Approve Development: The Preserve at Corte Madera - YES
When it comes to proposed developments, I start by asking two main questions: how would it affect our community, and how would it affect the environment?
The effects that this project would have on our community are negligible; traffic studies show that there would be no impact on traffic (consider that this 24-unit proposal is immediately adjacent to a 180-unit apartment complex; the effect would on traffic be comparable to the normal variations in traffic flow that happen as the occupancy rate at that apartment complex fluctuates).
Given that the development would sit at the foot of Ring Mountain surrounded by structures on much higher ground, the effect on views would also be negligible.
Where this project does have an impact on the community is that it counts toward our state-mandated housing development numbers, taking some of the pressure off us to build more housing in the near future.
Finally, 8 of the 24 units are junior units attached to a larger primary residence. Because they are smaller than most houses in Corte Madera, I am hopeful that these junior units will be rented out at a lower rate than the primary residences, providing our community with some sorely needed affordable housing. This is my biggest concern about the project, and if it proceeds, I'll be closely monitoring the situation and working with staff to try and keep rents in these junior units below market rate.
On the environmental front, I see this project as a significant win.
The site is divided into two parcels: the approximate 6-acre lower parcel sits right on Paradise Drive and is wedged between an apartment complex and a residential neighborhood. The approximately 9-acre upper parcel is above all development, on the face of Ring Mountain.
Originally, both parcels were slated for development, but during the evolution of this project, it was negotiated that the entire upper parcel would remain protected and undeveloped as private open space, preserving the sensitive habitats on the hillside and keeping the face of Ring Mountain natural and beautiful.
Normally I would be concerned about the environmental implications of developing the lower parcel as well, but in this case there are a few factors that negate those concerns for me.
First, the site is by no means prime habitat. It is surrounded on 3 sides by busy Paradise Drive, a large apartment complex, and a residential development, making it an infill site along one of the town's major thoroughfares.
Second, the site is already heavily disturbed, having been clearcut and graded in the early 2000's, when it was first going to be developed. Today, much of the site is covered with gravel and weeds, and it is rife with invasive species.
Finally, among the conditions of approval for this project are many remediation measures that the developer will take to improve the condition of the habitat on both the lower and upper parcels. This is what excites me most about this project: that it comes with agreements for the removal of invasive species from both the upper and lower parcels, which is critical to protecting and restoring the local ecosystem.
To sum it up, the developer owns a two-parcel property, both of which are zoned for development. We've stepped in to say that in return for allowing them to develop the lower infill parcel, the upper parcel that is contiguous with the Ring Mountain Open Space preserve must remain undeveloped and be restored as a habitat. I feel that this is a fair trade that would leave both the community and the local ecosystem better off than they are today.