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Author Topic: Fregonese Threaten Legal Action against Dissenter  (Read 7415 times)
Double A
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« on: September 18, 2008, 12:02:57 am »

Fregonese Calthorpe Threaten Legal Action against Dissenters

May 20, 2003

Fregonese Calthorpe & Associates (FCA), a land-use planning firm that works for many local governments, has threatened legal action against local residents who are upset with what FCA calls "conceptual illustrative plans" for their neighborhood. The company was hired by the City of Martinez (in the east San Francisco Bay area) to help write a land-use plan for the city.

In December 2002, FCA held a "consensus-building" public workshop in Martinez. Participants were led to believe that their comments would help determine the shape of the plan. So when the proposed "conceptual" plan was published in a local newspaper, residents of several neighborhoods were shocked to find that it called for redeveloping their neighborhoods to much higher densities.

Even though it is just a proposal, the residents realized, the plan has effectively reduced the value of their homes. FCA had argued that the plan was "just a concept" and that any final decision would be made by local governments, not FCA itself. But under California law, anyone who tried to sell their homes would legally obligated to tell potential purchasers that a plan has been proposed that could greatly change the character of the neighborhood or even condemn the house under eminent domain.

Residents of one Martinez neighborhood asked an attorney to write FCA and Contra Costa County, which was sponsoring the planning process, protesting the proposal. "Deliberately choosing an established residential neighborhood as a recommended site for redevelopment is socially irresponsible," wrote the attorney, "and will not be tolerated by my clients." The attorney also questioned "the method by which this recommended plan was established," since there was only one public meeting and the consultant "obviously did not take the time to become familiar with the character of the neighborhoods."

In a reply, an attorney representing FCA agreed to remove the homes of the protesters from the redevelopment area (but not necessarily any other homes or neighborhoods). However, the letter also responded to "allegations" in the first letter that FCA had acted "in an arbitrary manner," that it "obviously did not take time to become familiar with the character of the neighborhoods," and the proposed plan is not "based on any proper study of the neighborhoods."

FCA's attorney stated that FCA "is a well known urban and regional planning consulting firm with an excellent national and even international reputation. . . . Neither my client nor I will tolerate the publication of such unfounded criticisms as are contained in your April 4 letter. . . You are admonished that we will brook no further defamatory accusations by either you or your clients against Fregonese Calthorpe."

Notice that the letter never actually claimed that FCA had taken any time to become familiar with or properly study the neighborhoods. Instead, it relied on FCA's "excellent reputation" as justification for the firm's proposals.

Just what is that reputation? The company's principals include John Fregonese and Peter Calthorpe. Prior to forming a partnership with Calthorpe, Fregonese worked for Metro, the regional planning agency for Portland, Oregon. Metro has two planning divisions, transportation planning and growth-management planning, and Fregonese was the director of the growth-management division. As such, he oversaw the preparation of Metro's 2040 plan, which required the redevelopment of dozens of Portland-area neighborhoods to much higher densities.

Peter Calthorpe is an architect and one of the leading proponents of New Urbanism and smart-growth planning. Calthorpe favors the development of higher density pedestrian- and transit-oriented neighborhoods. Early in the 2040 planning process, Metro hired Calthorpe's firm to show how redevelopment would affect selected Portland-area neighborhoods. The resulting document proposes both high-density developments of vacant areas and redevelopment of existing neighborhoods to higher densities. Subsequently, several Portland-area local governments hired Calthorpe's firm to help them implement Metro's plans.

An important factor in Metro's ability to impose higher densities on local neighborhoods was a system of deniability. Metro gave local governments population targets that they had to reach by rezoning neighborhoods to higher densities. The actual rezoning process led to such huge protests in almost every neighborhood that one local planner commented that Portland was "on its way to becoming the new Beirut."

To deflect the protesters, local officials blamed Metro. "We don't have a choice," they said, "Metro is making us do this." But Metro, in turn, blamed the local governments. "We aren't forcing them to rezone any particular neighborhood," said Metro, "only to rezone some area within their jurisdiction." In one case, irate residents recalled their local mayor and city council from office because the council voted to implement Metro's plan. Usually, however, this deniability factor allowed Metro to get away with decisions that local governments would be unable to make by themselves.

Many of the local planners were almost completely unfamiliar with the neighborhoods they were rezoning. When residents of one area took a local planner on a tour of their neighborhood, the planner admitted it was a "lovely neighborhood" and said that the only other time she had visited, "it was raining, the edges of the streets were muddy, and I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to live here." Despite this, she had no hesitation in recommending that the density of the neighborhood be tripled. Naturally, Metro planners were even less familiar with the individual neighborhoods they had targeted for densification than the local planners.

Metro gave out its population targets in 1995, but it did not formally approve the 2040 plan until the end of 1997. At that time, Fregonese quit his job for Metro and accepted a position as full partner to Calthorpe. FCA has since worked to promote Portland-style planning in numerous other regions.

So FCA's attorneys are correct: FCA has an excellent reputation for writing plans that propose to redevelop existing neighborhoods to higher densities over the protests of residents of those neighborhoods. So it is not surprising that FCA would do the same in Contra Costa County. Yet few of the people who attended planning meetings in Contra Costa County knew of FCA's reputation.

Unlike Oregon, California has no statewide planning system, and the San Francisco Bay Area has no regional government with Metro's authority to impose planning decisions on local governments. FCA is working for Contra Costa County (in which Martinez is located) in an attempt to create a system of deniability despite the lack of a regional government. Along with the County, nineteen Contra Costa cities, including Martinez are co-sponsoring FCA's planning process.

As outlined in a memo from John Fregonese to a Contra Costa County policy committee, the goal of the process is to get all nineteen cities to agree to a "compact" that will require them all to follow the "vision" being developed by FCA. Part of this compact includes a series of "principles," including "the principle of speaking with a collective voice." Just what is a "collective voice"? Apparently, it consists of FCA holding public meetings and then reporting that people at the meetings share the "vision" of increased densities and "infill" -- regardless of what the people at those meetings actually said.

Knowing FCA's "excellent reputation," anyone involved in such a process would expect that the resulting plan would call for redeveloping many existing neighborhoods to higher densities. FCA may or may not be intimately familiar with those neighborhoods, but FCA's redevelopment plans would be based more on the company's faith in density than on the needs of specific neighborhoods.

The Martinez residents who protested FCA's plan considered the "intimidating letter" from FCA's attorney to be "a shocking disappointment." In a memo to their city council, they argued that the letter betrayed "a lack of censensus building ability." "Nobody," they concluded, "should be bullied for expressing concerns about the redevelopment of their home."
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PonderInc
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2008, 01:52:56 pm »

Please don't post "articles" without referencing the source.  Just b/c it has a date on it, does not mean it was written by an actual journalist.

This "article" is actually a blog that appears on exactly ONE website: "The Thoreau Institite."

What exactly does this have to do with Walden Pond?  Absolutely nothing.  Here's the self- stated mission of the TI website:

The problem is with the idea of planning itself. Our new web log, The Antiplanner, promotes the repeal of federal and state planning laws and the closure of state and local planning departments. The blog will show why planning fails, document planning disasters, comment on planning news, and present the latest research on public lands, urban areas, and transportation.

The "institute" appears to be comprised of three people.  They seem to be strongly anti-rail.  They are not to be confused with the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, a center for research and education focused on Henry David Thoreau, his literary works, philosophy, etc.
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MichaelBates
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2008, 02:51:45 pm »

In this story from the Dallas Business Journal, March 6, 2006, "Dallas Ponders First Masterplan," there's a quote from John Fregonese about the situation in Contra Costa County.

quote:

Fregonese's firm has led or assisted planning in 18 communities, with varying degrees of success.

“To waste $750,000 and actually cause animosities among cities isn't what our goals were,” said Antioch, Calif., City Councilman Arne Simonsen, speaking of a countywide plan Fregonese Calthorpe Associates attempted in Contra Costa County, Calif. “We were supposed to cooperate and not have things forced down our throat.”

The task there was to reach consensus on where 19 city boundaries should stop, to preserve the remaining green space in Contra Costa County. The plan, entitled “Shaping Our Future,” failed to reach consensus, so it couldn't take full effect. Some cities have implemented the plan fully, while others haven't.

Simonsen said special interest groups like the Sierra Club short-circuited the process.

Fregonese said, “That was a completely different thing than Dallas. The client was a mayor's caucus. ... It is probably one of the less successful (ventures) because it wasn't run by a council of governments; it's way less effective than a comprehensive plan.”



It bothers me that the story Double A quotes (which is also on the OK-SAFE website) doesn't list the names of any of the city officials or citizens involved in the lawsuit threat, which makes it very hard to search for confirming information.

Still, I think city officials and PLANiTULSA team members could allay some fears if they committed not to use eminent domain (or the threat of eminent domain) to redevelop neighborhoods as part of the plan.
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Double A
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2008, 03:00:40 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by PonderInc

Please don't post "articles" without referencing the source.  Just b/c it has a date on it, does not mean it was written by an actual journalist.

This "article" is actually a blog that appears on exactly ONE website: "The Thoreau Institite."

What exactly does this have to do with Walden Pond?  Absolutely nothing.  Here's the self- stated mission of the TI website:

The problem is with the idea of planning itself. Our new web log, The Antiplanner, promotes the repeal of federal and state planning laws and the closure of state and local planning departments. The blog will show why planning fails, document planning disasters, comment on planning news, and present the latest research on public lands, urban areas, and transportation.

The "institute" appears to be comprised of three people.  They seem to be strongly anti-rail.  They are not to be confused with the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, a center for research and education focused on Henry David Thoreau, his literary works, philosophy, etc.



If this was pro Frego I bet you wouldn't complain. The source doesn't change the facts, btw.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2008, 03:27:37 pm »

Many sources change facts every single day.  Some are misinformed, others have an agenda.  I'm skeptical of anything I read on the internet if I can't validate a reliable source.  

If you've ever done internet research, you'll notice just how often info is copied and pasted from one website to another...so you'll see everything from typos to false statements spread like kudzu...gaining credibility simply b/c they're ubiquitous.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2008, 03:39:30 pm »

Oh, by the way, interesting piece by Michael Bates in the Urban Tulsa this week, about the group called "OK SAFE" and their weirdly misinformed conspiracy theories pertaining to the Comp Plan.  http://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A24886

Thanks for the focus on PLANiTULSA, Michael. Thanks to your articles, a lot more people have signed up to participate.  I keep waiting for the Tulsa World to jump on board with a story or two.  You'd think our first chance for citizens to update the plan since 1978 would be newsworthy.  Haven't seen much yet.  (I did see the PLANiTULSA ad on the bottom of the back page of the sports section recently...down there under the high school box scores...)
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Double A
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2008, 06:25:39 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by PonderInc

Many sources change facts every single day.  Some are misinformed, others have an agenda.  I'm skeptical of anything I read on the internet if I can't validate a reliable source.  

If you've ever done internet research, you'll notice just how often info is copied and pasted from one website to another...so you'll see everything from typos to false statements spread like kudzu...gaining credibility simply b/c they're ubiquitous.



Perhaps you should practice what you preach and disclose the fact that you are serving on the PlaniTulsa Partners and Advisors committee if you are so concerned about the reliability of sources in the interest of full disclosure?
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MDepr2007
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2008, 10:06:49 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by PonderInc

Oh, by the way, interesting piece by Michael Bates in the Urban Tulsa this week, about the group called "OK SAFE" and their weirdly misinformed conspiracy theories pertaining to the Comp Plan.  http://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A24886

Thanks for the focus on PLANiTULSA, Michael. Thanks to your articles, a lot more people have signed up to participate.  I keep waiting for the Tulsa World to jump on board with a story or two.  You'd think our first chance for citizens to update the plan since 1978 would be newsworthy.  Haven't seen much yet.  (I did see the PLANiTULSA ad on the bottom of the back page of the sports section recently...down there under the high school box scores...)



maybe some are still too burned from Viva 2025 !! and all the many v's that have followed.
Don't forget the city still has a "Substandard " map laying around thats still fresh[Wink]
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RecycleMichael
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2008, 05:15:25 am »

quote:
Originally posted by Double A
Perhaps you should practice what you preach and disclose the fact that you are serving on the PlaniTulsa Partners and Advisors committee if you are so concerned about the reliability of sources in the interest of full disclosure?



Ponder has been very open about the fact that she is on the partners and advisors committee. She has mentioned it on this forum more than once.

Stop making the planning process a war. This is a chance for Tulsa planners to listen to every idea from every citizen. You continue to attack it instead of embracing the opportunity for your views to be heard.

No good thing is good enough for you.
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MDepr2007
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2008, 06:20:41 am »

quote:
Originally posted by RecycleMichael

quote:
Originally posted by Double A
Perhaps you should practice what you preach and disclose the fact that you are serving on the PlaniTulsa Partners and Advisors committee if you are so concerned about the reliability of sources in the interest of full disclosure?



Ponder has been very open about the fact that she is on the partners and advisors committee. She has mentioned it on this forum more than once.

Stop making the planning process a war. This is a chance for Tulsa planners to listen to every idea from every citizen. You continue to attack it instead of embracing the opportunity for your views to be heard.

No good thing is good enough for you.



Just who are the Tulsa planners you speak of and why haven't they listened to every citizen before and why would they start now?

Many have been heard before and  beleive it's a waste to believe it will happen this time. ( unless you belong to a special group )
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RecycleMichael
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2008, 06:50:29 am »

They are all listed on the planiTulsa website and have all been listed on this forum in previous threads.

random acts of negativity again?

If you think everything is a waste of time, why do you spend the time to post here?
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2008, 07:37:25 am »

quote:
Originally posted by MDepr2007
Just who are the Tulsa planners you speak of and why haven't they listened to every citizen before and why would they start now?
 


Logistically how exactly would a person who is a planner go about making sure that they EVERY citizen? Seeing as there are some 384,037 people that live in Tulsa that could prove challenging.  What happens if all those 384,037 people don’t agree on everything? What should the planner do in that case?
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Conan71
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2008, 11:42:23 am »

I'm a skeptic, but instead of making wild assumptions about our planning, I took the invitation to sign up and participate in the process.

I'm guessing the usual suspects will continue to piss and moan about it instead of having their voice heard.

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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2008, 11:55:54 am »

I signed up. Why not? Even with doubts it's better to take part than to sit back and complain before/during/after.

I'd rather be there to get an idea about what's going on than be buggered about what might happen if I don't say/do something to take part.
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Double A
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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2008, 12:57:02 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by RecycleMichael

quote:
Originally posted by Double A
Perhaps you should practice what you preach and disclose the fact that you are serving on the PlaniTulsa Partners and Advisors committee if you are so concerned about the reliability of sources in the interest of full disclosure?



Ponder has been very open about the fact that she is on the partners and advisors committee. She has mentioned it on this forum more than once.

Stop making the planning process a war. This is a chance for Tulsa planners to listen to every idea from every citizen. You continue to attack it instead of embracing the opportunity for your views to be heard.

No good thing is good enough for you.



Really? Why don't you show me where PanderInc has disclosed this fact previously? Show and prove, Spincycle. You folks really hate it when your own B.S., biases, and conflicts of interests are used to call you on your hypocrisy. The public has a right to know that in similar planning processes undertaken by Frego that their voices clearly were not heard, so much so that it resulted in a Mayor and City Couyncil being recalled. You have been proven time and time again to be a lying sack of s#*t, so you're words are meaningless completely meaningless to me. BTW, I'll say whatever the hell I want.
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