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Housing Debate Heats Up

ABAG critics plan to be at agency’s meeting with the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers at the Mill Valley Community Center Wednesday night.

In an effort to unify opposition to state housing mandates, community groups from around Marin County have formed an organization called the Marin Communities Coalition for Local Control.

They plan to show off that newfound unity Wednesday night at the , when the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers (MCCMC) hosts a number of representatives from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the agency tasked with allocating those housing requirements.

“The primary thing is that we show up to hear what ABAG is saying to our elected officials and be witnesses to that,” said Mill Valley resident Susan Kirsch, a co-founder of the coalition along with fellow Friends of Mill Valley member Bob Silvestri, as well as Leslie Schwarze of the San Marin Compatible Housing Coalition in Novato. “I’m hoping the greatest number of people will show up to see how ABAG is conveying its mission and strategies.”

The coalition, which meets monthly, also includes Sustainable Tam/Almonte, North San Rafael Coalition of Residents, Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association, Novato Community Alliance and Novato League of Neighborhoods.

The group has kicked into high gear this month in the wake of the in protest of the housing requirements the agency is tasked with allocating among the nine-county Bay Area. The move does not remove Corte Madera’s obligation to meet the state-mandated targets for both market-rate and affordable housing, which ABAG is charged with allocating.

Those targets stem from SB 375, a state law that seeks to tie transportation corridors to land-use planning as a way to cut greenhouse gases. ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) have spearheaded the implementation of SB 375 in the Bay Area through what has been dubbed Plan Bay Area.

On the heels of Corte Madera’s decision, its leaders, along with other local officials, have suggested forming a Marin Council of Governments, or MCOG, that could act as a similar force as ABAG, but with more local control. The coalition hosted a meeting on that subject last week that included San Rafael City Councilman and 10th District state Assembly seat candidate Marc Levine, along with supervisorial candidates Eva Long and David Weinsoff. Corte Madera council members Carla Condon and Mayor Bob Ravasio and Larkspur council member Larry Chu also attended.

Wednesday night’s MCCMC meeting will feature a presentation from ABAG Planning Director Ken Kirkey, along with its president Mark Luce, on the agency’s implementation of the state’s goals to house the Bay Area’s population growth and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Because the MCCMC consists of the mayors and councilmembers of the incorporated cities and towns in Marin, its meetings are public. But the format of the meetings – social hour, dinner, brief agenda and a presentation from a third party – doesn’t call for the public to comment on specific agenda items, just at the beginning of the meeting during public comment time. The coalition members will have signs featuring the ABAG logo with a red slash through it in case their time to speak is limited, Kirsch said.

“It’s not necessarily that we all think that ABAG should be eliminated,” Kirsch said. “We just think it’s important to come to the table and hear and learn and deliberate about who is this agency and what their mission is.”

Kirsch said she wasn’t sure how many coalition members would attend. But the meeting has also been the subject of email blasts from the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights. The group alleges that the “rights of property owners are threatened today by governmental action at every level, usually under the banner of environmental protection,” according to its website.

“I don’t know who they are,” Kirsch said.

The Marin Communities Coalition for Local Control hopes to gives Marin communities more of a voice in the ABAG-led housing allocation process. To date, some fo the communities who have spoken up loudly in opposition to the housing mandates – namely Novato, San Rafael and Corte Madera – have seen their allocation go down. For instance, less than a week after its council voted to leave ABAG, Corte Madera saw its 30-year housing growth cut nearly in half, though the allocation was made prior to the council’s decision.

Mill Valley, in contrast, saw its own allocation spike by 240 units since preliminary numbers were released in 2011.

“We need to make our voices heard,” Kirsch said.

The 411: The Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers meets at the Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto, starting with a social hour at 6 p.m. Go here for a full agenda.

Robert Dobrin March 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association neither supports or disavows any policies or actions of the Marin Communities Coalition for Local Control. Thank you Robert Dobrin Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association President
Bob Silvestri March 28, 2012 at 06:19 PM
The heads up about the agenda for tonight is this: 7:45 ABAG is scheduled to begin its presentation, which consists of answering the questions that all the MCCMC city members have put to ABAG. 8:15 The City Officials will get to ask follow up questions of ABAG. 8:30 The public will be able to comment and ask questions directly to ABAG. There is no scheduled time of adjournment set at this time. At 7:00 there will be required public open time. However, there will now be a public comment / question time after the ABAG presentation, so this is only for anything not related to ABAG.
Bob Silvestri March 28, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I want to thank the Patch Newspapers for being in the forefront of advancing the public's voice on important issues and shared concerns. As a point of CLARIFICATION: Comments by MCC4LC members here and elsewhere are of them speaking as individuals and not officially for MCC4LC as an organization, unless specifically stated otherwise. As a fiscally sponsored, 501c3 nonprofit educational organization, MCC4LC does not take positions for or against any specific candidates or legislation. Our stated mission is to support grass roots democracy and local control in government decision-making to achieve a truly sustainable future that reflects core values of Marin communities.
Mari March 29, 2012 at 12:27 AM
The Patch is awesome. Let's hear it for "grass roots democracy and local control in government decision-making to achieve a truly sustainable future."
Scott Zwartz April 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Dear Bob, Everything you relate is occurring down here in Hollywood. The corruption is so deep and the populace so un-educated, that the politicians can get away with virtually anything. The latest wrinkle in LA politics is that now it is not Politically Correct to mention by name any politician who has been destroying Hollywood, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and reducing fire and police services on the basis of falsified data. As for Hollywood Patch is has become a complete tool for the corrupt politicians -- it probably broke a speed record for selling out.

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