It's in this charged political climate—which has divided defenders of green open-space from advocates for green growth and sparked protests with signs reading "End Apartheid in Marin"—that a simple clause like the one released by the Marin Association of Realtors becomes a big deal.
"This is very much an issue that we are concerned with," says Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing of Marin. "A disclosure means something negative is involved. You disclose that there's lead paint. When you disclose a potential affordable housing site, you're saying it's bad."
Peattie says Fair Housing of Marin is less worried with the new disclosure and more concerned with a prior legal form drafted by Bradley Real Estate, which specifically cites affordable housing and proposed zoning sites.
Robert Bradley, CEO of Bradley Real Estate, believes the company had a legal responsibility to disclose what he calls a massive rezoning of the county.
"A disclosure is anything that will have a material effect on the desirability of the property," he says, adding that a large development in a neighborhood of single-family homes could do just that. He also voices concern about how a below-market-rate property could affect an area where schools and city resources are shared, but inhabitants aren't paying property taxes.
His wife, Melissa, echoes his statements, citing a slogan she's heard repeatedly in her 20-year real estate career: "When in doubt, disclose." She says she's surprised that the larger Marin Association of Realtors has not previously made zoning changes an issue of disclosure.
"We count on our board for updates on how things are going and what new info we need to disclose," she writes in an email.
Edward Segal, CEO of the association, said there was no connection between the Bradley document and his association's disclosure, which was voted on by a task force within the organization. He would not state who was on the task force.
"It was just for the sake of being current with all the talk and public discussion and debate," he says, denying that the association is somehow taking a political stance on the explosive issue.
Michael Allen, a civil rights attorney working with Marin Fair Housing, says that no matter the intent of the disclosures, they could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He explains it cyclically: perception that affordable housing will lower property values could make a neighborhood less desirable to buyers and that, in turn, could lower property values.
"Each of them has the effect of suggesting there's something wrong with affordable housing," he says. "The effect in the real world is going to be negative on affordable housing and negative on integration in Marin."
Allen says he doesn't see a precedent for this kind of notice in California real estate disclosure law. A perusal of the law reveals many examples—asbestos, flooding, radon gas—that are, in fact, negative. According to Bradley, his notice is an attempt to get information out into an atmosphere that has been politicized to the point where simple facts are lost.
"It's like there's a Fox News and an MSNBC, but no CNN," he says of the cataclysmic debate.
In the meantime, most of the county's workforce commutes in, clogged freeways spew emissions, and the state's wealthiest county remains economically and racially segregated—with few places for its workers to live.