I'm not opposed to redevelopment at Marinwood Plaza, it is indeed long overdue. Nor am I opposed to a housing element (could actually help lower the propensity for nighttime crime at the currently desolate sight). Nor do I think time should stand still. Nor do I think that we should not consider our part in helping with Marin's housing needs for a longterm future.
Redeveloping Marinwood Plaza with the ONLY developer willing to consider the project at the rock bottom of the real estate market seems a bad idea from a 10-, 25-, or 50-year perspective. Also, make no mistake: this project primarily benefits Bridge Housing—which, as with so many non-profits, has motives beyond social good (read: salaries). Next up, it benefits politicians and other communities in Marin. In a distant fourth is a relatively small number of people needing low-cost housing (which is needed in Marin). Meanwhile, local taxpayers will take on the full burden as the new residents will not contribute to the schools, fire, etc. And local taxpayers get to find out if Bridge Housing's impact projections prove accurate or wildly optimistic.
Several issues need to be evaluated carefully:
-Impact of 85 new homes on the ADJACENT Miller Creek watershed
-Impact to schools (not rosy guesstimates of 0.8 child/house)
-Impact to traffic and parking (development will likely need 2-3 cars parking per unit and does not have it)
Bridge Housing has ignored requests to consider senior housing, which would significantly lessen parking problems and completely remove the schools problem. Bridge has also worked with the county and, sadly, the CSD to actively exclude the community from the discussion this time around. I know, because I was personally present at a "community meeting" of chosen "community representatives" (I was serving as VP for my HOA at the time, and our president could not go so I was asked to be there). At that meeting, the group was specifically asked not to go talking about everything lest we upset "certain elements." I probably fall in the middle on this issue, leaning toward the skeptical, but that's flat wrong.
The imminent project is now very, very far from the last real community meeting Marinwood-Lucas Valley had, back in 2008 or so, where residents made clear what they felt was acceptable at the Marinwood Plaza site: 70 units, with 50 of them at market rate and 20 as affordable housing—all for sale to new homeowners. Bridge Housing's plan calls for 85 units of 100% affordable housing and 100% permanent rentals, and two months away from the county making a decision.
The state wants this.
The county wants this.
The developer wants this.
A few in Marinwood who have worked for years to get better stores (!) here want this.
But...does the majority really want this? And at this cost?
CSD members tell us that if Bridge goes away, they fear a redevelopment won't happen for a while again. Given current real estate values—and the fact that Bridge's numbers are predicated on rock-bottom values in a market that is now on the rise—is that a bad thing?
Or, is it time that Marinwood considers a modified version of what its neighbors did years ago with Open Space: Buy the property to preserve the way of life so many chose here? A woman from Mount Marin at the meeting said she happily paid $75/year to buy up the open space we all enjoy today. I'd happily pay a parcel tax to buy up Marinwood Plaza for the purposes of developing it as the community sees fit. Some retail, 20-40 units of housing, and a park are an interesting alternative to Bridge's plan. After all, I'll be paying more in taxes either way—and by the look of it, Bridge Housing's plan will stick me with more than an outright purchase might. Perhaps, if we leased the land on the cheap to a developer, we might mitigate those costs—and create a revenue source for our schools and firefighters.
Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but I'd be curious to hear what others in the community think.
I'd also be curious to hear what the Sierra Club and the EPA might say about this project next to Miller Creek.
Whatever happens, even if it is indeed the Bridge Housing development, this project should not be rubber-stamped or hurried—and it should NOT be allowed to happen without more opportunity for input from the families who will live with the impact for many decades to come.