The Marin County city of Belvedere has not built a unit of affordable housing in 33 years, but a new complex with a couple of affordable units is making waves along its lagoons.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about the town of Belvedere, even if you’re a frequent Marin County getaway weekend tripper. As seen below, Belvedere is across Richardson Bay from Sausalito, and it’s a residential community for the Angel Island boater set and some very well-heeled Bay Area residents. It falls within one of the wealthiest zip codes in America, in fact, and USA Today ranks Belvedere as the richest city in California.
USA Today adds that Belvedere has “a median household income of over $223,000 — the highest in California and one of the highest in the nation.” Perhaps that’s why the Chronicle reports that a fight is brewing over a proposed mixed-income housing development there, even though the mere five “affordable” units (out of 42) hardly seem affordable.
There is no mention of the actual price, but per the Chron, the affordable units will be priced for households making “about $77,000 and $100,000 for a couple.” (There will also be three accessory dwelling units in three of the project’s households.) As the Chronicle notes, “The last affordable units built in Belvedere, 11 senior apartments, opened in 1989, while the last market-rate, multifamily complex opened in 1969.”
There is neighborhood opposition to the project, but it seems to be grasping at every straw in the book rather than a coherent opposition. The Chronicle reports that a neighborhood opposition group called Belvedere Residents for Intelligent Growth (BRIG) said in a statement that they have “serious concerns about the potential impacts on local flood control, zoning consistency and soil stability that could be caused by this large-scale waterfront subdivision.”
The state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation program (RHNA) says that a town the size Belvedere must add 160 new housing units between 2023 and 2030. These 42 units would pit a solid dent in that, but 160 is still a very low number. The Belvedere debate is not going to change the face of the California housing shortage, but it may be a test case for small, wealthy town that hopes to wriggle out of state housing requirements.