Are we doing enough?

The North Bay fires have affected a large number of our northern neighbors, including many who work here in Marin. The scope of the devastation and destruction is enormous: well over 5,000 homes have been destroyed and many more damaged. It is heartening that so many individuals, businesses, charities and other organizations and governmental agencies have come together to support the families gravely impacted by this crisis.

However, as everyone realizes, much remains to be done.

Everyone who lost a home in the North Bay fires–including Marin’s teachers, nurses, police and firemen–needs ongoing support. The severity of the loss of housing stock cannot be stressed enough.

Our community can and will be resilient to overcome this disaster, but it will take significant resources and imaginative solutions to meet our immediate (temporary) and long-term (permanent) housing needs.

How should Marin respond to this crisis?

Marin must respond. In the immediate term, homeowners with extra space need to take in displaced people who need temporary housing close to their jobs in Marin. The county, cities, and towns must coordinate with FEMA and make public lands – other than dedicated open space or park lands – available for temporary housing.

But we need long-term, permanent solutions for our workforce, both displaced people from neighboring counties and workers who haven’t lost their homes but are forced to endure grueling commutes because they can’t afford to live here. We cannot expect the commmuters to suffer forever – many will simply find work elsewhere, leaving us with growing numbers of unfilled jobs.

Marin must make a serious commitment to building affordable housing.

In the face of the worsening housing crisis, our cities, towns and the county must intensify efforts to identify opportunity sites beyond the minimums required by our current Housing Element. They must aggressively pursue affordable housing developers with the same urgency they would apply to a public safety emergency. We must recognize that our situation and that of our workforce is just that: an emergency. Our current employment-housing imbalance is not sustainable over the long term.


So far, we are not on track to meet our housing goals.

State law and common sense say that housing must be addressed regionally. California requires localities to consider regional housing needs in the local planning process through a mechanism called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, RHNA for short. With the sudden loss of so many North Bay homes, meeting our fair share of the regional housing need is more important than ever.

For the Bay Area, the time period for which the current RHNA is calculated is January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2022. The table at right reflects data our partners at Legal Aid of Marin have compiled from the most recent progress reports by Marin’s 11 cities, towns and the county (January 2014 through December 2016).

It shows that affordable housing production in Marin has been poor. So far, while achieving 33.3% of our market rate allocation, Marin jurisdictions have met only 12.8% of their affordable housing goals. Three of our smallest communities, Sausalito, San Anselmo and Larkspur, as well as the county, did well, meeting 25% or more of their 8-year RHNA goals for affordable housing. But our three largest cities, Novato, Mill Valley and especially San Rafael, so far have performed poorly in terms of the current 8-year RHNA affordable housing production goals.

The longer we wait to recognize and act on our housing dilemma, the worse it will get, leaving us with more job vacancies, more crushing traffic jams and a less equitable society.

At this critical time, every community in Marin not only must meet its RHNA targets, we must do more! We can do this while protecting the beauty of our wonderful county and at the same time making our community stronger, more resilient, and more sustainable.

For more info, visit our website.

SURVEY: The NORTHGATE MALL is asking for public input as it conceives its RENOVATION! Here is a link to their survey, make your opinions known and your voice heard! If you think mixed-use and housing on the site should be explored, say so!

We are volunteers with no vested interest except community benefit. We don’t get paid, we don’t have a staff, but we do have expenses.

You can help with a tax-deductible donation by clicking here.

Or you can mail a check to us directly:
Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative
P.O. Box 9633, San Rafael, CA 94912