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city of mill valley

Nine Housing Updates and Recaps + New Info


The Mill Valley City Planners met 11/17 to discuss the unsafe and overly massive proposal. It was a marathon of public interaction and planning discussion. The meeting went until 1:15 am and Karen Holly posted an excellent and thorough write up in a Next Door post. Here is the link:

Kudos to the city for taking tremendous amount of input and having a spirited discussion on the merits. In the end, the developer and his team refused to budge on the proposal, which includes 25 units (6 in the “affordable” range for sale, but held by the school district through a letter of intent) and over two thousand square feet of commercial space. It has a tangle of entry and exit driveways, which both exit west on E Blithedale, leaving drivers to make U-turns in neighborhoods if they need to travel east. There is a new privately commissioned traffic study and other info available, but not on the city site. The city posted the entire plan (66 MG) in one blob here:

THE NEXT MEETING IS A CONTINUATION, JANUARY 10th. If you are on my mailing list ( I’ll keep you posted!


Many of you have been waiting to learn more and/or get more involved, and it looks like that time is finally at hand! Karen Holly is organizing local neighborhood group leaders to join up, so those of us interested in pushing back against the mandates, especially as they relate to public safety, can work together.

If you are part of a neighborhood or other local group with interest, please get in touch or ask your group leader to contact me. If you’re not sure if someone in your group is already in contact, go ahead and contact me, just to be sure. There are a lot of small groups, and together we will definitely have a bigger voice.

This in-person event will be held the first week of January, before the Richardson Terrace Project meeting, so don’t hesitate to reply!


The city received its response from the HCD regarding certification of the Housing Element. It was as I predicted: rejected, largely due to heavy reliance (without confirmation) that about 30% of local businesses were willing to shutter and be demolished for new residential development. There were many other demands for more reports, which will basically increase the size of the already 540+ page Housing Element document without creating any real usable or relevant information. But it will cost the city time and money.

You can write to the city urging them to both complete the Housing Element and represent constituents and help ensure their own relevance by joining the SB 9 and HCD/RHNA lawsuits; contact info here:


On Tuesday the Mill Valley Planning Department met to discuss the 16 page HCD response letter and how to approach their new demands. Planners (mercifully) nixed the idea of a blanket rezoning that would make their jobs fairly irrelevant and leave everything to the state. There was much confusion about the requirements of the HCD. More discussion will be forthcoming; I will send out notices; here is the letter:


The Housing Elements are extremely expensive to produce, and outside consultants must be hired. The county of Marin has already spent over $2 million. Sausalito is over $700,000. I do not have Mill Valley cost info yet, but will publish when I do.

There is a project underway to document the Housing Element production cost to every locality in the state. As our small county will account for minimally $7 million, the statewide costs will be enormous. Money that could have gone into supportive housing programs.

Additionally, the mandated housing creates demands on sewer and utility infrastructure, streets, schools, and other services. The addition of housing is designed to be an unfunded mandate, as repeated in the wording of every housing law, and cities are expected to use bonds to cover these costs. Cities are also required to “find the water,” and give precedence to multifamily housing for hookups.


Last chance to get emails in: This Monday, December 5th at 3:30pm

Tuesday December 6th: Board of Supervisors Hearing on Housing Element Sites

On Tuesday December 6th 2022, at 5:00 PM or thereafter, the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing to review and approve the recommendation of candidate housing sites to address the State-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for the 2022-2030 planning period. This hearing is a continuation of previous discussions with the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission about the Housing Element and site selection process and follows extensive community participation.

The Board Packet for this item contains additional details and is available on the County’s Housing Element Meetings & Workshops webpage under the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission Hearings panel.

Comments may be submitted before the meeting, or during the meeting.

Before the meeting: please email or no later than 3:30 PM on Monday, December 5th. In your comment, please indicate the item number you are addressing, your name and address. These comments will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors and will be placed into the public record. Attachments to emails are permitted.

During the meeting: you will have the opportunity to speak to this item during the public comment period. You will need to join the meeting via Zoom and utilize the raise hand feature to inform the moderator that you would like to comment

Join by computer or mobile device


The Tam Design Review Board serves the unincorporated areas of and around Mill Valley; I have recently been seated on the Board.

I have asked for an item to be placed on the 12/7 agenda to include discussion on the loss of local control and the way new Objective Design Standards affect the Board’s ability to function. My hope is that, after discussion, the Board will agree to write a letter of resolution to the county expressing concern over and opposition to California state legislation that eliminates local control, noting also the erosion of public participation, reduction/elimination of CEQA in environmentally sensitive areas, and to further urge the county to participate in the SB 9 and HCD/RHNA lawsuits. The TDRB meetings are open to the public. To watch / participate:

Tam Design Review Board AGENDA Public Hearing

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 - 7:00 PM via Zoom link
Meeting ID: 817 7902 0454 Passcode: 822718

1. Review comment letter regarding Development Code Amendments related to the Housing Element Update and the Marin County Form Based Code.

Discussion about how FBC and ODDS affect TDRB effectiveness when pockets of development within our sphere are using different standards, and those standards can be further distorted by the application of bonuses. Discuss benefit of correspondence with County regarding these issues.


The cost of not having a Housing Element certified by the deadline is steep. A little known provision, Builder’s Remedy, punishes the entire city by allowing massive developments to proceed without any review. Susan Kirsch had a letter published in the IJ yesterday about Builder’s Remedy: Marin IJ Readers’ Forum for Dec. 1, 2022 – Marin Independent Journal

Builder’s Remedy is being used to pressure cities to get their Housing Elements completed and certified by their deadlines, which are not totally clear. Originally it was the end of January 2023, now it is in February. Southern California is about a year ahead of us in their 6th cycle RHNA.

Recently, Santa Monica was the Builder’s Remedy test case; they missed their deadline, and 16 projects totalling 4,000 units, at 10-15 stories each, were automatically approved. Each received ministerial approval without setbacks, parking requirements or conformance to height restrictions. Projects must include 20% low-income or 100% moderate-income housing units to qualify, but density bonuses can decrease those percentages.


MORE ON BUILDER’S REMEDY: Thanks to Sharon Rushton of Sustainable Tam-Almonte for the following information. You can sign up to receive her emails directly at

“Since 1990, California’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA) has provided a so-called builder’s remedy that allows developers of affordable housing projects to bypass the zoning code and general plan of cities that are out of compliance with the Housing Element Law.

Under the builder’s remedy, a developer can propose any housing project, regardless of existing zoning and land use codes, and it is automatically considered “approved,” as long as it doesn’t present a clear danger to public health or safety. Notably, this approval is grandfathered in even after the city comes back into compliance. The builder’s remedy has long been on the books but had no strong legal backing until the 2019 passage of SB 330 (the Housing Accountability Act - HAA), which transformed it into a nuclear option for developers to deploy in municipalities with persistent barriers to housing production.”


My note: Chris Elmendorf authored this Builder’s Remedy paper. He is a huge density advocate, never questioning whether it is right for every location. The Terner Center at UC Berkeley has the same bias.


There are a number of new laws taking effect after the start of 2023.I have them posted in on the LAWS page just below the current lawsuits section.


Housing element, mill valley, Richardson terrace, TDRB