The Marin Post

The Voice of the Community

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The project is the problem, not the neighbors

With all this talk about "affordability" these days, one would think a local community group trying to preserve existing affordable rental housing in Belvedere -- a town of 900 homes where small affordable housing is almost impossible to find — would get more credit. Or that the big-name developer proposing to tear down 22 older, modest duplexes to build a new subdivision of mostly large luxury homes and town homes would get more fact-checking by journalists. (See “A nonprofit in one of California’s wealthiest cities is trying to block a new housing development.” ~ San Francisco Chronicle, August 10, 2023)

Based on the applications and documents posted on the City’s website, the proposed project is a combination of 40 for-sale houses, condos, and rentals with only four (4) small apartments deed-restricted for low-income households. These are described as six (6) single-family homes, ten (10) townhouse “duettes,” and 23 apartment flats “for empty-nesters.”

In the Chronicle article, the developer complains about unnecessary delays caused by the City. But any delays the developer has experienced in getting to design review, so far, have been entirely self-inflicted. As City staff pointed out more than a year ago, the project, as designed, is not permitted under current zoning or the City’s General Plan (both requirements for ‘fast-tracking’) and has significant compliance issues.

Many of the submitted plans and reports are inaccurate or incomplete and the proposed apartment building with its below-ground garage is a “prohibited use” in R-2 zone for “two family duplex housing” and doesn’t meet FEMA requirements for construction of multifamily residential buildings in a floodplain.

The property is all landfill which has subsided significantly over the years. It’s located in a FEMA "AE" flood zone, has 60-year old drainage pipes and bulkheads on a man-made lagoon connected to San Francisco Bay, so it is classified as “waters of the U.S,” a designation that comes with all sorts of restrictions and requires approvals by government agencies like the Army Corps. of Engineers, the EPA, and San Francisco Bay Water Quality Control Board, and others. Yet, the developer has requested an exemption from any and all CEQA assessments, environmental, or safety reviews, claiming it’s a typical “urban infill” development site.

With all this and more to be addressed before decisions can be made or public hearings scheduled, it’s not the neighbors here that are the problem. It’s the developer’s project.