MacLeamy Says Available Land Use Should be a Factor in ABAG Housing Quotas

Novato and other cities have complained that 'granny units' won't be counted toward mandatory housing totals.

The following item ran on Rohnert Park Patch and was written by the staff of KRCB, a public TV and radio station based in Rohnert Park.


Are regional housing goals an intrusion into local land use planning or a necessary tool to ensure the creation of affordable housing throughout the area? It depends who we ask.

Among the issues that Novato City Council member Jeanne MacLeamy has with the Association of Bay Area Government's administration of their housing projections is a subtle but significant change. Instead of merely identifying parcels where future housing projects might be built, MacLeamy says, the agency is now insisting that actual construction eventually ensure on those same sites.

Novato, a city of 50,000 people, has little available land left for new residential development, something that MacLeamy thinks should be factored into the ABAG housing needs projections.

Novato and other cities have also complained that ABAG will not count "granny units" or other second units toward their municipal housing targets. Affordable housing advocate David Grabill says these might be considered market rate housing, but are virtually never affordable.

In Novato, permits and other administrative costs can easily reach $60,000 before construction even begins, further distancing them from any prospect of affordability.

The ABAG includes all nine Bay Area counties.

Get the full story from KRCB here.


MacLeamy, contacted after this story ran on Rohnert Park Patch, was asked to expand on her thoughts about the topic, and she was kind enough to respond. She wrote:

ABAG and HCD should allow local land use policies to take precedence so that affordable housing can be provided that is appropriate to the jurisdiction.

Ideally jurisdictions should be allowed to provide a variety of affordable housing types, quantities and densities that suit their unique characteristics, their neighborhoods and land availability. The state’s projected numbers of new mandated housing units should be reexamined so they reflect declining future housing needs due to the dire fiscal condition of the state, high unemployment, business departures and the flood of foreclosed homes.

A variety of housing types could include but not be restricted to: second units that are deed restricted; vacant single-family homes (one or more) that may be sold at an affordable rate (such as by Habitat for Humanity); and affordable housing mixed with market-rate housing so affordable units are scattered rather than clustered all together. Exceptions allowing clustering would be Rotary-like senior housing and other nonprofit examples such as New Beginnings, Next Key and the future Buck Institute housing.

Most if not all “affordable housing” must be subsidized to make it affordable to build, manage and maintain. Cost of land, permit fees and construction costs to name a few make most units more expensive than affordable income levels would allow. Without donated or low cost land, reduced fees, “relaxed” lending standards, nonprofit participation and other taxpayer subsidies, affordable housing could not be provided.

With very little land left in Novato, it is important that every housing project be successful. Management, screening, densities (including potential bonus), number of units, site and building design standards, project amenities as well as the character of the neighborhood must be considered along with the fiscal impact on our services and infrastructure.

Christine April 07, 2011 at 06:22 PM
T. Allen...Most people who live in Novato are not privileged, segregated rich kids. Most come from low income households and worked their way up. Scarey thought huh? Your statement on #5 suggests in your words... There is absolutely no factual basis to the notion that living near contemporary affordable housing negatively affects property values. Do a google search, there are dozens of independent studies that put this claim to bed. In fact, some evidence suggests an increase in value due to the new vibrancy of what was often a previous eyesore of dilapidated buildings or weedy vacant lot. It is proven fact that low income housing does indeed lower the value of exisiting neighborhood properties....... T. Allen, what is proven fact is low income properties bring crime into existing surrounding neighborhoods whcih in fact lowers the property value. You see, I don't base my beliefs on a book written by some one who expects hardworking citizens who have made something of themselves thru much sacrifice and future planning, to support others who are not willing to make the same sacrifices and plan for their own future. I do believe in helping the ederly and physically and metally challeged.
Christine April 07, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Sorry about the typos
Edwin Drake April 07, 2011 at 07:50 PM
There are places and ways to work affordable housing into the fabric of Novato. It's just not on ANY of the sites released by the City that created the uproar. And that uproar makes two things clear: 1) NOW the city says the sites weren't vetted. It's ALWAYS so convenient for them to come up with some excuse after they - the city council - mess things up. These people are NEVER responsible for anything that happens here. So why are they on the council? 2) Even though they are nice people and hard workers, this affordable housing situation is TOO complicated for city staff to handle. They just don't have the skill set and with this, as with everything else done around here, they take the easy way out. It is/was easier and simpler to just pick some sites an designate them and be done with it. So that's what they did. It's sad, but the staff is just not up to the demands of the job.
T. Allen April 07, 2011 at 07:58 PM
Christine, can you please list some source of your information? I believe you have been quite misled and your statements are simply inaccurate. ABAG is the Association of Bay Area Governments, they are not in the business of suing people, least of all themselves. It is made up of representatives (Council members and Supervisors) from each jurisdiction. I believe our Novato rep is Carole Dillon-Knutson, but maybe that changed this year. But there are people out there who will sue a city for not offering fair housing options, I believe it was Legal Aid who stepped in and cost Corte Madera a bundle. I hope we can avoid that by doing the right thing here in Novato. Nobody has to build anything. Period. Ask David Wallace of planning department to confirm if you don't believe me. I can understand why believing what you do that you would be frightened, but please check out the facts. It's not all about Wyndover which was built in 1964. There are 1,500 units of affordable housing in our City or about 4,000 residents, many of them seniors, disabled, working families. They are not all criminals and drug dealers and to paint people who earn below $90,000 a year with such a broad brush as some in the community tend to do is outright discrimination, not to mention "unneighborly". Thank goodness for SUNN, a voice of reasoned, fact-based dialogue for the people of Novato!.
T. Allen April 07, 2011 at 08:02 PM
The population has increased signifcantly over the years, and the more people you have in a city, the more crime you have proportionately. However, the presentation by Cheif Kreins of the statistics does show crime has decreased in the last 10 years in almost all categories in Novato, even though the police resources have gone down. See article on in IJ today on the presenaiton by our Police Chief- http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_17783514 That is not to say that Wyndover hasn't been an issue over the years. Bad management will do that whether it is market rate, affordable , small or big, apartment, condo or even single family home. I remember hearing about one house on San Benito in San Marin that was accounting for up to 80 calls a month due to feud they were having with their neighbors. Issues like that happen in every city and should be dealt with, but again, they are the exception, and it sounds like our police force is doing exactly the right thing in addressing it at Wyndover.
Lloyd April 07, 2011 at 08:46 PM
T if I may call you by your first name. You make some good points. ABAG or HCD for that matter do not sue cities. Instead they rely on legal firms that specialize in this area & believe it or not bill by the hour. These attorneys consider it a victory just to bring the suit and start their meters ticking. I believe the point here however is not to get into a lawsuit. That doesn't mean that the people of Novato are un-neighborly by any means and to accuse otherwise is grossly unfair. Surely you aren't suggesting that working to build a fair housing element even if there are disagreements with some of the State mandates are unfriendly? Quite frankly, taking the entire AH issue aside I don't believe looking at the state of affairs of California anyone would argue in fact that anything suggested or mandated by the state isn't open to discussion if only by the almost 100% batting average the state has of getting well meaning programs wrong. HCD has some really bad one size fits all guidelines that do not address a host of issues particular to any number of towns or cities. But what I really want to ask is why when we discuss rezoning is the battle cry "but we don't have to build anything"? If that is the case why have this exercise at all? I for one believe there is a very real need for AH in our town. I believe we can answer that need with a balanced, well thought out housing element that takes into account everyone's rights and needs. What is un-neighborly about that?
Christine April 07, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Again...please excuse my typos. My hand is in a cast.
floyd fulmer April 07, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Floyd Fulmer What is unneighborly is people with no invested interest in Novato dictating Novato's Land Use Plans and developing housing that changes the character of existing neighborhoods, negatively impacting existing quality of life in those neighborhoods and negatively impacting existing property values. What is neighborly is a Novato Ordinance giving the Novato Electorate the right to vote on any high density low income housing project whether financed and managed publicly or privately.
Edwin Drake April 07, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Let's be honest about one thing: Affordable Housing is an industry. Many of the people pushing for it are PAID to push for it, they make money if it's proposed or built. Plus, one way or another much of this housing is "subsidized" by the government, either through tax breaks or tax dollars. So let's be sure to follow the money. SUNN is not a groups of local people who just felt strongly about this. They are funded by professional organizations who felt threatened by the work of Balanced Housing and are trying to "dilute" the conversation. I'm the working poor and I abhor the way a "phony" group can be created to alter the democratic conversation. This IS NOT what the United States is about. The state housing requirements are causing ruckus and anger in many places across California. It's not just some small group in Novato.
Lisa Lucchesi April 08, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Lisa I agree there is a need for affordable housing in Novato. I also believe there is a need for AH in Tiburon, Belevedere, San Anselmo, Mill Valley, Sausalito, Larkspur, Corte Madera, Fairfax etc. I have lived in Marin for 36 years. I grew up with a brother and single mother in San Anselmo. We lived in affordable housing as my mother put herself through university on welfare and scholarships. My husband was born and raised in Marin. His mother lived in affordable housing in San Anselmo, raising four kids there. With hardwork and a strong desire to stay in Marin, three of those kids are property owners in Novato. The fourth lives in Fairfax. I do not think the issue is the need for affordable housing and how it impacts the community good or bad. I think the issue is how this is being handled by City and State officials. Designating areas for rezoning without really looking at the impact on those potential sites is reckless and irresponsible. The City Council of Novato should not be so worried about ABAG ( or lawyers associated with them) suing the City but look at the very real possibility of the Novato homeowners who are potentially going to be rezoned suing over negligence if nothing else. Novato is not METROPOLITAN. Let us start with having that label changed and WORK from there.
Marla April 08, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Edwin, your accusations are slanderous and simply not true. The six VOLUNTEER cofounders of SUNN don't stand to gain anything personally if homes for seniors, working families and disabled people are ever built although we certainly think the whole community would benefit. We sought funding from Marin Community Foundation to help us reach out to others in the community, and we are very grateful they saw the benefit of our plan as we are far too busy ourselves to do the kind of fundraising that would be required to produce materials and reach out to more in the community.
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Marla - Are you claiming that aside from the $80,000, SUNN has received NO HELP from any outside agency or non-profit on this issue? Even the name SUNN smacks of manipulation. And just how did the six co-founders find each other over this issue? If it is so community based, why not return the $80,000 and fund yourselves with local donations. Whether you like it or not, SUNN doesn't pass the smell test. The rule in politics is to follow the money and figure out who's to gain. Maybe not you personally, but SUNN is supported by and surrounded by groups that WILL benefit, and are professionals paid to push this agenda. But that was a good try: 'Hey Edwin, 6 of us have nothing to do with it.' And the rest?
Marla April 08, 2011 at 12:34 AM
I think there is a myth that is getting people riled up (understandably). If a property ends up on the site list (which I don't believe should happen without owner consent and not likely any individual property would be on the list as anyhow as they are too small) it simply means there may be rezoning (unless the zoning is already applicable). That zoning may go up in which case the property has now increased in value. Either way, the point is that the property owner has every right to decide what to do with their property whether it is to entertain proposals to build less units than the zoning maximum, to not build at all, to build affordable senior housing, to build market rate housing etc. The fear that some homeowner will be taken over and forced to do something they don't want to do isn't accurate. But I do agree with Lisa that the city council should get input from any property owner before putting them on the housing element proposed site list. I know the City staff attempted to do that but didn't reach too many of them except for the Novato Unified School District which has a publicly stated policy in support of affordable housing for its employees.
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 12:44 AM
Marla - One other thing. How often does the Marin Community Foundation give out $80,000 to an organization with NO track record, and does it by funneling the money through two other groups? Plus, it boils my blood to see the other groups, like the Novato Youth Center - who does such great work - , desperate for money, and SUNN receive so much, especially when you don't help anyone. SUNN, is basically, nothing more than a public relations campaign. Do you feed people, educate them, house them, care for them? No. You campaign, that's all. And the way you got your money smells crooked. I'm sure you're a very nice person, with your heart in the right place. I'm not out to attack you. BUT whereas the balanced Housing people are open and out-front, you and the other five co-founders (the Justice League of Novato?) appear to be hiding behind SUNN, making claims and expecting everyone to believe you since you have a 'righteous cause.' It just makes no sense unless there's money involved. And we know there is.
Marla April 08, 2011 at 12:50 AM
SUNN's funding is coming from our local philanthropic Foundation (MCF) based here in Novato. No outside agency or non-profit or developer as some have accused. We six co-founders were equally disturbed by the tone of the debate. I started the process by calling my friend Lynne, who I met while working on other issues. We met in her living room with her neighbor, a Reverend who lives in San Marin and two of my friends who I knew through my volunteer work with Sustainable Novato. We've all been active volunteers in this community for many years and got to know each other. I don't know which groups you mean that "surround us" that will benefit, I think we all benefit. Stand Up for Neighborly Novato has been endorsed by League of Women Voters, North Bay Labor Council, Asian Advocacy Project, Community Action Marin, Democracy for America-Marin, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, Latino Council, Sustainable Novato, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin, United for Safe Schools Novato, and Novato Democratic Club and hundreds of local residents. Visit www.neighborlynovato.org for full list. These are not folks who are paid professional pushing an agenda. I sincerely hope we can focus on the issues now instead of questioning our motivations.
Bob Ratto April 08, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Myth? Here are facts from one who is on "the list" :1) No notification from City whatsoever, and no indication of any "attempt" to have notification; 2) You are correct in stating the individual properties may be "too small"-but when you group together 16 of them, you have about 28 acres (with Novato Creek running though the middle of it); 3) "upzoning" is just a euphemism for rezoning-and if our properties were no longer allowed present uses, one cannot state as a definitive fact that "upzoning" will produce increased value;4) building subsidized housing is very likely to create significant additional burdens with regard to City funds. Those are plain facts, not myths.
Nancy Prince April 08, 2011 at 03:03 AM
In hindsight, I remember many comments not the least of which came from Marla, regarding the "list" of sites. In the beginning, I think that they were just looking at large parcels with only one home (read:underutilized) on them. With the firestorm that ensued, and now with ABAG requiring that the parcels identified must actually be built upon, I think there are lots of people who are sorry that they approached this task, with for lack of a better term, willy-nilly attitude. What I want to impress on the Marla's of the world (and I do not mean that in a disparaging way as I feel that she is a thoughful person) is that you cannot think that giving ABAG anything will not result in them wanting more and more and more. She has a very naive approach to this topic. I think that types like her are often victims of unintended consequences because of their blind do-good nature. I feel that some of this housing is needed. But, I would first want ABAG to assure me that based on current (not 2005) projections that it is actually needed. Novato has and always will be on the forefront of doing the right thing. There is no reason to suggest we will not--with or without ABAG. Also I feel that it is human nature and economics that cluster homes. It is not only the poor who seem to cluster it is also the rich and the middle class. If you make it all the same then what is there to aspire to? Human nature by definition cannot be engineered, but that is what ABAG is trying to do.
Marla April 08, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Bob, You could use your properties for present uses even if it was on the housing element opportunity site list. When I use the term upzoning, I mean going from a residential zoning that allows say 5 units maximum to one that allows maybe 20 units maximum per acre. That makes it more valuable. Non-profits, or market rate developers would pay considerably more for same sized land that could accomodate more rental or for sale homes. But it is still your choice as to whether to keep it for you personal use, give it to your children, sell it, or devleop part of it for market rate homes, or below market rate homes etc.
Nancy Prince April 08, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Marla, Now there ya go again down the naive path. If a homeowner agrees to an "upzone" and the house is damaged more that 51% (I wonder who determines that number) you would not be able to rebuild. This was confirmed at the question sessoin after a council meeting by Pat Eklund. You would have to move--or at least be in a dickering match between your insurance compnay and the city zoning folks. This applies to anything that may damage a home--simple kitchen fire, earthquake--does not matter. This group of 16 is well versed and knowledgable about the pitfalls of rezoning. It is the camel's nose in the tent and will not be accepted. Nice try. Rezoning is the first step to eminent domain, but I bet you know that. It is common knowledge.
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 03:48 AM
Your "motives" come down to getting $80,000, funneled through two admittedly pro-affordable housing organizations. Again I ask, how often has the MCF done this? You ignore my points. Most of the organizations and people supporting you either: 1) will financially benefit from affordable housing; 2) are paid to push this agenda. As for your long list of groups, the hamburgers at McDonald's are popular -- that doesn't make them good.
Bob Ratto April 08, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Marla Upzoning a property that allows (and has) equestrian uses would likely not be more valuable to a developer. A primary determinant of value for any property concerns what is known as "highest and best use". While an underutilized property, or one suffering from so called blight, may not have an existing use that would be considered it's highest and best use, I don't think any part of Sutro corridor would be applicable given such considerations. There is this thing called supply and demand, and there is little supply of properties quite like this neighborhood, which all of us have worked so very hard to build and maintain. This area appears to be quite united in opposition to this poorly planned (no notice) and executed approach in attempting rezoning, and we will persevere.
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 03:57 AM
By the above logic, a property owner would be best off if land were zoned for a high-rise apartment, or industrial facility. Well, maybe that's more money to the landowner but it wrecks the neighborhood. One person's property value rises while everyone surrounding them sinks. I guess that's why single houses on large lots are so very "worthless" and why housing developers are always trying to jam as many residences into an area as possible. Once again- this is NOT about pro/con affordable housing. It's about the right-sized housing in the right areas, (at least for me). Given the ineptitude of city staff and city council I have no reason to believe that they can make intelligent decisions about this matter. The fact that stepped "in it" in the first place, and that they continue to skew the facts, just shows me they are in above their heads with this matter, and don't have the proper skills for this complicated area.
Bob Ratto April 08, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Edwin/Nancy Great points, I forgot about Pat Eklund saying that at the board meeting-if you are rezoned, and you have a catastrophic loss you can't rebuild. Extending out Edwin's logic, maybe everyone on the Sutro Novato Blvd corridor to get together, convert our land to say, industrial, build a new concrete plant (the water is right there), mine out all the dirt and rocks, build a nice little lake, and then put up a luxury industrial park! The way this has all been played is very disturbing, and it really becomes a fight between David (us), and the monolithic decider of "what is good for you", the Marin Community Foundation, which has fallen so far off its original mark, that dear old Beryl is spinning...yes, our city staff is horribly in over their heads, as has been proven by the financial fiasco's of the other redevelopment deals.
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 04:23 AM
No kidding! You've started me thinking. The city needs money. Why not mine Novato Creek for river rock and gravel? The city could charge an extraction fee, thus solving financial woes. Or, better yet, maybe the city itself should run a dredging project. Because it's housing this is all "warm and fuzzy." But the ABAG requirements are no less onerous than if they required us to mine Novato Creek to supply building materials for the Bay Area, or southern Marin. Forcing zoning on parcels, without public input and intelligent design is simply outrageous.
Nancy Prince April 08, 2011 at 04:35 AM
I am going to get a shop on Grant Avenue that sells gold mining equipment! We'll sell Levi's. Just like old times.
Bob Ratto April 08, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Yes, agreed it becomes all "warm and fuzzy" because it's for housing. With projections based upon dated numbers that do not reflect today's financial realities, when homes are eminently more affordable than several years ago. Maybe the new Novato Creek mining project could become the model for the new "utopia"....but, hey, there would be job creation. But then again, it would all get so horribly messed up with the bond financing...
Bob Ratto April 08, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Nancy I think you should try and get a "grant" before you engage in such an endeavor, which well help from what could be a difficult and challenging task, as job creation is to be carefully vetted. Also please make sure you have housing immediately next to your shop. Or make sure you ride your bicycle to the shop, or ride your bike to the non-existent (to be) smart train stop, take the train to Hamilton, and then get back on your bike to ride to downtown.
gary April 08, 2011 at 06:57 AM
These housing advocates are living in the merry old land of oz. If they love to help the helpless so much why don't they rezone or donate their properties to the 'CAUSE" The government has gotten too far into our back pockets and our lives. 47% of Novato residents are qualified for affordable housing, yet we are told by big brother that we must pay for all this housing by our tax dollars. Novato has 20% of the counties population and 33% of its affordable housing. Is this fair, NOT. Enough is enough. It is time for the rest of the county to take their fair share of this burden. Whatever happened to self-reliance and self-respect. If you are so concerned about greenhouse gas, pressure the government to get the electric car perfected and affordable. Have you ever heard of overpopulation and birth control. If these were implemented we wouldn't need all this extra housing. Gary
Edwin Drake April 08, 2011 at 08:19 AM
This is sorta crazy sometimes, but people should read this entire page and then consider it in light of what's going in Novato, and how The Greenbelt Alliance is one of the organizations supporting SUNN. Please read: http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2011/03/county/guest-opinion-we-must-continue-to-fight-sprawl/
Christine April 09, 2011 at 03:28 AM
FYI....This was first in the Rohnert Park Patch which is where Novato Patch got it from. (Thank you Novato Patch) I can't find it in the Marin IJ....Did anyone else?


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