County of Marin - News Releases - Housing Element Update

For Immediate Release
August 12, 2022

County Receives More Feedback on Housing Plans

Supervisors, Planning Commissioners, residents discuss goals through 2030

San Rafael, CA – Marin County residents offered feedback on proposed changes to the Countywide Plan to further the goals of providing housing for unincorporated areas of Marin during an August 9 meeting.  

The community responses came during an online joint session of the Board of Supervisors and the County Planning Commission. Community members, commissioners, and Supervisors provided feedback and suggestions for the Housing Element update to the 2007 Countywide Plan.

Throughout 2022, the Community Development Agency (CDA) is working on updates to the Countywide Plan and its Housing and Safety elements, the County’s overarching planning document. The State of California requires municipalities to update the Housing Element every eight years, and the 2023-2030 update is in the works this year. There are stiff financial and governance consequences for towns, cities, and counties that fail to adopt an approved housing plan.

In the online-only joint session August 9, many residents expressed a desire to have housing standards for proposed developments follow the goals listed in community and area plans. There are approximately 20 such hyperlocal plans that contain policies to guide land use and development in Marin’s unincorporated areas. Those policies contain requirements and restrictions on development factors such as housing unit density, floor-area ratios, structure heights, and setbacks. However, some of those may be inconsistent with state law and must be updated.

During 2023-2030, the County must plan for at least 3,569 new units in unincorporated areas during the eight-year cycle that begins in 2023. Within that total, at least 1,734 must be designated as affordable to lower-income households, at least 512 for moderate-income households, and at least 1,323 for above-moderate-income households. The list of properties that could accommodate housing to meet the county’s regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) is under environmental review.

Also, the Board and commission directed CDA to focus changes in the Countywide Plan to preserve existing protections for sensitive areas while ensuring sites designated to meet the RHNA can develop. They also requested that staff limit changes to the community and area plans to preserve their intent and make consistent with state law and changes needed to facilitate the RHNA. Zoning specific to each site will be brought back for consideration in the fall.

Marin is among the most expensive counties in the country in which to live, and it has experienced a severe shortage of housing, mostly in affordable units for the local workforce. At the same time, CDA is analyzing local impacts of global climate change and its effect on existing and future housing needs. 

Public hearings were held in February, April, and June as proposed Countywide Plan updates got underway. The next update will be for 2023-2030 and must be Board-approved and submitted to the state by January 2023. The environmental impact report (EIR) is being prepared for both the Housing Element and the Safety Element and should be ready for their 45-day reviews in September. The first joint session to review the EIR is tentative set for October. 

The draft EIR will cover how any proposed housing development might affect nearby traffic, schools, environmentally sensitive areas and be vulnerable when faced with environmental hazards.

If a jurisdiction does not meet its housing goals, it becomes ineligible for state funding to serve local transportation needs, such as fixing roads, and may be subject to statewide streamlining rules limiting the public review process for housing development. A noncompliant municipality also faces the possibility of funding cuts, forfeiture of housing grant eligibility, and fines. California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has a new division that is designed to enforce accountability with plans to meet housing needs.

Questions and comments can be emailed to staff and phone inquiries can be made to (415) 473-6269. Regular updates can be found on the Housing and Safety Elements update webpage.


Leelee Thomas
Deputy Director, Housing and Federal Grants Division
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6697
Email: Leelee Thomas
Affordable Housing webpage