Contentious Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk Project Begins Monday

Tensions run high as county hosts public meeting to discuss construction schedule and neighborhood impact, with some opponents remain as vocal as ever.

Nearly two years ago, the to pay for a new sidewalk along a 2,000-foot stretch of Evergreen Avenue in Homestead Valley.

And in just five days, construction is set to begin on the project.

But although the sidewalk is imminent, tensions around the contentious project remained palpable at a about it Thursday night, with two women screaming at each other downstairs at afterwards when one invited the other to “take it out outside.”

The meeting was hosted by newly re-elected Supervisor Steve Kinsey, whose District 4 includes Homestead Valley, along with officials from the county’s public works department. Their intent was simply to outline the schedule for the summer-long project, which the , explain its impact on neighbors during construction and solicit input on potential colors for the concrete and the access ramps that would be more aesthetically pleasing to neighbors.

But Kinsey and county officials quickly faced criticism from neighbors who continue to think the sidewalk is simply a bad fit for the street and shouldn’t be built.

Laura Chariton of Mill Valley Streamkeepers said county officials hadn’t done enough analysis of the sidewalk’s potential to increase stormwater runoff into the nearby creek. When project manager Scott Schneider replied that the county’s study of the area determined that most of the soils in the area are very hard and that the installation of an impervious sidewalk won't significantly increase runoff, residents seized on that response.

“I know you guys think you’re above the law,” said Evergreen resident Mari Tamburo. “This project has not very popular – it’s actually been very unpopular.”

“It’s not needed, it never was needed and it was objected to heavily by the community,” said Bolinas resident and Mill Valley native Cela O’Connor.

Public Works Director Bob Beaumont tried to swing the discussion back to the construction schedule.

“We’re not trying to stonewall anyone but on this night we want to keep the focus on the schedule and neighborhood impact of the project,” he said.

The sidewalk would extend from Mill Valley city limits (250 feet east of Ethel Avenue) to the intersection with Melrose, where is located. It includes curbs and gutters, six new crosswalks, 11 accessible curb ramps, 29 new driveway aprons and myriad drainage improvements. A $900,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant will pay for the bulk of the project, which is set to begin Monday, with crews saw-cutting into the roadway through the week, forcing those who park on the street to do so elsewhere for a few days next week.

The subsequent work – excavation, curb and gutter placement and pouring of concrete – is set to proceed in three phases up Evergreen: from Mill Valley city limits to Linden Lane; Linden to Scott Street; and Scott to Melrose Avenue. Crews will also dig the road up and repave its entire width from Ethel to Melrose, Schneider said.

But some residents weren’t as interested in the logistics as much as the process that led to this point. Some said that process had left deep wounds among some neighbors, with some claiming that a majority of Evergreen residents oppose its construction and feel like it was being shoved down their throat.

County officials claim a survey of property owners along Evergreen in 2011 indicated that “a very clear and strong majority of them support the sidewalk,” according to Beaumont. Some residents have disputed that claim.

Kinsey acknowledged that the process had been flawed at times, saying it could have used better “upfront engagement” to gauge and rally community support. He noted, however, that a indicated strong opinions on both sides of the issue. County officials have taken significant steps to make the sidewalk more palatable to residents, including and allowing for more earth color schemes that fit the street’s semi-rural aesthetic, he said.

“Not everyone on Evergreen or in Homestead Valley wanted to see a sidewalk or saw the need for one,” Kinsey said. “But the board made the decision to build this sidewalk.”

The meeting did create the potential for one final change to the project. Homestead Valley resident Kim Jessup noted that there was at least a 3.5-foot buffer between the sidewalk itself and residential property lines, a move that narrowed the roadway despite a narrower-than-initially-proposed sidewalk.

County officials put stakes in the ground along Evergreen this week to indicate the scope of the project.

“It was a shock to some people when those went in,” Jessup said. “Some neighbors are really concerned about how narrow the road is getting

Schneider said the buffer allowed the project better integration with residents’ driveways and that some residents wanted the roadway narrowed to lessen the possibility of speeding cars. When pressed about the possibility of reducing the buffer, particularly in narrower stretches of Evergreen and around its curve, Beaumont agreed to have his team explore the possibility of narrowing the buffer and thus allowing for a wider roadway.

He agreed to notify residents about whether the county can narrow the buffer and thus widen the road slightly from the current design.

"After all this time, the reality is that this sidewalk is happening," said Homestead resident Keith Garriott.

Janis Bosenko June 08, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Good luck Homestead. A sidewalk project on Ashford and Lomita, a much smaller than your project, Was supposed to be completed before school started last Fall. It was months and months over schedule. It ends at uneven blacktop. The barricades were up for months. A neighbor finally took them down and hauled them to public works. Nothing had happened for many months and we got sick if looking at them. Project did little or nothing to make route to school any safer.
Mari June 08, 2012 at 04:32 PM
This isn't about SAFETY. It's about money and politics. As much as I feel empathy for the DPW staff who got stuck with this dreaded Evergreen sidewalk project - I feel more empathy for my neighbors who bought property in a semi-rural neighborhood and are getting stuck with this concrete slab they never asked for and do not want or need. I feel more empathy for everyone who uses the street on a daily basis. I feel more empathy for the children who will learn the lesson that honesty and fairness don't mean much when money is involved. Well, Marin Horizon School teaches "real life" lessons - might as well teach that one early. There is still no evidence that supports the NEED for this project to go forward - other than, as Mr, Kinsey put it - "so the county can be reimbursed for money already spent." Oh yes, and so the County won't have to pay out of pocket for road maintenance. You see, Kinsey WON'T give the DPW funding to just fix our street and lower the speed limit, because he needs money to keep County Counsel ready to fend off concerned citizens. In our March meeting, he was sure to tell me to "go ahead and sue. We have lawyers on retainer." That's what we get when we have "abysmal" voter turnout. Abysmal government representation.
Mari June 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Kathy Mcleod June 09, 2012 at 01:04 AM
That is terrible and beyond belief.
Mari June 09, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Wow. You must have very little knowledge of this particular issue or this neighborhood. Homestead Valley is designated as "semi-rural" in our Community Design Plan. NO sidewalks. Homeowners have to go through a very stringent design review process when they consider making any changes to their property. Residents and homeowners pay a premium to live in this unique and special neighborhood and we don't appreciate Marin County politicians and a private commuter school forcing this project onto the property owners who have asked that it not be built. The fact that it will add storm water and pollutants to sensitive creek habitat for federally protected endangered species makes it extremely unacceptable. Do you really condone this misuse of $900,000 of Safe Routes to Schools funding, which could go to driver, bicyclist and pedestrian education - for a sidewalk that is not wanted or needed by those who will be most impacted by it and responsible to maintain it?
Scott June 10, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Yep, it is beyond belief. That's because it's not true. They say they need evidence to believe safety is a problem because common sense is not available to them. They make the logically flawed claim of a 100% safety record in an apparent belief that most people in the neighborhood are still cruising around in Modal T's. (Oh and let's not forget they're only counting reported accidents where many have reported plenty of others that were apparently not reported.) The reality is they don't care about safety, fish, or anything else, it's all about aesthetics for them. One only needs to review their early postings to see that. Once they realized their aesthetics vs. safety argument was was really making them look pretty silly, they started scraping up all sorts of rationales to try and kill the sidewalk while their real reason for opposition was, and still is, aesthetics. They cannot fathom that their arguments aren't holding water and didn't get them anywhere so they dreamt up conspiracy theories to rationalize their failings. Of course they don't have any evidence of any such thing, other than the faulty, and circular, logic that dictates they can't be wrong so the fix must be in. I am glad to see, though, that this hasn't destroyed the great community we have here in Homestead Valley. Save for a few whackadoodles who only show up at some meetings and act obscenely rude and childish, everyone else is having a good laugh at the experience.
Frank Lurz June 10, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Let me answer, "John," in simple terms even someone like you can understand. You don't live here, WE DO! This isn't your neighborhood, it's OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. You don't own property here, WE DO! Our greatest source of anxiety — that's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! What we deem to be right for us, how we choose to live — that's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! In short — OUR BUSINESS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!
Frank Lurz June 10, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Every time I log into this page I'm taken by irony of the title: "Contentious Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk Project Begins Monday." I look at the face of that hypocrite immediately below the header and remember what he said to those opposed to the sidewalk he rammed through. "Sidewalks build community," he said. As the eye gazes down the page the rancorous discourse that follows shows this stupid, cynical slogan for what it is: a thumb in the eye and a slap in the face!
Tracey M Pharis June 11, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I am a 43 year old Homestead Valley Native. I attended "HOMESTEAD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL" Now "Marin Horizon" Back than, we had no sidewalk's or handicap facilitated ramps or more than 2 cross walks. I am still here today a s so are many of my fellow class mates. Theres no need for this addition to happen. We are a quaint little Valley who are happy with our little homey community! To do this project will not only create a traffic problem, but will eliminate much needed parking and loss of personal property. This is just outrageous! If I could take a day or two off work, I would be at these planning commission meetings to voice my opinion! Instead of the Evergreen Ave Project, why dont you focus on MILLER AVE! My car along with many are feeling the effects of pot holes very uneven roadways...Its becoming very costly! I give you 2 thumbs down on The evergreen project!
Mari June 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM
fyi : this is just the BEGINNING of the toxic pollutants that will enter Reed Creek. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sR5OfU17xI&feature=plcp County CAN and should be investing in a GREEN streets program - to REDUCE storm water run off - starting on EVERGREEN - County should not be building impervious concrete sidewaks and MORE curbs and gutters that will DUMP polluted water into a blue line creek!
Mari June 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Tracey - btw - there were no Planning Commission meetings - this was an UNFAIR process - requested by MHS and allowed to move through by HVCA, until the project was funded and a design was created - without community input. The order to go ahead to continue to build this sidewalk came from Mr. Kinsey, who actually wrote a letter to MHS telling them to get parents to write letters to the DPW to move the project forward. It's a fiasco.


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