The bill by the San Rafael Democrat changes Marin's housing designation under state planning and zoning law from "metropolitan" to "suburban."
AB 1537 is significant, because changing Marin's state designation from "metropolitan" to "suburban" means the state's mandate that Marin jurisdictions zone for more "affordable" and market-rate housing would revert from the current minimum of 30 units per acre to a more appropriate 20 units per acre.
Levine's bill passed the Assembly and last week came before the state Senate.
Marin's five-member Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support AB 1537. Kinsey said in backing the resolution, "It makes no sense to characterize Marin as urban when in fact we are a suburban county."
On the day of the Senate vote, a reliable source told me that Kinsey had contacted senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's office outlining reasons why the legislation was, in his opinion, bad.
I spoke to Kinsey and asked him if the tip was true.
Kinsey confirmed that he communicated with Kip Lipper, Steinberg's chief counsel for energy and environment. He asked Lipper, and in effect Steinberg, to consider what Kinsey regarded as the bill's negative consequences before the Senate voted. He denied that he indicated opposition to AB 1537.
Kinsey issued a press release the morning after I asked him about the inconsistency. It was similar to what he told Lipper, saying, "the crisis of skyrocketing rents and few homes within reach of our residents made me concerned about the significant subsidy increase each new affordable unit will cost under this legislation."
|Will the Real Steve Kinsey, speak up?|
I respect Kinsey's passion for affordable housing, but he managed to give the impression he was talking from both sides of his mouth.
I then told the 4th District supervisor that I'd be writing about this. Kinsey, like any good politician, tried to get out ahead of the story by issuing the press release subsequently published as a letter to the editor. That's his right and politically wise.
Readers should understand that Kinsey's motivating factor was the IJ learning of a glaring inconsistency that was previously under wraps.
Levine's initial version of AB 1537 was weakened in committee even before Kinsey communicated with Steinberg's office. The revised text provides "within one half-mile of a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station, housing density requirements in place on June 30, 2014 shall apply."
That means the higher-density "metropolitan" designation remains for neighborhoods surrounding Novato and San Rafael SMART stations. If Kinsey should have opposed anything, it was this amendment. Levine had to accept the change if his legislation was to survive.
Ultimately, AB 1537 passed the Senate with Steinberg's support. It now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.
Kinsey has pledged not to lobby Brown.
Practically, its fate is now in the hands of Southern Marin Supervisor Kate Sears, a Brown appointee. A word from Sears to the governor, either up or down, will likely determine the legislation's fate.
Last Sunday, I praised Habitat for Humanity's new 10-unit Mount Burdell Place in Novato. I erroneously described the units designed for lower-income families as "apartments" and "condos." The site near downtown Novato is large enough that each unit will be a single-family home. That makes Habitat's new project an even more apt model for developing appropriately scaled housing throughout Marin.