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.