1 Hamilton rendering

An architectural rendering shows an affordable housing project proposed at 1 Hamilton Drive in Mill Valley. It would have approx. 45 homes. (Rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack LLP).

In May, the Mill Valley City Council voted unanimously to approve a revised housing element to comply with the state housing mandate, agreeing to plan for, but not necessarily build, 865 more residences during the next eight-year planning cycle to comply with state mandates.
To do so, City staff and councilmembers have identified 401 Miller Ave., the complex that’s home to Sol Food and Simple Mills, as well as the large property on East Blithedale Ave. owned by Comcast building. City officials added that property owners interested in the redevelopment include Mill Creek Plaza, Sloat Garden Center, the former Jolly King Liquor store site and the former KFC/Taco Bell building. There are additional plans along other parts of Miller Avenue. The city also plans for 16 residences developed under SB 9, a state housing law that allows property owners to split lots for up to four dwellings.

And then there’s 1 Hamilton Drive (see rendering above), the city-owned property adjacent to the Public Safety building that houses the Mill Valley police station and the adjacent home of the Southern Marin Fire Dept. station. The land closest in proximity to those buildings has long been identified as a home for possible affordable housing, and city officials have engaged with EAH Housing in the hopes of bringing new housing to fruition, and thus expanding opportunity for people to live in the 94941.

1 Hamilton has faced consistent opposition from residents in the Enchanted Knolls neighborhood and adjacent areas, but councilmembers have sought to dispel the notion that a development at 1 Hamilton Drive would be the lone effort to address the City’s efforts to create conditions for more affordable housing. Hamilton Drive-area residents have pushed City officials to explore other neighborhoods and housing opportunities before doing so in their part of town, which has a history of multi-use and some affordable developments. 

Councilmembers have countered that the Hamilton Drive site shows the most promise as a City-owned parcel in proximity to transit corridors and commercial areas, but that all other options are on the table. “This is not going to be the only site we will look at for affordable housing,” Councilmember Urban Carmel added in September, noting that other sites, like the Edgewood Reservoir, the Miller Avenue commercial corridor and areas around the Mill Valley Golf Course and Boyle Park tennis courts, are potentially on the table.

Unconvinced that the city’s aforementioned intentions were serious, Friends of Hauke Park, the organization that has opposed the density of housing in the Enchanted Knolls neighborhood and its neighbors, filed a lawsuit this week against the city, citing “continued discrimination against East Mill Valley neighborhoods in its housing policy and misuse of CEQA.” Specifically, the lawsuit, filed by Patrick Soluri, an attorney with the law firm of Soluri Meserve, pointing to a “longstanding policy of steering public housing away from Mill Valley’s most affluent neighborhoods.”
“FOHP has spent over two years explaining to City officials that capitulation to wealthy and powerful NIMBYs is not legitimate housing policy,” Soluri wrote in a press release, citing the 1 Hamilton proposal.
The lawsuit specifically targets the City’s Housing Element update and questions about whether the City’s site selection “complied with its duty to affirmatively further fair housing throughout the City. The purpose of this lawsuit is to set aside the City’s arbitrary and capricious inventory of affordable sites housing so that all suitable sites throughout Mill Valley are identified without improper political influence, and further to set aside the City’s misuse of CEQA so that a final decision on suitable sites is made after meaningful CEQA review,” Soluri added in a statement. 

“The City Attorney’s office is reviewing the petition and will be advising Council on how to proceed,” said City Manager Todd Cusimano. “We are confident that the City’s Housing Element meets state law requirements and that the City’s action to adopt it was in compliance with CEQA.”

Friends of Hauke Park is seeking $1,000 donations to support its lawsuit, and enumerated what the legal donations have funded to date.

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