I recently attended a Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers (MCCMC) meeting to listen to a presentation given by Ken Kirkey, the director of planning to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Kirkey gave an update on the One Bay Area plan and the latest Regional Housing Needs Allocation.
He was supposed to answer questions that councilmembers had submitted prior to the meeting but neglected to answer many of them. Residents were also given the opportunity to ask questions. In response, Kirkey oftentimes gave rote answers that had little to do with the actual questions, stated that the question(s) were outside ABAG’s purview, or simply stated that regardless of why a community would have difficulties complying with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers, they would have to plan for those numbers anyway.
The presentation was another display of ABAG’s disconnect with the counties, cities and people it is supposed to represent.
for more: Has ABAG become Irrelevant?
Kiki La Porta’s Marin Voice column in the Marin IJ (“Planning for a Future We Can Live In," June 3) cites critically Sharon Rushton’s Marin Voice of April 29 ("It is Time for Marin to Challenge ABAG's Planning"). "Kiki La Porta of San Rafael is president of Sustainable Marin, an organization comprised of Sustainable Fairfax, Sustainable Novato, Sustainable San Anselmo, Sustainable San Rafael and other affiliates," according to the IJ Op-Ed identifier. Sharon Rushton is chairperson of Sustainable TamAlmonte.
Beware when the president of an organization starts out with "We of (blank) were puzzled ..."
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) has determined all of the East of Las Gallinas to Highway 101 and North of Lucas Valley Rd should be prioritized for high density development. In addition to extremly low income (ELI), very low income (VLI), low income (LI) and moderate income "workforce housing", senior and disabled housing, permanent homeless shelters may be built. The locations for priority development areas are considered for their proximity to transportation and the communities need and willingness to build.
We will have high density housing in Marinwood Lucas Valley unless people like you are willing to be heard. Talk with your neighbor. Write the local media and politicians. Join us in the mission to inform our neighbors what is planned for our community.
Find out more about the 2012 Housing Element for Unincorporated Marin at :
Once again a new deadline, Sept. 19, looms over us for the proposed 2014-2022 RHNA (low income housing) comments.
The Association of Bay Area Governments not
only mandates an allocation of low-income housing but goes further and
oversteps its mission by attempting to force Novato to build and provide
what it terms moderate-rate and above-moderate-rate housing. It is
demanding we increase the housing supply in Novato with forced
This is a disguised effort to regulate not only affordable housing
but all market rate development using SB375 as a justification. If we
are serious about greenhouse gas reductions, we must reject ABAG
mandates of unfunded new housing brought about by the importation of new
residents and first provide for our current senior and working class
Greenwashed high density housing for developer profits/
In reaction to my Op-Ed piece, “Why Are Local Leaders Paralyzed Over ABAG’s One Bay Area Plan?” some people commented that we have no choice but to accept One Bay Area’s vision because the urgency of our climate change crisis demands that we do everything we can, right now, without hesitation. But doing “everything we can” and doing “more of the same” is an important distinction we need to make.
That said, there are three things wrong with the argument that says we have to take action indiscriminately. The first is the assumption that there is an egalitarian “we” that can respond effectively to climate change issues. The second is the assumption that One Bay Area is a viable solution based on the belief that high density development reduces greenhouse gases (GHG). And the third is that the automobile is inherently evil.
Having trouble understanding what SB 375 means to you?
The following is an article from our fellow Citizen Marin affliate in Tam Valley and Almonte:
CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE BILL SB-375 SUMMARY (May 16, 2011)
by Sharon Rushton, Ann Spake, Ann Burke, and Clayton Smith
note that this summary focuses on how SB-375 encourages development in Tam
Valley and Almonte.[Ed. Note:San Rafael and Novato also have Priority
Development Areas (PDAs) that encompass SMART train station stops. Marinwood has a PDA that involves a bus stop]
Information about RHNA
“Regional Housing Needs
Allocation (RHNA) is a state-mandated process for determining how many
housing units, including affordable units, each community must plan to
accommodate. The California Department of Housing and Community Development
(HCD) determines the total housing need for a region, and it is the
Association of Bay Area Government’s (ABAG's) responsibility to distribute this need
to local governments. Working with local governments, ABAG developed an
allocation methodology for assigning units, by income category, to each city and county
in the nine-county Bay Area. This allocation of need shows local governments the
total number of housing units, by affordability, for which they must plan in
their Housing Elements for each planning period. Allocations for each jurisdiction
are published in the annual housing report.”
Senate Bill (SB) 375 was signed into law in 2008. “SB 375 requires that our
Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) contain a Sustainable Communities Strategy
(SCS) that integrates land-use planning and transportation planning. For the
25-year period covered by the Regional Transportation Plan, the Sustainable
Communities Strategy must identify areas within the nine-county Bay Area sufficient
to house all of the region’s population, including all economic segments of the
population. It must also attempt to coordinate the resulting landuse pattern
with the transportation network so as to reduce per capita greenhouse-gas
emissions from personal-use vehicles (automobiles and light trucks).” (Bay Area
Plan – Initial Vision Plan 2011 by ABAG & MTC: Page 1)
SB 375 does not
supersede local laws and local governments are explicitly not required to update
their general plans in accordance with the law’s centerpiece, the Sustainable
Communities Strategy (SCS). However, SB 375 uses incentives (I.e. transportation
funding, etc.) and penalties (I.e. court sanctions; accelerated Housing Element
update cycles, etc.) to entice local jurisdictions to follow the law.
Moreover, under the
Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) state law, a local government is
still required to amend its Housing Element and rezone its land in order to
accommodate the quantity of housing it was assigned under the RHNA — and SB 375
requires that the RHNA be consistent with the Sustainable Communities
Strategy (SCS). In that sense, local governments will still be called
upon to implement
major aspects of the SCS (via the RHNA), whether or not they want to.
As a result, when
local governments select Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) sites, the
sites should be close to mass transit. Furthermore, when local governments update
their Housing Elements and zoning, these updates should allow for compact,
high-density, mixed-use commercial and affordable residential development at the
selected RHNA sites.
ABAG’s MTC’s Implementation of the Sustainable Communities
Two major regional
planning agencies – the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and
Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are leading the
Sustainable Communities Strategy process. In March 2011, they released the Plan
Bay Area - Initial Vision Scenario that represents a starting point for
implementing the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) and making the Regional Housing
Needs Allocation (RHNA) consistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
This Initial Vision Scenario will eventually develop into the final Plan Bay
Area - Sustainable Communities Strategy. In Marin County, the Initial Vision
Scenario focuses RHNA sites near transit hubs in City Centers and along the US Route
101 highway corridor.
The Plan Bay Area -
Initial Vision Scenario incorporates Priority Development Areas (PDAs) and
Growth Opportunity Areas (areas in close proximity to public transit). When
selecting sites for RHNA residential units, local jurisdictions are encouraged to select
sites that are located within PDAs or Growth Opportunity Areas.
Development Areas (PDAs) are locally-identified, infill development opportunity areas
within existing communities. They are generally areas of at least 100 acres where
there is local commitment to developing more housing along with amenities
and services to meet the day-to-day needs of residents in a pedestrian-friendly
environment served by transit. To be eligible to become a
PDA, an area had to
be within an existing community, near existing or planned fixed transit or
served by comparable bus service, and planned for more .” (http://www.bayareavision.org/initiatives/prioritydevelopmentareas.html)
The Plan Bay Area -
Initial Vision Scenario indicates that Unincorporated Marin County should plan
for 2738 more RHNA housing units between YEARS 2010-2035 in Priority
Development Areas and Growth Opportunity Areas.Based on the Initial Vision Scenario map, the Almonte & Tam Valley
lowlands that are within ½ mile from the freeway, are targeted for growth and
have been designated part of the Hwy 101 Corridor Priority Development Area
**Please note that
this is not yet a permanent designation but will become permanent in March
2013 unless the community convinces the Board of Supervisors to remove
Tam Valley and Almonte from the PDA.The
blue outline & shaded area in the below area map shows the parcels of Tam Valley
and Almonte that are included in the Hwy 101 Corridor Priority Development Area
SB-375 Incentives for Developers to Build the “Right” Type of
SB 375 includes
specific incentives, including State and Federal funding, ford developers that
build the “right” type of housing:Streamlined
CEQA Review and Total Exemption from CEQA for Projects Consistent with the
Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS).The
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) usually requires that the potentially
significant impacts of a new development project be evaluated in an Environmental
Impact Report (EIR), along with mitigation measures and potential alternatives
that reduce the impact of the project. However, SB-375 streamlines and exempts
from California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) categories of development that
meet specific criteria.
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has sometimes created a legal barrier to infill
development. SB 375 adjusts CEQA and streamlines or exempts Environment Impact
Reports (EIRs) for projects that are consistent with either an approved Sustainable
Community Strategy (SCS) or, if the SCS does not meet its targets, an approved
Alternative Planning Strategy (APS).” (SB 375 Fact Sheet by Stuart Cohen,
Executive Director of Transform (a Bay Area transportation advocacy group) - http://transformca.org/files/TRANSFORM-SB375-factsheet.pdf)Thus, SB 375 mandates
local governments to plan for concentrated housing near transit hubs and
then gives incentives to developers to construct the housing units in those
How this affects
Tam Valley and Almonte as Plan Bay Area
implements SB 375ʼs Sustainable Communities Strategy, it mandates Marin
County to plan for concentrated housing in the PDAs and then gives incentives to
developers to construct affordable housing in those PDAs.
Therefore, as long
as Tam Valley & Almonte remain in the Hwy 101 Corridor PDA, these
districts will be targeted for accelerated development and growth.
Regarding SB – 375 That Were Answered by Stacy Laumann, a Marin
County Planner on 8/1/11:
QUESTION: In order
to comply with SB-375, when local governments select RHNA sites, must all the
sites be close to mass transit?(OR) Does the law simply encourage RHNA sites to
be close to mass transit and a local jurisdiction can choose to ignore this preference? (OR)
Does SB 375 require that a certain percentage be close to mass transit? [Background:
SB 375 requires that the RHNA be consistent with the Sustainable
Communities Strategy (SCS).]
element law (not SB 375 or RHNA statutes) specifies how a jurisdiction
may satisfy its housing need (as identified by the RHNA). Housing element law
does not specifically require proximity to any amenity, such as transit.
However, it does
require (Government Code Section 65583(a)(3)) “...an analysis of the
zoning and public facilities and services to these sites.” Energy conservation
land use are considered in the certification of the housing element. SB375
is intended to produce a regional plan (SCS) to reduce greenhouse gasses, and align
transportation and land use planning. RHNA consistency with the SCS has to do with
how the regionʼs projected growth is distributed to jurisdictions in the
the SCS has no direct control over local land use decisions, SB375 and the SCS
are intended to locate housing in proximity to transit and employment growth opportunities,
retail centers and other amenities.
QUESTION: Must all
selected RHNA sites be zoned for compact, high-density, mixed use commercial and
affordable residential development?
ANSWER: No. The
housing elementʼs site inventory must demonstrate opportunity for a
of housing types and income levels. A jurisdiction must also demonstrate that
conditions exist to promote and facilitate lower income housing, including
zoning for multi-family
QUESTION: If a
local jurisdiction does not accept the incentives offered by SB 375, how
much of the law may a local jurisdiction avoid? (E.g. If a local jurisdiction does
not accept SB 375 incentives, may the local jurisdiction keep
CEQA intact and require that all developments be evaluated by a full EIR?)
incentives offered through SB375 are related to transportation infrastructure
improvements. But it sounds like you are referring to CEQA incentives for new
structures. If a development project is consistent with SCS and certain other
it could qualify for streamlined CEQA incentives. Please see the following
information on SB375 CEQA incentives. http://www.opr.ca.gov/ceqa/pdfs/SB375-Intro-Charts.pdf
QUESTION: Could the
local jurisdiction ignore the law entirely, provided it did NOT accept any
incentives? If not, what parts of the law must a jurisdiction adhere to and what may it ignore? –
ANSWER (Given by
Brian Crawford): The incentives of
SB375 are basically access to regional transportation funding and
the CEQA streamlining measures referred to above.
We expect there to be a correlation
between the amount of regional transportation funding a local jurisdiction
receives and the amount of regional growth that is planned for the jurisdiction
through the SCS. Based on the Initial Vision Scenario, Marin County has a very
low percentage of the Bay Areaʼs projected growth over the next 30 years (I believe its somewhere around 1%). In
that regard, Marin doesnʼt appear to have much of the incentive as compared to other
places in the Bay Area that have thus far been assigned much higher projected
growth numbers in the vision scenario process and presumably will receive a larger
share of the Bay Areaʼs regional transportation funds.
Although the SCS process is still in
the planning stages, every county and city in the BayArea should be assigned some portion
of the total projected future growth and the portions will vary, in some cases
dramatically, based on the number of future households and jobs are assigned to
specific jurisdictional areas through the final SCS. The growth projections will, in
turn, affect the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) each jurisdiction is
responsible for in the next Housing Element update cycle (2014-2022), to what extent remains
to be seen. A Housing Methodology Committee
omposed of officials from around
the Bay Area is currently working on that issue. So while you may hear that local
jurisdictions are not required to comply with SB 375, how the legislation is implemented
through the SCS (i.e., how regional growth projections are allocated at the local level) will
most likely affect their Housing Element update requirements for identifying housing
opportunity sites (both market rate and affordable). I donʼt see that
connection being avoidable. Also, I donʼt think the CEQA streamlining procedures are contingent upon the
extent to which a local jurisdiction takes part in the SCS process. Itʼs more likely a
matter of whether a project is proposed that is consistent with the SCS and meets all of the other required criteria
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local governments for state mandates. “Unfunded mandates,” which are orders that induce “responsibility, action, procedure or anything else that is imposed by constitutional, administrative, executive, or judicial action” for state and local governments and/or the private sector, are not allowed, or at the very least are not enforceable without compensation.
If this is true, how did we end up in a situation where the State of California is sucking more and more of our tax dollars up to Sacramento while making more and more demands on local county and city governments about educational requirements, health and safety requirements, and particularly on local planning and things like affordable housing Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) quotas without providing any funding to accomplish them?
In the future we will be all living in mud huts? Cool!
This house was featured in ABAG's regional housing needs allocation report 2007-2014 published on this blog. I really think it is a great house. When I dreamed of moving to California in my younger days, I imagined I might live in a cool dwelling like this. I'd have a beautiful wife and children, make art, have an organic garden, live simply and cheaply. It would be my cabin at Walden Pond.
The profound irony is that this house is featured in a ABAG report. This house specifically may be prohibited under the SMART GROWTH objectives of compacting living zones along transportation corridors and building multifamily dwellings.
The goals of SMART GROWTH are completely opposite of idiosyncratic lifestyle as depicted here. It is about rigid conformity based on a central planning approach to organizing a region. Sure, the Transit Orient Developments will be pretty. They will be Disneyland cute. The core concept behind SMART GROWTH is to place controls on everything that makes us unique and free in order to serve the goals of the regional government. They will tell it is for the "greater good" i.e. as they alone define "greater good". It is a quiet tyranny like the Bay Area has never seen.
Let us remain free to decide our neighborhoods, choose our lifestyles, build our dreams. This is the America we inherited. This is what we must protect. This is what we must keep alive for our children.
Speak out! Talk with your neighbor. Call your Supervisor. Save your home. Save our community.
Here is the final report for the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) given for the entire bay area. I am amused at the the use of cool alternative dwellings like houseboats and rammed earth huts as examples. They are pushing high density apartment buildings around bus stops, highways and train stations to "reduce our carbon footprint". How they justify bulldozing land, ignoring CEQA, building on sensitive land, massively increasing our population in concentrated zones as "green" boggles the imagination.
I think "green" refers to developer's cash, government grants and consulting fees.