Two men with competing visions
Original post made by Tim Hunt on Feb 7, 2012
During my career as a daily journalist in the Livermore Valley, I have chronicled and commented on politics.
Two major playerswith greatly differing perspectives, passed on from cancer in the last few months.
Most recently, Don Miller, whom I've labeled the "guru of the Livermore no-growth movement", died this month. Miller moved to Livermore in 1956 and led the no-growth movement through the more than four decades of battles over a vision for Livermore and the valley.
One of the leaders pushing a different pro-economic growth vision, Gib Marguth, passed away last August. Both men were effective although-- giving credit where credit is duelots of Miller's vision has prevailed in Livermore. The Las Positas Valley, marginal land good only for dry-land farming, still lies vacant north of LivermoreMiller battled development plans there since the 1960s. Of course, what doesn't lie vacant is premier farm land in Tracy, Manteca, Patterson and other San Joaquin Valley communities.
During my time as an editor, I had the opportunity to deal with both men. Gib was known for his optimistic attitude and his record of public serviceschool trustee, councilman and mayor, Zone 7 water district director during valley-wide battles over infrastructure as well as a one-term Assemblyman before redistricting collapsed his district.
Notably, Gib worked for several employers including Sandia and Lawrence Livermore labs as well as Livermore Data Systems, a company he founded. He had both private sector and public sector experience that guided his decision making.
By contrast, Don spent his 45 years at the lab during a time when it was largely immune from the economic realities that it deals with today. It was important work to defend the nation against the Soviet Union with annual raises given routinely. Professionally, he was widely published and taught at universities.
Miller's style of politics was similar to the late Al Davis', "Just win, baby." I admired his ability to write a concise (two or three sentences) letter that nailed a sharp point.
He was known for his steadfast refusal to compromisea trait that led some of his former allies to separate themselves over the years. Miller battled for years to uphold the so-called scenic corridor ordinance that forbid building on the hills along I-580 if the structures were visible from the freeway. The irony that his home sat on a ridgeline visible from the freeway didn't make a difference.
That ordinance drove developers building what's now the Tri-Valley Technology Park crazyCostco had to excavate more than planned to preserve sightlines. Of course, those rules all were ignored when it was critical to Las Positas College to have a second access roadShea Homes was able to build to the heights it wanted.
One additional irony: the North Livermore Avenue gateway to Livermore is a revenue cash cow for Livermore with its mix of auto dealers, big box retailers, fast food stores and gas stations. Nothing about it qualifies as scenic.
Miller's influence expanded beyond Livermore. He also led a law suit against Pleasanton when it approved Hacienda Business Park, a fixture in the city today that has allowed Pleasanton to enjoy a huge revenue flow compared to its population.
Over the last number of years, Livermore politics has evolved substantially with a group of curious bedfellows advocating the large regional theater downtown, while former allies have disparaged that plan. Until last fall's council election, Miller and his allies had dominated council seats for a decade.
Looking back, both men gave freely of their time and talent to serve the public and did some with sharply differing visions.
on Feb 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm
Another difference. I have never heard the name Gib Marguth until now.
Don Miller, on another hand, is a legend. He is known throughout the Bay Area and beyond. He was a brilliant, dedicated, and talented environmentalist and without him, Pleasanton, Livermore, Sunol and Dublin would now look like Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley from houses lining ridgeline to ridgeline.
He started the SAVE movement, Citizens for Balanced Growth etc. and tried to save Dougherty Valley from being developed. Though that lawsuit was lost, the city of Livermore and CBG now have millions of dollars from that lawsuit to acquire open space.
[Wouldn't Tim Hunt love houses and corporations stacked next to each other ridgeline to ridgeline? Yes, YES! Of course. It is his ultimate dream, I'll bet!]
on Feb 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Yes, Don Miller is a legend to some folks. I think history will tell the tale--the Las Positas Valley is grossly under-utilized and prime land in the Central Valley grows houses. If his view had prevailed on Hacienda Business Park, Pleasanton and the valley would be vastly different. Hacienda was a drive in attracting the Ruby Hill investment as well as lots of other businesses that provide sales taxes and other city revenues for the very high level of city services residents receive. I've never advocated filling the valley with housing--the trade-off of irrigated agriculture for housing in the South Livermore Valley sparked the revival of the wine industry in the valley that was shrinking so much that the Wente family members had to organize a group to save Concannon Vineyards when its corporate owner was selling it.
on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm
The Las Positas Valley (North Livermore) and South Livermore Valley are both for designated for agricultural and open space use, not massive housing subdivisions like East Dublin.
It is the presence of an Urban Growth Boundary in Livermore that means urban sprawl in both the Las Positas Valley/North Livermore and the South Livermore Valley has not caused leapfrog development after leapfrog investment.
That has allowed there to be downtown revitalization and a very nice walkable community within Downtown Livermore.
Compare the difference -- the Downtown-less Dublin with its strip shop centers and constant sprawl westward toward Castro Valley with the Seeno development and the sprawl eastward toward Livermore vs Livermore itself Web Link
So I'd say the Las Positas Valley is not grossly underutilized at all. Instead its protection has been a key component so that investment at Livermore's center...downtown Livermore...so it has been re-energized and re-vitalized.