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Sent to City Manager on December 5, 2008
I've read Bob Silvestri's email about the City Citizen Phone survey for
Mill Valley and wanted to express my concern as well as advance an idea.
My concern is that unfortunately the community is still polarized about
the future of our town. There does exist a lack of trust about what the
City Council and Planning Commission are cooking up for the future
growth of Mill Valley. The survey questions may reflect bias. I
understand that the entity in charge of the survey is not objective.
Plus, it sounds like the phone survey process itself may not be going
The survey was authorized by me. The intent of the survey was to:
The categories of questions were the work of a scoping committee consisting of myself, two councilmembers and two consultants from SA Opinion Research (a division of Solem and Associates). The wording of the questions was decided by the consultants from SA Opinion Research
The survey cost approximately $20,000 and includes the development of the survey, conducting 400 telephone interviews, tabulation and analysis of the data and a written report presented to the City Council.
Per the email below to Mitch Wortzman, we, the concerned folks of Mill Valley are wondering about the survey currently being conducted. Our questions are:
Thank you for your prompt attention to my request.
Friends of Mill Valley,
Just thought I would run this by you. Last night, about 7:00 PM I received a call from McGuire Survey company out of Las Vegas, NV on behalf of the City of Mill Valley. It was a survey to find out how the community felt about such things as how important it was to maintain Mill Valley's character, the down town ambience, traffic, Miller Ave re-do, traffic lights at La Goma and Miller, the competency of the City Manager, City Council and such. All the things that we have been harping about for the past few years that needed to be changed.
A question was asked if the City should comply with the state law mandating low cost housing. It was not stated as ABAG, but as a state requirement. I informed the caller that their statement was categorically false as stated and that they should either not ask it, or go back to the city and correct the statement.
The Planning Commission (PC) rejected Al Von der Werth's revised proposal for a 20,000+ square foot development cut into the steep hillside between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Reed Street because it failed to reduce the size and mass of the buildings and it eliminated most of the public benefits. Friends of Mill Valley applauds the PC's critical comments but still has the following concerns:
1 - Size and Mass - the developer has been consistently asked to reduce the project's size and mass but continues to come back to the PC with the same sized project (this proposal was actually larger than the last one). Why is the developer allowed to keep presenting revised plans that fail to satisfy the PC's requirements? The PC has once again asked for a scaled back project, as well as a greater mix of smaller units and the removal of the third story from one of the buildings. The PC and public's time should not be further wasted if these conditions are not met.
Try and try again. That was the message the Mill Valley Planning Commission sent to the developer of 500 Miller Ave. this week when he returned before the commission with a reworked version of a project that calls for 15 residential units and 3,000 square feet of commercial space on lower Miller.
"We told him the project is still too big," said commission Chair Chuck Utzman. "We wanted a reduction in square footage and a reduction in the mass of the project."
The project, frequently referenced by the name of its developer, Al Von der Werth, has been through a number of revisions since the Planning Commission held a study session on it in December 2007. An early proposal called for 22 residential units, which was then culled to 20 units, still with 3,000 square feet of commercial space. (The latter would most likely house a deli, cafe or other business, although the initial restaurant proposal has been ruled out.)
To the Council Members:
I would like to voice my opposition to the proposed development of 500 Miller Avenue. The retaining wall is too high and the development is too large. With the number of new developments that are being considered by the council, each one that is approved must be small enough to enable Mill Valley to retain it's character---unobtrusive, understated and serene. Once we lose these qualities, we will never reclaim them. The city of Mill Valley is starting to burst at the seams with houses rebuilt into larger structures and additional housing being built and proposed; the serenity that once characterized Mill Valley is fraying with the increase of traffic and people. If we are to absorb new housing, it must be in scale with the size and proportions of what already defines the city.
Dear Council Members,
I do not think we will be attending the meeting tonight. We would like to express our appreciation for your wise decision concerning the above project.
We hope the members will stick to their guns and require Mr. Von Der Werth to respect the requirements that you laid out for him. He does not live on Miller Ave.
We live on Miller in a condo complex that he built. I am told that the original plans he submitted were for many more condos then the six he ended up building.
Dear Planning Commission,
I hope you hold the Al Von der Werth's revised plans for 500 Miller Avenue
to conform to what you (wisely) asked him to submit. Sorry I can't be there
tonite but I voice my support of YOUR request of (at most): 2 stories, 12
units, lower retaining wall, and less cut into the hillside. Actually I feel
that is a bit large as it is - I fear we are loosing the "quality" of Mill
Valley life with all this added congestion. We are already having traffic
Thanks for all your hard work.
I just received an email indicating that Al Von der Werth's current proposal reduces the number of units from 20 to 15, and increases the number of parking spaces from 39 to 44. But the proposed project is still 3 stories high and does not conform to height limits, has only slightly reduced total square footage, has only reduced the retaining wall by 2', and no longer has any one bedroom units.
A 37' retaining wall? In what's meant to be a beautiful addition to Mill Valley's character?
Al Von der Werth's approach is a common way of negotiating - starting with a ridiculous proposal (aka "setting an anchor"), then "compromising" with positions that would usually be seen as absurd, except that they are better than the original anchor. Meanwhile the volunteers representing the community's interests gradually lose interest, or second-guess their own positions, and the property-speculator eventually wins. Wins big.
Me thinks you're being abused.