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Environmental Impact Letter to City Hall

February 18, 2014

Dear Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, City Manager Jim McCann, and City Council:

This letter serves as a follow-up to issues raised in the neighborhood meeting on February 11, 2014.  The meeting was primarily to address the problems stemming from the simultaneous multiple massive construction projects on Lovell Avenue.  However, these same issues also affect Mill Valley as a whole.

A.        Excessive On/Off-Haul

The amount of excessive on/off-haul throughout Mill Valley (not just on Lovell Avenue) raises four main concerns: (1) environmental; (2) erosion; (3) stress on the City infrastructure; and (4) the City’s complete lack of enforcement concerning approved on/off-haul. 

1.         Environmental:  By not limiting the on/off-haul, the environment is greatly impacted (including the destruction of the natural fauna and flora (i.e., the natural beauty of Mill Valley)).  Builders should be highly encouraged to work with and conserve the natural terrain instead of drastically altering the site.  Prime examples of the literal nuking and denaturing of a site has occurred at both 351 and 432 Lovell Avenue. 

2.         Erosion:  The drastic destruction of the natural terrain also creates serious erosion problems.  For example, 432 Lovell Avenue was issued a stop work order due to erosion problems.    

In the past, this kind of activity would have been greatly discouraged and an effort to maintain the natural terrain greatly encouraged.  To destroy does not take much time and effort, but to restore to its original natural state, perhaps impossible and never.  I have been a resident of Mill Valley close to 40 years.  On small flat lots, structures are built to the maximum.  This is destroying the character of Mill Valley.

3.         Stress on City Infrastructure:  The large amount of on/off-haul adds unnecessary stress and accelerates the deterioration of Lovell Avenue and all the other City streets.

4.         Specific Examples of Excessive/Unauthorized On/Off-Haul:  The City’s mode of operation appears to be approving a plan, issue a building permit, and then disappear.  The City had failed to enforce the approved on/off-haul for at least two sites on Lovell – even after numerous complaints from residents. 

The on/off-haul for 432 Lovell Avenue was proposed at 80 cubic yards (as stated in a Mill Valley City staff report dated May 23, 2011).  I (and other witnesses) can attest that Mack size 10 cubic yard (and larger) dump trucks continued to run numerous and non-stop for at least 6 months – busy hauling dirt away from the site – and still run to this day (the project started about a year and a half ago). 

Similarly, 351 Lovell Avenue was initially approved for 93 cubic yards of cut//fill and eventually approved at zero net off-haul.  As pointed out by David S. Rand’s February 9, 2014 letter to the City – 351 Lovell Avenue has off-hauled at least 370 cubic yards, but the probability is likely higher.  The dump trucks for 351 Lovell Avenue frequently make U-turns at 437//467 Lovell Avenue, which is prohibited by their Construction Management Plan.  I have sent numerous emails to the City concerning this activity. 

B.        Repair of Lovell Avenue

Does the City actually have any plans to repair Lovell Avenue to the level prior to the trenching of the road to lay down pipes, which occurred around either 2006//2007 and the continual massive construction projects?  If so, what are they?  The trenching company did not fill and pack down the dirt properly and as a consequence in numerous areas Lovell Avenue has sunken.  The Lovell Avenue homeowners in the 1980s paid out of their pockets to completely repair a road full of big pot holes.  This was done with the understanding that the City would henceforth maintain the road in the repaired condition.

C.        Approval of Swimming Pools in Drought Conditions

Why did the City approve the pools at 351 and 432 Lovell Avenue when our state is in the midst of an ongoing serious drought for several years now?  As shown by the history of California, droughts are a continuing pressing issue.  The pool at 351 Lovell Avenue was approved without a public Planning Commission hearing and to be built on a very steep hillside.    

It was much appreciated that both Mayor Moulton-Peters and City Manager McCann took the time to hear the concerns of Lovell Avenue residents, but there are still numerous issues that still need to be resolved.

Sincerely, /s/ Susan Auyang

Stephen & Roberta Hoots February 18, 2014 at 06:07 PM
We support Susan Auyang's argument for stronger environmental controls. As regular walkers of Lovell Avenue, we have observed "tear-downs" being replaced by large luxury homes and have wondered at the un-ending number of projects all going up simultaneously and the extent of grading and soil removal. Of course the construction related noise impacts all of us who live in the amphitheater of Cascade Canyon as does the construction related traffic as we all head out on Throckmorton Avenue. We do not understand the approval of swimming pools during the aspect of long-term drought, nor do we understand the approval of outdoor fireplaces in the critical fire zone of Cascade Canyon. It has always been a goal to preserve the beautiful natural character of Mill Valley and we agree with Susan Auyang that our environment is not to be shipped out by the truck-full. We would like to see a more thorough examination and follow-up on all the impacts of each project, from amount of soil retention, excavation, tree-cutting, traffic and noise to landscape, hardscape, streetscape and conformity to the character of the existing neighborhood. Sincerely, /s/ Stephen and Roberta Hoots
Scott February 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM
In other words, I've got what I want, that should end all construction.
Heather A February 24, 2014 at 04:37 PM
Scott -- your glib response clearly misses the point. Perhaps you run/work on the 351 Lovell jobsite that has been shut down due to a stop work order for erosion issues. Perhaps you can explain to the homeowner who lives below 351 Lovell why an infinity pool that sits directly above them on a steep 45 degree slope was approved without their knowledge and why after the last rain storm they ended up with TWO feet of water and mud in their home. Instead of shooting your mouth off, try and give any comments more intelligent thought.
Lesa Carmean February 26, 2014 at 11:31 PM
And, Lord knows what's happening up Summit Avenue and on adjacent streets on that ridge. Residents have been subjected to a continuous parade of dump and cement trucks FOR YEARS. Along with earth movers, flat bed semi trucks, forklifts and every other form of conveyance. The carpet baggers have discovered MV and there's no control except permits issued by the city. $$$ And complaints of citizens, so call City Hall and let them know you're upset. I do. Why there's been no notice of constant tear downs and rebuilds on Summit, Carmelita, Ralston, Tamalpais, I have no idea. At least Lovell has the City's attention. The problem is NO PLANNING for MV.
Lesa Carmean February 26, 2014 at 11:44 PM
As to SWIMMING POOLS just wait til these newcomers get a dose of what the weather in MV is really like. No need - or desire - for a pool. This ain't central or southern Cali or even the east bay . . . Unfortunately, many new residents are not constricted by cost. They can afford to do whatever they want and, if necessary, pay whatever fines or penalties might be incurred. And, there's no old money in MV to preserve the status quo. The City doesn't have the means, the will or the know-how to set a standard for the town, so anything goes. There isn't even landmark status criteria for anything in MV. The people working at City Hall don't live in MV, so what do they care about the character of the town? The citizens are lethargic and lack consensus also. Most people who loved MV have gotten old, moved out or died.

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