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Supes Back Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk

Controversial project to put a sidewalk along four blocks of Evergreen Ave. in Homestead Valley moves ahead, with construction expected to begin in June.

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.

Alan Abrams April 05, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Here's the real reason the sidewalk is needed. When Marin Horizon replaced an old classroom building with a new one, the county placed traffic restrictions/limits on the school. Trying to limit the number of car trips to the school, it encouraged students to walk to school from Miller Avenue using Evergreen. Now, many kids a nd parents can be seen daily walking down Evergreen to school in the morning and in the afternoon returning from school. The problem is that everyone has to walk in the street avoiding cars because there is no sidewalk on which to walk. That is the danger. And that can be avoided by installing a sidewalk.
Helen April 05, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Yes a sidewalk is safer for people here especially for the children. The real problem is not the sidewalk but the traffic caused by Marin Horizon School. Often the parents are simply rude drivers and speeding. One nearly ran over my child as he was walking to the Middle School! The restrictions in place are a start but insufficient. The roads in Mill Valley are in poor condition but the roads surrounding MHS are especially poor due to the increased usage from MHS parents in large heavy SUVs. Montford is pitted with many potholes that drivers regularly dodge. Sending cookies to the neighbors is a sweet gesture by MHS but does not address the reality that their parents contribute traffic and poor road conditions to the neighborhood. I'd like to see a small% of the MHS tuition be used to repair Montford and fund the sidewalk. Now that's a real gesture of good faith!
Suzanne Burrows April 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Would you allow a 4 year old to ride a tricycle in the street while you watch from the front porch? In the rain? At dusk? If the answer is no, you need a sidewalk .
Scott April 06, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I think the most relevant item here is this: "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.'” This has always, and only, been an issue of a tradeoff between aesthetics (a subjective view not universally agreed upon) and safety. The aesthetic changes are very minor (it's 8 inches high - not a large building or anything similar) and the safety issues are real - kids and vehicular traffic are forced to mix. The very vocal anti-sidewalk minority has continued to raise red-herring issue after red-herring issue with the sole purpose of perserving their own personal views of what looks nice for the street. The latest is really disturbing as it continues a trend of abusing environmental laws for NIMBY purposes. It happens a lot, people find environmental laws useful for slowing down and stoping projects, for personal reasons having nothing to do with the environment, due to the huge costs and time they can add to a project. If they keep doing that, even this legislature will change the law.
Scott April 10, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Mari, we did. The result was a year delay and a 25% narrower, dark colored sidewalk. That satisfied many of the opposition to the point where a strong majority support the project. You're never going to please everyone so as long as most people are happy with it, that's good enough. But, yes, if you look back at your quotes, it was always about aesthetics and when it was pointed out, repeatedly, that aesthetics of a few should not take priority of the safety of the many, you began looking for other reasons to bolster your claim. Hence all the new found, but still not credible, arguments. I'm sorry you're so disappointed with it, but I'm glad there'll be no more delays and come September we'll have a new sidewalk that many believe will improve the looks of the street.
Mari May 21, 2012 at 05:12 PM
my neighbors are heartbroken over this. - we would feel differently if we actually felt we needed a concrete sidewalk - or had proof that ONLY this type of sidewalk was needed. It is regrettable: - that the woman from the school lied to the DPW to make them think we needed a concrete sidewalk. - that the Safe Routes to Schools consultant did not do his homework and heed the recommendations in the walkabout - which stated "NO SIDEWALKS." - that someone misinterpreted the TAM plan - and did not care enough about our community to understand that we really don't want this concrete sidewalk! I can't find anyone, except for a few people - who thinks this is a good idea! We have been doing fine without a concrete sidewalk along Evergreen Avenue for many years - NO ONE has ever been hurt on this street - anywhere except near WHOLE FOODS - WHERE THERE ARE SIDEWALKS!! WHY would ANYONE think it is OK to use $900,000 from the Safe Routes to Schools fund - that was awarded to an application that contained LIES - to FORCE an impervious slab along this street - which has a 100% safety record where the sidewalk will be built ? I'm sorry that the DPW spent so much time on this project - but that is NOT OUR FAULT - why do my Evergreen neighbors have to pay for someone else's mistakes and lies?? Shouldn't we just learn from this fiasco and move on? This just doesn't seem fair.

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