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Citizen Marin Group Plans Forum to Target 'Outdated' Housing Plans

Town hall meeting will discuss the importance of local control and the challenges of creating affordable housing.

“The time is now. If we don’t do something, we have only ourselves to blame.”

That's Bob Silvestri’s take on housing in Marin County. The Mill Valley resident, author and Patch contributor will be the keynote speaker at a March 20 public forum focusing on affordable housing and the governmental agencies that mandate each community’s housing requirements.

“The question most people ask is, ‘what’s the solution?’” said Silvestri. “What we hope to do is give people the background information to make good choices.”

Silvestri said he believes that the agencies that dictate affordable housing demands are using outdated and inaccurate methodology. He said there’s a movement growing at the local level to fight back and he's already spoken at a forum in Vacaville, with a handful of other sessions planned throughout the Bay Area.

The local forum, hosted by Citizen Marin (formerly known as the Marin Communities Coalition for Local Control / MCC4LC), will take place in San Rafael. Organizers hope the event provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of maintaining local control of planning and affordable housing development decisions in Marin County. The evening will examine the facts and fallacies of Plan Bay Area and the Sustainable Communities Strategies currently being promoted by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

“These are issues that will affect everybody in profound ways,” said Silvestri.

For his part, Silvestri said he’s not at all opposed to affordable housing and has even been a developer of such projects in the past. He just wants it done correctly.

Silvestri cited one example of mismanagement by ABAG and MTC: despite the fact that the latest census showed Marin County to have stagnate growth during a booming economy, the agencies are still calling on a 10 percent growth for the next decade—and using those figures when creating affordable housing demands.

Each municipality and county has to provide so many affordable housing units based on the population and other factors. If the statistics are skewed, it derails the system.

“The law is clear on this,” Silvestri explained. “Population and job creation forecasts have to be based on real factual studies from the Department of Finance.”

He said ABAG is ignoring the Department of Finance findings. “It’s problematic how these agencies are overreaching the interpretation of the laws.”

Silvestri also said that there are various types of housing direly needed in Marin, such as senior housing, but these are not addressed by ABAG and they don’t count against ABAG’s quotas.

Silvestri, who penned “The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin,” will lead the forum with a slideshow presentation, and then open the floor to the public.

In addition to Citizen Marin, participating organizations include: the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents; Sustainable TamAlmonte; Friends of Mill Valley; Santa Margarita Neighborhood Association; San Marin Compatible Housing Coalition; Novato Homeowners Association; Save Marinwood.

The 411: Citizen Marin's first annual Marin town hall meeting: “Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin” is on March 20, 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Al Boro/Pickleweed Community Center at 50 Canal Street, San Rafael. This event is free and open to the general public. Contact: Carolyn Lenert at (415) 499-9234 or carolynlenert@msn.com

Bob Ratto February 16, 2013 at 04:48 PM
This should be a highly educational event, and given the fact it is on the first day of Spring, perhaps many will "awaken", and gain a meaningful education on what ABAG and their "Central Planning" visionaries have outlined for your future. Their numbers have no bearing on reality, have no relevant ties to job growth or infrastructure (little things like, oh, water), and the amount of power they currently wield (as a non public entity, no less) is truly outstanding. If you cannot attend, please strongly consider joining one of the organizations listed above, as the level of support these organizations can lend directly affects your future. Alternatively, you can just ignore it all, and later on say, "what happened?" Your choice.
Stephen Nestel February 16, 2013 at 05:09 PM
I am looking forward to an honest examination of the ideas behind the effort to "urbanize" marin with a massive increase in housing. We have not seen such a push since the 1960s when they wanted to build cities in West Marin. Such a lovely county will disappear. "Don't it always seem to go That you don't know what you've got Till it's gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot"
Bob Ratto February 16, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Stephen Joni Mitchell just left me a VM, she wants some credit! Seriously, this is an absolutely relentless push to radically change the county. The more you know, the less there is to like...
Beth Stein February 16, 2013 at 07:05 PM
We just do not need more housing when we keep giving more spaces to Open Space. Water is just one large aspect of high density housing needs Companies are leaving our area (& ca) so will these new occupants just be more citizens our government supports financially?? We need more tax paying people with jobs
Kevin Moore February 16, 2013 at 11:16 PM
ABAG and MTC have the cart before the horse. They are adding housing and transportation without looking at the critical factors of jobs, water, and other resources. It is like an old Steve Martin routine, "You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes!" How do you do it? First.. get a million dollars. What do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, 'You.. have never paid taxes'?" Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: "I forgot!" The ABAG plan is much like Steve Martin's comic routine. They skip over the hard part, making money. The rest is pretending you don't know of a problem, like a lack of water.
Pete Adams February 17, 2013 at 01:40 AM
The biggest problem with taking on AH is that the public is simply asleep. And then the public votes into office the same Supervisors and council members who are driving us off the cliff as they recall hard-hitting Patch articles these representatives write about Girl Scout Cookies. If this offends you then give your house away to a deserving soul. If you believe you’re a ‘deserving soul’ and have a right to live in Marin but can't afford it (w/o AH), then do what I did... get a job, live in Vallejo for a few years, commute, work your ass off, and then spend your savings buying a starter condominium in San Rafael.
Tina McMillan February 17, 2013 at 01:44 AM
This is an opportunity to get informed about the impact of state regulations on local communities. There is suppose to be a reciprocal relationship between HCD and the Housing Element developed by cities in California. In Marin County it seems like the further south you go, the easier it is to get a HE approved. For example Ross was able to zone Marin Art and Garden Center and Branson School for future affordable housing development and gain approval for their housing element but when Novato suggested four to five parcels, many of which remain undeveloped at this time, the response was quite different. http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=1410 If you haven't already please take a look at the city HE update site and read through the response by HCD's Glen Campora to Novato's Housing Element and then try and understand how Ross got approval for two of the most unlikely sites to be developed at any time. Then go to the Novato Homeowners Association Website and read more about the Housing Element and the need for balanced decision making with regard to zoning for future development. http://www.novatohoa.com/ Citizen Marin's Town Hall Forum on March 20th 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Al Boro/Pickleweed Community Center at 50 Canal Street, San Rafael is not to be missed! Thank you Bob; your commitment to providing accurate and up to date information on planning for future housing needs in Marin is indispensable.
Bob Silvestri February 17, 2013 at 03:04 AM
Thanks, Chris for helping to let people know about the upcoming Town Hall. We hope to offer everyone a place to speak openly about their concerns and ideas. And I'd also like to let everyone know that there are similar events coming up in Orinda/Lafayette (March 13th), Danville and possibly in Menlo Park / Palo Alto in the near future.
Al Dugan February 17, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Bob, as always you are the canary in the coal mine that has made transparent the inner works of the affordable housing scheme in a clear and consise manner. Well done.
Susan Kirsch February 17, 2013 at 04:04 AM
In Mill Valley, the Affordable Housing Overlay of the draft General Plan named the Safeway store at the corner of Camino Alto and Miller as a potential location for the development of up to 41 housing units to fulfill RHNA. The problem is--nobody every talked to Safeway. Safeway pulled out the power of an attorney who submitted a letter (1/15/13) to the General Plan Advisory Committee which said in no uncertain terms: Safeway is a successful grocery store with no interest in being configured for 41 housing units with a parking lot on top of the building. Mill Valley staff quickly removed the site, brushing their hands, explaining it was just "an exercise" to fulfill the requirements to name "potential" "opportunity" sites. But we know the dangers, not to mention the enormous waste of staff time and resources, for these endless, mind-numbing "let's pretend" exercises. And besides, it places demands on citizens to take the time for heightened vigilance, such as attending the 3/20 Town Hall meeting.
Trish Boorstein February 17, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Thank you Bob and others for organizing this Town Hall meeting. Although Novato Community Alliance will not be actively participating at this meeting, members will be notified and encouraged to attend. I wouldn't miss it!
Tina McMillan February 17, 2013 at 06:41 AM
Susan This kind of deceit and disconnect is exactly the problem. The Mill Valley planners never considered the site would be built out or that it might negatively impact Safeway if they wanted to remodel and or expand their existing facility. I believe staff figured they could just name any site and no one would care. In other towns HCD not only expects sites to be developed but wont confirm the draft element unless there is substantive reason to believe there is a plan in place. In Novato for example, we have HCD's response to our draft element. In it they demand not only an EIR for each site but that Novato find funding to proceed with development. Seeing our planning staff's response and watching the process unfold is a lesson in legislation as it effects zoning and housing. Novato also recently provided a low interest long term loan to Eden House to develop senior housing and yet we have not been given the percentage of seniors from Novato who are now living at Warner Creek. The duplicity of affordable housing developers along with the lack of vigilance on the part of our city councils makes this entire process combative. The only choices we are left with are becoming part of the solution or contributing to the problem by virtue of our inaction.
Kevin Moore February 17, 2013 at 06:34 PM
Here is a Google chart showing population growth of Marin and Sonoma. Look at 2001 to 2009, which includes the housing boom days. It is nearly flat. http://goo.gl/ZJOND People will build cities in the desert if there are jobs there. I moved from Lake Tahoe to Marin in the 80's. Tahoe was even more beautiful, but there were few good jobs.
MillValleyMom February 17, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Thank you everyone for keeping the light of truth on our government representatives.
Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty March 06, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Bob, I heard some people were squawking about increase in student populations due to increased housing, but doesn't that, or should I say, hasn't that happened with every development/house built in Marin?
Tina McMillan March 18, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Novato is a low wealth district. Unlike most cities in Marin we get much our school funding through the state. It means that every time we add more non profit rental housing to the existing mix we have fewer and fewer resources to support the children and families that live here. Novato is a city with a diverse socio economic range. Our market rate housing is the least expensive in Marin which is why so many young families move here and so many retired people remain here. Novato has traditionally built a substantial quantity of low income housing and continues to do so with a focus on integrating new housing into existing neighborhoods so that families will be welcomed. Novato is not a high density metropolitan venue even though ABAG has designated it as such. If Marc Levine's new legislation is passed, Novato and other cities throughout California will be able to create lower density housing as part of their ABAG RHNA. Low density is what many families want when they move to the suburbs. Families continue to leave urban environments when it comes time to have children because they want what the suburbs have to offer. The New Urbanism does not take this into consideration and the One Bay Area Plan focuses exclusively on high density development along transportation corridors. This kind of segregation of the poor is exactly what civil rights leaders have fought against. There is nothing wrong with living in a rural/suburban environment.

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