Story update: San Rafael rescinds Civic Center PDA

As everyone no doubt heard, the San Rafael City Council voted last night to rescind the North San Rafael Priority Development Area (PDA) on a 3-2 vote. Mayor Gary Phillips and councilmembers Kate Colin and Damon Connolly voted to rescind. Councilmembers Andrew McCullough and Barbara Heller voted to keep the PDA.

Slow-growth activists decried the PDA as a high-density housing plan that would burden the city’s schools and water supply while destroying the drivable suburban character in the neighborhood. Urbanists and environmentalists said the PDA carries no strings whatsoever, that the housing guidelines were nonbinding suggestions, and was a way to fund improvements for the San Rafael that exists today.

At a county level, eyes now turn to the Strawberry PDA, which has come under attack by critics for much the same reasons other PDAs have. The argument will likely take much the same shape as it did last night, though it remains to be seen whether Supervisor Kate Sears will propose to remove the PDA or not. Given that she has not come under the same withering criticism Supervisor Susan Adams did over the Marinwood PDA, it may remain intact for the foreseeable future.

At a city level, the downtown San Rafael PDA also remains intact. Mayor Phillips and others who opposed the Civic Center PDA have said the housing suggestions make much more sense downtown and that regional money would do more good in that area anyway. Still, slow-growth advocates, convinced that the PDAs constitute a mandate for housing, are likely to attack this PDA, too. Council candidate Randy Warren, for one, has argued this designation should be rescinded, too.

A future post will look at how San Rafael and TAM could make lemonade out of the situation and the barriers to getting PDA-designated funds from TAM’s account into projects on the ground.


About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

6 Responses to Story update: San Rafael rescinds Civic Center PDA

  1. Stephen Nestel says:

    Hi Dave, I invite you to watch the Strawberry meeting with Kate Sears. It is quite illuminating. Mostly she gave stock responses. When asked why she voted to remove Tam Almonte and Marinwood PDAs, she shrugged, “I followed the suggestion of my fellow supervisors”. A followup question was asked, “What would it take to remove the PDA?” Her response was “more talk”. It is an ironic response since she has been actively avoiding community meetings to discuss just this. Much is wrong with the process as it is painfully obvious in this meeting.

  2. Richard Hall says:

    Here come those strings attached to PDAs! And so soon. California Senate Bill 743 which streamlines CEQA. It has already passed the State Senate and Assembly and is not on Governor Brown’s desk, waiting to be signed into law.

    While this bill doesn’t explicitly call out the term PDAs, it might as well. It targets “traffic infill projects” or “environmental leadership development projects”. PDAs more less call out such projects. It would appears that the strings are steadily being attached to PDAs.

    This thing is going through as if it’s in stealth mode. No one’s caught it.

    SB 743 was originally designed to streamline the process to develop the Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Complex which is anchored by an arena for the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise. Last week, Steinberg expanded the measure for more statewide significance. He took the core elements of his broader CEQA modernization bill, SB 731, and incorporated it all into SB 743.

    Here’s a link to SB 743:

    Here’s a link to an overview of SB 743 on Steinberg’s website:

    • Actually, this still is not a string. Only areas the city itself designates as a transit priority area, and which meets the standard, apply. The designation may not be made at a regional level.

      The (strictly optional) streamlining that does occur will only say that degradation of traditional car-centric level of service (LoS) standards are not significant impacts. The city may impose its own road service standards based on people moved rather than vehicles moved, say, or use LoS for design or planning review, but it may not be part of the state CEQA process.

      Then again, if it is such a problem for the city to do the same thing CEQA did, it may designate a PDA without designating it a transit priority area.

  3. Pingback: Where do San Rafael’s PDA funds go now? « Vibrant Bay Area

  4. Pingback: Where do the PDA funds go now? | The Greater Marin

  5. Pingback: A counter-petition starts in Strawberry | The Greater Marin

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