Thompson Dorfman threatens with big builder’s remedy project in Belvedere

Firm files plans for 70 units if city doesn’t approve its 40-unit development

Thompson Dorfman threatens to build larger builder’s remedy project in Belvedere
Thompson Dorfman's Bruce Dorfman and a rendering of 1-22 Mallard Road in Belvedere (Thompson Dorfman, Mallard Pointe 2026)

Thompson Dorfman Partners has one weapon aimed at upscale Belvedere if it fails to approve its 40 waterfront homes and apartments: a builder’s remedy project nearly twice as big.

The City Council was slated to vote Monday whether to overturn a Planning Commission decision to reject the 40-unit development at 1-22 Mallard Road, on Belvedere Lagoon in Marin County, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Plans by the Mill Valley-based developer include replacing the Mallard Pointe luxury apartments, built in 1951, with 16 waterfront homes and a granny flat backed by a 23-unit apartment complex — the first built in the city in 34 years.

But if the City Council rules against the developer, Thompson Dorfman filed an alternative application this month under the state builder’s remedy that calls for a 70-unit project, 75 percent larger than the one turned down by the Planning Commission.

Builder’s remedy, a legal loophole in state housing law, allows developers to bypass zoning rules in cities such as Belvedere that have failed to certify their required housing element blueprints by Jan. 31, 2023. Belvedere must plan for 160 homes by 2031.

While the City Council approved the town’s housing element last week, the plan has yet to be approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Until then, the city is vulnerable to builder’s remedy applications.

The “Planning Commission’s arbitrary action to unnecessarily delay review of our original application has triggered the need for a builder’s remedy submission,” Developer Bruce Dorfman told the Chronicle. “If the City Council does not bring some sensibility to this process we will be left with no choice but to pursue the builder’s remedy project.”

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Plans for the 2.8-acre builder’s remedy project include a 55-unit, four-story apartment building, 32 more units than the previous project. It would also include six single-family homes, an accessory dwelling unit, two duplexes and a fourplex.

In the revised project, the apartment building would directly overlook the Belvedere Lagoon and would have second-story decks with views across the water, according to the Chronicle. It would include 14 deed-restricted affordable units, up from four in the original project.

Dorfman called his initial 40-unit project “a modest proposal” that is 50 percent of the density allowed by state law. He said his 70-unit alternative is less dense than the 112 units state law allows.

Opponents of the project have argued that the development would adversely impact the private Belvedere Lagoon, while impacting flood control, traffic, parking, noise and pedestrian and child safety.

Dorfman accused opponents of “weaponizing” the state’s convoluted environmental laws to block needed housing in a city where the average home value is $4.2 million, among the highest in the Bay Area.

The developer, which applied to build the project in June 2021, completed its application a year later. But it was unable to get a timely hearing, despite having filed the project under Senate Bill 330, which requires the timely processing of housing applications consistent with local zoning rules, the Chronicle reported last summer.

— Dana Bartholomew

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