On March 4, 2019, the Mill Valley City Council made its final decision to narrow the traffic lanes on Miller Avenue in the "Parkway" section (Millwood to Locust), from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction.
Community Venture Partners and members of the community wrote letters for months contesting this decision on the grounds that it would endanger our city's residents in the event of a canyon wildfire. We argued that this lane capacity reduction was in violation of the State Fire Code and FEMA recommended guidelines. We argued that the basis for making this decision was arbitrary and subjective, and that increased risk of loss of life and property were not worth the assumed traffic calming "benefits."
The Marin County Grand Jury has just released its report on Wildfire Preparedness - A New Approach. The findings of this in-depth investigation unambiguously confirm the arguments CVP has been making about the Mill Valley City Council's irresponsible Parkway decision.
Under the section on "Evacuations" in the Report, it begins on page 11 by stating:
Having alerted the public to danger, the next step is to evacuate large groups away from an oncoming wildfire. Evacuations will be difficult; they have not been well planned or practiced. Evacuations in Marin will be chaotic, and could be deadly, during a wildfire. (Emphasis added).
And it notes on page 14:
Marin’s narrow roads cannot all be rebuilt, but existing, wider roads and those that are major evacuation routes should not be narrowed or impeded. Some roads now have obstacles such as concrete medians, sidewalk bump-outs, lane reductions, speed bumps and other “traffic calming” techniques, which will significantly hinder evacuations. The lethal danger these obstacles create outweighs the benefit a community achieves by reducing the “expressway feeling” that busy roads give to a pleasant town. The possibility of a mass evacuation now rises to a significant daily risk in the fire season; constricting already inadequate roads seems reckless. (Emphasis added).
The Mill Valley City Council's unanimous decision remains questionable. One can only hope that the Council Members are prepared to personally accept the consequences of their decision, which was based solely on the subjective opinion of the City's Fire Chief, without the benefit of any of the objective investigations done by the Marin County Grand Jury.
Bob Silvestri is a Mill Valley resident and the founder and president of Community Venture Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization funded only by individuals in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.