Mill Valley developer seeks feedback on 28-unit design

POSTED: 09/22/18

Author: Matthew Pera

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

Mill Valley officials in 2010 approved a nine-unit design for the 500 Miller Ave. property, which was never built. Now in the hands of a new owner, the site could be home to 28 condominium units. (James Cacciatore/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

The developer of a 1.2-acre Mill Valley property along Miller Avenue is soliciting public feedback next week on new plans for the site, which could include up to 28 condominium units in addition to retail space.

The Mill Valley Planning Commission in 2010 approved a design that called for nine housing units and 4,965 square feet of retail space at the 500 Miller Ave. site, but that plan, proposed by a previous owner, was never built.

At a public hearing on the topic, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mill Valley City Hall, community members will have a chance to weigh in on two design concepts proposed by Mill Valley resident Agustin Maxemin, who purchased the property for $2.9 million in 2017.

One design for the site — zoned for mixed residential and commercial uses — proposes 28 condominium units, about 4,000 square feet of retail space and communal areas including a gymnasium and two lobbies.

An alternative design proposes 19 housing units, 4,450 square feet of retail space and more community spaces, including plazas.

Plans for parking and landscaping are included in both proposals, which are available at the city’s website,

Both designs would designate 25 percent of units for affordable housing. Maxemin in July said the site was an “ideal location” to help combat the city’s affordable housing shortage. The developer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment this week.

Mill Valley resident Susan Kirsch said she likes the idea of housing units on the property that are smaller than those proposed in the original design.

“In making smaller units, there is the chance that they would be more affordable,” she said.

But Kirsch said the project points to a larger issue — she’s concerned even the units designated for affordable housing wouldn’t be financially feasible for service industry workers in Mill Valley.

“Affordable housing is just a euphemism that people love to throw around, because it sounds so good, even though it has very little basis in what housekeepers, or home health care workers, or gardeners, or any of the people who truly need affordable housing can afford.”

She suggested forgoing the proposed retail space at 500 Miller Ave. and building as many small, one-bedroom or studio units as would fit into the footprint that was already approved for the development.

Others are concerned that a high-density housing development would create traffic problems in Mill Valley, which some say is already congested.

Abby Wasserman, who lives in the nearby Homestead Valley neighborhood, called the intersection of Miller Avenue and Reed Street “one of the most complicated intersections in Mill Valley.”

Wasserman said she appreciates that the developer wants to create affordable housing units, but hopes any new design won’t create traffic hazards along that stretch of Miller.

“It’s not so much adding cars, although that will happen too,” she said. “But my objection has more to do with the complexity of the pedestrian and traffic patterns there being made even more complex.”

Planning commissioners at Tuesday’s public hearing will discuss the proposed designs and give the developer feedback, but Maxemin will need to seek formal approval on a new site plan at a future Planning Commission meeting.

Excavation work on the site had already begun when Maxemin purchased the property in 2017. A retaining wall built on the property will be incorporated in a new design, according to a staff report.

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