top of page
Issues

Marin County Development Code Amendments

 

The Marin County Development Code regulates the uses of land and structures in unincorporated areas.  Marin’s Community Development Agency (CDA) is recommending changes to the Development Code, citing recent housing legislation and the need for consistency with the Countywide Plan. Some of these changes are required to comply with state housing laws.  Many others are not and represent an unnecessary and ill-conceived effort by CDA staff to favor the direction of an authoritarian housing regime in Sacramento rather than protect the environment of Marin.  


CDA’s current recommendations include the removal of key provisions limiting the maximum density (the number of housing units per acre) and floor area ratios (maximum percentage of the lot area that can be used for buildings) allowed for development in specified areas to the low end of the range established by the Countywide Plan.  

These provisions apply to areas with sensitive habitat or within the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt or the Baylands Corridor, and properties lacking public water or sewer systems (existing code provides that exceptions may be considered for housing affordable to lower-income households). Limiting development in these areas, including the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt areas surrounding Lucas Valley, has until now preserved the unique character of Marin. The proposed changes would have little, if any, impact on the production of affordable workforce and senior housing. Yet they could dramatically, and irrevocably alter the character of our community by increasing the development potential of many properties as much as tenfold. This article in the Marin IJ provides more details. 


As demonstrated in the Oct. 2023 fire evacuation drill, our community is not prepared nor is adequate infrastructure in place for the densities previously approved in the Housing Element. Further increasing density in high fire hazard areas, potentially tenfold, could create a dangerous environment for all residents of Lucas Valley. 

 

Other CDA recommendations would: 

·       eliminate a provision to resolve conflicts between the Development Code and Community Plans

·       increase the housing height restriction to 45 ft. throughout the county, with no evidence that a three-story limit has stifled needed housing development

·       eliminate a prohibition on SB 9 housing development (lot splits) in high fire hazard severity zones

 

For more information, see Selected details of Development Code amendments and Summary of the Lucas Valley for Responsible Growth position below.

Selected details of Development Code amendments

 

Brief Background 

The “Marin Countywide Plan guides the conservation and development of Marin County.”  The Housing Element is a part of the Countywide Plan.  Marin’s Planning Commission voted 6 to 1 against recommending adoption of the current Housing Element which is in effect for 2023/2031.  The Board of Supervisors subsequently approved the Housing Element in January of 2023 under the pressure of a state-imposed deadline.  The new Form Based Code, a new set of “objective” design standards intended to replace the process of public review and input to development projects, was developed by CDA’s consultants and became part of the 2023 Housing Element revision.  The Development Code implements the policies of the Countywide Plan.

 

CDA Staff Recommendations

CDA staff propose amendments to the Marin County Municipal Code Title 22 – Development Code.  The entire April 16 Board of Supervisors meeting agenda includes these documents (see item 16 of the agenda):

Staff Report and recommendations 

Guide for the 2024 Amendments (Attachment 3)

Proposed Code Additions and Deletions (Attachment 4 – Exhibit B)

Form Based Code Amendments (Attachment 5)

 

Subjugation of community plans

Changes would eliminate a provision for application of the more restrictive requirement applicable to discretionary permits in the event of conflict between the Countywide Plan and a Community Plan.  Community Plans are intended to provide more detailed guidance for their communities and have been reviewed and approved by Marin’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  On March 25, 2024, the Marin County Superior Court issued for, Corcoran v. County of Marin, Case No. CIV2301159, the decision that the County’s use of precedence clauses adopted by the Board as Countywide Plan amendments in January 2023 are unlawful and may no longer be relied on by the County to adopt zoning laws that are inconsistent with Community Plans in the County.  In spite of this decision, the CDA staff position and initial response from the County legal representative is that the ruling does not impact the proposed Development Code amendments.

  

Language proposed to be deleted:

             F. Conflicting requirements.

             1. Other County Code provisions. If conflicts occur between requirements of this Development Code, or between

              this Development Code and a Community Plan or other regulations of the County where a discretionary permit                 is applicable, the most restrictive provision shall apply.

 

Although Lucas Valley does not have a Community Plan, this decision may help to preserve section 22.30.040 – Lucas Valley Community Standards in the existing Development Code.  We urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this change and restore and maintain the integrity of Community Plans in Marin.  

Properties with sensitive habitat, or within the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt or the Baylands Corridor

Existing code limits the maximum residential density (the number of housing units per acre) and floor area ratios (maximum percentage of the lot area that can be used for buildings) allowed for development in these areas to the low end of the range established by the Countywide Plan.  These restrictions appear in several areas of the code.  

 

Sample table and language proposed to be deleted (footnotes 5 and 6):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maps 2.1 to 2.4 from the Marin Countywide Plan (beginning page 665) identify the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt and Baylands Corridor areas and where density and FAR ranges apply for Lucas Valley and nearby communities.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Height Limit

CDA’s proposed increase in the building height limitation to 45 ft. countywide is not a state requirement and the existing height limit has not impeded development of affordable housing in Marin.  This one-size fits all code amendment should be deleted from Housing Element Program 8.  Developer height concessions should be limited to the City-Centered Corridor. 

 

SB 9 Lot Splits

The CDA recommendation proposes a change to Form Based Code section 22.32.184 Senate Bill 9 Housing Development without explanation or discussion.  This change would remove a prohibition on SB 9 development within a high fire hazard severity zone; Lucas Valley is one such area.  SB 9, effective 1-1-2022, was intended to encourage duplexes and single family lot splits.  The motivation for CDA’s recommended amendments to other SB 9 provisions appears to be:  “the Planning Division has not received a single SB 9 development application.”  No evidence or discussion is offered to show how this change to section 22.32.184 would impact SB 9 development opportunity.  It would clearly increase the risk to public safety and should be rejected. 

 

Summary

CDA does not reference specific provisions of the Countywide Plan, including its Housing Element, or state housing laws that mandate these changes … because they do not!  These changes do not reflect the values of Marin’s residents. 

Lucas Valley for Responsible Growth recommendation for the Board of Supervisors 

Give Community Development Agency staff clear instruct ratio restrictions in place for properties with sensitive habitat or within the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt or the Baylands Corridor,

  • remove the increase in building height limit,

  • retain the Other Code Provision for conflicts between the development code and community plans,

  • retain the restriction on SB 9 development in high fire hazard severity zones, and

  • refrain from any changes to Marin’s Development Code that are not explicitly mandated by state housing law. 

 

 

For our community:  

The leadership team at Lucas Valley for Responsible Growth urges you to be informed and voice your views on these issues to our Board of Supervisors [link to Resources/Government], and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.  This e-mail Template may be helpful.

These Development Code amendments will be back on the Board of Supervisors agenda, possibly as early as May.  Our hope is that, with your encouragement, the Supervisors will do their best to protect Marin communities from inappropriate and dangerous development.

 

THANK YOU for your participation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map 2.1.png
Map 2.2.png
IMG_5889 3_edited.jpg

Notes:

(5) The maximum residential density for proposed subdivisions for that portion or portions of properties with sensitive habitat or within the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt or the Baylands Corridor, and properties that lack public water or sewer systems, shall be calculated at the lowest end of the density range as established by the governing Countywide Plan Land Use Designation. This restriction does not apply to lots governed by the Countywide Plan's PD-AERA (Planned Designation - Agricultural and Environmental Reserve Area) land use designation and to lots in the Baylands Corridor that are two acres or less in size that were legally created prior to January 1, 2007. Densities higher than the lowest end of the applicable density range may be considered on a case-by-case basis for new housing units affordable to very low and low income households that are capable of providing adequate water and sanitary services.

(6) The maximum non-residential and non-agricultural floor area for that portion or portions of properties with sensitive habitat or within the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt or the Baylands Corridor, and properties that lack public water or sewer systems, shall be calculated at the lowest end of the floor area ratio range as established by the governing Countywide Plan Land Use Designation, except for projects that provide significant public benefits, as determined by the Review Authority. The floor area ratio restrictions do not apply to additions to non-residential and non-agricultural structures not exceeding 500 square feet. This restriction does not apply to lots governed by the Countywide Plan's PD-AERA (Planned Designation - Agricultural and Environmental Reserve Area) land use designation and to lots in the Baylands Corridor that are two acres or less in size that were legally created prior to January 1, 2007.

bottom of page