Posted 3/31/16: Umbrella Group Monthly Meeting Notes from March 30, 2016

Joint Meeting: City of San Rafael – Federation of Neighborhoods – Coalition of North San Rafael – Pt. San Pedro Road Coalition

The Coalition meets monthly with the City of San Rafael along with two other umbrella groups to discuss activities, concerns and/or issues that are not readily addressed directly with the appropriate City agencies or where there is concern about the City’s approach. Items are placed on the agenda by the City and/or the three umbrella groups. This provides the Coalition with an opportunity to raise issues of particular interest to residents of our area. If you have any suggestions regarding potential topics for these meetings, we urge you to let us know via the Coalition Board contact form. Following is a summary of the most recent meeting:

Essential Facilities Project Update 

Mary McGrath, Principal Architect, Mary McGrath Architects, gave a presentation on the design and plans for the Public Safety Center as well as Fire Stations 51 (corner of C and 5th), 52 (corner of 3rd and Union) and 57 (Marin Civic Center). Fire Station 51 will be merged with the Police and Fire departments in a new building at the current location of Fire Station 51 and is to be called the Public Safety Center. The other fire stations will be redesigned and upgraded for earthquake safety. These plans are reaching fruition for final approvals with Design Review Board and Planning Commission hearings scheduled for April 2016. Completion dates for the Safety Center and Fire Station 57 are targeted for March 2018 and Fire Station 52 for June 2019. Temporary relocation of the facilities of these fire stations during construction are being finalized.

Homeless Planning and Outreach

Andrew Hening, Director of the newly created S.R. Homeless Planning and Outreach department, spoke on his current progress and plans after about four weeks in the position. He is working with the City and County on the issues surrounding the Ritter Center, including their potential relocation as well as current operations. He is working closely with Marin County Health and Human Services and with the County Homeless Coordinator and feels that progress is being made. However, he provide no details.

He also spoke about the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) that is intended to deal with those homeless individuals that require special attention due to severe health and/or mental issues. The HOT approach is similar to the “case management team” pioneered by San Mateo County in which various agencies work together to develop an individually tailored approach to match that individual’s unique situation and needs. A number of public agencies and private organizations are involved at both the City and County levels. The S.R. Mental Health Outreach Department is spearheading the effort to identify these individual.

Hening’s department is also working with community organizations and local businesses to understand the specific needs of various local neighborhoods related to the homeless and tailor solutions to fit. He pointed out some tentative agreements with Safeway on B Street to add lighting, increase security and tow vehicles as an example.

Finally, he spoke to plans to obtain parking meters that would be donated to the City and are capable of receiving funds from parkers donated toward the costs of providing homeless services. A program, called “Change for Change”, has been effective elsewhere in supplementing local funding and helps in discouraging people from giving money directly to homeless individuals on the street and, hopefully, discourage panhandling. He also spoke briefly about dealing with transients differently than local homeless residents in order to reduce the number of individuals attracted to San Rafael to take advantage of local services. This is still a “work in progress” but would involve some sort of ID card to be given to local homeless to distinguish them from transients and to track the services provided to them.

Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association Crime & Safety Initiative

Amy Likover, Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods and San Rafael Heritage, spoke on the Gerstle Park efforts to combat crime, often attributed to the actions of homeless individuals, and to provide greater transparency on reporting of crimes, especially around Albert Park. Community meetings are planned to address this subject this spring. She also asked if the City has plans to off the two historic wood structures on the Public Safety Center site for sale or auction and if they can be preserved. Christine Alilvovich, Assistant City Manager, said that they had approached this issue and will be pursuing such a course. The GPNA has prepared a list of safety improvement suggestions for Albert Park that they will present to the S.R. City Manager next week.

San Rafael Canal Dredging

Jim Prince, Friends of San Rafael Canal, spoke about the issues surrounding the dredging, or lack thereof, of the San Rafael canal. This canal was last fully dredged by the Army Corp of Engineers in 2002 and has been silting up ever since then. A partial dredging was done a few years ago but the critical areas at the mouth of the canal were not dredged for lack of funds. That area contains contaminates and the cost of dredging there is significantly higher as a result. No federal funds are available and neither the City nor County have funds to pay the Corp of Engineers for this work. If allowed to continue, silting will increase which would make the dredging even more costly and eventually the canal could be all but closed to boat traffic. This would be a serious consequence for those who depend on this canal. Awareness needs to be raised and funding needs to be identified. The Friends of San Rafael Canal want this item on the agenda for the next meeting of this umbrella group.