• Chamber Endorses Housing Project Proposal at 703 Third Street

    August 28, 2019

    On Tuesday night, the Planning Commission voted 5-2 to make a positive recommendation to the San Rafael City Council to support the housing  project proposed at 703 Third Street in San Rafael. The San Rafael Chamber, which represents nearly 625 Marin County employers with over 26,000 employees across 25 industry sectors, also supported the project.

    Last August city staff presented a “Barriers to Housing” report that included a list of challenges to housing development in San Rafael. Leadership from the San Rafael Chamber was included in the initial outreach to identify these barriers and reported to staff that the cost of land, and construction along with development and impact fees to build any units was a huge obstacle. In addition to these high costs, local developers continually report to the Chamber that the number of inclusionary units required is too high, adding to the problem; making the projects “not pencil out”.
    In the past decade only ten housing units have been built in Downtown and that is a large concern. We are equally concerned about the vitality of Downtown. There are several large vacancies including the old Pizza Orgasmica building, the Fenix property, Rafael Florist and others. This new proposed project will bring much needed vibrancy to the Downtown area. It is a perfect example of transit-oriented development that is being discussed at our current General Plan 2040 steering committee meetings and will provide housing for families that can live, work and shop in Downtown.
    The local developer is very civic minded and understands our unique challenges.  They have added units above what is entitled, creating additional homes including 12 below market rate (BMR). This not only meets the required code “by right” but exceeds the required number of BMR units “by right” providing an additional benefit to the community. We hear a lot of discussion about the 20% inclusionary requirements and even though the Chamber supports the creation of affordable units, we simply are not seeing units built. The developer has calculated the construction costs, labor costs and current remarket rents to make the project feasible.   We had fear that by requiring more BMR units to this project it would have killed it.  We had grave concern is that if the project did not get approved as proposed, it will be have been a lost opportunity and converted into something other than housing for working families in San Rafael.

    We are encouraged by the Planning Commissioners vote and paying close attention to their comments. 
    We look forward to the discussion at the public hearing at an upcoming city council meeting soon.


    Joanne Webster, President and CEO
    (415) 454-4163