Supes Outline Concerns with Airport Soccer Facility

The Marin Board of Supervisors will submit a letter to San Rafael city staff regarding their concerns about the proposed soccer complex at the San Rafael airport.

Although final say is with San Rafael city officials, the Marin Board of Supervisors will be submitting a letter to the city’s planning staff about their concerns regarding the proposed sports complex at the San Rafael airport.

The proposed 38-foot tall recreational building stirred lots of controversy in the past months among neighbors worried about the possible effects the facility would have on the Santa Venetia area. The Supervisors’ letter urges San Rafael planners and Council members to address issues with storm water run off, noise and light impacts due late hours of operation, maintenance of the nearby levees, environmental concerns with the nearby Las Gallinas Creek and the safety of soccer players in close proximity to the airplane runway.

“I think these are reasonable requests for the San Rafael City Council to consider,” said Supervisor Susan Adams, who represents San Rafael.

While San Rafael will make the decision regarding the proposed $6-million soccer facility that will be located at 400 Smith Ranch Road, Adams says that the Supervisors should weigh in since project’s impact would not just be local. 

“The residents who will be the most affected in the surrounding area are living in the unincorporated area and won’t be able to vote for their representatives in this part of the community,” she said at the Tuesday board meeting.

The proposed recreational building will house indoor soccer fields and courts with spectator seating, offices, food and beverage service and meetings rooms. There will also be two outdoor soccer fields with parking and exterior lighting.

The project’s Final Environmental Impact Report stated that the threat of a plane crash is small, and that, with some minor changes, the fields and adjacent parking lot would be safe. But in late March,

In a letter from Caltrans’ Division of Aeronautics to the city, 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 wrote.

Many who attended the Tuesday board meeting showed up in support of the Supervisors’ letter. Santa Venetia neighbor Gina Hagan believes that San Rafael staff have not adequately discussed issues like emergency response.

“I have two young children,” she said. “I  want to have a place to take them to play soccer. I just don’t feel that this is the spot."

Mary Feller praised the board for their support. “You’re our only advocates. The city is not listening to us. They don’t care what we say because we don’t vote for them,” she said.

Although the letter offers suggestions to San Rafael’s staff, the county does not have any power over the decision. Supervisor Judy Arnold, who represents Novato, believes that the letter is unnecessary since the Council will most likely explore these questions about the project and that they should leave the authority with them.

“What would we think if we had received a letter from Assemblyman Huffman and Senator Leno telling us what they would like to see in, for example, the Grady Ranch project,” she said.

D. C. Beard May 16, 2012 at 06:13 PM
In this instance, Marin residents are complaining about the sound of children playing organized sports. There are concerns about the safety of having a facility located near an aiport, however, driving long distances for sporting activities is more hazardous to the safety of children than having access to a local sporting facility. This facility would be located a safe distance from the runway, and there are more facilities of this type located near airports with no issues. The Marin residents that are complaining about the environmental impact of a sporting facility for children should start by cleaning up their own backyard. Specifically, the county should review the 52 illegal and unpermitted docks in the tidelands section of Gallinas creek. These boat docks encroach upon publicly owned tidelands.The county should take action and require the Marin residents to produce an Environmental Impact Report to determine the extent of acceleration of destruction of habitats essential to species of fish, shellfish and other wildlife of substantial public benefit, as well as diminishment of natural waterways by siltation, sedimentation or bank erosion. There needs to be more studies done on the impact of boating activities in this sensitive wildlife area.
Lizzardking's Rise May 16, 2012 at 07:54 PM
excellent points Mr. Beards, excellent points. I myself feel happy at the sound of children playing in the distance. I am so tired of Marin's not-in-my-backyard-attitude. If some residents here had their way they'd be all alone, like Billy Mummy in an episode of The Twilght Zone.
Jim May 16, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Are the children the ones playing soccer until 11pm and drinking alcohol at the facility? Yeah. Didn't think so.
MaryM May 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
where are you getting your information? incorrect - many of the docks were permitted way back in the 1960's. and they are probably grandfathered in, since the docs have been there for at least 50 years or more. The docks are grandfathered in. That's written into the Marin Countywide Plan. Are you suggesting using the dock issue as a way of threatening homeowners in order to discourage public comment on the Airport soccer facility issue? Sounds like intimidation to me.
MaryM May 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
P.S. This also sounds like the worn out and preposterous argument coming from the airport owners about wake action from kayaks damaging their aging reclamation levees. The docks are permitted under the County of Marin's Gallinas Creek Encroachment Act that specifically allows homeowners to build docks along Gallinas Creek. fyi - there are almost no boats on Gallinas creek - only a few kayaks once in awhile. The siltation in the creek is coming from upstream sources. That's documented.
Georgette Trees May 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Children, children? We got to show you no stinkin' children!
S. Schwartz May 16, 2012 at 10:29 PM
As the mother of three, and resident of the area for 25 years, I was at first against the sports complex. I was primarily concerned with safety as to planes so close to the facilities. I spoke with the airport manager, and they are doing everything possible in terms of safety.  They have an average of 5 (!) small planes utilizing the airport.  The one hazard for the planes is being mitigated this summer. I did some research and reviewed the EIRs and the plans for the complex.  I also took the time to look at the current airport facility and found the following: the airport is completely running off a CLEAN energy – Solar; and the new complex will be LEED gold certified--which means it will be green and environmentally conscious - way more so that many residents in the area. Every possible mitigation is being done with regards to any and all environmental concerns. Who of you complainers know that there is an organic farm at the airport? Wow, maybe some of the children could go to the farm too? The people who will benefit the most from this facility are parents and children - who now, according to everyone who is a soccer parent, have to drive "All over the Bay Area" to bring their kids to such a facility. Again, the parents say it is a great idea, but not there. Does that sound like Grady Ranch? Yet another really good idea which would benefit a lot of families, actually might be bringing in some jobs (!), and a handful of residents may ruin it for everyone.
S. Schwartz May 16, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Regarding the “kayak” docks - I looked at Google Earth and apparently many of the people with docks have extremely large gas-powered kayaks. The people who are complaining the most are living in one of the areas of Marin that had a hugely adverse effect on the natural wetlands and tidelands that existed there before your homes were built in on LANDFILL.  Do you know what liquefaction is? 
D. C. Beard May 16, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Marin residents who complain about the envionmental impact of land use by other property owners should expect to receive complaints about the environmental impact of their own land use. In this case, the county needs to require a study on the environmental impact of large and unpermitted boat docks with large boats located direclty over sensitive wetlands areas of Gallinas Creek. In addition, there should be studies on ongoing boating activities in these environmentally senstive areas. The information concerning boat docks in Gallinas Creek comes from publicly available data produced by the County of Marin. Many modifications have been made to the boat docks over the years, and these modifications were made without obtaining required permits. Some boat docks have platform sizes as large as 870 square feet and are located directly over sensitive wetland and tideland areas of the Gallinas Creek.
Tom A. May 17, 2012 at 01:43 PM
This has nothing to do about children playing soccer. This has everything to do about adults looking for a venue where they can play soccer until the late hours of the night, then hang out and drink and crow, all in my back yard. And this has everything to do about a developer with a sketchy track record looking to make money, and the City of San Rafael buying into it because their constituents are not going to be the ones whose evenings and late nights are going to be shattered by the noise that accompanies these midnight sporting events. The fact of the matter is that there are seven lighted soccer fields in the area right now -- fields that the developer pointed out in his own presentation during the EIR hearings. The problem is that the schools that own these fields are under-funded and cannot maintain them. Why don't these clubs that are backing this ill-conceived facility instead pay the money to the schools to allow them to upgrade their fields and share their use. Sounds like a win-win to me. And, when you have a moment, why don't you take a look at the EIR bought and paid for by the very people who support the building of this complex, and read about the 143 mitigations that are going to have to be made in order to put the field next to an active airport (against FAA policy), in a Clapper Rail breeding ground, in a bowl where the joys of the winning teams will be shared by the thousands of working stiffs like me who are trying to get some sleep.


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