There are huge CONSEQUENTIAL changes coming to California that few are aware of.
California has 8-year housing cycles, and we are entering the 6th cycle (2023-2031). The state makes projections of housing needs and assigns numbers to localities across the state.
This cycle is different.
In the 10 years since the state eliminated redevelopment agencies, housing needs have grown at the lower ends of income spectrums. A "housing emergency" has been declared. Instead of working with cities on solutions, the state is blaming cities and imposing HUGE unfunded housing mandates, with massive penalties for non-compliance. There is now a housing Strike Force (yes, it's called that) inside the Office of the Attorney General, for enforcement.
The housing needs for all of the US is considered 1-5 million
Yet California first insisted we needed to add 3.5 m, then softened to 2.5m. The methodologies used were opaque and failed an audit. Recently Governor Newsom commented that the 2.5 m was an "aspirational number" yet the realities for localities did not change.
How does this affect Marin? As an example, in the last cycle ending in 2022, the unincorporated areas had to produce 140 units.
Now it's 69x larger: 3,569.
For all of Marin the number is 14,405, divided between 11 cities and the unincorporated areas.
Look up your city on the CITIES page.
The state has a vision of California -- and Marin -- that was not shared with the voters. This site has a lot of information on how this happened, what to expect, and how to work together to put the brakes on it.
During 2020, while we were all distracted by covid, our state government was busy. The governor declared a housing crisis, and the legislature started passing a huge number of housing laws to eliminate any local procedures that slowed the pace of housing. Permits, traffic studies, public hearings, lot coverage limitations, CEQA (California Enivronmental Quality Act) ... all are now considered nuisances. The laws sidelined local zoning to streamline the process and incentivize builders.
But California has ordered the production of TWO AND A HALF MILLION new housing units to be built over the next 8 years.
California has 8-year housing cycles. Once the number of units is distributed, each locality must create a Hosing Element (HE), a document that, among other things, shows where it can accommodate the new housing. Creating a certifiable Housing Elements cost cities and counties hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in consultants’ fees. Marin County paid $1.6 million to one consulting firm to help produce a Housing Element -- over 700 pages -- detailed enough to get certified. The response from the California Department of Housing and Community Development? A “positive” nine-page letter describing further required reports.
Failure to produce a certified Housing Element by the deadline can trigger a penalty called "builders remedy." Santa Monica missed their deadline, and all pipeline projects were automatically approved, as they were, without having to meet CEQA, setback requirements, zoning, parking provisions, height restrictions and more. They are now forced to accept 16 new projects of 10-15 stories each.
NOTE: This is not to dismiss the very real needs for housing at the lower income end of the income spectrum. The system in place is, unfortunately, geared toward market rate housing production. More on that later.
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) https://sgc.ca.gov/vision/California
Department of Housing and Development (HCD) https://www.marincounty.org/depts/cd/divisions/housing/housing-element
Regional Housing Needs Assessment
current population shrinking
County initial site list
US housing numbers
All Marin cities have huge increases, often beyond the ability to absorb the amount of new housing. Of the Bay Area mandate for 441,176 housing units 14,405 went to our county. Much of Marin contend with these issues:
These are real concerns, and localities were given the opportunity to appeal the numbers for reductions based on "changed circumstances." Nine Marin cities plus the county submitted appeals, but they were all summarily rejected without comment. This played out across the state.
The HCD also demands a Housing Element (HE) from each locality, a detailed report showing where the required housing could be sited, with land rezoned residential if necessary to accommodate it. The HE also requires reports on with area statistics and other "elements." HEs run hundreds of pages and cost hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to produce. Marin County has spent $1.6 million on just one consultant -- for the unincorporated areas alone.
The HEs must be submitted for certification by the deadline, which is January 31st, 2023 in the Bay Area.
FIRST PENALTY: BUILDER'S REMEDY:
Failure to produce a certified Housing Element by the deadline can trigger a penalty called "builders remedy." Santa Monica missed their deadline, and all pipeline projects were automatically approved without having to meet CEQA, setback requirements, zoning, parking provisions, height restrictions and more. Santa Monica is now forced to accept 16 new projects of 10-15 stories each, adding over 4,000 units where they would otherwise not be allowed.
Marin County looks like it will make the certification deadline.
Mill Valley is trying, but 865 units is proving very difficult
The rest of Marin is in various stages
LOOK AROUND YOUR TOWN. WHERE WILL THEY GO?
THE CITIES KNOW THE NUMBERS ARE TOO LARGE. YOU CAN SEE THEIR REASONING IN THEIR APPEALS. ALL APPEALS WERE DENIED WITHOUT COMMENT.
Go to CITIES page to read appeals
THE STATE ASSIGNS NEW HOUSING EVERY 8 YEARS TO "KEEP UP WITH FUTURE NEEDS." THIS TIME THE NUMBERS WERE UP TO 100 x NORMAL.
TWO AND A HALF MILLION HOUSING UNITS FOR THE STATE
440,000 FOR THE BAY AREA, 14,405 FOR MARIN
The numbers are so large that an AUDIT was performed, and it found the serious flaws in methodology. Meanwhile, our cities are scrambling to find space, to make way for developers.
No traffic studies, no CEQA, no infrastructure upgrades. The idea is to eliminate single family housing as punishment for exclusionary policies enacted in parts of Caifornia in the early 1900's, completely outlawed by 1940s but abolished in the 1960s.
The county has a detailed map of every Marin community with every property covenant and when it was removed.
Even though most of Marin has since been considered built out since the 1980s, the state is pushing infill and density. They passed laws to change our zoning for us so our rules couldn't get in the way. They want private developers to 'break" our neighborhoods, eliminate single family homes, demolish homes and squeeze larger and taller buildings inside our neighborhoods. The parcel owner now has the power to develop much denser structures without input.
The guidelines of Plan Bay Area 2050, created by ABAG, state that:
'new homes ... would grow first and foremost into parts of towns, cities and counties that their local governments identify for growth, generally near existing job centers or frequent transit. ... Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Plan Bay Area 2050 calls for tailoring the design and density of new homes to their local contexts. Larger-scale development would take place on vacant land or declining commercial lots, and smaller-scale housing (such as backyard accessory dwelling units or duplexes) would be built in single-family neighborhoods."
"Areas at very high risk of wildfire or sea level rise impacts are protected from additional construction and development. Economic strategies guide job growth toward places that currently have few jobs, while housing strategies encourage housing near job centers, working in tandem to address the geographic imbalance of housing and jobs in the region."
THIS REASONING HAS BEEN ABANDONED
THIS IS A BAD TIME TO ADD 7 MILLION MORE PEOPLE TO CALIFORNIA
IT'S A BAD TIME TO ADD 30,000 PEOPLE INTO MARIN
WE DON'T HAVE THE WATER, WE ARE IN A DANGEROUS FIRE SITUATION, AND THE AMOUNT OF HOUSING WE MUST PLAN FOR BLOCKS EVACUATION CORRIDORS
SO, WITH THESE LIMITATIONS, IF WE'RE GOING TO BUILD HOUSING, IT SHOULD ONLY BE FOR LOW INCOME/WORKFORCE HOUSING, AND ONLY THE STATE CAN GET THOSE PROJECTS DONE, WITH SUBSIDIES.
WE AREN'T BIG CITIES. WE ARE FORCED INTO HIGH DENSITY ANYWAY, TO PROVIDE MORE HOUSING FOR THE WEALTHY
Click through this map to see the allocations by category up to last cycle: http://housing.abag.ca.gov/map
MARIN LAST CYCLE: 2,298
MARIN THIS CYCLE: 14,405
Corte Madera: 725
Mill Valley: 865
San Anselmo: 833
San Rafael: 3,220
Unincorporated Areas: 3,569
Tom Lai, Director of Marin County Community Development Dept
The new laws look like they create low-income housing, but that goal is overshadowed by the amount of housing created for more affluent renters. There is widespread agreement about the need for AFFORDABLE HOUSING, but this plan DOES NOT ENFORCE IT.
The bulk of the new housing will be at or above market rate, built by private developers for a profit.
There is a jumble of about 70 housing laws passed by the state. Additionally, the HCD' added a new objective in housing: incorporating an expired Obama-era program for social justice in housing that was renewed in California as AB686 and AB 1771: Affirmatively Furthering Further Fair Housing (AFFH) Slide 1 (calalhfa.org). The ideas are laudable: taking meaningful actions to combat discrimination and foster inclusive communities. It goes on: replace segregated living patterns with integration and transform areas with racial and poverty concentration.
But as interpreted by the state, it means that areas of one racial concentration (Marin is largely white) are considered segregated living pattern, no matter the history or the reality of how they got that way. It is a goal to integrate new developments, which is kind of fraught in areas as tight as southern Marin. There are few low-income people of any non-white race here, because costs of land and living are so high. Simply moving low-income people into an area so they can break up the color denies the reality of continuing to live in a very high-cost area. In San Francisco, attractive low-income projects that are in areas of racial concentration are discouraged.
Easy to buy land for development in tenderloin, but already housing there, so not pursuing
Many projects abandoned partway through could be restarted but aren't.
In this overly legislated, rushed, complicated, and punishment-based process, a chaotic housing rush is now in play. Poor planning and ridiculous numbers discredited by audit are creating a mess that will destroy California as we know it, creating an endless sprawl of density that covers the state with concrete.
None of the private developers are under obligation by law to produce the percentage categories demanded by HCD.
The categories are based off median area income. The median income in Marin is about $170,000.
LOW INCOME IN MARIN IS $110,000 to $140,000 for a family of one to four. So the rent can't exceed 30% of that, which cuts into income/profit of property owner. That's why as few units of low-income units as possible are created within a development. Developers have been negotiating well below 25% per project, to still receive bonuses.
WHY ARE WE FORCED TO FIND PLACES TO BUILD HOUSING FOR WEALTHY PEOPLE?
SEE MAP HERE:
Clear the map to show only two highest income categories. Start at 2014, then add 2015, 2016, 2017. (unfortunately, this map has not been updated). Now add in the lower incomes and see the tiny number of extra dots added each year.
The HCD is requiring density in our neighborhoods to produce homes for the rich. With Marin's lack of buildable land, if expensive projects are completed first, even with a few low-income units thrown in, there will literally be no land left for the number of low-income projects mandated in the Housing Element.
A new department inside HCD was created to monitor and punish us if we didn't build fast enough. https://hcd.ca.gov/community-development/accountability-enforcement.shtml
Now our local city councils and county Board of Supervisors, when unable to find enough land to site their numbers, are forced to resort to hazard areas and "surplus public lands." Rob Bonta's Strike Force: https://californiacitynews.org/2022/03/states-housing-strike-force-goes-after-more-cities.html
The state puts an undue financial burden -- unfunded mandates -- on cities to achieve the RHNA goals. And it seems every month a new batch of complicated laws appear.
City governments aren't in the business of building. But now they better make sure that someone does it. If even one builder slacks off and doesn't finish on time, we are subject to losing even more control over what gets built, and where.
The state takes over. They will rezone and force the housing into public land, parking lots, parks, golf courses (in Mill Valley the municipal golf course is a designated place of refuge in a fire emergency when evacuation isn't possible. A new law that would encourage 85% of it to be developed as housing just failed)
Private businesses have ended up on lists of "underutilized space," even if they are not for sale. Will the state resort to eminent domain to get their numbers met? Already our general plans have been overruled, and our long-range planning is in the trash. Areas have already been rezoned for us, as residential. Our permit process is now as simple as filing a piece of paper ("by rights and "ministerial review").
Minimally the process should pause until the audit is complete. We need to act or watch Marin communities get developed into overly dense fire traps.
The Cities and County Board of Supervisors are all scrambling -- in fear of retribution -- to get their Housing Element lists together. They can't afford to push back until the HEs are certified. We need to act for them. They asked for reasonable numbers. We need to demand them.
If we get organized, maybe our local governments will have the courage to join us.
There are SB 9 lawsuits and will be HCD/RHNA suits based on the failed audit. Let your city council know you'll support them.
WE NEED TO PUSH BACK AGAINST THIS STATE OVERREACH, OR YOU WON'T RECOGNIZE MARIN -- OR CALIFORNIA -- IN A FEW YEARS.
All of the conditions listed to the right were bases for "Changed Conditions" appeals on the official forms. Legitimate criteria. But the HCD accused us of exclusionary practices -- because we hadn't grown our cities quickly, beyond what they could handle. We were accused of holding up housing production with our normal planning process: local permitting standards, regulations, public hearings and CEQA. So, the state eliminated those "barriers" to development by passing laws to streamline the process for builders There are harsh penalties for non-compliance.
THIS WAS CHARACTERIZED AS A WAY TO INTEGRATE LOW INCOME HOUSING INTO MARIN. BUT IT'S REALLY JUST GOING TO BURY US IN HIGHER PRICED HOUSING
LIMITED EVACUATION ROUTES
FEMA FLOOD AREAS
SEA LEVEL RISE
SEWAGE AND SEPTIC LIMITS
LACK OF SUITABLE LAND
WER'E NOT TRANSIT RICH
WER'E NOT JOB RICH
IN CITIES, DENSITY CAN WORK. BUT TO FORCE THIS HOUING IN AREAS LIKE MARIN, FILLED WITH HAZARDS NOT TAKEN SERIOSLY ON APPEAL, IT IS DANGEROUS.
There are many other concerning aspects of this combination of housing policy and law. Few people are aware of what is happening to their local governments, and what's coming. Concerned groups across the state that are now angry and engaged.
Multi-Family housing projects, with density and a certain percentage of low-moderate income units, are excused from regular permitting processes.
1. Scarcity and price of land and materials, plus inflation, high interest rates de-incentivize development of low-income housing
2. State supersedes local government zoning and rules
3. State will decide what public land will be used for housing if cities can't find enough land to produce a certified Housing Element
4. State punishes cities with fines, withholding funds, state takeover in court receivership, based on our treatment of private contractors
5. Upzoning of farmland and open space now ok on property not fully protected before 2017
6. CEQA becomes irrelevant with by rights/ministerial developments. Environmentally sensitive areas, wildlife corridors, trees, etc. unprotected
7. State decides the nature and character of all towns and cities
8. Untested and unfunded strain on sewage and other infrastructure
9. No traffic studies for extreme increase in traffic
10. Influx of children into schools when we are past budget
11. Citys’ responsibility to “Find the water” in time of severe drought
12. Little respect for private property and covenants
13. Overrides HOA rules
14. Water district hasn’t factored in additional population in projections
15. As an unfunded mandate, cities and counties will not receive compensation for the planning or oversight, required bonuses, or the administration of housing mandated by the HCD. Told to sell bonds to pay.
RHNA/ABAG appeals ALL denied, safety not factored in, numbers more than doubled over previous cycle
State openly acknowledges WUI and other fire hazards, plus growing effects of climate change
Safety was deliberately prevented in Newsom’s SB 182 VETO (would have required evacuation routes for new construction) https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/SB-182.pdf
FAILED BUT CHILLING:
SB 1292 would deliberately discourage trying to avoid building in hazard zones https://openstates.org/ca/bills/20212022/SB1292/
Open acknowledgment from Marin County BOS that we can’t avoid hazard zones if we are going to make the housing numbers -- HYBRID HOUSING ELEMENT:
Severe, acknowledged lack of evacuation infrastructure
Geographical limitations of Marin and other areas make infrastructure improvements impossible
Fires can easily be catastrophic and consume property and take lives