Jul 26, 2014

Contentious Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk Project Begins Monday

Tensions run high as county hosts public meeting to discuss construction schedule and neighborhood impact, with some opponents remain as vocal as ever.

Contentious Evergreen Ave. Sidewalk Project Begins Monday

Nearly two years ago, the to pay for a new sidewalk along a 2,000-foot stretch of Evergreen Avenue in Homestead Valley.

And in just five days, construction is set to begin on the project.

But although the sidewalk is imminent, tensions around the contentious project remained palpable at a about it Thursday night, with two women screaming at each other downstairs at afterwards when one invited the other to “take it out outside.”

The meeting was hosted by newly re-elected Supervisor Steve Kinsey, whose District 4 includes Homestead Valley, along with officials from the county’s public works department. Their intent was simply to outline the schedule for the summer-long project, which the , explain its impact on neighbors during construction and solicit input on potential colors for the concrete and the access ramps that would be more aesthetically pleasing to neighbors.

But Kinsey and county officials quickly faced criticism from neighbors who continue to think the sidewalk is simply a bad fit for the street and shouldn’t be built.

Laura Chariton of Mill Valley Streamkeepers said county officials hadn’t done enough analysis of the sidewalk’s potential to increase stormwater runoff into the nearby creek. When project manager Scott Schneider replied that the county’s study of the area determined that most of the soils in the area are very hard and that the installation of an impervious sidewalk won't significantly increase runoff, residents seized on that response.

“I know you guys think you’re above the law,” said Evergreen resident Mari Tamburo. “This project has not very popular – it’s actually been very unpopular.”

“It’s not needed, it never was needed and it was objected to heavily by the community,” said Bolinas resident and Mill Valley native Cela O’Connor.

Public Works Director Bob Beaumont tried to swing the discussion back to the construction schedule.

“We’re not trying to stonewall anyone but on this night we want to keep the focus on the schedule and neighborhood impact of the project,” he said.

The sidewalk would extend from Mill Valley city limits (250 feet east of Ethel Avenue) to the intersection with Melrose, where is located. It includes curbs and gutters, six new crosswalks, 11 accessible curb ramps, 29 new driveway aprons and myriad drainage improvements. A $900,000  Safe Routes to Schools grant will pay for the bulk of the project, which is set to begin Monday, with crews saw-cutting into the roadway through the week, forcing those who park on the street to do so elsewhere for a few days next week.

The subsequent work – excavation, curb and gutter placement and pouring of concrete – is set to proceed in three phases up Evergreen: from Mill Valley city limits to Linden Lane; Linden to Scott Street; and Scott to Melrose Avenue. Crews will also dig the road up and repave its entire width from Ethel to Melrose, Schneider said.

But some residents weren’t as interested in the logistics as much as the process that led to this point. Some said that process had left deep wounds among some neighbors, with some claiming that a majority of Evergreen residents oppose its construction and feel like it was being shoved down their throat.

County officials claim a survey of property owners along Evergreen in 2011 indicated that “a very clear and strong majority of them support the sidewalk,” according to Beaumont. Some residents have disputed that claim.

Kinsey acknowledged that the process had been flawed at times, saying it could have used better “upfront engagement” to gauge and rally community support. He noted, however, that a indicated strong opinions on both sides of the issue. County officials have taken significant steps to make the sidewalk more palatable to residents, including and allowing for more earth color schemes that fit the street’s semi-rural aesthetic, he said.

“Not everyone on Evergreen or in Homestead Valley wanted to see a sidewalk or saw the need for one,” Kinsey said. “But the board made the decision to build this sidewalk.”

The meeting did create the potential for one final change to the project. Homestead Valley resident Kim Jessup noted that there was at least a 3.5-foot buffer between the sidewalk itself and residential property lines, a move that narrowed the roadway despite a narrower-than-initially-proposed sidewalk.

County officials put stakes in the ground along Evergreen this week to indicate the scope of the project.

“It was a shock to some people when those went in,” Jessup said. “Some neighbors are really concerned about how narrow the road is getting

Schneider said the buffer allowed the project better integration with residents’ driveways and that some residents wanted the roadway narrowed to lessen the possibility of speeding cars. When pressed about the possibility of reducing the buffer, particularly in narrower stretches of Evergreen and around its curve, Beaumont agreed to have his team explore the possibility of narrowing the buffer and thus allowing for a wider roadway.

He agreed to notify residents about whether the county can narrow the buffer and thus widen the road slightly from the current design.

"After all this time, the reality is that this sidewalk is happening," said Homestead resident Keith Garriott.

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