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Supervisors to Consider Change to Strawberry Priority Development Area

Marin County Board of Supervisors chambers
Marin County Board of Supervisors chambers

The Marin County Board of Supervisors will consider three options regarding the Priority Development Area (PDA) designation that overlays part of the unincorporated Strawberry neighborhood at its Feb. 25 meeting.

To address public concern over the impact of the existing Strawberry portion of the PDA, the County’s Community Development Agency (CDA) will present choices that the Supervisors requested in December 2013. PDAs are a key element of Plan Bay Area, the Bay Area’s regional growth-control strategy aimed at reducing auto-related greenhouse gas emissions and preventing further sprawl by focusing growth on infill sites within urbanized areas and near transit opportunities.

In his report to the Supervisors, CDA Director Brian Crawford recommends that the Board maintain, remove or modify the Strawberry portion of the PDA. He also plans to provide background information about the creation of the County PDA and what a PDA means for transportation and housing.

For more than 40 years, the Marin Countywide Plan has established a growth-control strategy directing housing and commercial development to urbanized portions of the county along Highway 101 and major arterial roadways in order to preserve open space, agricultural land and bayland areas. Following that pattern, the Strawberry Village Shopping Center and commercial areas along the Redwood Frontage Road provide a spine of retail, social and transit activity for the neighboring residential areas of Strawberry. If the Supervisors vote to modify the PDA, the boundaries could be contracted to more closely reflect the commercial center of the Strawberry community.

None of the options would result in a change to the existing land-use designations or building densities for Strawberry. Modifications to existing PDAs are subject to review and approval by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). If the Board pursues the elimination or modification of the current PDA, County staff would be directed to submit a resolution to ABAG with revised maps and an updated application, Crawford said.

Communities near Highway 101 with a PDA designation are eligible to apply for 50 percent more federal transportation funding, creating opportunities to achieve safer walkable, bikeable communities with more transit options and less dependence on automobiles.

In July 2013, the Supervisors requested a modification of the County PDA to remove the Marinwood and Tamalpais Valley/Manzanita areas following appeals by local residents and a series of public discussions.   

The Strawberry agenda item is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. or shortly thereafter on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Residents may watch a live webcast on the County website or a live airing on Comcast public access television Channel 27.





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Kathy Mcleod February 25, 2014 at 09:44 AM
The name Priority Development Area is misleading. It should be called Priority Transportation Area. Strawberry is dense with cars, shopping, apartments and deserves better choices for transportation. There needs to be a clearly defined, safe bike route leading to Mill Valley and to Strawberry Elementary. I hope they keep the transportation dollars. Call it a PTA! There is no development to it.
David Edmondson February 25, 2014 at 10:43 AM
If you want to learn the facts about PDAs, check out http://tiny.cc/propda. Don't fall for Sharon Rushton quoting obsolete drafts as though they were law or Bob Silvestri pushing a congested and sprawling future. Separate myth from fact: http://tiny.cc/propda
Robert Martyn February 25, 2014 at 12:03 PM
But it's not a PTA, is it. It's a "Priority Development Area," and it actually DOES provide funding and create expectations and streamlining possibilities for development, so it DOES affect housing and development and it's not misleading, which is why it's called that. And if there's myth out there, it's the pro-PDA agenda and propaganda - of PEOPLE NOT FROM STRAWBERRY, like the above - who really should take a back seat to the 98% of the actual Strawberry community on record in petitions who don't want the risks of this novel designation. Look where the pro-PDA signatures come from - of the 200 signatures they have today, less than 20 are from Strawberry. (Yeah, we're counting) To really separate myth from fact, go to www.StrawberryCA.org. Or for an impartial evaluation, watch the San Rafael city council discussion on it where council members, the mayor and even the planning director acknowledge that this designation comes with an expectation of housing development. More importantly, respect the people of Strawberry to allow us to determine our own community's future; it's telling that everyone outside Strawberry is telling us they are really concerned about our bike lanes and housing, and it's for our own good, but no one else is signing up.
Elisabeth Thomas-Matej February 25, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Robert: Repealing the PDA could not change the housing plan, because the housing plan is a prerequisite of the PDA application! Take away the PDA and what you get is the same housing plan with no federal funding for infrastructure improvements. Meanwhile, we have only two freeway exits for Mill Valley--Stinson Beach and E. Blithedale / Tiburon Blvd. Both are bottlenecks that choke the entire region, not just Strawberry. Schoolchildren must be driven between City of Mill Valley and Strawberry, because of their school assignments, and because walking and biking are so hazardous. People who want to shop in Strawberry pretty much have to drive, too. Or does that community not want anyone else's retail business? Our car-centric national policy prioritizes highways at the expense of space-saving public transit. It also ignores the neighborhood level--the need for safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways for children and adults to get around locally, and to reach buses and ferries. The GG Bridge and Waldo Tunnel were built to exclude a passenger train, with no regard for the consequences to communities. Car ownership jumped 2x within 20 years of the bridge's construction, then 2.5x more within 20 years after the second tunnel bore was drilled. Perversely, the House Transportation Committee recently gutted funding for transit and for bike/pedestrian public works. Even so, the PDA designation could let this region qualify for federal money to modernize, such as with traffic-calming roundabouts. The new designs are safe for pedestrians and keep cars flowing without traffic lights. This means no pricy maintenance and no risk of breakdown, as happened yesterday at E. Blithedale and Camino Alto--causing hours of backup not just for City residents, but also for Strawberry residents. People inciting panic about apartment buildings badly misconstrue the bigger picture. Change is scary for most people--it's scary for me, but I've seen that there are solutions out there. We all want things to be better, so let's work together as a community.
Sally February 25, 2014 at 01:27 PM
David, We've read your myths, now here are the facts: 1. A PDA is an avenue to transportation funds for special interests such as housing, development and bicycle groups, but at a cost to the community by signing up for substantial growth. 2. Being a PDA opens up a whole range of new possibilities for developers, including PDA-only loans and grants and the potential for streamlined approvals (bypassing CEQA), all of which, in fact, affect development. 3. Local control will not be preserved. 4. We're not protesting for the offensive reason attributed to us in the anonymous pro-PDA propaganda. We're a community that is over 60% rentals, not a gated enclave. We simply don't want a new designation applied to our neighborhood that is based on aggressive development with uncertain long-term consequences, at least not until it's clear how it works in the areas for which it is really intended. 5. Unlike the pro-PDA petition, we have over 1000 STRAWBERRY RESIDENTS who have signed the no-PDA petition requesting that the Marin County Board of Supervisors remove Strawberry from the Plan Bay Area VOLUNTARY "Priority Development Area" designation. ~Strawberry Community Association
Elisabeth Thomas-Matej February 25, 2014 at 02:38 PM
Sally, repealing the PDA will not change the housing plan. A community must have an up-to-date housing plan before it can even apply for a PDA. Everyone who signed your petition is barking up the wrong tree. If you don't like your housing plan, then that's the thing you should be seeking to change. The housing plan is not hostage to the PDA--but the entire region is hostage to the dangerous and outdated roads around Strawberry and Tam Junction. I've found that many older homeowners don't realize how much car traffic is generated by today's children having to cross city/county boundaries to attend school. I serve on the Mill Valley Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, under the Department of Public Works. This is not a "special interest" group. We are working to alleviate car traffic, in part by improving the safety and connectivity of walkways and bikeways. A community has to have a comprehensive network of good bike/ped infrastructure, if it wants a significant proportion of residents to get around by walking and biking. And we do want that! One of our big problems is that children from neighborhoods where walking and biking is dangerous--including Strawberry--get driven in droves to neighborhoods where other children are walking and biking in droves, such as around Mill Valley Middle School. It's a dangerous situation, and children have been hit. Meanwhile, unwanted car traffic also flows into Strawberry, because Mill Valley School District is forced to bump many children to schools outside their own neighborhoods. Usually, it's single children who are bumped, so that siblings can stay together. My single child got bumped to Tam Valley, when she was in the system. My neighbor's single child was sent to Strawberry. Both our families had requested Edna Maguire, because we could so easily have sent our children on the county multi-use path. But it was not to be. This frustration is how I got involved in the whole issue of sidewalks and bikeways, to begin with!

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