An Opinion Page piece in the Marin IJ by MEHC co-chair Marge Macris:
Marin Voice: Choosing the Future We Want

By Marge Macris

Guest op-ed column
Posted: 09/12/2012 06:10:00 AM PDT

A WIDE RANGE of community groups has come together to mount a public forum looking at how Marin might change over the next 40 years. “Choosing the Future We Want: Environmental, Equity and Climate Solutions for Marin” will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the San Rafael Community Center at 618 B Street.

Everyone is welcome to come out and join the discussion.

A panel will present various perspectives, and Marin Supervisor Kate Sears will moderate. The Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative, Sustainable Marin, Sustainable San Rafael, Marin Conservation League, Marin County League of Women Voters, and Marin TV/Channel 26 are sponsoring the event.

The people of Marin have a proud history of planning and achieving the future we want.

In 1972, the county published “Can the Last Place Last?” That report laid the foundation for the Marin Countywide Plan, adopted by the Board of Supervisors the following year. The plan established the principle that environmental constraints, not the market alone, would limit and shape development in Marin.

Before then, adopted plans showed subdivisions throughout the agricultural land of central Marin, along the shores of Tomales Bay and along our ridgelines. Two freeways would cut through to West Marin. The amount of development and the increase in commuters would require 18 lanes at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The proposed Marincello project called for thousands of apartment units in the Marin Headlands.

The cities and the county worked together on the plan that set forth a new vision.

Agriculture, not subdivisions, would be the main use in West and Central Marin. The county would support the expansion of national parks along the coast.

Development would concentrate around the existing communities of East Marin. Ridge-lines, creeks and shorelines would be protected.

The three corridors designated in the plan, Coastal Recreation, Inland Rural and City-Centered, have remained the basic framework for land use decisions.

In 2007, the most recent revision of the Countywide Plan added the Baylands Corridor to protect diked historic tidelands and adjacent habitats along San Pablo Bay.

Some of the plan’s policies have not been accomplished. Housing prices continue to be too high to accommodate much of Marin’s workforce. Intra-county public transportation has not been adequately improved. But the environmental vision of the plan, strongly supported by the people who prepared it, was accomplished through careful regulations and open space acquisition.

The next 40 years present a new set of challenges: climate change, sea level rise, an inadequate supply of housing to meet the needs of the workforce and an aging population. State laws now require that local general plans be revised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in part by reducing vehicle miles traveled and to increase opportunities for affordable housing.

Choosing the Future We Want will address these challenges, and allow a free exchange of ideas by the public.

Speakers will be:

• Bob Brown, former San Rafael community development director, on communities that reduce carbon pollution and curb climate change.

• Betty Pagett of the League of Women Voters of Marin County, on communities that deliver housing choices that meet equity, economic and environmental needs.

• Nona Dennis, former president of the Marin Conservation League, on communities that respect environmental constraints and conserve natural resources.

• John King, urban design critic, San Francisco Chronicle, on how to create vital, livable communities that express architectural richness of place.

Come and participate in helping Marin County once again choose the future we want.

For further information, call (415) 381-6667 or e-mail

Marge Macris is a former Marin County planning director and is the co-chair of the Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative.