Novato residents keeping a close eye on SMART and housing will be interested in this: The San Rafael City Council unanimously accepted a report regarding the future of land use surrounding the planned Civic Center train station plan, which drew opposition from many North San Rafael neighbors over plans for high-density housing in the area.
More than 200 residents packed in to the Council Chambers on Monday night to oppose planned building heights of up to five stories near , the Redwood Highway and east of Highay 101 as well as an increase housing density of 44 units per acre. The transit-oriented developement is part of the larger Civic Center Station Area Plan, which is a community vision for land within a half-mile radius of the planned Civic Center station for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, which is funded by the Association of Bay Governments and is part of the San Rafael planning process.
Novato will get two stations — one near the junction of North Redwood Boulevard and Atherton Avenue/San Marin Drive, and one between Hamilton Parkway and Main Gate Road in Hamilton.
"I think [this plan] lays the base of any future development that may or may not happen," said San Rafael Councilwoman Barbara Heller, who noted that development plans for several areas have taken years to break ground. "When you talk about future development like that it’s a long, long road to go."
The station plan, which includes guidelines for development east and west of the Highway 101, is the product of two years of discussion from a 16-member Citizen Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Jeff Shopert.
“The plan is about what could we do differently in the area than now exists to leverage the benefits of having a regular commuter rail train service stopping at the station at the Civic Center," Shopert said.
According to SMART train planners, the Civic Center station is intended to be a "destination station," where commuters disembark for work. Most of the land on the east side of 101, which includes Autodesk and the , is zoned for business. However, because the committee did not want to predict the economic environment of the area for decades to come, they included a plan for re-zoning the area for housing, which would include units for low-income families.
Members of the recently formed Safe & Quiet San Rafael, headed by Vista Marin resident Richard Hall, and other challengers oppose the plan due to the increased traffic and parking problems that could come along with high-density housing as well as the aesthetic quality of the existing homes, which are not higher than three stories.
Members of his organization asked that the plan be modified to keep any new high-density housing units on the west side of Highway 101 with heights no taller than three to four stories.
"We ask that you pause and you consider this modification,which progresses the plan. It does not end the plan," Hall said at the meeting.
Others concerned about the environmental impacts of new development, the issue of noise from the train's whistle and the housing clashing with the idyllic setting of Frank Lloyd Wright's vision for the area.
“The plan states the goal of a vibrant, lively, livable area. Well, guess what. A lot of people feel they already have that," said Carolyn Lenert, president of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents. "What they want is the peace the quiet the beauty the open space.”