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City Council Dives Into Hot Button Issues Tonight

Long-delayed effort to modernize 23-year-old General Plan, including the hot-button issue of affordable housing, is expected to take 18 months. Council also tackles traffic calming at Tuesday night meeting.

City Council Dives Into Hot Button Issues Tonight City Council Dives Into Hot Button Issues Tonight

Mill Valley Mayor Garry Lion can be excused Tuesday night if he finds himself having a déjà vu moment or two.

Lion, who became mayor last month in the City Council’s annual rotation of the helm, was also mayor in 1989, the last time City Hall went through an update of the General Plan, the city’s guiding document for land use and development.

The lack of progress in recent years in updating the General Plan, particularly the affordable housing element, which state law requires to be updated every five years but hasn’t been since 2003, was identified at the council’s retreat in January 2011 as the city’s most glaring weakness.

“The General Plan is in need of attention,” City Manager Jim McCann said at the time.

It’s finally getting that attention Tuesday night, as the council is set to decide on a schedule and a scope of work for the process (see staff report, attached at right). The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 26 Corte Madera Avenue.

The city’s proposal calls for the process to take 18 months, with a series of community workshops to kick it off once the council adopts the scope of work at its Jan. 17 meeting.

The 18-month timeline includes approximately one year to prepare a draft plan, including the housing element, followed by public hearings at the Planning Commission and the City Council before it is adopted by mid-2013.

City officials proposed an 18-month timeline under the assumption that the “community values” on which the 1989 General Plan was drafted haven’t changed much. Those seven values are:

  1. Preserving the quality and diversity of residential neighborhoods
  2. Maintaining healthy, attractive commercial areas serving local residents
  3. Maintaining the scenic quality of the bayfronts, ridgelines and hillsides
  4. Preserving and enhancing creeks, marshes and other natural areas
  5. Protecting people and buildings from natural hazards
  6. Minimizing traffic congestion and encouraging use of public transit
  7. Accommodating more low- and moderate-income households

The proposed timeline also takes into account the work City Hall has done on related policies since 1989 on issues like bicycle and pedestrian transit, downtown parking and the , the overhaul of one of the city’s two primary arteries which the council approved in July. The marathon effort to approve the Miller Ave. revamp is often cited by city officials as the primary reason for the recent delay on General Plan work.

As a result of recently adopted policies that can be folded into the General Plan, as well as the assumption that community values haven’t changed a great deal since 1989, city officials don't expect many new issues to pop up during the process.

“We believe there are a limited number of important issues that comprise the scope of work for the new plan,” Planning and Building Director Mike Moore wrote in the staff report.

That said, city officials propose to tackle individual issues, including the oft-controversial topics within the housing element, concurrently as opposed to one at a time. The proposal also recommends the creation of a 9-member General Plan Advisory Committee, which would lead the early stages of the process.

Traffic Calming

Also at both its Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 meetings, the City Council will examine a proposal on the city’s traffic calming policies that determine how City Hall responds to complaints about traffic volume, speeding cars or inappropriate driver behavior on residential streets.

In August 2010, the to pay consultant David Parisi to work with a citizen’s committee and come up with a plan to deal with traffic complaints in a way that doesn’t revive the “traffic wars” of past years.

The Sycamore Triangle – the collection of neighborhoods bordered by E. Blithedale Ave, Miller Ave. and Camino Alto - has long been rife with concerns about cars and trucks cutting through them to get to a main thoroughfare, a situation which has often pitted residents against one another when traffic calming measures on one street would simply move the problem to a nearby roadway.

City officials hope the long-delayed Traffic Calming Guide, as it is called, creates a system whereby a resident’s request for a speed bump on his street wouldn’t move forward without extensive community input.

It outlines a five-step process City Hall takes to respond to a complaint, starting with education and outreach and potentially ending with police enforcement of speed limits if a series of engineering measures like new signs or street reconfigurations.

The 411: The Mill Valley City Council meets Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 to examine proposals on an update of its General Plan and new Traffic Calming procedures. City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave.

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