Marin County
A view of Marin County in Northern California. Cover image from Marin County government Facebook page

Marin County, the suburban enclave north of the Golden Gate bridge, isn’t interested in having riff-raff — meaning ordinary Californians — despoil its bucolic ambience.

For the past half-century, Marin’s very affluent residents and their politicians have waged a largely successful campaign, under the guise of environmental consciousness, to slow population growth to a trickle by allowing very little new housing to be built.

Between 1970, when anti-growth sentiment first appeared, and 2010, the county’s population grew by just 22.5% while California’s overall population expanded four times as fast, 89.3%. In the last decade, Marin’s population grew by just 8,000.

The county’s exclusionary attitude has made it a target for the state’s efforts to deal with a chronic lack of housing by ramping up construction. The state Department of Housing and Community Development’s quotas on local governments to plan for housing over the next eight years translate into 14,400 units for Marin, or enough for about 40,000 new residents, most with low to moderate incomes.

That number is shocking to Marin’s residents and leaders, since the county has added just 54,000 people to its population in the last half-century.