County of Marin Press Release- December 13, 2022 – With a few adjustments still to come, the County of Marin is winding down its plan to address housing needs for the years 2023-2030 within the county’s unincorporated areas and expects to make the State of California’s statutory deadline of January 31, 2023.

The Marin County Community Development Agency on December 6 presented its list of potential sites for future housing to the Board of Supervisors, and on December 12 offered its recommended updates to the Planning Commission about rezoning maps and changes to the Housing Element based on comments provided by the state. 

The task at hand is to devise a way to accommodate housing needs in one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States. Many in the Marin workforce are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, causing a housing affordability and employment recruiting crisis.

For 2023-2030, the County must plan for at least 3,569 new homes in unincorporated areas during the eight-year cycle that begins in 2023. Within that total, at least 1,734 must be designated as affordable to lower-income households, at least 512 for moderate-income households, and at least 1,323 for above-moderate-income households. The list of properties  that could accommodate housing is under environmental review.

At the December 6 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, several properties on the site list were specifically discussed because of recent changes. For instance, the Martha Property in the hills above Tiburon was purchased as open space and taken off the list, and several parcels in Inverness were deleted because of concerns about access to fresh water.

At the December 12 Planning Commission workshop, commissioners talked about fulfilling state mandates or going above the minimum requirements on zoning, housing densities, and County Code applications while maintaining consistency among the County’s various community plans and the overarching Countywide Plan. After a six-hour session, the commissioners recommended the simplification of meeting state mandates and more review of County documentation.

CDA staff plans to bring updates to a Planning Commission hearing on January 5, followed by a hearing with the Supervisors on January 24. It’s that last date when a final approval is sought and CDA will present its plan back to the state.

The Housing Element is a portion of the Countywide Plan that addresses residential housing needs and how they will be accommodated factoring in efforts to affirmatively further fair housing. By law each municipality in California must update its Housing Element every eight years and do its best to engage residents in the discussions. State planners reviewed Marin’s draft version of the Housing Element update, and by October the state provided feedback that CDA considered minor compared with review letters sent to other jurisdictions.

There are stiff financial and governance consequences for towns, cities, and counties that fail to adopt an approved housing plan.

If a jurisdiction does not meet its housing goals, it becomes ineligible for state funding to serve local transportation needs, such as fixing roads, and may be subject to limitations on the public review process for housing developments. A noncompliant municipality also faces the possibility of funding cuts, forfeiture of housing grant eligibility, and fines. HCD has a new division that is designed to enforce accountability with plans to meet housing needs.

Also, local control of housing development approvals is at stake. A jurisdiction that has a noncompliant Housing Element with less than 20% low-income units by the statutory state deadline opens itself up to legal housing development without local approvals, forfeiting the ability to deny a project. The state’s Housing Accountability Act of 1990 includes a so-called Builder’s Remedy that streamlines development in those cases.

Questions and comments can be emailed to staff and phone inquiries can be made to (415) 473-6269. Regular updates can be found on the Housing and Safety Elements update webpage.