Marin Independent Journal
May 3, 2023
Marin IJ Editorial Board

The Oak Hill Apartments plan is an example of turning words into action.

For years, Marin school officials have cited the high cost of housing in our county as a hurdle in recruiting and retaining top-quality teachers.

Candidates for local classrooms often decline Marin schools’ job offers because of the high cost of buying a home or renting an apartment. Often, teachers who gain experience here opt for jobs in nearby counties where housing is more affordable or they don’t have to spend an hour or more of their mornings and afternoons stuck in commute traffic.

Some Marin educators have looked at opportunities to build affordable housing for them here.

A dearth of opportune sites and cost have been hurdles to getting them built.

But an offer from California officials to build on a surplus piece of state-owned land near San Quentin State Prison has paved the way for the complex of 135 affordable apartments for school and county employees and 115 units for lower-income tenants.

The planning process may be frustrating for neighbors, but so is the growing need for affordable workforce housing. As local home prices and rents continue to climb, so does the local need for workforce housing.

The property – 8.5 acres across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the prison – is a rare opportunity. Because it is state-owned, the planning process has been handled by the state, not local jurisdictions where local political pressure might have frustrated the development potential of the property.

There has been some opposition, most of it from nearby residents concerning traffic congestion and safety along the winding two-lane stretch of Drake. The state is completing an environmental report, which will address those concerns.

With an estimated $200 million to $225 million price tag, the development is a prime example of the financial hurdle of building affordable housing in our county.

It is also a rare opportunity. The county and the Marin County Office of Education have stepped forward in forming a joint powers agreement to manage the workforce part of the property.

It is also a large development for Marin in a location that is close to transit, shopping and jobs.

Besides meeting the goals of helping recruit and retain school and county workers, supporters of the development say it should also open the door to addressing racial- and economic-equity issues facing our county.

It’s an example of government stepping forward and responding to a longstanding challenge.

It is also an example of contributing to the call from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to build more housing to meet the state’s shortage, especially in the Bay Area.

Certainly, the state and the county need to make sure that traffic safety concerns are fairly studied and addressed.

This is a chance to build a model for providing affordable workforce housing. Its success will be reflected in the number of school teachers and workers and county employees who want to live there.

It could very well create a pattern for other opportunities to address a pressing need in our county.

Read the full article.