Photo: Frank Schulenberg/Flickr

Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) is attempting to limit Marin County’s affordable housing regulations more than any other county in California with a provision called Assembly Bill 121. The bill was attached to the state budget, which has already been approved, meaning it does not have to stand up to scrutiny at the committee stage.

Marin County has an average household income of $133,128, compared to the 2015 national average of $56,516. The Los Angeles Times reports that wealth disparity between the rich and poor in Marin County is one of the largest in the state.

In an interview with LAT, Levine argues that the measure will actually help the housing crisis. While developers tend to agree that larger affordable housing projects make more economic sense, Levine says that the rising cost of land, lack of steel construction and underground parking might persuade them otherwise. He would also prefer that the buildings look like those of suburban areas, like Santa Rosa or Petaluma, rather than metropolitan areas such as San Francisco or Oakland.

“There are ideologues in housing,” he said. “What I’m most interested in is pragmatic approaches that result in more housing for the people that need it.”

The bill would serve as an extension of a law Levine’s wrote in 2014 that permitted the cities of Novato and San Rafael, along with the entirety of Marin County, to limit new build projects to three stories. The law was supposed to expire in 2023, but Assembly Bill 121 would prolong that timeline by five years. A performance analysis of the policy is scheduled to be delivered in 2019, but there’s currently no way of measuring its effectiveness.

Michael Lane, Policy Director for the The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, disagrees with Levine’s proposal. “It’s way too early,” Lane said. “We don’t understand why this became a priority and why all the other housing issues didn’t.”

Levine’s bill has only gone through one public hearing and could be signed into law as early as this Thursday.

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