A nuanced NIMBY fight, with links to a history of racial discrimination, is playing out in Sausalito.
The residents of Golden Gate Village, a historic public housing complex in Marin City, have filed a lawsuit to block the construction of a controversial 74-unit apartment complex nearby.
Golden Gate Village Resident Council, which represents about 600 predominantly Black residents, has accused a group that includes Marin County, County Administrator Matthew Hymel and developer Pacific West Communities of pushing through the housing development in spite of strong community opposition. The property at the center of the dispute is 825 Drake Avenue, which sits on a roughly one-acre site overlooking Richardson Bay. In 2020, the project was approved under SB 35, which allows developers to bypass the land use approval process in exchange for the inclusion of affordable units.
The suit, which was filed in a San Francisco court last week, accuses Marin County officials of “ignor(ing) continuing public opposition to the project and mov(ing) forward with its development as quickly as possible,” the complaint reads.
“Demolition of existing buildings to make way for new construction has already begun and may be largely completed. … No permits, signage or other information was ever posted to indicate that demolition activities were about to proceed,” the lawsuit states.
Opposition to the project reached its apex when one of the developers called residents of Marin City, which is historically Black, “communists” who “just want free handouts.”
Many of the residents of Golden Gate Village are descendants of World War II shipbuilders who were barred from renting or buying homes in most of Marin County. Many of the residents’ ancestors worked in the nearby Marinship, where oil tankers and cargo ships were built for the war effort.
In its complaint, Golden Gate Village criticizes Marin County’s placement of low-income housing projects in Marin City. The group, which described Marin City as a “densely populated community overrun with infrastructure problems,” argued that affordable housing projects should be dispersed across the county.
“The county purports to be using the project to correct its past failures in managing low-income housing facilities in Marin City. The county’s goals are in direct conflict with preserving the character of a local community that is historically Black and economically distressed. The reality is that no one else in affluent, predominantly white Marin County would accept the county’s efforts to ‘improve’ the neighborhood with an out-of-scale, five-story development perched atop a hill on a one-acre plot of land,” the complaint reads.
Brian Washington, a spokesperson for the county, said that it has yet to receive a copy of the complaint. “I can say that the county’s actions related to the project were not arbitrary or capricious,” he said, disputing Golden Gate’s description of the county’s environmental impact assessment for the project.
“We will review the complaint carefully when it comes in and plan to respond in court,” he added.
In May, a neighborhood group called Save Our City filed a lawsuit against the project. Earlier this month, a judge issued a limited preliminary injunction in the case, barring the county from raising more funds for the project through bonds.
With its lawsuit, Golden Gate Village Resident Council seeks a court order that would nullify the county’s approval of the project. The organization also wants a permanent injunction that would prohibit construction on the site.