Habitat For Humanity Encounters Affluent California NIMBYism

<p>The Jimmy Carter charity, long identified with "sweat equity" and affordable housing, is confronting strong, residential opposition in its application to build four homes to accompany three market-rate homes in affluent Marin County west of Tiburon.</p>
January 27, 2007, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"A group of Marin County residents is raising $100,000 to contest Habitat's plan to build four, three-bedroom units of low-income housing on .85 acres in their neighborhood of $1 million to $2 million homes."

"'Habitat for Humanity goes into blighted neighborhoods and fixes them up. Here they are going into an enhanced neighborhood and blighting it,' said Bill Duane, a 58-year-old resident of Bay Vista Drive, near the proposed site. 'I'm not against low-cost housing, but this is social engineering. The county does not have the right to choose my neighbors.'"

"I think NIMBYism is a convenient term and it may well fit in this case, but it is also fear of the unknown," said Phillip Kilbridge, executive director of Habitat's San Francisco chapter.

"The project originally did not include any low-cost housing. The San Francisco developer, Pan Pacific Ocean Inc., wanted to divide the property into seven parcels and build three large homes to be sold on the open market. But the county requires developers that create two or more market-rate residences to also include some affordable housing."

"The plan now is to build four additional units, each a little over 1,400 square feet, with single-car garages. The buildings would be designed to look like two separate Craftsman-style homes, and each unit would be affordable to a family of four with an annual income of $56,000 or less."

"No development would be the best alternative, said several neighbors, but if it must be done, then it should at least comply with county guidelines, which require only one unit of affordable housing, not four."

"The reception in Marin has been so hostile that a county chapter of Habitat for Humanity disbanded in the late 1990s because the volunteers could not get any low-income housing projects off the ground, Kilbridge said."

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Published on Thursday, January 25, 2007 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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