Latest InGen BioSciences News
Jan 30, 2021
Marin supervisors said this week they are gravely concerned about a looming state mandate to build over 14,000 new housing units throughout the county between 2022 and 2030. “Marin County recognizes the need for more affordable housing. We are pursuing a number of strategies to achieve that goal,” Supervisor Damon Connolly said. “But residents are justified in being alarmed by these numbers that we’re seeing out of the state. “Marin is not alone,” Connolly said. “Jurisdictions both large and small from around the region are pushing back. Most recently even San Francisco.” Connolly made his comments after county supervisors were briefed Tuesday about the status of the mandates. Every eight years, the California Department of Housing and Community Development estimates the number of new homes the Bay Area needs to create, and how affordable those homes need to be, to meet the housing needs of people at all income levels. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) then assigns a share of the region’s housing need to each city, town and county in the region. Each local government must then update its general plan to show where the housing can be built. Under the plan currently moving forward, the state is requiring Bay Area jurisdictions to create over 441,000 housing units from 2022 to 2030, more than twice the 187,000 units it directed Bay Area jurisdictions to zone for from 2015 to 2023. The number of units assigned to Marin County’s unincorporated area alone increased over 1,700% from 185 units in the previous cycle to 3,510 for the next cycle. Of that total, 1,063 are to be priced for people with very low incomes, and 611 are to be priced for people with low incomes. Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters said, “There is a perfect storm right now between these very elevated Regional Housing Need Allocation numbers and the advent of SB 35. “The interplay is simply. If you don’t reach your numbers you are subject to the SB 35 ministerial approvals for projects coming up,” Moulton-Peters said, “which really does take local decision-making out of land use planning. It is a very frightening scenario.” Under SB 35, any municipality or county that fails to build the amount of housing assigned to it by ABAG is subject to a streamlined approval process for new housing projects. According to state housing officials, only two Marin municipalities — Mill Valley and Corte Madera — built enough housing during the last eight years to make them exempt from SB 35. In December, the county’s Community Development Agency approved a five-story, 74-apartment complex on a 1.1-acre lot in Marin City without review by the county Planning Commission or lengthy environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act due to SB 35. AMG & Associates LLC of Encino, the developer of the Marin City project, has also proposed building a six-story building at 1020 Fourth St. in Novato that would include commercial space on the first floor and 227 apartments on the upper floors. The Board of Supervisors has written three letters objecting to ABAG’s new housing mandates. In a Nov. 13 letter to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who serves as ABAG’s president, Supervisor Katie Rice wrote, “With an increase of this magnitude, the county may not be able to adopt a compliant housing element unless we put housing in environmentally sensitive areas, prone to fires, flooding and sea level rise.” “In light of recent fire events, it is important to address fire hazards,” Rice wrote. “Many unincorporated communities are considered ‘Communities at Risk’ by the National Fire Plan because of the proximity of housing to areas susceptible to wildland fires.” Rice stated that many of the roads to access these areas are private, narrow and substandard. “New land uses and development could expose people and structures to wildland fires throughout the county,” she wrote, “especially in areas with steep slopes, high fuel loads or inadequate emergency access.” Moulton-Peters said she had attended her first ABAG meeting the previous week and that representatives from Sonoma and Solano counties also expressed concern that the new mandates would push development into rural areas. Moulton-Peters said such a policy would be contrary to the founding mission of Plan Bay Area. Approved initially in 2013, Plan Bay Area’s main purpose is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by channeling housing and job growth along existing traffic corridors, near mass transit, jobs, shopping and other services. Plan Bay Area is updated every four years, however, and the latest iteration of the plan also identifies “high resource areas” where it recommends that increased housing development should be created. As defined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, “high resource areas” are neighborhoods with characteristics and resources most associated with positive educational and long-term economic outcomes for low-income children. These include: low poverty rates and high educational attainment, employment rates, home values and school test scores. The number of high resource areas in Marin is one of the primary reasons that the county’s share of housing in the 2022 to 2030 cycle grew more than those of most other Bay Area counties. According to Daniel Saver, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s assistant director for housing and local planning, the incorporation of “high resource/opportunity areas” into Plan Bay Area’s equation was required because of Assembly Bill 686, which mandated that counties and cities implement the Obama-era policy of “affirmatively furthering fair housing.” ABAG chose to align itself with this “high resource area strategy.” Leelee Thomas, a Marin County planning manager, said that while complying with the housing mandate will be a challenge, the county is in desperate need of more affordable housing. “Marin continues to have one of the highest median incomes in the state,” Thomas said, “but meanwhile many of our working families and seniors are struggling to meet their basic housing needs. “Marin continues to present the starkest inequities related to housing throughout the Bay Area. About two-thirds of non-Hispanic White residents are homeowners, and roughly three-fourths of both Black and Hispanic households are renters.” Supervisor Dennis Rodoni said, however, “We don’t build houses. It is developers who build houses. It is still very expensive to build in Marin.” Thomas said jurisdictions will get a chance to appeal the housing mandates this summer, but she said the county must file its compliance plan by January 2023 and will proceed in the meantime on the assumption that nothing will change.