Op-Ed: Mayor, Supervisor Support Huffman's Affordable Housing Bill

Mayor Madeline Kellner and Supervisor Judy Arnold support legislation written by Marin's assemblyman in Sacramento to make housing mandates for cities more reasonable.

Novato Mayor Madeline Kellner and Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold of Novato have shared responses to Assemblyman Jared Huffman's bill, AB 1103, which cleared a significant hurdle Wednesday in Sacramento. Kellner and Arnold were both at the Capitol to appear before a committee that was considering the bill. Here are their op-ed views sent to Novato Patch.

By Madeline Kellner, Mayor, City of Novato

Marin and Novato’s efforts to seek flexibility in how we meet the state’s housing element requirements cleared the first hurdle on Wednesday, April 27 at the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.  Assembly Member Huffman’s bill, AB 1103, passed out of committee with amendments and is now on its way to be heard at the Assembly Local Government Committee on May 11. 

Assembly Member Huffman invited me, as Mayor of Novato, along with Judy Arnold, District 5 Supervisor, and Katie Crecelius, affordable housing advocate and developer, to testify at the hearing in support of AB 1103.  DeAnn Baker, CSAC legislative staff, also testified in support of the flexibility the bill would offer counties throughout the state to develop compliant housing elements.  See below for how to watch the video of the hearing. 

To recap, while updating the City of Novato’s housing element this past year, concerned members of the community, the city council, and the board of supervisors raised questions about the state parameters within which the drafted element must be developed.  These concerns include: Novato falling under the metropolitan default density of 30 units/acre rather than the suburban default of 20 units/acre, not being able to count rehabilitated units in properties of under 4 units, accessory units converted to affordable units, or foreclosed properties converted to affordable units. 

Assembly Member Huffman heard our concerns and drafted AB 1103.  This bill includes provisions that allow jurisdictions such as ours more flexibility as to how we meet the housing numbers assigned to us.  Three areas are addressed in the bill:  1) allows jurisdictions to apply to the council of governments (like ABAG for our area) to change the default density, 2) permits jurisdictions to count converted foreclosed and rehabilitated units under 4 units and converted second units as long as they have affordability restrictions, and 3) grants an incentive to jurisdictions that create housing near transit by allowing them to count such units at a rate of 1.5.

AB 1103 passed the first gate and is still a “live” bill; however the challenges ahead are not to be underestimated.  While waiting to testify, we observed the hearings for several other affordable housing bills and got the keen sense that the committee chair, members and staff are very reluctant to grant modifications to state affordable housing law.  A number of references were made to the spotty track record around the state of jurisdictions producing the level of affordable housing needed. 

On a positive note, Housing California lobbyist Julie Snyder, also testified at the hearing, neither in opposition or support but to offer to work with Assembly Member Huffman and the Housing Committee staff to relook at the default density provision.  This is the area that poses the most difficulty for many jurisdictions, not just Marin, in creating housing elements that are both state compliant and consistent with the unique characteristics of their local communities.

Many thanks go to Assembly Member Huffman and his staff for their hard work on this bill and to the groups and individuals who wrote letters of support.  Stay tuned — your continued support will be needed.

To watch the AB 1103 hearing, go to www.calchannel.com/channel/viewVideo/2371 and scroll to 11:15.  To obtain more information on the bill go to www.leginfo.ca.gov , Daily Updates—Assembly Bills and click on AB 1103. 


By Judy Arnold, Marin County Supervisor, District 5 (Novato)

I went to Sacramento on Wednesday to testify for Jared Huffman’s AB 1103 before the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. Novato Mayor Madeline Kellner and affordable housing advocate Katie Crecelius also attended to testify in support of the bill.

Assemblyman Huffman and I began working together last year to explore changes in housing element law after being contacted by several neighborhood representatives frustrated with Novato's efforts to meet state-mandated housing requirements. Our goal was to find opportunities for a broader range of options and flexibility for local jurisdictions to receive state housing element credits. After a collaborative effort between my office, local cities, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups, Assemblyman Huffman introduced AB 1103. For more information on the bill, click here.

We all know how important it is to provide workforce housing and improve social equity in Marin. I think this bill allows us to maintain these goals by providing more flexibility to local jurisdictions and at the same time helping to keep the essence and character of each of our unique communities in Marin.

I am pleased to announce that AB 1103 was approved by the committee Wednesday —  with some amendments. Assemblyman Huffman intends to pursue flexibility on density default designations as the bill progresses through the legislative process.  

AB 1103 will be considered next by the Assembly Committee on Local Government on May 11.

I look forward to sharing more information as AB 1103 moves through the legislative process.

To watch the committee hearing, click here. Scroll to 11:15 on the time bar at the bottom of the video to jump right to the AB 1103 item.

A big “thank you” to Assemblyman Huffman for continuing to champion this effort on Novato’s behalf!

Tom James May 01, 2011 at 07:59 AM
Though I realize that this bill is about all Huffman felt he could get, the bill that should be passed is Rep. Norby's AB 1198. I am so discouraged by the intrusion of the State in local affairs I am seriously thinking of bailing out of California and returning to a place where people are a bit more rationale.
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato May 02, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato supports AB 1103 and applauds Assemblymember Huffman and Supervisor Arnold’s efforts to address our housing needs. Like others, we were disappointed that the committee removed some provisions and will advocate for them to be included in future housing legislation. We want the City Council, the Working Group and Novato’s communities to come together and agree on a framework for future housing. We supported this legislation, among other reasons, to demonstrate our willingness to work in a collaborative way with all concerned parties. We encourage others to join us (www.neighborlynovato.org) to reach a consensus on a housing plan that works for our neighborhoods and addresses our housing needs
Pam Drew May 02, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Whenever Novato's designation is changed from metropolitan to suburban allowing a default density of twenty, not thirty, I will applaud Assemblymember Huffman, Judy Arnold, Mayor Kellner, Katie Crecelius and anybody else who was instrumental in creating the change. In legislation, trying gets a nod but actually getting the provision passed gets the applause. Even should the provision be reinstated further downstream in the legislative process, the mechanism for applying does not change the chokehold that the Department of Housing and Community Development currently wields. Novato will apply, given the opportunity, but HCD may say no just as quickly as before. By the way, most of us supported this legislation because we thought it might help Novato create a good housing element and improve the state housing laws. We weren't looking for a payoff or a PR opportunity--not even a teachable moment.
Lloyd May 02, 2011 at 11:12 PM
This is a case where all parties from all corners of our local debate were able to come together and agree to a simple common sense approach to correct a horribly wrong method of designation that HCD has continued to use to coerce, extort and force well meaning towns and cities to be subjugated to their dictatorial edicts that defy common sense and fairness. Such a reasonless bureaucratic nightmare could not continue to terrify those looking to create real AH without the tacit consent of those political hacks aka our state legislature. When you look at their record it is little wonder there exists virtually no faith in their abilities to get anything right. I say it again, shame on them, they continue yet again to foil real efforts to provide AH.
Edwin Drake May 11, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Go to ABAG meeting: Marin residents have an opportunity to get in on the conversation about where new development should occur and how new long-term transportation investments can serve this new growth. The public can participate in an Association for Bay Area Governments' meeting on May 11, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Embassy Suites in San Rafael. Registration is required by calling 510-817-5757 or going to www.onebayarea.org. Why does this meeting matter? If SB 375 moves forward as planned, it will urbanize Marin with greater density based on state-mandated quotas. Some see this as a good thing because it will provide new housing, jobs, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit and the possible redevelopment of San Quentin. Others fear state and regional planning elites will steamroll over local wishes and wisdom in a pattern New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls "the unwisdom of the elites."


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