Marin County has a new plan to attract minorities.
The affluent county includes seven of the 10 whitest communities in the Bay Area, according to the latest census figures.
The draft report, released Wednesday, came in response to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s determination that Marin had “failed to comply” with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and two other anti-discrimination statutes.
Marin’s Community Development Agency recommended amending zoning regulations to ease the construction of new apartments, passing new laws requiring new developments to offer housing at below-market rates, and stepping up programs to combat discrimination by landlords and realtors.
Some Marinites were skeptical.
In San Anselmo, a central Marin city of 12,000 that is more than 90 percent white, some residents were not crazy about the proposals.
“We need affordable housing, but there’s not a lot of room to build it,” said Julane Chapman, a retired therapist who was getting her hair done. “We can’t build in the open space,” she said.
At Bubba’s Diner, three doors down, businessman Marty Brenner said he thought it was silly to impose diversity on Marin.
“It started as a white vacation area, and so most of the people around here are white,” he said.
James Lai, who runs the ethnic studies program at Santa Clara University, said Marin County remains largely white in part because it lacks community resources to attract minorities.
Even wealthy Asians, he said, are unlikely to move to Marin. “There are no Chinese-language schools, no ethnic supermarkets. Most of the jobs are in the South Bay,” he said.
Lai said he believed Marin would eventually join the rest of the Bay Area in becoming ethnically mixed, but he said that for most ethnic families, the three-mile distance across the Golden Gate Bridge “can seem as wide as an ocean.”
But Marin officials said they intend to make a go of it.
Wednesday’s report bore the cumbersome title, “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.” It concurred with HUD’s assessment that the county’s African-American and Latino residents are clustered in two small areas–Marin City and the Canal Zone of San Rafael–while many of Marin’s cities and towns remain more than 90 percent white.
In its analysis, the county also agreed that it had built only a fraction of the low-income housing mandated by the Association of Bay Area Governments.
Roy Bateman, Marin’s Community Development Director, acknowledged that neighborhood opposition had helped to limit the availability of affordable housing.
“We know there’s neighborhood opposition to subsidized housing and that that housing is often at a greater density than the surrounding areas,” said Roy Bateman, Marin’s community development coordinator.
“It’s difficult to know how much of that is related to density and how much of that is related to people opposing new residents moving in who are different from them,” Bateman said.