By: Janis Mara
Marin leaders rejoiced at the news that the county was judged California’s best to live in, while remaining mindful that there is still room for improvement.
Movoto, a real estate website, Friday released a report naming Marin No. 1 based on its high median household income, median home price and median rent, low unemployment and second-lowest number of families below the poverty line. With San Mateo second and Santa Clara third, it was something of a Bay Area sweep.
“It is no surprise that Marin is the most desirable place to live,” Supervisor Judy Arnold said in an email. “It has so much going for it: open space, ranch land, good schools and healthy foods.”
However, she added, “As supervisors, we also deal with the not-so-desirable aspects of living in such beauty: high rent, lack of housing, traffic congestion and health problems. It is important to celebrate the good things of our county while realizing the problems that are not celebrated and try to make Marin even better for everyone.”
Rob Eyler, head of the Marin Economic Forum, offered a note of analysis in his response.
“I think it shows that Marin is not only attractive, but also a by-product of its location. There is likely wealth migrating in from San Francisco and the greater Bay Area looking for a more suburban existence,” Eyler said.
“This is where Marin’s housing market is very much related to the greater Bay Area as the most desirable place (weather, proximity to SF, amenities, schools) in a very desirable regional globally,” Eyler said.
In a somewhat similar vein, Blaine Morris, the head of the Marin Association of Realtors, said, “We have all the amenities of big city living available within a half hour but when we come back to Marin we could be in any small town in America. You can earn a big city living while having a semi-rural life here.
“When my wife and I lived in Los Angeles 20 years ago, we were always trying to figure out where to go to get out of Los Angeles for the weekend. We finally decided to move somewhere we would like to spend the weekend,” Morris said. Even when he got a job at Oracle in Silicon Valley, Morris refused to move out of the county, he said.
In addition to the county’s economic indicators, the blog mentioned several other factors. “Marin County loved education, with establishments like the College of Marin and Dominican University of California.”
The good words were apparently appreciated. “As the community’s college, we are honored to be cited as one of the reasons that Marin is the Number One county in the state to live in,” David Wain Coon, superintendent/president of the College of Marin, said in an email. “College of Marin is committed to providing all residents of Marin County outstanding educational opportunities.”
As for Dominican, “As a relatively new resident of Marin, I can attest that this is a great place to live, and education is central to Marin’s high quality of life,” said the university’s president, Mary Marcy.
“When we invest in new facilities and programs, we consider how our investments will impact both our students and our greater community,” Marcy said, noting that the university is opening a health sciences facility next year and its business school “is forming global partnerships that will result in new opportunities for students and local businesses.”
The report also mentioned the Marin County Free Library.
“I’m not surprised. It really is a great library system with tremendous community support and a very literate community that loves its libraries and uses them,” said Sara Jones, director of county library services.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer, offered a nuanced view.
“This is an interesting set of indicators, because it really is almost directly related to affluence,” Willis said. “You really could call this the wealthiest counties ranking.
“So what’s seen as a strength here might be seen as a liability by someone with a low or middle income. For our middle-income community — our police, our teachers — when they can’t afford to live here, and yet they make up the fabric of our community, this is potentially a vulnerability for us and an important piece here,” Willis said.
Willis referred to Marin’s March ranking as the healthiest county in California by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It’s because we have opportunities for recreation, 600-something miles for trails, small farms and produce. Healthy eating and active behavior are normal to Marin.”
On the other side of the equation of the Movoto blog, Willis said, “is the experience of people of limited means” who may be working two jobs and too busy to work out.
“What I would love to see is a ranking that reflects a balanced community and a community that allows for diversity, culturally, ethnically and economically,” Willis said. “These rankings don’t reflect the fact that we lack that diversity.”