The article posted by Richard Hall, "The undeclared war on middle class suburbia," has met with some mocking criticism in the comments section. However, the author's claims that Marin faces unique development challenges is correct.
Marin is far more constrained than other San Francisco Bay Area counties. Unlike San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, the vast majority of land in Marin County is dedicated open space, consisting of federal, state and county parks. This leaves only the narrow highway 101 corridor for development. Marin also does not have vast undeveloped tracks of land or brownfield sites to redevelop, e.g., Mission Bay in San Francisco.As a consequence of this, land costs are higher per square foot for comparably zoned densities, elsewhere (e.g., the East Bay).
At the same time Marin County (and the North Bay) has virtually no public transportation, other than sparse bus service and two ferry terminals for commuters to San Francisco. But, those ferries are run by regional agencies over which Marin has no control. This leaves Marin heavily car dependent. Traffic congestion in Marin has become legendary.
Unlike San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, which draw water from as far away as the Sierras, Marin County is uniquely dependent upon only the rain that falls within the County and a tentative agreement with Sonoma County for some extra water from the Russian River. This significantly limits development capacity.
Although Marin is one of the most heavily taxed counties to live in, public services and infrastructure are dependent on extremely small populations in its cities. For example, in Mill Valley, the majority of the cost of police and fire protection, road maintenance and sewer service falls on about 10,000 adult residents, more than a third of whom are of retirement age or older. Development of housing is generally a net loss cost to cities, so these costs limit the amount of development that is financially sustainable for cities.
In addition, unlike larger Bay Area cities, most Marin County municipalities have relatively small commercial business development, which is typically a major tax revenue source for most cities. This further constrains any city’s ability to economically support and serve more and more housing development.
Finally, larger cities have unique advantages of scale that help them address their regional housing quotas. Larger cities have greater access to financial resources, grants funding, debt underwriting, federal funding and other such sources, all of which allows them to directly influence and participate in commercial and housing development.