Mid-Week Links: Perfect Storm

San Francisco Bridge Before the Storm

Photo on flickr by Matt Muangsiri

A ludicrous amount of stuff is happening this week in the City. Though much of the week has already gone by, Fleet Week and America’s Cup, along with others and your regularly-scheduled weekend fun, are still to come.

So take transit and spare yourself the pain of hunting for parking (though if you do, download SFPark and get your passengers to tell you where to go). If you don’t live near a stop, use one of the park & rides. Golden Gate Transit has the rundown for its added service. Unfortunately, that won’t include Route 29 to Larkspur Landing, so you’ll have to bike, drive, or walk from Lucky Drive.

So for the sake of your sanity, your nerves, and the good people of San Francisco, leave the car in Marin.

Marin and Beyond

  • Regional transit service to and from Marin will be the subject of a new study funded by the Community Transportation Association of America. All transit options are on the table, but whether anything will come to fruition is another story. The study is to be completed by 2013. (News-Pointer)
  • If your home shares walls with another, you’ve got a year to quit smoking. San Rafael will ban smoking in attached homes like apartments, as well as on downtown sidewalks, starting next October. (Pacific Sun)
  • 75,000 square feet of downtown Tiburon has been sold to real estate investment firm for an undisclosed sum. The sale means the buildings will likely receive some long overdue renovations. (IJ)
  • The stink of rotting algae at Spinnaker Point in San Rafael has raised the ire of residents and BAAQMD, though nobody who can do anything about the problem wants to pay for it. (IJ)
  • San Anselmoans took back downtown from the car for last Sunday’s Country Fair Day, bringing out the young, the old, and the stormtroopers. (Patch)
  • Y’know that new train control system on Caltrain being paid for by High Speed Rail money? Yeah, it’s a gigantic waste of money and won’t do anything it’s supposed to do. Just like the last train control system. (Oakland Tribune, Systemic Failure)
  • Apparently, President Obama wants to keep freeways out of the suburbs. The position Marin took 40 years ago has reached the White House. Sadly, Congress has yet to get the memo. (Washington Post)
  • And…: San Rafael needs a new parking manager, and it seems there’s room for the office to do some reform. (City of San Rafael) … Forcing people to wear bicycle helmets is a sure way to harm bicycling and make everyone less healthy and every bicyclist less safe. (NYT) … The Ross Police Department faces dissolution if Measure D doesn’t pass.  (IJ)

The Toll

This week, Hailey Ratliff was struck and killed by a driver. Eight others were injured.

  • Dalton Baker, a high school student, critically injured himself when he was clotheslined while riding his bike in Healdsburg. He ran full-speed into a parking lot cable that he apparently didn’t see. He’s lost part of his liver and may lose both kidneys. (PD)
  • Two pedestrians crossing the road were injured by a hit-and-run driver in San Rafael. The driver rear-ended another car, which in turn struck the pedestrians. Police are searching for the culprit. (IJ)
  • A four-year-old was injured after a driver pulling out of a driveway bumped him in Mill Valley. It’s extremely important not to dismiss such incidents, as children are frequently killed this way. (IJ, Kids and Cars)
  • A woman whose tires disintegrated on the road lost control of her vehicle, crashing it and injuring herself in Novato. (Patch) … A woman crashed her car into a Petaluma fire hydrant, injuring herself and causing a geyser. (PD) … Two were injured when a driver wasn’t paying attention to the road and caused a three-car crash in Santa Rosa. (PD)

Mid-Week Links: Reclamation

Fairfax Festival  MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

People enjoying closed streets at the Fairfax Festival. Photo by MichaelOlsen/ZorkMagazine

Marin County

  • Fairfax is hashing out how to implement Streets for People, its own version of San Francisco’s incredibly successful Sunday Streets program. The town would close Bolinas for part of the day, opening it up to anyone on foot, bike, or other human-powered conveyance. (Patch)
  • New blood on the Ross Valley Sanitary District board promises a management and policy shift. New member Mary Sylla is opposed to new bonds and rate hikes intended to speed the district’s century-long pipe replacement cycle. Marcia Johnson, who lost her re-election bid, was a supporter. (IJ)
  • Tonight, chat with Blithedale Terrace developer Phil Richardson about his proposed 20-unit condo development in lower Mill Valley7pm, The Forest Room of the Mill Valley Community Center. (Patch)
  • A new sidewalk is under construction in Homestead Valley’s Evergreen Avenue under the county’s Safe Routes to School program. People still don’t like the plan, saying it undermines the community’s semi-rural character. There may be an injunction filed to stop the project, which is designed make the route to school safer. (IJ, @mikesonn, Mill Valley Herald)
  • A new Santa Venetia subdivision will not go forward as planned, at least not yet. County Supervisors rejected the 14-unit sprawl project pending a few more months of study. Unfortunately, the area is zoned for 15 units on one-acre plots, so it’s unlikely the project can be stopped entirely. (IJ)
  • Ever wondered how much your town’s Director of Public Works was paid? Bay Area News Group has created a searchable database of all public employee salaries in the Bay Area, so you can know at last. (IJ)
  • Ross faces dramatic cuts now that the town declined to pass the $642,000 public safety tax. Two police officers, a firefighter, and a firefighting apprenticeship program are all on the chopping block. The town will cut other areas to keep the damage minimal. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • The draft Civic Center Station Area Plan has been released to the public and to the Board of Supervisors, who are reviewing the draft now. The plan creates more housing, rezones parts of the auto-oriented neighborhood, and creates a better pedestrian circulation pattern through the area. (Pacific Sun)
  • And…: A yard that has encroached on open space for more than 20 years will finally be returned to San Rafael, though the owners have a history of ignoring officialdom on the subject, so who knows? (IJ) … In a picture of sweetness and light, a Corte Madera father and daughter spent the whole school year biking in tandem to kindergarten. (Twin Cities Times) … Brad Breithaupt goes deeper into the voting numbers from last Tuesday’s election. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • A comprehensive report on San Francisco’s multifaceted and crowded transit system has been released. The 103-year-old report details the pre-Muni world of streetcars and rails in the aftermath of the earthquake and fire. Among the recommendations? Getting rid of horse-drawn cars. (Muni Diaries)
  • Apple will stop using Google Maps on its iPhones, and it won’t include transit directions. You may have to go back to using that 511.org app… (Streetsblog)
  • It turns out Muni has been neglecting maintenance for years as the agency has sacrificed long-term financial stability for short-term savings. Be glad you have GGT managing your fleet, Marin. (SF Weekly)
  • A bill to create a statewide ceiling on parking requirements around transit has shown signs of life in the state Senate. AB 904 would force localities to require no more than one parking space per housing unit, 1,000 square feet of retail, or other measures. (Around the Capitol via @MarketUrbanism and @mottsmith)
  • If you want to encourage transit ridership, the best way is to price driving. While expanding a rail network by 10% nets a 3% gain in ridership, effective car regulations (like congestion pricing) nets a 10-20% increase in ridership and a commensurate decrease in driving. (Atlantic Cities)
  • And…: Santa Rosa mulls electing its councilmembers by district rather than at-large. (Press-Democrat) … The small-government aspects of smart growth appeal to at least some conservatives. (Next American City) … Frank Lloyd Wright hated cities. (Atlantic Cities)

Got a tip? Tweet @theGreaterMarin, email thegreatermarin [at] gmail.com, or post something on Facebook.

Mid-Week Links: Halls of Power

Marin County Civic Center

by Amanda Tomlin

Elections

It was a crazy night on Tuesday, if by crazy you mean “everyone stayed home.” Whether or not people had a say, the elections happened anyway and Marin’s incumbents did rather well.

  • Nationally, assemblyman and Woolsey-endorsed successor Jared Huffman ran away with first place in the 2nd District’s first round election. Still undecided is whether the centrist will run against liberal Norm Solomon or conservative Dan Roberts which could decide whether the race is quite difficult or quite easy for the former state assemblyman. (IJ, Press-Democrat)
  • In California, Assemblyman Michael Allen and San Rafael Councilmember Marc Levine beat the rest of the pack to  first and second place in the open primary for the 10th Assembly seat. The Democrat-on-Democrat battle promises to be bruising as both fight over who is more of a Sacramento outsider and genuine local of the North Bay. (Press-Democrat)
  • Marin County Supervisors Katie Rice and Steve Kinsey walked away with clear victories against their opponents, reflecting the prevailing feelings of contentment with the Board, if not the regional agencies it deals with. (IJ)
  • Locally…: Ross rejected the Measure C public safety tax while seeming to settle on three new councilmembers. (IJ) … Belvedere got three new councilmembers and renewed its public safety tax. (IJ) … Voters firmly rejected incumbent Ross Valley Sanitary District board member Marcia Johnson, who supported doubling rates in order for the district to fix its lines faster than once per century. (IJ) … The Ross Valley School District will get its parcel tax hike, which it said it needed to offset state budget cuts. (IJ) … Sausalito will join the Southern Marin Fire Protection District. (Marinscope)

Marin County

  • Hopes are running high that fans of the San Rafael Pacifics will become patrons of downtown businesses given Albert Field’s location only three blocks from Fourth Street. (NBBJ)
  • GGT fares are growing faster than tolls at the Golden Gate Bridge, creating a perverse incentive for people to drive rather than take the bus. Though politically easy, it’s the opposite of what the Bridge District should do. (Streetsblog)
  • Meanwhile, MT is wringing its hands over a 3.6% increase in operating costs, driven mostly by increases in its $16 million contract with GGT to provide local service. They want to renegotiate the contract, but it’s unclear whether GGT will budge. (IJ)
  • San Rafael’s Street Crimes Unit is up for disbandment as the council grapples with ongoing budget deficits. The three-member unit has two retirements this year and the council may not allow the police department to hire replacements. Given the high-profile crime push at the transit center earlier this year, ongoing gang activity in Terra Linda, the Canal, Novato, and the criminal problems downtown, I think this is an instance of eating your seed corn. (Patch)
  • All your transit needs will now be satisfied at the new GGT/MT customer service center at the Bettini Transit Center. GGT will move its customer service center to the center so it can be close to the people who actually use transit. (IJ)
  • Marin’s local agencies and districts should consolidate to avoid duplication of services and save money, according to a Grand Jury report on the subject. The overwhelming approval of fire consolidation in Sausalito this past week is a good start. One former councilmember wants us to go even further. (Patch, Marinscope)
  • A Corte Madera manufacturing company, EO Products, is moving to the Canal after an exhaustive search of the region. The site is near existing transit and within walking distance of much of the immigrant neighborhood. (IJ)
  • A year after Corte Madera Mayor Bob Ravasio and San Rafael Councilmember Damon Connolly got a tour of The Netherlands’ bike infrastructure, sponsored by the Bikes Belong Foundation, there seems to still be some behind-the-scenes movement towards bicycling. (Planetizen, Bikes Belong)
  • And…: The San Rafael Airport sports complex moves on to the council. (IJ) … Mill Valley approved some condos downtown over the objection of Streamkeepers. (IJ) … Who does the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents really represent? (IJ letter)

The Greater Marin

  • At least one West Sonoman wants the county to sell its western half to Marin. At least we maintain our rural roads, he says, while Sonoma is determined to turn its roads into gravel. In light of a massive road repair deficit and deadlock over taxes, though, who could blame them? (Press-Democrat)
  • The East Bay is working to promote transit-oriented living around its BART stations, something long lacking in the sprawl of the East. Not mentioned are updates to Richmond’s General Plan which attempt to make walkable the notoriously unwalkable city. (New Colonist, City of Richmond)

Mid-Week Links: Afternoon on the Bay

late afternoon above Richardson Bay, Sausalito, CA

by Stephen Hill

Marin County

  • Neighbors to the proposed Grady Ranch development have appealed the county’s approval of the project. The Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association alleges Grady Ranch would cause too much noise, light pollution, and be a general nuisance. (News Pointer)
  • The San Rafael Airport Rec Center project could run afoul of new California regulations on development near airports.  Though the project fit the old standards, a consultant has been hired to ensure it meets the new ones as well. (IJ)
  • Now that nobody is running for Ross Town Council, it’s up to potential candidates to file for a write-in candidacy.  If there’s an insufficient number of write-in candidates, the three positions will be appointees. (Ross Valley Reporter)
  • Sausalito wants to ease the problem of bike tourists getting stuck in town by setting up a ferry reservation system for cyclists, a far more efficient method than the current first-come-first-served method.  Expanding San Francisco’s bikeshare system to town may also help the more casual riders that don’t want to cross the bridge. (IJ)
  • San Anselmo’s moribund nightlife will get a boost this summer, as two wine bars are slated to open downtown – a near-first for the town. (Patch)
  • Novato’s revenues are better than expected, to the tune of $600,000.  Though the city is still in austerity mode, an expected transfer of $300,000 from the rainy day fund has been canceled. (Advance)
  • Southern Marin’s bikepaths got a $118,000 infusion of maintenance money from TAM.  Though chump change compared to road maintenance, the grant is a welcome recognition of the paths’ importance. (Marinscope)

The Greater Marin

  • San Francisco’s performance parking experiment is finally yielding positive results, with spots opening up around high-priced areas and filling up in cheaper areas. (New York Times)
  • Meanwhile, New York City is suffering thanks to its onerous parking minimums, which drive up the cost of housing in an already expensive city.  Though the practice of banishing parking minimums in favor of parking maximums is recommended in the draft Plan Bay Area, Marin’s transit districts would be wise to take heed. (Streetsblog)
  • Then again, pushing for strictly infill development and densification by loosening regulation won’t solve our housing problem given the pace of infill development, the extraordinary costs of consolidating properties, and political wrangling necessary to actually build the thing.  (Old Urbanist)
  • A 2001 study argues that transit-oriented development is not a traffic cure-all, as much of the benefits of TOD comes from densification and better location than simply better travel modes. (Half-Mile Circles)
  • If we want biking to take off, we must take it seriously as a form of transportation first and recreation second, something Americans typically don’t do. (RPUS)

Mid-Week Links: Popup Surprise

A group of retailers are moving into abandoned storefronts in Old Downtown Oakland in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood in a concept called Popuphood.  The idea of pop-up stores, where abandoned storefronts are temporarily occupied by retailers, is not new.  They attract foot traffic to areas that don’t see many pedestrians and shoppers, giving a run-down neighborhood new buzz and new life.  Applying it to a whole neighborhood, with multiple storefronts, is a much larger application.  Check it out at 9th & Washington.  If you’re going by transit, the nearest BART is 12th Street Oakland City Center, which you can get to via GGT to Richmond or San Francisco.

Marin

  • The Novato Design Review Commission chairwoman resigned mid-meeting to allow a downtown strip mall to proceed without her approval. (IJ)
  • Last night, Novato debated food trucks and Hanna Ranch. No news as of press time as to decisions made. (Novato Patch)
  • Lucas Valley: George Lucas’s proposed Grady Ranch development drew fire from local residents at a Marin County Planning Commission hearing on the subject. (San Rafael Patch; IJ)
  • Golden Gate Ferry is now on the winter schedule, cutting a couple of trips per day. (IJ)
  • Marin County’s controversial tree-cutting proposal for West Marin has been scaled back. (IJ)
  • Last night, the Corte Madera Planning Commission heard details on the WinCup development and Nordstrom’s expansion plans at The Village shopping center. The WinCup development was told to push for more sustainability measures. (Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch; IJ)
  • Anti-chain Marin may end up with a Subway shop in downtown Mill Valley.  One commenter: “Declasse”. (Mill Valley Patch)
  • Ross is demanding that an extraordinarily wealthy family fulfill its obligations to the town and remove a fish barrier in Ross Creek on their property.  The creek is a spawning habitat for steelhead trout. (IJ)
  • At long last, the Novato Theater is under new management that plans to reopen the downtown theater to the public. (IJ)
  • The ongoing controversy in West Marin regarding oyster fishing in Drake’s Bay may be a moot point if former Assemblyman Bill Bagley is right and the operations are already legal, per action in the 1970s. (IJ)
  • Sometimes a coffee shop can stir up quite a bit of trouble: Peet’s wants to open up shop in Tiburon but faces opposition from residents who claim the coffee niche is already well-served by local stores.  The town’s Planning Commission will discuss the issue tonight at 7:30. (IJ)
  • Some bloggers have uncovered a marvelous bike map of California from the 1890s. (Grist)
  • The Marin County Board of Supervisors spend the most per-capita on office expenses of any comparable county in the State: $2.7 million. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • It’s been a banner week for biking in the Bay Area, with plans for a multi-use path over the Bay Bridge, new bike lanes in Sonoma drawing praise for calming traffic, and new bike infrastructure in Napa. (Chronicle, Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register)
  • California’s shifting demographics means shifting housing demand, too, with 75% of it being for rental, transit-oriented development – just the sort of housing Marin has been reticent to approve. (Urban Land Institute)
  • San Francisco’s performance parking isn’t working quite as well as expected, although the experiment is far from over. (Greater Greater Washington)
  • Cotati is in far better shape than other cities in the region, with a balanced budget, restored programs and active revitalization efforts for downtown and elsewhere.  You can see its signature roundabout plan in action. (Rohnert Park Patch)
  • A Napa cyclist is in a coma after being struck on Thursday.  He was in a crosswalk when he was hit by a 70-year-old driver. (Napa Patch)
  • Americans aren’t nearly as attached to their cars as people think, as research shows a strong connection between transit mode share and gas prices. (The Atlantic Cities)

Mid-Week Links

Could you imagine something like this at Marin’s transit centers? With GGT’s long, long headways, it would make sense to have screens in local shops as well as more detailed information screens at the stops themselves, perhaps with an interactive map of the routes. Chicago’s Bus Tracker: Taking the Guesswork Out of Waiting for the Bus from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Marin

This week, SMART went totally braindead and decided to play the villain.  The district, in defiance of the Secretary of State, passed an election ordinance requiring that RepealSMART include an unbiased statement with the repeal effort’s signature petition, the first step to getting its initiative on the ballot.  RepealSMART has chosen to ignore the directive.  In other news:

  • The County Board of Supervisors passed a fairly gentle plan to ease some of the barriers to affordable housing.  Brad Breithaupt thinks it’s going to be yet another target for anti-development rage.
  • Residents in Larkspur want to build a farm where the already-approved New Home Co. housing development is scheduled to be built.  They have little chance of success.
  • Another week, another total road closure: a flaming tractor-trailer crash closed southbound Highway 101, closing all southbound lanes for over two hours.  A shame there wasn’t some sort of rail-based mass transit alternative…
  • IJ endorsements are in for the Ross Valley School Board, College of Marin Board, Novato School Board, Reed School Board, and Mill Valley School Board.
  • Consolidation of emergency services in the Ross Valley continues, with Ross beginning to consider integrating its fire department with one of its neighbors.
  • Children and parents got outside and got some exercise this past week in Mill Valley, participating in International Walk (and Roll) to School Day.  The Feds noticed, too, and recently awarded San Anselmo and San Rafael $1.8 million to improve its sidewalks around three local schools as part of the Safe Routes to School program.
  • Homestead Valley will get a very, very narrow sidewalk on a very, very slow street.
  • The architecturally lazy Novato city offices move forward.
  • The San Anselmo Andronico’s will remain open after Renovo Capital completes its acquisition of the ill-fated company.
  • Patch’s Kelly Dunleavy goes over the Fairfax town budget with the city and opponents to its half-cent sales tax proposal and finds that numbers can be more than they seem to be.
  • San Rafael’s Corporate Center will likely be rezoned to allow for medical and research uses, eliminating 77 parking spaces in its gargantuan 1,323 space lot and allowing for a greater diversity of uses for the downtown office complex.

The Greater Marin

  • While Marin debates the value of SMART, Santa Rosa continues to move forward with renewal plans.
  • Washington, DC – the city, not the feds – has come a long, long way since the days of Marion Barry, with foreign investors flocking to sock their money away in a stable regional economy. Part of the reason: a strong Metro system.
  • Apparently, the only way to combat congestion is through congestion pricing.
  • If you’re going to build massive rail projects like BART, the best way to go is subterranean.
  • While I looked at the cost of driving alone on Marin and found it to be hideously expensive, it’s only one part of the whole economic puzzle, which apparently costs trillions to operate and maintain.  To save that money, we’ll need to spend trillions more on a total infrastructure overhaul.  Could be fun.
  • But in the meantime, the poorest places of the world are finding hope in good urban design.

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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