Saturday, November 9, 2013

Marinwood Plaza needs Leadership by Carol Brandt in 2010

Carol Brandt, Candidate for Supervisor to replace Susan Adams
Editor's Note:  Here is a 2010 column by Carol Brandt, who recently announced that she will run  for Supervisor in District One. Her criticism provides a different context to the revisionist history promoted by the County and Susan Adams.

Since this article was published, a coffee cart, a small farmer's market and Marinwood Market have appeared, all with the assistance of county sponsorship.  The plaza could become alive again with improvements to visibility and a renovation with private commercial development which will actually contribute taxes and funding for our schools.  Unfortunately, the county still is not paying attention to our community wishes and appears to be cramming their low income housing upon us. Loss of the Marinwood Plaza commercial property will permanently elimate a viable commercial market location for the community.  In other posts, I suggest that a "Farm to Table" market could work on the site . (see "a positive view of development")

see article:  Marin Voice column by Carol Brandt in the Marin IJ

What's the first thing many people see when they drive into Marinwood? The decrepit Marinwood Plaza shopping center, complete with overgrown weeds, abandoned store fronts, broken windows, old mattresses, discarded appliances, dirty needles, graffiti and problems with vagrancy.

This is what I am greeted with when I visit my former neighborhood where I lived for ten years.

It seems that the owner has abandoned all care of his property since he and the county have decided that they can't do anything with the site until the economy turns around.

That is odd since directly to the north and south there has been rapid progress with the new Safeway shopping center at the former Nave Lane site, the revamping of Pacheco Plaza with high-end Paradise Foods, and a new Peet's
Coffee heading to Northgate Mall.
How did all this pass by Marinwood? To make matters worse, the county is now "inviting" Marinwood residents to help clean up the site in preparation for a possible farmer's market in the spring.
This is the ultimate insult to a community that has had to endure a painful planning process and the unresponsiveness of the property owner and the county to clean up the site.
I care about this even though I no longer live in Marinwood.
I was involved in the early stages of the redevelopment of the Marinwood Plaza back in 2000.
We had heard that Bell market was going to leave the Plaza and we wanted to keep a retail presence in our community.
Peet's had an interest in opening a coffee shop and Bell Market indicated it might be willing to stay if the owner would commit to a renovation of the Plaza, which would in turn attract more quality tenants.
The Plaza used to be a great place where we would shop, bring our dry cleaning, get videos for the weekend, buy good wines from Jenny and Alex's liquor store and a place where local kids would ride their bikes for an afternoon ice cream.
It was always a place where you would run into a neighbor and take a moment to chat about the happenings in the community and best of all you could walk or ride your bike to the Plaza.
Since that time there has been lack of direction, leadership and forward momentum to get a project going.
I am sure, for the community, it's quite depressing to watch major retail development happen just to the north and south, even in this bad economy.
It seems that the county's, and housing advocate's, goal of stuffing upwards of 100-plus housing units with up to 50 percent of them being "affordable," trumped the local resident's goal of having the site revamped as a community retail-focused gathering place with a retail presence and a lower number of housing units.
There is no near-term redevelopment solution in the works.
This is not the responsibility of the residents of Marinwood and, in its current state, I can't imagine that any parent would want their children to walk or bike near the site.
We elect our officials to look after our communities and their well-being and this issue has gotten out of control and needs an immediate fix until a longer term solution is in place.

Will anyone take the lead and get this fixed without giving the community the usual responses of "it is not within our jurisdiction" or "it is private property and not our problem"?
The county and the owners need to do something about it now. They owe it to the residents of Marinwood.

Carol Brandt of San Rafael was a community leader in Marinwood for 10 years. She ran for the Marin Board of  Supervisors in 2002 and will be a candidate in the 2014 election for Supervisor.
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