Junior units sought in the San Geronimo Valley


The San Geronimo Valley Affordable Housing Association has a goal for 2019: to identify six landowners interested in creating housing stock and to help them initiate that process. Under the Real Community Rentals program, a county collaboration that began in 2016, the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin has created 18 housing units—all either accessory or junior accessory dwelling units. The program connects landlords and tenants and guides the former through the building and rental process. It also provides financial incentives, such as reduced permitting fees, to landlords who create ADUs or JADUs. Suzanne Sadowsky, chair of the valley association, said that although the organization has always been interested in utilizing the program, it had been difficult to roll it out without “someone who can work locally with the valley to walk [residents] through the process.” But late last year the group received a capacity-building grant of $80,000 from the Marin Community Foundation to fund project development, site assessment for potential construction, and funding for a part-time development coordinator and community-outreach specialist. With the money, the S.G.V.A.H.A. hired Mark Switzer, the former property manager of Point Reyes Affordable Homes. Mr. Switzer said he decided to join the association as a development coordinator because he saw how well the program worked for CLAM and wanted to achieve similar results in the valley. “Until Mark came on board, we haven’t had anybody to really address individual needs and questions in a more comprehensive way,” Ms. Sadowsky said. “People need to understand what’s possible and what challenges there are in terms of the property they have, septic systems—all the details that go into creating new housing.” Outreach in the valley began with a housing fair last fall, and Mr. Switzer is now following up with prospective tenants and a list of about 15 prospective landowners. On April 6, another workshop will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Dance Palace Church Space to discuss incentives for homeowners. “We don’t imagine building anything,” Mr. Switzer clarified, “we imagine identifying six landowners that are prepared to create a JADU or ADU on their property. That number was just aspirational, but I think it’s doable.” From a construction perspective, Mr. Switzer said, the biggest challenges for building in the valley are septic constraints and conservation restrictions, including a 100-foot stream setback. There are currently no JADUs in the valley, and although there are plenty of second units, the association has little information about what is being used as long-term housing and what could be converted to ADUs. The association is also encouraging people to look at other types of shared housing that might fall short of an ADU or JADU—for example, adding a wet bar to a typical bedroom in order to give a caretaker or young-adult renter more flexibility—though such housing would not be part of the Real Community Rentals program. “I believe that, a year and a half from now, we can show some real success and build on that to develop more housing units within the available housing stock,” Mr. Switzer told the Light. “We all live in a place, a landscape, that everyone loves. But there’s a long history of guarding the landscape by controlling development and construction, so there hasn’t been much new construction in the valley. The idea of creating space—creating room for a healthy community within the existing buildings—is a good solution.” If interested, email Mark Switzer at mark@sgvaha.org