The following is my letter from Save Fairfax to the Town of Fairfax, submitted on November 10, 2023, regarding the program EIR and the Draft EIR prepared by Byett & Bhatia.
The firm of Dyett & Bhatia has prepared Fairfax's Housing & Safety Elements. It is clear they have no institutional knowledge of Fairfax, neither the historical background as to why Fairfax remains the last of the old small towns in Marin nor the legal battles fought out in local & appellate courts to preserve, protect & restore Fairfax. Dyett & Bhatia prepared the 2nd reiteration of Fairfax's Housing & Safety Elements after the initial process had been started by the EMC Planning Group and then after the firing of EMC.
The DEIR is riddled with misinformation and inaccuracies.
The proposed program Draft Environmental Impact Report does not provide sufficient data for the public and decision makers to make an informed decision.
It advises the public and decision makers that the result of the Project as proposed would result in a total of 598 Units, RHNA's required 490 Units and a 108 Unit Buffer but it does not advise either the public or decision makers of what the results would actually be -- visually and environmentally. The use of the wording "less than significant impact" throughout the DEIR incorrectly implies the addition of 490 to 598 units in both Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and flood zones is not a problem.
The methodology of the Dyett & Bhatia project was flawed from the start.
Their proposed Fairfax Housing Element has identified almost every vacant parcel of land in Fairfax and Dyett & Bhatia has set a density on these vacant and some underutilized parcels Town in direct violation of existing Town Codes knowing neither the history of Fairfax nor the Court decisions impacting any future development nor the applicable Town Code sections that apply to these parcels, including building site requirements and slope impacts on lot size, i.e.:
“§ 17.076.050 BUILDING SITE REQUIREMENTS.
“Except as otherwise provided in §§ 17.044.030 through 17.044.050 of this title, a use permit or hill area residential development permit (HRD) must be first secured in the RS-7.5 zone for any use, occupancy or physical improvement of or on a building site failing to meet the following minimum requirements:
“(A) Minimum area of 7,500 square feet and minimum width of 75 feet with a slope of ten percent or less;
“(B) The minimum building site area shall be increased by 300 square feet for each one percent increase in slope over ten percent to and including 15 percent; and the minimum width shall be increased three feet for each 500 square feet of additional area required, so that a building site having a slope of 15 percent shall have a minimum area of 10,000 square feet and a minimum width of 100 feet;
“(C) Building sites having a slope of more than 15 percent shall increase in area above 10,000 square feet and in minimum width above 100 feet, at the rate of 1,200 square feet of area and three feet of width for each one percent increase in slope; and
“(D) Fractions shall be disregarded and dropped in all computations made under this section.
(Prior Code, § 17.40.050) (Ord. 352, passed - -1973; Am. Ord. 605, passed - -1991)”
Fairfax's Town Attorney is rushing through zoning amendments to overturn historic zoning codes that Fairfax adopted in 1973 to protect scenic ridgeline scenic corridors, steep hillside parcels and both private and public open space. Fairfax's 1973 Zoning Ordinance was prepared by the Marin County Planning Department under a contract between Fairfax and the County of Marin.
Fairfax's large lot zoning ordinance, Upland Residential, UR-7 and UR-10, was modeled after Marin County's Agricultural zones like A-60. It purposely prohibits clustering. As the Town Councilmember most responsible for adopting Ordinance # 352, anyone can read the official Town Council minutes that describes the process, purpose, and intent. Those bounded minute books are in the Walk-in Safe at Town Hall.
Marin's A-60 zoning was put to the test many times and I, as a California Coastal Commissioner, was directly involved in upholding the purpose and intent of Marin's large lot zoning in the 1970's. The subdivision of a large ranch property in West Marin came before the Coastal Commission with units clustered but meeting the 60-acre minimum by having the 60 acre lots fan out like spokes on a wheel to make the 60-acre requirement. The subdivision almost slipped by the Commission, but I caught the mistake, and the subdivision application was rejected.
We were threatened with litigation but that never materialized.
Volume 1, Figure 2.2:
Environmental constraints correctly show almost all of Fairfax is located in High Hazard areas, High and Very High Liquefaction, Mostly or Many Landslides, both 100 and 500-year Floodplains and the most threatening, what neighborhoods are not in a Floodplain, are in the High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. One of the recommendations is to allow cluster development on hillside parcels in both private and public open space parcels, some are listed.
Figure 2-3: Sites available for housing, page 61.
Many of these sites are not available for housing if Fairfax's current zoning ordinances are held up. Why does the Draft EIR refuse to accept that fact?
Dyett & Bhatia has designated the 10.53-acre ridgetop open space parcel (174-060-21) for six units.
It was the private Open Space for the 52-unit Meadowland subdivision that Fairfax annexed and re-approved in the later 1960's and zoned it as a Planned District Development (PDD). The County of Marin had initially approved the 52-unit subdivision conditioned on the 10.53-acre parcel being set aside as Private Open Space. That parcel is landlocked.
The 10.53-acre open space parcel was sold about 4 years ago, and the new owner still has no frontage on an improved Fairfax public street as required by Fairfax Town Code. The only way a vehicle can access the 10.53-acre Meadowland ridge-top parcel is by leaving Fairfax Town Limits and driving through unincorporated Fairfax up a very steep side ridge portion of the Marin County Open Space District's land which is prohibited by a Fairfax Ordinance adopted in 2001. The Private Open Space Parcel is above the Canon Tennis & Swim Club and has no access from Canon Village either.
Fairfax has many zoning ordinances on the books that I authored. One says a Fairfax development must be accessed through a Fairfax roadway and a developer cannot access their property in Fairfax through another jurisdiction like either Marin County or San Anselmo. The purpose there is to give direct access for emergency response from Fairfax Police and not require FPD to travel through another jurisdiction thereby extending response times to get to a Fairfax property for emergencies. Then Councilmembers Niccolo Caldararo and Lew Tremaine voted with me on the adoption of that ordinance in 2001. It seems to have magically disappeared from the current Town Code.
Another ordinance says any housing development in Fairfax must have frontage on a Fairfax public street. Each unit must have frontage on an improved public street. The 10.53-acre parcel has no Fairfax street frontage.
Another parcel is a large parcel that was dedicated as Open Space through a Marin County Superior Court Order, the mandatory settlement requirement when the owner of the proposed Fairfax Hills subdivision, Leyton Hills sued Fairfax in the 1980's over our restrictions on the project. Dyett & Bhatia has designated a portion of that Private Open Space, Parcel #174-070-71 with an address of 615 Oak Manor Drive, for 34 units, 7 estate houses with 7 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on the steep hillside Open Space Parcel at 615 Oak Manor Drive and another 20 units on Sir Francis Drake frontage of that same parcel.
The bottom portion of that court ordered Open Space Parcel is a massive landslide where the Fairfax Public Works Department used to get shale debris for road projects when Fairfax had a grader. The Fairfax right of way along Drake Blvd. at that location goes so far back that with setback requirements, there is insufficient land to build on.
That parcel is the Remainder Parcel, originally the 50 or so acre parcel that was all Private Open Space as required by Marin County Superior Court Judge William H. Stephens' Order and signed by the Hill Family and the Town of Fairfax. The Fairfax Town Attorney, Ms. Janet Coleson, has incorrectly opined that the original Court Mandated Settlement Agreement is null and void. Ms. Coleson has no knowledge of what transpired over the Fairfax Hills subdivision application, public hearings, approvals, the subsequent lawsuit, and the various closed sessions leading up to the Court Ordered Settlement.
Research by Dyett & Bhatia into the property files and official Town Council meeting minute books in the Town Safe is necessary information that should be included in the Draft EIR. The presiding Marin County Superior Court judge at the time was Judge William Stephens and he passed away on May 17th, 2023. To my knowledge, only former Councilmember Wendy Baker and I are the remaining Fairfax participants in that process.
The DEIR is insufficient as it must address the conflict with Town Attorney Ms. Coleson's opinion on developing the Private Open Space at the Fairfax Hills Subdivision where she says the Marin County Superior Court Ordered Settlement is null and void and the Planning Commission meeting where the last two living units allowed by the Marin County Superior Court Ordered Settlement were approved.
The June 16, 2016 Planning Commission Meeting
The missing video of the June 16, 2016, Planning Commission Meeting where the building permit application (16-24) for 615 Oak Manor Dr. was approved has been found. There was an exchange discussion of the 2 home sites (D1 and D2) somehow converting to 2 homes on 1 lot (D1).
Here is the following exchange between Linda Neal, Commissioner Green and Jim Moore, whose comment is quite definitive: 1:56:50 in video:
Phillip Green asks, “Is this property part of the agreement of settlement of Fairfax Hills versus Fairfax?”
Linda Neal responds, “Yes, it is.”
Phillip Green: “Where is it?”
Linda Neal: “It's where the judge approved a house pad, you know originally this site the judge approved two parcels and two home sites.”
Phillip Green: “Is this one of the two allowed homes?”
Linda Neal: “There's no longer two allowed homes because they had to file a map for two Parcels within a certain amount of time so he's just taking the one parcel the judge originally approved for two home sites and applying for one house and a second unit.”
Jim Moore adds, “...and as Linda mentioned, this exhausts development potential in all 50 acres.”
(End 1:58:40 in video.)
Another 2 parcels that Fairfax purchased for Open Space in the early 1970's, Parcels 002-123-17 & 002-144-01, are on the downward side of Forrest Avenue, adjacent to the Marin Town & Country Club (MT&CC). These two parcels are very steep, pretty much unbuildable, and the previous owners did not pay taxes for a number of years resulting in a Tax Default Sale. As mayor, whenever these tax default parcels came up, I made it a point to inspect the properties to determine viability as open space. I agendized the purchase of these two of these parcels by Fairfax at a Town Council meeting for Public Open Space.
The advantage to Fairfax was twofold, removing two very steep parcels in a known landslide area from future development and having potential pedestrian access to the MT&CC should it ever become a resort inn or a recreational project. Dyett & Bhatia proposes putting 10 units on them.
There are 2 landlocked parcels close to our easterly border with San Anselmo, Parcels 002-181-04 and 002-181-05 (same owner) are designated for six units, roughly 10 acres combined and zoned Upland Residential 10-acre minimum, UR-10. It is impossible to extend Hillside Drive to these two parcels and access from Scenic Avenue in San Anselmo and either Francis Avenue or Crest Road in Fairfax will not work either.
The Marin Open Space District will not allow access through Sky Ranch. The DEIR must include how Dyett & Bhatia intend to provide access to those parcels and how they will resolve the conflict with current zoning.
There are a number of other parcels shown on Dyett & Bhatia's (D&B) new parcel map to allow for cluster zoning for market rate housing developments, a.k.a. multi-million-dollar estate houses, in violation of Fairfax's current zoning requirements:
The one-acre parcel between Meadow Way and Bolinas Road is shown for cluster development. Because of the steepness of that parcel, the current zoning allows only one house on that property. That parcel cannot be subdivided, access and landslide issues.
The Ben Ross property, parcels 003-171-02, 05 and 08 at the top of the north side of Toyon is shown with four units. The parcels are known as Northern Spotted Owl habitat, and they sit in the middle of the Town's WUI Zone. A public roadway would have to be built and accepted by the Town for maintenance to provide vehicle access to 3 of the 4 units. The property off of Toyon Drive is above Hickory Road and Lower Cypress Drive and may not be able to be subdivided because of slope and without a new public road serving the property.
The DEIR is silent as to how that property would be accessed and the adverse impact the development would have on local Northern Spotted Owl habitat.
The new D&B map shows cluster development at the top of the hill at the end of Fawn Drive, a highly visible ridge top parcel above Deer Park Villa.
Should the Wall Property not be purchased for Open Space, both the parcel to the West of the upper side of the Wall Property and the Wall Property itself, the DEIR will allow for cluster development on those parcels in violation of Fairfax's UR-7 and UR-10 Zoning. The D&B cluster development map also shows parcels to be developed at the end of Pine Drive and the top of Scenic Drive and Redwood Road.
10 Olema Road:
Parcel 001-104-12 is zoned CL Limited Commercial; it has the same zoning constraints as School Street Plaza. It backs onto Fairfax Creek with a required creek setback of at least 20 feet from the top of the bank. The Creek Setback Law requires development to be setback from the top of the bank twice the depth of the creek bank or 20 feet whichever is greater. D&B must measure the depth of the creek bank at 10 Olema to determine the legally required creek setback. The whole property flooded in 1982 and 2005.
Dyett & Bhatia designated it for 31 units. Most of the property is located in the 100-year flood plain. In addition, the property is the location of one of the first built homes in Fairfax, a Victorian built in the late 1800's. The DEIR must address the historical structure on the property and how it will be incorporated into the proposed 31-unit development.
Redevelopment of School Street Plaza:
It has been designated for 175 units in the D&B Housing Element with a seven-story building on 1.92 acres. A large portion of the property is in the 100-year floodplain and backs onto Fairfax Creek. The back of the property flooded in 1982 and 2005. The property is in a known hot spot for buried Native American artifacts, Miwok Cultural Resources. The adjacent parcel is Fairfax Park property where Native American artifacts have been uncovered. The parcel is zoned CL, a LIMITED COMMERCIAL ZONE: § 17.092.040 PRINCIPAL PERMITTED USES AND STRUCTURES are commercial, but CL is not zoned for retail.
School Street Plaza is a place for small businesses to locate, a spot for incubator businesses. The Fairfax zoning ordinance does not allow residential as a principal permitted use in the CL Limited Commercial Zone. Residences may be allowed by Use Permit if appropriate findings can be made by the Planning Commission & ultimately the Town Council. The height limit is 28.5 feet and may not contain more than two stories.
The DEIR must show how the proposed seven story building and its onsite parking will work: height wise. Since the site is one of the few locations where a licensed cannabis dispensary can be sited in Fairfax, the DEIR must find an alternative site for the historic cannabis business.
The Wall Property:
There is a 99.5-acre parcel that a developer wanted to subdivide into 10 estate lots with ADUs that is in a mapped Wildland Urban Interface Zone (WUI), a known high landslide prone area with mansions built on the Ridgeline Scenic Corridors, it was called Marinda Heights. 250 trees would have to be cut down and some years ago the then Town Council said an EIR was necessary for CEQA compliance, but the developer refused to pay for an EIR. So, no EIR was ever done and now Dyett & Bhatia wants to designate it for a 10-estate lot subdivision with 10 acres for each lot with the possibility of both an ADU and JADU on each parcel, perhaps 30 units and at the same time Fairfax is trying to put together a proposal to purchase the three parcels that we zoned UR-10 in the 1980's.
Fairfax's 1974 Open Space Element included two pertinent maps for the Wall property prepared by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd, WMRT, based on State geologist Ted Smith's field notes of his landslide mapping prepared by him for the State Division of Mines and Geology. The first is the Landslide Abundance Map and the second is the Wildland Fire map.
Fairfax has been plagued by landslides for years, homes had been sliding down Fairfax hillsides and the State finally reacted. In late 1972, the State Division of Mines & Geology rented a house in Fairfax for one year and sent one of their top geologists, Ted Smith, to live in Fairfax and map every street and parcel in Town. Fairfax's Open Space Element with the mapping of the whole Town prepared by WMRT was a town-wide reconnaissance and considered one of the foremost Open Space Elements for any California City/Town.
Homes slide on Canyon Road, Cascade Drive, Meadow Way, Pine Drive, Woodland Road, Spring Lane, Crest Road, Hillside Drive, Cypress, Toyon, Forrest Avenue, Scenic, Berry Trail, Tamalpais, Iron Springs, Bay Road, Willow, Live Oak, San Gabriel Drive and Court to name a few.
Fairfax banned septic tanks in 1974 and that ordinance has never been repealed. Canyon Road residents taxed themselves to install Ross Valley Sanitary District's sewer system for both existing homes and for new development. Fairfax now allows new development on Cascade Drive on a septic tank in violation of Fairfax's ordinance. There are a number of Fairfax properties still using septic tanks for wastewater disposal. The Dyett & Bhatia project does not recognize Fairfax's ban on new septic tanks for wastewater disposal.
During the early 1980's Fairfax merged over 1,000 parcels because they did not meet development, slope and zoning requirements and standards. The Dyett & Bhatia proposal lists a number of vacant parcels to be developed. There is an Assessor's Parcel Book, probably 1984, in the Town Safe with all the merged parcels marked. Fairfax recorded the merged parcels at the Marin County Recorder's Office. Dyett & Bhatia listed vacant parcels to be developed and D&B needs to determine if any of them have been merged.
Two parcels at the east end of SF Drake, the historic "Old Timer Club", now a beer pub, and one of the oldest homes in Fairfax next door adjacent to the Town Limits of San Anselmo. Dyett & Bhatia has designated them for at least 6 units with no way to preserve the existing historic structures. Dyett & Bhatia's Redevelopment proposals will turn the SF Drake Boulevard corridor from small commercial shops into a medium-rise zone.
Page 2-3 Sites reused from prior inventories: 6 School Street Plaza is not zoned Retail/General Commercial, it is zoned CL, Limited Commercial. That error needs to be corrected.
“3.1-3 Creation of open space: encourage cluster development on parcels in inventory zoned UR-7 and UR-10 and located on scenic ridgeline corridors.”
These parcels are already protected open space, which is why they have not been developed over the past 50 years, the prohibition of cluster development in certain zones and Fairfax's slope ordinance requiring larger lot sizes because of the percentage of slope.
“3.1-8 Impact analysis for the purpose of this EIR.”
The words program EIR and EIR are used. Is this proposed EIR a Programmatic EIR?
“3.1-10 Program 2-D. Standards for low impact clustered residential development on large sites. Objective land use regulations and standards for clustered housing development that expands opportunities for market rate housing.”
This proposal will open these large parcels that allow one unit under current zoning requirements for multi-unit developments. 50 years of protecting Fairfax's hillside parcels from over-development will be discarded.
Page 3-15, 2nd paragraph states, “Fairfax will undertake a focused geologic study to identify a range of measures that developers could incorporate to save costs.”
What Dyett & Bhatia do not know is that Fairfax already has town-wide geological mapping. State Geologist Ted Smith had mapped the whole Town, and each landslide area was marked on the map with a number. A 4 being the most susceptible for a landslide. Now Dyett & Bhatia wants Fairfax to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remap all of the known landslides. That General Plan Open Space Map was in the Town Safe when I left the Town Council in 2005.
Fairfax is in the worst shape for disasters, fires and, floods than any other of Marin's towns/cities.
Most of Fairfax is in the Wildland Urban Interface Zone (WUI) and what is not in the WUI Zone, is in the Flood Zone. In 1982 we had 18 inches of rainwater flowing through downtown Fairfax businesses. The Sunnyside Detention Basin constructed by the Ross Valley Flood Zone 9 will reduce flooding in downtown Fairfax by 4 inches so instead of 18 inches of flood water flowing through downtown businesses, only 14 inches of floodwater will flow through them.
The Storm Drainage Study for the Fairfax Area (A Special Report of the General Plan prepared for the City of Fairfax and the Marin County Planning Department by the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District).
One of the key recommendations to reduce downtown Fairfax flooding was to daylight the concrete culvert under Bolinas Road and increase its size from 10' X 6' to 14' X 7'. The Study was presented to the Fairfax City Council by Paul C. Zucker, Marin County Planning Director.
The 1980 preliminary general plan city of Fairfax, California was prepared by Wilsey & Ham engineers and planners in April of 1958 (note all lower-case lettering was used on the cover). The population of incorporated Fairfax in 1958 was 4,628. The plan addressed the flooding of downtown Fairfax and recommended enlarging the 500-foot culvert from Bolinas Road to San Anselmo Creek under Sherman Avenue to end the regular flooding.
“3.3-2 Special Status Animal species to occur in the planning area, less than significant impact. Coho Salmon and Steelhead Central CA Coast.”
We have photos from March 2nd, 2020, of Chinook salmon in San Anselmo Creek between Bolinas Road and the Elliott Nature Preserve.
“Sensitive Habitats: No Critical habitat as designated by the USFWS within the planning area.”
That statement is false. We have photos of Northern Spotted Owl nests and Northern Spotted Owls here in the Cascade Canyon. We have recent photos and videos of Chinook Salmon spawning in San Anselmo Creek. There are recent photos and videos of steelhead being rescued from San Anselmo Creek on the net. At the time Fairfax prepared the Mitigated Negative Declaration in 2020 for replacement of the Meadow Way Bridge, their environmental consultant included in their report that in the few years they studied San Anselmo Creek in and around the Meadow Way Bridge, they never saw any steelhead, but they had heard there were steelhead in the creek in the past.
That very same year, dozens of steelhead fry were rescued from numerous pools before they dried up between the Meadow Way and Canyon Road bridges. In recent years, hundreds of salmonids have been rescued from locations in San Anselmo Creek and relocated downstream. There are photos and videos on the net.
The Meadow Way neighborhood had heard earlier in October that Fairfax contractors would be doing work in and around the large pool of water in San Anselmo Creek under the Meadow Way Bridge repairing the cavity under the bulkhead. There were at Federally listed salmonids in the pool under the bridge and four steelhead, 7 to 9 inches long, were rescued and moved downstream a few days before Fairfax contractors dewatered the portion of San Anselmo Creek under the bridge on October 24th. Fairfax's contractors worked on the bulkheads under the Meadow Way Bridge on October 24th and 25th, 2023.
First, they dewatered the pool of water and the next day they poured probably 14 yards of concrete filling up the hole where the previous standing pool of water was located. I observed the work and asked Fairfax's bridge contractor if he had secured a "take permit" from the CDFW for any steelhead that would have been killed in that pool under the bridge. He responded “no,” that this was an emergency. I told him he could have secured an emergency "take permit" from the CDFW.
The Safety Element must address Fairfax's plan for preserving what's left of the fisheries in Fairfax, San Anselmo and Carey Camp Creeks and a Coho Salmon restoration plan.
“Impact: 3.3-2 Bothin Creek, Fairfax Creek and San Anselmo Creek. Not listed in Fairfax Town Limits are Carey Camp Creek and Deer Park Creek.”
“3.4 Cultural and Tribal Cultural Resources. Appendix C. 3.4-1 Implementation of the project will not cause substantial adverse impacts.”
This is the common theme throughout.
“3.4-3 Implementation of the proposed project would not have potential to disturb human remains including those interned outside of funeral cemeteries.”
Miwok people Summered in and around the original confluence of San Anselmo Creek and Fairfax Creek behind the Fairfax Post Office and in areas of Fairfax Park and Pavilion Hill. Evidence of Tribal life in the area was found when excavations took place for the rebuilding of the old Lucky Market, site of today's Good Earth Store and the Midden on Pavilion Hill when Fairfax dug up the Hill for a new sewer line going down the hill to Bolinas Road. Discussions with old timers fifty years ago included stories of the Coho and Chinook Salmon they caught in San Anselmo and Corte Madera Creek. The stories also included the digging around Town and finding full skeletal remains of Native Americans.
“3.6 Geology and soils”
The State Office of Mines & Geology completed a block by block, lot by lot environmental reconnaissance on the stability of Fairfax's hillsides.
“.6-5 Proposed Project would not have soils incapable of adequately supporting the use of septic tanks or alternative wastewater disposal systems where sewers are not available for disposal of wastewater.”
In 1974, because of leach lines leaking into San Anselmo Creek, and the adverse impact on salmonids, the Fairfax Town Council on a 4 to 1 vote, passed an ordinance prohibiting new septic tanks for use in wastewater disposal systems in Fairfax. That ordinance has never been withdrawn or amended.
“3.7-23 School Street Plaza is a 1.92 acre site.”
A Tower with 175 units is proposed with 35 affordable units and 140 market Rate units. A single person can make $104,000 a year and meet the affordability criteria for the 35 affordable units. How does that happen since not many local workers in Fairfax make $104,000 a year?
Fairfax's consultant determines Fairfax's benchmark for affordability by averaging the incomes of residents of all Marin County cities and towns including Sausalito, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Belvedere, Larkspur, Ross, and San Anselmo with Fairfax residents. This puts Fairfax residents at a disadvantage when competing for an affordable Fairfax rental unit, up to $104,000 a year but a male in Fairfax actually earns $51,457 per year and a female earns $40,815 per year. Fairfax's consultants, Dyett & Bhatia, must be directed to use only Fairfax resident's annual income to determine affordability in Fairfax, not the Marin County average income.
“3.9-1 Waterways and flood zones in the planning area.”
The floods of 1982 and 2005 are well documented. Two feet of water flowed through the Fairfax Town Hall extension over Fairfax Creek in the Flood of 1982.
Town Council meeting records from the 1970's will show that when Fairfax proposed building the Town Hall addition over the Creek, I objected saying it would flood. At that meeting Fairfax Town Engineer Ben Albritton said "Frank, you and I will not see this extension flood in our lifetime". Ben has passed but I have already seen the Town Hall extension flood twice, 1982 and 2005. The Safety Element should recommend that the extension of Town Hall over Fairfax Creek should be removed.
3.10-1 - Existing land use.
Shown in red-a Retail General Commercial Zone (in reference to School Street Plaza). Fairfax does not have a Retail General Commercial Zone in its zoning ordinances.
4.1 Alternatives Analyzed in This EIR NO PROJECT ALTERNATIVE:
State CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.6(e) requires an EIR to analyze the specific alternative of “No Project”. The purpose of describing and analyzing the No Project alternative is to allow decision makers to compare the impacts of approving a proposed project with the impact of not approving the proposed project. The No Project Alternative shall discuss the existing conditions at the time the EIR notice of preparation is published, as well as what would be reasonably expected to occur in the foreseeable future if the project were not approved, based on current plans and consistent with available infrastructure and community services.
Additionally, State CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.6(e)(3)(a) states that when the project is their vision of an existing land use or regulatory plan, the “No Project” alternative will be the continuation of the existing plan. Typically, this is a situation where new projects would be proposed under the existing plan. Thus, the impacts of the proposed project would be compared to the impacts that would occur under the existing plan. Under the No Project Alternative, the Town would not update the existing 2015 to 2023 Housing Element.
The existing Housing Element would continue to direct the Town’s decisions related to housing development and the RHNA assignment of 61 units in the current Housing Element would remain the Town’s goal for new housing units. In addition, the Town is responsible for addressing the remaining RHNA from the previous planning period (2007–2014) totaling 80 units. The 2015 to 2023 Housing Element goals, policies, and implementing programs would continue to guide Town decisions regarding housing within the Planning Area.
Under these conditions it would be reasonable to assume that applications for new housing developments consistent with the 2015 to 2023 Housing Element would continue to be submitted and approved.
Although the No Project Alternative does not meet any of the Housing Elements Update project objectives and is not considered a feasible project alternative, it is presented below as required by the State CEQA Guidelines.
MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVE
To reduce significant impacts related to VMT and GHG emissions, this alternative seeks to foster an integrated mixed-use development on the Marin Town and Country Club (MTCC) site. According to data from the US Census, over 3,100 residents of Fairfax commute to jobs in other communities each day, while only 1,200 residents of other communities commute to jobs in Fairfax and only 239 both live and work in Fairfax.
Therefore, intent of this alternative is to create new jobs and housing within easy walking distance of Downtown Fairfax and the main transit route through the community along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in order to rebalance commute patterns and increase opportunities for people to live and work in Fairfax and to travel within the community without the need for a vehicle.
This alternative would involve the development of a master plan for the MTCC site in coordination with the property owner to integrate up to 200 additional new housing units and 50,000 square feet of office and studio space for local businesses, artists, and craftsmen. It is assumed that at least 20 percent of the new homes would be affordable to moderate-income households, consistent with the Town's draft inclusionary ordinance.
Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Fairfax General Plan Housing Element Update
Chapter 4: Alternatives Analysis
4-4.Studies have shown that promoting more compact housing development in mixed land use areas is more strongly correlated to increases in non-vehicular modes of travel and reduction of VMT. As such, this alternative would address the significant impacts of the Proposed Project related to VMT and GHG emissions.
This alternative would implement the project objectives and further increase housing density in the Town Center. As such, there would be an additional 200 housing units developed under this Alternative compared to the Proposed Project, for a total of 808 units.
The discussion of the MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVE does not include the need for a second access to the MT&CC on Pacheco Avenue and the construction of a new bridge at the end of Pacheco. MT&CC is not zoned for this proposed alternative.
The DEIR does not address how the MT&CC would be rezoned for the proposed alternative. The map showing all Retail General Commercial uses in Town incorrectly identifies the front half of the MT&CC adjacent to San Anselmo Creek as Retail General Commercial. It is currently developed with the former cabins and apartments that were seasonal rentals for the former resort and holds forty affordable living units.
3.15-1 WUI areas in Marin County
Page 375. Historical wildfires are listed but the 1944/45 wildland fire that came off of Mount Tamalpais towards Fairfax is not listed. Marin County was preparing to evacuate all of Fairfax when the wind shifted and took the fire west to Camp Taylor. My father drove us out to Lagunitas after the wind shifted and we continued to the second bridge, the next bridge after the Inkwells. It was dark and we stopped there as the fire had burned right down to the SF Drake Blvd and Lagunitas Creek, it was still burning and there was not a fire engine in sight. We were familiar with the area as we often held family picnics at Camp Taylor before it became a State Park.
Fires repeat themselves and the biggest threat to Fairfax is from future wildland fires coming off the Mountain or from the Elliott Nature Preserve area burning towards Bolinas Road and Town. Evacuation is a huge issue and drawback as Fairfax has one road in and one road out of most neighborhoods. One accident on SF Drake Blvd. can put the Upper Ross Valley in total gridlock for hours. A tree falling on Laurel or Cascade Drive can block evacuations. Many of these evacuations take place in the middle of the night and it's easy to get disoriented when trying to evaluate in a smoke-filled canyon.
The DEIR says fire evacuations routes are shown on local websites. Who will run to their computer to check evacuation routes first if they have to evacuate? The DEIR should include recommendations to assist with evacuations like voice over commands on Fairfax's emergency sirens, posted evacuation route signs with solar attachments to light up at night. Enforcing Fairfax's minimum vehicle clearance ordinances and keeping up to 20 feet of public right of ways clear where possible for incoming engines and evacuating vehicles.
Fairfax needs to learn from recent fires, the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa was moving a mile a minute, many did not get out. My God-daughter woke up early on Monday morning after the Tubbs fire started. She looked up on the ridge above Santa Rosa and saw flames and smoke. She lived in Coffee Park about six miles from the fire on the ridge. She drove out to Guerneville Road to check on her Dad. She returned home an hour later and her home was gone.
The Tubbs fire had crossed Highway 101's 7 lanes and 4 lanes of frontage roads, burned through commercial buildings on the West side of 101 and burned out 500 homes in Coffee Park. The fire blew through the urban subdivision, house to house. Burning embers 20 inches square were flying through the air. This is what we have to look forward to.
A wildland fire will burn from the Elliott Nature Preserve to Cascade and Bolinas Road in a matter of minutes if the winds are blowing north-east.
2017 North Coast Fires
A Mendocino County family trying to evacuate their Redwood Valley home lost their two children, 14 and 17, who were mortally burned in the wildland fire that burned from Potter Valley over the ridge to Redwood Valley.
The 2018 Camp Fire burned through 18,000 homes and businesses in Paradise and 85 people died, some in their cars trying to evacuate. Five years later, one third of Paradise's homes have been rebuilt.
Wildland fires continue. This year the 2023 Maui Fire burned through Lahaina in a short period of time. Many died trying to evacuate. Fairfax must have a real Evacuation Plan to get 7,500 people out of here. The mapping we have today is useless in a major conflagration. Fairfax will end up being another "Paradise" if this Redevelopment Plan proposed by Dyett & Bhatia is approved as written. Who will accept liability for death and destruction when the conflagration hits Fairfax, the Town Council? The State of California? The State Legislators who forced these housing laws on us?
Fairfax and San Anselmo passed joint resolutions years ago. We each said we would notify the other Town if there was a "project" in their Town that could adversely impact the other Town.
Has Fairfax notified San Anselmo that the Fairfax "project" will adversely impact San Anselmo?