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– a dedicated group of citizens, environmental groups and professionals, determined to save Gallinas Creek.
FINAL Appeal Against San Rafael Airport Indoor Soccer Complex
What: FINAL Appeal Against San Rafael Airport Indoor Soccer Complex – San Rafael City Council
When: Monday, August 6, 7 p.m.
Where: San Rafael City Hall, 1400 Fifth Avenue (map)
San Rafael’s Planning Commission approved this two-story, Walmart-size indoor and outdoor sports complex, 184 car parking lot with outdoor lighting, which would put soccer playing kids within 160 feet of an active runway and flight-path. The project would bring light and noise pollution, toxic runoff, increased traffic, and excessive disturbance to the marsh and creek.
On August 6, the city council will hear the appeal against this project which the Sierra Club and a host of other environmental groups oppose. It threatens sensitive habitat for the endangered California Clapper rail, salt marsh harvest mouse, black rail and steelhead trout, and other species in the Gallinas Creek watershed.
Additionally, Cal-Trans Aviation Division “recommends prohibiting group recreational uses” so close to this runway. “In general, society gives special attention to protection of children. Special consideration should be given to facilities that cater to children such as recreation and sports facilities.”
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Gallinas Creek is located in north Marin County, California; it is slightly north of China Camp State Park.
Tell the City Council NO to the Soccer Complex
San Rafael City Council
Phone (415) 485-3074
Fax (415) 459-2242
1400 Fifth Avenue
PO Box 151560
San Rafael, CA 94915-1560
[From Marin Conservation League] On June 6, 2012, the San Rafael Planning Commission, on a 5-1 vote, recommended approval of the San Rafael Airport Sports complex.
Background: In addition to concerns over the proximity of the project to Gallinas Creek and its endangered species habitats, the public has raised questions concerning the basic safety of a large sports facility open to both adults and children situated so close to an airport runway. The California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics commented on the Negative Declaration for the project in 2006 and the Draft EIR in 2009. But in 2011, the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook was updated, and new safety standards and regulations were set.
A recent letter dated March 9, 2012 from the Division of Aeronautics makes two important comments: first, that a group recreation facility, especially facilities used by children, in defined runway safety zones is generally prohibited by land use guidelines; and second, that vehicles taller than five feet in the parking row closest to the runway would be considered an obstruction to air navigation.
On the first issue: Although the land use guidelines do not apply specifically to private airports, they could be viewed as setting a de facto threshold of significance under CEQA, in which case those areas of the proposed facility that lie within designated safety zones would raise the potential for “significant” impact on safety of users of the facility. Such an interpretation constitutes “new information” requiring a revised EIR.
On the second issue: A review of the proposed parking layout reveals that substantial portions of the parking lot, turnaround and auxiliary parking lot would need to be configured to avoid the chance for trucks or other vehicles greater than 5 feet tall to become obstructions to air navigation, in violation of the regulations.
Given the City of San Rafael’s potential liability in placing the facility in a hazardous area, or of allowing unsafe obstructions to air navigation in parking areas, city staff delayed further hearings until this information could be analyzed as to its implications on the FEIR process and on the merits of the project.
Background: On January 24, 2012, the San Rafael Planning Commission voted unanimously on January 24 to recommend certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report for a proposed 85,700 square-foot sports complex at San Rafael Airport. (See MCL Newsletter for November-December 2011).
The basic project: two indoor soccer fields/courts and an area for dance and gymnastics, a lighted outdoor soccer field for night games, an unlighted soccer warm-up area, and 7-day-a-week operation.
The project site is a 9.1 acre portion of the overall 119.5-acre airport site, which lies between the north and south forks of Gallinas Creek. Environmentalists have monitored wildlife in the marshes of Gallinas Creek, especially the endangered California Clapper Rail, and appreciate the habitat value of this diked, former tidal marsh. Its sensitivity was recognized in 1983, when the City and County agreed to allow higher-than-usual density near the freeway in order to keep the more sensitive wetlands to the east free from development. Both parcels were sold to developer Joe Shekou. Since then, his attempts to develop the eastern (airport) portion have never ceased.
Although a covenant dating from 1983 restricts uses of the airport, “public and private recreation” is included among those uses, city staff have argued that the complex complies with the covenant. MCL [Marin Conservation League] and many others view this response as unsatisfactory, citing the intent of the covenant, which was to limit development and human activities, not to intensify development.