For Immediate ReleaseSeptember 02, 2021
County prepares to update long-term plans for housing and safety
San Rafael, CA – The County of Marin is preparing to update a long-term plan to meet housing needs and plan for public safety in the unincorporated areas of the county. Public feedback will be a key component of the plan’s development. The first opportunity for public feedback will be an online workshop September 22 that is hosted by the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA), which is handling updates of the Housing and Safety Elements of the Marin Countywide Plan.
With the Housing Element update, the intent is to achieve an adequate supply of decent, safe, and affordable housing for Marin’s workforce, residents and special-needs populations in unincorporated areas. The Safety Element addresses the potential for geologic hazards, flooding, rural wildfires, and structural fires in more populated areas.
One of the major changes to the Safety Element is climate change adaptation and resilience planning required by new state laws, including Senate Bill 379. Marin’s population is most resilient when housed and when plans are in place to ensure that new housing is safe.
Jillian Nameth Zeiger, a senior planner with the CDA, noted that Marin’s demographic makeup has become more diverse, its median home price has risen significantly, and the shortage of affordable housing has grown more pronounced since the State of California approved Marin’s last Housing Element update in January 2014.
One of the major changes to the new Housing Element requirement includes compliance with Assembly Bill 686 from 2018, which details new steps every jurisdiction must make to ensure fair housing. Accordingly, the next Housing Element will include an assessment of fair housing to address barriers to fair housing choice and will identify sites and programs that provide housing opportunity for lower-income families and individuals near high quality schools, employment opportunities, and public transportation.
One facet of the first workshop September 22, and emphasized throughout the planning process, is to assure fair housing opportunities are provided for people of all income levels, races, and backgrounds. Federal and state laws protect residents from discriminatory practices. Lower-income residents in the local workforce, who tend to be people of color, struggle to find suitable affordable housing close to their Marin jobs. Almost two-thirds of Marin workers commute in from other counties because of high housing costs, and that takes a toll on traffic, the environment, and quality of life for everyone.
“We have a chance to further our progress with racial and social equity by planning beyond the traditional single-family homes that are so prevalent here,” said CDA Planning Manager Leelee Thomas. “Institutional racism in past decades led to pockets of segregation. Marin County is confronting its past and will need to address those discriminatory and unfair practices, and work to become a more welcoming place for people of color.”
Related initiatives under the fair housing program include the Restrictive Covenants Project, which aims to inform and educate Marin residents of the history and significance of government policies and programs that were intentionally discriminatory and helped create segregated areas.
Marin will plan for population growth by planning for new homes consistent with the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) set by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). On May 20, the ABAG Executive Board approved draft RHNA allocations that said unincorporated Marin needed 3,569 new housing units distributed among all income categories, from very-low to above moderate. The County must meet its housing goals by the end of the eight-year cycle that begins in 2023. In fact, all California towns, cities, and counties must regularly update their Housing Elements according to a 1969 state law.
This summer and fall, the County is assessing housing and safety needs and planning for community involvement in the process. Focus groups, workshops, and surveys will inform both elements, including new goals and policies and the site selection process, and both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will host meetings on the topic. Both governing bodies need to review and approve draft Housing and Safety elements by the end of 2022 so they can be submitted to the State of California for approval. Regular updates can be found on the Housing and Safety Elements update webpage.
In addition to the September 22 online session, CDA staff plans to engage in community discussions and host more public meetings about housing needs in unincorporated Marin. Trusted community-based organizations, elected officials, and other advocates will help convey messaging during the engagement process. Questions and comments can be emailed to staff and phone inquiries can be made to (415) 473-6269.
Jillian Nameth ZeigerHousing and Federal Grants PlannerCommunity Development Agency
3501 Civic Center DriveSuite 308San Rafael, CA 94903(415) 473-7549Email: Jillian Nameth ZeigerFederal Grants webpage