San Rafael approves updated general plan, downtown vision – Marin Independent Journal

San Rafael City Council approved the 2040 General Plan and the updated downtown plan this week.

The changes to the planning document, which serves as a blueprint for the city’s future, were approved in a 4-0 with Maika Llorens Gulati absent on Monday. The new parts include an increased focus on climate change and resilience, historic preservation policies, an element of refocused mobility and an element of equity, diversity and inclusion, city officials said.

In June, the Planning Commission reviewed the update, which also contains changes to the height of buildings in some areas of the city center, although consultant Barry Miller said most areas of the city remained the same. Staff identified some areas where height bonuses can be granted for future development, “while maintaining some local control over what goes on downtown.”

Larkspur resident Robin Moller thanked the council for the plan’s focus on reducing greenhouse gases and said that the burning of natural gas being the main issue, the city should focus on l ‘electricity.

Mayor Kate Colin said she hopes the plan will serve as a call to action for residents on water conservation, greenhouse gas reduction and forest fire prevention through hardening of the House.

“We only directly control a very small amount of this,” she said. “As a city, we can get the ball out of the park, but if the residents don’t put in their own efforts, we’ll have a hard time moving the needle on it. “

A Marin Transit bus stops in the Canal District in San Rafael on Tuesday, March 27, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

The plan has been criticized by some who said they were concerned with the designation of a “zone of opportunity” in the Canal district and the engagement of all citizens, including those in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Opportunity Zone is a federal designation that offers tax incentives to developers who renovate properties in the area, allowing private companies to write off or defer federal taxes on capital gains as an incentive to invest. investment.

There are 245 properties in the Canal Opportunity Zone and 1,679 residences in the area. The median monthly income for the predominantly Latino community is $ 3,533 and is in the top 10% of Marin County census tracts in terms of housing instability.

Damian Morgan, chairman of the Marin City Community Services District board of directors, said he believed there had been a lack of discussion in the overall plan regarding the area of ​​opportunity, and that people living in the canal were affected by the cost of housing “crammed into overcrowded apartments and low wages.

“Anything that gives the rich breaks, it affects the poor in a very, very bad way,” Morgan said. “When are you going to defend the residents you claim to care about … in the Canal community?”

Lindsey Smith asked how the downtown update, called the Downtown Precise Plan, will incorporate affordable housing considerations.

“How will the restrictions on the city center affect the housing plan?” She asked, adding that residents know “that it is impossible to spend less than 60% of general income on housing”.

City manager Jim Schutz said the city is providing assistance to anyone displaced from the Canal Opportunity Zone, as the community is a primary development area. These residents might be eligible for compensation for the first month’s rent, a security deposit equal to two months’ rent, moving expenses, and additional funds for children, the elderly or the disabled, which may s ‘Raise about $ 20,000 for each household displaced. The city’s assistance ordinance is based on state and local laws, giving tenants the right to relocation assistance in the event of an eviction.

Miller said there have been discussions with the nonprofit Canal Alliance about development across the Opportunity Zone and said the fight for fair housing will be included in the next update of the housing element.

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