San Francisco Chronicle
August 22, 2023
J.K. Dineen

A former gun range just north of San Quentin State Prison is set to become Marin County’s largest affordable housing development in 50 years, after the state certified the environmental study for the project.

The development, dubbed Oak Hill, will sit on about 8½ acres of unused state property in an unincorporated area of Larkspur tucked between the 3,000-inmate prison and a subdivision of multimillion-dollar homes. It will include 135 units of workforce housing for teachers and staff of local housing districts as well as another 115 homes targeting low-income families.

The development will overlook the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, and the site is walking distance to a SMART Train stop as well as bus stops, bike trails, a grocery store and other shops.

A 2022 report found that nearly 43% of Marin school staffers cannot afford to rent a studio apartment in the county, which is annually among the state’s wealthiest. The school district started the year with about 70 vacancies.

“This housing will play a major part in addressing this problem and give many of our people the ability to live closer without commuting for hours each day to teach or perform their essential work,” said Marin County Superintendent of Schools John Carroll.

The transition from gun range to housing was made possible by a 2019 executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that made state-owned surplus properties available for affordable housing. Other projects include 262 units set for Turk Street and Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco, 248 units in South Lake Tahoe, and a 110-acre development at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton.

Because the project is on state-owned land, it is not subject to the approval of local Marin County officials, who have a track record of delaying or denying large developments.

The teacher housing will be built by Education Housing Partners, while Eden Housing will develop the other units. The two developments will share common infrastructure including an entry driveway, parking and open spaces.

“The production of affordable housing for the local workforce is one of our most pressing challenges, particularly in communities like Marin, where the barrier to housing is incredibly high,” offered Teddy Newmyer, associate director of real estate development at Eden Housing. “To have this opportunity on state-owned land is a tremendous gift.”

Education Housing Partners CEO Bruce Dorfman called the hillside parcel an “incredible site” for affordable housing and said it could be a model for other educator housing projects.

“Marin’s cost of living has created persistent staffing challenges for our local school districts, especially in the recruitment of young teachers to the area,” he said.

A joint powers authority formed between the Marin County Office of Education and the County of Marin. The Marin County Board of Supervisors and Marin County Board of Education unanimously supported the framework of this partnership in order to build these 135 new homes for public school and county employees earning 50%-120% of area median income.

The developers are currently applying for financing in anticipation of an early 2025 groundbreaking.

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