Legislature Passes Budget Item Extending Marin’s Suburban Housing Designation

Thursday, July 6, 2017

SB106  will recognize Marin as a suburban county for purposes of affordable housing density.

(Sacramento)- SB 106, a budget trailer bill negotiated by Assemblymember Levine, (D-Marin County), was approved by the Legislature with bipartisan support. SB 106 extends the sunset date on a 2014 law authored by Assemblymember Levine that recognizes Marin as a suburban county for the purposes of  developing affordable housing.  The law was originally going to sunset in 2023 and will now sunset in 2028 with lasting effects until 2032.

“The suburban designation gives cities and counties more flexibility to zone land suitable for affordable housing that fits the suburban development of Marin,” Assemblymember Levine said. “It is important that affordable housing gets built and we reduce barriers that have blocked housing in the past.”

“We are committed to providing affordable housing opportunities in Marin and are appreciative of Assemblyman Levine’s efforts to continue to help Marin find a more balanced approach to meeting our housing needs that are consistent with our suburban character,” Supervisor Judy Arnold, President of the Marin County Board of Supervisors said.

Under current law, a county’s default density is determined by a formula which is dependent on the population of the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) where the county is located. This number is then used to determine the density of housing required per acre for the zoning of affordable housing.

The use of  an MSA to designate areas as rural, suburban or urban is flawed. When the Office of Management and Budget under the Obama Administration announced the regulations establishing the MSA, the agency specifically stated that “MSA standards do not produce an urban-rural classification, and confusion of these concepts can lead to difficulties in program implementation.”

Nonetheless, California’s housing requirement depends on whether or not the MSA establishes a region as metropolitan, suburban or rural. Despite its rural and suburban qualities, Marin is considered metropolitan because it is part of the MSA with San Francisco and Alameda County, which are remarkably different both in population and density from Marin. A metropolitan density is 30 housing units per acre, suburban is 20 and rural is 10.

This provision addresses this anomaly in the Government Code that determines Marin County to be a "metropolitan county" for the purpose of default densities in housing element law. Due to this anomaly, neighboring Sonoma County, for example, which has a population almost twice that of Marin County and contains the Santa Rosa-Petaluma Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), is determined to be a "suburban county."

Assemblymember Marc Levine represents the 10th Assembly District, which includes Marin and Sonoma Counties