2 weeks ago

Hearing on Affordable Housing Shakedown in Marin County

By Larry G. Salzman Senior Attorney

When the Cherk family applied for a permit to split their large residential parcel into two lots, the County of Marin demanded they pay $40,000 into the County’s “affordable housing” fund as a condition of the permit. The Cherks objected, but got nowhere with County officials and ultimately paid the fee under protest.

They joined with PLF to sue for a refund on the grounds that the fee violates California’s Mitigation Fee Act and U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which outlaw permit fees that have no logical connection to the permit applicant’s proposed project. Next week, they will get their day in court:

What: Hearing on Motion for Judgment, Cherk v. County of Marin

Where: Marin County Superior Court, Department B, Marin County Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael, CA

When: Wednesday, December 6, 1:30 p.m.

The Cherk’s will demonstrate that their lot split has no negative impact on housing in Marin County. In fact, the Cherk’s creation of a new lot allows more homes to be built, which can alleviate the manifest housing shortage in the County. Instead, the County’s “affordable housing” scheme merely takes advantage of property owners at the vulnerable moment when they are seeking government permission to change the use of their land and extracts money from them for purposes entirely unrelated to their projects. This is both illegal under California law and unconstitutional.

Sadly, Marin County does have a real affordable housing problem—it is virtually impossible live there on anything less than a millionaire’s wage. If the County were serious about addressing its housing shortage it would grasp that the way to make housing affordable is to allow more houses to be built. It doesn’t need to impose new fees, price caps, or taxes—it merely needs to get out of the way of landowners and developers who want to produce housing. That seems to be the one solution that County officials are bent on ignoring.

More details about the case, including the briefs filed with the court, are available on PLF’s website.

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