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Marin IJ
Residents express concerns, ideas about key Marin parcels
By Nancy Isles Nation

Given the comments from the public at a hearing last night, the Environmental Impact Report for the proposed development of St. Vincent's property and the potential development of the Silveira Ranch will leave few stones unturned.

The San Rafael Planning Department heard from scores of Marin residents concerned with the environmental effects of developing of the property, the affordable housing that could be built there, the impact of added traffic on Highway 101 and other issues that will affect the county in future years, whether the property is built upon or preserved.The session was designed to give the public the opportunity to comment on what should be included in the EIR. Comments will be incorporated into the city's contract with a San Jose consultant firm that will conduct the environmental study.

San Rafael Community Development Director Bob Brown said the preparation of the EIR will take 18 months to two years and will be presented when completed at public hearings, during which comments will again be elicited.

The Sierra Club also is asking the city to include the proposed Oakview commercial development on the west side of Highway 101 and the resulting cumulative traffic impacts of the combined developments.

Speakers from groups that included the Marin Consortium for Workforce Housing, Ecumenical Association for Housing, the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, the Marin Athletic Coalition, League of Women Voters and others said they believed there can be benefits to the development of the properties.

Shapell Industries, a Beverly Hills-based firm with shopping centers and luxury subdivisions throughout the state, is the developer of a proposed 766-unit housing complex that would be built east of Marinwood on land owned by Catholic Charities/CYO.

The organization wants to sell 832 acres to Shapell to finance upgrades to its St. Vincent's School for Boys, a residential treatment center for troubled youths.

The Silveira family, which owns the adjacent ranch, has notified the city of its interest in selling its property but has not submitted a development proposal.

The EIR will look specifically at the impact of the proposed St. Vincent's plan as well as the overall effects of developing both sites.

Issues identified by San Rafael planners as part of the preliminary EIR scope include aesthetics, agricultural resources, air quality, biological resources, geology, soils, water quality, traffic and other items.

More suggestions were made last night.

Mike Arnold of Marin Citizens for Effective Transportation urged the commission to have the EIR consultants analyze not just traffic and numbers of cars, but the congestion that causes delays."The EIR needs to quantify these kinds of delays," Arnold said. "It needs to quantify for the public how much additional time people will spend in their cars."

Others suggested that the EIR evaluate the traffic benefits of providing affordable housing for workers with jobs nearby.

Joe Walsh of the Ecumenical Association for housing said the EIR should include an evaluation of the legal aspects of not building on the parcels, noting the county had zoned the Highway 101 corridor for development.

Marin Audubon Society President Barbara Salzman said the EIR should include an study on the importance of habitat by the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

Salzman said she was pleased the scope included consideration of the acquisition of the property because her organization has been successful in raising money to purchase other potential development sites.

Tighe O'Sullivan, of the Marin Athletic Coalition, said the EIR should compare the environmental impacts of dairy farming compared with athletic fields on portions of the property that have degraded by the presence of livestock."Cows are considered the biggest ozone depleters in the world," O'Sullivan said.

Written comments on the St. Vincent's/Silveira EIR may be mailed to Bob Brown, community development director, city of San Rafael, 1400 Fifth Ave., 94901, or faxed to 485-3184 by Sept. 16.

Contact Nancy Isles Nation via e-mail at