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Whistlestop Issues Legal Claim Against SMART

The senior center is seeking compensation for SMART's disruption in constructing its downtown San Rafael station.

with a musical chairs rotation of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit general managers about the fate of senior services center , Executive Director Joe O’Hehir issued a legal claim to the agency.

“This is an issue that SMART needs to come and work with us on,” O’Hehir said.

The legal claim (avialable on the right) states that SMART owes Whistlestop compensation for the loss of parking spaces the station would take over and the impact construction would have on the center. The claim, issued in November 2011, means that if these issues are not solved before construction begins in the summer of 2013, O’Hehir will sue.

“We’re hoping that it doesn’t go to court,” he said. “We need to work together to find a solution.”

The claim, issued by Kerr & Wagstaff free of charge, states that Whistlestop, which currently has 44 parking spaces and 2 disabled spaces, would lose 23 parking spots that are in the SMART right of way. The proximity of the station’s platform would impact the handicapped entrance of the building and the noise and vibrations from construction would be heard and felt throughout the building.

The SMART station will serve as the end of the line for the rail, that will run up to Santa Rosa. Whistlestop’s parking is currently owned by SMART.

The center offers an escape from isolation for seniors through activities and events. They recently renovated their popular Jackson Cafe, where they serve nutritional lunches and host everything from fashion shows to Vietnamese New Year celebrations.

At first, O’Hehir was talking with SMART officials about purchasing Whistlestop. The capital from the purchase would allow the center to move to more accessible location after the train comes. 

The building is currently valued at $3.6 million, according Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services. That price is not taking into account when SMART actually moves in.

The recent switching of general managers at SMART has made it difficult for O’Hehir to find a solution.

David Heath, who was SMART’s chief financial officer and then acted as GM after Lillian Hames abruptly resigned in January 2011, was dismissed in November 2011. before that in August.

“David seemed interested in possibly purchasing Whistlestop,” O’Hehir said. “Then Farhad came on decided that it’s not their problem.”

The center’s support dwindled further when SMART board member

“They’re trying to sell us this building and we have no need for this building,” Mansourian said.

He claims that the station’s construction operation will not affect with the center’s service. Mansourian said that he values Whistlestop’s services to the community and wants to support them, but they need to make operational decisions.

As far as a lawsuit “the ball’s in their court,’’ he said, “but I cannot go around buying buildings and this is the thanks I get.”

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