Federal Bill Would Require Coast Guard to Sell Surplus Quarters

U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard

Pressure on the U.S. Coast Guard to sell surplus quarters in Point Reyes Station to the county of Marin for affordable housing increased this week.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, announced on Friday that the U.S. House of Representatives has approved an updated Coast Guard authorization bill that requires by law that the Coast Guard transfer its 30-acre Point Reyes Station housing site to Marin County for permanent affordable housing. The bill requires the Coast Guard to offer the property to Marin County at fair market value.

A provision in the previous version of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015, which Huffman also lobbied for, gave Marin County exclusive first rights to purchase the property. Initially, the Coast Guard had planned to auction the property to the highest bidder. This housing site for Coast Guard officers includes 36 homes, picnic areas, trails, a dining hall, tennis courts and other facilities.

"This is the strongest mandate to date," Huffman said. "The legislation brings us one step closer to ensuring that the Coast Guard property will benefit working families in West Marin."

Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have introduced companion legislation, but its adoption has been delayed by debates over regulations governing ballast water discharge. The Authorization Act would authorize Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission funding and activities for the next two years.

Kim Thompson, executive director of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin, or CLAM, said, "This simply, but powerfully, says there is support in Congress to make sure that the Coast Guard sells this site to the county."

CLAM is conducting a feasibility study for project development at the site.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey said, "I applaud the congressman for guiding this legislative initiative through the House. It signals to the Coast Guard that they are on the right track by agreeing to negotiate exclusively with Marin County to confirm whether a market value transaction is feasible."

Kinsey announced in August that he had met with a Coast Guard representative who told him that an environmental assessment of the property and a financial appraisal of the property would be needed before negotiations could commence.

The market value of the Coast Guard site has not yet been determined, but Thompson said there are several reasons why the property's cost may not be prohibitively expensive for the county. She said in addition to lacking sewer service the parcel is not zoned for commercial or residential use.

"We believe it is just perfectly positioned for use as affordable homes and other community assets," Thompson said. "In West Marin, we feel a particular urgency because of the hollowing out of our communities related to escalating prices. Due to home sales, there is almost no place to rent."

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