Tiburon filters hosting sites for closer scrutiny

Vacant Reed Elementary School grounds and downtown commercial buildings could help Tiburon meet a state mandate for new housing.

The city council gave its blessing to the potential sites during a housing workshop on Wednesday. Council members had requested an account of possible sites and the number of residences that could be built.

The sites include the vacant elementary school lot and areas along Tiburon Boulevard, Main Street and Beach Road.

The Cove Shopping Center at 1 Blackfield Drive was removed from review due to concerns about traffic, flooding and density.

“We won’t have as much surplus as a result of the removal of the Cove Center, but we will have a cushion left over,” said community development director Dina Tasini.

The mall would have added a potential of 72 residences on a 3-acre portion of the 3.9-acre site. The city plans to increase the density of potential housing development at the Boardwalk Mall at 1550 Tiburon Blvd. and at the sites at 6 and 12 Beach Road to make up the difference.

Tasini said the Boardwalk Mall would be zoned 40 to 45 residences per acre, which would yield up to 88 homes. The sites at 6 and 12 Beach Road would be zoned 40 to 55 homes per acre, or 53.

Tiburon is to plan for 639 new residences, said city housing consultant Christina O’Rourke. This includes 193 very low income, 110 low income, 93 moderate income and 243 upper to moderate income households.

New homes should be “small multi-family units” for people living in smaller households, such as seniors and young adults, O’Rourke said. Potential heights of developments were made with assumed modeling of 900 square foot residences.

The city would be required to change zoning and density limits within the plots to allow for the construction of additional housing on the sites. Traffic impacts are expected on Tiburon Boulevard and will be addressed in a planned environmental impact report.

The parcels east of Tiburon Boulevard include the Bank of America site, the Chase Bank site, and parking lots. All plots are at least half an acre. The planned buildings would be four to five storey buildings with commercial use on the ground floor. The buildings would add approximately 70 to 80 residences, as well as dining and retail space.

“We would like to retain this important feature for downtown activation,” said Peter Winch of San Francisco-based urban planning group WRT.

The west parcels of Tiburon Boulevard and Beach Road contain offices and services, with three parcels of at least half an acre. They would include three-story buildings for commercial use on the ground floor and add approximately 27 to 36 residences.

“It was particularly well received,” Winch said.

Main Street would have residences added behind the historic facades while retaining commercial use on the ground floor. The plan should add 10 to 14 residences.

The Reed Elementary School site would provide housing on a vacant 2.9-acre portion of a 7.5-acre parcel. It is the only vacant site included in the city’s listing and already has an affordable housing zoning overlay. The site would provide approximately 66 new residences.

Approval of housing sites allows the city to send them to an environmental assessment consultant to assess their viability.

City officials have repeatedly criticized the housing mandate as inappropriate for Tiburon given its spatial constraints and topography. The city, like most other municipalities in Marin, saw its efforts to overturn the mandate rejected.

Mayor Jon Welner called the housing element “the biggest planning change in Tiburon in a generation”.

“I think we need to come up with a really extraordinary outreach plan,” he said.

“There’s no place to do it that won’t increase the drain on resources we don’t have,” council member Alice Fredericks said, of where to allow new accommodations.

Vice Mayor Jack Ryan said he would have backed keeping the Cove Mall open for further assessment, saying it was an “opportunity” to address an already pervasive flooding problem at the site. He said new housing would likely be built above existing businesses and would not drive out essential city services.

“That’s why I would say keep it for now, but I hear the objections from the community for sure,” he said.