By Kevin T. Haroff
Guest op-ed column
Posted: 11/23/2013 05:52:00 PM PST
Kevin Haroff, Larkspur City Council. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost) Frankie Frost
THE IJ's Nov. 12 editorial, "Marin Housing lawsuit is not going to change state laws," painted a misleading portrait of the reasons why a local citizens' group, the Marin Community Alliance, recently filed a legal challenge to the Board of Supervisors' Sept. 24 approval of a new Housing Element for the Marin Countywide General Plan.
MCA did not bring this action in order to change state housing laws.
Our group understands that the county must meet obligations Sacramento has imposed on local jurisdictions to implement regional mandates encouraging affordable housing and transportation-oriented development.
We do share concerns expressed by others over the manner in which these regional mandates have been developed by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
But challenging those mandates is not what our lawsuit is all about.
Our goal is simply to ensure that the county meets its housing-related obligations in a manner that also respects its larger duty to consider the consequences of its actions under the state's cornerstone environmental protection statute, the California Environmental Protection Act.
We believe the county failed to do that when it approved the new General Plan Housing Element.
The county's efforts to short-circuit the requirements of CEQA brought objections from a wide range of groups and interests during the public hearings the county conducted as part of its approval process.
Those objections focused on a wide range of issues, from the abbreviated nature of the environmental review the county conducted, to its reliance on information from earlier documents that are now substantially out of date, to its failure to address the potentially significant environmental impacts that will be caused by the high-density development projects that the Housing Element is designed to promote.
Unfortunately, these objections fell largely on deaf ears, with legitimate public concerns generally ignored, discounted or brushed aside.
As a result, the Housing Element the county has now adopted is fundamentally flawed and should not be used as the basis for planning decisions that could dramatically change the character of our community.
MCA believes that Marin County deserves a housing plan that does not circumvent existing policies and procedures; that uses accurate data as a foundation for making informed decisions; and that ensures the financial and environmental impacts of any site-selection process will be distributed in a fair and balanced way — honoring and in alignment with the county's greater interests.
Hopefully, our lawsuit will lay the groundwork for the future adoption of a plan that accomplishes all of those goals.
Kevin T. Haroff of Greenbrae is a lawyer for Marin Community Alliance. On Nov. 5, he was elected to the Larkspur City Council.