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City of Mill Valley

Former Mayor Ken Wachtel and Former Planning Commissioner Burton Miller speak on Parkway Plan

The comment letters below, have been submitted to the Mill Valley City Council in opposition to the proposal to narrow the Parkway section of Miller Avenue to only one traffic lane in each direction. The original petition opposing this plan has gathered over 500 Mill Valley resident's signatures but it was ignored by the City Council.

If you agree that the City should honor the approved plan and keep Miller Avenue two lanes in each direction, please let the City know by signing the new community petition - CLICK HERE


Mayor and Councilmembers,

I would like to provide some input on the issue of your agenda item concerning Lane Configuration on Miller Avenue in the Parkway Room. For the reasons stated below I believe that for the time being the Parkway should remain two lanes in each direction as designed by the community. I suspect you’ll get numerous speakers and letters at your meeting. This is an important issue. Having worked on the Miller Avenue process for almost 10 years let me add this to the mix.

1. Please Don’t Circumvent the Successful Public Engagement Process.

The issue of one/two Parkway lanes was extensively and exhaustively discussed in each of the two Miller Avenue Taskforces, Community meetings and several city council meetings since 2008. All the views being discussed now supporting narrowing the road to one lane were discussed then. The consensus and majority vote at each meeting (except the community meetings where there were no votes) was always to maintain the two-lane configuration with the possibility of considering a change to one lane after use of the road had matured. To change this well discussed and well-considered decision at this late date would fly in the face and undermine prior decisions based on extensive and successful public engagement. What good were all those meetings and public participation (and support) if they are to be ignored at the last minute? This, I submit, is the crucial consideration if the council’s core value of citizen participation and public involvement and key issue of effective two-way communication between Council and the community are to be taken seriously.

2. Miller Won’t Be What It Was.

It is also important to note that Parkway (or Miller) now, will never be what it was a year ago. Such a comparison (as open time speakers were doing a few meetings ago) is unfair and inaccurate. Yes, it is better now than it was before. That will not change. The current, even beat-up, Parkway is better than the convoluted bike route and root-encroached sidewalks. The planned new 2-lane Parkway will not be as it was before. There will be a Class 2 bike lane throughout and except for about 30 feet the new 2-lane Parkway plan has a flat wider bike lane throughout. This is completely new, better and different. Apples should be compared with apples, not with prunes.

3. A One Lane Configuration more dangerous to Car Drivers

The last time I drove outbound through the existing one-lane Parkway I and two cars behind me had to stop while a car pulled slowly and carefully out of a center diagonal parking space. I suppose the same would happen with ingress and egress from the potential curbside parallel parking spots as well (as they cross through the bike lane). And we can’t ignore the horde of delivery trucks such as Fed Ex, UPS, US Postal etc. that have invaded our town. With one lane, they will have only one place to stop and deliver.

4. A One Lane Configuration Is More Dangerous to Bike Riders.

Parked cars are a hazard to bike riders and a one-lane configuration will have parked cars on both sides of the street. The one-lane photo at line 106 in the staff report is misleading as it does not show any curb side parked cars. A car entering or leaving a parallel parking curb side space will occupy the bike lane and the bike rider will have to merge into the only traffic lane thereby competing with car traffic.

Moreover, curbside parked car’s doors are a dangerous condition. While I understand that actual “dooring” is rare, the fear of dooring along Parkway will be new and constant. Long ago we determined that Sycamore between La Goma and Camino Alto would never be considered a safe bike route because there was no way to avoid this dangerous and fearful condition. While this condition is somewhat present elsewhere in the Main Street Area, to create it for the first time in the Parkway more than doubles this dangerous and worrisome condition.

A one lane configuration would, for the first time, move this dangerous condition to the Miller Parkway. For the first time in the Parkway, bike riders must be constantly

  1. subject to a curb-parked car opening doors,
  2. cars entering and vacating parallel and diagonal parking spaces by occupying the bike lane and
  3. service trucks and buses pulling over into their bike lane. None of this is prevalent in a two-lane scenario.

5. A One Lane Configuration Is More Dangerous to Pedestrians.

As for pedestrians, one lane will be a shorter distance to travel as they “cross” but what traffic (area of road/number of cars) there is will be halved with two lanes.

With one lane and curbside and median parking there is a much greater danger to J- walkers, kids and pets ruining into the street from behind a parked car.

6. The Measured Consensus Is Still Against a One Lane Configuration.

As this council knows the city sent out about 80 emails to Neighborhood Associations and certain individuals asking their views on maintaining the 2-lane configuration or changing to 1 lane. Though the city received about a 10% response the majority consensus was for 2 lanes.

And this matter was brought up in the Miller Streetscape Committee where there was a 2- 1 majority consensus to honor the public input process and retain the 2-lane configuration, at least until road use on the 2-lane configuration matures.

7. Moving Parkway From 2 Lanes To 1 Lane Will Result in The Only Stretch on Miller

  1. Where cars must stop when a parking space is vacated or entered from the median or curb;
  2. Where cars are held up by sub-speed-limit drivers and endangered by tailgaters; and
  3. Where traffic will be stopped and bike riders blocked by the multitude delivery trucks (i.e., FedEx, UPS), store inventory supply trucks, utility services and buses.

And the stretch of road where bike riders will be subject to dooring and curb-side car pull out and occupation of the bike lane will be significantly increased.

It is also the only place in the entire Mill Valley where we have ever reduced traffic flow capacity (except the short distance in the Passage where parked cars and deliveries are not an issue)

For these reasons, I believe the consensus of the public over 9 years of public meetings should not be discarded and, for the time being, Parkway should remain 2-lanes as designed by our community.

Thank you for your time, attention and dedication.

Ken Wachtel


To Members of the Mill Valley City Council:

I am writing in the context of “institutional memory” having served on:

and, having participated in the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and Design Advisory Committee (DAC) public processes. I have also been engaged as a Steering Committee Member of Friends of Mill Valley and as President of the Tamalpais Park Neighborhood Association. My direct involvement and active participation spans more than 15 years.

I am in full agreement with the views outlined in Bob Silvestri’s letter dated July 14, 2017, have reviewed the Staff Report and Attachments, and offer the following critical commentary:

“A Community Based Plan” and the Public Process

“A Community Based Plan” is a contract between the Community and the City – a “consensus plan” – the product of an exhaustive public process finalized and approved by the City Council. Differences of opinions existed for every element of the plan. To revisit planning solutions long settled and under construction, based on the opinions of a few in the immediate vicinity, is a breach of the public process. The Plan is Final. The Plan is engineered. Honor the “Community Based Plan”. Build the Plan. Revisit the configuration in the future, if warranted.

Design Concept

There are two key elements to the overall streetscape concept:

  1. The “rooms” that provide a framework to lend specific character and distinction to the sections of the street: that acknowledge circumstance (e.g., the street’s quirky organic character); and that reinforce Miller Avenue’s episodic character, and
  1. The “threads” that weave the rooms together and create the street’s composite image and identity – landscape, lighting, travel-way and view corridor.

The travel-way – 2 lanes in each direction – is the strongest of those threads. It establishes a physical and visual continuity of experience and character from Camino Alto to the Passage. The Passage marks the transition from arterial to town. A reduction in travel-way at Locust would divide Miller in two, weakening the overall streetscape design and diluting the character of the Passage. In the context of the overall design concept, it’s critical that the Parkway belong to the street (Gateway – Main Street – Parkway) and not to the Passage. The Passage is unique.

“…what the community may think of the issue,”

Staff Report:

“To help better understand what the community may think of the issue, staff reached out to a group of 84 community and neighborhood association leaders by email requesting feedback about the roadway configuration.”

A group of five community leaders authored a petition “to help better understand what the community may think of the issue”:

“Ask Mill Valley City Council to honor their commitment by maintaining 2 Lanes on Miller!”

The Community has responded – 640 signatures in support of the Plan – two lanes in each direction (as of 9:30 pm July 17, 2017)

Capacity – Opinion or Science

Staff Report:

“It should be noted that the current one lane configuration is not a complete test of future conditions as the construction activities associated with Miller Avenue have likely caused some shifting or change in travel patterns, with some drivers that previously used Miller Avenue seeking alternative routes such as E. Blithedale or Sycamore Avenues, or to reduce vehicle trips altogether.”

Exactly. The City has discouraged use throughout the process by issuing advisories, detours and closures – hardly representative of use patterns at project completion. The General Plan notes that Miller is an arterial intended to move traffic, not restrict traffic. The General Plan projects a future increase in traffic of 8-12% and a degradation of intersection levels of service (LOS) in the area to “F” with a single intersection to “D”. And, this section of Miller Avenue is both a truck and transit route. A casual observation that one lane addresses current and future traffic capacities is not an acceptable basis to abandon and re-engineer the Plan. That is opinion, not science, and disrespects the public process.

Customer Parking

The above said, the City should work to address the short-term parking needs of out-bound merchants approximate to Willow. That section has wider-than-necessary sidewalks, a broad planter and a seemingly random stone wall. It would appear that some reconfiguration there would provide curb-side short-term parking to facilitate customer drop-off and pick-up.

That does not require nor justify the reconfiguration from two lanes to a single lane.

In summary, there is no credible or justifiable cause to willfully change the approved, engineered plan. The Plan should be executed and allowed to function for a year or more before a re-evaluation, if merited.

Respectively submitted,

Burton Miller FAIA