County proposals promoting affordable housing in unincorporated communities across Marin target sites in Mill Valley, San Rafael, Marin City and Fairfax for low- and moderate-income development, urge policies accommodating multi-family projects and call for study of rent control.

The latest housing program at the Civic Center will be aired at 5 p.m.   Monday, July 28, when the county Planning Commission convenes for the first of three hearings on how to meet state housing requirements. Officials expect the chambers to be packed.
"Unfortunately, housing is a divisive issue in our community," said county principal planner Leelee Thomas. "We will have a big crowd."

"Any breach of single-family home zoning designations will lead to the rapid urbanization of Marin," said Stephen Nestel, founder of "Every homeowner within a half mile of the 101 corridor should be alert to this latest move by the county."
And Riley Hurd, an attorney for Strawberry homeowners concerned about housing development, contended some staff proposals, including a bid to promote multi-family development by all but banning residential development in some areas, represents a "ticking time bomb."

A comprehensive staff report by Thomas and planner Alisa Stevenson notes that state requirements indicate Marin's unincorporated areas need to provide for potential development of 185 housing units, including 37 moderate and 87 lower-income units, through 2023. Although that's about a quarter of the 773 homes that were part of the county's controversial 2007-2014
housing plan, the program is expected to generate continued concern in potential development sites.

The staff report recommends three sites for lower-income units: 72 units at Marinwood Village, 40 at Seminary Drive on the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary campus, and 40 at California Park near Woodland Avenue and Auburn Street in San Rafael.

The Marinwood recommendation persists despite the ouster of Supervisor Susan Adams, who championed an 82-unit plan including 72 lower-income units. San Rafael City Councilman Damon Connolly, elected in June to replace Adams as county supervisor next January, called for fewer units during his campaign, but was short on specifics.

In addition, four sites are proposed for moderate-income units, including 10 units each at 217 Shoreline Highway and at 204 Flamingo Road, both in the Mill Valley area, and at 2400 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Fairfax. Three moderate units could be built at 150 Shoreline Highway, according to the report, which also notes a number of second units could be built in various areas.

Further, 61 "above moderate income" units could be built, with 43 at Easton Point on Paradise Drive in Tiburon, and another 10 at Marinwood Village, the staff said.

Several alternatives are suggested, including one essentially repeating proposals in the 2007-14 housing program adopted last year, and another that calls for 60 lower-income units at the Baptist seminary, 50 at California Park and 72 in Marinwood.

The planning report notes that the program merely identifies "opportunities for housing development that already exist according to the countywide plan and zoning" and that "regardless of whether housing sites are included in the next housing element, they have potential to be developed subject to the county land use authority."

Community Development Director Brian Crawford's staff also recommended a range of actions promoting housing development, including study of whether multi-family zoning should be "redistributed" to alternate locales "better suited" and more capable of accommodating housing complexes.

Multi-family development should be required in multi-family zones, the staff recommended, proposing a policy to "prohibit single family dwellings in multi-family zones" unless director Crawford approves an exception.

Attorney Hurd called the policy "outrageous," saying it would ban single-family homes in areas including portions of Paradise Drive and near Lucas Valley Road, but planner Thomas said the policy merely says "we have a limited amount of sites that can accommodate multi-family housing."

The staff also recommended study of "density equivalents" based on square footage or bedroom counts, a move apparently encouraging more but smaller units; community outreach to boost support of affordable housing; and increasing tenant protections including study of rent control. Rent control emerged as an issue during community meetings held during the spring, Thomas said, adding, "I wouldn't call it a radical proposal."

Also recommended is consideration of creating a new county panel: The Marin County Housing Equity Commission.

"The commission would study best practices, and take action to develop support for housing for low and moderate income households in Marin," the staff said.