County of Marin - News Releases - Housing Element Meeting

For Immediate Release
March 07, 2022

Residents, County Honing List for Future Housing

Marin to update long-term plans to meet needs and state mandates

San Rafael, CA – Marin County residents, the County Board of Supervisors, and the County Planning Commission will continue discussions March 15 about the potential locations for future housing in the unincorporated parts of the county and narrow down the candidate site list.

A view of a Marin home with poppies in the foreground.Marin County has experienced a longstanding shortage of affordable multifamily housing for the local workforce.

At the first of two online-only meetings March 1, staff from the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) presented two alternatives of all potential housing locations in unincorporated Marin. More than 100 residents participated in a meeting that lasted nearly four hours, and hundreds of comments were submitted prior to the meeting.

“Most of the comments we heard so far have to do with how a new development might affect nearby traffic, schools, and be vulnerable when faced with environmental hazards such as flooding or wildfires,” said CDA Senior Planner Jillian Nameth Zeiger. “All of those would be addressed in a future environmental review of the sites that includes a public draft for review and other opportunities for community engagement. Our top priority this winter is to evaluate the options and whittle down the list with continued feedback from the community and the Board.”

This year, the County is updating the Housing Element section of its Countywide Plan, a task required by state law every eight years. The Housing Element must show how the County plans to accommodate population growth through housing needs if developers seek permits to build new homes. The County is also updating its Safety Element and factoring in environmental hazards and addressing the effects of climate change. Details about the Housing and Safety Elements are online.

With housing, the County has been directed to plan for at least 3,569 new units in unincorporated areas during the eight-year cycle that begins in 2023. Those must be distributed among all income categories, from extremely low to above moderate. Land owned by schools, houses of worship, businesses, nonprofits, private owners, and the county government is all open for consideration.

The Board and Planning Commission contemplated two alternatives, one taking an approach of proportional countywide distribution of future housing sites throughout each of the five supervisorial districts, and the other giving more weight to avoiding environmental hazards due to climate change and choosing sites near existing developments, business districts, and transportation hubs, or utilizing underdeveloped commercial or residential sites, parcels commonly called infill. 

A key takeaway from the March 1 meeting was the intent to focus on infill rather than creating homes on parcels that have never been developed. Another suggestion was to closely examine the original Countywide Plan from 1973 and the most recent update from 2007 to make sure new updates follow suit with longstanding goals. The earlier plans included commitments to concentrate future housing on the east side of the county along the Highway 101 corridor, with some exceptions. Throughout Marin, the lack of affordable multifamily housing for the local workforce has reached a critical stage.

The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission intend to hear more public comment at the virtual meeting starting at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 15, and then recommend sites will be evaluated in an upcoming Housing Element environmental review. That is to take place this spring and be presented to the Board and Planning Commission during the summer. The State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) plans to review the initial environmental review and provide feedback to the County in the fall. The Housing Element, along with the accompanying Safety Element, needs to be completed by the end of 2022 so it can be submitted to HCD for approval.

The consequences of noncompliance with housing requirements could be stiff. If a jurisdiction does not meet its housing goals, it becomes ineligible for state funding to serve local transportation needs and may be subject to statewide streamlining rules, which allow for housing development with a limited local public review process. California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has a new division that is designed to enforce accountability with plans to meet housing needs.

The March 15 joint session of the Board and Planning Commission will be held as a 5 p.m. videoconference only because of the topic’s high interest in unincorporated neighborhoods and the need to prevent large crowds from congregating due to COVID-19. The Civic Center’s Board chamber will be closed.

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.

For disability accommodations, please phone (415) 473-6358 (voice), CA Relay 711, or e-mail the Community Development staff at least five business days in advance of the event. The County will do its best to fulfill requests received with less than five business days’ notice. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.

Contact:

Jillian Nameth Zeiger
Housing and Federal Grants Planner
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7549
Email: Jillian Nameth Zeiger
CDA website