Huffman: “This land is your land”
Housing supporters and a Congressional representative last Friday morning celebrated the passage of legislation that ensures the Coast Guard housing complex in Point Reyes Station is turned into affordable housing.
The legislative mandate—part of the broader Coast Guard Authorization Act, which Congress passed two weeks ago and which was signed in to law on Wednesday—requires the agency to sell the property, which includes 36 townhomes, to Marin County at fair market value for use as affordable housing. The county does not intend to own it, but instead to enlist the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin to run the complex.
“We have been working to bring the seed of a rumor to a possibility to legislation,” said Kim Thompson, the executive Director of CLAM, at the gathering at the EAH Housing complex, which borders the Coast Guard property. “Now here we all are together to celebrate the finality of that, and a new track to create sustainable, affordable homes.”
The possibility of turning the complex into secure housing for locals mobilized CLAM, Supervisor Steve Kinsey and Rep. Jared Huffman—and drew widespread support from local residents, businesses and nonprofits. The legislation marks a milestone in the effort to create dozens of affordable units in one fell swoop.
Even so, Rep. Huffman noted the long slog of trying to pass the legislation, given what he called resistance from the Coast Guard. “It was like rolling a very large boulder up a hill, and there was a lot of resistance,” he said. “The fact that we are meeting to celebrate not on the Coast Guard property, but here, is significant. It tells you a little bit about the type of resistance we faced every step of the journey.”
Nor is that journey over. The federal government has not finished an environmental review of the site, which has no septic system. Fair market value remains to be determined; according to the legislation, the county will choose the appraiser, though the appraiser must be approved by the commandant of the Coast Guard.
And the county must dig up funds to make the purchase and bring the site in line with county development code, to which the federal agency did not have to abide.
Rep. Huffman encouraged the community leaders present on Friday to remain united. “I think all of you are going to need to stay together and stay engaged. We may have to do a little more advocacy, but this is going happen, and that’s really incredible. Because just over these hills, believe it or not, when we talk about affordable housing, it’s not a gathering like this. There is a lot of conflict and controversy, and ugliness, often,” he said.
After speeches embellished with the occasional lowing of a cow in the distance, gatherers mingled over coffee and pastries before snapping a celebratory picture in front of the fence that separates a grassy expanse from the 30-acre Coast Guard site. People lined up in the shadow of cypress trees along the fence, which bore the message, “U.S. property. No Trespassing.”
“Keep the sign visible!” someone called out.
“Does anyone have a sharpie?” Rep. Huffman joked.
“Do you all know the song ‘This land is your land?’” he went on. He quoted the lyrics near the end of Woody Guthrie’s famous folk song: “As I went walking I saw a sign there/ And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing’/ But on the other side it didn’t say nothing/ That side was made for you and me.”