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

In 2015, the Board of Supervisors 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 current Affordable Housing Program is to preserve and expand the range and supply of adequate, accessible, and affordable housing through housing policies, regulations and programs.

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.

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.

Experience and analysis of recent catastrophic wildfire events have made it ever clearer that our wildfire risk can be reduced if we take proper action and are properly prepared as individuals and as a community. Every property owner, every resident, neighborhood, business, and every public agency has a role to play in reducing our collective risk and becoming better prepared in the event of a wildfire. Reflecting this imperative, a cross-jurisdictional, multi-agency effort has been underway to develop and implement a county-wide, coordinated strategy for wildfire prevention.

Over the past year, local fire professionals have collaborated with the County and Marin’s cities and towns to develop a comprehensive, coordinated wildfire prevention program and devise an appropriate governance structure and funding mechanism to put such a program into action countywide. Their work was officially unveiled at a presentation to the Board of Supervisors summer 2019 and the Board took formal action in the fall to create the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, a JPA focused on significantly enhancing and coordinating local wildfire prevention education and preparedness efforts. The JPA is made up of 17 fire-responsible agencies, including the County of Marin, representing more than 98% of the land and more than 96% of the residents of Marin.

In November, the BOS adopted a resolution authorizing a ballot item for a parcel tax measure to create funding for the new Marin Wildfire Prevention. The tax initiative will be on the March 2020 ballot and if passed, would raise approximately $19.3 million per year solely for wildfire prevention programs in Marin. The tax funding is limited to 10 years, includes a low-income exemption for property owners 65 and older and an exemption for churches, nonprofits and local governments. A citizen’s oversight committee will be created to evaluate the authority program’s consistency with the tax measure.

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
  • 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 judgment 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
  • 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
  • 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.


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. Since October 2017, the County and its partners have permanently housed 162 chronically homeless residents. The January Point-in -Time Count reported a reduction in chronic homelessness by 28% since 2017.

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. This shift in Marin’s approach to homelessness didn’t happen overnight. It was 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. Visit the Housing First website to learn more.

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:

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. The program has successfully averaged between 25 and 30 active Team Members since inception, which is 250% more program participation than originally envisioned by the City of San Rafael.

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, 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 (80 beds for men and women)
  • Family Center (shelter for nine families with children)
  • Voyager (39 rooms 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
  • Helen Vine Recovery Center: 415-492-0818
  • NAMI of Marin County: 415-444-0480 (M-F 1-3pm)
  • Warmline Phone Support for Peers (7 days a week 1-9pm): 415-459-6330
  • Substance Use Access and Assessment:  415-755-2345
  • Public Assistance: 415-473-3400

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. The project is currently in the final design stage. Construction is anticipated to begin Spring 2020 and is expected to take 2 years to complete. 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 included the SFD improvement project area (101 to town of Ross) plus 2 lights on East SFD by Larkspur Landing. The Program updated current signal timing to reflect current traffic counts and patterns. The new timing schedule also provides a baseline for development of the ultimate timing for the modern traffic signals being installed with the SFD Improvement project.

The Project studied and synchronized 11 traffic signals, 9 in County and 2 in Larkspur. Caltrans reviewed the study, which analyzed 2 of its signals located near 101 access ramps. The grant was roughly $84,000 to help fund coordination of 3 agencies to improve traffic signal timing. It covered 85% of retiming work and half of related GPS clock infrastructure improvements in the estimated $98,000 project. Local funding (approx. $15,000) was split by County and Larkspur in proportion to number of signals under its jurisdiction (roughly $12,500 and $2,800).

The project has been completed. 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 2018.

A four year pilot for a multi-use path for bike and pedestrians with a movable concrete barrier (like the moveable median barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge) has begun on the upper deck - the bicycle pedestrian path from Point Richmond to San Rafael was completed/opened November 2019. Usage will be monitored. A "zipper truck" will be used to move the barrier when necessary, typically to allow Bay Area Transit Authority (BATA) and Caltrans to conduct bridge maintenance work during short closures of the bike/ped path. Most of these closures will occur at night. Marin County Board of Supervisors is asking for consideration of shared use for vehicles, carpools and transit in the third lane westbound during morning commute hours.

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 was 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. All COM students get unlimited access to local Marin Transit buses, including an express route to the Kentfield campus, with their validated COM Card.
  • Yellow School Bus Service.Marin Transit's Yellow School Bus program, in partnership with the City of San Anselmo, the Town of Fairfax, and the County of Marin, provides students at White Hill Middle School, Hidden Valley Elementary School, and Ross Valley Charter School the opportunity to ride to and from school on a bus that’s been specifically designed for student transportation operated by drivers trained to service this population. The program is in its fourth year and approximately 63% of White Hill students have a bus pass, literally removing close to 2000 car trips a day off crowded Sir Francis Drake.

    On January 1, 2019, the Ross Valley Yellow Bus Transportation Services Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (JEPA) went into effect. The members of the JEPA form a joint committee including the Town of San Anselmo, Town of Fairfax, County of Marin, and Ross Valley School District. The purpose of the joint committee is to provide enhanced public oversight and transparency for the yellow bus program operated by Marin Transit and serving public schools in the Ross Valley. The joint committee will provide policy guidance and advice to Marin Transit. Learn more about the joint committee and view presentations and meeting materials.

    Marin Transit and County are also working with Kentfield School District in hopes to launch a yellow bus program for that community as well in the near future

    Looking forward, Marin Transit is closely monitoring the yellow bus pilot as part of the 2015 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.


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, which caused nearly $95 million in damages in the communities of Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield and Larkspur. 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 2018, over $35M 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 Corte Madera Creek Flood Risk Management Project, 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). It is currently in final design and permitting stage. Construction on the Sunnyside Nursery site is expected to begin in Summer 2020, and construction on project components in downtown San Anselmo also could begin as soon as 2020, pending coordination with the Ross Winship Bridge reconstruction schedule. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Visit the project page for more information.

  • 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 scope and schedule changed in 2019 due to several constraints that were identified during the environmental review process for the original project led by the USACE. As a result, the Flood Zone 9 Advisory Board (AB) and District Board of Supervisors approved suspending the current agreement with the USACE for three years to assume local management of a project that aligns with local community priorities and to ensure nearer-term flood mitigation and preserve grant funding to support the project.

    The Project scope and measures are being reassessed and the District is working closely with the Town of Ross and the AB to refine the project description and schedule as it transitions from the USACE-led planning process to the District. A project description will be developed following a series of technical studies that are underway in 2019. These technical studies will help determine the feasibility and benefit of proposed flood reduction measures for a refined Project.

    Visit the project page for more information.

  • 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.

    The Study includes bathymetric and land surveying, hydrological and hydraulic analysis, geotechnical engineering and assessment of remedial alternatives. An important part of the Study will be related to future sea level rise along Lower Corte Madera Creek. Data will be used to perform hydraulic modeling to determine current conditions and help guide the geotechnical investigation of the sites that will be evaluated. The study is expected to be released in early 2020.

    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 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.

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