After two lengthy public meetings in December 2012, the San Rafael City Council approved the San Rafael Airport Recreational Facility project by a three-to-one vote.  The minority vote was cast by Council Member Damon Connolly, who argued unsuccessfully for placing the 24 remaining acres at the airport under a conservation easement to preserve a long-term public benefit. It was a disappointing but not unexpected outcome of a six-year process of reviewing the project.

In October 2013, the Gallinas Defense Council settled with the City of San Rafael and the San Rafael Airport a legal challenge to the Airport Sports complex.

Here is a summary of the major provisions of that settlement:

Hours of Operation: The airport agreed to end use of outdoor fields earlier - by 9 PM.

The petitioner (Gallinas Defense Council) agreed that it would not oppose if the Airport filed a request with the City to extend the indoor field hours to 11 PM weekdays (instead of 10:30 PM) and 12 AM weekends (instead of 11 PM). Should the airport file such a request, the items above must be included. 

The airport has applied for a use permit amendment to request the changes to the indoor field hours and to incorporate the outdoor field and building safety measures agreed to per the settlement agreement. The City Council met on January 21, 2014 to decide whether to grant the amendment to allow the indoor field hours to be extended back to the originally requested longer hours, but the applicant subsequently withdrew the request.

Marin County Gallinas Watershed Program: The airport gave the City of San Rafael $20,000 to contribute to the Marin County Watershed program. This is in addition to the $40,000 that the City had already pledged to the program. This money will be used to jumpstart studies and grants to provide an integrated program for habitat restoration and flood control. The watershed program provides some hope for long term benefits.

Safety: The indoor facility will be limited to 345 people at all times, down from 450+ people in the original use permit. The airport also agreed to some other minor structural enhancements for safety.

airportgraphic

The Final Environmental Impact Report for the project is available on the city website.


The basic project: The project site is a 9.1 acre portion of the overall 119.5-acre airport site, which lies between the north and south forks of Gallinas Creek. The proposed 85,700 square-foot private, indoor/outdoor sports complex would contain two indoor soccer fields and dance and gymnastics area, a lighted outdoor soccer field for night games, an unlighted soccer warm-up area, and 7-day-a-week operation.

Environmentalists have for years monitored wildlife, including the endangered California Clapper Rail,in the marshes of Gallinas Creek. The ecological sensitivity of this diked, former tidal marshwas recognized in 1983, when the City and County agreed to allow higher-than-usual density near the freeway (Autodesk etc.) in order to keep the wetlands to the east free from development. Both parcels were subsequently sold to developer Joe Shekou.

Although a covenant dating from 1983 restricts uses of the airport, “public and private recreation” is included among those uses, city staff have argued that the complex complies with the covenant.  MCL and many others view this response as unsatisfactory, citing the intent of the covenant, which was to limit development and human activities, not to intensify development.

Marin Conservation League does not support this project at the proposed location.

In addition to MCL's concerns over the proximity of the project to Gallinas Creek and its endangered species habitats, and the Santa Venetia neighborhoods' concerns about its effects on its community, there are additional questions concerning the basic safety of a large sports facility open to both adults and children situated so close to an airport runway. The California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics commented on the Negative Declaration for the project in 2006 and the Draft EIR in 2009. But in 2011, the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook was updated, and new safety standards and regulations were set. Additionally, the California Pilots Association has been strongly critical of the project, stating, "To place children in these zones of proven risk...is unthinkable." Both the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity also sent comment letters to the City of San Rafael. (See links below in Documents and Correspondence.)

(For more background, see MCL Newsletter for November-December 2011.)


 

Documents and Correspondence

 

CITY OF SAN RAFAEL

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

 

You are invited to attend the Planning Commission hearing on the following project:

 

PROJECT:

397-400 Smith Ranch Road (San Rafael Airport Recreational Facility Project Amendment) – Request for an amendment to the Master Use Permit (UP05-08) Conditions of Approval to modify hours of operation and construction details of the recently approved  85,700-square-foot recreational building and outdoor fields located on a 16.6 acre portion of the San Rafael Airport site, to address the terms of the settlement agreement between the City of San Rafael, the San Rafael Airport LLC and Gallinas Defense Council,  Inc.; APN: 155-230-10 thru 16; PD 1909-WO District; San Rafael Airport LLC, owner/applicant; File No: UP13-050

 

 

 

As required by state law, the project's potential environmental impacts have been assessed. On December 17, 2012 the City Council certified an Environmental Impact Report prepared for the project pursuant to the terms of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).This amendment is consistent with the scope of project evaluated by the EIR and is proposed based on a settlement agreement resolving a lawsuit preciously challenging certification of the subject EIR.

HEARING DATE:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014  at 7:00 P.M.

LOCATION:

San Rafael City Hall – City Council Chambers

1400 Fifth Avenue at "D" Street

San Rafael, California

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

You can comment on the project. The Planning Commission will consider all public testimony and decide whether to approve the project application.

 

IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND:

You can send a letter to the Community Development Department, Planning Division, City of San Rafael, P.O. Box 151560, San Rafael, CA 94915-1560. You can also hand deliver it prior to the meeting.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Contact Kraig Tambornini, Project Planner at (415) 485-3092or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also come to the Planning Division office, located in City Hall, 1400 Fifth Avenue, to look at the file for the proposed project. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday and Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. You can also view the staff report after 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the meeting at http://www.cityofsanrafael.org/meetings

 

SAN RAFAEL PLANNING COMMISSION

 

/s/  Paul A Jensen

Paul A Jensen

Community Development Director

 

 

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