An aerial of the section of Miller Ave. most often identified as possible housing on Miller Avenue.

After a comprehensive two-year public engagement process that included 12 public meetings, several community workshops, and online surveys, the City of Mill Valley’s Housing Element has been approved by the State of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).  “The approval of the Housing Element marks an important milestone and reflects the City’s commitment to a vibrant, welcoming, small town community that embraces diversity in housing, income levels, and lifestyles,” Mayor Urban Carmel said. Learn more about this important milestone.

Under the state’s housing mandate, the city must permit 865 more residences during the next eight-year planning cycle. The mandate includes 262 residences for very-low-income households, 151 for low-income households, 126 for moderate-income households and 326 for above-moderate-income households.

Mill Valley is planning for 969 dwellings, including 289 for very-low-income households, 185 for low-income, 151 for moderate-income and 344 for above-moderate households.

Changes to the sites inventory include adding information on development trends in Mill Valley and describing the characteristics of the SB 9 parcels. SB 9 is a law that allows property owners to split lots for up to four dwellings.

The fair housing section was changed to reflect a demographic analysis. One finding in the analysis was that “Mill Valley lacks diversity within the entire city and is considered a segregated community.”

The revisions included identifying priorities in fair housing, contributing factors and their level of priority, which are: a lack of progress in furthering fair housing; racially concentrated areas of affluence citywide; discrimination in the home sales market and disparities in home ownership; and community opposition to affordable housing.

“We started on the housing element more than two years ago,” Mayor Urban Carmel said. “This has been a long process and we’ve been going through this for a long time.”

Now the re-zoning process must happen.

What does that mean? All cities in Marin must close out their required zoning updates and preparing to implement updated housing elements. The updated documents will guide the production of new housing over the eight-year period through 2031.

In all of Marin, the 2023-31 requirement is 14,405 new residences countywide, compared to 2,298 in the prior cycle. The state rejected appeals to reduce the number.

Alicia Murillo, a communications specialist with the state housing agency, identified Tiburon and Mill Valley as two municipalities that must conduct rezoning before the end of the month.

“Tiburon completed its rezone, and HCD is evaluating for compliance with the housing element,” Murillo said. “Mill Valley has indicated to HCD that it is in the process of completing its rezones.”

Mill Valley planning and building director Patrick Kelly said the city Planning Commission will consider the zoning changes on Jan. 23.

In addition to the aforementioned 1 Hamilton plan, the housing element identifies 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. The city also plans on 16 residences developed under SB 9, a state housing law that allows property owners to split lots for up to four dwellings, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

As for 1 Hamilton, the Mill Valley Planning Commission held a study session – a chance for all stakeholders to have their say without a definitive final vote attached to the process – and focused on some concerns about the overall design of the project. That process will continue in the coming weeks.

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.

City officials have made it clear that they are serious about pulling every lever possible to create the conditions that would significantly expand on the approximately 6,670 current housing units and support the amount of additional housing for which they’re on the hook, according to ABAG.

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