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The developer of Blithedale Terrace, not succeeding via the open and transparent public application process in the first half of 2012, then attempted to work and lobby behind the scenes to achieve his goal of building the 20 townhouse complex, rising 80 feet above street level, with both ingress and egress limited to East Blithedale, on the 1.2 acre lot opposite Gira Poli, 100 yards from the Camino Alto/East Blithedale intersection, the busiest intersection in Mill Valley. However, his “quiet” campaign was likewise unsuccessful. Consequently, the developer has recently begun considering a project with fewer units. However, his track record readily suggests that his next proposal will likely remain far from acceptable to Mill Valley residents and Friends of Kite Hill.
The developer has been having discussions with City Staff essentially seeking to establish what they believe can be approved. This is a matter of real concern because it was just this type of non-public, non-transparent developer/City Staff collaboration which got Mill Valley (MV) into this mess in the first place. Hopefully, City Staff will be extremely careful not to repeat the errors of the past. Clearly, right from the beginning, community input should be a principal driver in the development of any site of such importance to the City.
The developer also has been selectively initiating meetings with certain individuals, presumably so that he can allege that he has sought community input and has community support. However, he has not seen fit to meet with the Friends of Kite Hill which represents seven MV Neighborhood Associations, over 1,100 households, has circulated a petition in opposition to the project which has garnered over 1,200 signatures, and has retained three of the top experts in Northern California with respect to the California Environmental Quality Act, (CEQA), environmental and land use law, and traffic, so that we are very well informed and know what we’re talking about. For example, in addition to the Mill Valley Planning Commission's finding that the "Alternatives" section of the proposed project's Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) is legally deficient, the CEQA expert and attorney retained by the Friends have both advised with high confidence that the FEIR is, in fact, replete with deficiencies in other areas and clearly fails to meet CEQA legal standards on multiple grounds.
Given that the developer and his agents periodically visit this website , and to eliminate any possible misunderstanding, the Friends Of Kite Hill can nonetheless convey to him our position by reiterating here what we wrote to the Planning Commission in our letter of April 27: “To put it simply, we would like to see an alternative for this site based on its minimum reasonable density, considering site attributes and features and land value. We think the site might bear five units at most, which could be three homes and two affordable in-law units, or just five detached homes.”
To summarize, in 2012, our joint Friends of Kite Hill effort caused the developer to abandon his 20 unit proposal. But that was the easy part, given that the 20 unit proposal was patently ridiculous from the outset. The heavier lifting will come in the new year and we will continue to vigorously fight for reasonable development on the site in 2013. We expect further developments early in the New Year and will provide updates and issue calls to action as appropriate. The interest and support of so many Mill Valley residents is most gratifying and greatly appreciated. Our joint efforts are producing the desired results, albeit slowly. We must continue to be patient, resolute, firm and ready to act when appropriate. By doing so, we will prevail.
With All Best Wishes for the Holiday Season and a Happy and Successful New Year!
PS If you haven't already, please sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/friendsofkitehill/
Spread the Word
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2012
Contact: Alan Abrams, 415-381-1784
In an unprecedented demonstration of unity, a broad coalition of community leaders and residents from five Mill Valley neighborhoods plus the Friends of Mill Valley, overwhelmingly supported by the more than 1000 households they represent, have joined together to form The Friends of Kite Hill to oppose the proposed project to build 20 houses, known as Blithedale Terrace, on the 1.2 acre open space site known as Kite Hill, just west of the East Blithedale/Camino Alto intersection. The five neighborhoods are Freeman Park, Kite Hill, Parkwood, Scott Valley, and Tamalpais Park. Over 800 Mill Valley residents have already signed the petition, either in hard copy or electronically, opposing the project, with more names being added daily.
In addition to vigorous "grassroots" activities including organizing, gathering petition signatures, writing to the Planning Commission and the City Council, and attending Planning Commission and City Council meetings, the Friends of Kite Hill have also retained expert advisors--legal, environmental, and traffic engineering--to fully inform, educate and support both the community and the City (Planning Commission and Staff), as well as to sustain its own position.
The Friends of Kite Hill believes that the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) of the project is deeply flawed and does not conform to legal guidelines, that the project would result in unacceptable adverse impacts on public safety and traffic congestion--daily gridlock--at what is already the City's most congested and subpar-rated intersection. The project proposes height, unit density and building massing that is grossly inappropriate and out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods and structures. The Friends believe the FEIR's conclusions that the project will have no significant impacts which cannot be mitigated, particularly with regard to traffic and visual criteria, are unsupported, unrealistic and without basis in fact. In contrast, in a recent public hearing, the developer's attorney warned the Mill Valley Planning Commission that it is legally bound to approve the project, a highly questionable assertion in our view, and has written a letter to the City threatening "legal recourse."
The expert advisors include attorney Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, a leading expert in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and environmental and land use law; Richard Grassetti, an environmental consultant and expert in the evaluation of EIRs; and Pang Ho, AICP, traffic consultant. These three highly qualified advisors all have extensive experience working with municipalities, and Messrs. Grassitti and Ho have done considerable work in Marin County.
The Friends of Kite Hill believe that successful opposition to this project will significantly benefit residents throughout Mill Valley, and the City overall. That is why the Friends are calling on all citizens throughout Mill Valley to join in the effort and take action by:
Dear Friends of Mill Valley,
We write to ask you to sign a petition that we believe is in the best interests of our neighborhoods and the City of Mill Valley.
Background Information: Phil Richardson, an out of town developer, is aggressively pursuing the construction of 20 townhouses rising 80 feet (the equivalent of eight stories) above street level on the 1.2 acre open space site just west of the East Blithedale/Camino Alto intersection across from Gira Polli. We anticipate that sometime this summer the Mill Valley Planning Commission, and later the City Council, will be making very important decisions which will determine whether the developer will realize his ambition.
Many Mill Valley residents believe the project would result in unacceptable adverse impacts on public safety and traffic congestion-- daily gridlock-- at what is already the City's most congested and subpar-rated intersection. Vehicles attempting to turn left and cut across East Blithedale to get in or out of the project would create another traffic safety hazard. There are also serious concerns about access for emergency vehicles. The project proposes height, unit density and building massing that is grossly inappropriate and out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods and structures, resulting in significant adverse visual impacts on those neighborhoods. Many residents have written letters to the Planning Commission expressing these and other concerns, and over 700 have signed the petition opposing the project. We know from both long and recent experience that the Planning Commission and the City Council pay serious attention to such petitions.
Call to Action: If you agree that such an over-sized development is the wrong project for this site, and you have not yet added your name to the petition, please consider doing so. We have made it very easy. Just click on the following link:
and sign the petition entitled: PETITION IN OPPOSITION TO PROPOSED BLITHEDALE TERRACE PROJECT. (Note: If the link does not work in your email application, try right clicking on it and opening the link in a new tab or window, or just simply copy and paste the link to your browser's address bar.) There is a space for "Comments" and we encourage you to include any brief comments you have about why this project is not in the best interest of Mill Valley. Please have every registered voter in your household SEPARATELY sign the online petition and forward this link to your friends and neighbors who are residents of Mill Valley. Thank you. Have a great summer!
With best regards,
Friends of Mill Valley
Dear City Council:
Thank you for scheduling a one-year review of the City’s participation in MEA for the Tuesday, September 6, 2011 City Council meeting.
While there remain many areas of concern re: MEA, I’m writing to bring to your attention one specific issue around a potential conflict of interest.
The Mill Valley City Council, as a member city of MEA, appointed Shawn Marshall as our city’s representative to the MEA Board of Directors. We citizens count on the person in that role to ask the hard questions about contracts and policy, challenge assumptions, and bring neutrality to decision-making and reporting about MEA affairs as a representative of the people of Mill Valley.
Public Hearing for threatened Steelhead Salmon/Trout at the Mill Valley City Hall Council Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 PM, 26 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley. Mill Valley StreamKeepers has appealed the 15 La Goma Commercial Project and will be heard with their attorney Michael Graf. Coho salmon are now extinct in the Mill Valley watersheds, as of 1991, and only 5% of the historic Steelhead remain. Mill Valley's watershed, Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio, remains a known viable habitat for salmonids in the Bay Area.
When the economy is up, we're told need more housing to keep up with demand. Therefore we need to eliminate obstacles to development.
When the economy is down, we need incentives to spur development.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. But developers get plenty of work regardless.
Dear City Council Members and Planning Commissioners:
I've attached a letter by Burton Miller that I think makes some very good points about the kind of planning missteps that have characterized the process in Mill Valley for more than a decade. It's a good time to get it right.
At this time I will only add this one comment for your consideration: It is somewhat axiomatic that public policy tends to lag real time events, and bureaucracies always tend to be passing legislation to fight the last war. The economic downturn we have experienced in the past few years is a case in point.
After the downturn of 2008 and 2009 there has been a tendency everywhere we look to throw out the social and environmental accomplishments of the past decades in order to promote immediate economic growth at all costs. This knee jerk reaction will prove to be as misguided as type of economic growth that brought about the crisis in the first place.
Here is a letter from Burton Miller regarding proposed amendments to the Mill Valley Municipal Code.
Here are two letters from Burton Miller regarding Miller Avenue Streetscape Design.
These are both timely and relevant as we are now a day away from the Miller Avenue Design Advisory Committee Meeting, which will be held Tuesday May 3, 2011 from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM at the Mill Valley Community Center.
Please attend the meeting and make your voice heard!
- Friends of Mill Valley
Please read our brief newsletter on Miller Avenue Planning, and get involved in upcoming City meetings.
The next meeting is Thursday, June 24th, 2010, from 6-8PM at the Mill Valley Library Creekside Room.