A group of around 30 people, and a 10-foot-tall Clapper Rail, marched in front of City Hall to protest the San Rafael Airport's proposed sports complex.
The 38-foot tall recreational building, which has been in the planning process for around eight years, stirred lots of controversy in the past months among neighbors worried about the effects the facility would have on endangered species the Santa Venetia area and the safety hazards of soccer players near the airport's runway.
“Citizens and environmental organizations from across the county are opposed to the rezoning of wetland open space in order to pave the way for commercial development at the San Rafael Airport,” said Mary Feller, a spokeswoman for the plan’s critics.
The San Rafael Planning Commission approved the proposal in June with a 5-1 vote, but the City Council delayed putting the item on the agenda following questions of a possible conflict of interest with Mayor Gary Phillips and the airport.
Phillips, who has a lease with the airport for a private hangar, requested written direction from the Fair Political Practices Commission, a state agency that strives to enforce objectivity in policy decisions, in August to confirm that he may lawfully participate in the decision.
The FPPC issued a letter to Phillips, confirming that the mayor can participate:
“So long as Mayor Phillips continues to pay the full market value for the lease of the airport hangar, there is no indication that a decision regarding the proposed complex will have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on either Mayor Phillips’ economic interest in the lease of the airport hangar or in his personal finances.”
The 86,000 square-foot indoor facility will have indoor and two outdoor soccer fields as well as spectator seating, offices, food and beverage service and meetings rooms.
“The largest North Bay population of these rare birds is located in Gallinas Creek and adjacent to the proposed 14-hour a day facility,” Feller said in a release.
The 10-foot bird puppet, dubbed Clappella, was made from recycled paper and bamboo. Marin artist Frank Gonzalez and volunteers created the bird, which cooed during public comment.
Judy Schriebman, who sits on the Gallinas Watershed Council, spoke for Clappella. She said that the Clapper Rail were worried about the increased garbage and oil that could flow into the watershed as a result of the soccer complex development.
Schriebman reminded the council that federal law protects the Clapper Rail, which is designated as a endangered species. "The federal laws have teeth even if she doesn’t," she said.
The proposal is expected to go before the City Council by the end of the year.
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