Mid-Week Links: Get a Car

There’s a major threat to walkable living, transit, biking, and even our highways brewing in the House of Representatives in the form of a terribly written transportation reauthorization bill, HR 7.  Although we know Congresswoman Woolsey is firmly against the plan as written, it’s important to keep in mind what is happening on Capitol Hill.

Marin County

  • Novato cracked down on unsafe driving this past weekend, resulting in 44 citations.  It’s a good move for a city that has seen a number of pedestrian accidents in the past few months. (IJ)
  • County planners have approved the Grady Ranch development in Lucas Valley and, unless opponents appeal to the Board of Supervisors, the project will go ahead as planned. (IJ)
  • West Marin may help the county satisfy some of its affordable housing requirements by allowing ranches and farms to build workforce and owner housing on-site, cutting down driving commutes into the region. (IJ)
  • SMART ceremonially broke ground on its transit system, marking the beginning of real construction and the culmination of years of work. (Patch)
  • San Rafael’s Ritter Center expansion is on hold pending an appeal by Gerstle Park residents. The expansion would be a medical center housed in a temporary building, though Ritter says they will look for a new when it lease expires in 2015. (IJ)
  • West End is apparently a quirky place for the young and hip to shop in San Rafael, not to say that it doesn’t have challenges: auto-oriented businesses on the north side of Fourth, the half-dead Yardbirds strip mall, too-wide streets, lack of continuity with downtown, and an anti-development bias keep the neighborhood from really thriving. (Reporter, New Pointer)
  • Albert Park and the San Rafael Pacifics are go thanks to a judge’s ruling against Gerstle Park opponents of the planned baseball field who had sought to block the team. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • MTC has rejected political appeals of projects that do not meet its required cost-benefit floor, putting common sense above more narrow local interest. (TransForm)
  • Intuition is correct: parking minimums encourage driving, and I think it’s high time for Marin to abandon the unscientific minimums posthaste.  (The Atlantic Cities)
  • The Americas Cup has downsized its plans for San Francisco and will not renovate Piers 30 and 32 after all thanks to regulatory issues.  Still, the Cup is a great excuse for the City to invest in its waterfront and should be a strong incentive for Sausalito to do the same. (SFist, SPUR)
  • Bicyclists like the same routes drivers do, and for the same reasons. I suspect that making it safer for bikers to use main roads would do more for cycling mode share than shunting them onto side roads.  In other words, bike lanes belong just where planners may not want to put them: Sir Francis Drake, Delong, and Fourth Street. (The City Fix)
  • Luxury car drivers, take note: you may be driving like a jerk and not even notice it. (SFist)
  • In case you missed Smart Growth America’s webinar on sustainable communities, they have their materials up for perusal. (SGA)

Mid-Week Links: We’ll Cross that Bridge

Richmond - San Rafael Bridge

photo by --Mark--

San Rafael

It’s been a busy week in the County Seat after a few weeks of Novato hogging the spotlight, and why not?  There are plenty of empty lots to fill, streets to calm (or not) and parks to lease.  The big news, of course, is that baseball is coming to San Rafael now that the City Council has approved the lease of Albert Field to Centerfield Partners.  There’s talk of a lawsuit from some neighbors, but they haven’t yet decided whether to sue or not.

Now that there will be a major pedestrian destination in San Rafael, the city will double-down on pedestrian improvements and try to really solidify a place as a walkable city, right?  Actually, no.  The city has deemed two intersections along Third Street, both within a quarter-mile of the Transit Center, to be too dangerous to cross.  Rather than try to improve the crossings and calm the raging one-way traffic, the city will make it illegal to cross there by removing the crosswalks.  Brilliant.  The city will hold a public hearing if it hears enough objections from pedestrians.

Greg Brockbank officially launched his campaign for mayor at a party on Sunday.  In his speech, he listed things he’d like to see to build up San Rafael: more events, more affordable housing, a shuttle, a downtown hotel, a music pavilion, and drawing seniors downtown.  I’d like to add more crosswalks to that list.

A bit further north, a long, long dead Sizzler’s near Los Ranchitos will be renovated into a hardware store.  This is an undeniably good thing, as North San Rafael has lacked one for over a year.  As well, the County is evaluating the old Fireman’s Fund building at 1600 Los Gamos as to the feasibility of it housing a public safety complex.

Elsewhere in Marin

  • The Ross Valley real estate market is “holding steady,” while White Hill and other Ross Valley schools are moving forward with plans to build more classrooms.
  • The Town of Ross will hold its annual Town Dinner next Friday, September 30.  Get home from work early for some community cheer.
  • The oldest business in Marin, Smiley’s Schooner Saloon in Bolinas, is up for sale.
  • Once again, the Mill Valley Council changed course when confronted by small and vocal opposition, voting unanimously to reject a plan to installing a paid-for electric car charging station.
  • Meanwhile, Mill Valley will likely spend around $400,000 to patch, not repave, their roads.
  • CalTrans will repave (PDF) a half-mile stretch of Tiburon Boulevard in downtown Tiburon at a cost of $1.2 million.
  • Dick Spotswood wanted the facts on affordable housing, and, courtesy of Stand Up for Neighborly Novato, here’s some facts for Novato.
  • The IJ comes out in favor of Novato‘s planned downtown city offices, citing economic and symbolic reasons.
  • Yet despite this renewed push to have a heart, the city continues its sprawling ways.
  • Larkspur‘s planning director, Nancy Kaufman, has retired to do watercolors and planning consulting.
  • MCBC is beefing up its efforts to improve open space bike trails.

SMART News

The SMART project keeps chugging along, with new and old ideas coming up in the editorials of local papers.  Mike Pechner opined in the IJ that purchasing CalTrain trainsets would save money over the Japanese DMUs SMART currently has on order.  I haven’t seen a good comparison, but individually motorized carriages is best-practice in Europe and Asia.  Amtrak faces the same questions as SMART, which the Infrastructurist has kindly parsed for us.

Another ongoing debate is the effect of the system on home prices.  Conventional wisdom is that homes increase in price when they have proximity to transit, although some believe the noise of the trains will lower house prices.  Half-Mile Circles has a fabulous literature review for anyone’s perusal on the subject.

Meanwhile, the North Bay Business Journal wonders if an excursion train like the Vine Line is possible along the SMART corridor.  The short answer?  No.

The Greater Marin

  • Contra Costa’s Lafayette and Orinda want better downtowns, but it’s sparking some debate in the communities about what is, or is not, appropriate.  Marin needs a debate like this.
  • Streetsblog wonders whether our transit systems should strive for profitability or coverage.
  • Wondering what San Francisco was up to this past weekend?  Enjoying Chinatown and North Beach streets by closing them off to cars, that’s what.
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