After a last-ditch effort to halt the construction of a was rejected by a judge, Homestead Valley neighbors are vowing to file an amended complaint in the hopes of forcing the county to stop the work and address alleged environmental problems with it.
“We believe the judge was mistaken to dismiss our complaint,” said Arne Frager, one of the founders of the HEARUS (Homestead & Evergreen Avenue Residents United for Safety and Sustainability). “Our neighborhood group is determined to pursue this until all remedies have been exhausted. We are confident that our effort to save Evergreen and our neighborhood is not in vain.”
Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus rejected the complaint filed by San Rafael attorney John Sharp on behalf of HEARUS Thursday, calling the ex-parte motion to immediately stop the project “untimely.” Chernus backed the argument of Marin Deputy County Counsel David Zaltsman that any attempt to stop the project through the courts should have been filed before the work began. After the to inform neighbors of the impact and timeline of the summer-long sidewalk installation, work began on Monday. Protesters greeted workers Monday morning but their efforts quickly turned to legal action.
"The project has been debated by everyone for years and they waited until after the work started to do this,” Zaltsman said. “They’re seeking to enjoin something that’s already started and the money spent and the people are out there working. They could have done this before we had to demobilize a whole construction crew.”
Sharp, counsel for HEARUS founders Frager and Mari Tamburo, said he “can and will go back to the judge with additional evidence” “as soon as reasonably possible.”
The sidewalk would extend from Mill Valley city limits (250 feet east of Ethel Avenue) to the intersection with Melrose, where Marin Horizon School 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 HEARUS complaint (attached at right) boils down to the allegation that the county did not perform adequate environmental review given the sidewalk’s proximity to Reed Creek, which feeds into the Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio Creek system and contains endangered steelhead trout.
With the help of a declaration from Laura Chariton from Mill Valley Streamkeepers, the neighbors allege the addition of the sidewalk would increase stormwater runoff into the creek.
The neighbors also based their complaint on the fact that project was different from the one exempted from environmental review in December 2011. In an attempt to appease critics of the project’s aesthetic impact on the street, county officials from 6 feet to 4.5 feet.
But the county also increased the width of the buffer between homeowner’ properties and the sidewalk, citing the need to integrate the sidewalk with driveways without reducing disabled access. At the at , neighbors asked county officials to explore the possibility of narrowing the buffer to increase the width of the roadway. That effort proved unsuccessful.
“Moving the sidewalk closer to the fences would create extreme difficulties in meeting ADA requirements, in conforming the driveway approaches to the existing driveway elevations, and would result in additional removal of existing landscaping,” project manager Scott Schneider wrote in an email to neighbors.
Other neighborhood concerns include changing the rural character of the area, traffic, safety and removal of mature vegetation. County officials agreed to use using light gray for the concrete sidewalk and charcoal-colored curb ramps to address neighbors’ concerns about the aesthetic impact on the neighborhood.
Vocal opponents and supporters of the project both claim that a majority of Evergreen residents support their efforts, and county officials said an informal survey determined that a clear majority favored the sidewalk.
County and Safe Routes to Schools program officials say the project is a safety improvement for the community, including children walking and biking to Marin Horizon School at the end of Evergreen and from Homestead Valley to Mill Valley public schools.
Stephanie Moulton-Peters, the chair of the Mill Valley Safe Routes to School Task Force and a Mill Valley City Councilmember, said that nearly 150 students who attend Mill Valley public schools live in Homestead Valley. She cited data from the annual International Walk to School Day and the Walk to School Days at Old Mill, Park, Edna Maguire, Mill Valley Middle and Tam High School.
“We know from those events that students from Homestead do walk and bicycle to school,” Moulton-Peters said. “The sidewalk, combined with the school crossing guard at Evergreen and Miller Ave., will provide a safe route for students going to Mill Valley schools this fall."