Road Advocacy The Merrydale Promenade
Guest Post by fellow Marin-based advocacy group WTB-TAM
On Monday April 18, the San Rafael City Council will meet in-person for the first time in over two years at City Hall in Downtown San Rafael. On the agenda is a new pathway connection, long sought by Terra Linda residents and community organizations including WTB-TAM and MCBC. The pathway would connect Northgate Shopping Center at the intersection of Merrydale Road and Las Gallinas Avenue to the Marin Civic Center SMART station.
This meeting is an opportunity for members of the community to learn more about the project and to voice their thoughts directly to the Council and staff. Those who can’t attend in-person will still be able to participate in the new hybrid meeting format by Zoom if they prefer.
When we say this pathway segment is “long sought,” we mean it. The Merrydale Promenade is one piece of a larger project — The North San Rafael Promenade, which was envisioned as far back as 1996. This segment is the key missing link. It connects the residential neighborhoods, schools, and shopping centers west of US-101 with the SMART station, Civic Center, Farmer’s Market, and neighborhoods and schools east of the freeway. It also links up with other important pathways in the area, like the SMART Pathway and the Bay Trail.
The segment of Merrydale Road where the Promenade pathway is planned is a dead-end street with very little car traffic. We want it to remain a low-traffic street, while also evolving into a bustling non-motorized transportation corridor. As well, as a gateway welcoming every person arriving by train or bike to North San Rafael.
Recognizing that the potential user base for this pathway is a diverse one. The corridor will feature on-street painted bike lanes for more experienced cyclists. In addition, a fully separated shared use path that would serve people of all ages and abilities.
The shared use path is proposed to be 12 feet wide with no separate accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists. We are asking the City to build a wider pathway, so that it is closer in design to the path just south of the SMART station along Civic Center Drive. That pathway is 17 feet wide, and consists of a 10-foot, bi-directional asphalt bikeway alongside a 7-foot concrete walkway. The Civic Center Drive pathway’s use of different colored pavement to demarcate pedestrian and cycling zones is considered best practice. And we hope the City can apply this treatment to the Merrydale Promenade segment as well.
TO PARK OR NOT TO PARK
Whether or not the City is able to design a wider pathway depends in large part on what is to be done around the question of parking. There is no formal parking on this stretch of Merrydale Road at present, although cars do park on the shoulder. The City’s consultants included on-street car parking in three of the four alternatives. WTB-TAM is advocating for the fourth, the “No Parking Alternative.”
If the City pursues a “No Parking” option, it would save two native California oak trees from possible removal under the “With Parking” options. The “No Parking” option would allow for a wider pathway and enhanced bioswales to help with water filtration and drainage, reducing runoff into fragile wetlands.
The City is signaling that they are supportive of this project, but funding is still needed to construct it. One idea being discussed is for the Merrydale Promenade project to be folded into the much larger Northgate Town Square Project. That project aims to transform the existing Northgate Shopping Center into a refurbished-but-downsized shopping center. It would include a public square, and 907 new multi-family housing units by 2025. The thinking is that the Merrydale pathway project could possibly serve as a mitigation for other impacts the project incurs. Or, be written into the development agreement with the City as a condition of development.
On Monday April 18th, the Council will discuss the four alternatives (shown below, or in the agenda linked here). After staff presentation and questions from the City Council, members of public will be given a chance to voice their thoughts. For the reasons stated above, we hope that you will support the “No Parking” alternative. Please keep in mind that members of the public are limited to two minutes of comments.
You can attend the City Council meeting remotely via zoom using this link, The meeting starts at 7 PM, but this item will likely not be heard until at least 8:30 PM.
If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may also voice your support via email using this link.
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