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.