|Wincup development aka "CorteMazilla" in Corte Madera. Officials were surprised at the size of the development.|
THE RECENT IJ editorial and Marin Voice article have been in favor of the Bridge Housing proposal for the Marinwood Plaza shopping center. It has been reasoned that the proposal is not much different from the one that, with community support, was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.
So what's the problem?
The most serious has to do with the phasing of the development.
The approved 2006 plan envisaged the housing, grocery store and other commercial to be developed in a single phase of all new construction by a single owner-developer.
The Bridge proposal envisages three distinct segments which may be owned and developed separately and not necessarily at the same time.
To quote from page 13 of the Bridge master plan submitted to the county: "The Marinwood Plaza Project Master Plan is separated into three segments — that will occupy the northern, central and southern lots as shown on this master plan map. While the uses and improvements on these separate lots are interrelated, they may be owned and developed separately, either simultaneously or in multiple phases."
What this means is that Bridge Housing will develop the southern lot as a 72-unit affordable housing complex. The central lot — the grocery store — will remain as is under separate ownership. The northern lot comprising a small commercial element and 10 small, single-bedroom, market-rate rental units will likely be developed (if ever) by someone else since this type of development is not Bridge's specialty.
By the way, the northern lot also contains the proposed public plaza, small stores and a restaurant. If it remains undeveloped it would be a huge loss to the community.
The second divergence from the 2006 plan is that this is an all-rental project as opposed to a mix of owner-occupied and rentals. The 10 single-bedroom, market-rate rental units on the northern lot may never be built and, if built, may never be converted to condominiums and sold.
To summarize, my fear is that the development of the northern lot may be delayed for years. Or may never happen. Then what we'll get is a high-density, three-story affordable complex on the southern lot, an existing grocery store in a 50-year-old building in the central lot and the current weed-infested eyesore in the northern lot.
This is a far cry from what the community agreed to, namely, a project developed in a single phase with all new construction and with a mostly owner-occupied housing element.
Bridge withdrew from the earlier discussions in 2004 to 2006 when it became clear the community did not want an all-rental project with a very high affordable ratio. Now it is back with the same all-rental proposal, a higher affordable ratio and worse, no assurance that anything more than the 72 units in the southern lot will be built.
Its proposal should be rejected and the Board of Supervisors held to the agreement it made with the community in 2006.
Most of us recognize that the redevelopment of the center will need to include a housing component some of which will be affordable. However, we should not feel pressured into accepting something that we don't think is in the best interest of the community.
David Mitchell is a longtime Marinwood resident and a former elected director of the Marinwood Community Services District.