San Rafael Airport Soccer Complex to Go Before Council

The 38-foot tall recreational building, which has been in the planning process for around eight years, will go before the City Council for the final decision on Monday.

The City Council will make a decision tonight on the San Rafael Airport's proposed soccer facility that has been in the planning process for eight years.

The 38-foot tall recreational building stirred controversy in the past months among supporters, who say the new complex would add more much-needed soccer fields to the area, and opponants, who are worried about the effects the facility would have on endangered species the Santa Venetia area and the safety hazards of players near the airport's runway.

"When you think about how ludicrous it is to build a sports facility that attracts children next to an airport runway, behind weak levees in the face of rising sea levels, I have trouble wrapping my head around how this proposal ever got this far," Santa Venetia neighbor Robert Dobrin said in an email.

In March, the California Department of Transportation sent a letter to the San Rafael Community Development Department stating that recreational facilities, like the proposed outdoor soccer fields, should be prohibited according to new guidelines that regulate land use near airports.

Almost two weeks ago, a pilot walked away with minor injuries after he made an emergency landing in a marsh when he had engine problems while taking off.

To neighbor Mary Hanely, the fact that the construction site is below sea level is a redflag. To fill and flood-proofing methods of construction, 2 feet of fill are required. According to Hanely, this will require 100 piles to be driven into to the bedrock. "Captain's Cove homeowners, as well as Santa Venetians, currently experience vibrations in their homes when large trucks pass," she wrote in an email. "The surrounding communities are built on fill. Some are still sinking to this day. For the applicant to say impacts can be mitigated is outrageous."

The San Rafael Planning Commission approved the facility in a 5-1 vote in June, with Commissioner Dan Sonnet opposed. Despite the resistance, San Rafael Airport Manager Robert Herbst told Patch at the Planning Commission meeting in June the support for the project outweighs the criticism. “Those families who live closest to the facility will actually benefit the most because they would be using the facility the most,” he said.

Supporters believe that the sports complex would fill a need for many local soccer teams, whose players sometimes have to spend more time in their cars driving to distant soccer fields than playing. “We have difficult time getting to use facilities,” Central Marin Soccer President Rick Williams said at public meeting in May. “If we aren't going to [build] it here, where else in our community are we going to do it?"

The San Rafeal City Council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at 1400 Fifth Ave. San Rafael Patch will be live blogging from the meeting.

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