Marin enters escrow on Coast Guard property

09/19/2019

Marin moved one step closer to securing the Coast Guard facility in Point Reyes Station after the Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to make a $4.3 million offer on the 36-unit property, which is reserved for the county by federal legislation. County staff are arranging for 10 percent of the purchase price to be put into escrow, and have 90 days to complete the purchase.

During the escrow, county staff will look into next steps for the property, which the county plans to develop into affordable housing. 

“Although we all understand the urgency, there is a significant amount of work that needs to be done, and I would like the community to hear that,” planning manager Leelee Thomas told supervisors this week. The county’s facility-needs assessment and sanitary sewage disposal feasibility study for the property—which has no wastewater facility—will be made public when the purchase is final.

The county will then issue a request for a nonprofit partner to help convert the property to its intended use for public benefit. Supervisors will also have to decide whether it wants to retain ownership or transition it to a third party. 

Once a specific project is laid out, an analysis is required by the California Environmental Quality Act. “We have a long haul ahead of us,” Ms. Thomas said. “But I think that we’ve come a long way and we’re really excited to have gotten this far.”

Supervisor Dennis Rodoni asked Community Development Agency staff to return with a milestone timeline so that people can follow the project’s progress.

West Marin residents and stakeholders took the opportunity on Tuesday to thank county staff and supervisors and stress the need for affordable housing. Over 30 attendees carpooled to the meeting to advocate for the property’s management by the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin, which hopes to acquire, own and develop the property. 

“The turnout [on Tuesday] demonstrated the deep investment that this community has had to see homes on that property, and that that investment is not going away,” CLAM’s director, Kim Thompson, told the light. Beyond housing, she said, other rural community needs can be met using the existing spaces: dorms, office buildings, a dining hall, a playground, picnic areas and tennis courts. 

Representatives from other West Marin housing organizations and various social justice groups came in support, and leaders from different industries illustrated how the lack of affordable housing affects them.

Coastal Health Alliance C.E.O. Steven Siegel said that staffing and retention has been the nonprofit health center’s single biggest challenge. Of the center’s 62 employees, just 10 live in West Marin, and only three are homeowners. “It’s very hard to have continuity and quality of care when you’re always training someone,” he said.

Jamison Watts, the executive director of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, said that securing the Coast Guard property for housing supports MALT’s mission of protecting agriculture. “Central to this thriving agricultural community is affordable housing for ag workers, farmers and ranchers, and there’s a shortage, as we all know, in West Marin,” he said. “This is a key issue for us, and we talk about it a lot.”

CLAM argued that it should manage the property mainly because of its past successes and its local ties. The land trust was instrumental in the passage of legislation by Representative Jared Huffman mandating the property be sold to Marin County at fair market value so it could be used for public benefit.

CLAM board member Maureen Cornelia told supervisors that they are entering a new phase of work. “I hope you understand the level of investment that we all have in this project, and our desire to remain front and center in having meaningful involvement in the planning process,” she said.

Rep. Huffman, speaking to the Light this week, said, “I’m delighted to finally be at this point where we can officially lock in this opportunity for affordable housing. The county and CLAM were just terrific advocates from the start here. I really credit their leadership and vision for getting us to this point.”