My letter was too long for the SF Chroni letter format, but I submitted it anyway: https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/huntington-beach-sues-california-housing-17842121.php
In response to Emily Hoeven’s flippant piece regarding the Huntington Beach lawsuit against the state of California: this legal filing correctly lays bare the undemocratic nature of the housing laws and enforcement practices, which are imposed without voter scrutiny or legal remedy. Should the state have the right, without a provable methodology, using numbers that failed audit, to decide that every city must uniformly grow by 15% when the Department of Finance says the actual growth rate is so slow that transportation infrastructure projects need to be rethought?
If the state is serious about low-income housing, decouple it from market-rate, and fund it. Absent from Ms. Hoeven’s article is a description of how state laws and RHNA rules heavily favor for-profit market-rate development over the moderate to extremely low-income development most desperately needed — at a rate of 80% to 20%. Expensive projects receive huge density and other bonuses by including a mere 10-20% affordable units.
To her claim of favoritism toward Marin, one look at the RHNA shows that this is a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that is anything but. Ms. Hoeven is indignant that Marin hasn’t been declared metropolitan, as though we’ve gotten away with something, but the definition of metropolitan — a region that consists of a densely populated urban agglomeration and its surrounding territories sharing industries, commercial areas, transport network, infrastructures and housing — does not apply to us. Further, Ms. Hoeven needn’t worry about our “lax” suburban density rules. With bonuses, density far exceeds 20 units per acre.
Has she visited Marin? Mill Valley? Sausalito? Belvedere? Eastern San Rafael? There is no industry, little public transportation, and no infrastructure to accommodate huge increases in population. Importantly, there are no infrastructure updates planned. There are very few lots even close to an acre.
Density shouldn’t be forced upon much of Marin for a variety of reasons, including fire hazards, limited evacuation routes, FEMA flood zones, sea level rise, etc. Valid, cogent appeals were filed; however, like all other appeals they were denied by the state, which seems indifferent to public safety.
Look into the history of 824 Drake Avenue in Marin City. This planned five-story, 74-unit apartment building is sited on 1.1 acres, with only 23 parking spaces. While this SB 35 project was ministerially approved without CEQA, a full study would have recognized and perhaps exempted this site based on its location in a very severe fire hazard zone (VSFHZ) prone to flooding, lack of evacuation infrastructure, and a single entry/exit. This is far beyond Marin City’s “fair share.” It is dangerous and unwise and begs the return of local city planning.
The Huntington Beach lawsuit resonates on many levels. The punishments carried out by AG Bonta’s Strike Force are designed to force compliance to the point of bankruptcy and receivership, enabling the state to decide which taxpayer owned public lands will be sold or given away for development. There is no legal remedy for cities or counties.
If you put this for-profit / punishment system of forced housing creation to the voters, it would be rejected out of hand. I’d like to think our legislature and Governor — Democrats, like me — have the state’s best interests at heart, but that seems increasingly less likely. The state needs to work with cities to help those in need, not help developers get wealthy under the guise of providing affordable workforce housing.