Tag Archives: East San Rafael

I see San Rafael in 2020, and it works

Marin Independent Journal October 13, 2000

 Marin Voice, Dwayne Hunn

September 23rd Michael Doyle, who guided San Rafael’s successful Downtown Visioning process, his troupers and many City staffers decorated the Shield Room at Dominican College with visions of San Rafael’s past and future.  The only waste during the productive day were the stacks of uneaten lunches, reflecting dashed hopes that more citizens would fortify the City’s future while nourishing themselves.

Probably over 200 people attended. Some left after limited participation.  Most graded the City on its handling of 26 issues (housing, traffic, parks and rec, homelessness, etc.) since the last General Plan and then voted on which of those issues should claim the City’s future General Plan guided efforts.  At any given time, probably a hundred people participated in 6-7 small group workshops.  These groups outlined weaknesses and strengths in one of the City’s four districts and then “Visioned” what they wanted San Rafael to be in 2020.

Or group choose Area 4, (roughly from Dominican and east from 101 to the Richmond Bridge and often referred to as East San Rafael) as their area of concentration, as did several other groups.  Our group had some initial trouble waking to this “vision thing,” so I produced my sleepy-eyed version.  It went something like this:

“Canalways, the largest parcel in East San Rafael between Bay Point homes and Home Depot, would be a mixed-use, pedestrian oriented development.  Many of the garage door and storage businesses that dominate East San Rafael would have been redeveloped under an umbrella plan that made this area of East San Rafael into a pedestrian friendly, mixed-use community that had jobs, shops, affordable ownership housing, a new  school and recreational fields and parks.  The completed Shoreline Park would be alive with walkers, joggers and bikers using it to connect to the San Rafael Canal, which would have been reoriented from emphasizing a parking lot to featuring the Canal with a Venice shopping and strolling atmosphere. A walking and biking bridge would span the Canal and complete a relaxed and scenic connection from East San Rafael to downtown. Downtown San Rafael would have even more sidewalk tables and increased day and night activities on its more often closed-to-vehicles main streets, a la Farmers Market nights.  St Vincent’s Silveira would be a pedestrian oriented mixed-use community designed around the train connecting Sonoma, Marin and more.  Spurs from the train’s 101 mainline  would run east and west from downtown San Rafael and the 580 interchange to and over the Richmond Bridge.  Of course, the train (or some futurized transit mode) would also continue south to other communities.  Gridlock would have dissipated.”

Our group wanted to see a “connected community.”  Connected physically and in “community enhancing” ways.  They wanted more shady streets, more walking and modes of transportation than the ubiquitous car, less traffic and less parked cars.  Even though the City and its visioning for its General Plan has little authority over educational policy, our group wanted more parental involvement, better facilities and more efficient use of them.  There was a call for schools to integrate community service as part of students’ learning experience.  Those calls ranged from working with Marin’s mushrooming elderly population, to working with the poor, to physically participating in returning beauty to San Rafael High’s now degraded campus look.  The group also wanted the Marin Community Foundation playing a greater and more coherent role in addressing the gaps that limit this community from achieving a healthier vision.

Our group was probably reflective of the other groups’ concerns and overall vision. All the groups dwelled on the need for more affordable housing for the low and middle-income households and less traffic.  One envisioned personal GPS (Ground Positioning Systems) linked to on-demand transit as an answer to today’s transit shortcomings.  Most groups also wanted a more involved community in policy guiding events like this “Visioning Day.”  Maybe next summer those who stayed home recovering from their long commute and work woes will find a way to beam themselves to Dominican to munch on a free lunch and visions of the future.


  East San Rafael’s needs

Marin Independent Journal Sunday, June 12, 1988


By Dwayne Hunn

During many of the meetings on that San Rafael general plan, we heard vari­ous citizens talk about reducing density in their neighborhoods. Maintaining their neighborhood’s character is one of the reasons often given for allowing less density in the future.

This attitude has spawned strong dis­cussion among East San Rafael resi­dents. The discussion goes something like this: Other neighborhoods have for a long time had political representation on the City Council and Planning Commis­sion. East San Rafael has not. This area hears the other neighborhoods demand less density, less diversity more exclusiv­ity. In East San Rafael, that plea sounds like NIMBY — not in my back yard.

While NIMBY echoes around the city, the city’s fundamental needs remain:

  • More affordable housing to offer more opportunity to balance the jobs-housing imbalance and reduce traffic.
  • More tax revenues.

Where then must the city look to sup­ply the fundamental (not the parochial or often selfish) desires of individual neighborhoods and needs of the larger community? The city’s political structure forces it to look to two neighbor­hood.: St. Vincent’s-Silveira and East San Rafael.

Many East San Rafael community leaders look at infill lots in more exclu­sive neighborhoods and believe more affordable units should be built in those ar­eas. That doesn’t happen because of the NIMBY attitude, the political structure and the belief that maintaining neighborhood character is some kind of constitutional guarantee plugged into the general plan.

So in more exclusive neighborhoods, fewer homes are built on larger lots to guarantee that what exists today appreciates astronomically in value tomorrow.

It would take tremendous political courage to do what is best for the larger city and county community and put more affordable housing in the more ex­clusive neighborhoods. The present Political structure does not make that seem likely. So when these frustrated East San Rafael discussions move to the reality phase, what does that neighborhood want?

Does East San Rafael want other areas to pay a fairness assessment and send the money east to help subsidize the afford­able housing the other neighborhoods will not allow?, Yes, East San Rafael would see a program that buys and up-grades existing units for affordable owner­ship and/or rental as fair and equita­ble. Can such a program be implemented? Yes, if the political will exists to wrestle with a neighborhood political powder keg.

If East San Rafael is going to bear the brunt of the city’s tax-generating enter­prises and much of its future housing—affordable and otherwise—then the city should implement programs that reflect some fairness and equity. Implement is an important word here.

Socially conscious words written in a general plan are not enough. The city should enact programs that will give East San Rafael additional resources to carry the ex­tra burden placed on this neighborhood to carry density, diversity and tax-gener­ating activities that others have success­fully locked out of their neighborhood.

Citizens from more exclusive neigh­borhoods have complained about not baying their trees cut enough. From less politically wired East San Rafael have come the anguished cries of residents

Saying they want drugs and crimes cut. East Rafael does not understand the cost effectiveness of removing a limb that blocks the sunshine when it is pitted against a budgetary line item that can re­move a drug pusher who will take the light from a little child’s life.

Bringing more affordable housing and even more affordable ownership to low-income families in East San Rafael will help deter crime, keep the streets clean­er, raise smart, healthy kids and bring pride to the city.

Dwayne Hunn of MW Valley is a assistant ex­ecutive director of Novato Ecumenical Hous­ing and a Ca­nal Community Alliance Board Member.