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City Council Live Blog: Council Approves Extension of a Moratorium on Large Unlicensed Group Homes

Check our live updates of the city council meeting tonight.

We'll be posting live updates from tonight's city council meeting. Earlier today, we that the city council will consider extending a moratorium on all unlicensed group homes in San Rafael, spurred by neighbors' concerns over two sober living facilities in Gerstle Park and Forbes neighborhoods.

The agenda is available to the right. Check back in to see what's going on.

10:23 p.m. Council adjourns in memory of Supervisor Charles McGlashan, who died of a heart attack last week.

10:20 p.m. Epstein wanted to clarify that the Fire Marshal did assist in the inspection of both homes. City council unanimously approved to extend the moratorium until December 2011.

10:10 p.m. Courtney Booker and her husband recently bought a house in the Forbes neighborhood. "I haven't heard anyone here say anything discriminatory agsint people in recovery," she said. Booker is concerned because she doesn't know anything about the business running the facility next door. "I'm just curious about all these unkowns."

10:01 p.m. Jennifer Walker works with Arcuria. Walker, who spent time in prison, said some of the people voicing opposition "are more heartless than the murderers I spent time with in prison." 

9:55 p.m. Connie Arcuria certifies sober living homes and posts the standards for such homes on the Arcuria website. She visited both homes and found them in good condition. "I am shocked at the ignorance I'm hearing tonight," she said. Arcuria said that claiming property values will diminish because people are in recovery is the same as saying it will diminish because black people live next door. "This is ordinance is illegal," she said.

9:50 p.m. Brian Kelly, member of the home owners association in the Forbes neighborhood, wants the council to extend the moratorium. "[Forbes] is not a transient neighborhood," he said, and allowing transient members to rent rooms for a profit degrades the community. "Sobriety has the proper place and location," he said.

9:45 p.m. Amy Likover, from Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association, suggests the city should limit the amount of sober facilities in a neighborhood and the amount of people living there. "On one corner of Marin Street there are two homes and 20 residents," she said. Likover and other members of her neighborhood also believe the homes should be held to health and safety standards and be certified by city or state agencies.

9:36 p.m. Attorney George Sylvester's daughter lives in a house at the corner of Ross and Marin streets and used to live in the neighborhood. "The don't want unsafe facilities" in Gerstle Park, he said. "I don't want to see you losing sight of the goal here, and that's public safety." Sylvester said he will be more comfortable when a fire marshal is involved in the inspections.

9:35 p.m. Epstein said the operators of the 1 Culloden Park Road home, operated by for-profit business Bay Area Sober Living,  has agreed to currently stay with six residents at most, although they originally were planning to have 11 beds or more.

9:28 p.m. Planning Manager Paul Jensen estimates that there are at least 10 sober living homes in San Rafael, but the unlicensed homes are not easy to track down.

9:25 p.m. The 1 Culloden Park Road under went an inspection where there were no violations, according to Epstein. Both homes will continue to operate, since the moratorium will not apply to them.

9:20 p.m. Epstein said the city met with Attorney Matthew Gorman, who is representing two sober living homes on 201 Marin St. 1 Culloden Park Road, and said the meeting was porductive. Gorman invited city council members to tour the porperties.

9:15 p.m. City Attorney Rob Epstein says the moratorium does not apply to homes that were already open and in operation before March 7. He recommends that the moratorium be adopted as a precautionary measure for the end of the calendar year to conduct a review of the impact of these homes on their communities. The extension would not have any fiscal impact on the city.

9:10 p.m. City council members approved the Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan.

9:00 p.m. David Hoffman, director of planning for Bicycle Coalition, said he is pleased that a partnership with San Rafael has "born a lot of fruit." Hoffman believes the city will benefit from the plan.

8:53 p.m. Connolly suggests that San Rafael must work with the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Tranist board if they decide to cut multi-use paths to fill budget gaps.

8:50 p.m. "This is an issue very near and dear to my heart," Council Member Damon Connolly said about the Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan. "We can really take a leadership role moving forward with these projects."

8:45 p.m. The city will apply for grants throughout the state if the city adopts the master plan. It will cost the city $1,926.75 to file.

8:40 p.m. "Our goal is to make bicycle and pedestrian travel an integral part of life," McGowan said. Some of the achievements the project has completed are 4.1 miles of bike and multi-use paths and received $1.45 mill in grants. The CalPark tunnel has also been completed.

8:35 p.m. Kevin McGowan of Department of Public Works gives background to Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan, which began in 1998.

8:30 p.m. Dana Armanino of Energy Watch is discussing a program where contractors work with homeowners individually to make houses conserve more energy. She said her organisation will offer rebates of up to $700 who achieve 20 percent or greater of energy saving. California Energy Commission has not yet approved the rebates, but they will be retroactive once they get approval. Now, the organization is focusing on outreach and would like the city to help spread the word. They have partnered with Sustainable San Rafael for support.

8:25 p.m. Dana Armanino gives a presentation on Marin County Energy Watch. Armanino's organization has worked with San Rafael City Schools to make schools more energy efficient.

8:20 p.m. City council approves the consent calendar.

8:15 p.m. Public comment: Clayton Smith speaks on Target. "The profits [local business owners] earn from community are spent here in the community... and add to the economic vitality to the community."

8:10 p.m. Meeting of San Rafael Redevelopment called to order. Chambers are not as full as March 7, where a moratorium on large unlicensed group homes.

7:39 p.m. Protesters demonstrating against Target just left City Hall's steps. A community impact report that will detail the effects a Target store will have on local business and the economy will be public on Wednesday. Check San Rafael Patch tomorrow for video of today's protest.

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