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Is the Whistlestop Location Safe for an Affordable Housing Complex?

Many wonder if Whistlestop's plan to expand and add 50 affordable housing units is a good idea due to crime at the nearby transit center.

Whistlestop announced at the beginning of the month its plans to transform it's location on 930 Tamalpais Ave. into a five-story building that will offer around 50 affordable housing units to seniors in addition to its regular services.

The popular nonprofit offers nutritional services and social activities for Marin's elderly, and serves around 5,000 seniors every year. The affordable housing plan will enable the center to remain in its current location when the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station is running in sometime in late 2015 or early 2016.

With the new design, Whistlestop's ground floor would be used for 22 to 24 parking spaces, with the second, third and fourth floors going to constructing 50 affordable housing units. The top floor would be for recreation, and would include some outdoor space and an activity hall. Jackson Cafe, the center's restaurant, will relocate to the other side of the building from its current location on Third Street. A lobby and plaza would also be added for Whistlestop shuttles.

While the city is supportive of the plan and many rejoice that Whistlestop won't have to move due to the SMART station, some question the safety of the building due to crime at the nearby transit center.

"In theory, this is a good thing. However, the area is a major crime location from Heatherton, Irwin and streets surrounding," Julie Beach commented. "The crime needs to be cleaned up. The seniors using services in the area and living there are going to be targets as they tend to be more vulnerable. Right now it is not a place I'd want any senior I know living there."

In March 2012, San Rafael police and partner agencies launched a high-visibility program as well as a series of undercover operations to target crime at the transit center. Officers, in uniform and in plain clothes, contacted 473 individuals and made 79 arrests, according to police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher.

The offenses included: drug dealing, warrants for both violent and property crime violations, sex offender violations, probation violations and for alcohol intoxication. During the operation, police engaged in five foot chases originating from the transit center involving suspected drug violators. All the incidents ended in arrests. There was also an attempted purse snatch witnessed by officers working the assignment at that time. This attempted robbery occurred on the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue during commute hour.

San Rafael police are now working with local businesses to crackdown on crime in the area.

The most recent violent incident at the transit center was on Dec. 14, 2012 when a man pulled up in a car near Marin Filmworks on Tamalpais Avenue, got out and shot another man on the platform with a handgun.

"The dreamers somehow think the shooting, stabbing and other assaults at the bus terminal will magically be kept away from the SMART station," Kevin Moore commented. "Not to mention people with limited mobility mixing in with rush hour commuters, active train tracks and busy streets. I fear many will feel trapped. I guess they can watch the freeway traffic go by, which is a block away."

Do you think the Whistlestop location is safe for senior affordable housing? Tell us in the comments.

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MaryMMill January 24, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Putting low-cost housing next to the freeway is an insult to the very people they purport to 'serve.' Well-meaning planners are out of touch with reality. There's another plan to put low-cost housing in a commercial space at the Marinwood freeway exit. Again, it makes no sense to keep adding low-income housing when it is readily available just north in Petaluma. If I was retired I'd rather live 15 miles from San Rafael than next to an 8 lane freeway.
Stephen Nestel January 24, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Affordable housing for seniors would be far better served in a different location away from the transit center. I am sure seniors would much prefer it too. This is a case where money and ideology trump commonsense. The planners are thrilled to have one of their high density low income projects next to a transit center because it fulfills their ABAG "Smart Growth" mandates of housing next to transit. The non profit gets to earn millions as a co-developer of an affordable housing complex built with your tax dollars on their property. The politicians get millions of Federal Tax dollars for fulfilling ABAG planning objectives Wouldn't most seniors prefer to live near a garden location over a bus stop? Follow the money. Affordable housing isn't for poor people. It is for those who profit from it.
Kevin Moore January 24, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Is this how you would treat you mother? My neighbor asked a house painter if he would fix the botched paint job or leave it if this was his mothers house. The painter thought about it and returned the next day to fix it. It is a good test when dealing with other people. So would you put your mother or father there? Do they have any mobility?
Julie Beach January 25, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Happy to create context. I am a san rafael native. I worked with seniors at whistlestop fresh out of college when the area around it was quiet and safe. Now check the crime map on srpd.org. The area is filled with crime not just property crime like my car being stolen and then later my catalytic converter sawed off in plain daylight from that area i.m talking violent crime including murders. The bus depot there regularly receives busloads of thugs being dropped there on parole. Like kevin, I cared for my mom and i have dealt with elderly all my life. That location will never meet their needs. The speeding traffic there would be enough to kill residents let alone seniord being vulnerable to robbing and worse. Do not make accusations about nimbyism. Get the proper facts.
Rosalind January 25, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I don't think it is a good idea to put senior living in that location. It is too busy and too much traffic. The police should continue to crack down on crime there regardless. The senior living residents deserve a safer location.

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