Opponents of a proposed soccer facility at the San Rafael airport on Smith Ranch Road might have a new supporter--the Division of Aeronautics for the California Department of Transportation.
The San Rafael Community Development Department received a letter in early March from the division, stating that recreational facilities, like the proposed outdoor soccer fields, should be prohibited according to new guidelines that regulate land use near airports.
When city staff studied the potential issues with the soccer fields and a parking lot’s proximity to the runway,
Now that the guidelines for measuring this were revised in 2011, the city hired consultants to figure if this is still true, according to the project’s planner Kraig Tambomini.
City staff rescheduled the Planning Commission’s March 27 meeting that would’ve discussed the merits of the soccer facility to study the new guidelines.
In the letter, Aviation Planner Ron Bolyard wrote:
“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.”
The plan includes a parking area south of the soccer complex adjacent to the airport’s runway, which violates federal aviation standards, Bolyard wrote.
“We ask the city of San Rafael to consider this new information in future decisions regarding this project,” he said. The full letter is available on the right.
The proposed complex includes a 38-foot tall recreational building that will house indoor soccer fields and courts with spectator seating, offices, food and beverage service, meetings rooms, two outdoor soccer fields with parking and exterior lighting.
Other than the safety concerns, environmentalists flooded the city’s inboxes in February with emails urging the city to protect the clapper rail, an endangered bird that many believe the project would harm.
“We received around 3,000 emails that day, with 750 to 1,000 coming in the first hour,” Tambomini said.
The letters were petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization that fights to protect endangered species. The influx froze computers throughout City Hall, Tambomini said.
City staff hope to analyze the new regulations and hold the public hearing in mid-May.
“I think the letter will be a game changer,” said Robert Dobrin, who lives close to the airport and is a staunch opponent to the soccer complex.