Jul 28, 2014

Ritter Center's Fire-protective Wall Causes Stir with Neighbors

In order to comply with the city's fire code, the Ritter Center is constructing a fire-protective wall as part of its new medical module that will be completed in September.

Ritter Center's Fire-protective Wall Causes Stir with Neighbors Ritter Center's Fire-protective Wall Causes Stir with Neighbors Ritter Center's Fire-protective Wall Causes Stir with Neighbors

As the prepares for a new medical module to be installed on the premisis come September, neighbors are raising complaints about a new 17-foot high fire-protective wall currently under construction on the site.

The "fire wall," which is being built on the west border of the property between the Ritter Center and , is enforced by San Rafael's fire code and is meant to protect adjacent buildings from flames should a fire occur, according to Executive Director Diane Linn.

"We're only constructing it because it's required," Linn said. "Right now, it looks a little ominous because of all the scaffolding, but we're following the letter of the law."

The wall is part of a plan to install a 933-square-foot medical module to serve as a clinic for the center, which provides services to Marin's homeless. Approximately 130 clients visit the center each day, with around 15 clients appearing for medical services, according to Ritter staff. With more space, the center hopes to increase the medical caseload to 20 people per day.

The medical module will be arriving on Sept. 5, and the wall will be finished soon after. Once the new building is in place, the wall will be painted to match the Ritter Center's blue, Linn said.

The plan for the after neighbors . Now that the wall is going up, residents are arguing that it is an eyesore to the neighborhood.

"The Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association Board is outraged that a 17-foot high, non-permitted wall is being built on the property line between the Ritter Center and Klein TV," Gerstle Park resident Amy Likover wrote in a release for the GPNA. "The extraordinary height and lack of set-back compromises thoughtful planning, is a blight to incoming visitors and residents, is inconsiderate of neighbors and further compromises the historic building on the site."

Gerstle Park resident Hugo Landecker believes that city staff should've included a sunset clause, a provision that a law will cease to have effect after a specific date, on the design of the site to be able to preserve the look of the area.

"Now we're going to see this huge blank wall. It's ugly," he said.

The Ritter Center is currently located in a Victorian house on the one-block diagonal street off of Lincoln Avenue. Although design plans are subject to small changes after approval, Landecker said the idea of a "fire wall" was not presented during the public hearing and the plan should be reconsidered by the city.

"When the gavel goes down, that's what you get," he said. "And this is not what we got."

What do you think of the new "fire wall?" Tell us in the comments below.

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