The Marin Post

The Voice of the Community

Blog Post

Free for Non Commercial Use (Google Images)

Terra Linda Group Reignites PDA Battle With Sudden Council Vote

A newly formed group "Responsible Growth in Marin" (RGM) has initiated a council vote this Monday to designate the area around Northgate as a Priority Development Area (PDA). The group, started to oppose plans to build a Costco at Northgate, has an impressive, professional-looking website, but does it really adhere to its’ stated values published on it?

CLICK here to see their website

"INTEGRITY: working in the best interest of our entire community beyond reproach." Yet it did not perform any outreach or run surveys to understand what the community actually wants - had it done so, it might have realized it was not serving the interests of the community.

"INCLUSIVENESS: respecting all people, we value diversity and recognize the contribution of all volunteers and the community we serve." But not all people were made aware or polled on what they wanted, inclusiveness appears to only have gone as far as representing RGM members’ own interests.

"TRANSPARENCY: working openly and honestly without hidden agendas and providing complete, truthful and accurate information." However, the discussion of a PDA came out of a closed-door unpublicized Zoom meeting taking place on Monday May11th between RGM members , Vice Mayor Kate Colin, and city staff Paul Jensen (a huge asset to San Rafael as a communicator) and Ethan Guy.


Last year, I ran a series of polls on capturing hundreds of responses specifically from community members, who were limited to one vote per person. While I have heard anecdotal conjecture and people have raised questions about the survey, I have yet to see any other hard data presented on what the community's view actually is.

The results of the community's vision from these surveys of hundreds of residents diverge starkly from Responsible Growth in Marin:


53% of 802 respondents support Costco in a survey taken Oct 3rd 2019 here on
(Note access to this link is restricted to Nextdoor members around Terra Linda)


57% of the community do not want more than 100 housing units added at Northgate, many want less than that. This is from a survey taken 26th May 2019, with 561 respondents again here on

(Note access to this link is restricted to Nextdoor members around Terra Linda)


A decision to make an area of Terra Linda into a Priority Development Area is equally if not more significant than setting up the SMART train Quiet Zone - many more live in the city of Terra Linda who would be affected by rapid housing growth than near the tracks where the train horn affected them.

For the Quiet Zone the city had a 6 month process involving over three in-person community meetings, attended by hundreds of people, with sharing of detailed information and analysis. There was substantial outreach through mailers and in the press so everyone was aware of what was being discussed, could read about it, and attend meetings to ask questions and voice their opinion.

The notice about Monday's council vote was only shared with selected residents in a routine City Manager Snapshot email sent yesterday, May 14th, to those who register (typically engaged advocates and businesses). The routine city email newsletter states “This step is only the first of many community conversations on this topic,” yet fails to mention that the deadline to submit a letter of intent is May 31st and finalize the PDA by June 30th.

Just how the city could possibly conduct the same outreach, and hold multiple 200+ attendee meetings, when they are forbidden for an indefinite period, remains to be seen.

It would seem that the city dropped the ball, failing to track these PDA deadline dates. Councilors defend their decision by sharing that, over time, a few residents have suggested the city reinstitute the PDA. They seem to have forgotten that the majority of residents opposed a prior PDA in Terra Linda and that they had rescinded it after a protracted community engagement (best described as a battle) in 2013.


The closed-door, unpublicized meeting of Reasonable Growth in Marin suddenly precipitated a knee jerk rush to reinstitute a PDA - with a decision being made within a week to take a council vote on submitting a Letter of Intent.

From one person at the meeting I have heard that it may not have been RGMs direct request for a PDA, but Vice Mayor Kate Colin who suggested designation of a PDA might provide a source of funding for a $500,000 plan around Northgate Mall and adjacent areas.

After the meeting, Kate Colin appeared to rapidly progress this to be an agenda item put to a council vote at the forthcoming council meeting on Monday, May 18th, just ahead of the May 31st deadline for letters of intent to be received designating new PDAs.

RGM’s leadership should have quickly nixed this and stated ‘this was never our intent’ - but they didn’t. The process of restoring a PDA in Terra Linda, designating it for prioriitzed rapid growth has been re-initiated.

As we have seen, it is not a good thing for the city, or any group claiming transparency and integrity, to initiate the process without community buy-in.

Last time the same thing happened with the PDA instituted in 2009, without outreach, and it took 3 hard years of the community fighting city hall to rescind this (2010-2013).

We’ve seen this movie before. Let’s not run the sequel.


PDA, growth, housing