The Marin Post

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MultiFamily Housing

Tamalpais Area Design Development Standards Survey

Recent State of California legislation (such as SB 330 and SB 35) has changed the way that jurisdictions must go about ensuring high quality, sensitive design of multi-family and mixed-use housing projects within their communities. In the past, this has been done via a multi-step process that included both subjective and objective reviews - often involving the Planning Commission, the planning staff, Design Review boards, public hearings, and - at times - the Board of Supervisors.

Today, due to State mandated streamlining, jurisdictions must instead rely exclusively on Objective Design and Development Standards (ODDS) to maintain an element of local control. In many situations, these standards will replace the subjective Design Review process completely, making them the only way that the appearance, massing, setbacks and detailing can be controlled.

An example of a subjective design standard (that is no longer allowed) would be:

"Development must be consistent with the character of the neighborhood."

An example of a measurable, clear, and enforceable Objective Design and Development Standard would be:

“For each private outdoor space provided, a minimum dimension of 5 feet is required in any horizontal direction.”

ODDS will play a major role in the future of the built environment throughout all of California. Although ODDS cannot include any subjective guidelines, ODDS can still be an effective way to specify the design and aesthetics of developments.

In Marin, the ODDS will be developed at the County level, with help from a hired consultant, to control development uniformly throughout Marin.

The County is in the process of creating these standards now. They had planned some public meetings to gain input from the general public, but Covid-19 hit and the meetings were cancelled. In lieu of the public meetings, the County created a survey that is available on their website, but the Tamalpais Area Design Review Board decided that our community has a unique character and needs, and created a more in-depth survey of our own.

A link to the survey is provided at the end of this article.

The Tamalpais Area Design Review Board (Tam Board for short) serves the unincorporated areas of Mill Valley within the “Tamalpais Area”. This includes Tam Valley, Tennessee Valley, Almonte, Homestead Valley, and Muir Woods Park (Panoramic).

The parts of this area that will be most affected by ODDS are those that are zoned multi-family or mixed-use. This includes much of Tam Junction, Manzanita, and Almonte Blvd, along with a handful of parcels within nearby residential neighborhoods.

Our survey identifies nine specific design aspects that the board feels are important for future multifamily developments.

We are seeking the community's input about them.

There are also some open-ended questions at the end of the survey, that allow for broader commentary. The Board will share feedback from the survey with the County, to advocate for the inclusion of ODDS that are strongly desired by the community.

Please make your voice heard by taking the survey!

A link to the survey can be found here:

-Andrea Montalbano

Member Tamalpais Area Design Review Board


housing, multifamily, density, SB 35, Tam Plan, Tamalpais area, HOmestead Valley, Tamalpais Valley, Muir Woods Park, Panoramic, Shoreline Highway, manzanita, Almonte