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Students Cook Fresh at Jackson Cafe

While the kitchen buzzes with activity and optimism, the dining room is relaxed, with a cheerful volunteer staff waiting to serve up the delicious results.

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The future of aging

Josepoh O'Hehir

MAY is Older Americans Month. President Barack Obama has called upon Americans of all ages to acknowledge the remarkable contributions and sacrifices of our elders, and offer our renewed gratitude and support.

Photo: Joseph O’Hehir, executive director of Marin Vivalon Senior Services.

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Here’s to the next 60 years for Marin’s Vivalon

Gary Phillips

San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips proclaimed Aug. 27 as “Vivalon Day,” commemorating the nonprofit organization’s 60 years of dedicated service for Marin’s older adult population.

Photo: Mayor Gary Phillips

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At Whistlestock, ’60s bands rock for seniors

Pete Slauson

Back in the day, Pete Slauson knew everyone who was anyone in the Marin rock ‘n’ roll scene. He once owned the legendary heliport in Sausalito, where all the great ’60s bands rehearsed, from Quicksilver Messenger Service to the Grateful Dead.

Photo: Pete Slauson – Courtesy Marin News.

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Marin Voice: Growth can be an opportunity in Marin if it’s well-managed

Marin Voice: Growth can be an opportunity in Marin if it's well-managed

Carol Sheerin speaks at a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday on the county housing plan. (Frankie Frost — Marin Independent Journal)

Source: – Marin Voice. By Rob Bregoff

David Kunhardt’s Dec. 2 Marin Voice column on housing choices was spot-on. It presented scenarios which will definitely come about, and used them to justify the addition of context-sensitive denser housing developments.

As the population of Marin ages, many senior “empty nesters” will find that the big house on the hill is getting too cumbersome and requires a daunting drive down narrow, winding roads to reach necessary goods and services. Many of these older Marin natives are ready to part with their unmanageable homes. But they want to retain connection to their longtime friends and communities. They also would like to have shopping and medical services within either walking distance or a short transit ride away.

As their mobility becomes more limited, it’s important for them to have a community of friends and support nearby, as well as goods and services.

Furthermore, the millennial demographic is eschewing driving in record numbers, instead opting to live in tighter, more urbanized environments with goods and services a short walk or bike ride away. In other words, the isolation of the big house on the hill is losing its appeal. We’re not talking about high-rises, but townhouses, or three- to four-floor condominium developments with stoops and ample outdoor space.

Your children’s teachers, firefighters, police and local workers would love to be able to live in the communities where they work, and the communities benefit by their presence. There is a connection to the local populace that is lost when one must commute long distances. This is at the heart of community building.

These are but a few of the myriad reasons why Marin must invest in reasonable infill housing and mixed-use developments.

Picture downtown San Rafael. The city is rife with opportunities to add housing on back streets, above existing businesses, or over parking structures. Hundreds of units of all types could be introduced to the downtown area with little traffic impact, as residents of these developments are less likely to rely on cars for their primary transportation mode.

Introducing housing to downtown areas is a boon for local small businesses as well. Their customer base increases as people shop locally. The presence of residents on the downtown streets at night makes the streets safer for all who live in or visit downtown areas.

The key is adding units in a context sensitive way. Hundreds of units could be introduced to downtown San Rafael within a half-mile of the transit center, and if done correctly, their presence would be barely noticeable by long-time San Rafael residents, except for the increased vitality of the sidewalk-scape. People would run into their friends on the street. How great is that?

The increase in pedestrians and cyclists also tends to make the streets safer for active transportation, which is good for everyone.

This type of development has no downside. Urban dwellers generate far fewer car trips, so congestion impacts are minimal.

In fact, many discover that they can conduct their lives without owning a car at all, which brings this into the realm of equity, too. Car ownership typically drains $5,000 to $7,000 from the income or savings of working-class or retired residents, so the option of not owning a car, or owning one instead of two, gives residents a nice increase in disposable income.

Denser housing uses a fraction of the water that large-lot single-family housing consumes. It also saves gas and electricity, and the infrastructure costs a fraction of typical suburban development. Denser development also means less paving and public street maintenance expense.

I realize this scenario is difficult to grasp at first, but the more you visualize it, the better it gets.

The same scenario is applicable to almost any town in Marin with good transit connections.

Growth is not a crisis, it’s an opportunity, but only if well-managed and fit into the existing urban fabric in a way that, in the long run, will prove to be a great improvement.

Rob Bregoff of San Francisco is a transportation planner who has worked on a number of North Bay highway projects.