A rendering of the proposed 19-unit, mixed use project at 500 Miller Ave.

After months of community outreach and the construction of Mill Valley’s most conspicuous retaining wall, the owner of the community’s most attention-grabbing development project in years is ready for its first public reckoning.

The 500 Miller Avenue project project heads to the Planning Commission for a Study Session – an informal public hearing to give the commission and the public an opportunity to weigh in on the merits of the project before commissioners vote to approve or deny the project at a later date – on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 7pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall. 

The Study Session looks to give the commission plenty to ponder.

Mill Valley resident Agustin Maxemin first proposed a project containing 28 condo units that vary from small to large, including seven below market rate units, 4,030 square feet of retail space and all of the required parking for the units contained on site. Here’s a look at that project:


A rendering of a 28-unit mixed use project proposed for 500 Miller Avenue.

In doing so, he says he sought to improve upon a project approved in 2011 that he bought from developer Al Von der Werth in 2017, one that doesn’t meet the City’s new design guidelines for mixed-used developments or the City’s requirement that at least 25 percent of units in a multi-unit project be affordable. That project consists of nine large condo units and nearly 5,000 square feet of commercial space. Here’s a look at that project:

A rendering of a 9-unit project proposed for 500 Miller Avenue.

But after extensive outreach to a wide range of community stakeholders, from current and former local officials to affordable housing advocates, environmental leaders and business owners, Maxemin and Donna Huntingdale, the Tam’Andari project manager, are putting their weight behind a third option: a 19-unit iteration with three below market units and 4,450 square feet of commercial space. In doing so, Maxemin says he’s trying to strike a compromise between what he says many of those he met with have sought – more housing units at a range of price points that includes below market rates – and the project he inherited that was approved in 2011 and grandfathered in under state law.

“We have an already approved project that I inherited, that I will build if I have to,” Maxemin says. “But we think we can do a lot better for this community in terms the quality of the project and the number of units that we’ll have for workforce housing.”

“We’ve incorporated all of the community input we’ve received so far, and we fell like the 19-unit project strikes the right balance,” adds Maxemin, who has named the project Tam’Andari to incorporate Mt. Tamalpais and the Sanskrit word for “noble community. “We want to build something that addresses the goals of the community and that everyone can be proud of.”

Whatever version of the project the City ends up approving, the vast stretch of vegetation-laden steep hillside on Miller between Reed Street and the former Taco Bell/KFC building ​that has sat vacant for decades will look radically different. While longtime residents recount the property’s one-time use as a quarry and a landslide there in 1969 that brought Miller Ave. to a standstill, there have been infrequent indications of its fate since then. 

All that changed last year, when Maxemin, who has lived in Mill Valley for 23 years, bought the property for $2.9 million with his partners at Forbix Capital, and began the permitted work of excavating nearly 11,000 cubic feet of soil to build a massive retaining wall that is critical for stabilizing – and thus developing – the site.

What comes next could go a long way toward determining Mill Valley’s housing future.

The 411: A Planning Commission Study Session on the 500 Miller Avenue project is set for Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 7pm at Mill Valley City Hall (26 Corte Madera Avenue). GO HERE FOR A FULLER HISTORY of the 500 Miller Avenue project, Maxemin’s background and detailed descriptions of the proposals. The City’s staff report on the project will be available soon and will be posted hereHere is a breakdown of what qualifies as below market rate housing in Marin and the Bay Area.