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Cities, County Lobby ABAG on Housing Allocations

Marin Supervisors send regional agency a letter raising questions about job and housing growth projections, city officials say the process has contributed to “an unfortunate atmosphere of county-wide mistrust and confrontation.”

The mailman for the Association of Bay Area Governments is getting a little extra work from Marin County this week.

On the same day the Marin County Board of Supervisors sent off a letter to ABAG questioning its job and housing projections for Marin and calling for an independent review of them, city of Mill Valley officials did the same, saying the process to determine how much new housing must be built in Mill Valley has lacked transparency and has contributed to “an unfortunate atmosphere of county-wide mistrust and confrontation.”

In a letter to ABAG officials (attached at right), Mayor Garry Lion said short time frames, incomplete information and difficult to comprehend numbers “have stymied our best efforts to be effective participants in this process. It is incumbent on ABAG and (the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) to address this disconnect now and on into the future” to avoid losing credibility in Marin.

In doing so, Lion cited the town of and a subsequent effort to form an alternative local coalition to deal to create a Marin-specific Sustainable Communities Strategy, which ABAG has called One Bay Area and which is mandated by Senate Bill 375.

Novato sent a similar letter to ABAG that was approved at the April 16 council meeting and signed by Mayor Denise Athas.

In the county letter (attached at right), board President Steve Kinsey called for a "peer review" of ABAG’s job and housing forecasts, saying that the agency’s calculations "lacked sufficient clarity." Kinsey stated that because "the data clearly illustrates that job growth has been negative in Marin since 1990 ... it seems unrealistic that the county could see a 17 percent growth in the number of jobs between now and 2040.”

As the regional agency tasked with doling out housing allocations for the nine-county Bay Area, ABAG has projected that the Bay Area will add 1.1 million jobs by 2040, requiring 600,000 additional housing units to accommodate those workers, That includes 19,000 jobs and more than 11,000 new homes in Marin.

But county officials say a forecast of 17 percent job growth in Marin simply doesn’t match the fact that Marin has lost jobs for the past 20 years. In the letter, Kinsey also cited Marin’s place as an open space-laden recreation hub for the rest of the Bay Area, its limited water supply, climate change and rising seas a sharp spike in Marin’s senior population, among other factors.

Last year, Novato was forced to pinpoint locations to zone for 1,241 new housing units in the current Regional Housing Needs Assessment — a quota that prompted a public outcry against forced high-density, low-income complexes that would be needed to meet the state-mandated figures. But the RHNA numbers for the 2014-22 cycle will be 411 units, or about one-third of what the city is zoning for in the 2007-2014 cycle.

Novato residents have been vocal at city and regional meetings about future housing needs, and many opponents will consider the fresh ABAG numbers a major victory. Others who have recognized the need for low-income housing so that people who work in Novato can afford to live in Novato might consider the numbers a huge setback.

For Mill Valley, ABAG projected the need for 740 additional housing units over the next 28 years. That forecast, released in March, was a 48 percent jump from an average of 500 units from the agency’s previous four projections. Given that cities such as Novato and Corte Madera saw their allocations drop by 45 and 52 percent, respectively, after those municipalities cried foul over previous forecast, city officials said the shift gave the impression that lobbying efforts led to arbitrary shifts from one town to another.

Lion said the officials’ frustration was exacerbated by the of the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers at the , during which ABAG Planning Director Ken Kirkey gave a presentation.

In the weeks before the meeting, city officials hustled to gather questions from the 80-plus town, city and county officials from around Marin expecting to attend the meeting. Those 23 questions were given to Kirkey with the expectation that he would answer them at the meeting, as well as additional questions from the 60-plus members of the public who attended the event. Kirkey instead gave an overview presentation on the SB375-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy.

“This was a golden opportunity to hit a home run with some in-depth, factual answers to specific questions posed by an anxious audience, but it ended with a lot more frustration instead,” Lion wrote.

Lion said city officials plan to schedule a joint session of the council and Planning Commission in May — date to be announced — to discuss the allocations and related housing issues.

Pam Drew April 26, 2012 at 01:58 PM
This is a good summation of what has happened recently in Marin County. The larger picture is that Marin has such slim representation on ABAG/MTC boards and commissions because of its population that any 9 Bay Area County regional government is likely to overwhelm Marin. The aims, needs, and point of view of predominantly urban counties like Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Alameda are quite different from those of the suburban/rural northern counties. When OneBayArea from the very beginning adopts both TransForm and the Greenbelt Alliance as prominent "partners", suburbanites can expect no empathy from the regional agency. Although I would like to see MCCMC's 23 questions mentioned above get answered by Ken Kirkey, those answers don't matter as much as the voting structure of ABAG and its Executive Board. This structure won't change although the associated PR campaigns will.
Roger April 26, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Three years ago when Novato citizens complained about ABAG housing mandates, the IJ and housing advocates used the unfair word "racist" in articles about Novato public meetings. Where are those IJ editors and activists now when Corte Madera and Mill Valley are fighting ABAG mandates? Three years ago Novato citizens complained that we have only 20% of Marin's population, but 30% of Marin's affordable housing, and other southern Marin cities need to do more of their fair share. Well, I am happy to see ABAG listened to Novato's very sound shareness point. Many of the clerks, nannies, maids, gardeners, and handymen that work in Kentfield, Ross, and Tiburon live in Novato. Some of those rich communities would benefit from a little more diversity living right in their community, going to their schools and playing on their youth soccer teams. Those rich school districts can afford it much easier than Novato's. But mostly those rich communities need more affordable housing to help stop climate change, correct? Those rich liberals voted for the lawmakers that gave us SB375, so it is fitting to place those SB375 housing mandates right in their rich neighborhoods. Those rich liberals should walk their own talk or vote differently. ABAG, thanks for listening to Novato's logic.
Tired April 26, 2012 at 03:45 PM
This article is confusing Sustainble communities strategy and affordable homes for workers which are two completely different things. The ABAG numbers is supposed to be a way of curbing suburban sprawl, and is primarily for market-rate homes from what I can tell. The jobs projections may be high, but the outcome in terms of number of homes that should be built in the center of town instead of in outlying areas seem small to me. Novato for example, according to the chart above, is only expected to accomodate 890 new homes over the next 30 years- less han 30 homes a year? How many did we increase over the last 30 years? I'm guessing at least 10 times that. I agree the process could have been better, but the result is a ridiculously low number of new homes that we will likely exceed. Homes that are "walkable" are very popular now amongst young families, and the high demand for them makes them costly. I doubt too many will be affordable to anyone who earns less than 6 figures. Look at the rents at Millworks if you need an example of that. But despite the high rents, it is fully rented because people like to be near shops and restaurants downtown.
Tina McMillan April 26, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Thanks Jim! Wonderful article, says it all.
Baxter April 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
It's simple mathmatics. The future job projection for Marin County is weak due to the economy and Marin always being a bedroom community. What Marin County needs to go along with dense affordable housing numbers is more businesses and new companies coming into Marin. However, businesses are failing and closing shop every day. Hundreds of families are doing their own gardening, house cleaning and child care to save money, causing former employees to seek jobs outside of Marin. George Lucas is fed up and will build his new empire elsewhere. Marin County, including Novato, needs more businesses for those working people who are presumably going to live in these new affordable houses. More jobs = housing needs. That math is not the case in Marin right now and will most likely not change for a very long time. People are moving OUT of Marin County and California as a whole, not more moving in. Read "The Great California Exodus", link below: http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2012/04/the-great-california-exodus/
Bob Ratto April 26, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Go to Mill Valley Patch and look at the reality of the numbers on SB375, pretty darn interesting read, and very well written by Bob Silvestri.
Ronnie April 26, 2012 at 11:15 PM
It makes a huge statement that the IJ isn't highlighting the ABAG and Sustainable Communities Strategy etc. There is so much brewing they could have a daily column. These plans, if allowed, will change Marin forever. How are people still not understanding the scope of what is going on?
Roger April 29, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Ratto, a more recent article on SB375 by Silvestri is on the San Anselmo Patch dated 4/25/12. Jobs before housing or esle think of Vallejo or Stockton. Ronnie, the IJ printed lots of letters attacking supervisors Kinsey and Adams over the Lucas Studio failure. Maybe Furst will take Kinsey's slot in the election. That would be good for putting the affordable housing mandates in their right priotity ranking of Marin's many social needs....some where around priority #15, where Obama puts climate change comcerns ....not #1 above everthing else...not above education. Noavto is firing teachers, but yet we are supposed to list lots to build dense housing near single family homes...some dense subsidized units for people making $70,000...yup that is about priority #15...to do perhaps 2020.
Bob Ratto April 29, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Roger Was there another article, or are you referring to the same one-the one where the numbers are dissected, and the abject phoniness of the numbers is shown? On jobs, yes, as Clinton once said "it's the economy, stupid"...or something to that effect...that is exactly what makes the whole Lucas thing so disgusting. The current supervisors are simply so out of touch with reality it is scary..Since Kinsey has not admitted that One Bay Area has become "a train wreck", it is probably time to go down a different track, and elect Furst, who at least does not appear to be intimidated by taking a risky position.

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