TAM's review of the latest scenario for the Plan Bay Area Sustainable Communities Scenario leads some to wonder whether it's math or a con.
Is ABAG Playing a Shell Game with Housing Numbers?
"This is not a shell game," declared Tiburon's Alice Fredericks, chairwoman of the Transportation Authority of Marin's Executive Committee during Monday's meeting. The committee was examining the Association of Bay Area Governments' Draft Preferred "Jobs-Housing Connection Scenario," and Fredericks was responding to a statement from an attendee that ABAG was playing a shell game with its allocation of required new housing development for Marin County by 2040.
A number of attendees said they were perplexed and appropriately skeptical, about the latest ABAG allocations, particularly because of the significant shift in the numbers from past iterations to the Preferred Scenario, which was released on March 9. For Mill Valley, that shift was represented by 740 housing units in the Preferred Scenario, a jump of 240 units from the previous iteration.
The committee members voted to send a letter to ABAG Director Ezra Rappaport expressing its dismay over the ABAG's projection of 17 percent job growth for Marin County in the next 30 years.
The letter reads in part: "Marin County lacks the type of developable land associated with traditional business growth, and has limited availability of water resources. It is unlikely that Marin can match the robust job growth of the 1980s."
ABAG originally released its 30-year projection that Marin County would see 19,000 more jobs by 2040, which would require 11,000 new homes. Some leaders choked on the numbers their towns and cities were being asked to bear. Novato complained loudly and Corte Madera announced it would leave ABAG.
The squeaky wheel got the grease — Corte Madera and Novato saw their numbers cut, but their neighbors could be forced to take on a heavier load as a result. [Marinwood-Lucas Valley had housing allocations increase weeks later.]
Fredericks suggested that if other communities have problems with the distribution of numbers, they might have to fight ABAG on their own.
City of Mill Valley officials are trying to come up with a plan to deal with this predicament, hoping to convene a joint session of the City Council and Planning Commission to decide how to respond to the latest numbers.
While Mill Valley saw its housing allocations spike in the Preferred Scenario, those of Corte Madera and Novato shrunk, apparently the result of successful local lobbying efforts with ABAG officials. The discussion is exacerbated in Mill Valley as local developer Phil Richardson has proposed building a 20-unit residential complex on East Blithedale Avenue near Camino Alto.
Some attendees of the TAM meeting wondered aloud if there was really any room for that many new housing units and that many more people in Marin.
TAM's explanation was that "ABAG is a region and the region has a pot that they stir around." Because Corte Madera's predicted increase in the number of housing units and households was decreased, the leftovers went back into the regional pot, were stirred around and landed on someone else's plate.
The explanation did not seem to entirely satisfy anyone, not even Corte Madera Vice-Mayor Diane Furst.
"It looks like there was a shifting of numbers," Furst said.
Be careful what you wish for, Furst was told in a lighthearted warning. You never know how the numbers will add up.
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