by Paul da Silva

Marin County’s 1973 General Plan has been considered visionary and largely responsible for saving most of the County from the rampant development that has caused so much damage to the native plants and their ecosystems in California. However, after 50 years a major failing has become evident; although it provided for environmental protection of the coastal recreation corridor and the central agricultural corridor, it neglected the environment of the eastern urbanized corridor.

Now, with increasing pressure to build more housing, especially in eastern Marin, state legislation has restricted the environmental challenges that can be brought against new development. However, new rules may mitigate the environmental harms of development if they include requirements for inclusion of native plantings.

Although many kinds of “subjective” challenges that were brought against developments in the past are now prohibited, localities still have the power to enforce “objective” design standards, and these can include specific requirements for native plants. Marin CNPS members took advantage of this opportunity in the recent update of the county’s Housing Element, which included “objective” designs standards in its Form-Based Code. Developers who are applying for approval based on the requirements of the Form Based Code are now required to landscape with 70% native plants.

Individual cities and towns in Marin are also updating their General Plans and design standards. The City of Larkspur is in the last stages of its work on both. The Town of San Anselmo has announced its plans to begin updating its General Plan.

Native plants flourish in the median by the Lark Theater by Laura Lovett

Wherever you live in Marin,  pay attention to what your local government is doing. Ask for the latest planning documents and check whether they mention native plants. If they do not, try to see where they might fit in, and at the next update, give public input about this.

For the county and those localities that already mention native plants in their General Plans or objective design standards, people can check on the approval processes for any new developments to see that the regulations are being followed. If enough members do this, we may soon see more native plants near in our urban corridors where most Marin residents live and work!