February 25, 2022
Marin County Board of Supervisors
3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 329 San Rafael, CA 94903
Re: Housing Elements in the San Geronimo Valley; BOS Agenda Item 10, 3-1-2022
Background: The San Geronimo Valley Planning Group was formed in 1972 to help elect Gary Giacomini to the Board of Supervisors in order to gain the critical third vote necessary to kill the 1961 Countywide Master Plan, which had envisioned 5,000 new homes and 20,000 additional residents for the San Geronimo Valley alone. Our successful efforts in this regard were followed by five years of dedicated work to create a community plan that truly represented our Valley. While the plan was updated in 1982 and 1997, its central premise has never changed: preserving our Valley's rural character and protecting our natural environment. This commitment - along with that of many other community members - also helped permanently preserve more than 2,300 acres of open space in our beloved Valley. Our comments regarding the current Housing Element proposal as it relates to San Geronimo Valley follow.
We have been trying to apprehend the efforts of Marin County to meet the state-mandated "housing elements" through the rezoning of existing parcels. We are very concerned that few Valley residents are aware of the potential impact of this housing mandate on our community and that the Planning Group was not included in the process from the beginning. Apparently, pressure from the State has made it a top-down County effort. The Planning Group adamantly opposes the proposed, potential locations within our community identified below.
High school property. We are alarmed by Candidate Housing Site P, the proposal to build 98 above-moderate-income units through rezoning the high school property next to the Ottolini/Flanders' Ranch at the bottom of White's Hill on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Our Community Plan clearly spells out that the use of this property should remain as agriculture or open space; the high school district agreed. Our reasons are numerous.
1. It would be a visual blight, destroying not only the aesthetics of the entrance to our Valley but also jamming suburbia into the inland rural corridor.
2. It would be a dangerous location, creating a separate enclave with an entrance off a very busy highway, and removing one of the few places where traffic can safely pass slower traffic.
3. Because this property is not within the boundaries of any of our four villages, it would destroy the essence of our Valley's character, creating, in essence, a new, completely separate village of above market-rate houses. Moreover, there is no sewage or water infrastructure at this location.
4. It is an environmentally poor choice, being a wetland area, a swamp in the winter, and within the headwaters of the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
Former golf course club house property. Candidate Housing Site R-1. This open space, referred to as the Commons, must remain open space and not also become a "new village" location. In addition to being the likely site for a new firehouse, this is an essential area for community gatherings, and provides needed parking for and access to Roy's Redwoods, Maurice Thorner Open Preserve, and the two, newly conservation easement-protected meadow parcels (former front and back nine).
The Planning Group does favor affordable housing in the Valley. We want our residents and their children to be able to afford to remain in our community and to maintain our diverse population. But the current plan seems to be solely a County "numbers game," meeting only the requirements of the State for 3,569 units in unincorporated Marin. The parcels in the Valley are identified for families earning more than $132,000 annually. For an individual, this would be the equivalent of $62.50 an hour. The Valley is a rural community. The minimum wage in California is $14 an hour. Anyone who works a full-time job should be able to afford decent housing. This plan does not provide that.
The County must focus on the real need for affordable housing, with more emphasis and incentive on legalizing existing units and making it easier to create second units, ADUs and JDUs. A stronger effort is needed by the County to find appropriate parcels within our existing villages. Potentially, this might include the current location of the County fire department, which, if/when it's vacated, could be an excellent location for affordable multi-family housing. There are others.
A time constraint shouldn't be the deciding factor in zoning parcels for housing. There has to be more thought put into this and community involvement shouldn't be limited to a flawed survey. We request the County hold an in-person meeting for the community as soon as possible, preferably in the multi-purpose room at Lagunitas School. Additionally, the Planning Group would like to work with you to find a way to provide more affordable housing units within our community while continuing to maintain and protect the rural character and natural resources that make our Valley such an attractive place to live and raise a family.
Eric Morey, Chair
The San Geronimo Valley Planning Group
SGVPG Steering Committee
MARCH 2022 UPDATES:
Proposed 98 homes on the high school property: On February 25, with only three days remaining for public comment, two Planning Group members forwarded the above letter to more than 100 Valley residents urging them also to submit emails in opposition. By the February 28 deadline, Supervisor Rodoni had received more than 50 emails from concerned Valley residents, On March 1, he removed the site from consideration. A great win!
Club House property: the current owner, TPL, placed a deed restriction on this site, preventing any housing development.
THE PLANNING GROUP'S RESPONSE TO THE PROPOSED COUNTY HOUSING ELEMENT