CLAM rallies public for purchase of Coast Guard complex

07/24/2014

The Community Land Trust Association of West Marin is seeking broad support in their efforts to acquire the Coast Guard housing on the outskirts of Point Reyes Station.

More than 110 people showed up at the Dance Palace for the land trust’s annual meeting on Sunday—a boisterous two hours of speeches punctuated with hoorays and applause, questions about the challenges ahead and, fittingly, a clam chowder dinner—to hear about acquiring roughly three dozen units on the 39-acre site. If successful, CLAM would hold the deed for the underlying land and make homes or rentals available at a much-reduced price. 

“I’ve been a daily witness to the incredible need for housing here,” said Mark Switzer, who manages the E.A.H. development. “The one thing that struck me early on was CLAM’s goal of adding 50 affordable units in 25 years. I thought about that, and I sort of puzzled about it. Then along comes this opportunity, all of a sudden in one fell swoop, to really address the need that I think all of you either intuitively or personally know. It is absolutely essential for us realize that this is the generational moment for this community.”

Since hearing initial rumors, CLAM has partnered with Rep. Jared Huffman’s staff on attempts to withdraw the property from the public auction block—where a well-heeled developer could easily outbid a non-profit that’s had a couple hundred thousand dollars of annual revenue—and negotiate directly with the Coast Guard and the General Services Administration, the federal government’s broker. 

Failing that, CLAM has also made preliminary contacts with county supervisors and two foundations about grants for the expected sale in the first half of 2015. At Sunday’s meeting, Supervisor Steve Kinsey announced the county would help fund an appraisal once CLAM can gain access to the site. (The Marin Community Foundation has not made any funding pledges yet, but the organization has a long history of supporting affordable housing, said Thomas Peters, M.C.F.’s president and CEO.) 

The county is also looking into zoning and how “the gauntlet of regulations” could affect the sale, Mr. Kinsey added. Currently zoned as “coastal open area,” which allows parks, playgrounds and grazing land as permitted uses and schools, golf courses and country clubs as conditional uses. Residential use is not currently allowed, but the county recently amended its regulations to allow affordable housing—a change still awaiting the Coastal Commission’s approval, said Wade Holland, who sits on the planning commission.

During an open question period, attendees wondered about the lack of a wastewater system, whether Point Reyes might finally get a sewer system and if there are alternative disposal methods like the pilot project in Bolinas that’s been composting human waste. 

“From this day forward, support the concept,” Mr. Kinsey said. “Embrace every single conversation about it, at every post office, at every grocery story, at every soccer game. In principle, we have to grab onto this concept...and hold onto it tightly as if it was vital to our community. Because it truly is.”