Publication: Marin Independent Journal
Author: Jim Staats

An innovative housing proposal for Mill Valley teachers will be reviewed by city officials and community members this week.

The proposed construction of four residential townhouse units for faculty rental at 35 Forrest St. will come before the city’s Planning Commission Monday in a study session. Items scheduled to be discussed include zoning and parking issues, design review, tree removal and environmental review.

The project developer, Mill Valley-based Thompson Dorfman, has offered to donate the 7,250-square-foot parcel, which the developer owns, for the project. The site now serves as a private parking lot for an adjacent office building.

Mill Valley Planning Director Rory Anne Walsh said the pending application was “at the very beginning of the review stages.”

“This study session is basically for the Planning Commission not to make any determination, but give direction after some discussion of how they might consider future issues,” she said.

Walsh said the project has generated a number of letters from neighborhood representatives with concerns about parking, development size and landscape changes. The city has also received a petition from the Parkwood Association of Neighbors opposing the development because of concerns about tree removal, neighborhood impact, inordinate rezoning and a lack of public involvement.

The project would consist of a 4,500-square-foot two-story building that would include two one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units, averaging about 1,125 square feet in size.

The four dwelling units would be built over a parking area. Landscape plans would include the removal of an existing oak and laurel tree.

Mill Valley schools Superintendent Ken Benny said the district’s role in the project has remained informal since Bruce Dorfman, a partner in the Thompson-Dorfman firm, brought forward the idea two years ago.

Dorfman, whose children attend district schools, described the proposed land donation to the school district as a small-scale aid to teacher retention.

“Teachers are going to be so hard-pressed to live in the community,” he said. “I think we’re really in a situation where it is going to be hard to recruit and retain teachers.”

The firm, formed in 1999, has been involved in recent rental community developments for the Santa Clara Unified School District and San Mateo Community College District, although land in each of those cases was already owned by the district.

“This is a district that doesn’t have a surplus of land they can use for that purpose,” Dorfman said, noting as proposed recipient of the donation, the Mill Valley School District could choose to use it exclusively for staff and faculty housing. He said targeted monthly rental prices would be about $1,000 for one-bedroom units and $1,200 to $1,300 for two-bedroom units.

“It’s a small step frankly,” Dorfman said. “But I think it’s a good use for a parking lot.”

Benny said the district board has yet to take any formal action to support or oppose the development, noting the district “wants to remain involved and informed in the process.”