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Continued Support of Workforce Housing Is Critical to Our Economy

Author: Rick Wells
May, 2013 Issue

A recent public meeting at a neighborhood community center in San Rafael drew more than 500 people, some to attend and some to protest. Police were present to maintain order. The topic of the meeting: affordable housing. With the current housing inventory crunch and proposed development projects like Marinwood, Grady Ranch and others across Marin County, this subject has again taken center stage in Marin and the North Bay.
At the chamber, we refer to this subject as “workforce housing.” For more than a decade, the chamber has recognized that the diverse workforce, which is essential to economic vitality in Marin, can’t exist without adequate affordable housing stock. That’s why the challenge of providing workforce housing has long been the subject of discussions among Marin and North Bay decision makers.
As part of its mission to support economic vitality, the San Rafael Chamber supports the creation of a range of affordable housing, including first-time homebuyer opportunities as well as rental options. We encourage statewide legislative reforms. Policies are needed to increase housing supply and affordability by removing barriers to housing production, especially in areas where jobs are located. It’s long been the position of the San Rafael Chamber that affordable housing strategies need to include mixed-use developments, increased densities, second units, an expedited approval process and infill development and redevelopment.
In order for our economy to provide the jobs needed to sustain our quality of life and minimize the pressure placed on our local infrastructure, density in downtown areas must be increased and housing must be added to existing retail developments where feasible. All proposed commercial development projects should consider a mixed-use design that features housing.
The North Bay's need for affordable workforce housing is at an all-time high. Escalating housing costs have forced thousands of employees to drive for hours to reach their workplaces and, for too many, living and working in Marin County has become unfeasible. The result is increased transportation congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, pressure on our infrastructure and stressed employees.
No one seriously questions the critical role of workforce housing in nurturing and sustaining the economic vitality of the North Bay. Please join with the San Rafael Chamber in encouraging North Bay decision makers at all levels to prioritize the creation of quality and affordable workforce housing.

Don’t just sit on the sidelines—join us

The San Rafael Chamber is about making a positive difference in our community in myriad ways. It represents the business community at council meetings and county hearings, recently organized volunteers for community clean-ups and even adopted a portion of Highway 101 for litter removal. For more than 25 years, one of the primary ways the chamber has had a positive impact in our community is through its San Rafael Leadership Institute (SRLI) program.
The SRLI offers an opportunity to learn about current issues in local government, transportation, education, law enforcement, community diversity, the arts, the media, the economy, the environment, agriculture, and health and human services. Participants are exposed to different leaders in the community and determine ways in which they, as current and future leaders, can respond effectively to present and future community concerns. Participants do this while developing leadership and team-building skills.
The SRLI offers exceptional leadership development. This program is the premier opportunity to learn alongside local business and civic leaders. Its graduates are empowered with the skills to develop their own leadership vision.
The SRLI meets once a month. Each monthly session is held at a different location in and around San Rafael and Marin, exposing participants to local businesses, community centers and government facilities. Each month offers a program designed with SRLI graduates and addresses current events and issues. Participants are actively engaged throughout the program as they respond and debate with local leaders about cutting edge topics for San Rafael and Marin County.
NorthBay biz ’s own COO John Dennis and I are currently participating in this year’s SRLI class. It’s been a tremendously positive experience with exceptional community leaders. I would recommend it to anyone looking to learn about our region, get connected, or make a positive difference in our community. Special thanks to Joan Capurro, Cecilia Zamora and Laurie Vermont for their unquestionable dedication to the SRLI program.
To be part of the conversation, join us at
Rick Wells is president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. He’s a current member of several boards, including the Marin County School to Career Partnership Board, Workforce Investment Board of Marin County, Western Association of Chamber Executives Board of Directors and more. He’s been married to Ellie Bishop Wells since 2006. They like to spend time with their daughter, Cadence, and two adopted dogs. You can reach him at


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