The following letter has been sent to the Marin County Board of Supervisors as a comment on their decision, tomorrow, on providing grants and loans to the developer of the Victory Village housing project in Fairfax.
Dear Marin County Board of Supervisors:
On May 3rd, 2017 at a Fairfax Town Council meeting just prior to the approval of Victory Village, Alicia Klein, Project Manager of Victory Village for Resources for Community Development (RCD), stated:
I am very happy to note that RCD has applied for a grant that would enable us, hopefully, to donate actually all of lots 2 and 3 [the hillside behind Victory Village] to the town for a really big Open Space parkland and I just got the email as I arrived here that [the grant] was approved this very afternoon. [Audience clapping]. Yah! The timing could not have been better, right?! So that’s really wonderful and we look forward to working with town staff to figure out how to make that happen.
It is not a stretch to say that Open Space is a big deal in the town of Fairfax, so Klein’s charitable pledge carried particular weight. The pledge was certainly at or near the forefront of the discussion of a large turnout of residents (including myself) after the meeting. It certainly may have influenced the vote of the Town Council as residents of the town were seeking to put a Fairfax flavor to a project that was given numerous concessions and variances.
On June 8th, 2018, in an email sent to tens of Fairfax residents, Jake Rosen, Assistant Project Manager of Victory Village for RCD, stated:
“We have applied for additional funding from the County, Marin Community Foundation, and Tamalpais Pacific to close the [founding] gap. The new County funds – Housing Trust Funds and Mental Health Services Act -- come with requirements to serve homeless residents in five apartments and homeless residents with mental illnesses in six more apartments, and to sell the back 18 acres to help close the funding gap. While we hoped to be able to preserve the back lots for open space, it has unfortunately proved to be financially infeasible.”
“On Tuesday, June 12, the Board of Supervisors will consider adding $1.5 million to its long-term loan and making a new $1.1 million short-term loan that RCD will repay from sales proceeds of the rear two lots behind the development site. The County’s generous additional commitment will be critical to also securing MCF’s approval of our pending request for a final grant increase. It would be very powerful if you and any other supporters can come to the Supervisors’ meeting on the 12th and advocate for these additional funds.”
Consider page 6 of the attached 2014/2015 financial statement of RCD which shows the financial condition of the entity in 2015. On December 15th, 2016 at a Planning Commission meeting, Alicia Klein (RCD) offered a price of approximately $300,000 to sell the back 2 lots to the town. Determine for yourself if this approximately $300,000 Open Space pledge is “infeasible” as Rosen claims.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Fairfax Town council did not record the charitable pledge as part of the conditions of approval. The Fairfax planning department responded to inquiries that the “Sale of the two lots comprising 18 acres would not violate the conditions of the project's approval.”
A prudent elected body would have done that. However, one still has to ask the obvious question: At what point is a private developer responsible for the financial feasibility of their own project? In addition, why is it that the default position of Marin developers seems to be that when there is an equity shortfall (which is the case here) that the public is responsible for providing funds rather than the developer, who will profit handsomely from ownership and tax write offs for many decades to come?
I simply ask that you encourage RCD to honor their verbal pledge by investing more of their own equity and make this a better project.