Sunday, October 10 2021

The towns and villages of Marin prepare to update key housing policies as a historic housing crisis looms.

Local governments are expected to submit a housing component project in June and complete the document by January 2023. The process is expected to pit old pressures to curb growth against growing demands to house a growing number of people unable to find a home. lodging.

Community leaders say they will move forward this month assuming they will have to identify the required number of residences based on the state-mandated numbers, even though appeal hearings with communities contesting their Assignments are scheduled with the Association of Bay Area Governments through October. Most communities in Marin have used state housing mandates, citing limited resources.

“It is very difficult to have a suburb entirely, bordering on the countryside in some places, of the county, which is part of a larger urban metropolitan area and which is stuck in the same system,” the director said. Larkspur Municipal, Dan Schwarz.

“It is not good public policy for us to (create many) units in areas that have to deal with these dangers,” he said. “If things are going and we need to accommodate so many more units, then we need to discuss with the community how we bring that level of housing in a way that matches our community character?” “

Waterfront residences stand in Mill Valley on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

Last week, Larkspur City Council approved contracts to lead public outreach and appointed a steering committee, although outreach sessions are not scheduled until after the ABAG’s appeal hearing from the city ​​in October. Mill Valley will begin Housing Component Workshops next week. Fairfax has already hosted a workshop hosted by the city’s affordable housing committee and will hold a joint planning committee and city council meeting on September 22.

Fairfax Planning and Construction Services Manager Ben Berto said, “There has been broad support for affordable housing in the discussion we’ve had so far. We are focusing on what is called a “missing link” housing strategy.

Berto was not specific to this strategy, but said it recognizes the changing needs of homeowners, creating options such as duplexes, small multi-unit housing complexes and adding infill in residential neighborhoods. where applicable ”.

“We are definitely committed to providing housing, it’s just a matter of level and circumstances. We need to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for the city.

San Anselmo planning director Elise Semonian said the city is limited in resources and no workshops are scheduled. She expects the Planning Commission and City Council to consider an ordinance requiring that a percentage of residences in development projects be affordable and take into account design and development standards for multi-family dwellings before completion. of the year.

“The city has already zoned all unopened land to allow housing and we have sites available for over 1,200 units and 9,100 secondary units,” Semonian said. “Our challenge will be to find ways to encourage the development of affordable housing units, because half of our project (regional housing needs allocation) of 833 units is in the low income category.”

Ross’s planning and construction manager Patrick Streeter said workshops would begin in October, regardless of the outcome of the call to ABAG. He said Ross, being very developed with a market dominated by high cost single family homes, needs to hire people “who work here and are interested in living here but don’t have that opportunity right now.”

“We want to do our part, but we want to make sure it’s realistic,” he said.

In Marin, only San Rafael and Novato did not appeal state allowances. San Rafael’s director of community development Alicia Giudice said the city is also adjusting to the state’s new housing bills. For example, Senate Bill 9, which would allow multiple residences in single-family areas of up to four units, must be considered by all jurisdictions if approved by Governor Gavin Newsom. The integration of AB 686, designed to promote fair housing, is also a major concern.

The city made an offer to a housing program manager to begin work in October, alongside contract consultant Barry Miller, to open community workshops in October, December and spring. Miller said the city had factored in expected housing increases in the 2040 General Plan’s environmental impact report alongside the Downtown Precise Plan, with a focus on downtown development “as opposed to the put in neighborhoods and open spaces “.

Cause of slow growth

Marin continues to be a difficult place to afford to live. Home values ​​rose 17% last year to all-time highs, with the median price in August rising to $ 1.8 million. The average cost of a two-bedroom rental varies by type of housing and location, but Marin remains one of the most expensive counties in California to rent a home. According to the 2021 National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “Out of Reach” study, renters in Marin must earn $ 68.33 per hour, or $ 142,120 per year, to rent an estimated modest two-bedroom home. at $ 3,553 per month.

Yet the long-standing pullback against growth continues throughout Marin, particularly as demand for statebuilding increases.

“Sacramento really can’t plan your city. They don’t know your community, ”said Grace Geraghty, Executive Director of Responsible Growth Marin. The organization promotes the use of infill and vacant commercial space and encourages cities to increase affordable housing percentage requirements and developer fee costs.

“I don’t think disrupting the single-family home policy or neighborhoods is the answer,” said Susan Coleman, a member of the organization’s board of directors. She advocated for “missing” housing, such as small houses for the elderly who sell their larger houses and young families.

“A combination of new options at all levels, from owned homes to rental properties, is needed to integrate market rate, affordable housing, low-income housing and senior housing,” he said. she declared.

Geraghty argued that building proposals should be presented to all local groups, such as schools and neighborhood committees, to take into account long-term impacts, especially on water and land.

“We don’t believe that allowing the market to deal with what size of building on what size of land will lead to an attractive and prosperous city with a good quality of life for its residents,” she said. “There must be sufficient infrastructure resources… to support the number of new housing units planned and authorized. “

Lobby for fairness

Other groups have called for a relaxation of old policies favoring wage and racial discrimination. Historically isolated areas of the county continue to face high rates of poverty and overcrowding unevenly affecting black and Latino residents of the county.

Omar Carrera, executive director of Canal Alliance in San Rafael, said affordable housing for Marin’s workforce should come first.

“We expect the private sector to solve the housing problems we have. I think it’s very idealistic, ”he said. “I think we need to prioritize housing for low income families. “

Caroline Peattie of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California said she was disappointed that so many Marin jurisdictions have called for increased requirements for new housing construction.

“If you look at the history of segregation in this country, and look at the separate lifestyles and what it looks like today, I think it makes perfect sense that there are additional requirements. like those in Marin County, to compensate for some of these inequalities, ”she said.

“I understand that there are issues with drought and lack of water,” said Peattie. Do with it. We also know that climate change is having a disproportionate impact on blacks and browns. “

She added that cities need to discuss the number of mandatory houses built that will be affordable, especially for very low and very low income people, “making sure it’s not so expensive that it pushes everyone. get out”.

Peattie said she hopes to see these discussions at workshops on the housing component, with conversations about racial equity on an ongoing basis, to “put our money where our mouth is” to work towards equity. racial and income.

“Rather than thinking about all the barriers to building affordable housing and finding reasons why the jurisdiction can’t build, it would be, I think, a lot more fruitful to see how it can be done,” Peattie said. .

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