Opposition: Organizer Mary Feller (left) and a man who chose
to remain unnamed protest a proposed indoor soccer complex
near Gallinas Creek on Monday outside San Rafael City Hall.
Residents who live near the site appeared at a City Council
meeting to make their objections. Some of the protesters wore
masks as a statement that they didnŐt want the developer to
add their names to a suit against two of the critics. (Special
to the IJ/Darcy Holdorf)
More than 35 San Rafael residents blasted the
City Council on Monday night for a perceived cozy relationship
with the developer of a proposed indoor soccer complex, then
presented an apparent e-mail from former city manager Rod Gould
expressing both his support and the City Council's for the project
close to a year ago.
Many of the demonstrators wore Mardi Gras masks,
bandanas and even a pair Groucho Marx-style glasses during the
unannounced protest during open time for fear of being added to a
recent lawsuit filed by developer San Rafael Airport LLC, which is
owned by Joe Shekou, against two Santa Venetia critics. Three
police officers showed up to monitor the crowd, and at one point
Mayor Al Boro yelled angrily at a man for speaking with a mask on.
"We haven't heard from them (the council), so we
don't know where they stand," said R D, one of the two people
named in the lawsuit.
After listening to one protester read the
purported e-mail exchange between Gould and airport spokesman Bob
Herbst, Councilman Paul Cohen said he was concerned to hear the
former city manager apparently express support for the project and
speak for the entire council. He said it did not instill
confidence in a public process.
"It was an error of judgment on Mr. Gould's
part," Cohen said.
The authenticity of the e-mail could not be
confirmed late Monday night. But Gould, reached by telephone in
Poway, where he is city manager, said:
"That was my view at the time, and I still think
it's a good project. I'm no longer a player in San Rafael
Attorney Neil Moran, who represents San Rafael
Airport LLC, would not discuss the protest when reached Monday
night. But, reading from a prepared statement, he said the lawsuit
targets only two people for alleged trespassing and aims to
prevent them and any others from bypassing airport security.
"The San Rafael Airport has an obligation to the
Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland
Security and the airport's pilots to take responsible measures to
secure the aviation facility against illegal trespass," Moran
San Rafael Airport LLC wants to build a $6
million, 86,000-square-foot project on land between the San Rafael
Airport and McInnis Park golf course.
The 35-foot-tall building along Gallinas Creek
would include two soccer fields, a baseball and gymnastics
training compound, a mezzanine with a kitchen, a cafe that sells
wine and beer, locker rooms and offices. There would be two
fields and two parking lots with almost 300
However, many surrounding residents from
Contempo Marin, Captain's Cove and Santa Venetia have fought the
project from the get go, claiming it is too close to sensitive
wetlands, too large, a threat to endangered species and an breach
of an agreement reached years ago they claim prevents major
development on the site.
Following months of complaints by surrounding
residents, San Rafael Airport LLC filed a lawsuit in Marin County
Superior Court April 21 against Dobrin , claiming his boat dock
illegally encroach on airport property and that Dobrin trespassed
on airport property to take photos of the site.
Part of the suit aims to tear down the boat dock
owned by Dobrin, although he is not the only resident living on
Vendola Drive with a boat dock that is on airport property.
At Monday's meeting, many of the protesters held
signs that said such things as "Speak Up Get Sued" and "City
Council Wake Up & Smell The SLAPP Suit," a reference to a type of
lawsuit filed against individuals to prevent them from speaking
out against a particular issue.
Citing the e-mail from Gould, organizer Mary
Feller said the city appears to favor developers more than
residents. She said the lawsuit made the situation worse because
now everyone is worried about being sued for speaking out against
the proposed project.
"This is Marin, not Stalinist Russia," she said.
Mayor Al Boro told Feller to stop speaking
because her time was up, although she continued to do so. When a
man in the back wearing a black ski mask said Fuller could have
his allotted time, Boro slammed his gavel down several times.
"Take your mask off if you want to address me,"
Boro defended the council by saying it has not
made up its mind about the project. The project remains under
consideration at the Planning Commission.
"This council has never addressed this project,"