Sunday, January 5, 2014

Understanding what the 2012 Housing Element means to You.

To understand why the Supervisor's are locating 71% of all affordable housing (83% extremely low to low income)  in Marinwood/Lucas Valley, it helps to understand the County Documents and the following information.  These housing units will pay very little taxes and are expect to grow our community by 25%.  Our schools and public service will need significantly more tax money to maintain present quality.

 The 2012 DRAFT Marin County Housing Element. can be confusing. This is understandable. Unless, you are familiar with this 2012 DRAFT Housing Element, the Housing Element’s Environmental Impact Review (EIR) Available Land Inventory, Senate Bill 375, CEQA and other State & County laws related to affordable housing, it is difficult to understand the full implications of the sites in Marinwood/Lucas Valley as potential Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites.

1) QUESTION: Does the 2012 DRAFT Marin County Housing Element target the Marinwood/Lucas Valley Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites with potential high-density housing?
ANSWER: “Yes”, if the content of the 2012 DRAFT Housing Element remains the same as it is currently written. Please read directly below to understand why this is the case.

Each Marin County Housing Element includes an Available Land Inventory that consists of enough Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites to meet the projected housing needs of Unincorporated Marin for the housing element’s planning period. FIVE MARINWOOD/LUCAS VALLEY sites have been identified as potential Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites. Three of these sites are proposed for inclusion in the current 2012 DRAFT Marin County Housing Element (2007 to 2014) and two are proposed for inclusion in the next Housing Element (2014 to 2022) or else future Housing Elements.

Although we hope the county will stop adding  affordable housing development in to the five sites  listed in the Housing Element,  we know that Rock H ranch and other property along Lucas Valley Road and 101 Highway has prelimary EInvironmental Impact Report  (EIR) allowances for up to 280 dwelling unit each. While other areas in Unincorporated Marin such as Tam Junction are wrestling with much lower housing allocations of 182 residential units at five locations versus Marinwood/Lucas Valley' 500 plus living units.This can be verified by visiting to the County website
Marinwood Plaza will have all Extremely Low Income (ELI), Very Low Income (VLI), and Low Income (LI) tenants. Bridge Housing claims that most of their residents earn between $15,000 and $50,000 per family see

For more evidence that the 2012 Draft Housing Element is targeting our area with potential high-density development, please read the 2012 Draft Marin County Housing Element-

2) QUESTION: Would the Marinwood/Lucas Valley Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites actually be developed with high-density housing, if they remain in the 2012 and future Housing Element’s available land inventory?

ANSWER: This is not a simple yes or no answer.
In addition to the owner’s personal preferences and financial parameters, there are State laws and County laws plans, including County zoning regulations, which would influence what could be built on a site. Furthermore, there are other factors that may limit development at the sites and still other factors, just as influential, that could encourage the sites to be developed with high-density housing.

Being identified as an Affordable Housing Opportunity Site, increases the odds that an affordable housing developer would become aware of the site and signifies to the developer that the site is zoned, available, and suitable for affordable housing, since these are the requirements for a site to be included in the Housing Element’s inventory of Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites. The designation also lets the affordable developer know that the zoning most likely allows for the County’s default density of 30 units/acre and that the County would be helpful in the developer’s pursuit to develop housing at the site.

So, being identified, as an Affordable Housing Opportunity Site, does not mean that, when the site is put on the market for sale, it would definitely be bought by an affordable housing developer and developed as an affordable housing complex. It means that there is greater likelihood that this scenario would happen. In addition, it increases the odds that the property would be developed at a higher density than normal due to the density bonuses, incentives and exceptions to development standards that affordable housing developers may be granted.

Expensive Construction:
Due to the physical conditions at the sites, development would be very expensive. This expense may lower the likelihood that the sites would be developed. On the other hand, there are numerous funding sources for affordable housing that would help pay these costs. (E.g. tax credits, One Bay Area Grants and local sources including Housing Trust, CDBG and HOME funds.) There is oodles of cash from Federal, State, Local and Charitable funding.

Environmental Constraints:
The sites are laden with environmental constraints, which may limit development. However, State laws (CEQA itself; SB 375) allow possible exemption and streamlining of environmental review for affordable housing projects that meet certain criteria. The proposed 2012 Marin County Housing Element also includes CEQA streamlining measures. So, potential environmental impacts from proposed development may not be fully evaluated.

There are numerous laws that would encourage high density residential development at these sites, including (but not limited to) possible streamlining of permit review so that future public input & environmental review of proposed development at these sites may be limited. One of the most concerning measures is Senate Bill 375’s “Builders Remedy”:
“Enforcement: SB 375 contains two remedies if a jurisdiction fails to rezone or implement programs by the deadlines:
a. “Builder’s Remedy”: A developer can build on any site that is identified in an element for residential development, as long as the development is within the densities and development standards specified in the element. The local government must allow the development to proceed unless it makes finding that the development will have a “specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”
If the jurisdiction illegally denies a development, a court can order it to comply with the law. The local government will have the burden of proving its action was legal….” (Summary of Senate Bill 375 by Housing California -

Again, please see the attachment to read important excerpts from the 2012 Draft Marin County Housing Element.

The above was written with much help from an article originally published by Sharon Rushton,  organizer for Sustainable Tam Almonte.  Their website is a great resource for learning about the 2012 housing element and the One Bay Area Plan.

We would lke to create a similar "one stop" website for Save Marinwood/Lucas Valley but we need assistance.  If you or someone you know has web design skills and would like to help,  please email us at

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