Mallard Pointe developers introducing 70-unit density-bonus project
Updated: Feb 16
Developers for the controversial Mallard Pointe project were expected to submit a new application this week that nearly doubles the number of proposed units to 70, including a four-story, 55-unit apartment complex plus townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes.
In a Jan. 12 interview, Mill Valley-based developer Bruce Dorfman of Thompson Dorfman Partners said he intends to use the so-called builder’s remedy if necessary, asserting that because Belvedere does not yet have a state-certified 2023-2031 housing element, local zoning and the general plan are not enforceable and the city cannot use them to deny a project with at least 20% low-income housing. The developer’s attorney, Riley Hurd, confirmed the project would have 14 affordable units to meet that standard.
The filing will set the stage for the owners to make good on a promise to increase density to ensure the project remains profitable if the current 40-unit redevelopment plan is delayed by costly further environmental review. That review requirement is in the hands of the City Council.
At the owners’ request, councilmembers are scheduled to hold a Jan. 22 appeal hearing over the Planning Commission’s unanimous Nov. 14 decision that the project does not qualify for an “urban infill” exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act. The commission’s ruling to require further study bucked the recommendation of City Hall staff on the advice of its planning director, city attorney, two consulting attorneys and its environmental consultant.
The developers say the existing plan was specifically designed to qualify but that the city charged them $100,000 and took 1½ years to fully analyze environmental requirements, only for that analysis to confirm the project should be exempted.
“This upsized project was necessitated only by the city’s ‘by any means necessary’ approach to preventing the original project from moving forward, including abuse of the (environmental act) process and other delay tactics,” Hurd said. “The applicant is prepared to do what it takes to see this new application forward to a decision, and the law is unequivocal that the project must be approved.”
Dorfman added that if the City Council upholds the appeal and exempts the 40-unit version from further environmental review, “then we’ll pivot to the original application.”