In 2009, MEHC was the lead organization to bring together, for the first time, leaders from the Marin Conservation League and the League of Women Voters to formulate a series of affordable housing policies recommended for use during planning processes. This “Square Table” document was well received by the Board of Supervisors and the County Planning Commission. MEHC continues to support these policies.
Following are recommended housing policies (abbreviated), based on positions adopted by the League of Women Voters of Marin County, the Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative, and Community Marin, a planning document by the county’s major environmental organizations. The purpose of this paper is primarily for reviewing and commenting on the Housing Elements prepared by Marin County and the 11 cities and towns.
A fundamental principle: environmental constraints and political realities limit how much growth Marin County and other jurisdictions can accommodate. Development has to be planned carefully to address and meet the needs of all sectors of our society and to minimize environmental impacts.
Recommended Housing Policies: Recognize that Marin is part of a major urban area that is economically interdependent. Look for solutions to housing, employment and transportation issues in a regional context that will reduce regional vehicle miles travelled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions. Work with state and local legislators to explore techniques for developing and retaining below market rate housing. Establish an inter-jurisdictional planning entity within Marin County to address countywide planning issues.
- Prevent sprawl and intrusion into environmentally sensitive areas: wildlife habitat; areas subject to wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes; and areas designated as priorities for conservation, open space, and agriculture.
- Encourage housing and mixed use in spaces above parking lots, shopping and other commercial centers, other infill sites, and through reuse of existing buildings for housing.
- Where appropriate, identify and rezone sites for higher density affordable housing.
- Promote increasing density and offer other incentives
- Coordinate land use and transportation planning. Locate housing near transit and other existing services, without impairing natural resources
- Reduce homelessness by providing opportunities for permanent housing, adequate shelter sites and services
- Retain existing below market rate housing, including small homes in older neighborhoods.
- Establish procedures for maintaining and increasing rental housing stock and evaluate second units as an effective way of providing needed affordable housing, subject to environmental standards.
- Explore strategies such as increasing funding for the county’s housing trust fund, as well as establishing and sustaining other such funds in Marin cities and towns.