dissenting votes. The chair, who lives on Murphy, stated his objections:
Removal of parking would adversely impact the neighborhood
Removal of left turn lanes would inconvenience drivers, and thereby discourage through traffic

City Council will review the plan May 17, 2016.

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