Housing Element Concerns from Sustainable TamAlmonte

Hi Neighbors and Friends,

More public hearings regarding the 2015 to 2023 DRAFT Marin County **Housing Element are rapidly approaching.  The next County Planning Commission’s hearing about the Housing Element is on November 17th and the Board of Supervisors will begin their Housing Element hearings in December.  Unfortunately, the plan still includes numerous programs that are very concerning.   These are described below.

[**The “Housing Element” is a state mandated document that plans to meet the existing and projected housing needs of a jurisdiction.]

Please write to the Marin County Board of Supervisors and copy the Marin County Planning Commission and urge them to revise the DRAFT Marin County Housing Element by reducing the number of sites identified in the Housing Element Site Inventory and by eliminating the deleterious programs described below.

Contact Information:
Marin County Board of Supervisors: bos@marincounty.org
Marin County Planning Commission: planningcommission@marincounty.org

Thank you in advance for taking action!  Together we can make a difference!


Sharon Rushton
Sustainable TamAlmonte


1. The DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Identifies Over 200% More Units Than Required By Law:
In order to meet the State required Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), the  Marin County DRAFT Housing Element’s Site Inventory only has to include enough sites to accommodate 185 housing units with a small buffer.  Instead, the DRAFT Housing Element identifies 10 sites and 502 units, which is over 200% more units than required by law.

2. DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Program 1k – “Adjust Height Limits for Multifamily Residential Buildings” Could Raise Height Limits Up To 45 Feet:           
Program 1.k “Adjust Height Limits for Multifamily Residential Buildings” is intended to raise height limits up to 45 feet. Current height limits are restricted to 25, 30 or 35 feet, depending on the zoning.   Raising heights of Multifamily residential buildings by 10 to 20 feet across hundreds of acres, where Multi-family residential buildings are allowed, could drastically change the architectural landscape of Marin County and have other significant adverse consequences. Increasing height limits could adversely impact neighbors’ views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character; augment potential floor-area-ratio and density; and increase the risk of many adverse environmental impacts.

 3. DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Program 1.c – “Study Residential Density Equivalents” Changes the Definition of a ‘Unit’ and Increases Density:

Program 1.c “Study Residential Density Equivalents” suggests changing the definition of what a “unit” is by calculating studios and one-bedroom units as fractions of units.  This would essentially up-zone parcels zoned for multifamily units by allowing more units per acre than currently allowed.  This would also increase potential intensity of development and population growth, thereby increasing the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services, and neighborhood character.

4. DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Programs Reduce Parking Requirements for Housing Developments:
A number of the County Housing Element programs reduce parking requirements for various types of housing developments (affordable housing, multi-family, infill, transit-oriented, mixed-use, special needs, senior, group homes, etc.). A reduction in parking spaces does not stop residents from using cars.  It simply forces residents to park on the street or in a nearby parking area that is meant for other purposes. Sufficient off-street parking is necessary on narrow streets to allow emergency vehicles to pass.  There is often a shortage of parking spaces at Marin County park and ride locations. Retail stores need ample parking to ensure patronage.  Public parking is needed for the public and should not be relied on for regular private usage. Rather than reduce parking standards, parking standards should be maintained and enforced.

5. DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Programs Promote Streamlined Permit Review and Ministerial “Over-the-Counter” Review of Affordable Housing, Special Needs Housing Projects, and Residential Development Projects in Planned Districts:
A number of Housing Element Programs promote streamlined permit review and ministerial review of affordable housing, special needs housing projects and residential development projects in planned districts.  Such streamlined and “over-the-counter” review would hinder thorough and accurate review, constrain public input on planning decisions, and reduce transparency. Careful and thorough review is necessary to ensure protection of Marin’s environment and public health and safety.  For best planning decisions, ample public input should be encouraged, rather than denied.

6. DRAFT Marin County Housing Element Program 1.q – Clarify Applicability of State Density Bonus Increases Potential Density At HOD Sites:
Program 1.q – “Clarify Applicability of State Density Bonus” affects Housing Overlay Designation (HOD) Sites. As originally written in 2007, the Marin Countywide Plan restricts the total number of units allowed on all the Housing Overlay Designation (HOD) sites via a total CAP of 658 units and restricts the number of units allowed in each Traffic Impact Area within the HOD designation with other smaller CAPs.  Program 1.q changes this so that the number of dwelling units in specific Traffic Impact Areas could exceed the CAP with Density Bonus Units, provided the total HOD CAP of 658 units is not exceeded.  (For example, this program would increase the potential dwelling units at the Marin General Hospital Site, the College of Marin Site and the Toussin Site from 88 housing units to 118 units, when State Density Bonus units are added.)