East of Camino Alto

East of Camino Alto

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Legal Updates

FOHP has retained the services of Mr Patrick Soluri of Soluri-Meserve since September 2021.  Mr Soluri is a specialist in CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) law.  The interests of FOHP will be represented by Mr Soluri throughout this process.

Below are letters submitted to the City Council, on behalf of FOHP, asserting FOHP's objections based on the law.  They are also part of the public records for the City Council meetings.

  

Follow up letter to City Council about the Notice of EIR for the Housing Element, its deficiencies and the  proposed change in land use designation of 1 Hamilton to multi-family residential and upzoning to 50 units through the Housing Element.

Letter to City Council about the Notice of EIR for the Housing Element, its deficiencies and the  proposed change in land use designation of 1 Hamilton to multi-family residential and upzoning to 50 units through the Housing Element.

Objection to the draft Housing Element which has listed 1 Hamilton as the only City owned site for affordable housing.  In addition, Mr. Soluri cites the fact that all current affordable housing and the proposed 1 Hamilton project are located east of Camino Alto in a discriminatory scheme to avoid its inclusion in downtown Mill Valley and other select wealthy neighborhoods.

Follow up letter to request for Public Request Act.

Objection to the City's exclusive negotiation agreement with EAH.

Objection to the loan of $150,000 from the City to the developer EAH.

Rebuttal to the City Attorney's letter on designation of 1 Hamilton as exempt surplus Land.

Objection to the designation of 1 Hamilton as exempt surplus land.

Submission for Public Request Act to the City of Mill Valley.

 
 

Background

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.

Read on for more in-depth discussion of the issues, and see "Ways To Help" to Save Hauke Park from High Density Development!

[ 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.  

  1. 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

[ EAH Survey 5/3/2022 ]