Editorial: San Anselmo snubs housing requirements
Author: Marin IJ Editorial Board
Date: September 26, 2019
Publication: Marin Independent Journal
San Anselmo town leaders sound like they resent getting pushed around by state and regional governments that are pressing localities to build more housing.
Their response? Zone more properties to be saved as open space.
Their intent is to send a strong message of local control.
Their result? Likely, they are adding more fuel to the push to supercede local resistance to building more housing.
The state and regional push for housing has been aimed at dismantling local zoning restrictions that some towns and cities have established as costly obstacles for housing.
The San Anselmo Town Council has responded by building more obstacles, essentially taking 26 parcels, declaring the town’s preference that they be left undeveloped. Some of the parcels are being used by the public as open space, but the lands are not zoned with that designation.
Town Councilman Ford Greene has a point that regional agencies, such as the Association of Bay Area Governments, has set local housing quotas that “we could never satisfy.”
San Anselmo, like many Marin municipalities, is largely built out and if there is going to be much new housing it is going to be the result of redeveloping existing properties.
But the quotas set for San Anselmo and other Bay Area cities and counties are an attempt to plan for local “fair shares” in meeting the region’s need for housing, especially affordable housing.
Those quotas also need to be “fair” to jurisdictions who have limited opportunities to achieve them.
Pinpointing properties as off-limits to development, especially some previously listed as potential sites for housing, could be political fuel for the legislative fire that’s eroding local control.
Most Marin municipalities are more obtuse when it comes to zoning for lands that local leaders want to save from development. The worry, prudently, is that by removing land for potential development a municipality is essentially eroding, if not eliminating, the economic value of private property for which the owner is paying taxes. Municipalities are typically careful to not open the door to a costly lawsuit.
Instead, the zoning usually reflects the possible physical limitations to future development.
That’s why the countywide open space “shopping list” is geographically generic.
The Town Council has probably scored points with local residents interested in keeping properties safe from future development, but the action is worrisome, adding to Sacramento’s claim that local building restrictions are an obstacle to meet the state’s need for more housing.
As a local municipality, San Anselmo should be as proactive in seeking those opportunities. Expecting other jurisdictions to do more in that arena is not an answer.