Posted 11/3/15: Annual Community Meeting Summary

Pt. San Pedro Road Coalition Annual Community Meeting – October 24, 2015

Bonnie Marmor introduced her co-president Denise Lucy and Board Members Dave Crutcher, Kevin Hagerty, Sara Jensen, Kati Miller and Alan Schaevitz and the Disaster Preparedness Committee co-chairs Milton Davis and Henry Warren. She also introduced many of the notables who were attending.

Firefighters from Fire Station #55, our local firehouse, stopped by for the meeting. Captain Evan Minard of the SR Fire Department invited all to the department fundraiser Crabfest on December 19th.

Marin County District 1 Supervisor Damon Connolly thanked the group for the honor of serving them. He pointed out that he meets quarterly with the leadership of the San Pedro Road Coalition (SPRC) and values input he gets from the Coalition and the public. He spoke about several issues.

  • The Rock Quarry:  The Quarry operates under a permit from the County.  Issues come up from time to time and the County and Quarry work to resolve them.  The County granted an additional 2 years of permission to recycle asphalt.  There are legal issues around this decision that are currently being litigated. The discovery of California Red Legged Frogs, one at the golf course and one at the Quarry, has triggered a delay in conducting scheduled reclamation project.  With recent lower demand and consequent reduced quarrying, there have been few recent complaints from the surrounding area.  Information about the Quarry can be found on their website and on the County Department of Public Works website (as well as on the Coalition website).
  • Disaster Preparedness: Good coordination is needed in the San Pedro Road corridor since it contains both City and County sections. To be effective, the City and County must work with each other and with neighborhood leadership. The Quarry has offered to make sand bags available and said that it can be used as an emergency center during a disaster.
  • The Speed Limit on Point San Pedro Road: The issue is whether to increase the speed limit so that it can be enforced. [NOTE: A recent speed survey by the City has determined that the speed at which 85% of people drive is about 40 mph. As mandated by California state law, the speed limit would have to be raised to 40 mph in order to use radar enforcement. Marin County currently can maintain 35 mph, but will soon have to do a new study.] Damon said that the recent forum on the speed limit co-hosted by the SPRC and the City indicated that people want to utilize traffic calming measures before the speed limit is increased. Studies are being done on measures such as lighting of crosswalks, signage, special measures by schools, etc. A public meeting will be held in the near future to continue this discussion about possible actions to increase roadway safety prior to, or in coordination with, any speed limit changes.
  • Transportation: Supervisor Connolly is on the Marin Transit Board and favors added transit in the corridor so that people have options. Marin Transit will be taking a survey to help determine transit needs of east San Rafael residents. He stated that the downtown bus station may have to be relocated to relieve traffic congestion exacerbated by SMART, especially if SMART is extended to Larkspur.

Supervisor Connolly did not address the issues of Housing/Land Use because people seemed to want to spend the time on traffic concerns. The audience expressed concerns about issues such as increasing problems at the bottleneck getting into town and on and off the highway, speeding by San Pedro School and the impact on traffic that the Smart Train will have.

San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz gave a presentation supported by a slide show that indicated the major goals set by the City Council for the fiscal year 2015-16.

  • Goal A – Neighborhood and Economic Vitality: A vibrant downtown; affordable housing and fewer homeless; reduced greenhouse gases.
  • Goal B – Quality of Life: Programs and spaces for offering enrichment opportunities; literary, artistic, recreational and cultural experiences for all; collaboration with community partners; resident engagement and governmental transparencies.
  • Goal C – Public Safety: Essential public safety facilities upgrades and improvements; safe and secure environment for people, businesses and property; community and organizational emergency readiness; cost saving and efficiency measures for emergency services.
  • Goal D – Public Assets: Park and open space improvements; infrastructure maintenance, reduced traffic congestion, expanded bike, pedestrian and transit opportunities, preparation for the arrival of SMART.
  • Goal E – Foundational Services (sustainability, organizational viability and exemplary service): Short and long term financial viability; organizational excellence and succession planning; continued seeking of financial resources for City priorities; use of technology for improved efficiency and service level ability.

City Manager Schutz pointed out that more and more multiple City departments are working together and the City and County are also working in better coordination.

San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips spoke next on several topics that will be highlighted at the upcoming City Council retreat.

  • Finance: The operating reserve is now at the desired 10 percent.
  • Pensions: The City now funds all normal costs and is rapidly paying down the unfunded obligations.
  • Public Safety Facilities: The City capitalized the revenue stream from a quarter-cent sales tax passed in 2013 under Measure E to provide $65-70 million to modernize public safety buildings. Our Fire Station #55 has been determined to be in a proper location and will have some seismic work done as well as having facilities added to accommodate female fire staff. The very old downtown fire station will be relocated to a facility across from City Hall that will also house the police department. Work on upgrading the emergency facilities is planned to be completed by 2019.
  • Economic development: Promotion of downtown businesses
  • SMART: Connectivity will be needed once the train starts running next year.
  • Homelessness: More addressing of this issue is needed including more work with the County.

The Mayor also discussed the speed limit on Point San Pedro Road. He thanked the SPRC to setting up the road forum since the City wants to talk with those who are affected. He feels that the speed limit along the road should be consistent, not different in the City and County segments. The City is now awaiting suggestions for traffic calming measures. If the speed limit goes up, radar enforcement at the onset will be rigorous. Dean Allison the new Director of Public Works added that it is good to hear input from the audience. He assured the group that the City will be creative and will devise a combination of traffic calming things in addition to speed enforcement. Currently staff is looking at illuminated stop signs and clearer signage at San Pedro School among other things. He mentioned that it was the City’s intention to work with the Coalition and the County to set up another public information meeting once the options have been identified.

Mayor Phillips said that SMART is becoming a reality and will have a significant impact on San Rafael. There will be positive economic impacts but traffic disruption as well.

In response to a question about traffic and other impacts of proposed plans for San Rafael High and other schools, Paul Jensen explained that school districts are exempt from City planning and that the City has no oversight for school projects.

John Bruckbauer, Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Services for the City of San Rafael, spoke about the importance of neighborhood preparedness. More people need to be CERT trained. The current training costs $45.00 and is conducted on two consecutive Saturdays with a total of 18 hours of training. The City is looking into setting up an alternate week-day evening schedule of training over a six-week period. He mentioned that HOA’s sometimes cover costs for training.

Mr. Bruckbauer is available to provide training and speak to groups. This is basically a neighbor-helping-neighbor situation. He will lead 2-hour GET READY training for neighborhoods. Topics such as training in first aid, search and rescue, the setting up of a command post can be covered. Understanding what information will be needed at the city command center from each neighborhood is also covered.   www.ReadyMarin.org is an excellent source of information on all of these topics. He recommended registering at www.alertmarin.org to be notified in the event of an emergency/disaster in your area. Alert Marin will utilize multiple communications vehicles to notify residents who are signed up. Mr.Bruckbauer will also utilize social media such as Nextdoor to provide information. He stated that each neighborhood should prepare in ways that work best for them. The thirty neighborhoods in San Rafael will be organized into seven zones aligned with each of the fire stations. Mr. Bruckbauer will communicate with a primary contact in each of the fire zones in case of a major disaster. He thanked the SPRC for inviting him to speak and provided his contact information, john.bruckbauer@cityofsanrafael.org.

Mr. Bruckbauer was joined by the Coalition’s Disaster Preparedness Committee co-chairs, Henry Warren and Milton Davis. Henry Warren was introduced as a newly appointed co-chair of the committee, replacing Bonnie Marmor and Bill Gates who were thanked for their service. Henry, a resident of Peacock Gap, had a 25-year career with Contra Costa County Fire, including 14 years serving as a Battalion Chief in the Emergency Operations Division. Henry explained what the SPRC would like to do to help the 2800 households in our area in the event of a disaster. We want to help facilitate local neighborhood groups to organize or to improve their existing group.   We want to know where there are people who will require special assistance. He asked attendees to help update his HOA list that was out on the table. Milt briefly explained how Villa Real has set up its emergency preparedness. He pointed out that advanced classes are offered every four months for CERT-trained people.

[NOTE: The Disaster Preparedness Committee co-chairs can be contacted via the Coalition’s website form at sprcoalition.org/disaster-prep/contact.]

Dave Crutcher, Co-Chair of the Coalition’s Quarry Committee, commented that the Quarry and Coalition have had a contentious relationship in the past that has improved in the last 5 to 7 years with less activity at the Quarry and fewer complaints.  He stated that the 2010 permit conditions seem to be working, since the Quarry has had several spurts of intense activity with few complaints.  The reclamation work that Supervisor Connolly mentioned, when it gets underway probably next year, will be noisy and dusty.

Dave explained that there is currently one area of contention.  In July, the County granted the Quarry another two-year permit to recycle asphalt.  Although the SPRC has no problem with the practice of recycling asphalt, this activity was determined by Judge Sutro in a trial in the early 2000s to be prohibited because it an improper expansion of the Quarry’s nonconforming use.  The Quarry, as a non-conforming use, cannot expand its operations, and the Court already determined that asphalt recycling is an expansion.  Therefore, acquiescing to the County’s approval of the permit request would establish very bad precedent.  Accordingly, the Coalition filed a lawsuit against the County in 2013 after the County had approved the initial request to recycle.  The County argued that the matter should have first been appealed to the State Mining Board, and because the Coalition did not, it lost its right to bring the lawsuit.  Surprisingly, the court agreed.  The Coalition appealed that procedural determination, and the appeal has sat at the State Court of Appeals with no activity.  In the meantime, the Coalition appealed the most recent extension of the Quarry’s request to recycle to the State Mining Board, which promptly rejected the appeal as being outside their jurisdiction (as the Coalition had expected).  Eventually, the court will decide whether the Quarry can recycle asphalt, which is the point of all of this.

[NOTE: The Quarry Committee chair can be contacted via the Coalition’s website form at sprcoalition.org/quarry/contact-the-s-r-rock-quarry-committee.]

Sara Jensen, Co-Chair of the Coalition’s Marina Committee spoke very briefly about the Marina since the meeting was running late. She discussed the monthly meetings that the committee is now holding with Paul Jensen (Director of Community Development) and members of the Department of Public Works. She explained that a report of these meetings is posted every month on the website where a great deal of other information about the project can be found such as construction schedules, overviews of the work, etc. Residents with questions or concerns can send them to the Committee via the contact form on the Coalition website.

[NOTE: The Marina Committee co-chair can be contacted via the Coalition’s website form at sprcoalition.org/marina/contact-the-loch-lomond-marina-committee.]

Alan Schaevitz, Coalition Webmaster, encouraged people to sign up for our email list through the website and to use the website to find in-depth information about our various committees as well as news releases. (See all the contact forms in the drop-down menu on the Coalition’s website under “Contact Us”.

Kevin Hagerty, Coalition Roadway Committee Chair, provided an overview of what the Committee has done during the last year including co-sponsoring the forum on the PSPR speed limit with the City and County. There will be a follow up meeting on this subject, probably in January. The Median Maintenance Subcommittee, chaired by Jim Dickson, meets quarterly with City Staff and their contractor on issues related to median maintenance. Phase II of the Point San Pedro Road Repaving Project (Quarry Driveway to Biscayne Drive) is now underway and is expected to be completed by the end of November.

The Committee is working with Marin Transit on the feasibility of providing some form of public transit to the Point San Pedro Road Peninsula. Information about public transportation on the peninsula is being gathered and disseminated. Marin Transit regards the area as a priority but as yet there is no funding. In November, the Coalition working with Marin Transit plans to conduct an on-line survey to gather information about resident’s specific transit needs. Finally, the Roadway Committee has been monitoring what the City is doing to lessen traffic impacts when SMART begins operating to downtown San Rafael in 2016.

[NOTE: The Roadway Committee co-chair can be contacted via the Coalition’s website form at sprcoalition.org/roadway/contact-the-san-pedro-roadway-committee.]

Bryon Bass, Friends of the Canal, represented the organization that is trying to identify a sustainable way to maintain the Canal. The channel silts up rather rapidly, one to one-and-a-half feet per year. It will soon be impassable for boats. The last time it was dredged was in 2012 when the Army Corp of Engineers covered the 1.4 million dollar cost, but this funding source is no longer available. The group has meet with the City and County and wants to identify ways for the City, County and residents to partner.  Mayor Phillips added that the City is looking for ways to work with other shallow dredging areas such as Petaluma, Napa and Sonoma. Mr. Bass suggested that perhaps there could be assessments. Marinas do their own dredging, but the center of the canal needs to be done.

Dredging serves other purposes in addition to boat passage. It helps to prevent flooding in areas such as Gerstle Park, it supports businesses along the waterfront, it allows passage for the two police boats that provide emergency support for fires and rescues in the bay as well as making the popular Lighted Boat Parade possible. More information can be found at www.friendsofthecanal.org.

There were approximately 80 people in attendance.

Sandy Mahoney, Madison Company Realtors, provided delicious refreshments.   Sandy can be reached at sandy_mahoney@yahoo.com, 415-246-1848.