By Rachel Dornhelm, Mina Kim and Lisa Pickoff-White

Highway 101 by Marinwood. (Greenbelt Alliance/Flickr)
Highway 101 by Marinwood. (Greenbelt Alliance/Flickr)

Marin County supervisors approved a plan on Tuesday that allows affordable housing developments along Highway 101. The plan itself does not guarantee that any new housing will be built. Rather it creates the conditions that would enable affordable housing developments.

“The only requirement is that we identify sites and have zoning for sites to accommodate our share of the housing growth. It doesn’t mean bulldozers show up the next day and plow over sites,” said Supervisor Susan Adams, who represents the San Rafael area.

Local reaction

Protesters on both sides of the plan packed the chambers during the public comment period. The majority of people at Tuesday’s meeting spoke against the housing plan, particularly a development in Strawberry that would add an additional 45 units to that area.

“If they continue with these policies and the housing is built, there will be over(flowing) public schools, the services will start to decline and we’re going to have serious chaos in our school district,” said resident Julie Brown.

Other people were concerned that higher population density means increased traffic.

“We’re not anti-anybody, but we want an intelligent development,” said resident Linda Dunlap.

Some spoke in favor of the plan. Barbara Rowe, who has lived in Strawberry since 1976, said she’s seen the wage gap growing and sees the need for more affordable dense housing.

“We need to allow for more housing of all kinds, all levels of income of people in Marin County, because we need their services here,” Rowe said. “Plus, that makes a more humane county. We’re not all the same.”

A family of four earning less than $65,000 qualifies as low income in Marin.

Next steps

The state has 90 days to approve the plan. If the county misses a January deadline, it could lose more than $1 million in state transportation funds. Board President Judy Arnold said that the state could also have stepped in and rezoned on their own.

Housing staff repeatedly said at the meeting that they will be in close touch, and the plan should go through with no problems.

This cycle, California required unincorporated Marin to make room for more than 750 new units that include 320 units of affordable housing.

If the new units aren’t built, they don’t go away, though. During the next cycle, Marin would just have to submit a plan for building the old units, plus new ones.

And that isn’t too far away. Marin has to start on its next housing plan in January 2015.

KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with reporter Rachel Dornhelm about the meeting.

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