After of often rancorous debate among Homestead Valley neighbors, a sidewalk is set to be built along four blocks of Evergreen Ave. in an effort to make the street safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project this week and directed county public works officials to put the estimated $1 million project out to bid. A $900,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant will pay for the bulk of it, county officials said.
“This is a matter of mobility for people walking around in the community,” said Steve Kinsey, the board president and whose District 4 includes Homestead Valley. “This benefits the entire community. My own experience is that a sidewalk can strengthen communities and enhance the sense of neighborhood.”
It’s not often that a sidewalk needs such an endorsement, but the past two years have shown that this is no ordinary sidewalk.
Heated debate has surrounded the idea of building a sidewalk along a 2,000-foot stretch of Evergreen, with much of it centering on and some residents’ resentment of the traffic the school brings to the neighborhood.
The sidewalk would extend from Mill Valley city limits (250 feet east of Ethel Avenue) to the intersection with Melrose, where the school is located. It includes curbs and gutters, six new crosswalks, 11 accessible curb ramps, 29 new driveway aprons and myriad drainage improvements.
Opponents of the project engaged in a largely Internet-driven campaign to get the project stopped in 2010, and county officials delayed it from its original June 2011 construction start in order to address community concerns. Residents over whether the majority of nearby residents supported the sidewalk or not, and county Public Works Director Bob Beaumont said a survey of property owners along Evergreen in 2011 indicated that “a very clear and strong majority of them support the sidewalk.”
The project seemed to get back on track with after a and the county’s decision to reduce the width of the sidewalk from 6 feet to 5 feet to lessen the impact on street parking and aesthetics.
A number of Homestead Valley residents appeared at the supervisors’ meeting this week, with most urging them to move the sidewalk forward.
Evergreen Ave. resident Mari Tamburo said she wanted the county to halt the project until a pathway could be found that would be more appropriate to the area’s semi-rural environment. Much of the discussion centered on the possibility of using a more permeable surface than concrete, but Beaumont said those surfaces wouldn't meet disability access needs and would require regular maintenance.
Tamburo asked the board to vote no on the project “instead of us having to go into litigation, which is guaranteed if you don’t vote no on this.”
A number parents living in the neighborhood spoke in favor of the sidewalk, with some saying they avoid using Evergreen because of safety concerns.
Mike Mooney, a resident of Sycamore Ave. said he agreed that a more permeable solution would be great if it met the county’s requirements.
“But in the meantime, you’ve got to do what’s right,” he said. “This place needs a sidewalk really bad to make it safe – it’s incredibly unsafe right now.”
The project is expected to go out to bid in early May, with county officials selecting the lowest bidder soon after.
County Principal Civil Engineer Ernest Klock said construction is expected to begin when Marin Horizon School ends its school year on June 8. County officials expect to finish the project by mid-August.