April 19, 2022
The City of Mill Valley has selected a site right in front of Hauke Park for a high-density housing development. The site is where the parking lot and bathrooms are currently situated.
No plans are made to replace these facilities.
Current zoning and building codes will have to be changed to accommodate the developer's plans.
The City has justified this site selection with the patronizing view that low-income residents will have fewer cars than other Mill Valley residents, and will therefore walk everywhere. This is an unrealistic representation of how people go about their daily lives. The neighborhood's current walkability score is 39 (Car-Dependent: Most errands require a car).
The City-endorsed consultant's report is completely silent on traffic problems that will be caused for Park users, 600+ households in surrounding neighborhoods, and emergency vehicles. People who access and rely on Hauke Park understand the surrounding roads are not equipped to take on additional traffic.
The report summarily concludes that the project will pass environmental challenge, despite adjacent wetlands and protected wildlife habitats.
This proposal was rushed along during the pandemic lock-down and without any input from park users and neighboring residents. There are serious concerns about representation of this neighborhood in City government.
[ EAH Survey 5/3/2022 ]
For those unable to attend this meeting, please take a moment to look at the options presented by EAH for bathrooms, parking, building style, footprint, and building programs.
[ Update 4/19/2022 ]
Representatives of EAH Housing recently met with neighbors from Enchanted Knolls (April 11) and Eucalyptus Knolls (April 13) to discuss the proposed affordable housing project adjacent to Hauke Park. We had hoped to finally have real input into the site design process for the Hamilton site, as repeatedly promised, but the City made it clear that it considers the massive scale of the Hamilton project to be set in stone. Further, the City has no intention of mitigating the effect on our neighborhood or our beloved Hauke Park. Throughout the April 11 meeting, the outgoing Mayor and the outgoing City Manager attempted to suppress debate by inventing meeting rules on the fly, and bullying speakers who asked tough questions. At one point, outgoing Mayor McCauley grabbed a microphone to scold neighbors as if he were conducting a middle-school assembly.
Key takeaways from the meeting are:
The City and EAH admitted that the Hamilton project will be larger than previously described, and will be well over 40 units. Neither the City or EAH will share with us a maximum number of units under consideration.
The City and EAH also admitted for the first time that tenant parking will likely be on the ground level of the building, which could raise the building height to a minimum of FIVE stories.
EAH confirmed that due to questions of legality there is no current plan to provide workforce preference for housing at Hamilton. In addition, the City confirmed in written materials that it must accept tenants using Section 8 vouchers.
The City and EAH for the first time admitted they contemplate providing “Supportive Housing” at Hamilton. Depending upon government funding sources, Supportive Housing may include “formerly homeless” or, as occurred at Victory Village in Fairfax, severely mentally ill tenants.
Although the City and EAH are aware that there may be serpentine rock under the Hamilton site, and that drilling could potentially release asbestos, the City has no plan to test for or mitigate this possible hazard. The City is currently performing only surface level testing which is insufficient for sites containing serpentine rock.
It is more important than ever that we demand more transparency from the City and EAH and put a stop to the deception.
The City’s actions over the last 18 months are looking more and more like an orchestrated gas-lighting exercise designed to stifle community input at a time when pandemi restrictions kept participation to a minimum. For more on the City’s deceptions about the Hamilton project, see:
the 40-unit deception
the Parking deception
the Building Design deception
the Workforce Housing deception
the Site Selection deception
Read more in our 4/19/2022 newsletter
[ Legal Update ]
The City adopted two resolutions at the September 20, 2021 meeting. First, the City authorized staff to negotiate development of the Hamilton site with EAH Housing, an affordable housing developer that manages the Shelter Hill apartments. Second, the City declared part of the Hamilton site “exempt surplus land.” This declaration is contentious and is the subject of several communications to the City from our attorney. You can read the letters from our attorney here. [9/17/2021, 9/20/2021]. Many of the points raised by our attorney are highly technical in nature and are designed to create a record; and are strategic assertions to preserve our rights going forward.
We have summarized the main legal points below.
Our Response to the City’s Resolutions
The Law. California law requires cities to follow certain notice and negotiation procedures before disposing of land that is purportedly surplus. The law is designed to connect affordable housing developers to surplus public land. However, a city can qualify for an exemption if it makes a determination that the land can be used to provide housing, and a determination supported by facts that the land is “exempt surplus land.” Exempt surplus land includes land that is used to develop housing that has a specified percentage of units reserved for low-income and very low-income households.
The City’s Position. The City maintains that it is appropriate to declare the Hamilton site “exempt surplus land” because the project will satisfy the necessary low income requirements, and further that the City must make the declaration before it can begin negotiating with EAH. In addition, the City maintains that because the resolutions do not commit them to developing affordable housing at the site, there is currently no “project” subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Our Position. Our attorney maintains that the Hamilton site is not surplus because it is currently used for parking, electric vehicle charging and restrooms for users of Hauke Park. (This seems obvious to all except the members of the City Council.) He further argues that by limiting the declaration of “exempt surplus land” to the Hamilton site and excluding all other City-owned sites, the City is indeed committing to the Hamilton site, and thereby triggering CEQA review.
In addition, our attorney contends that the City does not need to make the declaration prior to negotiating with EAH, and may be doing so for improper reasons. Specifically, the City may be motivated by politics and may be manufacturing a justification to avoid considering any alternative sites that would be required by CEQA. In other words, by declaring only the Hamilton site “exempt surplus land,” the City is constructing the basis for an argument it may try to use later that it can limit CEQA review to Hamilton because there are no other exempt surplus sites.
Last, our attorney maintains that unless and until the Hamilton site is rezoned for residential use, the City has no basis to make the requisite finding that the Hamilton site can be used to provide housing.
2. Our Request for Records
Our attorney has also submitted a request under the California Public Records Act for access to documents relating to the Hamilton project. You can read the request here. We expect to submit additional requests as we learn more about how the Hamilton site was selected and how other sites were eliminated.
Our ability to pursue these and other legal avenues depends upon our resources. Click here to donate.
[ Update 9/20/2021 ]
On Monday, September 20, the City held its first in-person meeting since early 2020. Mayor John McCauley opened the meeting by lavishly praising the City’s transparency on the Hamilton project. However, the record suggests this is not the case. Among the City’s questionable actions that were noted by members of the public are the following:
the City obtained all project approvals during a pandemic, when community participation was constrained;
the City solicited no neighborhood input from those most affected, and proceeded with only vague promises of future community input;
the City allowed Matt Franklin, CEO of affordable housing developer MidPen, to overly influence the site and project selection. Mr. Franklin is an unelected member of the Housing Advisory Committee, and was instrumental in selecting the site from among 75 City-owned parcels, and advocating for a minimum of 40 units;
when the site failed to generate the developer interest the City predicted, it downplayed the “small response,” before admitting that only one developer had responded.
Mayor McCauley’s claims of full transparency were further undercut later in the meeting when Matt Franklin’s wife, a land-use attorney with a large San Francisco law firm, spoke in support of the project and endorsed the City’s actions by citing to her experience in this area, without identifying her relationship with Mr. Franklin. Not a single member of the City Council, the City Attorney, the City Manager, or Mr. Franklin spoke up to disclose this serious conflict of interest.
The City of Mill Valley has issued its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to solicit developers for the Hauke Park parking lot site. The developer selection begins 8/9/21, with final selection on 9/20/21.
[ Update 8/16/2021 ]
The City issued supplemental details , which included consideration of stacked parking, proposal of a nominal $1 annual lease (up to 99 years), and rezoning.
The RFQ and supplements details show the City’s determination to speed ahead with a high-density housing project despite valid concerns from our neighborhood. The RFQ also confirms what we suspected: the City is soliciting plans to grant waivers of virtually all key zoning requirements, including parking, building height and density.
In addition, the City has retained outside legal counsel to move the project forward.
If you have any remaining doubt about the way the City intends to treat residents who have concerns about the size of the proposed housing structure at 1 Hamilton, please note that at the City Council meeting on August 2, Mayor John McCauley mockingly referred to our organization as “friends of Hauke parking lot.”
[ Update 6/21/21 ]
Over 1000+ online supporters, 60+% meeting participants did not support the city in moving forward with its RFQ exploration.
The city ultimately chose to disregard our collective voice and pushed forward with what was very clearly a predetermined vote, spurred on by nation-wide special interest groups.
It was not surprising, given the constantly changing information provided to FOHP by the city, that the site boundary and footprint were again moved tonight...for the 3rd time in a month. The City has confirmed this will continue to shift as the selected developer sees fit.
We question the integrity of the selection process, leading up to the RFQ vote. By its own admission, HAC deliberately dismissed the consultant's choice of the ideal site for development, for fear of community objections; and ultimately picked the site adjacent to Hauke Park.
We hope to count on your continued support as we search for alternative ways to protect the open space around Hauke Park from high density development.