State squeezes Marin to streamline housing development
Updated: Jun 2, 2018
POSTED: 02/05/18, 5:41 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 02/07/2018
Author: Richard Halstead
Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Legislature
A carpenter works on the Oma Village complex in Novato. The city is one of 10 Marin jurisdictions that could face more development pressure under SB 35. (Marin Independent Journal/2016)
Marin County and nine of 11 municipalities could be required to implement a streamlined approval process for multi-family housing under a new state law that took effect Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 35, which passed last year despite the opposition of Marin’s two representatives in the Legislature — Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae — was designed to ensure that cities and counties are approving the housing needed to keep pace with population growth.
Late last week, the state Department of Housing and Community Development released a list of the cities and counties now subject to streamlined housing development under SB 35. The only two Marin municipalities that escaped the streamlining requirement were Corte Madera and San Anselmo.
“That’s because we got to count 23 units that were completed in 2014 at the San Francisco Theological Seminary,” said Elise Semonian, San Anselmo’s planning director. “The seminary had developed a number of student housing units, which they rent at low-income levels. That really gave us a big bump at the beginning of the cycle.”
MARIN HOUSING > MORE COVERAGE
About 97.6 percent of cities and counties statewide are subject to streamlining due to their lack of housing growth. Marin planning officials, however, say the law includes exceptions that will likely minimize its effect in the county.
Even prior to the passage of SB 35, California required that regional planning agencies, such as the Association of Bay Area Governments, determine the projected housing need for counties and municipalities every eight years and assign each local government a share in meeting that need. And jurisdictions were required to adjust their zoning laws to help make the creation of this housing possible.
Between 2015 and 2023, Marin jurisdictions are expected to zone for 2,298 new housing units; 1,007 of those units are assigned to San Rafael while 415 are designated for Novato.
Now under SB 35, every April the state housing department will evaluate how many building permits for housing units each jurisdiction has approved. Based on how much progress the local government has made toward producing the housing assigned by the regional planning agency, it will be deemed in or out of compliance.
SB 35 makes a distinction between affordable housing and market-rate development. Marin County, San Rafael, Larkspur and Ross were judged in compliance on market-rate unit creation so SB 35 will apply only to proposed developments in which at least half of the units are affordable, or below market rate.
For Novato, Mill Valley, Fairfax, Tiburon and Belvedere, however, the streamlining could be applied to both market-rate and affordable development.
But Scott Hochstrasser of Fairfax, a land use and environmental planning consultant, said, “I can’t imagine it is going to have much of an impact on those other jurisdictions.”
Hochstrasser said that is because under SB 35 there is a long list of requirements that projects must meet to qualify for streamlining. For example, they must comply with a local government’s zoning rules, pay the prevailing wage, and ensure that at least 10 percent of the new units are affordable, or priced below market rate.
And the boundaries of the jurisdiction in which the site is located must include some portion of either an urbanized area or urban cluster, as designated by the Census Bureau.
“Where is the urban area in the town of Ross?” Hochstrasser asks.
Bob Brown, Novato’s community development director, said, “Most planners are in agreement that we’re not likely to see this provision utilized in the suburbs much.
“That is because to utilize SB 35 developers have to pay prevailing labor wages,” Brown said, “and so far every contact with a developer we’ve had that simply is not feasible for them.”
“Prevailing wages are typically paid for projects you would find in San Francisco or Oakland,” Brown said. “It’s a rarity when you would find a developer in the suburbs that can afford to pay prevailing wage.”
Paul Jensen, San Rafael’s community development director, agreed that the prevailing wage requirement will be a major hurdle for developers seeking to utilize SB 35 in Marin.
“It’s a big order for them to fill,” Jensen said.
And Tom Lai, assistant director of the county’s Community Development Agency, said for jurisdictions such as Marin County and San Rafael, which are meeting their targets for market-rate housing growth, the streamlining can only be applied to proposed developments in which at least half of the units are affordable, or below market rate.
Lai said, “Without significant subsidy, applicants will have a difficult time triggering that streamlined, ministerial review.”
Bay Area News Group reporter Louis Hansen contributed to this story.
BAY AREA HOUSING
Statewide, just 13 cities or counties are on track to meet both goals. They include San Anselmo, Foster City, Hillsborough, and Napa and Sonoma counties.
>> These Bay Area cities and counties are failing to meet all of their housing goals — both market rate and affordable:
Alameda County, Capitola, Carmel, Clayton, Concord, East Palo Alto, Emeryville, Hayward, Los Altos Hills, Martinez, Menlo Park, Mill Valley, Millbrae, Monterey, Moraga, Newark, Novato, Pacifica, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, Redwood City, Richmond, San Bruno, San Leandro, San Mateo County, Santa Cruz County, Sausalito, South San Francisco, Tracy, Union City, Vallejo
>> The Bay Area cities and counties below are not issuing enough permits for affordable (below market rate) housing, but are on track to meet their goals for market-rate housing:
Alameda, Albany, Antioch, Atherton, Berkeley, Brisbane, Burlingame, Campbell, Contra Costa County, Cupertino, Daly City, Danville, Dublin, El Cerrito, Fremont, Gilroy, Hercules, Lafayette, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Marin County, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Oakland, Orinda, Palo Alto, Piedmont, Pittsburg, Pleasanton, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, San Pablo, San Rafael, San Ramon, Santa Clara, Santa Clara County, Sunnyvale, Walnut Creek, Woodside
To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/article/NO/20180205/NEWS/180209895