Nearly a year after the on Evergreen Ave. in an effort to quell a firestorm of criticism of the project, county officials have narrowed it further, hoping to get the much-debated sidewalk back on track and ready to begin construction next summer.
In a letter (attached at right) sent to 1,000 residents of Homestead Valley last week, Bob Beaumont, the county’s chief assistant director of public works, said the county has received approval from Caltrans to reduce the width of the sidewalk another six inches to 4.5 feet, down from the original proposal of 6 feet and a revised width of 5 feet proposed last November.
The $1.1 million project, the bulk of which would be paid for by a state Safe Routes to Schools grant, would create a sidewalk along a 2,000-foot stretch of Evergreen 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.
Ernest Klock, the county’s principal engineer, said the county lobbied Caltrans and Safe Routes officials to approve the less-than-standard width to accommodate the narrow roadway and residents’ concerns about safety, street parking and aesthetics.
“They determined that it is better to provide that safe route than having the standard get in the way of any project being completed,” Klock said.
County officials continue to work with Caltrans on approval to use a more neutral color for the disabled access ramps at intersections than the standard yellow normally used, Klock said. The bright yellow was an additional aesthetic concern expressed by some residents.
“We know that the project has the support of the majority of residents in that area, and that there are others who will be opposed to any sidewalk project,” Klock said.
The county’s latest change was enough to convince Evergreen Ave. Keith Garriott, a one-time critic of the project who said the additional width reduction was enough.
“It’s pretty much what I asked for and it took a year to come to that conclusion,” he said. “If anybody is against the sidewalk now, I don’t know what other reason there could be other than not wanting to have a sidewalk at all.”
Garriott said despite the lengthy delays, the project was better for the additional debate and consideration of residents’ concerns. He said county officials initially tried to rush through a project that wasn’t a good fit for Evergreen.
“We felt like it was a done deal before we even had a chance to look at it,” he said. “But I’m glad people spoke up about this.”
Homestead Valley resident Scott Greenstone, who lives on Laverne Ave. and is a parent of a student at Marin Horizon School, said the revisions still provide for a safe passageway for walkers and bicyclists.
“I think they made a mountain out of a molehill,” he said of the project’s opponents. “The effect of all of their complaining was to delay the project a year. But it’s my impression that a majority of the community still supports this.”
Klock said the county plans to work with individual property owners along the stretch of Evergreen to discuss specific impacts on their properties on things like drainage. Supervisor Steve Kinsey plans to host a public pre-construction meeting in the spring to outline a construction timeline “to give residents a specific sense of how the project's construction will impact them,” he said.