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The sloth-like development project at 500 Miller Avenue.

Just a few minutes after the Mill Valley City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to further study the possibility of building a multi-unit affordable housing development on city-owned land on Hamilton Drive, it pivoted to push back on the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) regional housing methodology for how much more housing the city would have to build – 865 in Mill Valley’s case.

“This is ridiculous,” Mayor John McCauley said. “These numbers are cynical. They are so large they are almost by design so high that you cannot meet them. After tonight, we’ve proved that we are very serious about low income housing.”

In appealing the regional housing mandate, Mill Valley joined Larkspur, Sausalito and Corte Madera on an ever-growing list of municipalities pushing back on a methodology they say is out of sync with smaller cities, particularly those like Mill Valley that with limited potential areas for development area due to the fire danger associated with the wildland urban interface that contains hundreds of existing homes.  

One wrinkle with the growing number of appeals is the fact that while ABAG creates the formula to decide the number of housing units – a total of 441,000 for the Bay Area by 2031 – the total number for Marin County number stays the same, so that any decline in one community will translate into a spike for others.

“There’s a bit of infighting we’re dealing with among our local communities on the numbers,” Senior Planner Danielle Staude told the Council. “And there isn’t a big success rate in the appeal process.”

​”We have made a very good faith effort to increase housing in our town,” Councilmember Urban Carmel said. “We’ve spent four hours talking about it tonight alone. We have great data on the incredible lack of available land to build on. We are on very solid ground and we need to state that very clearly to ABAG to understand the constraints we are under.”

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