San Anselmo flood control debate

San Anselmo council candidates debate, agree on everything but flood control By: Richard Halstead (rhalstead@marinij.com) Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 – 10:03 p.m. A debate Tuesday night demonstrated that the four candidates competing for two seats on the San Anselmo Town Council agree on most issues with one notable exception: flood control. Two candidates – incumbent Doug Kelly and Lise Stampfli Torme, co-founder of the Flood Mitigation League of Ross Valley – favor a proposal to use Memorial Park as an emergency flood detention basin. The other candidates – incumbent Ford Greene and Matt Brown – oppose the idea; Brown helped lead a signature gathering campaign that put an initiative on the November ballot that would prohibit the park’s use as a detention basin. “This is a watershed, no pun intended, moment in our history here in the Ross Valley,” Torme said in her closing statement. “You get to choose what kind of candidate you want to solve your flooding problem.” Brown said, “The Memorial Park detention basin has divided this community. It is the deciding issue in this race.” More than 100 people turned out for the two-hour event, which the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce sponsored at Sir Francis Drake High School. Former state Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni served as moderator. The candidates responded to questions dealing with a range of topics. Only one question related to flood control. But the candidates didn’t wait to be asked about the issue, they each addressed it in their opening statements. Advertisement “There is a very real environmental threat in the name of flood control that is coming down at us,” Brown said. “For too long government has been grant driven. We find a source of money, we devise policy to get that money and then we force that policy on people, who may or may not want that. We’ve seen it in Plan Bay Area.” The town of San Anselmo has secured an $8.7 million grant that will pay both for upgrading the park and converting it for dual use as an emergency detention basin. Greene addressed his comments to Measure E, an initiative that the San Anselmo Town Council placed on the November ballot to counter Measure D, which would prohibit the use of Memorial Park as a detention basin. With the exception of Greene, the council supports the park’s use as a detention basin. Measure E calls for an environmental impact study on the Memorial Park plan to be followed by a public vote on its use for flood control. “Measure E proponents say they will make you flood safe and park perfect. E people are not telling you the whole truth,” Greene said. “There is a $8.7 million grant, but like everything else in life, it does not come for free.” Greene said that if the town ultimately decides not to use the park for flood control that it will be stuck with the $1.5 million cost of doing the environmental impact report. Stampfli and Kelly defended the plan. “We all know what happened in 2005. We had an enormous flood,” Stampfli said. “It cost our community millions, and it will continue to cost our community millions because we will surely flood again. The El Niño year is upon us. Who knows if the water is going to leave the creek, but we must do something about it.” Kelly said, “I love Memorial Park. I intend to protect that park, but I have a different vision than some others. It’s a great thing that we’ve got these grants. If it were driving policy that might be a different issue. It’s not driving policy.” At the debate’s conclusion, Kelly expressed some frustration that more questions hadn’t touched on flood control. “I don’t think this Town Council has done a great job of educating the public,” Kelly said. “What I have learned knocking on doors is there is an unbelievable amount of misinformation. I don’t have time to address that tonight.” Kelly did say, however, that claims that a reconfigured park would feature 10-foot walls on four sides is incorrect. “That is absolutely untrue. It will not be walled in,” Kelly said. “The current plans looks like there might be one wall, lower than the tennis court fences.” The candidates were asked how they would generate the same amount of flood protection for the town if Memorial Park was dropped from the plan. Greene said he would increase the height of the dam at Phoenix Lake. “Flooding starts in Ross and it works its way backwards up into San Anselmo,” Greene said, adding later that flooding only occurs during high tides. Torme responded, “Ford’s got his engineering backwards here. Water flows downhill. It leaves Phoenix Lake and maybe you get some kind of a backup eddy going, but it doesn’t flood our downtown. We go out of bank way further up.” Brown said the detention sites he favors are a gulch in the Loma Alta Open Space Preserve, the former Sunnyside plant nursery, and Deer Park. The former nursery site is privately owned, and Deer Park is owned by the Ross Valley School District. Torme and Kelly cautioned that the use of private property is problematic since it would have to be purchased. “Is there going to be enough money to do that? That is going to be the big question,” Torme said. “Using Memorial Park for flood detention doesn’t cost anything. That is why the engineers decided to look at publicly owned parcels first.” Despite their disagreement over Memorial Park, the candidates expressed similar views on maintaining the town’s floor area ratio limits, limiting the town’s pension expenditures, the need to address traffic congestion and opposing the creation of multifamily, affordable housing in San Anselmo. “Marin County is virtually incapable of growing because of our constrained water supply and transportation systems,” Brown said. “We are just not set up to accommodate high density residential here in the suburbs.” Kelly said, “This is small community. We don’t have the water. We don’t have the infrastructure.” All four said they objected to state agencies linking local grants to planning decisions designed to reduce auto emissions and thus address global warming. “Democracy starts with local decision making and local control,” Green said. “The imposition of housing and transportation requirements from top down take that control away.” Torme said, “Traffic is horrible. We cannot sustain a larger population here. I would agree local control in this case is imperative.” Marketplace © 2015 Digital First Media v. 0.968 Contact Us Privacy Policy Copyright View Desktop Site David Nolen Swaim Owner Tam Realty Inc DRE-1070789 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 415-710-5504 www.tamrealty.com

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