500 Miller Avenue Update, FAQs and Upcoming Study Session

September 5, 2018

In 2011, the Mill Valley City Council approved the mixed use “Von der Werth” project located at 500 Miller Avenue consisting of nine attached market-rate condominium units and a separate two-story, 4,948 square foot commercial building on the 1.2 acre site. In 2017, the owner sold the property and the new owners began construction of the approved project.

Next Steps:
Mill Valley resident Agustin Maxemin, the owner of 500 Miller Avenue is interested in pursuing possible alternatives to the approved project, including a different design, changing the number and size of units, and location of the commercial space. Any such alternative will require the City’s review, including new public hearings to evaluate design and environmental issues associated with project alternatives based on the City’s development rules, regulations and standards.

 The property owner and his design team have solicited community input to inform their alternative concepts. They will bring two alternative concepts to the Planning Commission in a Study Session on September 25, 2018. The staff report and plans will be made available the second week of September, and will be available at City Hall and the Library during normal business hours, and posted here.

The following are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding the project:

What is a Study Session and what will happen at the Study Session?Study Sessions provide an opportunity for the community, City staff and the Planning Commission to provide early feedback to an applicant on various topics, including General Plan policies, environmental impacts, project density, site conditions, overall design, scale/massing, and compatibility with the standards of Zoning Ordinance and City Design Guidelines. Study Sessions are open to the public and community attendance and participation is a key part of the process.

The Planning Commission will not vote or take any formal action on the project at the Study Session, but rather will provide guidance to the applicant for project concept revision and refinement.The applicant and project team will then revise project concepts based on the feedback for a second Study Session or file a formal land use application.

What alternatives are being explored?
The owner’s project team has developed alternatives to the approved 9-unit mixed use project. Two options will be presented at the Study Session, including a 19 dwelling unit project with 4,450 square feet of commercial space (preferred by the applicant), and a 28 dwelling unit project with 4,030 commercial space. Each alternative includes some dwelling units that will be affordable and sold below market rate.

What does “affordable” mean?
The City’s affordable housing regulations adopted in 2017 include options to increase affordable housing. The most significant provision of the City’s regulations calls for 25% of the total number of units constructed in a project of four or more units to be “affordable,” deed-restricted below market rate units. Half of the affordable units are restricted to low income households (80% of median income) and half to moderate income (up to 120% of median income) households. The regulations allow for flexibility in addressing affordable housing through a number of options.

Affordable Housing: Example Household Size and Qualifying Income

Example Household SizeTargeted Unit SizeQualifying Annual Income (Low Income)*
Qualifying Annual Income (Moderate)*
3-person2-Bedroom UnitUp to $105,700Up to $127,850
4-person3-Bedroom UnitUp to $117,400Up to $142,100

*These annual household incomes are based on the Bay Area’s median household income levels.

Recent Examples of sales prices for below Market Rate Homes in Marin County:

  • 2 bedroom Low Income Condominium Unit in Corte Madera: $284,050.
  • 2 bedroom Low Income Cottage in Larkspur: $295,100.
  • 3 bedroom Moderate Income Townhome: $312,000.

Why is the City allowing construction and discussing changes to the project? 
The 9-unit mixed use project is an approved project, and the property owner is currently working under an approved building permit as part of the project.

A request to make modifications to previously approved projects or to consider alternate projects are allowed by law, and the City is required to accept and consider such an application. The 500 Miller Avenue owners are interested in exploring options that might better utilize the site and fit the community’s interests. They intend to use the retaining wall currently under construction as part of any new proposed project.

Why can’t the City just deny a new project? 
Property owners have the right to develop land, subject to state and local regulations, and to a hearing process on a proposal. The owner has decided to take an opportunity to assess alternatives to the approved project and has invited public, staff and Planning Commission input. Any substantial changes to the approved plans will require new and separate City review and approval.

What is the process/next steps?
City staff will review the proposal for consistency with our land use and design regulations, including General Plan policies, Zoning Ordinance, design guidelines, development standards, environmental review guidelines, and will provide background evaluation and recommendations. The Planning Commission will hold one or more public Study Sessions to discuss the proposals and will provide feedback and guidance.

Is previous community input valid and considered?
Yes. History and previous community input is very important. The Planning Commission will recognize previous input and consider new comments when evaluating the project alternatives.

 When are the City hearings and how can I find out about upcoming meetings? 
The Study Session is scheduled for 7pm on September 25, 2018 at Mill Valley City Hall (26 Corte Madera Avenue, Mill Valley). Prior to the September 25th Study Session, staff will publish a Staff Report and accompanying plans for public review and comment. This information will be available for review at City Hall and the library during normal business hours, and will be posted here.

City Staff will continue its various forms of outreach to announce upcoming meetings, including the September 25th Study Session through various media channels, including e-notification, MVConnect, NextDoor, Marin IJ, City website, Neighborhood Association leaders and mailed notices to residents within 500 feet of the project.

How will the community have a chance to provide input?
Send your comments to:

The Owner’s Project Manager:
Donna Huntingdale, PE, President
Building Rx
Phone: (530) 867-1971

City of Mill Valley Contact:
Sean Kennings, Contract Planner
Or contact Danielle Staude (415) 384-4812

Attend Meetings and Stay informed: