Who We Are
Citizen Marin is an Education Task Force of the Social Justice Center of Marin, a 501(c)(3) organization. We are an umbrella organization that supports individual leaders and groups as they wake up to the threats of overdevelopment, congestion, and a weakened infrastructure. We address community challenges regarding land use, zoning, transportation, and state mandates for housing. We connect the dots between what’s happening in our own back yards with what’s happening in other communities, regions, and states.
What We Do
We convene, network, research, educate, communicate, and activate to strengthen the voice of citizens. From local grassroots efforts, we expand to widening circles throughout Marin, the 9-county Bay Area, and the state with attention to a wide range of policies and practices.
Susan Kirsch, a 35-year resident of Marin, is a co-founder of Citizen Marin. In 2007, along with a collaborative team, she started Friends of Mill Valley and mobilized hundreds of citizens to write letters, attend meetings, and raise their voices in support of preserving the beauty and charm of Mill Valley. She is past president of the Freemand Park Neighborhood Association and co-creator of Friends of Kite Hill. Under her leadership as Vice-Chair and now Chair of the Marin Coalition, a 41-year old organization that brings speakers and topics of importance in a monthly luncheon event, membership has grown by 142%. Susan is also an elected member of the Democratic Central Committee of Marin.
Leslie Peterson Schwarze moved from the East Coast to Marin County in 1991. In 1997 she was elected to the Novato Unified School district board serving a total of twelve years—twice as board president. She was appointed by the State Board of Education to the California State Curriculum Commission, serving from 1998-2002. In 2005 she was appointed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing serving as the chair from 2005-2007. After retiring from the school board Leslie became involved in educating Novato residents about the impact zoning decisions have on schools. She co-founded San Marin Compatible Housing Coalition before joining ranks with Susan Kirsch to create Citizen Marin.
How Citizen Marin Got Its Start
Prior to 2011, local citizens in Marin were facing their challenges as independent neighborhood and homeowner groups. High density housing projects like Millworks above Whole Foods in Novato created a stir to the north. In the south, the proposed Miller Avenue Precise Plan was drawing crowds of over 300 people to protest the plans. This was the backdrop for an article by Dick Spotswood, political columnist for the Marin IJ, in which he encouraged representatives from north and south Marin to begin a dialogue. In April 2011, a month after ABAG released their Initial Vision Scenario describing Sustainable Communities Strategy and Plan Bay Area, Susan Kirsch and Leslie Peterson Schwarze met for coffee and scratched out a plan for bringing citizen leaders from throughout the county together to address issues of growth and development. The rest, as they say, is history.
Timeline: Citizen Marin Events
- April 21, 2011 First meeting to explore creating a countywide group
- March 22, 2012 Public Event: Corte Madera’s Proposed Withdrawal from ABAG
- April 19, 2012 Public Event: RHNA Housing Allocations
- March 20, 2013 Town Hall: Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin with author Bob Silvestri
- May 30, 2013 Town Hall: The Great Planning Debate: Plan Bay Area: Good for the region? Good for Marin?” with Steve Kinsey, Mark Luce, Tom Rubin, and Randall O’Toole
- July 18, 2013 Citizen Marin charters a bus for the MTC/ABAG meeting to adopt Plan Bay Area in follow-up to 200 comment letters on the inadequacies of the DEIR and Plan.
- July 10, 2014 Citizen Marin Focus Topic: Preparing for Plan Bay Area 2017
- August 14, 2014 Citizen Marin Focus Topic: How the SMART Train Impacts You
- September 11, 2014 Citizen Marin Focus Topic: MMWD Water Board Candidates
- November 13, 2014 Public Forum: The Future of Marin: A Broader Perspective of Sustainability with Kevin Haroff, Royce McLemore, Richard Hall, and Susan Kirsch with moderator Dick Spotswood
- March 12, 2015 Citizen Marin Focus Topic: LAFCO Candidates Discussion
- July 10, 2013 Marinwood and Tam Valley PDAs revoked
- September 26, 2013 San Rafael PDA revoked
- October 24, 2013 MCA challenges County Housing Element
- January 7, 2014 Novato Housing Element certified for 23 units per acre
- February 25, 2014 Strawberry PDA revoked
- June 18, 2014 Larkspur Station Area Plan rejected
- July 24, 2014 Novato 10-unit Habitat for Humanity project approved
- August 8, 2014 Fairfax repeals controversial zoning ordinance
- August 29, 2014 Mt Tam Task Force boots National Park Service plan for tourist buses that lacks EIR
- October 1, 2014 Levine’s bill changes Marin status from metropolitan to suburban
- November 19, 2014 Corte Madera: 320-day development ban
- December 9, 2014 Tam/Almonte presented a petition with 1,842 signatures in opposition to the County draft Housing Element