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Neighbors Renew Bid to Halt Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk After Judges Rejects It

Members of a Homestead Valley neighbor group say they intend to file an amended complaint to get the court to stop the ongoing sidewalk installation.

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."

Samuel R Throckmorton June 22, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Sidewalks? This valley went to heck when they paved the roads. I lived in this valley for 30 years, and I never needed paved roads, so why would anyone need them now?
Magoo June 22, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Most of those parents just drive up in their gas gussling assault vehicles, the kids gets in, and they drive off. They don't have to live there. I don't live in the neighborhood, but I sympathize with those who do.
Chief Marin June 22, 2012 at 07:44 PM
While distributing much land to white farmers, "HOMESTEADING" took place on lands that had recently been cleared of Native Americans. The program was a large scale redistribution of land from autonomous tribes (i.e. my Miwok Tribe) to taxpaying farmers, a process carried out directly when Indian reservations were broken up into holdings by individual families.
Mari July 12, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I just visited here to grab the link to this story. No wonder everyone thinks we are nuts. Has anyone visited the street yet? I saw a few people walking on the slab and gloating. The houses on the curve toward Ethel look as if they are in a hole.
Mari September 28, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Strange that Homestead Valley is trending on the Patch now. The above comments were made in the midst of the construction mess, before the asphalt was ground down to meet the pavement. Some of the houses are still lower that the sidewalk. Thanks to the new, smooth road, traffic and the speed of the traffic seems to have increased. The impervious concrete slab has been built - forced upon the frontage of Evergreen property owners - against their will. A perfectly charming and green street, which worked for this historic neighborhood for many years - without a concrete sidewalk - now has a concrete sidewalk on one side of the street. It was built at the request of a commuter school. Bureaucracy at its worst. Hey - some of us tried to arrive at a win/win. http://www.indiegogo.com/FOREVERGREEN

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