Community Marin

Community Marin 2013

A Vision for Marin County

Community Marin coverPolicy Recommendations

Community Marin 2013 has been released after a three-year collaborative effort by member groups.

Community Marin presents recommendations of Marin County’s major environmental organizations to provide an environmentally responsible foundation for land use planning. The chapters are organized consistent with the general plans of Marin County and its cities and towns but recommendations are widely applicable to all land use planning whether by public jurisdictions or private developers. Community Marin focuses on major issue areas that the environmental organizations believe are of countywide importance and provides a basis for advocacy by these groups.

The recommendations and policies in Community Marin are endorsed by Marin Conservation League, Marin Baylands Advocates, Marin Audubon Society, San Geronimo Valley Planning Group, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, and the Marin Group of the Sierra Club.


Community Marin is a longstanding project of Marin Conservation League and other of Marin’s leading environmental organizations to define a environmental vision for the County.

corridormapcwpMarin's Environmental Corridors, the Baylands Protection Corridor is in purple. (Countywide Plan)

The project and collaboration began in late 1990, when the County was beginning the second major update to the 1973 Countywide Plan (CWP). The year before, in 1988, a major transportation tax measure (Measure A) had been defeated through efforts by MCL and others who felt that the CWP should establish a land use framework that should precede, rather than follow, any transportation tax measure.  At the suggestion of the County Planning Director, MCL formed a working group to develop its vision for future growth in the County—in effect, an “environmental alternative” for the upcoming Plan.  This alternative was to recommend where and how much housing and commercial development would be appropriate; what areas should be protected; and a rate of development which would be consistent with resource capacity. MCL’s working group led to the formation of an inter-organizational collaboration by MCL, Marin Audubon Society, Sierra Club Marin Group, and the Environmental Forum of Marin.  The group became known as “Community Marin.”

The group’s first work in 1991 was a report—“Community Marin, Our Future…Our Choice.”  It provided policy recommendations to guide planners, elected officials, and citizen groups in making environmentally sound decisions about complex issues of transportation, housing, community development, environmental protection, agricultural preservation, and the economy. It also served as a tool for ongoing education and discussion about the county’s future growth, and established a set of common environmental planning principles focusing on the eastern urban portions of the County, which were supported by the four organizations.  The report played a significant role in shaping the 1994 CWP update, even though not all of its recommendations were adopted by the County.

After the County’s adoption of the 1994 CWP update, the Community Marin group continued to meet and disseminated their report to other decision makers (including city council members) throughout the County. In 1997, the group began revisions to “Community Marin” to reflect changing conditions and needs.  In addition to updating recommendations for housing, the economy, transportation, and community facilities, the revision took an ecosystem approach to land, water, air, agriculture, and wildlife issues. The revision also added a Strategic Action Plan Program—a set of specific recommendations for implementation over the next five years.  Chief among the strategies was a continued push to incorporate a “fourth corridor”—a Baylands Protection Corridor—into the Marin CWP and, if possible, into the general plans of Marin’s cities that share the San Francisco and San Pablo Bay shoreline.

The 1991 Community Marin report had identified several major planning areas and planned projects that involved major planning entitlements and/or zoning decisions.  Among them were the Buck Center on Aging, redevelopment of Hamilton Air force Base, the Renaissance Faire site at Black Point, urban growth north of Novato,  Bel Marin Keys Unit V, LucasFilm at Skywalker Ranch and other ranches, and the St. Vincent’s/Silveira properties located between San Rafael and Novato.


New housing at Hamilton seen through a hangar

By 1998, most of these planning issues had been resolved, not necessarily as hoped, but nonetheless no longer needing attention.  The Buck Center had been approved and constructed (it celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2009).  In 1997, Novato had successfully passed an Urban Growth Boundary to contain development from going north, after a strong campaign by MCL’s North Marin Unit and others. The first homeowners had moved into the redeveloped Hamilton Field, the Black Point battle had been lost, and LucasFilm had won approval for another phase of development, in spite of serious zoning and CWP issues. Bel Marin Keys’ Unit V 1,600 acre expansion site, after many years of attempted development, was purchased by State Coastal Conservancy for eventual tidal restoration. The most vulnerable area—the St. Vincent’s/Silveira Ranch—remained at risk. All of these changes were reflected in a revised “Community Marin 1998” report.

In 2001, as the County began its third major update of the CWP, the group again undertook to revise “Community Marin,” reiterating the need for a Bayfront Protection Corridor and protection for major undeveloped lands such as St. Vincent’s/Silveira.  The document also recommended reducing the amount of planned new commercial retail and office development in the county so as to reduce the serious imbalance between affordable housing and jobs and to curb growing traffic congestion. The revised report, “Community Marin 2003,” played a key role in what became the County’s 2007 CWP.

When the 2007 CWP was adopted by the Board of Supervisors, it reflected some of the key ideas from Community Marin: After more than 20 years of advocacy for baylands protection, the 2007 CWP added a fourth corridor to the three-corridor CWP framework dating from the 1973 CWP: “Baylands.” And it placed a reasonable cap on development of St. Vincent’s/Silveira lands. The 2007 CWP also established a new planning framework based on sustainability principles that were threaded throughout the 2007 CWP.


The St. Vincent's/Silveira properties today

Today, the Community Marin group meets regularly with, or testifies before, County supervisors and planning commission to participate in the ongoing Local Coastal Program (LCP) update; reviews and comment on current projects with countywide significance; and monitors implementation of 2007 CWP policies.

Community Marin and its collaborative approach has been a success. Working mostly behind the scenes, Community Marin continues to be effective and successful promoting sound planning in the County.

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