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CVP Comments on Sausalito Final GP Update and RDEIR

The following comment letter and attachments have been submitted to the City of Sausalito in compliance with the City's deadline for final comments, before 5 PM, Friday, December 11, 2020.


Dear Ms. Whalen,

Community Venture Partners, Inc. (“CVP”) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports community-based projects, programs, and initiatives that demonstrate the highest principles of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. CVP accomplishes its objectives by offering technical and financial assistance, and educational programs to community organizations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and local municipalities. CVP achieves its goals by facilitating community-based projects, programs, and initiatives. CVP is committed to the need for a transparent public process that incorporates under-served community voices into planning and government decision-making.

CVP is headquartered in Mill Valley, but its officers, board members, donors, collaborators, and advisors live throughout Marin, including in Sausalito, all of whom use and enjoy the waterfront in Sausalito, regularly, including the Marinship (e.g., visit, swim, boat, dine, shop, obtain services, etc.). Our previous comment letters of 08-05-20 and 09-21-20, respectively, are also attached, resubmitted, and incorporated herein by reference, because the comments, questions, and concerns expressed in those letters remain relevant and unaddressed by the Final General Plan Update (the “GP Update” and the Revised and Recirculated DEIR (the “RDEIR”). CVP is submitting these comments in response to requests from groups of Sausalito residents and business owners who have expressed their concern about the accuracy and equity of the proposed GP Update, and the adequacy of the environmental assessments found in the RDEIR.

The comments in this letter are based on our review of the GP Update and the “RDEIR, published on October 20, 2020, and are primarily in response to how the programs, policies, and proposals in these documents impact the Marinship. We submit these, based on our understanding that the City intends to publish the Final EIR on December 28th, and move forward over the next several months through a process that will culminate in the approval of the new General Plan, the certification of the Final EIR, and the creation and adoption of a revised Zoning Ordinance to conform to the GP Update.

General Comments

Taken together, the GP Update and the RDEIR are certainly voluminous. If quality was judged by pounds per capita, the City of Sausalito and its consultants would get an “A.” However, despite their massive bulk, both documents remain seriously flawed and wanting in required details, data, and adequate impacts assessments. All of the GP Update’s programs and policies are based on the assumption that future studies, assessments, and mitigation plans will result in solvable outcomes and that the required mitigations at the “project” level will be both practically and financially feasible.

We submit that this assumption is highly questionable when it comes to the Marinship.

Throughout, the GP Update acknowledges a long list of significant environmental hazards in the Marinship, the vast majority of which are unique to the Marinship and area-wide, not confined to any one parcel of land (e.g., significant subsidence, toxins in soils, failing storm drains, sewers and major infrastructure, liquefaction, and constant flooding).[1]

The GP Update also presents an equally long list of “programs and policies,” many of which will require future study, assessment, and evaluation / preparation of mitigation plans for environmental hazards--presumably at the “project” level.

Consequently, the RDEIR contends that because the GP Update includes its list of programs and policies, it can conclude that there are no significant environmental impacts in the Marinship that require mitigation. Likewise, the GP Update itself turns around and defers to the RDEIR for all considerations having to do with environmental impacts assessment and mitigation.

This self-referential and endless loop conveniently avoids a litany of realities and questions that the GP Update and the RDEIR both avoid addressing. To put it simply, if this general plan was a financial plan, we would call it a Ponzi scheme.

For most of the city of Sausalito, where known environmental hazards to future development are more predictable (e.g., higher elevations, stable land, intact infrastructure, lack of flooding or toxins in solid, adequate drainage, etc.), it might be arguable that the GP Update and RDEIR’s circular reasoning are adequate for this “program” phase of assessment. However, with regard to the unique, combined, existential environmental and practical challenges found in the Marinship, and the potential for significant, unmitigated environmental impacts that are neither practically nor financially feasible, it defies credulity.

Please note, the previous comment letter by Laurel Collins of Watershed Sciences, dated August 5, 2020, and a new comment letter by Watershed Sciences, December 1, 2020, are attached, resubmitted, and incorporated into this comment letter, by reference because the comments, questions, and concerns expressed in those letters remain relevant and unaddressed by the prior DEIR, the Final GP Update, and the RDEIR.

The GP Update and RDEIR are filled with boilerplate, cut and paste content that does not in any way reasonably address or adequately assess the actual, known conditions in the Marinship or the City’s financial capabilities to carry out the required studies and mitigations that would obviously be needed to address the long list of hazards enumerated in the GP Update.

Oddly, the Marinship Vision also fails to address these questions, which is even acknowledged by this statement on Page W-9 of the Waterfront and Marinship Element.

“Environmental remediation should be a strong factor in the General Plan Update’s environmental policies and implementation programs, but it is not specifically part of the Marinship vision.”

That is a very unusual disclaimer. It’s actually an admission of all the concerns expressed in this comment letter. But it is only one of many such disclaimers contained in the GP Update Appendices.

Normally, one might attribute these gaping holes in adequacy and logic to errors of judgment or even simple competence. Except, that in this case, the City has had more than enough time and hired more than enough consultants to know better. So, one can safely assume they are well aware of the implications of the GP Update’s and RDEIR’s serious omissions.

Recommendations

The City must revise the GP Update and RDEIR to layout out a clear sequence of studies and assessments of potentially significant environmental impacts and propose feasible mitigation plans for area-wide environmental hazards in the Marinship, as they relate to the approval, certification, and adoption schedule for the GP Update, Final EIR, and revised Zoning Ordinance noted above, to ensure that cumulative and area-wide impacts will not be inappropriately pushed off to future project level of CEQA review of site-specific development proposals.

The sections of this comment letter address the following topics:

CRITICAL QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN UNANSWERED

The following questions and concerns remain essentially unaddressed by the GP Update or the RDEIR, with respect to the Marinship. And in spite of the GP Update’s lofty, 20-year goals, existing evidence indicates that time is running out to save the Marinship from the existential threats posed by sea-level rise, ongoing subsidence, and failing underground infrastructure.

QUESTION (1): When does the City intend to actually undertake the planning studies and environmental assessments required by the GP’s programs and policies for the Marinship, and when does the City intend to develop and implement the area-wide mitigation plans that will inevitably be needed to address all of the known, area-wide, significant environmental hazards (SLR, subsidence, toxin, rising water table, flooding, failing infrastructure, etc.), which are all critical the health, safety, and well-being of the City’s residents?

QUESTION (2): How will the timing and completion of the work noted in (1) above, relate to the overall schedule of approval, certification, and adoption of the GP Update, Final EIR, and Zoning Ordinance—before, during, or after? If during, how and when, and in what sequence? If not before any of these steps, how can that possibly work?

In other words, how can the completion of the critical studies and assessments of the known area-wide environmental hazards in the Marinship, and the inevitable mitigations that will be required as a result of them (based on evidence that is now known), be coordinated with the timeline of approving, certifying, and adopting the new General Plan Update, the Final EIR, and the new Zoning Ordinance, when the veracity and legitimacy of the GP Update programs and policies, the EIR assessments and conclusions, the mitigation requirements, and subsequent zoning designations in the revised Zoning Ordinance are fully dependent upon on the results of those studies and assessments and the feasibility of the required mitigation plans?

This challenging question is supported by the various comment letters submitted by Community Venture Partners, MR Wolfe & Associates, and Watershed Sciences (all of which are incorporated into this comment letter by reference).

There is no question that the City is fully aware of the environmental hazards and associated existential risks in the Marinship. For example, on page W-4, under Figure 3-1: Sea Level Rise, it states,

“Sausalito will work towards California’s state goal, as stated in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32), of reaching 80 percent below 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2050. The city must do this while collaborating with local and regional agencies to maintain the quality of life as well as architectural and natural characteristics of the city in a time of changing climate. City policies are informed by the Marin Bay Waterfront Adaption and Vulnerability Evaluation (BayWAVE), which also notes that sea-level rise may combine “with typical hazards that already exist (e.g. liquefaction and ground shaking near faultlines, erodible soils, and heavy rainfall) to contribute to a city’s vulnerability.” [Emphasis added]

“As Richardson’s Bay encroaches on the city, the risk of subsidence exacerbates Sausalito’s vulnerability. Areas of the city built on fill in Richardson’s Bay are particularly vulnerable to the sudden or gradual sinking of land. Improved and localized subsidence data (program HS-1.9.1) and detailed liquefaction data (program HS-1.2.1) would mitigate this risk of leaching. This action of rising seas and shifting land increases the risk that industrial materials—particularly in the Marinship Waterfront—may leach into the water and negatively affect water quality. [Emphasis added]

“This hazard is linked to the possibility that industrial work may be precluded from the Marinship Waterfront if land in the neighborhood floods. Sea level rise and climate change, therefore, are global phenomena with particularly acute effects in Sausalito. The General Plan has disaster preparedness policies (programs under objective HS-2, policy S-3.6, and policy S-3.7) that mitigate these risks to the social fabric, the environment, and economic sustainability in the city.” [Emphasis added]

And on page W-10,

“The General Plan Update should identify both unique infrastructure challenges and mechanisms to finance their solutions in all areas of Sausalito due to the interconnectedness of infrastructure issues throughout the city.” [Emphasis added]

And on page LU-59,

“h. Zoning should be considered with the necessary infrastructure improvements and impacts of sea-level rise subsidence, and liquefaction in mind.”

All this clearly implies that the City must do all appropriate studies, analysis, and assessments to determine impacts and mitigations, first, before the GP Update can be adopted and the Final EIR is certified, and the Zoning Ordinance revision process begins.

In addition, although the GP Update acknowledges the need for coordination with outside agencies (See page E-39; CP-1.1.4 Marinship Infrastructure Needs[2]), it never incorporates those needs into the GP Update approval process. Rather, it leaves it as an intangible item, without acknowledging that unless this is done prior to other approvals and certifications that coordination and cooperation will be impossible.

QUESTION (3): Who will be responsible for doing the required studies and assessments noted in the GP Update’s programs and policies?

On page CP-18, it suggests,

CP-1.1.4 Marinship Infrastructure Needs.

“Consider coordinating with the county and other stakeholders to commission an Engineering Analysis to examine the infrastructure costs and scenarios across the Marinship area to better inform the cost/benefit choices available to the city, property owners, and businesses in the Marinship. This analysis would establish goals and identify funding sources for a study to address public access improvements (including pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation); roadway, sidewalk, and drainage improvements; and sea level rise adaptation needs, challenges and solutions. The analysis would also take into consideration the unique needs of industrial businesses in the Marinship, including heavy equipment and deliveries.”

So, again, when does this “consideration” and “coordination” happen and in what relationship to the City’s process of approving the Final GP Update, certifying the Final EIR, and drafting and adopting a new, revised Zoning Ordinance?

For example, on pages W-20 to W-21, it states,

W-5.2.2 Sea Level Rise and the Marinship. Consider the city’s— and particularly the Marinship’s—historic assets when developing scenarios for the city’s sea level rise strategy.”

The GP Update and RDEIR infer that this will be done at the “project” level. But if so, how will the global, state and countywide, and area-wide environmental threats and hazards adequately assessed?

All this considered, it is just common sense that assessments and mitigation plans for area-wide environmental hazards, such as SLR, subsidence, and failing infrastructure in the Marinship, should be done before an EIR can be considered adequate or the zoning on any parcels can be considered. Yet the GP Update and RDEIR are mute on this.

Consider, for example, FIGURE 7-11 100-YEAR FLOOD MAP WITH GEOLOGICAL INVENTORY. While it is commendable that the GP Update includes maps such as this one (though it fails to include subsidence zones), a feasible plan to mitigate these significant, area-wide, environmental impacts does not exist. As it is, this map, alone, indicates that major portions of the Marinship are potentially under an “existential threat” and therefore may be undevelopable, unless major mitigation measures are undertaken, prior to the final approvals, certifications, and ordinance adoptions.

As another example of how the GP Update fails to adequately consider the relationship of known environmental hazards and the sequence of events that would be required to properly assess impacts and create mitigation plans, consider the GP Update’s discussions about sea-level rise.

On page S-5, it states,

“Climate change will result in sea-level rise, with 26 acres in Sausalito exposed to advancing waters over the next 15 years. The northern approach to the city could be flooded, and the Marinship is at particular risk due to the combination of sea-level rise and ground subsidence as the 80-year-old fill continues to settle.

“These estimates come from the Bay Waterfront Adaptation Vulnerability Evaluation (BayWAVE), a Marin County tool for projecting sea level rise and flood risk. BayWAVE projects that Marin County could experience 10 inches of sea level rise by 2030, 20 inches by 2050, and 60 inches by 2100. Sea level rise will exacerbate the impacts of other coastal hazards, such as storms, flooding, and erosion.

“BayWAVE’s estimates show that as much as 149 acres, or 11 percent of the city’s land area, could be inundated by the end of the century. This would include most of the industrial land in Sausalito, which could lead to serious financial problems—particularly as many of those industrial sites may require expensive cleanup in order to prevent contaminants from entering Richardson’s Bay.”

This supports our claim that area-wide assessments and mitigation plans are required, immediately. But, astonishingly, the GP Update then it goes on to say,

“Mitigation entails reducing the magnitude of climate change and its impacts. The General Plan includes policies and programs intended to mitigate the impacts of climate change through strategies that include but are not limited to reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency, encouraging the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and increasing carbon sequestration.”

Do anyone really believe that the use of bicycles, electric vehicles, recycling wood, upgrading toilets, or using renewable energy in the City of Sausalito will result in sufficient reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will mitigate global climate change to any measurable degree, enough to qualify as a “mitigation” of SLR for imminent real estate development in the Marinship? And to infer that these and the other mitigation policies found in the SUSTAINABILITY – CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION AND RESILIENCY ELEMENT are sufficient to support the RDEIR claim that sea-level rise in the Marinship is not a significant environmental impact is simply unconscionable.

QUESTION (4): Who will be responsible to pay for the costs of all of the work and coordination noted in Question 3, above, the City or individual property owners/developers?

If individual property owners/developers are to be responsible for studies and mitigation, at the project review level (as stated in APPENDIX F - Economic Development - Redevelopment Feasibility of Regulatory Alternative in the Marinship), how is this practical or remotely, financially feasible when every study ever done by the City -- going back to the 1985: Marinship Specific Plan Geological Background Report and up to and including the recent February 27, 2020 KOSMONT Sausalito Land Economics Study analysis -- has concluded that none of the known, significant environmental hazards in the Marinship are specific to any one particular parcel, but are area-wide, involving multiple parcels in each case and that the costs of mitigation and in the case of toxins, remediation, are so great that no individual property owner/develop can possibly be held responsible for or would be able to afford to pay the costs of the studies and mitigations that will inevitably be required?

Yet, on page A-6 in Appendix A of the GP Update, it makes statements that directly contradict the recommendations made by all the experts they have hired in the past 30 years, including Kosmont, all of which say no single developer can carry the costs of the required mitigations.

Under “Cost Burden” it states,

“The burden incidence of development impact fees is upon the project developers and builders who pay the fees. Fees are a cost of development and are “internalized” into project costs in the same manner as all other development- and construction-related costs. There is no direct effect of fees on development pricing, because the markets set pricing independent of costs. However, when costs are too high for the market to bear, development may be deferred until such time as prices justify costs. All costs will influence land value, so it is often the case that landowners bear a portion of the cost of fees through lower land values (prices paid by developers or builders). So long as total development costs fall within a reasonable level, potential negative effects on development feasibility effects are manageable.” [Emphasis added]

This is certainly an extremely generous description of the impacts of shifting major environmental assessment and mitigation costs onto the backs of individual property owners and developers: one that I would guarantee is not shared by those same property owners and developers.

Similarly, on page E-3, under Policy E-6.3 Marinship Engineering Study and Financing Approaches[3], the GP Update acknowledges the need for “engineering” studies and “financing” methods, but, again, it fails to acknowledge that this can only be done prior the finalizing the GP Update, certifying of the Final EIR, and drafting of a revised Zoning Ordinance for it to have any tangible value.

QUESTION (5): If studies and assessments of area-wide, significant environmental hazards are not done prior to City’s approval, certification, and adoption processes, noted above, what happens if those studies and assessments result in the conclusion that certain Marinship parcels are undevelopable, because the financial costs or physical practicalities of the required mitigation or toxin remediation are simply infeasible? And, please keep in mind that mitigation or remediation measures may, themselves, produce other significant environmental impacts that need to be assessed and possibly mitigated. These realities suggest that the Final General Plan Update and the Final EIR cannot be approved or certified until the required studies and assessments are made and mitigation plans are determined to be physically and financially feasible, in advance.

QUESTION (6): Finally, how does any of this relate to the ongoing review and approval of submissions of actual projects on specific parcels, by private owners/developers, throughout the time of the aforementioned approval, certification, adoption schedule, and sequence? In other words, what if a proposal is submitted and approved, and then after a permit has been issued, or even before, an area-wide study results in data and evidence that shows the developer’s parcel cannot be developed as proposed because of area-wide environmental hazards or needed mitigations?

The General Plan and the RDEIR are both mute on all of these reasonable questions.

THE CITY’S INCONSISTENT STATEMENTS REGARDING HIGH-DENSITY, MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING IN THE MARINSHIP

On October 13, 2020, the City Council held back-to-back public hearings, the first addressing an update to the General Plan’s Housing Element (“Housing Element 2023”), and the second the revisions to the General Plan update now under consideration. The Staff Report prepared for the Housing Element 2023 attached and referenced maps showing eight potential sites “to provide permanent supportive housing for the anchor-out community in addition to senior housing and / or workforce housing.”

A copy of the Staff Report and map attachments (“Attachment 7_Map of Potential Housing Sites”) accompany this letter.

The maps disclose that several of the eight potential housing sites, including those labeled Site #2, Site #6, and Site # 7, are in the Marinship. Site # 6 is labeled as waterfront private property, and appears to be designated “Water-Based Housing Only.” However, the map does not emphatically say that no land-based housing is allowed on Site #6. Site # 7 is labeled as an existing “RV Parking Area” at 2340 Marinship Way. Site #2 is designated for housing.

The October 13 Staff Report identifying specific land parcels evidences the City’s clear intention to rezone Marinship parcels for high-density, multi-family housing. Remarkably, however, neither the GP Update nor RDEIR acknowledges that the City is considering designating sites in the Marinship for future housing projects. The RDEIR does not mention the possibility, and as a result fails to disclose or evaluate any potentially significant direct or long-term secondary, indirect impacts that could result from introducing housing into the existing industrial/arts / maritime district.

However, this is not just a failure to inform and engage the public, but the proposals shown on the Housing Map in the Staff Report also contradict many of the new policies and programs proposed in the GP Update, and threaten the very heart and soul of the Marinship’s maritime community.

It is not idle conjecture to state that residential uses drive out industrial uses. It is, in fact, axiomatic. This planning phenomenon has been observed in this country for more than 100 years. More recently, one only has to look at how multi-family housing development has transformed and driven out industrial / warehouse / manufacturing businesses in “SOMA” (South of Market Street) in San Francisco and in “SOHO” in New York City, over the past decades.

More importantly, the parcels identified as “Site 6” and “Site 7” are arguably the linchpin of the entire Marinship maritime industrial zoned businesses and home to the majority of waterfront and land-based boat building, technology, and repair businesses, including the few remaining waterfront piers, shipways,[4] haul-out facilities, and equipment and vehicles storage. Site #2, though not a waterfront site, would still have considerable negative impacts on industrial uses, for the reasons noted herein. And, at the same time, Site #2 is the perfect location for a new, larger floorplate, maritime/industrial center—the kind of space that is now severely lacking the Marinship, which is driving away existing companies that wish to expand there.

If the City is serious about all the GP Update programs and policies supporting the Marinship’s industrial, maritime, artisan community, there is no better place to demonstrate that than on Site #2.

The following programs and policies contained in the GP Update would argue against land-based housing being allowed for residential use on these parcels.

On page LU-5, it states,

Policy LU-3.2 Marine Industrial Uses. Promote and encourage new marine industrial uses. [Emphasis added]

Objective LU-4 Preserve Sausalito’s Waterfront Policy LU-4.1 Marinship Waterfront Uses. Promote marine industrial oriented uses that require waterfront locations and strongly encourage the success of the existing general industrial uses found in the Marinship waterfront area. [Emphasis added]

Policy LU-4.3 Existing Recreational Marinas and New Marine Service Boatyards. Provide opportunities to build new marine service boatyards, encourage upgrading and allow expansion of existing marine service boatyards and maritime construction and repair facilities, and allow for minor expansion of existing recreational marinas in the Marinship.” [Emphasis added]

Sites 6 and 7 are precisely where these “new” and “upgraded” and “expanded” uses will need to be located?

On page LU-7, it states

Objective LU-8 Protect and Enhance the Historic Marinship Policy LU-8.1 Marinship Development. Limit deterioration of the Marinship historic assets, incompatible uses that are not ancillary, and collocation of incompatible uses in order to preserve the marine, industrial, and arts uses of the Marinship and the historical significance of the Marinship, ensure the health and safety of the waterfront and boating community, for future members of the Sausalito community.” [Emphasis added]

Again, Site 6 is the location of the last shipways and haul-out areas on the waterfront. That’s said, consider that on page LU-66, it states,

LU-8.1.2 Marine Rails (“Shipways”). Encourage the repair and maintenance of the Marinship Shipways to allow for continued use and ensure compliance with environmental regulations and other regulatory requirements. Such encouragement could include (but is not limited to) the consideration of:

“a. Designating the Shipways as a national, state, or local landmark if possible.

“b. Creation of a zoning overlay designation to protect shipyards and resources, including buildings that already have been designated as historically significant.”

Also, on page LU-58, it states,

Objective LU-4 Preserve Sausalito’s Waterfront Policy LU-4.1 Marinship Waterfront Uses. Promote marine industrial oriented uses that require waterfront locations and strongly encourage the success of the existing general industrial use found in the Marinship waterfront area.” [Emphasis added]

And with regard to the importance of maintaining important waterfront uses in the Marinship (e.g., on Site 6), on page LU-14, it states,

“The primary waterfront area is located in the Marinship. In the waterfront area of the Marinship, development will be limited to water-dependent uses and those that support marine industry.” [Emphasis added]

There is nothing about housing that is “water-dependent” in any way.

On page LU-58, it states,

Policy LU-4.3 Existing Recreational Marinas and New Marine Service Boatyards. Provide opportunities to build new marine service boatyards, encourage upgrading and allow expansion of existing marine service boatyards and maritime construction and repair facilities, and allow for minor expansion of existing recreational marinas in the Marinship.”

So, how does the City intend to do this, when their own Housing Map designates a prime maritime business area, on Site 6 and Site 7, for housing? And as the City is well-aware, the existence of the Housing Map already has property owners intentionally allowing their properties to fall into disrepair, and raising rents to drive out maritime and industrial uses, in anticipation of the kind of redevelopment shown in the City’s Housing Map.

On page LU-66, under Objective LU-8 Protect and Enhance the Historic Marinship, it states,

Policy LU-8.1 Marinship Development. Limit deterioration of the Marinship historic assets, incompatible uses that are not ancillary, and collocation of incompatible uses in order to preserve the marine, industrial, and arts uses of the Marinship and the historical significance of the Marinship…”

Similarly, on page W-6, it states

“…in the Marinship maritime businesses restore wooden boats and service critical vessels such as the San Francisco Fire Boat.”

And on page W-8, it states,

“Noisy and industrial uses are common in the Marinship waterfront, and new development should not crowd out these traditional uses in the neighborhood.” [Emphasis added]

And on page LU-7, under Objective LU-8 Protect and Enhance the Historic Marinship, it states,

Policy LU-8.1 Marinship Development. Limit deterioration of the Marinship historic assets, incompatible uses that are not ancillary, and collocation of incompatible uses in order to preserve the marine, industrial, and arts uses of the Marinship and the historical significance of the Marinship, ensure the health and safety of the waterfront and boating community, for future members of the Sausalito community.”[Emphasis added]

Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that the City’s Housing Map is categorically incompatible, for sites in the Marinship, or the project description of the GP Update is incomplete.

Similarly, the Marinship Vision, starting on page W-8 reinforces these planning goals, when it notes,

“The Marinship is an economically sustainable working waterfront maritime and industrial neighborhood that is planned and developed with innovative solutions to sea level rise combined with regional and global sea level rise reduction and management programs.”

And

“The neighborhood is supported by updated infrastructure, has unique local neighborhood-serving services and amenities, and is home to a thriving community of artists and innovators.”

And finally, on page LU-9, it states,

“The city adopts land use controls to shape and moderate development so that the city retains its historic character, ensures appropriate infrastructure capacity, reduces public safety hazards, and retains resident-serving uses, its artist community, and essential marine related industrial uses. Environmental risks associated with sea level rise and flooding, subsidence, environmental contamination, urban wildfires, and geologic activity are acute dangers that require careful land use management.” [Emphasis added]

These declarative statements pretend that the City’s Housing Map does not even exist and its exclusion avoids the fact that there are horizontal inconsistencies in the City’s planning programs and policies.

THE FALLACIES OF THE GENERAL PLAN UPDATE FINANCING AND IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY MEMORANDUM BY M-GROUP:

The overall approach taken by the RDEIR and the M-Group’s General Plan Update Financing and Implementation Strategy: Appendix E, dated August 8, 2020, is to treat the inevitable, area-wide mitigation of significant environmental hazards in the Marinship and the remedial work required to minimally meet the goals of the GP Update, as if the Marinship was a generic, stable, neighborhood in a typical city with run-of-the-mill environmental challenges, devoid of existential threats, rather than the extremely problematic area it actually is. As such, neither the generic, boilerplate “Findings” nor the financing methods proposed are adequate or appropriate for the Marinship. The approach taken is suitable for cookie-cutter situations where developers and planners are able to focus their discussions on a single plot of land and an unchallenging building environment.

The Marinship isn’t even remotely like that.

For example, “Key Finding” number 2 on page 1 of the August 2020 memo is titled, “New development in the City will generate real estate value that serves as a basis for funding infrastructure improvements.”

This basic approach to the city’s financial growth is a shopworn idea from the 1980s and 90s that is no longer relevant to how our economy operates and is being deconstructed in the 21st century. This is the method that cities like Vallejo and so many others pursued, right into bankruptcy court.

In fact, in the Marinship, the exact opposite is the case. The City must make significant investments in infrastructure in order for private capital to show any interest in real estate development.

Reading the M-Group’s Memorandum, it’s hard to believe that they ever even left their offices and walked around the Marinship when they compose their memo. Their suggested methods of raising revenues through taxes, fees, special assessments, special district financing, etc. (see their Memorandum Appendix A – Summary of Potential Funding Mechanisms) will not be sufficient or generally available to address the unique impacts mitigations or remediation that will be required in the Marinship. And Marin voters, in particular, have shown a distinct objection, lately, to public agencies that keep coming back every two years for more and more tax revenues, special assessment, and public debt offerings, and so forth. The M-Group is apparently oblivious to this trend. However, based on the analysis or private experts, such as Watershed Sciences and other studies done to date, it is entirely possible that the costs of mitigations and remediation in the Marinship could run from the hundreds of millions to more than a billion dollars.

However, the M-Group never bothers to ask, what happens if the public just votes “no?”

This said, it is interesting to note comments found in the M-Group “Technical Memorandum,” dated August 23, 2019, titled, Economic Development / Redevelopment Feasibility of Regulatory Alternatives in the Marinship EPS#161159, which is inserted the Appendices to the GP Update.

On the first page is states,

“The conclusions are based on readily available information and project assumptions applied to a set of hypothetical and relatively generic development prototypes. This analysis is intentionally non-specific about any single property; instead, the actual performance and outcome of a particular property or project will depend on a variety of factors that cannot be known for certain in advance, including project design and entitlement considerations, actual development costs, financing terms, and macro-economic trends.” [Emphasis added]

And again on page 8, it states,

“It is important to note that the building prototypes and related financial assumptions presented herein are relatively generic. Actual building design and resulting financial outcomes will be affected by variety of factors that have not been considered in detail at this point and remain subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

These disclaimers basically confirm all of the critical comments in this letter. And with respect to the Marinship, it is the consultant’s admission that none of what they are proposing is actually designed to address the real challenges the Marinship faces, despite its voluminous presentation, there is nothing in their more recent August 8, 2020 memo that makes any of the comments any more applicable.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Bob Silvestri

President


[1] I.E., Although sea level rise is a citywide issue, the existential threat of the impacts of SLR will be far greater in the Marinship and the required mitigations will be far more complex than in most of the rest of the city, most of which is at much higher elevations.

[2] “CP-1.1.4 Marinship Infrastructure Needs. Consider coordinating with the county and other stakeholders to commission an Engineering Analysis to examine the infrastructure costs and scenarios across the Marinship area to better inform the cost/benefit choices available to the city, property owners, and businesses in the Marinship.”

[3] “Policy E-6.3 Marinship Engineering Study and Financing Approaches. Consider an Engineering Study of Infrastructure Needs in the Marinship Area as recommended in the Land Economics Study. Explore financial approaches including the formation of assessment district(s) within the Marinship to address these issues and needs.”

[4] Again, note CD-6.2.12 Marin Shipways, and the possible listing of these on the California Historic Register.


CLICK HERE to read comments by CVP legal counsel, M.R. Wolfe & Associates