The following comment letter was submitted by resident, Steven Edgett, to the Marin County Community Development Agency, the Department of Public Works, and Supervisor Moulton-Peters, regarding the significant hyrological, geological, and environmental hazards resulting from the proposed development and new roadway construction on Alta Way in Tam Valley.
To the attention of County of Marin Planning and Public Works:
On March 17, this project was discussed with the Tam Design Review Board. The meeting was attended by members of the TDRB, Tyler Bylow Project Engineer for the County of Marin, Daniel Chador and the developer’s civil engineer. Mr. Chador presented the plan to develop six buildable lots on an extension of Alta Way. His engineer identified drainage issues which were to be mitigated and indicated that they were designing those for the road and some potential hardscape on future homes to adequately drain storm runoff from the 80th percentile storm. Tyler Bylow noted the road width permitted up to six homes to be built on the 24’ wide road.
I believe the following points are vital to the decision to proceed:
- Existing Alta Way was constructed in its narrow (24 – 28’) state, and Tyler noted that the code did not presently permit a road width of 24’ for a development of more than six homes. In this case, there are five homes existing on the narrowed Alta Way (the portion which goes to the Southwest from the intersection with Blue Jay Way). Chador, et al are proposing to increase this by five to eleven in what I believe is both a violation of the planning code and common sense. Furthermore I’d like to hear from current Alta Way residents about the County’s claim that Alta Way is a “County Maintained Road”. When we asked about this for Shasta Way many years ago where the “County Maintained Road” does not cover the end of the road on which four or five homes are situated and were told that the road did not meet county standards as it was not 40’ wide.
- Apparently, the properties were originally planned around 40’ public rights of way and this leads to a question many of us have encountered in Tam Valley. If the existing road is not 40’ wide, who owns the portion which is a public right of way? And more importantly, who maintains this? I have no particular issue with Shasta Way as it was built in the 1940s along with our homes, presumably prior to present-day building or traffic standards, but to allow this for a new development is in my view irresponsible. In the case of the proposed Alta Way extension with a 28’ road, there are presumably 6’ of public right of way on either side of this roadway. Is this deeded to the buyers of the six lots proposed?
- The engineer’s assertion that they were graciously providing drainage for the 80th percentile storm is nonsense. Chador and his engineer then added water underground water tanks to absorb one hour’s worth of a heavy storm. Who is then responsible for the runoff when a storm exceeds one hour? Whether it is directly stated or not, we’ve seen evidence in Tam Valley that poor drainage on existing streets becomes the liability of the surrounding homeowners. And while it seems settled for those of us who bought homes constructed before modern codes and drainage provisions, this condition should not be allowed to be repeated. The developer of the Alta Way extension is adding to whatever drainage burden is placed on the existing Alta Way and its homeowners. If I lived on this street, I would find an attorney to immediately initiate a class action lawsuit against the County and the road developer for deliberately creating this condition.
- In the presentation, the developer showed catch basins both adjacent to the road and on the lots they proposed to sell. Their engineer stated that the catch basins adjacent to the road are designed to handle only the 80th percentile storm and it is apparent that those shown for the private homes are simply a suggestion, and an insult to anyone living on property surrounding these fantasy lots. The installation of catch basins and underground water storage are a tacit admission that the land to be developed will result in additional watershed on properties below.
- The condition for “drainage” throughout the valley is tenuous. As new owners move in and remove trees from their property, we’re already seeing cases where these homes are flooded during heavy rains and the new homeowners want the property owners uphill from them to assume the liability for the drainage problems. I’d like to believe that a full EIR will show the impact of the new road, proposed homes and vegetation removal on existing houses. Moreover, to protect those of us who understand the lack of drainage in Tam Valley, we should add a legally binding document to every home or lot purchase which states that drainage in Tam Valley meets no modern codes and that the new buyer assumes all liability for the lack of code compliance and/or changes to runoff caused by their changes to the lot, including added development or tree and brush removal. There is no legal means to get the County to remedy conditions that have been extant for more than 70 years, nor is it appropriate for those of us who purchased homes here to be liable for the drainage problems.
- As with the original proposal to build a road for the construction of one home, this investment group has been very loose with the truth in the hope they could capitalize on the new road while not addressing the issues related to its construction, to increased drainage from hardscapes and to the removal of existing vegetation on the proposed home sites. They apparently are trying to maximize their profits by shifting liability away from themselves and onto those whose properties adjoin those which will be sold.
- Even as the neighbors have encouraged Chador, et al to meet in person, they have apparently not reached out to anyone to discuss their concerns.
The applicant has asked to build a road so that others may develop the six lots and thus avoiding a full EIR on the project. This approach is death by 1000 cuts.
Steven D. Edgett