Assemblyman Levine stood up for local control

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 07/24/17, 11:55 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 07/24/2017

Author: Susan Kirsch

Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Marin Voice

Susan Kirsch

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Assemblyman Marc Levine took a bold stand for local control when he introduced SB 106 that preserves Marin’s state housing density standard as “suburban,” not “urban.”


He’s endured sharp criticism from his peers and the media. Even Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s edgy commentator, jumped into the fray with a biting critique about Marin’s politics.


Under Levine’s bill, Marin still must build housing, just like every other jurisdiction with a suburban classification.


In 2014, Levine corrected a mistake that wrongfully categorized Marin as “urban,” reflecting small communities built along winding roads at the base of Mount Tamalpais. The new bill extends suburban density until 2028.


Elected officials in other jurisdictions prioritize “urban” zoning to match their urban lifestyle. They make choices to attract businesses, grow the workforce, build high-rises and establish freeways — and they bear responsibility to house their population.


Zoning is, and should remain, a local choice, not mandated by regional or state agencies. Marin is responsible to provide a full range of housing options for the people who live and work here, not be the solution for workforce housing shortages in Silicon Valley.


The subjective term “affordable” confuses the issue.


Marin’s urban-style Tam Ridge apartments on the former WinCup site offers 18 affordable units in the 180-unit complex. Four units are classified as “very low rent,” at $1,187 a month. Twelve “low rent” units are $1,928 and the two “moderate rent” units will set you back $3,490.


These “affordable” rents far exceed the reach of a minimum-wage worker making $28,000 a year.


What is the solution?


Sacramento legislators are considering 130 housing bills. SB 35 introduced by Scott Wiener streamlines the approval process, mistakenly cutting into time-honored protections for the environment and community values. Other bills aim to create permanent funding sources through added fees, general obligation bonds and diverting money from the state’s cap-and-trade program.


A coalition calling themselves YIMBYs — Yes, In My Back Yard — is organized as a pro-housing voting constituency with chapters in San Francisco, the East Bay and Palo Alto.


In June, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced a new group called CASA — the Committee to House the Bay Area.


Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, and TMG Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias, an urban developer and chair of the Bay Area Council, are leading the 40-member group. They promise to use MTC’s clout to fulfill their mission.


How might they do that?


In 2016, voters passed the first-ever parcel tax to be levied across a region. Measure AA, created by the SF Bay Restoration Authority, was lavishly funded, and promised to preserve the bay.


With a two-thirds vote requirement, voters approved an annual $12-per-parcel tax that will generate $500 million over 20 years. The measure passed in five of the nine counties.


Measure AA is a likely template for a regional housing tax, which raises these points:


• Parcel taxes are highly regressive, especially on modest single-family homes and condos.


• A housing tax would stack up on school parcel taxes and the bay restoration tax.


• A regional tax trumps local control — some counties might vote decisively against the measure, but the nine-county majority will prevail.


• Taxes generated in Marin could be directed outside the area.


• And a regional tax creates another regional agency, run by unelected officials.


Since new housing is rarely affordable to low-income wage earners, who will be the primary beneficiaries of a regional housing tax? Will it be individuals or the corporate construction industries, unions, investors, and property management companies?


Levine went to bat for his constituents and local control. Now it’s up to us to provide a suitable range of housing options, stand up against regional coercion and do our part to preserve local control, the foundation of democracy.


*Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley is one of the founders of CO$T, the Marin-based Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers. She was a candidate for county supervisor in 2016.

To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/opinion/20170724/marin-voice-assemblyman-levine-stood-up-for-local-control

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