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Will Blithedale Terrace Project Really Make Traffic Worse Than It Already Is?

Mill Valley's Closet Conservative speaks out on Blithedale Terrace development

It’s hard to know when it happened, but for all of my adult life the word “Developer” has generally implied a person of greed and selfishness, with little concern for the well being of the environment or needs of the local citizens. 

But I’m puzzled: Do all who complain about developers live in their automobiles? If not, was it not at one time a developer who planned, designed, and oversaw the “development” of the homes in their neighborhood? Tam Valley, Sycamore Park, the Bolsa Tract, Cascade Canyon, Scott Valley, Alto, Enchanted Knolls, Almonte, Homestead Valley and Tamalpais Park. These are just a few of the neighborhoods in Mill Valley that contain hundreds of homes, which were at one time built by “developers.”  

Do any of the people in these homes have the same contempt for those developers as they do for modern day developers?

I’m not writing here to promote the development of Blithedale Terrace, or for that matter to jump on the bandwagon of local citizens and vilify the project. I’m suggesting a look at not only history, but the bigger picture for the future of Mill Valley, or for that matter – California. 

In spite of the massive exodus of Californians who are LEAVING the state, there are still more coming in each year than those exiting. Those coming in would like to live somewhere other than their cars. Ideally most would like to one day become homeowners. Given the fact that the population increases each year, is it not logical that there must be development so “everyone” has the opportunity live the American dream? 

Somewhere in the hidden vaults at , there is a zoning plan that was designed and progressively modified as the years have passed. For better or worse, Mill Valley has pretty much maxed out on the amount of homes that can be built. Yet, there are still a few lots and areas that at one time had been zoned for the building of homes. Given the constant political jabber about lacking affordable housing, would it not benefit first time homeowners, and those with modest incomes the chance to enter the housing market by purchasing a small 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom homes, similar to the hundreds of homes that were built in Mill Valley shortly after World War II?

Apparently there is talk and hope that 20 “smallish” homes can be built in the Blithedale Terrace development. Who’s to say, perhaps with an added stoplight, or the re-routing of some streets, that the already awful traffic in this area during the afternoons might be improved. How much of an impact will 20 homes make to an already lousy traffic situation?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

L Beaton August 17, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Tim the post WW2 housing market in Mill Valley was drastically different than it is today. What does "affordable" housing in Mil Valley mean when the average home price is now over 800k? What does a "modest" income mean here? I imagine this developer would gleefully let the market decide just how much he can get for any homes he builds on that land, unless he's involved in some sort of government subsidy program.
Rico August 17, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The affordable houses that were built post WW2 in Alto, Sutton Manor, Sycamore Park and Birdland (Tam Valley) were single family detached houses, not condominiums or townhomes. There is a HUGE difference between a house and a townhome/condo multi family development like Richardson is proposing. My friends parents bought a house in Alto for $15,000 back in the early 50's, and that was affordable and also a real house.
L Beaton August 17, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Average condo prices are still around 500k.
Sherran Moyer August 17, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I totally agree! I'm not for or against the Blithedale project. Of the people are are against it (there should be a sign ordinance against those ugly signs -- talk about blight!), what if the "developer" of your house was run out of town before he/she could build your house? What then, huh? Don't throw stones at glass houses -- or is it don't throw glass at stone houses?
Mike S August 17, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Nice to see a more level headed view. 20 homes can't be that big of an impact on traffic and these homes are in a great place to take MASS TRANSIT for commuting. I am not strongly for or against the project. I feel there should be opportunities for new home owners are "reasonable" levels, but I don't like the size of the proposed development either. I do agree those signs are ugly, and the fence that was put up initially to block them was a lot better to look at (till the sign owner raised them again). I just can't wait for this to be final so I don't have to see those signs anymore when I go by.
Rico August 18, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I think there is a mis-understanding about how Mill Valley was developed. The lower newer tracts like Enchanted Knolls, Scott Highlands and Scott Valley were not built as post WW2 GI bill housing, those houses are much larger and more high end than the houses built down in the flats (flood zone) for returning GI's. And upper Mill Valley is much older. Many of these craftsmans houses were built by carpenters who built ships, and many have an individual flare that make them much different than the lower tracts. I don't believe that there was much actual planning in the old days, people for the most part built what they could afford up in the hillside areas. The roads and neighborhoods were not designed for mass transit, and there still is none. The result was very good, a very special place to live, with many good attributes. But also, Mill Valley is built out, up in the hills and down in the flats, there is not much more room for expansion. I think the biggest bone of contention is that Mill Valley really doesn't need anymore cheaply made townhomes that are very expensive to buy built on the very last little 1.2 acre parcel left to build these multi-family projects. Why do some people insist on cramming in this high density project down in a commercial zone ? Putting 20 apartments on 1.2 acres is way out of character with most of Mill Valley.
RD August 18, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Tim makes a good point, developers are not evil! The 1.2 acres for the proposed Blithedale Terrace is zoned commercial not residential. Townhouses rising 80 feet into the sky (because they are being built on a hill) is out of character for the neighborhood - I think Tim you can agree on that. At some point the intersection - the worst in MV will fail and create safety issues. There is no way to exit the proposed project and turn left to get out of town, due to "keep clear" area, cars will have to turn right towards downtown MV and then cut through the neighborhood and make u-turns. The community overwhelmingly agrees that 20 houses are far too many for the size and location of the lot. I do appreciate the civil exchange of ideas though. Learn more facts at www.facebook.com/SaveKiteHill
Rico August 18, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I think that this little 20 unit apartment building will have an impact on traffic, especially during the construction phase, but how much worse can it get ?. It's already about as bad as bad can get. I have to go down through there sometimes, but not every day, and rarely ever at early morning commute hours. I think that we all who live here in M.V. should be very thankful that there will never be a Sonoma commuter train (SMART) slicing through the intersections in southern Marin. Just reading about all the noise of trains, (even without the horns), and the traffic delays as the Sonoma trains preempt local traffic signal controllers, and worst of all the Train Oriented Apartment Developments (TOADS) that are part of the Sonoma train deal makes me feel thankful that it won't happen here in southern Marin. So, if Phil eventually doed get his townhome project built, I wonder if it will turn into an apartment building instead like the Tamalpais Commons on lower Miller Ave. Iguess nobody wants to take out a 30 year loan to get stuck in a condo on a busy street. And the apartments in the Tamalpais Commons rent for $4,000 per month for a 1800 square foot apartment, I wonder how much Phil will charge for his new apartments ?, $5,000 ?, $6,000 per month ?. There is no such thing as an affordable new apartment in Mill Valley.
John August 18, 2012 at 06:40 PM
If you think the signs are ugly, what do you think about a bunch of 20 identical looking townhouses rising 80 feet above Blithedale, with no more oak trees?
John August 18, 2012 at 06:42 PM
The signs are there to remind us all of how ugly 20 townhouses with no more oak trees would look on that lot...I can't wait til the signs come down either, because that would mean they are no longer needed.
Bud Wiesser August 23, 2012 at 03:59 AM
We cannot do anything about the past, only our present and future so please stop yapping about developers from our town's storied history. If this development were closer to Tim's house maybe we'd all hear a different tone, no? Agree w/Ricardo, L. and John...the lot is too small for the square footage proposed to be built. This is 2012, not 1922, or '52.
L Beaton August 23, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Agreed!
Cat August 26, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Seriously? This would be for first time homeowners with modest incomes? They're buying in Novato, maybe condos in San Rafael or Fairfax or out of Marin. He'll sell them for as much as he can (starting at $700-800k minimum would be my guess) and get out of town so he doesn't have to watch the aftermath! If they proceed, the owners entering and exiting from Camino Alto might circumvent the EBlithedale traffic issue somewhat but they've grossly overpromised what would be feasible on the units - 5 to maybe 10 with a decent setback and some trees, I could be swayed. 20 would be such a negative impact it's impossible to stomach for most.
Nick Lockwood August 29, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Thanks for providing a logical viewpoint among many illogical voices. The project is being stifled by typical Mill Valley "NIMBY" attitudes.

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