Marin County affordable housing project cut in half after pushback over equity concerns

An affordable housing development planned for the former Village Baptist Church property at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City has been reduced by nearly half its originally proposed size after community groups said it would contribute to gentrification and the displacement of historically marginalized Black and brown families. (Google image)

The size and scope of a planned affordable housing complex in Marin City has been scaled down virtually by half after pushback from the community, according to Marin County.

The development slated for 825 Drake Ave. on the former site of a Baptist church had an original proposal of 74 units in five stories, but would now contain a maximum of 42 units, the county said last week.

The history of Marin City residents’ voices being overlooked in county plans factored into the changes, according to Marin Community Development Agency director Sarah Jones.

“We feel this change gives Marin City the voice they didn’t have a chance to express when the project was originally proposed and approved,” said Jones in a release sent out by the county, adding that the original proposal was put forth before the county adopted its housing plan last year.

But nonprofits and community groups have been very vocal about their opposition to the project, citing historical inequities in Marin City for Black and brown residents and the specter of gentrification.

One group expressing reservations with the project is the Sierra Club, which applauds infill development in the city that is close to transportation, but saying it “fails on multiple serious factors,” such as actually being unaffordable to many Black residents who are already facing displacement due to gentrification.

The Sierra Club said that though 80 percent of the units would be set aside for low-income households, in Marin County, that means a single person making $97,600 qualifies.

“That means this project won’t meet the needs of Marin City’s Black residents, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line,” said the environmental group on its website.

Twenty percent of the units at the site in its original proposal would be set aside for very low-income households, which the Sierra Club clocked at 15 apartments.

‘Massive, poorly conceived, unsafe and dangerous’

Perhaps the most vocal group against the project is dubbed Save Our City, which is affiliated with the Hannah Project Partnership for Academic Achievement in Marin City, a community-based organization that promotes equity for low-income Black and brown youth and their families.

Save Our City calls the development “massive, poorly conceived, unsafe and dangerous,” citing its proximity to senior housing that they say will be impacted by the five-story building blocking its sunlight and also creating an impediment to emergency vehicles.

“The 825 Drake Project by design will exacerbate these threats and puts a nail in the coffin that will remove the black and low-income persons from Marin City and the county all together,” reads the group’s webpage.

Save Our City said it filed a lawsuit to stop funding for the project, which it says is a continuance of “the paternalism, inequity and disregard for the interests and concerns of Marin City residents that have characterized the County’s relationship with Marin City for the past 80 years.”

Save Our City protests the Drake Avenue affordable housing project on Sept. 6. 2023. (Save Our City/YouTube)

Marin City has the largest population of Black residents in the county due to the Great Migration, when people from the South headed west to work in California’s military shipyards.

Men and women came to Marin City during World War II for better lives, but found themselves forced to live in one place — Marin City — through housing redlining and segregation.

Today, Marin County continues to have disparities along racial lines. According to the Marin County Race Equity Planning Committee, as of 2022, the county came in second in the state for being the most racially disparate across several indicators such as housing, health, economic opportunity and education.

“This project has concerned me from the outset,” said Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, who represents Marin City. “After a lot of work based on community input and collaboration with the developer … this proposal reduces the size and scale of the project, including more parking spaces and improved landscaping in a community that has uniquely suffered decades of inequitable policies since World War II.”

The remaining 32 units will be built in a city or town outside of Marin City, the county said.

“I believe this proposal works to better balance the clear need for new affordable housing while better fitting within the surrounding neighborhood that has for too long been overlooked,” said Moulton-Peters.

Save Our City could not be reached to respond to the proposed changes to the housing plan.

The post Marin County affordable housing project cut in half after pushback over equity concerns appeared first on Local News Matters.

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