UPDATE FROM KATE - The Board of Supervisors Considers the Easton Point Property at the Tip of the Tiburon Peninsula

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On Tuesday, September 19, the Board of Supervisors held a hearing to consider whether to certify the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Modified Master Plan for a proposed 43-unit housing development on the 110-acre Easton Point property owned by the Martha Company. This project has a long and complicated history, and Court Orders that constrain the Board of Supervisor’s discretion. I encourage you to read the Staff Report, which provides an excellent summary of the legal issues and current status of this project. You may also view  the supporting documents by opening the online agenda, Item 14.

After extensive public testimony, the Board agreed to continue the hearing to October 3. I wanted to share with you the comments I made at the September 19 hearing:

 I want to thank everyone who is here today as well as the many people who provided written comments. I also want to acknowledge the significant amount of work done by the Martha Company since our last hearing in March of 2014.

Many residents have expressed concern that they did not have enough time to review the voluminous materials submitted for today’s hearing. Those of us on the Board also would benefit from more time. I therefore ask that we continue the hearing to allow more time for review by our Board and the public.

The staff materials raise a host of issues which deserve thoughtful consideration.

  • The Court did not have the full array of information now available in the EIR when it made its prior decisions – in particular, information regarding 7 significant and unavoidable impacts that will remain even after the implementation of recommended mitigation measures and which raise significant questions about the Modified Master Plan and the current proposed design of the project. Three of these unavoidable significant impacts are visual and there is one significant unavoidable impact each related to traffic noise, hydrology, and public service.

There are also 5 additional cumulative significant avoidable impacts: (1) traffic impacts on US Highway 101; (2) air quality and greenhouse gas emissions; (3) construction noise; (4) biological impacts, in particular loss and fragmentation of natural undeveloped habitat; and (5) visual impacts associated with the build-out of the Tiburon Planning Area.

We need to carefully consider whether these impacts are sufficiently addressed by the proposed conditions and mitigations.

  • Other issues of concern include Marin County Parks’ opposition to the acquisition of either Parcel A or B – these parcels are key to mitigating significant adverse impacts on protected species, the California red legged frog and the Marin dwarf flax.
  • There is the ongoing issue of the scope and importance of the responsibilities proposed to be placed upon a small, future Home Owners Association with respect to maintaining public safety and environmental mitigation measures, especially landslides, which create ongoing safety concerns.
  • One of the speakers today raised the issue of climate change and the possibility that risks may have been underestimated because EIR analysis currently does not include consideration of climate change. We can’t change state EIR requirements at the Board of Supervisors, but we certainly should be aware of this issue.
  • There is a question of adequate and appropriate public access. The proposed public access through Tam View Court to St. Hillary’s Open Space is not properly located and there is no provision for maintaining public access on the Spanish Trail.
  • There are also alternatives to consider described in the staff report: (1) relocation of lots to areas outside or less intrusive into the Ridge and Upland Greenbelt; (2) reduction in the house sizes proposed; and (3) relocating lots to reduce impacts on special status species, reduce visual impacts of the project, and reduce grading and the amount of slope repair required on certain lots. These are good suggestions that deserve serious consideration.
  • In light of the current housing crisis that affects the work force in Marin County it is particularly unfortunate that the Court Order relieves the Martha Company from any obligation to provide affordable housing. I will note that the property owners are seeking approval to construct Accessory Dwelling Units on any of the sites, which is commendable, but not a clear commitment to actually build second units.

Perhaps most importantly, there is the issue of the broader community good. This is an extraordinary property, with sweeping views of Marin County, the Bay, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beyond. It is the last remaining undeveloped ridgeline on the Tiburon peninsula and is treasured by residents and visitors.

In the court decisions that determine how this project is proceeding, the Court focused on the property owners’ rights to develop their property – and those are rights we all respect, just as we would with our own properties.

But as one resident said in a comment submitted to the County, “Just because you can develop the property in this instance doesn’t mean you should develop it in a way so as to put your site as well as others at risk. The applicant needs to create a project that works with the existing communities it shares fences with.”

Moreover, the building of 43 private homes is not the only option for this property – there is strong interest from residents to acquire the property and dedicate it for open space. That would be an extraordinary public benefit for generations to come.

Unfortunately, the property owner to date has chosen not to take seriously this alternative option and vision for the future.

I hope the Martha Company will consider the nature of the legacy it wants to create for the Tiburon community and Marin County, and actively engage with those seeking to acquire the property for a fair price and pursue an option that benefits both themselves and the public.