News Big Changes are Coming – Part 1: Fireman’s Fund
There are two large redevelopment projects in the works for Marin County: the former Fireman’s Fund site in Novato, and Northgate Mall in San Rafael. Each of these projects (which are several years away from actual construction) will bring over 1,000 new housing units to Marin County, filling a dire need for new housing.
Both projects represent an opportunity to welcome a large number of people to Marin, and they can serve as an excellent reimagining of underused space. But without significant investments in walking and biking infrastructure, we know that our new neighbors will choose to get around the way most Marin residents do – by driving.
At MCBC, we want to ensure that the people who live, work, and shop at these revitalized sites are able to do so in a low-car, safe, and sustainable manner. Therefore, when we were offered a chance to comment on the initial conceptual designs of both sites, we jumped at the opportunity.
This week we’ll give you our comments on the Fireman’s Fund site. Keep an eye out for a second post about Northgate Mall.
What we like: Fireman’s Fund
In the case of this site, virtually any changes would be an improvement, but here are the ones that we like in particular. You can find the conceptual designs, photos, and renderings of this project here.
Significant amounts of senior and multi-family housing.
Improved access to the San Marin SMART Station via a bike/pedestrian bridge from the eastern edge of the existing parking lot.
Trail access to Mt. Burdell Preserve from inside the project and from Redwood Blvd.
Green spaces preserved within the development.
What we think could improve
As with most developments, we believe that the project strongly incentivizes car ownership and use, despite the proximity to SMART. Our recommendations would make access to the site and travel within it easier by bike or by foot.
While the conceptual designs show plans for bicycle circulation, they do not specify whether riders would have to share the road with cars, or whether the bike paths would be raised/separated from the roadway. MCBC supports the most age-friendly, low-stress bikeways possible, meaning full separation from cars.
There are several missing crosswalks.
Pedestrian and bike safety should be prioritized over car travel speed. MCBC recommends crosswalks on every leg of every intersection. Internal crosswalks should be raised, to provide extra priority for people walking.
The SMART connection looks awkward for cyclists. MCBC recommends that the new bridge tie directly into an internal network of shared use paths.
Improvements are needed for San Marin Drive. The road currently has a paint-only bike lane and 45 mph speed limits. There is enough space for a shared use path on the north side of the road. MCBC recommends this improvement.
The intersections with San Marin Drive allow high auto speeds. MCBC recommends protected intersections at both E Campus and W Campus Drive.
The development should have a neighborhood grocery store. So much driving can be avoided if people are able to walk or bike to the store.
Too much parking! Research conclusively demonstrates that more parking spaces means more driving. We should be encouraging people to be car-light households, especially so close to a transit station.
How You Can Get Involved
The project is early in the design phase and is likely several years from construction. Follow updates to the project on this page.
A virtual community meeting was held in July, and can be viewed here. The Design Review Workshop date has not yet been announced, but we’ll post about it when it gets scheduled.
Want more updates about this project? Sign up here.
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