Sustainable Mill Valley

Affordable Housing Survey Responses

The Issue
Affordable Housing means different things to different people. ABAG quotas aside, how do you define affordable housing and what do you think our obligation as a community is to provide affordable housing? What are your ideas to implement affordable housing?

Maureen Parton

The Definition:
Affordable housing is a way of describing or quantifying a ratio that expresses how much of a person’s income should be devoted to housing. By and large, it is assumed that people can afford to pay about a third of their income on housing. The relationship of household income to housing costs is key to understanding whether in fact housing is affordable. We need to ask ourselves who needs housing in our community and why is it important to provide this housing at affordable levels?

The Overview of Housing Needs In Marin County, published in February of 2002, set out a few examples of very low income jobs: cashier, cook, recreation worker, retail salesperson, childcare worker, emergency medical technician. Low income jobs included: open space ranger, children’s librarian, street maintenance worker, custodian, elementary school teacher and emergency dispatcher. Moderate income jobs included: fire inspector, entry level firefighter and police officer, pharmacist and nurse practitioner.

Providing affordable workforce housing is a social good and helps address one of Mill Valley’s chief environmental problems - our lack of affordable housing. People with service jobs make our community a safe and pleasant place to live. Service workers in Mill Valley should be able to live here, if they desire. Furthermore, to the extent that service workers live in Mill Valley, their lives and ours are healthier and more sustainable: We all enjoy cleaner air and less traffic congestion from the influx of a commuting workforce. Our local workforce should be part of the community it serves and should not have to commute long distances to work here. It calls us to reawaken to the village concept that brought us Mill Valley in the first place. Mill Valley has always prided itself on the inclusiveness and diversity of its residents with workers and the wealthy living together in harmony and goodwill.

On the Mill Valley Planning Commission and as Aide to Supervisor McGlashan, I have met with affordable housing developers and advocates to learn about the challenge we face and to support their initiatives. I have attended affordable housing seminars and education sessions. I see the mixed use development on Miller as providing some units of affordable housing as a result of the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance. On the Commission, I have advocated for going beyond the 20% inclusionary housing requirement in larger projects (4 units +) that have come before us. I consistently urge applicants to stretch to provide housing for very low and low income residents, as these categories are not well served by our current housing choices.

My vision for Mill Valley includes a commitment to provide affordable housing ~ an essential community resource that ensures diversity. This will not be easy. Land prices are high and development costs are climbing with resources and materials costs escalating. But, there are many roads to the top of this mountain. The creation of affordable housing deserves a comprehensive approach that looks at many methods, only one of which is building.

A comprehensive approach considers a range of ideas, including creative re-use of current structures, units along streets served by transit, sponsorship/incentives for deed restricted second-units, second unit amnesty programs, commercial inclusionary units for workforce housing and single family homes for families. Depending on the specific site, additional housing units on a single parcel next to transit can be a good part of an overall plan. Thus far, second units have served to meet a large portion of our current housing allocation. However, second units on hillsides and remote areas (away from existing transit and services) add to parking and traffic impacts to the neighborhoods and our City. They are not the complete solution.

I will work to explore ways to bring more affordable housing into existence by inviting community partners to the table for a plan we can put in place in Mill Valley. I will invite residents to meet with the Marin Community Foundation, the Marin Builders Association, the Marin Association of Realtors, the Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative, and nonprofit housing developers, like the Ecumenical Association for Housing, to pursue local housing trust fund monies, state and federal funds, and our own city funding strategy to strengthen and diversify Mill Valley’s housing portfolio to include more affordable housing.

Footnote to the Affordability question:
In Marin, the level of affordability is pegged to the median household income for a family of four: median income is now $86,500. A very low income family makes 35% - 50 % of the median income ($30,300 to 43,250); low income makes between 50% - 80% of median ($43,250 - 69,200) and a moderate income family makes between 80% - 120% ($69,200 - 103,800) of the median income.

Ken Wachtel

1. I am keenly aware of the need for more affordable housing in Mill Valley. It is not only just the right thing for our community and for those who need this housing, but affordable housing is a key plank in my platform for Environmental Repair in Mill Valley. Please read more on these issues at

For the past several years I have served as a member of the Mill Valley Affordable Housing Committee. I have worked with the community to find creative ways to facilitate and implement more affordable housing. I have spoken with community groups and neighborhood associations encouraging support for affordable housing. I have participated in educational presentations of affordable housing during Memorial Day festivities.

Affordable housing is crucial for those who work in Mill Valley, like our teachers, service workers and local businesses. Affordable housing is also a key to reducing the environmental impact of green house gasses resulting from the transportation burden of these workers traveling to their jobs from outside Mill Valley.

2. As a member of the Mill Valley City Council I will reach out and work with the community, Staff, the Planning Commission, members of the City Council, the County and other interested and knowledgeable parties on a policy to increase the number of affordable housing units in and near Mill Valley

The City should consider investing in and supporting of low and moderate income housing to the extent financially and legally possible. This was done by Mill Valley with the very successful Pickelweed project several years ago. The City could have considered making this type of investment in Old Mill Commons which was designed to provide 10 units of affordable housing. In the proper circumstances the City should consider other means of supporting such projects. In doing so the City would be making a great investment in its own future. The City should also consider the possibility of vouchers and a housing trust.

On the planning side, I would consider amending the zoning ordinances to provide an incentive to single family home builders to create dedicated affordable housing units by offering a larger Floor Area Ratio (square footage allowance) credit for those who include second units held as affordable housing. We can also consider vouchers and a housing trust. There should be consideration of affordable housing in all planning decisions. This is a difficult issue in Mill Valley but I am determined to work with the community to achieve a workable solution.

Stephanie Moulton-Peters

I believe that we are a stronger community when we are a more diverse community- economically and culturally. The greater diversity we can bring to our community, the wider our range of skills and experiences we have to draw upon, and the richer is the fabric of our community. I support the underpinnings of the California Housing Element Law which is designed to ensure that every city in the State steps up to plan for the housing needs across the income spectrum across the community. This planning is particularly important in the coastal communities of California, including Mill Valley, where land prices have skyrocketed, driving affordable housing farther east into the state; adding to the traffic burden while decreasing the quality of life of all those who must spend hours a day commuting.

In preparing for this election, I have talked with a number of experts who have designed, financed, and completed affordable housing projects in the Bay Area. From those discussions, I have a greater appreciation of how difficult the challenge is to meaningfully increase the affordable housing stock in a city which is largely built-out and where the median housing price is approaching $1 million.

Implementing a tangible, realistic and progressive affordable housing vision for Mill Valley will require us to employ new ways of thinking about the roles of developers, the City, non profit organizations, the financial community, and the citizens of Mill Valley. If we want affordable housing, we need to look beyond inclusionary zoning, in which developers set aside a certain percentage of units as affordable in new multi unit developments. We will also want to consider a wider array of affordable housing options including: smaller senior units; work-live studio lofts; and co-housing and single room occupancy housing where there are shared kitchen and dining facilities.

George Gordon

I may be the only candidate who actually offers affordable housing in Mill Valley. I occupy a duplex with an apartment below. I have consistently offered it to local, low income residents. It is a one bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath; I charge $800 per month including utilities. I also have a second property in Mill Valley, a 1914 cottage which I restored and upgraded and offer on a short term basis to parents, grandparents, visiting children and friends visiting friends. It is a complete house, sleeps five, occupies its own lot and is fully furnished for a low as $170.00 per day. It is occupied almost 90% of the time.

Mill Valley is unaffordable to many who would like to live here. In fact, it is beginning to be unaffordable to some who already are here. I believe that most who use the term affordable housing would fail to define it satisfactorily. I believe that if we interchanged the idea of affordable housing, to “Maintaining a good population mix" (young, middle age and old, and high, medium and low income, single, single parents, couples and married couples with or without children), we might get closer to being able to implement policies that could accomplish that as a goal. I do not believe that one solution fits all. If we are lead to believe that the solution is to build apartments that have less than market rate rent, we missing the point; that can only solve a small part of the stated goal. I think that we need a comprehensive set of solutions that will allow us to keep the elderly in their homes, assist young singles, singles families and young couples in establishing community stability. Government’s roll is to do for the general public that which the individual cannot do by himself. In this case, it is going to take a combined effort by both government and the individual to come up with creative solutions to maintain our community population mix with subsidies, enhancements, grants, and partnerships whose aim is to accomplish that goal.

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Last updated: 10/12/07