Last week, IJ columnist Dick Spotswood wrote that he had a revelation: The best ways to provide new homes in Marin are to add housing to downtowns, emulate downtown forms, and add second units.
It may have been a revelation to him, but it’s not news to the Coalition for a Livable Marin — CALM. We’ve been advocating for just such an approach since we were founded.
Spotswood wrote the foreword to Bob Silvestri’s pro-sprawl manifesto, but he’s starting to understand the wisdom of Marin’s small, dense, rail-oriented downtowns.
Up until the 1940s, Marin was built to maximize ridership on our old light-rail system, the Interurban. Planners put high-density commercial and residential buildings right up next to stations and less-dense homes farther out.
The layout was deliberate. While people today often drive from parking space to parking space on their way home to run errands, yesteryear’s Marinites would walk from shop to shop to run errands on the walk home.
People taking Golden Gate Transit can often still do that, especially at one of the downtown hubs. Take the 27 from the Financial District to San Anselmo, pop into Andronico’s or Comfort’s for the night’s dinner, then walk home.
Most wonderful about this sort of development is how it’s used when people aren’t commuting. Kids can stop by the doughnut shop on a Saturday, parents can watch the street from the coffee shop, and seniors can live their days seeing neighbors and family without ever setting foot in a car.
Marin ought to encourage people to live in places like this, not just for the sake of affordable housing or greenhouse gas emissions but for the health of the town.
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