The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2007
Proposed Marin Plan a mixed bag - boosts Baylands protection but breeds lots more traffic
The newly released Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Marin Countywide Plan contains good news about Baylands, very bad news about traffic, and a lot of other news in between. A major function of the DEIR is to evaluate the various alternatives included in the Plan, prepared in 2005, but in too many cases the DEIR is noncommittal about which alternative to choose.
The plan contains three options for defining the new Baylands Corridor (see map), and the DEIR recommends Option 2, the most extensive of the three. In the area east of Marinwood this option includes the St. Vincent/Silveira properties in their entirety, all the way from the Bay to Highway 101, and it includes the area around Gnoss Field.
For agricultural lands the DEIR is much less helpful. It describes the several options for house size (up to 6,000 square feet) in agricultural areas, but declines to indicate which would best mitigate adverse impacts. The DEIR describes policies that would allow conversion to non-agricultural use, but it does not quantify how much non-agricultural use these policies might allow, or their impacts.
Development and traffic
The DEIR projects much more new development. In 2005 the Plan projected about 10 million square feet of commercial/industrial space, but based on updated information from cities, the DEIR now projects 11.5 million. This is the equivalent of 21 TransAmerica pyramids. Most of this increase, about 9.4 million square feet, would be inside the cities and towns. There could also be an additional 13,853 housing units, 8,462 in the cities.
The traffic impacts would be huge. The DEIR projects that by 2030, nine of the 19 main traffic measuring points in Marin would experience stopped traffic during the afternoon peak. These include points along Highway 101, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and Novato Boulevard. The DEIR does not break out how much of this traffic would be from development outside the county.
To deal with this traffic the Plan recommends 22 major projects, most not funded. These include widening 101 from four to six lanes from Novato to Petaluma, a new Sir Francis Drake/101 interchange, and a new 101/Tamalpais interchange. Even if all these projects were built, however, traffic in most segments would still be unacceptable. The Housing Overlay Designation, which would cluster some residential development near transportation nodes, would not have a noticeable effect on traffic conditions.
The DEIR recommends one measure that might be important for dealing with traffic: the establishment of a City-County Committee to review countywide growth, planned land use, and traffic and service capacity. The committee would encourage all jurisdictions to amend their general plans and zoning to provide for "realistic buildout" rather than "theoretical full buildout" to fit development with the capacity of transportation and other services.
The EIR needs to analyze, given realistic funding constraints for transportation and other public services, how much development the county can accommodate. What transportation projects would be needed to achieve an acceptable level of service under the projected buildout? The traffic impacts of existing and projected growth in Sonoma County and elsewhere outside Marin must be factored into this analysis.
The DEIR recommends a wide variety of good measures to assure resource management, green building practices, and energy conservation. A significant finding, however, is that Marin faces a water shortage.
The DEIR includes four overall plan alternatives:
The DEIR concludes that the Mitigated Alternative is the Environmentally Superior Alternative. This is a slanted comparison, however. If the same set of recommended mitigation measures were added in to the Environmental Alternative, it would be considered the superior option.
The alternatives analysis holds the amount of development within the cities and towns constant, and therefore does not provide an opportunity to look at the potential reduction in total countywide impacts, as recommended above.
Write to the Marin County Planning Commission at:
3501 Civic Center Drive
and attend its hearings. Express your support for the comments of the Campaign for Marin. In particular,
The current schedule for the Planning Commission to deal with the EIR and the Plan is:
March 5, 9:30 am - Baylands Corridor, including presentation of findings from a major study by the San Francisco Estuary Institute;
All meetings will be on Mondays in Room 328 of the Civic Center.
The Campaign for Marin is organizing a series of meetings to prepare for the coming hearings and to help activists with lobbying and outreach. To be notified of future activities, contact or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 316
The Campaign for Marin is a united effort by the Sierra Club, Marin Audubon Society, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), Tomales Bay Association, Marin Conservation League, Community Marin, Environmental Action Committee, and Marin Baylands Advocates. It has prepared much more detailed comments on the DEIR.
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
|EXPLORE, ENJOY AND PROTECT THE PLANET|