At a Wednesday luncheon, community members will explore plans to save the senior activities center Whistlestop, which will have to relocate due to lack of parking from the upoming construction of the downtown Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station in 2013.
Whistlestop Executive Director Joe O’Hehir issued a legal claim to SMART in November 2011, urging the organization to compensate the center for the loss of 23 parking spaces that would be in the station's right of way. Construction is set to take place this summer, and O’Hehir told Patch in February 2012 that they would sue if the problems weren't solved by then. At Wednesday's luncheon, O'Hehir will discuss the center's fate.
The downtown San Rafael station will include a two-platform design with the southbound platform about eight feet from Tamalpais Avenue. This leaves no space for street parking, which is essential for Whistlestop clientele. The proximity of the SMART station’s platform would also impact the handicapped entrance of the building and the noise and vibrations from construction would be heard and felt throughout the building.
Whistlestop, known for providing food programs and other services to seniors with disabilities, has been located at 930 Tamalpais Ave. for 40 years. It serves approximately 5,000 people each year with nearly a third of them traveling by car, according to O’Hehir. The center is also located close to the transit center and bus terminal.
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 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.
Wednesday's luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Whistlestop's Jackson Cafe. Check back for more coverage of the meeting.
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