About the Committee
This committee closely monitors the issues of transportation, land use, and housing, attending meetings of boards, councils, and commissions where such issues are considered and decided. We take many kinds of action - letters, testimony, committee membership, ballot measure endorsements - based on LWV positions at all levels: federal, state, regional, and local.
All members of the League are welcome to attend. Meetings are generally the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 9:30am.
Letter in Support of Inclusionary Housing - AB 1229
April 27, 2013
The Honorable Toni Atkins
California State Assembly
RE: AB 1229 –Inclusionary Housing- SUPPORT
Dear Assembly Member Atkins:
The League of Women Voters of Marin County has a lengthy history of affordable-housing advocacy. So we thank you for offering legislation to encourage affordable housing in California, and in particular for introducing Assembly Bill 1229, which makes clear that local jurisdictions have the authority to require inclusionary zoning.
Local jurisdictions, including Marin, have been using inclusionary zoning as an important tool to create affordable housing. It’s even more important in Marin with its expensive market-rate housing and a NIMBY culture that makes it so difficult to build low-cost housing to solve the jobs-housing imbalance. The result is lengthy commutes that contribute to global warming and thwart the efforts of AB 32 and SB 375.
The League of Women Voters of California already has supported your bill, but we want you and our Assembly Member, Marc Levine, and our Senator, Noreen Evans, to know that the Marin League is most anxious to see your bill become law.
All Californians deserve housing affordable to their incomes. For those with lower incomes, inclusionary zoning is a necessary tool to provide such housing that gives them the basis for leading more secure, happy and productive lives.
Cc: State Assembly Member Marc Levine
State Senator Noreen Evans
Letter in Support of the Homes and Jobs Act
April 5, 2013
The Honorable Mark DeSaulnier
California State Senate
RE: SB 391 (DeSaulnier) – Homes and Jobs Act- SUPPORT
Dear Senator DeSaulnier:
The League of Women Voters of Marin County has a lengthy history of affordable-housing advocacy. So we thank you for your persistence in offering legislation to encourage affordable housing in California, and in particular for introducing Senate Bill 391.
California certainly needs a permanent and dedicated funding source for such housing, and your bill appears to have the best chance to succeed of all the previous efforts. Its benefits will very positively impact those who need the housing, those who would build it, and, of course, the state’s economy.
We know the LWV California already has supported your bill, but we want you to know that the Marin League, in a county that has continuing concerns about affordable housing, is most anxious to see the bill become law.
Thank you for this bill and your previous (and future) efforts to support affordable housing and those who need it to live more secure, happy and productive lives.
Cc: Senator Noreen Evans
Assembly Member Marc Levine
Letter to Marin County Planning Commission
February 11, 2013
Joan Lubermersky, Chair, and Members of the Marin County Planning Commission:
RE: 2012 Draft Marin County Housing Element
The League of Women Voters of Marin County commends the county’s Community Development Agency in the goals, policies and programs contained in the Draft Housing Element (DHE). They demonstrate the staff’s awareness of the need to house low-income workers, seniors, and those with special needs in such an expensive county and to balance those needs in the most sustainable manner.
The challenge remains that despite previous efforts, there remains a shortfall of over 9,000 very-low-income housing units when compared to employment figures. For that reason we are gratified that this DHE proposes an Affordable Housing Combined Zoning District flexible enough to allow residential densities up to a maximum 30 units per acre for certain sites where appropriate.
We congratulate the staff for including in Goals/Policies/Programs sections the recommendations that focus on streamlining the permit and environmental review procedures that currently constitute unnecessary and expensive barriers to affordable housing.
We are also gratified to see those policies that specifically encourage agricultural worker and single-room-occupancy housing alternatives that recognize the underlying, and often quite obvious, needs of these specific populations.
We strongly encourage the commission to approve this DHE and will work with other advocates in making the goals of this document a reality for so many in need of quality affordable housing in Marin County.
Judy Binsacca, Chair, LWV Transportation/Land Use/Housing Committee
Letter to Department of Policy Development
November 21, 2012
Department of Policy Development
California Department of Housing and Community Development
Sacramento, CA 95811-6942
RE: Novato Housing Element
Dear Ms. Coy:
The League of Women Voters of Marin County has been involved for many years in working for an effective housing policy in Marin County. We wish to bring to your attention several issues we see as difficulties in the Housing Element submitted by the City of Novato.
The Housing Element is weak on several fronts:
First, the sites are too small or located far away from services, shops and schools.
Second, Novato is trying to reduce the density requirement under the false premise that communities with a density over 20 units per acre somehow pose a crime threat. The irony of lowering this density requirement is that more sites will be needed to meet HCD’s approval, but the City has not provided an adequate number of additional sites.
Third, market-rate zoning is not capped at 20 units per acre. It is our understanding that jurisdictions cannot establish different density standards for market- and non-market-rate developments.
Finally, Novato is counting units within projects that have not been approved to meet their previous RHNA numbers. It has overstated the number of units that have been built since 2007.
We believe the Novato Housing Element is inadequate and does not provide a path to address Novato’s growing need for affordable housing.
The League is an organization known for its objectivity on critical issues. We do not have an agenda, but rather evaluate situations on their merits and make recommendations that we believe will benefit the community.
Thank you for all the work you do to ensure cities provide affordable housing for residents as our population grows. Your role is vital to California’s future, and we appreciate your efforts.
Margy Eller, President
League of Women Voters of Marin County
Summer 2012 Update
Sales Tax: Over the summer one of our efforts that received major media attention was the letter sent to the Board of Supervisors over president Margy Eller’s signature raising five points that the committee believed they should consider when debating whether to put the proposed ¼-cent sales tax to support parks/open space/farmland preservation on the November ballot.
In her remarks to the supervisors on July 24, Director and General Manager of the County Parks Dept., Linda Dahl, stated that the League letter raised important points and later responded to those points in a letter sent to us and the media (You can read the letter and Dahl’s responses below).
While the supervisors voted unanimously to put the tax on the ballot, the issues our letter raised were debated at the hearings and continue to be raised in letters to the editor following the vote.
Civic Center SMART Station Area Draft Plan: In June we heard from Rebecca Woodbury and Katie Korzun of the San Rafael Community Development Dept. who updated us on the plan. At our August meeting, after reading of opposition from the neighbors of the SMART station, we proposed a letter, approved by the League board, to the San Rafael City Council supporting the plan. Elissa Giambastiani, who was a member of the plan’s Advisory Committee, also spoke at the council’s August 20 meeting. (The letter is on our website.)
Forum on Marin’s Future: The League is cosponsoring this forum with a variety of other local groups on Sept. 19. Please see box on page 3 and plan to attend.
Other Housing: In August county planner Stacey Laumann updated us on the county’s housing element and addressed the county’s responses to League comments contained in an earlier letter on the draft plan. Questions still remain about the sites selected and density issues.
In June we heard a presentation from Phil Richardson, developer of the proposed Blithedale Terrace project in Mill Valley that included four affordable housing units.
Betty Pagett agreed to be our League’s representative on the LWV Bay Area Housing Committee.
Letter to San Rafael City Council
August 16, 2012
Mayor Gary Phillips and City Council Members
City of San Rafael
RE: San Rafael Civic Center SMART Station Area Plan
Dear Mayor Phillips and Council Members:
For the past two years members of the Civic Center Station Area Plan have worked to create a vision for the area around the SMART station in North San Rafael. Their charge was to create a Transit Oriented Development to support ridership on the SMART system.
It appears that most of the opposition to the completed plan is based on height and density. The fact is that the number of units included in the Area Plan is no greater than the number of housing units in the current General Plan. They are wisely focused around the SMART station.
The League supports the plan for several reasons:
- The plan is pedestrian-oriented, with improved sidewalks, bike lanes, and complete streets, enhancing connectivity.
- The proposed housing is generally within walking distance of the train as well as 10,000 jobs, therefore greatly reducing the number of car trips of those living there.
- Height limits have already been established. The current limit on Merrydale is three stories. The Embassy Suites Hotel is five stories. The range of heights encompassed by the plan, combined with good design, will actually improve the look of the area.
- The plan will create more much-needed housing for the people who work in San Rafael, such as retail, restaurant and health care workers.
- Some density and height are needed in order to achieve affordability in multi-family housing. Transit Oriented Development can benefit from good design and be an asset to the community.
- San Rafael’s demographics have changed, and, in spite of housing prices coming down, there are many San Rafael workers who still cannot afford to buy a house. They must rent, and affordable rentals are currently in short supply.
We know the Council will need to move forward with more studies. None of this development will happen overnight, or even in the next few years. There will be further study of land use in the area for the General Plan. We urge you to accept the Area Plan submitted to you and to acknowledge the difficult assignment carried out by the committee.
Margy Eller, President
Transportation Land Use and Housing Committee Annual Report
(July 2011 - June 2012)
All year we followed the SMART efforts to approve a plan to get construction underway and fight against efforts of its opponents to get a measure on the ballot to kill the project. Last fall LWVMC joined forces with the Sonoma League to publicize our support for SMART, which included writing a well-received joint op/ed piece in the Marin IJ and the Sonoma Press Democrat. We’ve been following the downtown San Rafael and Civic Center SMART station planning efforts, with our committee members involved with both groups.
Last summer we began working with the LWV Bay Area and other local Leagues to plan for a Feb. 4, 2012, Bay Area League Day forum on housing. With the help of our expert, Betty Pagett, we suggested topics and speakers that became part of the program. A number of us attended the forum, which was well received by a good-sized crowd.
We continue to follow the Housing Element process, and the League board sent letters, based on our recommendations, to the Calif. Dept. of Housing & Community Development and the cities of San Rafael and Sausalito commenting on their Housing Elements.
Other committee letters sent by the board went to (1) the Board of Supervisors to support a plan by HUD to reduce impediments to fair housing for the poor, minorities, disabled and women and give them a bigger voice in how federal housing money is spent; (2) the BOS supporting proposed amendments to the County Development Code to make it easier for affordable developers to build housing; (3) the Marin IJ suggesting that the the Jobs-Housing Mitigation Ordinances that have been passed by some jurisdictions be adopted by the others in Marin to provide housing for workers hired by new job-producing developments.
We have joined various efforts to coordinate the activities of housing advocates across the county. We attended a productive January meeting of advocates, sponsored by the Marin Community Housing Action Initiative, and in February our board sent a letter to the Marin Community Foundation asking it to continue funding such housing-advocacy efforts. We’re also members of the Affordable Housing Media Team that is writing positive stories that tell the truth about what affordable housing looks like, who lives in it, and how it benefits the community to counter the misinformation spread by opponents.
On May 14 we met with 11 experienced leaders from across Marin to discuss long-range land use, housing and transportation planning for Marin. We will be spending the months ahead working on the recommendations that resulted.
Our speakers included the new San Rafael Community Development Director, Paul Jensen, who spoke about the city’s planning efforts and SMART station-area plans; Brad Wiblin, VP of Bridge Housing, who described the status of the proposed Marinwood affordable housing project (after Supervisor Susan Adams asked us to learn about the project so we could support it); and Liz Hall of the Marin Organizing Committee who spoke of its activities and efforts to link up with other housing advocacy groups.