Current Issues

Board of Supervisors

There are many important issues of interest to District 2.  Select any of the topics below for more information, updates and opportunities for involvement.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact Supervisor Rice at 415-473-7825 or by email.

 

Land Use and Planning

Marin is a wonderful place, with a rich history and long tradition of community activism, conservation and thoughtful prospective planning. That tradition was defined in decades past by the defeat of proposals for freeway extensions and major development in West Marin, and with the adoption of Marin’s first Countywide Plan in 1973, codifying in land-use planning our conservationist goals and establishing the blueprint for how Marin County would grow going forward. That blue-print prioritized the protection of open space, preventing sprawl, and restricting growth to within established cities and towns and along the 101 city-centered corridor.

Debates around residential and commercial housing growth continue, and District 2 residents remain involved in discussions around planning for the future. Community involvement is essential: citizens involved and participating in solving problems, and in visioning what our County, our communities, will look like going forward into the future.

See below for more information about my thoughts on preserving affordable housing in Marin, how to get information on projects and more.

New Strategies on the Affordable Housing Front

Over the past two years, the Board of Supervisors has addressed the topic of housing in a series of public workshops. We discussed Marin’s housing crisis, its impact on current residents, communities, and what if anything we can and want to do through program, policy or regulation to address it. We entered the conversation with a recognition that the status quo is not working, that we are losing both affordable and moderately priced housing options and that the trend has very real negative consequences for overall community character and resiliency.

We shifted our focus away from the conventional solution of new development, to focusing on preserving existing at-risk affordable housing. We also looked at how to expand housing options in ways that utilize the existing built environment compatible with community character and appetite.  The new menu of strategies coming from those workshops include: acquisition and preservation of existing housing stock, amendment of existing code and regulation towards encouraging the development of affordable second units and junior second units, landlord incentives aimed at expanding participation in housing programs, and voluntary landlord guidelines geared towards preventing unjust eviction and tenant displacement.

The community conversations we had at the board workshops were a positive demonstration of the kind of inclusive, productive debate that can be had as we tackle the important challenges of the day.

Marin Countywide Plan

The current Marin Countywide Plan was adopted in 2007. The updated plan continues to promote leading edge strategies started in 1974, when Marin County set in place policies that prevented runaway development and protected open space. By focusing on sustainability, this update to the Marin Countywide Plan also serves as a model for other communities to address the impending climate change crisis - including assessing greenhouse-gas emissions, setting targets to reduce emissions, and programs to plan for and adapt to projected sea level rise. To keep informed, subscribe for updates to the countywide plan webpage.

Current Projects

The best way to stay abreast of current planning applications is to subscribe to a planning area on the County’s website. You may subscribe to receive email notifications regarding a particular project, or to receive email notifications whenever a new application is submitted in a particular area.

Kentfield Greenbrae Community Plan

Some unincorporated areas of the County have chosen to adopt a plan specific to their community. If you live in the Kentfield/Greenbrae community, the Kentfield Greenbrae Community Plan, adopted in 1987, serves as a blueprint for growth consistent with community character.

Kentfield Planning Advisory Board

The Kentfield Planning Advisory Board (KPAB) is a 7 member board (appointed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors) to review referrals of all planning projects for the Planning Department including master plans, subdivisions, design reviews, rezoning applications, general plan amendments, and environmental review documents. It also reviews major public works projects that significantly impact the community, ensuring that the voice of Kentfield residents is well represented in decision making processes.

News

Page last updated: November 14, 2018

Fire Prevention

As Supervisor representing the Ross Valley, one of the most flood and fire vulnerable areas of the county, I am all too aware of our ever-present wildfire risk, and how easily the North Bay fires could have included our own communities. Hence the emphasis I have placed on programs and projects aimed at reducing risk, protecting our communities, collaboration between fire agencies, public land managers, and areas most at risk. There is lots of good work and progress being made on all fronts.

The Fire Districts serving Ross Valley communities – from Larkspur and Kentfield, to Ross Valley Fire, Sleepy Hollow Fire District and Marin County Fire—each serve us amazingly well and do so in a coordinated/mutual aid fashion across district lines. In addition to fire response, these agencies bring programs essential to preventing fire and supporting resident emergency preparedness in the form of defensible space inspections, fuel break/fire fuel reduction projects, and sponsoring CERT and Ready Marin programs. Marin County Open Space and Marin Municipal Water District, the agencies that manage the majority of public open space adjacent to our communities, have prioritized fire fuel reduction work, access and egress.

In addition, collaboration, strategic planning and information-sharing across agencies and communities is supported by FIRESafe MARIN, a coalition of fire agencies, public land managers, utilities, and organized neighborhoods and HOA's that was born out of the 1991 Oakland Hills fires. Today, FIRESafe MARIN is as strong as ever, bringing in grants totaling $1,267,773 over the past four years that help expand fuel reduction and wildfire prevention efforts, improve our fire detection capability, and support/enhance fire prevention, protection, and education in communities across the county. 

This fall, the Marin County Fire Chief delivered a summary of a "Lessons Learned" report to the Board of Supervisors, the result of nine months of research and discussions spearheaded by a Board subcommittee. The report laid our 24 urgent recommendations pertaining to fire protection and many more targeting land management, law enforcement, emergency services staff, and town and city staff. The three challenges directed to the public were to: 1) harden homes to decrease structure ignitability, such as installing fire-resistant roofing, siding, vents, and dual-pane windows; 2) maintain defensible space around homes through responsible vegetation management practices; and 3) keep driveways and roads clear to ensure emergency vehicle access. In the weeks and months ahaead, more information will be coming from the various fire and emergency response agencies serving our community about what we all need to be doing.

For more information about upcoming events, disaster preparedness, fire prevention and investigation, vegetation management, defensible space and more, I encourage you read below and visit the Marin County Fire Department and FIRESafe Marin websites.

Emergency Preparedness Information

What to expect from official emergency services in an actual fire event if action is required:

  • Nearby residents will hear and observe responders telling them to leave, or to stay inside, or take other emergency action. If responders on the scene are not doing that, there is no call for residents to take emergency action.
  • Alert Marin will be activated when there is a need to act. It is not activated unless action is required, and then only as soon as possible after an assessment of risk is made, which can take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Alert Marin can be targeted to the affected areas. (Have you registered all your phone with Alert Marin? Go to www.alertmarin.org.)
  • Police and safety personnel on scene will regulate traffic to allow for safe passage of responders to scene, and to direct evacuating traffic if there has been a call for evacuation; if there has been no evacuation ordered, remain at home and/or away from incident area.

What we can do in the emergency:

  • Keep calm. Observe what responders are doing and listen for directions.
  • Assess the situation: High winds are a risk, especially when conditions are very dry and if the fire is generating high rising embers.
  • Check for messages from Alert Marin, targeted instructions to act. Look for fire or safety informational messages on Twitter, NextDoor, or Nixle.
  • Use your own judgement to take action if you do feel threatened after steps 1, 2, 3.

A reminder of what each communication channel can do and how to register:

  • Alert Marin: Everyone should register for their VOIP phone and cell phones for voice, email, and text alerts when action is advised or required. Go to www.alertmarin.org.
  • Nixle is an official communications system used by individual public safety agencies that can send both email and text messages targeted by zip code. Nixle is generally used to communicate non-emergency information (e.g., traffic alerts related to accidents, construction detours). Go to http://www.nixle.com/.
  • Fire and Law Enforcement agencies use Twitter and NextDoor for non-emergency announcements, information, and updates.

Vegetation Management Planning

Ensuring adequate defensible space zones are maintained around your home is of the utmost importance for fire prevention for you and your neighbors. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it.  This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home. You can learn about the two zones that make up the required 100 feet of defensible space here and access a list of resources that provide information on keeping your property and family safe from fire.

Wildfire Evacuation Planning

Key to planning for a wildfire is planning for an evacuation if the unfortunate need arises. FIRESafe MARIN provides  information on how to prepare an evacuation check list, the laws concerning evacuation, and the process should you need to be evacuated, or what to do if you become trapped on foot or in your home.

Chipper Days

I encourage everyone to take advantage of FIRESafe’s "Chipper Awards" that provide funding to assist communities, homeowner's associations, fire departments, and individual landowners with vegetation fuel reduction to reduce wildfire hazards in Marin.  FIRESafe typically offers $1500 - $3000 grants to fund "Chipper Days" in Marin neighborhoods where a chipper and crew are available to residents to dispose of cut vegetation.  $1500 typically covers the cost of one day of chipper and truck rental, and a full crew to operate.

News

Page last updated: November 14, 2018

Homelessness

Current Issues - Homelessness

Here in Marin, like elsewhere in the Bay Area and beyond, homelessness remains a complex and challenging issue. The increasing cost of housing, rampant drug use/abuse and addiction, and the chronic underfunding and lack of resources for mental health services have made the situation even worse. While for District 2, homelessness is most visible in San Rafael, a closer look across communities reveals that Homelessness is a countywide issue requiring a countywide, collaborative approach to solve.

As such, since early on in my tenure as Supervisor I have pushed hard for increased collaboration, partnership and a collective approach to tackling homelessness. Beginning with a strengthened relationship between the County and the City of San Rafael, we have built a coalition of service providers, the faith community, public and private sector unified behind a shared mission and commitment to addressing homelessness in Marin. This countywide collaboration set the stage for the adoption and implementation of a new approach to addressing homelessness called Housing First. Housing First focuses on getting an individual into appropriate housing and then wrapping the individual with services to manage their conditions and maintain their housing. As of November 2018, just two years since adopting Housing First, 100 formerly chronically homeless individuals have been housed.

To put this in context, roughly 20 percent (about 350 people) of Marin’s total homeless are considered chronically homeless. (Individuals who have likely spent years on the street, are destitute, in poor health, and likely suffer from mental health and/or addiction issues.) These high-needs folks elicit the most community complaints, generate staggeringly high public costs (over $60,000 annually via emergency room visits, interaction with law enforcement and criminal justice system, etc.) and are our most vulnerable, dying on average 25 years earlier than their housed peers.

The success of Housing First isn’t just a Marin phenomenon, it is a proven pathway used by other communities who have ended chronic homelessness. Marin’s new approach really does work – over 90 percent of those 100 folks housed over the past two years remain housed, have improved health, and importantly are saving community dollars. It costs less than $30,000 a year to provide ongoing housing and services for each person versus the $60,000 when they were homeless.

This shift in Marin’s approach to homelessness didn’t happen overnight. It’s been over two years in the making while we visited other communities that were ending chronic homelessness, joined national coalitions to learn best practices, and invited in experts to help us refine our approach.

The “we” is a collaboration between the county, cities, Marin Housing Authority, and our incredible service providers including Homeward Bound, St Vincent de Paul, Ritter Center and Buckelew to name a few. All of these organizations have committed to working together to get Marin’s chronically homeless off the streets and into housing. The county has a new website where you can learn more: https://housingfirst.marinhhs.org/housing-first.

In addition to Housing First, now we have expanded outreach via programs such as the Marin Mobile Care’s mobile shower program. We continue to intensify our efforts to house and support veterans as well as families.

Of course, more needs to be done and we will continue to work on ending chronic homelessness in Marin. We recognize that every year approximately a dozen people experiencing homelessness tragically die on our streets. These deaths come about not because we failed to provide shelter on a cold night, but because these individuals died from treatable, chronic illnesses that were the result of life on the streets. Housing was the health care they needed.

Below is more detailed information on efforts underway aimed at addressing homelessness. For a more comprehensive list go to: www.housingfirst.marinhhs.org.

HOT Team

Key to the success of Marin’s Housing First approach is the Marin Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). HOT is a collaborative effort of local public and non-profit entities designed to bridge the system gaps and assist those in greatest need to access permanent housing. HOT is administered by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin and funded by Marin County Department of Health and Human Services.

Whole Person Care

In June 2017, Marin County Department of Health & Human Services (Marin HHS) received approval from the state to begin implementation of Whole Person Care. The vision of the County of Marin’s Whole Person Care Pilot (WPC) is to build a sustainable, evidence-based, outcomes-focused coordinated system of care across health and social sectors to more efficiently and effectively serve Marin County’s most vulnerable Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

The WPC pilot is building upon existing programs and services by implementing a unified, coordinated entry and care management system; by standardizing screening, assessments, and care coordination; and, by promoting bi-directional information sharing and care coordination among providers. The goal for this systems-level change is new, coordinated, and sustainable approaches to meeting the needs of high-risk, high-cost Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

Downtown Streets Team

The County was a founding partner with the City of San Rafael launching the Downtown Streets Team (DST) in San Rafael in 2013, expanding to Mill Valley and Novato in 2018. DST provides assistance to homeless and at-risk individuals who are ready to begin integrating back into society. In exchange for offering high-value volunteer hours, Team members receive non-cash stipends to meet their basic needs. Today, homeless individuals contribute over 400 volunteer hours cleaning up downtown San Rafael, as well as setting-up and cleaning-up the weekly downtown farmer’s market. In addition, Team members discourage loitering, panhandling and disorderly conduct among prospective “team members,” earning the respect and support from city officials and local business owners.

I look forward to continuing to support this positive service approach to alleviating homeless and fulfilling much-needed services to our downtown San Rafael business district and beyond.

Emergency Shelter

While our primary focus for addressing homelessness is implementation of Housing First, (resulting in the housing of 100 chronically homeless over the past two years), emergency shelter has always been and continues to be a part of the response to homelessness. The County of Marin through its Health and Human services department continues to be a primary funder of 165 of Marin’s 190 year-round emergency shelter beds, including:

  • Mill Street Center (55 beds for men and women)
  • New Beginnings Center (64 beds for men and women)
  • Family Center (25 beds for families with children)
  • Voyager (10 beds for people with serious mental illness)
  • Transition to Wellness (6 medical respite beds for homeless exiting hospitals)
  • Center for Domestic Peace (30 beds for women and children fleeing domestic violence)

Additionally, during severe weather conditions (e.g. low temperatures combined with heavy rainfall) the County (in partnership with Homeward Bound and the Red Cross) will activate its “Severe Weather Shelter” with capacity for up to 80 individuals at the Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael.

Key Contacts for Assistance

Marin County Mobile Crisis Team, open 7 days 1pm-9pm:  415-473-6392

Crisis Stabilization Unit (formerly Psych Emergency Services): 415-473-6666

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

Mental Health Access and Assessment:  888-818-1115

Substance Use Access and Assessment:  415-755-2345

Public Assistance: 415-473-3400

In the News

Chronically homeless are benefiting from housing first (Marin Voice, November 2018)

Marin Supervisors celebrate success of housing first transition (Marin IJ, October 2018)

Marin program for homeless looks to expand success (Marin IJ, September 2018)

Positive signs for Marin’s housing first homeless strategy (Marin IJ editorial, May 2018)

Funding sought for new approach to Marin homeless (Marin IJ, April 2018)

San Rafael detox program to open in new center (Marin IJ, April 2018)

Page last updated: December 2018

Roads, Traffic and Transportation Issues

As we all know and experience nearly daily, traffic volumes are at an all-time high and the ensuing congestion a major frustration for everyone dependent on our local roads to get around. The increase in traffic is impacting our overall quality of life, the environment and challenging our mobility as a community. Traffic volume has grown significantly over the last several years with a robust bay area economy and ensuing job growth (both within Marin and regionally) being the primary drivers. Add to that a booming school age population, meaning more car trips to and from school as well as after-school activities.

And, yes, those of us without children at home are driving more too. The average Marin County household generates 10-12 trips per day now, versus six trips per day when I was growing up. In fact, that six trips per day per household number was used by traffic engineers and city planners to calculate roadway capacity needs going forward when many of our major roadways were expanded in the 60's and 70's.

Addressing today's traffic congestion will take a multi-prong approach including: maximizing the efficiency of existing roadways, reducing the number of cars on the road, and improvements in public transportation, including school bus programs, and programs encouraging biking, walking, carpooling  and alternative commute modes.

The good news – there are currently several public agency efforts underway at addressing traffic woes. 

See below for more information about these efforts:

Sir Francis Drake Improvement Project

The Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (SFDB) Rehabilitation Project consists of several physical modifications to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor between Highway 101 and Ross and repaving the entire roadway in the unincorporated area of Marin County and the City of Larkspur. The funding source for the project, Measure A (Marin County Transportation) Road Rehabilitation funds, are dedicated to repaving the entire roadway segment and constructing associated, mandated improvements such as ADA improvements. A detailed planning process facilitated the consideration of additional improvements in the corridor. Opportunities analysis by Department of Public Works and the consultant team, along with extensive public outreach, resulted in identification of several potential corridor improvements to address the community’s concerns regarding traffic congestion, safety and the movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists along and across the congested corridor.

The additional improvements include modification to the configuration and geometry of several intersections, replacement of traffic signal controls with modern equipment, widening sidewalks and improving roadway crossings for pedestrians, and installation of additional conduits to enable future adaptive signal technology and other fiber optic communications. A separately-funded pipeline replacement project by Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) has also been incorporated into the project as construction of the two projects together is more cost-efficient, less disruptive, and less environmentally impactful than being constructed separately.

The Board of Supervisors certified the project’s Environmental Impact Report and approved a final project for design and construction on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.  For information on the EIR and project elements, read the staff report and click here for a summary of project from presentation. The project will now move into design phase, with construction tentatively planned for Spring/Summer of 2019 and 2020. Visit the project website for further information and to sign up for updates.

Coordination of Sir Francis Drake Traffic Signals

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded a Program for Arterial System Synchronization (PASS) grant to Caltrans, Larkspur, and County of Marin for a signal synchronization project on Sir Francis Drake (SFD) in Larkspur, Greenbrae, and Kentfield. Project area includes the SFD improvement project area (101 to town of Ross) plus 2 lights on East SFD by Larkspur Landing. The Program will update current signal timing to reflect current traffic counts and patterns. The new timing schedule will also provide a baseline for development of the ultimate timing for the modern traffic signals being installed with the SFD Improvement project.

The Project will study and synchronize 11 traffic signals, 9 in County and 2 in Larkspur. Caltrans will review the study, which analyses 2 of its signals located near 101 access ramps. It's currently in early planning stages, requiring analysis of traffic data and determining viable improvement strategies. The grant is roughly $84,000 to help fund coordination of 3 agencies to improve traffic signal timing. It covers 85% of retiming work and half of related GPS clock infrastructure improvements in the estimated $98,000 project. Local funding (approx. $15,000) will be split by County and Larkspur in proportion to number of signals under its jurisdiction (roughly $12,500 and $2,800).

Implementation is anticipated to begin Spring 2019 and completed by summer 2019. Click here to read the press release.

Richmond-San Rafael Third Lane Project

The eastbound third land on the Richmond- San Rafael bridge is now open! The added lane is available from 2 to 7 p.m. every day of the week, allowing Caltrans to retain a shoulder for maintenance work during other times of the day. Twenty overhead signs on the span show a green arrow or red “X” to indicate whether the lane is open and a yellow “X” and arrow during the transition. Cameras to watch traffic on the span also have been added. Drivers should not be in the lane during off hours and face citations from the California Highway Patrol if there’s a violation.  Traffic congestion has significantly lessened since the lane opened on April 20, 2018.

A four year pilot for a multi-use path for bike and pedestrians with a movable barrier (with no plan to move barrier except for maintenance) is in planning for upper deck. Usage will be monitored. At request of Marin County Board of Supervisors, Bay Area Transit Authority is currently exploring idea/feasibility of adding travel lane during limited hours in AM by moving the barrier.

Visit the project page on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission website for more information.

SB 1 & ACA 5 – Transportation Funding, Reform and Protection Plan

In spring 2017, the State Senate and Assembly passed SB 1 (Beall), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The $5.2 billion generated annually for California’s state and local transportation system ensures that Californians have safe and reliable streets, roads and bridges and a solid transportation network. Both houses also passed ACA 5, which ensures that revenues generated by SB 1 are spent only on their intended purpose. This action provides significant public benefit for transportation in every county across California, Marin included.

Statewide, cities and counties evenly share an average of $1.5 billion/year in new local road funding from SB 1. The funds are non-competitive and will come to the County in monthly disbursements from the State Controller. There is no sunset, and funding grows with inflation. Marin’s average annual share of new funding from SB 1 is $5,300,000 over the next decade.

Counties can access grant funding from active transportation, congested corridors, and goods movement programs funded by the bill, which also includes significant ongoing funding for transit services and state highway maintenance.

The revenues will be phased-in over a multi-year period:

  • Gas and diesel excise taxes and diesel sales tax began in November 2017
  • Transportation improvement fee began in Spring 2018
  • The price-based excise tax will be reset to 17.3 cents in July 2019
  • New Zero Emissions Vehicles will begin to pay an additional registration fee for road maintenance in 2020. ACA 5 ensures that all of these revenue sources are constitutionally-protected and cannot be diverted to non-transportation purposes.

Reducing School Related Traffic Congestion

School related traffic comprises anywhere from 20-40% of a.m. traffic within various communities throughout Marin. It is an obvious target for efforts geared towards reducing local surface street traffic - hence Safe Routes to Schools, Transportation Authority of Marin's crossing guards program and other efforts addressing school related traffic. These programs have been successful, significantly increasing the numbers of students carpooling, biking, walking and riding transit to school, but as school populations have increased, so too traffic, and thus efforts to do more. Here's the latest on two projects I have advocated for and are now being implemented by Marin Transit and partners

  • Express Bus Service between San Rafael Transit Center to College of Marin. This route (route 122) has more frequent service during student commute hours and also eliminates several stops along the way, shaving about 10 minutes off run time. The express bus came on line in 2015, the same time as newly instituted student bus passes were made available to all COM students. Marin Transit and the College continue to work together to make transit an attractive option for students and reducing traffic in SFD corridor.

    Additionally, Marin Transit is looking at what other local bus routes might be converted to express bus and /or have express bus service added to them towards increasing transit ridership.

  • Yellow School Bus Pilot. Marin Transit, in partnership with Ross Valley School District and families, Towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax, is piloting a Yellow School Bus program for a third year for students attending White Hill Middle School in Fairfax. Approximately 500 of White Hill's 800 students are taking the bus to and/or from school, literally removing close to 2000 car trips a day off crowded Sir Francis Drake. Current ridership represents an increase over the number of kids who used transit service to White Hill in past years, formerly provided by Golden Gate Transit. Marin Transit and County are also working with Kentfield School District in hopes to launch a yellow bus pilot for that community as well in the near future.

Looking forward, Marin Transit is closely monitoring the yellow bus pilot as part of the recently completed countywide student transportation study by Marin Transit in coordination with the Transportation Authority of Marin, the Marin County Office of Education, and the Safe Routes to School program. The study is aimed at increasing "best fit/green trip" transportation solutions for public schools throughout the county. Yellow Bus Service being one tool of many that will play a role in reducing school-related traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and getting kids to school safely, happily, and on time.

In the News

Sir Francis Drake traffic light timing aims to ease gridlock (Marin IJ, September 2018)

Marin Supervisors green light Sir Francis Drake overhaul (Marin IJ, May 2018)

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Rehab Progresses (Press Release, May 2018)

It's done - third lane on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge open for business (Marin IJ, April 2018)

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Third Lane Set to Open (Marin IJ, April 2018)

Resources

County of Marin Roads – learn about road closures, projects and maintenance; get contact information for questions and complaints, subscribe for updates

Transportation Authority of Marin - information about meetings, events and projects

Marin Transit – information on bus schedules, services, maps

Metropolitan Transportation Commission - information about projects, meetings, opportunities for involvement

Page last updated: November 14, 2018

Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program

The Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program was initiated by the County of Marin partnering with the towns and cities in Ross Valley after the 2005 New Year’s Eve flood. The program was developed to identify comprehensive watershed solutions through implementation of a region-wide flood management program that promotes healthy watershed processes and integrates environmental stewardship and restoration with flood reduction, storm drainage and community preparedness. 

In 2007, Ross Valley parcel owners approved a parcel fee on all parcels that drain into the Ross Valley watershed to help fund annual costs for a flood protection program and to leverage additional outside grant funding necessary to fully fund projects.  Since 2012, over $31M in grant funds have been secured for the Program’s flood control projects.

Studies completed to date demonstrate that multiple strategies need to be employed to reduce flood risk, from increasing capacity and removing constrictions in the creek, to finding sites for holding back/detaining floodwaters during heavier storms. The true litmus test for any project is that it will effectively address our chronic flooding problem while also providing added benefits consistent with the desires of our community. Successful implementation of the program will depend on the continued involvement, cooperation and commitment of local jurisdictions, agencies, community leaders and residents from throughout the Ross Valley.

See below for more detailed information on the overall program and current projects.

Program History

Since the flood fee’s passage, the Flood Control District has utilized these funds to conduct several studies addressing flood reduction in Ross Valley including the Capital Improvement Plan Study for Flood Damage Reduction and Creek Management for Flood Zone 9/Ross Valley (CIP) (Stetson, 2011) and the Ross Valley Flow Reduction Study Report (Flow Reduction Study) (CH2M, 2015). The CIP described plans and technical rationale for a suite of on-the-ground flood reduction measures, spread watershed-wide, that work together as a system to reduce flooding and seek to restore the ecological health and function of Corte Madera Creek and its tributaries. The Flow Reduction Study re-examined the flood control measures proposed in the CIP and added other new measures either not previously considered, or if considered, were ruled out based on prior screening criteria. One of the key goals of the Flow Reduction Study was to reexamine the proposed detention basin sites, as well as consider additional detention basin sites, to ensure every option was assessed before moving forward with complex flood reduction measures. The Study reaffirmed the need for detention basins to be implemented alongside creek improvement measures to achieve Program objectives.

The CIP and Flow Reduction Study utilized a computer-based floodwater model of the Ross Valley Watershed to examine numerous approaches to flood risk management. Collectively, the various recommended flood reduction measures would function collectively to contain the 100-year flood event along Corte Madera Creek and its contributing tributaries in Ross Valley.  The results of these studies form the foundation of the Program.  The Flood Control District is currently upgrading and expanding the hydrologic and hydraulic model to include additional portions of the watershed, incorporate climate change projections and model potential flood reduction measure options.  

Flood risk reduction projects will be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 (2017-2027, the period of the current flood fee) will target a goal of 25-year flood protection (4% chance of occurring in any one year) and Phase 2 (2028-2050, depending on securing funding sources such as grants or a renewal of the flood fee) will add additional measures to achieve a target goal of 100-year flood protection.

Current Projects

Encouraging progress is being made with many of our projects, including the San Anselmo Risk Reduction Project, the U.S. Army Corps Corte Madera Creek Flood Risk Management Project, town bridge replacements, and a comprehensive assessment/recommendations for creek and levee improvements in lower Corte Madera Creek within Larkspur.

  • San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction Project

    On September 18 of this year, the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District/Board of Supervisors certified the final environmental impact report (EIR) and approved moving ahead with the San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction Project (SAFRR). The SAFRR is comprised of several elements, located in different areas of the watershed, with direct benefit for residents in multiple communities. The primary elements are: a flood diversion/storage basin at the former Sunnyside Nursery growing grounds site in unincorporated Fairfax (County of Marin) which will provide increased flood protection in downstream Fairfax; and the removal of a building that currently impedes creek flow in San Anselmo which will help reduce flooding in downtown San Anselmo as well as neighborhoods in Ross.

    The project includes environmental and recreation benefits as well. Specifically, the former Fairfax nursery site will be restored to support native vegetation and a seasonal creek, and the removal of the building in San Anselmo will allow for the expansion of Creekside Park, an exciting opportunity to enhance a much-loved public space.

    By implementing the San Anselmo Flood Risk project, hundreds of parcels in Fairfax, San Anselmo and Ross will no longer flood during a 10-year flood event (one in ten chance of happening any year) and hundreds more will experience reduced flood water depth during both 10 and 25-year flood events. In technical terms, the project will result in a net reduction in flooding for about 530 parcels during flood events that have a 10 percent chance of occurring any given year.

    The project is funded by a $8.7 million state grant and $8.7 million in local funds (Ross Valley Storm Water parcel tax). Project design and permitting will begin this fall. Construction is anticipated to begin summer 2019 with construction of the basin at nursery site in Fairfax, following by work in downtown San Anselmo summer 2020. Visit the project page for more information.

  • USACE Corte Madera Creek Flood Risk Management Project

    The primary goal of the Corte Madera Creek Flood Risk Management Project (project) is to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding and to protect human life and property in the communities of Ross and Kentfield by enhancing and improving Corte Madera Creek. The project will make improvements to the existing work that was completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the 1970s, which included construction of a concrete channel that starts in the Town of Ross and ends at the earthen channel in Kentfield. The project will increase the capacity of the channel and remove impediments to flow to keep more flood waters in the creek. The flood reduction measures include widening and removing portions of the concrete channel along Corte Madera Creek to create flood plains and riparian corridors, installing flood walls adjacent to the banks, stabilizing creek slopes, and removing the wooden fish ladder in Ross.

    The Project is being phased in order to move priority flood reduction measures in Ross and Kentfield years ahead of the larger Project's schedule by utilizing a $7.6M grant from the Department of Water Resources (DWR). In June 2017, the Flood Zone 9 Advisory Board approved reallocating DWR grant funds from the Phoenix Lake Integrated Regional Water Management Project (determined to be infeasible as proposed due to grant restrictions) to create Phase 1 of the Corte Madera Flood Risk Management Project.

    The Draft EIR/EIS was released for public review and comment on November 12 for a 45-day comment period, ending on November 27, 2018. For more information, including to review the Draft EIR and how to comment, visit the project page.

  • Town Bridge Replacement Projects (Fairfax, Ross, San Anselmo)

    The Flood Control and Water Conservation District is working with the Towns of Fairfax, San Anselmo, and Ross for the replacement bridges that pose safety, public/traffic access, and flood risk issues.

    In terms of flood risk, many of the bridges are more than 50 years old and were built in a manner that impedes water flow in the creek and acts as a constriction. When rising water flows hit the lower-design bridge within the creek channel, flood waters break out of the channel and flood surrounding communities.

    Visit the project page for more information on Azalea, Nokomis, Madrone, Sycamore & Center, and Winship bridges.

  • Lower Corte Madera Creek Levee Evaluation

    The Lower Corte Madera Creek Levee Evaluation will provide a comprehensive assessment of the current condition of the levee and creek system downstream of the concrete channel and identify and provide recommendations for improvements. The Study is intended to assess the need for future projects and consider potential project concepts that could be partially funded for final design and construction under the LLAP or from other funding sources. The Study is funded by a grant the District received under the Local Levee Assistance Program (LLAP) from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that will provide 55% reimbursement of costs for both past and future work covered under the grant.

    For more information, visit the project page.

In addition to projects above, an expanded creek cleaning program has been launched that targets removal of concrete debris to increase channel flow and improve creek habitat.  And, in 2016, feasibility and engineering studies for improvements in the Morningside/Lower Sleepy Hollow Creek area were initiated.  

See Ross Valley Watershed Program for a listing of more projects and further updates and to subscribe for program updates.

In the News

Supervisors approve contract for Ross Valley Flood Design Work (Marin IJ, January 2019)

San Anselmo merchants prepare exit as flood projects nears (Marin IJ, January 2019)

Ross Valley Flood Project Environmental Report Released (Marin IJ, October 2018)

San Anselmo Flood Control Project headed to key hearing (Marin IJ, September 2018)

Two projects will help reduce Ross Valley flood threat (Marin Voice, June 2018)

New Weather Gauges to Boost Flood Preparedness (Press Release, March 2018)

Resources

Page last updated: November 14, 2018