Tag Archives: affordable housing

Preservation proposal is elitist  

Marin Independent Journal June 29, 2001

Marin Voice


I WOULD LIKE to add my thoughts to the Marin Voice printed in the IJ (June 19), titled “A Golden Opportunity of Marin” by Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salz man and Boessenecker. In this article we are presented with an opportunity of preserving more wildlife wetlands in Marin County.

Before I present my thoughts, I would like to give my background I am 24 years old, raised and living in Marin County, with a white-collar job.

Now, no one is a greater admirer of nature preservation than I.  I believe in the preservation of the rain forests, the restoration of the fish stocks in the world’s oceans and utterly appreciate the bountiful beauty of Marin County’s open space. I support the fact that Marin County is and should remain 83 percent open space, without any development in the open space.

But to insist that we start preserving more land in Marin County, land originally slated for development, outside of the 83 percent already preserved, is going too far.  Where are people supposed to live? Where are the people who do not own their own homes, or cannot afford to buy a home in Marin County, supposed to live? Has anyone checked out the rent rates in Marin County lately, if you can even find a place to rent? Has anyone surveyed how expensive it is to live in Marin County? Well maybe these ladies should look into the cost and availability of housing before wondering how to preserve more land for the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge.

With more and more work shifting to the North Bay, and more young people wanting to live in Marin, how are they supposed to afford to live in our county? If Marin is to grow and prosper, we need more affordable housing in already established areas such as San Rafael, Larkspur and Novato. Instead of talking about including more land in the Marin Baylands Wildlife Refuge, maybe we ought to think about how to make development of housing more available without ruining the natural beauty of Marin.

To bring this situation to a more personal level, let me give you my situation. I have a great job with a technology company, making a mid five-figure salary, am college educated and not a frivolous spender. I have lived in Marin since  I was 9 years old, and have only left Marin for four years to go to school.

I started looking for an apartment a month ago and nearly had a heart attack when I saw the prices for apartments. For a one-bedroom apartment, I was looking at anywhere between $1,000 to 1,500 per month, without utilities, expenses and deposit. At this rate, I will be lucky to be able to buy a couch in a year. And please do not mention a roommate, as two-bedroom apartments are really out of range.

If you think I am the only one who feels this way, I can name at least 10 people between the ages of 27 and 40 who have given up and left Marin (North Bay Area) because of the cost of living. Realize that this is the future of our community that is leaving our area because of the cost. And just so you know, I still don’t have a place of my own and have been forced to move back with my parents.

Has anyone also thought about whether wildlife so close to the cities of the North Bay will flourish? Not only do you have the unwanted intrusion of humans, but what of the waste, noise, and stress caused to the wildlife? Ultimately, this refuge will cost Marin in maintenance and preservation, as well as the talent of individuals who choose not to settle in our community because of extravagant prices.

The submitted proposal of Madames Stompe, LeMieux, Salzman and Boessenecker is very elitist. It is all nice and well to think about such grand proposals when you do not find yourself in the financial situation that most of the young and underprivileged find themselves in. Or maybe we ought to only allow those who have a certain amount of money to live in Marin County.

Think about it!

Patrik Smida is a Marin resident.


A teacher’s salute to his mentors

Marin Independent Journal,

Marin Voice June 20, 2001

Thomas A. Thompson

IN 19741 began my first year of teaching at Terra Linda High School, a time enriched by the opportunity to work with experienced teachers who influenced me a great deal with their advice and by their example. This year, sadly, the very last of that group are leaving the profession to which they have brought so much. Barry Amsden, Pat Skinner and Pete Paolino, very much part of the fabric of TLHS, its identity and tradition, will be missed.

As his assistant coach, I remember well Barry Amsden’s remarkable ability to enthuse and encourage each member of the track team to reach for his or her personal bests. With stopwatch in hand, he would often sprint joyfully alongside a young runner during his or her final stretch down the track. From Barry I learned the value and reward of coaching kids whether in athletics or other extra-curricular activities.

Throughout the years, Barry Amsden has maintained his bounding energy and enthusiasm for kids and their achievements. His positive spirit has animated the students he has taught, the athletes he has coached and all the many colleagues with whom he has worked. They will miss his generosity, his knowledge of Terra Linda High’s history, his stories and even his jokes.

As a first-year English teacher, I remember passing Pat Skinner’s room hours after the final bell and  seeing him sitting behind his desk painstakingly correcting his students’ essays. From Mr. Skinner I learned the worth of inviting students to exceed their own expectations.

Mr. Skinner’s classes have been a rite of passage at Terra Linda. The most demanding of teachers, he has consistently pushed his students to read challenging works of literature and to think and write with clarity, coherence and correctness. Always, he insisted on providing students with an enriching intellectual experience, one that reverberates, that is appreciated even more in retrospect.

And I remember Peter Paolino’s consistent patience and kindness in counseling or comforting students who were having a difficult time emotionally, socially or academically. As a first-year teacher, I learned from my dealings with Peter an appreciation of the complexity of the individuals in my classroom.

In his nearly 40 years of service, Mr. Paolino has been a competent and compassionate advocate for several thousand kids in helping them make a more successful transition through adolescence and the various demands of high-school life.

Other excellent teachers with more than 25 years of experience — Bill Costello, Bill Monti, Bret Tovani, Dave Wylie, Dolores Pena and Monika Nimeh of San Rafael High — are retiring this year.

As are many others who have been teaching since before 1970— Bill Allen, Peter Schmidt, Lorraine Coppola, Justin Kielty, Lala Zuniga-Briggs of Davidson I Middle School; Jan Armour, Mary Breeze and Pat Geiger of Glenwood Schdol; Barb Dittman, Gay Leonardi and Doug Taylor of San Pedro School; and Marcia McQuillan and Linda Newton of Gallinas SchooL They deserves kudos, as do others like them in other school districts.

What make their deserving tributes a bit sadder this year is a growing awareness that having people in our schools with their tenure of experience may be a thing of the past, that schools in Marin may be losing the real benefit of such teachers who were able to dedicate their entire careers to particular school communities.

The cost of housing in Mann and its corollary, the long commute, may make teachers who make their careers here members of a vanishing species. And that, indeed, is very sad.

Thomas A. Thompson is a teacher at Mann Catholic High School and is a member of the San Rafael City School Board.


Oh, God, have mercy on our failures

This is unedited version published in Marin IJ  January 18, 2000

Heavenly pictures and angel added by forlorn altar boy author.


Oh, God, have mercy on our failures

Slipping into cushy slippers on a billowy cloud, he called out, “Gabriel, update me on my blue, green gem.”

“Sir, globalization is beefing up the bigs, strengthening some middies, while your poor continue arduously climbing their hill of needs.”

“Are my beefies being generous and creative in their good times?” he asks, as he sprinkles light into a black hole.

“Bill Gates and  Ted Turner have….”

“No, no, Gabe.  I don’t need to know of their endowments, or Ted and Jane trading aerobic sessions.  Give me an analysis of community actions addressing values extrinsic to mankind.”

“Extrinsic values, sir?

“Gabriel, you mastery of earthling jargon slips.  For planet Earth that means clean and ample water, air, food, shelter and peoples’ actions that help children’s eyes and dreams gleam from birth and far into their sunset years.  You remember, Gabe, it takes a village to raise a child?”

“Yes, sir, and extrapolations of that to raise a region and a world.  Shall I focus the window of your upgraded Deep Universal Problem Evaluating (DUPE) computer on your Golden State, sir?”

“Yes.  Zoom into my Garden of Eden County where they have set aside 301,314 of my 388,352 acres into open space, agriculture and park lands.”

“Zoomed, sir,” the archangel replies, as the 4-D panaview of Marin reels up over one of God’s universes.  “Goodness, look at the brake lights on their ‘freeway’.”

“Hmmh, looks like Chicago Bulls parking lot in the Airness days I dished them… Gabriel, where are those wonderful, friendly trains we watched years ago from this  view?  They zoomed north into surrounding counties, west into small towns and red wooded mountains.”

“Sir, big oil and auto companies derailed those trains 4 or 5 decades back.”

“Tssk, tssk,” God said, shaking His head, “Right.  My bigs sometimes think ‘Might makes right.’ But other parts of my Golden State are returning efficient, community enhancing trains.  What is My Golden Gated County doing?”

“Sir, four times in the last 40 years some have tried to revive them but…

“Who opposed them?” God interjected.

“Groups referred to as ‘environmentalists’ in your blessed county.”

“Gabriel, are you forgetting your earthling vocabulary again?”

“No, sir.”

“Environmentalists oppose trains that move more people while putting less pollution in my skies?  Trains that encourage friendly mingling and wondrous viewing of my open spaces?” God rhetorically asks.

“It is a little confusing, sir.  You might blaze read the DUPE computer folder “St. Vincent’s Silveira Stakeholders Task Force.”

God blinks His version of Evelyn Wood’s speed reading through 8,769 pages of county documents, “It says the environmental groups want no building on the ‘view corridor, flood plain or near 101 and some environmentalists want 37 units allowed on 1240 acres.  Where’s my colorful train that used to whisk people through this land and into Sonoma, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe?”

“Sir in the file titled, ‘Memo of Understanding’ the environmental stakeholders and politicians removed the train and station.”

“These ‘stakeholders’ are offering no alternatives for those stuck in traffic trying to get home to their loved ones?”

“Should we send them wings, sir?”

Hmmh, Gabriel, your jokes are far from divine… Wasn’t part of this stakeholders’ site owned by a Boys Town place?”

“Yes, sir.  Now St. Vincent’s wants to use development there to endow their future work with troubled children.”

“But without being more creative, thoughtful and logical how will these ‘tempholders’ of my land get the highest and best land uses to endow that hallowed work?  Provide enough housing for my middie and hard working strugglers?  If they continue being self-centered and deplete the region’s air and people’s quality time with myopic land uses, they will rob my not so well off children elsewhere.”

“What would you like done, Lord?”

“They must consider the bigger picture.”

“Shall I put some of them in space, for a bigger view, sir?”

“Perhaps it would be easier to put some of them in my struggling African villages, where the experience would adjust their priorities.”

“That would greatly alter their comfortable lifestyles…Should I zap them there now, Lord?” as Gabriel reaches for God’s staff leaning against a comet.

“For now, let’s just plant this with that IJ staff and see if they get people thinking more about values extrinsic to mankind.”



While listening to the St Vincent’s Silveira Task force meeting of January 6th discuss  “extrinsic values,” one-time forlorn altar boy Dwayne Hunn received this winged transcript from above.

Downzoning can punish community

Marin Scope August 3–9 1998

One Point of View

Dwayne Hunn

Political decisions at the local level seriously affect the world in which we, and tomorrow’s children, must live. Although Democrats cheered wildly when Presidential Nominee Dukakis alluded to working for the ‘community” as a reason for his success, local Democrats as well as Republicans seldom think in terms of the larger community.

Californians spend 300,000 hours a day stuck in traffic at a cost of $350 million a year. Automobile traffic, especially stop-and-go traffic, is overwhelming our atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million in the immediate pre-industrial period to 348 parts per million in 1987, a rise of 24%

Marin’s population has grown 1/2 of 1 percent every year since 1970. Its automobile registration, during the same period, has grown 6 times as fast. Today’s average home sale price in Marin tops $270,000. What do these statistics have to do with local political decisions?

Let’s use a real life example. Recently San Rafael’s General Plan Revision public hearing process ended. Shortly thereafter, at a late June San Rafael City Council Meeting, Council member Thayer moved and the City Council unanimously supported an immediate downzoning of the Spinnaker on the Bay Project.

Neither of the developers, Sidney Hendricks or Dennis Horne, were present nor had they been apprised that this downzoning was under consideration. “Four to five years of work was re-planned in five minutes and $200,000 of our money was wasted,” was how Dennis Horne described the downzoning to medium density (8-15 units per acre). According to Home, the San Rafael Planning Department and Design Review had no serious problems with their design of 18.5 units per acre (506 units) with 15% of those to be affordable units. His disgusted, initial reaction to this decision was to say, “I’m tired of all this jacking around. If the City says we can build 20 palatial estates that’s what we’ll build. No more attempts to provide affordable housing or work with the community. It just wastes our time and money and gets us burned.”

If you are one of those who think all developers are fat cats raping the land, then you don’t realize that after about 7 years in the development business only about two out of five still have the finances to remain in business. What you should also realize is that the few who survive must acquiesce to the ‘planning forces” that publicly control the private land for which so much was paid. The “planning forces” are often composed of legions of NIMBYs (not-in-my-back-yard) or swell-worded environmentalists. Both don’t seem to make the connection between their role in forcing regular folks Into a long distance commute to find an affordable home and the consequent degradation of our atmosphere.

How could this scenario be better handled? The Council could reconsider it’s action based on:

  1. East San Rafael’s pleas for less traffic and more affordable’ housing.

2) The developers desire to build a secure project that benefits more than just the rich

3) Suggestions by Novato Ecumenical Housing to swap the affordable units proposed for Spinnaker on the Bay for in-lieu fees that could have been used to:

  1. Purchase an existing apartment complex(s) in East San Rafael and insure its long term affordability or make it into a coop(s).
  2. Purchase existing condominiums in East San Rafael and use a deferred principal and Interest second trust deed program, as presently implemented by NEH in Novato, to make home ownership available to low Income households.

In-lieu fees equal to 15% of 506 will buy more existing units in East San Rafael than 5–15% of the reduced density of approximately 280 units.

Swapping in-lieu fees for community controlled will provide a means to build “community.” Downzoning, just because it sounds good to a narrow constituency, often punishes the larger community. The more often this goes on in Marin and communities across the United States, the more time we waste behind the wheel. The more time we waste behind the wheel, the more we increase the Greenhouse effect and the less competitive we become in the world.



Big Green must see big picture

Marin Independent Journal   Wednesday, May 10, 1995



 T 00 MUCH GREEN power? No, not enough true green power.

Most people don’t have time to become knowledgeable about environmental issues. They let only a few set the agenda for, and define, green power. They live in communities where they have little control over design. From the immigrant era through the Depression, when financial power and resources seemed limited, many designs gave us neighborhoods where amenities were within walking distance and neighbors lent eggs over fences.

Then came a war. Winning, we found we bad plenty of re­sources. We designed our living spaces accordingly, around the car, isolated from vibrant com­munity interaction.

Today, we import about half our oil, and a slug of our nation­al debt lies ignored in that bill. Today, the middle class seems to be shrinking and the poor growing. Consequently, the economics of greenback and people power is striking back at green leaf and mouse power.

If Marin and its 88-percent protected space are a microcosm of superbly organized Green Power, then Marin shares in provoking attacks that true envi­ronmentalists are about to suffer. Consistently, Marin’s established environmental movement has deft­ly used its network and media access to foist ruses involving density, traffic, open space, view corridor and neighborhood character to block the following:

  • Housing developments that would provide a fair number of moderately priced residential units and instead forced the building of a few pricey, ex­clusive units.
  • Healthy pedestrian-pocket communities near rail lines that enhance the economic viability of returning to environmentally sensitive trains and provide almost enough high-quality, affordable condos ~and townhouses to finally put two Marin cities in compliance with state housing laws.

Is that healthy Green Power? If Marin ‘a environ­mental power structure does not show opposition from the get-go, it bides its time with delays, calls for studies, etc., with no concern for the developer’s land, staffing costs or needs of the long-distance commuting middle class. Too often the developer,

trusting the faith of environmental­ists, believes he has addressed their concerns, only to rind that a last-minute attack leaves bun broke, exhausted or ready to accept whatever the supposed environmental group will allow.

What’s allowed seems good in the short run for the island of Marin, but in the long run it harms re­gional and global environmental and economic needs. Marin’s Green Power needs more true envi­ronmentalists such as the Greenbelt Alliance, which looks at the larger picture.

Marin’s environmental power structure sees little reason to work with businesses, councils and devel­opers toward a win-win solution that benefits mice, people, economics and the environment. Suppose a. developer took a large low-land parcel, proposed en­hancing a mouse habitat around an existing pond and then proposed a mixed-use development that provided affordable housing, a tax base, park, open space and view.

What would likely happen? The power elite, in­stead of working with the developer for the best regional win-win possible, would probably demand, “Since this was wetland 60 years ago, it should be returned to such today!”

Ah, for the way things were before we had 250 million Americans, before budgets needed balancing and we didn’t know Newt Gingrich could preach and teach.

Dwayne Hunn, a MW Valley writer, worked as a People’s Lobby Steering Board member on the Clean Environment Initiative of 1972.



Pedestrian pockets

Mill Valley Herald  March 15–21, 1993

Meandering by Dwayne Hunn

This Is the first of a series, of columns on land use and transit problems facIng the North Bay, as well as the nation. Whether you live In San Rafael, Novato, Ross, Mill Valley or a big city, the way we use our most basic resource–the land– affects you, your loved ones and the environment. If you have comments, address them to Letters to the Editor or to the columnist.

 Across much of our nation short-sighted land use and transit planning burdens us with traffic congestion and longer commutes. In a failing economy, when the. full cost of car ownership is added to the cost of insufficient affordable housing not dependent on a car for work, the sum soon adds homeless, cardboard shacks and Safeway carts to the streets.

With one clogged artery running through its verdant body. Maria County frustrates workers pumping the North Bay’s economic life blood. With its penchant for downzoning developments to allow only pricey estates, Marin has a dearth of affordable housing. Each feeds off the other, sapping the diversity that provides quality and economic security to life.

Like the human body, what you put into the region’s body determines Its health. As one of the richest counties in the world, Marin fools itself by believing only exclusive estates and lack of diversity make a healthy economy.

Answers exist. Answer-givers live in our backyards. But politics and lack of visionary leadership, keep the answers out of town.

Sausalito architect Peter Calthorpe has been offering us an answer for more than 10 years, yet Marin politics has stopped him from doing a Pedestrian Pocket answer In his backyard. Recognized nationally, he is one of the members of the St. Vincent’s-Silveira Design Competition Review Board, which is looking across the nation for land use answers for one of Marine most significant pieces of land.

Marinites concerned about traffic, the environment and a jobs-housing balance should know the. benefits of Pedestrian Pocket development. The next three columns as. drawn from updated Interviews I did with Peter Calthorpe for our North Bay Transportation Management Association’s 1990 Land Use Conference.

What are Pedestrian Pockets?

 A simple and old strategy that builds communities around a mix of jobs,  housing and recreational activities. Our traditional towns were designed around pedestrians to provide a mix of walking, biking, mass transit, auto use and recreation. Recreating that mix Is the goal of pedestrian pockets. Beyond transportation, however, the goal of the pedestrian pocket (PP) concept is to cluster development and thereby save valuable open space and environmentally sensitive lands.

Hand in hand with transportation and land use objectives rides the Issue of affordability In housing end its corollary – a healthy regional economy. it has been shown time and time again — regions which do not balance jobs with appropriate and affordable housing lose their economic base. The loss occurs In both public services and in overall market place activity. Pedestrian pockets go a long way toward creating diversity and opportunity for affordable housing by creating more affordable life styles, as well as by reducing housing development casts.

PP’s three goals are: 1) support alternative transportation without denylng  the car; 2) cluster development to preserve open space/ag land and sensitive areas; 3) provide a development pattern which Is efficient and, thereby, affordable to a, broader range of citizens.

Physically, the PP is bounded by a .not-so-arbitrary 1/4 mille walking radius from the town’ center, which should include neighborhood retail, jobs and a transit station. Within the 14 mile, which is equivalent to about 100 acres of land, there could be 1,000 to 2,000 units of housing and up to 3,000 jobs. Beyond the simple mix and clustering of activities Is a critical design factor– design for the pedestrian.

In most of our suburban growth we seemed to have lost the talent for designing spaces, streets and plazas which are comfortable and enjoyable to walk in. It Is not enough to just have a destination within walking range. We must also begin to rediscover the scale and quality of our traditional pedestrian world. For example, a store or transit stop may be within walking distance, but if you have to cross a four-lane arterial and acres of parking to get there few people take the trouble. Therefore, the essential ingredient for a PP becomes a mix of uses and activities that results In a highly refined pedestrian environment. This pedestrian environment must also allow for free access of the auto in all areas.

Why did you develop the Pedestrian Pocket idea for the NWP right-of-way?

I had been working on the concept of ecological and sustainable communities for many years. Its so doing, It became apparent to me that no matter how efficiently or ecologically Isolated communities or stand-alone towns were designed, they would fail because It was unlikely that people would live and work in the same place.  So it occurred to me that we needed  a corridor of sustainable communities that were linked, so that people could get from one to the other without having to use their car. The North West Pacific right-of-way offered such an opportunity.

A very important study just completed on BART has documented that 40 percent of people who live and work within five minutes walking distances of a BART station, use BART. Only I percent of those who live outside of that five minute walking radius use BART. This Is significant because BART stations are not even designed to be walked to. They are designed for the car.

In a Pedestrian Pocket one may have 3,000 job opportunities, but if the NWP right-of-way were developed with a series of PP’s, one could have 60,000 job opportunities within walking distance of the transit line. Those numbers allow one to conclude that transit would become usable and convenient. So the guiding block of the concept has to be a transit corridor.

 What’s the benefit of PPs to Marin and Sonoma?

 Benefit would include: reduced traffic on 101, land use patterns would support and make viable a mass transit system, the preserving of open space and the opportunity to provide more affordable housing and more desirable job location. It’s becoming apparent that many businesses would rather locate in mixed use areas than in isolated office parks. They understand that areas In which people can walk for their midday errands are desirable. They also understand that a region which has a good balance between affordable housing and jobs provides them a better work force.


How affordable housing goes in Marin

News Pointer  April 5–11, 1989

 One Point of View

Dwayne Hunn, Community contributor

Often Individuals claim to be for “pro-affordable” housing but against the density of every proposed development. They claim that density causes traffic. Sometimes that’s what I read between the lines of the “pro-­affordable housing” Coastal Post.

Affordable housing in the County is a joke. it IS an endangered specie. There isn’t much of it now, and there will be less in the future… Affordable housing does not ‘result as a byproduct of housing construction. It certainly hasn’t to date. It must be a separate goal with, clear, creative and unusual strategies to make it achievable.

(1-16-89 Costal Post editorial)

Without widespread support successful strategies often take money. In Mann widespread support for affordable housing is usually only verbalized. Where support counts the most in the production of affordable housing is before city councils. The support that appears too often before City Councils is that of NIMBYS (Not-in-My-Back-Yard).

Let’s take an  example of  what  NIMBYs do to projects throughout the county.

Years ago a not-so-attractive average acre of land in Marin sold for  $100,000. That land was zoned for 17 units per acre. Before that builder turned one shovel of dirt, the price of each of those units was 17 units divided into his $100,000 land cost, or $5,900.

Under that zoning this for-profit builder would build 2 units of housing affordable to households who earn $35,000 or less, which was direly needed by those who commuted through this community  searching for afford­able shelter. By just spreading his land cost to the remaining 15 units his per unit land recovery cost only went to $6,600.

What typically happens to projects like this? The NIMBYS ‘fight to reduce  it to 5 units per acre. When they are successful, Which Is often, the cost of each unit Jumps to $2O,000, before a shovel of earth is turned.

Now just because the builder’s land cost has been increased 300% does not mean that his infrastructure costs like sewers, streets, utilities, and fees have been reduced by anything. Usually the NIMBYs have drawn out the approval process  for a year, two or more and this has inflated  construction and financing costs.

Now we all know that in good times in healthy economic markets the big car companies feel safer making profits by selling fewer big cars rather than many small ones. Marin is a healthy economic market because a lot of people enjoying  good economic times desire to live here.

Understanding the economic principles of the auto market, the Law of Supply & Demand, and the fact that 3 out of 5 of his fellow builder/developers are out of the business in 7 years, is it so difficult to understand why he builds a lavish home? principles of the auto market, the Law of Supply‘& Demand, and the fact that 3 out of 5 of his fellow builder/developers are put of the business In 7 years, it isn’t so difficult to understand why he builds a lavish home?

Now the numbers used as examples above happen over and over. The numbers were also happening just up the road in Marin. Two Novato council members supported by a petition carriers want to reduce what was once 3550 residential units to 1000 or less on 215 residential acres where per acre cost was about $102,000.

Very few people have a backyard at Hamilton Field. At Hamilton Field, Berg, Revoir, and Howard try to address community housing, traffic, and employment concerns in an integrated mixed-use development on blighted, stagnant property, on a railroad line, near the Bay, far from a freeway from which you can’t even see their project.

For NIMBYs backyards spread a long way. NIMBY’s must take a great deal of credit for FCFC–Freeway Congestion For Commuters

Dwayne Hunn works on affordable housing projects as Assistant Executive Director of Novato Ecumenical Housing.)

Address our housing needs

Marin Independent Journal   January 27, 1988


Address our housing needs

By Dwayne Hunn

Dwayne Hunn chairs the Ma­rin Housing Development

Trust Fund Task Force. 

A recent Marin Independent Journal editorial accurately said:

“Marin land is pricey to the point of exclusivity. We are at risk of becoming a single-class society of landed gentry, served by outsiders who commute be­cause they cannot afford to live where they work.”

In that editorial, the U called for the establishment of a permanent relation­ship between the Marin Community Foundation and a network of non-profit affordable housing associations.

In 1984, when the San Francisco Foundation administered the Buck Trust, a group of affordable housing pro­viders began to develop such a program. Pursuit of this concept consumed sub­stantial amounts of organizational time, showed few results and produced much frustration.

After two years, at Novato Ecumenical Housing’s urging, Supervisor Robert Stockwell convened the Canal Commu­nity Alliance, the Ecumenical Association for Housing, Marin Community De­velopment Block Grant officials and the, Marin Housing Authority to resurrect the idea of a Marin Housing Develop­ment Trust Fund. These organizations have provided the staff and funding for a housing development’ proposal.

More than 70 percent of the speakers at the foundation’s community forums expressed affordable housing as their primary need and concern.

As part of the process following their community forums, the foundation is now discussing specific goals for the fu­ture in their Consultation Group meet­ings. Those of us involved in producing affordable housing are confident that the 38-page development trust fund proposal will be given attention by the new foun­dation.

What would a Marin Housing Devel­opment Trust Fund do? As proposed it would implement a unified long-term strategy to produce affordable housing by establishing:

  • A revolving low-interest loan pro­gram that would support 100 percent of the trust fund’s

administrative costs.

  • A risk capital program to enable non-profit sponsors to pursue outstand­ing property acquisition


  • A pre-development seed money pro­gram, which would use annual earnings on an endowment to

make loans to get projects started.

  • A grant program, which would sup­plement existing sources of such funds to reduce the up-front costs of housing.

The task force requested $5 million a year for four years to implement this model program. At this time, while the foundation’s, income is low for the next few years, $5 million could amount to 25 percent of the foundation’s yearly in­come — certainly, a lot of money. But when one remembers that most people devote 30 percent or more of their yearly income to shelter costs, that kind of foundation budgeting does not seem un­reasonable.

Drawing $5 million a year from the $400 million corpus and securing it on Marin real estate should also be consid­ered as a profitable strategy and a rea­sonable investment in improving Marin’s quality of life.

Each task force member, as well as the other housing advocates who have pro­vided valuable input to the Marin Hous­ing Development Trust Fund proposal, hope that the New Year will find Marin on its way to answering some of the impassioned pleas for affordable housing that were so often heard during the com­munity forums.