In the ongoing debate over how much new housing the city of Mill Valley can accommodate, many local leaders and residents have asked a simple question: Where could more housing even fit in town?
As City Hall continues its ongoing MV2040 General Plan update, a report released last month in advance of an important Dec. 5 meeting on the city's Draft Housing Element seeks to answer that question. That report, "Residential Capacity Analysis" (attached at right), was drafted by the Metropolitan Planning Group to identify potential places for additional housing to be built.
It identified that the city has a capacity for 393 additional housing units.
The city's goal is to create a Housing Element, part of the larger General Plan update, that identifies the sites that could accommodate enough new housing for the city to achieve its Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the period of 2014-2022. That allocation is doled out by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the regional agency charged with allocating the state housing mandates to counties, towns and cities.
In a draft report earlier this year, the agency allocated 292 new households to Mill Valley for the period of 2009-2014, and 129 for the period 2014-2022 (report attached at right). The undeveloped sites identified for the first period can carry over to the second period, according to Mill Valley Planning and Building Director Mike Moore.
Through the state-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy, which stretches through 2040, an earlier ABAG report allocated 750 new households to Mill Valley, and that was reduced to 450 in July.
City officials have continued to lobby ABAG to lower those numbers even more.
In identifying possible sites to accommodate new housing, consultants Geoff Bradley and Karen Hong stated numerous times in the report that although parcels are being identified, "No development projects are being proposed. This list does not imply that any of these sites would be developed in the future, or that any sites or units are ‘pre‐approved’ for development. All future projects must go through planning and environmental review processes as established by the city and the state."
The report breaks down potential new housing sites into two categories:
- Residential parcels where new housing could be built.
- Commercially zoned parcels where residential units are allowed.
In the first category, the report identified 96 parcels as "good candidates for infill residential development," enough to accommodate 113 new residential units under existing zoning regulations. Nearly all of those parcels could accommodate one housing unit, according to the report.
One of the parcels, 548 Miller Ave., is located behind the Mill Valley Pet Clinic near Tam High and is zoned for multi-family residential development. It could accommodate 16 residential units, the report states.
The second category includes 45 parcels of potential mixed-use development that could accommodate 280 new residential units under existing zoning regulations. "Some sites could potentially support the addition of new residences above existing buildings, or the reconfiguration of parking to allow for residential development, or a complete redevelopment of the site," the report states.
The bulk of the possible housing on commercial parcels comes in the form of mixed-use projects. For examples, the report identifies the potential to add housing on top of retail buildings like the Cabana Home at 238 East Blithedale Ave. (9 units), the building housing the Urban Farmer Store at 653 East Blithedale (11) and the Citibank building (9) on Throckmorton Avenue.
But the biggest potential home to new housing, according to the report, is the Safeway-owned 1 Camino Alto property, where 41 units of housing could go in a mixed-use project that would resemble a smaller version of the controversial Millworks-Whole Foods Market project in Novato.
As Bradley and Hong make clear in their report, there are no impending development proposals at the identified sites.
But because the controversial Blithedale Terrace project site was identified for 20 possible housing units in the city's 1989 update of Mill Valley's General Plan - and given developer Phil Richardson's reliance on that designation in crafting his much-debated project - it's clear that identifying these sites and attaching numbers of units to them is far from meaningless.
So what do you make of the "Residential Capacity Analysis" report? Would you support 41 units of housing above Safeway? What potential sites on the list stand out to you as either very good or very bad ideas?