AB1537: A High Density Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

If you oppose high density housing you might think you should support Levine's Assembly Bill 1537... but is it a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Assembly Bill 1537 - a wolf in sheep's clothing?
Assembly Bill 1537 - a wolf in sheep's clothing?
Susan Adams and Marc Levine are advocating Assembly Bill 1537 as the answer to Marin's high density concerns and asking residents to put their support behind it. Supervisor Adams informs me that she is the primary author of this bill.

Supposedly, if enacted, AB 1537 will change the default density for Marin from 30 to 20 units per acre. Sounds great, right? But the more I dig the more I think the supervisors and Levine may be pulling a fast one on residents - by supporting AB 1537 we may actually increase densities and have little or no impact on reducing densities of new developments.

AB 1537: Upzoning Disguised as Downzoning Densities

There are existing apartment buildings and land areas zoned at under 20 units per acre.  AB 1537 effectively upzones these properties - but this is not being clearly disclosed to us. We are being given the impression that AB 1537 will result in an across the board reduction.

AB 1537 Doesn't Affect Existing Sites Like St Vincents & Strawberry

While Supervisor Adams reassured me that once AB 1537 passes the default of 20 units per acre is restored, she confirmed that the sites identified in the current housing element with their higher densities would remain.

Supervisor Adams dismissed that this would be an issue as residents could simply work to ensure the next housing element reduces this number (which will only address a tiny 114 incremental units - the element that just passed was the mother of all housing elements at 1,000+ unts).

Supervisor Adams stated that any project in the interim would surely be denied due to ferocious community opposition - well we've seen just how broken that process is.

What this means is that now there is a wide open window while this Housing Element is in place, before the next one is ratified (surely years away) when a developer can sweep in, buy land and make a proposal. Remember for WinCup the gap between the Housing Element being approved and the purchase by developer MacFarlane was less than 3 weeks!

So even if AB 1537 goes through (and last time it was tried it failed, and now we're becoming wise to it) this leaves the following locations vulnerable to WinCup like densities:
- Strawberry's PDA and the seminary
- Marinwood
- Grady Ranch (although I understand this is highly unlikely to occur)
- St Vincent / Silveira

30 Units Per Acre is Just the Minimum for Strawberry & St Vincents

The next piece of spin we're getting is that the densities in the housing element are 30 units per acre (remember WinCup is 40). BUT this is actually only the MINIMUM DENSITY! Developers can secure density bonuses of up to 40 units per acre by including affordable and low income housing, possibly more.

Someone asked me what if the initial developers proposal is a high number of affordable units to get the high densities, then after approval of the density they go bankrupt or something else happens and they drop the number of affordable units (but remain dense). We've already seen the bait and switch game played with WinCup that supposedly was allowed in order to meet much higher numbers of affordable units; but this descended into a negotiation and WinCup ended up with far fewer affordable units than that mandated by ABAG in it's Regional Housing Needs Assessment Numbers.

Traffic Impact No Longer a Consideration

The supervisors have also continued their hypocrisy, driving cars like us and even accepting nearly $10,000/year in car allowances while disregarding that that's how most of us get around Marin and taking public transit or biking is impractical. But the supervisor's Housing Element states the following:

"For affordable housing projects, mixed-use projects that include affordable housing, second units, and projects developed in accordance with the Housing Overlay Designation, allow densities above the low end of the range in areas with Traffic Level of Service D, E, and F”

So while many communities are being told the only way they can get enough funding to address their current traffic problems it to be volunteered as a PDA (for paltry amounts of money compared to what's actually needed) the Housing Element is setting them up to be saddled with much more housing - with utter disregard for the traffic impact.

To recap - Level of Service measures traffic delay at intersections. It's like a school grade. "C" is a pass or a target. Anything below "D" and county or cities should normally be looking to invest money to remedy the traffic delays. But now high density housing near transit can be built in locations with existing traffic issues, with residents offered near meaningless funding amounts that barely address current traffic problems, and the new housing can take the congestion to record levels - and there's no protection in the Housing Element or amendments.

We simply cannot trust the public review processes - input is either disregarded or not heard.  The public's vision is not the supervisor's vision, the supervisors think they know best.

Consequently we need the protection of documents like the Housing Element, and institutions that respect, uphold and enforce the law as written.

What Can You Do? Donate to Marin Community Alliance

The single most important way that you can help is to donate to the Marin Community Alliance who have filed suit against the county Housing Element. So if you don't want to see a WinCup sprout up next to your property - a property you have no doubt invested hundreds of thousands in - then be sure to donate.

Donating is easy - you can send a check or even donate online via PayPal:

Help keep Marin the place you love!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty February 06, 2014 at 09:28 PM
What, those sneaky developers can make a PROPOSAL in this magical window of opportunity. OMG, what happens next? Does someone get tied to the train tracks? Maybe they get water-boarded. *************************************************** Mr. Hall don't leave us in suspense, what happens after the proposal? I'm on the edge of my seat.
Richard Hall February 07, 2014 at 10:47 AM
You can read AB1537 here: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/asm/ab_1501-1550/ab_1537_bill_20140122_introduced.html -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It states " The following densities shall be deemed appropriate ... For a suburban jurisdictions: sites allowing at least 20 units per acre.
Stephen Nestel February 07, 2014 at 11:49 AM
If you look at Plan Bay Area final report, you will see that the 101 Priority Development Area still shows up on their maps. Yes, Marinwood and Tam Valley (appear as proposed PDAS) despite what Susan Adams and Judy Arnold say, the PDAs are part of the Plan and appear on ABAG maps. Furthermore, ABAG tells us that 80% of all urban growth will happen in the PDAs. Both Adams and Arnold are "dancing a happy dance" to distract voters long enough to get themselves re-elected. It won't work. We are on to their games. For the Final Plan Bay Area go to: http://files.mtc.ca.gov/pdf/Plan_Bay_Area_FINAL/Plan_Bay_Area.pdf
Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty February 07, 2014 at 08:28 PM
Mr. Nestel, Have you contacted ABAG to find out when they are updating their maps? You also stated, "ABAG tells us that 80% of all urban growth will happen in the PDAs." **************************************************** Do you think no urban growth will happen if we have NO PDAs? **************************************************** I'll let you in on a little secret I know, it doesn't matter if there is a PDA or not, the land can still be developed. Don't tell too many people, they might get confused or even think there are strings attached.
Pekupandropov February 08, 2014 at 03:46 PM
Mr. Fish, You seem to be in a hurry to completely pave over Marin and install Concord. Why? And why so vicious about any opposing view? Breathe , brother. Tale a drive out to Hearts Desire and chill out... Before they build an apartment building there.
Pekupandropov February 08, 2014 at 03:53 PM
You know, I know and the politicians know this isn't about climate or global anything, or saving energy, or affordable housing. If you think it is, then you probably believe the Graton Rancheria is about preserving Native American culture. It is the casino baby, and all the political graft that went with it.. Same thing here. Chosen developers get rich, kickbacks and consulting contracts follow.
Gerald Belletto February 08, 2014 at 04:29 PM
Mr. Hall et.al. - It's time for those who oppose denser housing to tell us their plan for where growth in Marin should go.
Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty February 08, 2014 at 06:04 PM
Pekupandropov, you apparently have the same affliction as Mr. Hall, you assume, which makes an ass out of you in the end. ****************************************************** Why would you ever assume i or anyone for that matter want to "pave over Marin". And "vicious about opposing views", where did you pull that one from? ****************************************************Opposing views are fine, intentional lies not so much. Do you want to debate any thing of substance or are you just trolling today.
Pekupandropov February 09, 2014 at 04:27 PM
Mr. Fish. Just a general impression from occasionally reading your posts on various subjects. Richard uses numbers and logic. You use invective. I don't get a sense of why you behave the way you do. Just curious about your motivation. And ya. Just trolling. This "debate " is pointless. Either support MCA or don't. The rest is bullcrap.
Richard Hall February 09, 2014 at 06:50 PM
@Pekupandropov: You are correct. Jimmy's behavior serves to prevent open and civil discussion of the facts with ridicule, intentionally circular logic, ad hominem attacks and name-calling ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ His behavior is effectively endorsed and encouraged by the high density folks such as Greg Brockbank and Sustainable San Rafael's Bill Carney (on whose board he serves). Through these actions this group clearly appear to want to disrupt any reasonable conversation conducted by the community, based on facts with the goal of arriving at community consensus and solutions. I can only presume this is because they know the facts are not on their side. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I'm still trying to reconcile how someone who would lay claim to be defending the 99% is effectively standing behind large property developers and Wall Street organizations such as: - Goldman Sachs (20% investors in MacFarlane, the WinCup developer) - Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet's outfit (has a major stake in Larkspur Landing) - MacFarlane which is run by a one-percenter that directed CalPers into a highly questionable investment that ended up losing the union $1 billion, an amount we're all still paying for in unfunded pension liability
Pekupandropov February 10, 2014 at 09:39 AM
This is just politics as usual with a nice green wrapper. Mr. Fish's team seems to be winning. Seems graciousness would be the proper response ... Not name calling. You get in trouble because you look behind the curtain. Thanks for your effort and your logical approach.
Pekupandropov February 10, 2014 at 09:49 AM
Gerald.... Not Richard's job. However, how about this? Build a high rise sustainable city on the old drive in movie site at the county line. Don't allow cars, cover the surrounding hills with wind machines and solar panels, off the grid, shuttle to smart. Utopia! And you don't have to seize anyone's property
Gerald Belletto February 10, 2014 at 09:18 PM
If you argue that something is bad, you should have an idea about what is good. All of this discussion presumes that there will be some form of growth, so I want to know where Mr. Hall, or anyone else, suggests it should go. I love the countryside look of Marin and want to keep it that way, so I support PDAs
Stephen Nestel February 10, 2014 at 10:58 PM
Gerald, your comments baffle me. If you want to live in a city, why not move to one? Why must we accept the premise that we must urbanize Marin? You may be aware that the California Department of Finance predicts virtually no population growth for ten years. The "magic mumbo jumbo" of ABAG economist, Steven Levy, Marin predicts 16% growth despite the lack of jobs and industry and other objective data. Plan Bay Area is nothing but greenwashed development using public funds. There are many reasons to object to the fast, thoughtless urbanization of Marin. Let's plan for reality.
Pekupandropov February 11, 2014 at 01:58 AM
I don't get the logic of the high density crowd. We have too much traffic now, not enough water and I would really hate it if a state agency took my house. The HD people must think that more traffic would be better, more water will arrive when it is needed, and they don't care if the state takes their home. Hard to follow that. Maybe they think that Goldman Sachs will build them an apartment for cheap, and they can stay in Marin that way.
Michael D. Smith February 11, 2014 at 11:11 PM
This is what's really disturbing http://www.p4sc.org/articles/all/agenda-21-and-anti-housing-movement?utm_content=bettypagett%40gmail.com&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=Read%20more%20here&utm_campaign=PSC%20News%20Alertcontent
Gerald Belletto February 12, 2014 at 01:17 PM
Stephen, Richard and others - I think I see the problem. You guys think the PDA crowd wants growth. I feel safe saying that most PDA supporters feel we have enough people already and don't care for more, either in Marin or in Bangladesh. Personally, I am not trying to get Marin to grow, I just want it to grow, if its going to, in the right places. That's what the PDA's do. To think that this is a boon for developers is ridiculous. No one makes money out of affordable housing but the community benefits.
Stephen Nestel February 13, 2014 at 01:32 AM
Gerald, I don't think the PDA crowd wants growth, they want the dream sold to them by planners and politicians. And why not? It sounds lovely, new affordable housing, bikeable, walkable communities, public transportation and puppies and rainbows (okay, I threw in the last two). The reality is these homes ARE very profitable for the developers, builders and bankers. In reality, non profit "workforce housing" are simply another small apartment , with restrictive rules that only will be discounted a small amount from market rate housing. Non profit developers DO make $$$. The business is structured as a "non profit" to access funding sources and decrease tax exposure. Do you know that many high tech firms are structured as non profits? In fact, the New York Stock Exchange whose chairman earned $60 million annually was a non profit for years? Not all non profits are worthy of "Mother Theresa" adoration. They are simply a business.
Richard Hall February 13, 2014 at 02:49 AM
@Gerald: We think the PDA crowd wants to accelerate growth beyond what is the norm, and has been the norm for a long time. It is as if population forecasts suddenly significantly jumped. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Secondly the form of the growth is out of the scale and architectural style. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thirdly we believe we can accommodate the continued measured growth, and grow we must, but we can achieve this while maintaining the architectural low rise, low density character of Marin. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- While some use the term "fair share" consider the other term "built out". -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Finally consider that many (most one might argue) moved to Marin for it's rural (and a little suburban) character. Urbanization is being imposed upon this majority by a vocal minority that (i) thinks it knows best (ii) has sought to avoid genuine engagement, perhaps because this might jeopardize it meeting it's goals and (iii) is biased by special interests. Many of this majority are only just awakening to what's happening. When consulted they are concerned. Others are concerned by the locations being proposed which seem hardly "fair" at all given unhealthy locations next to freeways. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think Marin has a great policy requiring new developments to be 20% affordable. Let's keep this policy as we continued measured (not accelerated) growth.
Michael D. Smith March 25, 2014 at 04:24 AM
I have a theory that the high density housing issues are nothing more than a conduit for right wing organizations like the Tea Party to infilitrate Marin politics and sway elections. Mr. Hall himself has had a member of the Cato institute come in and spread right wing extremiest propaganda. Something smells very rotten about Citizen Marin and I would advise every true citizen of Marin to really think hard about affiliating themselves with Mr. Hall or his organization.


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