Thursday, April 3, 2014

17 Areas of concern with the EIR for the Marinwood Village Project:

Speak up about your environmental concerns with Marinwood Village project.
Written comments are due April 7th

Following are the areas of environmental concern that need to be addressed regarding the current Marinwood Village redevelopment plans submitted by Bridge Housing. All of the sections listed in the Notice of Preparation require general investigation. The following are specific concerns I have related to each listed section:

1) Land Use and Planning
·         The EIR should be diligent in judging all cumulative impacts, from all current and future developments bounded by at a minimum, by the area bounded by the Civic Center, the bay, the Hamilton Smart Station location, and Grady Ranch. This includes existing impacts, other developments, projects that are in progress, and those being proposed, in particular being sure to include the Oakview project/entitlement.

·         Please include a meaningful analysis of the likely cumulative impacts of a widespread build out and it’s effects upon all affected districts, agencies, communities, etc., regardless of the details of individual projects. Please estimate the maximum potential impact, the range of potential impacts, and or the likely net impact of all the impacts, including those listed below.

·         What adverse impacts will result from Bridge’s stark deviation from the Marinwood Village Guiding Principles, as adopted by the Marin County Board of Supervisors? Some critical aspects missing from the current development include: minimum 50 market rate units, residential would consist of attached single family town homes for purchase, 12,000 sq feet of ancillary retail, design and scale would be consistent with the existing community.

·         Please list any and all potential impacts that will result from this projects inconsistent density/character with our existing community, moving from our majority 4-5 units per acre densities and increasing to 30 units per acre densities?

·         Assuming Bridge's architectural drawings are to scale, some structures proposed at Marinwood Plaza span roughly 24 yards wide, by 50 yards long - nearly half the length of a football field. The proposed heights of the various structures will range from approximately 38 feet tall to 46 feet tall.  That is 15-23 feet taller than the current Marinwood Market - doubling its current height. These dimensions compare to Downtown Novato's Millworks, and Corte Madera's Win-cup development. 3 - 4 story downtown densities like this are extremely different from our existing suburban community and will likely have adverse changes and impacts environmentally.

·         Per the previous comment, story poles need to be installed to give the public the truest sense of the size and scale for the proposed development. Please implement as instructed in the Planning Permit Check List for County of Marin #24: Story Poles.

·         Does the proposed development qualify for affordable housing density bonuses? Please inform what that criterion is to qualify for AH density bonuses and what densities could increase up to.

·         The EIR should recommend that the developer assist the remaining effected displaced business – the liquor store –and cover relocation costs and costs of lost revenue during construction.

·         The EIR should require the development to integrate more retail square footage, since it’s our communities only retail opportunity. If lost, there is no other location in our community designated as or for commercial or retail, which our community sorely needs to lessen our dependence upon motor vehicles, improving impacts upon our environment, leading to greener living.

·         Please have the EIR investigate mitigation measures for short-term and long-term (cumulative) impacts.

·         The EIR should include criteria for impacts during construction phasing.

·         If thorough mitigation is not possible, the EIR should consider these viable alternatives: relocate the development to a non-hazardous site, reduce the size and scope of the project, or a “no-project” alternative could be a commercial/neighborhood serving retail only development, that is not as contaminant sensitive. If thorough mitigation is possible, low impact alternatives derived from solutions appropriate for Marin should be considered, like senior housing or a MV guiding principles consistent development as adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.

2) Population and Housing
·         Please have the EIR address the socio-economic injustice of forcing low-income residents with fewer options for housing available to them to live in hazardous/undesirable location, if the numerous hazards prove to be insurmountable. The forcing of less affluent residents to live in such conditions crosses the line into environmental injustice. The concentration of affordable housing for this project will be placed within 100-300 foot distance from the closest HWY 101 lane, with known expulsions of hazardous levels of benzene and other Toxic Air Contaminants. Furthermore, the site is sandwiched between a former gas
station site, a cell tower, the existing Dixie School Bus Yard, as well as sitting on top of a known dry cleaner toxic contamination site. Apart from all of these environmental hazards, restrictions are imposed upon siting new school locations within 500-1000ft of major freeways, shouldn’t where these children will live be upheld to the same precautionary restrictions?

·         Please have the EIR thoroughly study and disclose impacts to an increased housing to jobs imbalance that this project will create in the community, given that the current community consists almost entirely of just housing.

·         Please ensure the EIR is not reliant upon housing projections from ABAG, as their projections have been wildly inaccurate. Please base all growth projections on Marin historical data.

·         Please have the EIR investigate and fully disclose what low-income levels this development will be eligible for. Please compare those income levels to the existing population. If the income levels are comparable at all, please address any adverse social or environmental impacts that could arise due to having residents subsidizing residents who would make comparable income.

·         The EIR should study the financial and environmental impacts of the proposed developments ~87% tax exempt/affordable concentration vs the financial and environmental impacts of a 20% tax exempt/affordable concentration, which is the standard statewide mandated concentration.

·         Please identify all impacts related to the developments plan to concentrate and segregate its low income residents away from the rest of the community and market rate properties vs integrating residents of all income levels throughout our community.

·         Please identify any and all impacts due to Marin’s imbalance and lack of job opportunities/industry within Marin County vs our amount of existing housing within our county in relation to jobs available in the County.

·         Lack of elevators discourages senior housing and impedes ADA accessibility for levels higher than 1 story. Please have the EIR address this oversight to ensure proper ADA accessibility and senior access for all buildings and all levels.

·         The EIR should recommend that the proposed development create an equal amount of jobs vs projected working age residents.

·         The EIR should compare the social/financial/environmental impacts of high concentrations of tax exempt/affordable housing upon the local real estate. Real estate is entirely perception driven. The impacts of such a development upon the real estate market has already deterred buyers from purchasing in our community, reducing competition and prices in a negative way. Understand that the rise in prices of residential real estate is purely connected to the current extreme buyer demand compared to Marin’s extremely limited supply of housing available for purchase. Marin’s problem is supply and demand. More market rate housing that all can compete over is the only factor that will positively influence housing prices lower, in ways that sustainably provide funding for required services. New developments should be required to provide for the mandated 20% affordable component to address Marin’s true affordable housing/workforce housing needs. Excessive concentrations of affordable/tax exempt housing are not the supply that buyers are looking for. Excessive affordable housing will adversely influence housing prices lower through negative perceptions and overall defunding for necessary services, resulting in diminished amenities.

3) Geology and Soils
·         What will be the result if the Dry Cleaner contamination clean-up order recently issued by the RWQCB is not followed or met on schedule?

4) Hydrology and Water Quality
·         Please address numerous concerns of adding hundreds of new residents without planning for demands upon Marin’s fragile water supply, especially in light of the states current drought status.

5) Air Quality
·         Given Geoligica’s findings of hazardous benzene concentrations on site attributed to HWY 101 proximity[1], please test for hazardous benzene concentrations for outdoor air quality throughout the entire site. Furthermore, since the entirety of this site is within 1000ft of highway 101 (majority within 500ft), please also test the entire site for any other Toxic Air Contaminants or Volatile Organic Compounds, in the air or soil onsite that may be related to vehicular pollutants. Please note CEQA’s recommendation to avoid siting new sensitive land uses within 500 feet of a freeway, urban roads with 100,000 vehicles/day[2]. Please also reference BAAQMD testing guidelines[3] for required testing for sites next to freeways (within 1000 ft) and how to properly mitigate any additionally discovered pollutants.

·         The EIR needs to investigate the extra pollutants this development is subject to, due to morning traffic patterns and the on ramp surrounding the development. Because of this, the proposed development is subject to hazardous cold engine acceleration exhaust particulate matter.

6) Transportation/Traffic
·         Given the exceptionally short on-ramp for HWY 101 South at Miller Creek, The EIR should investigate extending the southbound on-ramp merge lane for the increased traffic from the development, to improve safety for all residents at this very short and very dangerous freeway on-ramp. The development most likely would need to adjust the locations of their affordable buildings for this necessary improvement.

·         What are the increased traffic and parking impacts upon the community, and how will they be mitigated?

·         The plans call for a right of way abandonment, leading to the extensive narrowing of Marinwood Avenue. I’m concerned this will heavily and adversely impact traffic and congestion on Marinwood Avenue, especially in conjunction with all the new residents, resident guests and potential shoppers of the improved center. The right of way abandonment will also likely incur great expense in the locating and moving of underground utilities. Please specify who will be doing this work, and who is paying for it to be done?

·         The EIR should study impacts upon Lucas Valley Road, especially since it is one of the only routes that leads to West Marin.

·         The EIR should study unintended consequences and environmental impacts that the residential and retail portions would have upon the community – parking, traffic, pollution, etc. This should be study singularly and in combination of residential and retail together. Please reference the outcomes from similar developments in Los Angles in particular.

·         The EIR should thoroughly study traffic circulation.

·         The EIR should evaluate impacts to parking upon the neighborhood and nearby residents – impacts to Casa Marinwood, to Marinwood Avenue, to Miller Creek Road, and for the potential for parking needs to spill across Miller Creek Road into the surrounding neighborhood.

·         The EIR should recommend parking hours restrictions to coincide with the Dixie Bus schedule. Parking meters should be installed to produce revenue to help offset the gift of the Marinwood Avenue right of way abandonment.

·         The EIR should evaluate noise, traffic and air pollution during construction and requirements for approved construction hours, notification, etc for the duration of the construction.

·         The EIR should require that development consider how to best ensure bicycle safety in and around the development area, since a major bike bath runs adjacent to the development property.

·         The EIR should require for adequate, safe parking for bicycles to encourage bicycle use of motor vehicles.

·         The EIR should require that the developer do a base traffic study before development to measure traffic increases post development so that the developer can appropriately contribute for traffic increase improvements.

·         The encourage less traffic, the EIR should require that the developer study the developments impacts to local transit and contribute proportionately based on those findings, additionally the developer should evaluate changes in service and identify the impacts to existing service, increased service and increased hours of service.

·         The EIR should ensure that crosswalks are implemented on all four sides of the intersection at Miller Creek and Marinwood Ave.

·         The EIR should recommend for the developer to install electric car plug-in outlets to further encourage electric car use to reduce Green House Gas emissions.

·         The EIR should study cumulative traffic increases throughout the entire community bounded by the Civic Center, the Hamilton Smart Station location, the bay and Grady Ranch.

7) Biological Resources
·         Please address any and all impacts of the developments size/scale/construction upon the nearby Miller Creek watershed and Las Gallinas Watershed.

·         Please have the EIR ensure no damming of the Miller Creek occurs through this development through erosion or another unintended action. Damming or bottlenecking of the Miller Creek could catastrophically impact areas further upstream, potentially eroding sections of the creek, damaging and altering properties and uprooting or destroying trees along the creek.

8) Energy and Natural Resources
·         Why does this building not integrate water reclamation systems, or utilize Photovoltaic solar energy panels? If Marin is as environmentally conscious as it claims to be, please hold this project to meet the most current of Green/Leed building standards.

·         The EIR should recommend or ensure that both building materials and landscaping should be environmentally friendly and sustainable. All appliances should be energy efficient and water saving devices should be required throughout for all fixtures.

9) Hazards and Hazardous Materials
·         The EIR should evaluate the environmental impacts of the clean-up proposed for the various hazards and methods proposed (i.e. excavation) – toxic dry cleaner contamination excavation, former gas station, proposed benzene remediation, cell tower removal, Dixie school bus yard.

·         Since Geoligica’s testing[4] uncovered hazardous concentrations of benzene in the indoor air quality tests at levels over 4x the Environmental Screening Levels (ESLs) established for residential land use by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the EIR should investigate thorough mitigation for both indoor and outdoor air quality. Geoligica concluded the benzene is likely due to the sites proximity to the freeway, since benzene was not found at levels above ESLs in the soil vapors. Furthermore, note that the CA Air Resources Board has expressed that any level of benzene is hazardous and that no safe threshold exists[5].

·         The EIR should make known the avoidable risk of cancer/leukemia with this proposed housing site, given the hazardous concentrations of benzene found onsite, as stated above. The Center for Disease Control[6] and the CA Air Resources Board are but two of many agencies that have well documented the known hazards of benzene, and how to avoid it. The following is from the CARB REPORT TO THE SCIENTIFIC REVIEW PANEL ON BENZENE* [7]:

Since the evidence strongly suggests that benzene is a known human carcinogen, since the evidence does not warrant the assumption that carcinogenicity is confined to the dose above any threshold, and since the range of conservative reasonable dose-response curves predicts a range of added lifetime cancer risks which are not negligible, the ARB staff considers available evidence sufficient to recommend listing benzene as a toxic air contaminant.

·         The EIR should include a comprehensive hazardous risk assessment and identify any and all hazards/VOC’s onsite (i.e. lead or asbestos, or any other vehicular pollutants), due to any and all sources, such as previously existing gas stations, the sites freeway proximity/adjacency, the former dry cleaner onsite, cell towers onsite, adjacent Dixie School bus yard, etc.

·         The sites proximity to highway 101 and its particular geographic location pose significant health hazards. The majority of the site is less than 500 ft distance from highway 101 with an average cars traveled per day in excess of 170K per day. The amount of TAC's known to exist within this buffer zone is extensive and hazardous. This site is also situated at the bottom of a steep grade that leads over into Novato. There is also a short freeway on-ramp that borders most of the site, forcing rapid auto acceleration and excessive vehicular exhaust expulsion. The vehicle exhaust particulate matter from acceleration combined with the continuous vehicle braking done at this location results in a particularly harmful mix of contaminants ranging from at minimum benzene and asbestos. Because of this please investigate all potential vehicular pollutants that may exist onsite.

·         Historically leaded gasoline vehicles have traveled along this route, contributing to a likely high concentration of lead contamination in the soil near the freeway. The alignment of this road has been basically the same for a very long time; tetraethyl lead was used to increase the octane rating in gasoline until ~1970.  Caltrans most likely encapsulated some lead contaminated soil when they widened the road several decades ago, but elevated lead concentrations are likely to exist at the Marinwood Plaza site.

·         The toxic dry cleaner plume has spread across the freeway and currently threatens the wells and property of the Silviera Ranch. Please have the EIR investigate options for how to best address and thoroughly remediate the plume.

·         The Northern parcel previously housed a gas station. The EIR should consider the hazardous effects of this former use on the development and put measures in place to ensure mitigation.

·         The EIR should identify any expected potential for the proposed developments future residents life span reduction due to any known hazards that cannot be fully mitigated.

·         The EIR should assess the hazardous risk potential for future residents of this development from the cell tower due to its proximity and height. Since some residents would be very close to the cell tower, and at similar heights, the threat for RF radiation from the cell tower seems highly likely.

·         Please note CEQA, appendix G, Environmental Checklist Form – section XVIII MANDATORY FINDINGS OF SIGNIFICANCE letter (C) questions[8]:

Does the project have environmental effects which will cause substantial adverse effects on human beings, either directly or indirectly?

Given all the known health hazards associated with this site listed above (i.e. hazardous benzene concentrations, dry cleaner contaminant VOCs and highway TACs), it seems evident that this project poses nothing less than a potentially significant impact upon human beings. Please advise how the project should accordingly proceed given such information.

10) Noise
·         The 2012 Marin County Housing Element states freeway noise as an environmental concern regarding the Marinwood Plaza development site[9]. The EIR should investigate how to mitigate this issue to less than significant levels.

·         The EIR should determine whether a sound wall should be required surrounding the site perimeter between the development site and the 101 Freeway. If this were determined to be required, the cost of the sound wall should not in any way be passed on to the taxpayers, and should solely be absorbed by the developer.

·         If a soundwall is found to be required or recommended, please have the EIR also investigate where the freeway noise/impacts would likely echo or travel to.

·         Please have the EIR evaluate potential noise impacts from both the residential and commercial portions of the proposed development.

11) Public Services and Recreation
·         How will self-sufficient, ongoing funding for all services required for all new residents exist given the development’s ~86% basic property tax exempt status on the residential portions?

·         The Marinwood CSD derives nearly half of its operational revenue from Ad Valorem property taxes. Please demonstrate how adding hundreds of new residents that require services will not adversely impact the Marinwood CSD, which has struggled over the last number of years to operate without a financial deficit.

·         The Marinwood CSD has incurred net losses in excess of $1.6 million since June 30th, 2010, please demonstrate how the CSD can sufficiently provide quality services for hundreds of new residents without the Ad-Valorem property taxes to support them under such financial pressures.

·         The Marinwood CSD currently provides fire and emergency response services for the community of Marinwood. Currently, our fire department is ill equipped to properly service the proposed building 3+ story heights, in excess of 30 and 40 feet plus. I understand that a mutual aid agreement exists between Marinwood, Novato and San Rafael to provide this service. However, given potential future residential development in these areas, for example provided by, the Marin County Housing Element, County Wide Plan and Smart Station area development plans for Novato and San Rafael, the cumulative impacts of potential development must be considered, since the current agreement level of service will be greatly diminished considering all potential future development added. Please investigate proper mitigation to ensure exceptional levels of service for all communities now and in the future.

·         The proposed one-time school impact fee of ~$200,000 will be grossly inadequate in addressing the ongoing needs of the funding required for the students this development will likely produce. Furthermore, the aforementioned one-time school impact fee is only meant to help contribute towards a new/future facilities funds, i.e. towards new school construction costs, etc. How else will the developer adequately fund such services for residents in a permanent and ongoing fashion if not providing for Ad-Valorem property taxes?

·         Please provide a range of projections and impacts regarding the number of school children the Dixie school district is expected to incur – for example: estimates for Bridge’s current estimate of .08 children per unit, their initial estimate of 1.8 children per unit, and estimates that exceed these estimates such as ~2.8 children per unit or more. Please also provide financial amounts Bridge would be required to compensate the district for in lieu of ad valorem property taxes, in case children per unit actual ranges exceed Bridge’s current low estimate. Given that that legal limits of resident occupancy allowed based upon Bridge’s allocation of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units is ~340 residents for the affordable units, estimating 2 adults per unit would leave a legal maximum of ~200 additional occupants, which would likely be school age attending children. Given this possibility, that would result in ~2.7 children per unit. This is why the range of scenarios and their impacts are so critical.

·         Will the Dixie school bus yard be able to stay and continue to operate in its location with the proper amount of space needed for daily operations? If not, and if the bus yard needs to relocate, even on a temporary basis, please ensure that the development fully and adequately funds any and all such costs.

·         The EIR should research the impacts/child per unit figures for EAH’s San Clemente Place affordable development in Corte Madera. This is an affordable complex of comparable size/units, and is in a highly desirable community with a highly regarded school district. Such figures would most likely be the most comparable in regards to the impacts of what Bridge has proposed to develop.

·         If the Dixie District becomes a revenue limit district again, know that the issue of the on-going lack of tax revenue for schools does not magically disappear. Keep in mind, that both revenue limit and basic aid scenarios are both funded by tax revenue. If ad-valorem property taxes are not properly collected by all who use or impact services, than the shortfall of that still comes back upon those who do properly pay ad-valorem property taxes, regardless of being either revenue limit and basic aid. This truism applies to all services supported by ad-valorem property taxes.

·         What are the impacts if the development pays singular parcel taxes vs parcel taxes based on square footage or on a per unit basis?

·         Crime has already seen a notable increase in our community in the last few years. Burglaries and auto thefts have been occurring on an alarming basis. In late June of 2013, A Lexus SUV was stolen from Cobblestone Drive. When reported, the Sherriff’s department said they are barely able to meet current demands on their department, and would not be able to fully investigate this crime. During Christmas time of 2013, a home was robbed again on Cobblestone, along with a truck theft from that same home. As of now, nothing has resulted in the solving of this crime. These are just two recent examples, and I’m sure there are many more. Our Sherriff cannot currently effectively protect or serve their areas of jurisdiction. Please demonstrate how they can or cannot do so in the future with such an increased demand on their department with insufficient additional funding from the proposed development without Ad Valorem property taxes.

·         Please address any potential for increased levels of any and all crime activity, historically consistent with such high concentrations of subsidized housing.

·         The maximum legal residential limit for this development has the potential for approximately 200 additional school attending children. Given the already crowded status of the Dixie District, this quantity could trigger the need for a new school to be built. Please have the EIR determine environmental impacts for situations ranging from the addition of school portables to the creation of new school campuses that could be needed to service the additional children from this development.

12) Utilities and Service Systems
·         Please identify impacts to Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District and their ability to handle the increased sewage output upon the district. Given LGVSD’s entire system is increasingly aging (as informed to residents by LGVSD), and in need of capital improvements, please also address what the new development would need to do mitigate increased demands.

·         The EIR should recommend for undergrounding all utilities to enhance the environment and aesthetics of the area. Since the developer wishes to impose the community with a high concentration of basic property tax exempt housing, the EIR should recommend for the developer to underground all utilities for the community of Marinwood as a partial compensation.

13) Aesthetics/Visual Resources
·         The EIR should investigate how to best reduce the size and scope of the current proposal so that the development’s design becomes compatible with the existing surrounding community and character. Marinwood currently is a low-density suburban area – a 2-story maximum community, primarily consisting of single-family residences of 4-5 units per acre. The developments high-density nature is more consistent with downtown densities vs the Marinwood Community. Some of the proposed structures will tower over our existing community at heights exceeding 30-40 feet or more. The affordable apartments will span lengths comparable to 50 yards by nearly 24 yards, half the length of a football field by nearly a quarter wide. This stands to drastically alter the existing character of our community by implanting large downtown structures in our suburban community. Please investigate how this should best be avoided.

·         Aesthetically, the retail portions of this project are supposed to reflect a more varied and historic character, vs generic strip mall architecture, as dictated by the Marinwood Village guiding principles. Please have the EIR ensure this is reflected for the retail construction.

·         If a sound wall is required, please ensure the EIR integrates it in an aesthetically pleasing fashion that again does not come at taxpayer expense.

·         The EIR should perform shadow studies projected of the proposed development.

·         The EIR should study view considerations for surrounding neighbors/residents, especially for the residents of Casa Marinwood.

14) Cultural Resources
·         It’s been brought to my attention from numerous Marinwood residents that an Indian burial site exists and is currently fenced off near Miller Creek and Miller Creek Middle School. Please have the EIR investigate archeological remains and artifacts on or near the development site that may be lost or impacted by the proposed development. Note that Indian settlements in the region tended to intensify as the moved closer to the bay.

·         The EIR should require the developer to retain archaeologist during groundwork construction to best preserve any archeological remains and artifacts discovered.

15) Agriculture and Forestry Resources
·         The dry cleaner contamination has been allowed to linger for numerous years, and now threatens the wells of the Silviera family across Highway 101. The EIR along with the Regional Water Quality Control Board should ensure that the proper steps are taken to ensure full and thorough mitigation of any and all existing and future toxins do not reach or adversely impact the Silveria’s or the Miller Creek, which the plume has knowingly been steadily heading towards. The EIR should also ensure that no construction occurs before this hazardous situation is fully remediated.

·         The EIR should recommend that any trees/plants/vegetation removed during construction should be replaced with mature trees/plants/vegetation.

·         The EIR should require the developer to increase proposed vegetation to help offset the sheer mass of the proposed development compared to the existing community.

16) Greenhouse Gas Emissions
·         Please have the EIR evaluate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the construction of this project is estimated to produce. Please investigate how to best minimize estimated GHG emissions.

17) Mineral Resources

[1] Pg 9:
[2] Pg 10:
[4] Pg 9:
[5] Pg C-22:
[7] Pg 10:
[8] pg 49:
[9] Appendix F, page 1:

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