At a recent Town of San Anselmo public Council meeting, the County of Marin presented their updated information regarding the “Plan” to remove the Creek Park Plaza structure, aka “Building Bridge 2” aka the Reimagine Creek Park Project aka “What is going on with with patio next to Creekside.” The answers are: Over $100M, June 2024, 6P’s, NIMBY, and FUBAR. Let’s revisit the original intention before we go on:
The Problem: . Building Bridge 2 (BB2), former home of L’appart Resto and three other businesses, is actually a bridge that spans the creek, just as Creekside, Flour Craft, Sushi 69, See-Saw Consignment and The Baan Thai are all on a bridge spanning the creek. The challenge is that our bridge structure is 46 feet wide by 15 feet high or in 2D… that’s a 690 square foot plane. BB2 is 22 feet wide by 11 feet high or… 242 square feet. Water flows under and from the larger Creekside “volume” towards BB2 which is a CHOKEPOINT and is THE major contributor to flooding the town when other weather and tidal factors bring us.. The Perfect Storm or The 50 Year Storm (which is more like every 20 years), or which ever movie reference you prefer. Let’s do the math: How many times does 690 sq ft go into 242? It doesn’t. The Solution: Remove the blockage. Action: The County of Marin buys BB2, demolishes the businesses on the platform, deepens and widens the creek (a manmade obstruction) and restores the natural flow of water, and County works with the Town of San Anselmo to create an improved public space in the area, eliminating the flood risk to homes and the devastation of downtown businesses. …but wait: There is Downstream Flood Mitigation to think about. This is where it gets messy:
The Next Problem: While the argument “more water will come downstream if BB2 is removed” is not perfectly accurate; it’s all the same amount of water volume in a Perfect Storm scenario, it’s just how quickly it flows downstream. BB2 acts as a Baffle, slowing down the flow of water, and then the greater downtown business and residential areas of San Anselmo become addition baffles or a retention basin when the flood waters hit BB2, can’t get the volume of water thru the 22 foot choke point and the waters flood the streets, businesses and surrounding neighborhoods. Removing BB2 therefore allows water to flow… however, in that Perfect Storm scenario (a Kings Tide, ground saturation and over 5 inches of rain per hour, and/or other factors like blockage), if BB2 is gone, then that same amount/volume of water goes downstream “faster” …causing a brief rise in the FLOOD PLANE, meaning.. a shitload of water is moving big and fast. Add in another government agency: FEMA… who doesn’t allow the construction or deconstruction of anything that will increase the downstream flood plane by as much as 0.0000 inches. Again, Solution: Remove BB2. Problem: Potential change in flood plane. Answer: Big deal. Who cares? Answer: Anything and anyone downstream. Problem: Homeowners in San Anselmo and Ross along the creek who are clearly already in the Flood Zone area…but now have to contend with “higher risk.” There’s also yet ANOTHER downstream bridge (Winship Bridge) that is also a constriction point. Solution: Remove and replace Winship bridge PRIOR to BB2 and MITIGATE flooding of high risk homes (20 to 50 homes along the creek).. Mitigation ranges from shoring-up, Riprap, and in some cases raising homes in Ross. Tactically, all the downstream mitigation should be done Prior to demo of BB2.
ReImagine Creek Park: This was (is) a multi-year plan and pubic design of how great the Creek Park area could be, incorporating the removal of BB2, a new public commons space with benches, new bridge that doesn’t suck, improved park stage and performance area and an overall downtown community-friendly and high use/utility area with a design and functionality to serve and stand for generations. So, the demo of BB2 leads to a great new usage area. This has been a long time vision and much planning and effort has gone into the design. You can see the design and find out more about ReImagine Creek Park by visiting the “county provided” fence that now surrounds the Plaza due to the potential “catastrophic failure” of the plaza structure in the event of a major earthquake. They’re not budging on this one, a second layer/attempt to show urgent cause to remove. Again, this man made concrete obstruction blocks over 50% of the natural flow of the water in the creek. It’s gotta go. But how?
BACK TO THE MEETING: With this all in mind, we return to the recent presentation by the County (owners of BB2 and masterminds behind the project and your public funds) to the San Anselmo Town Council. The County, with their reports, studies, numbers, and experts… pretty much gave a PowerPoint presentation, noting the funds spent to date, the future plan, some softball guesstimates on future funds needed, and the announcement of their INACTION this year to begin the scheduled demolition, now pushed off “for sure” for June 15, 2024. In a nutshell, here’s a couple of take-aways and findings from the presentation and the Town’s subsequent cross-examination of the “plan.” In round numbers, the County has spend 52 million since 2017 on consulting fees on this project. There is 20 million earmarked for the entire flood mitigation (including literally suggesting the lifting of several homes in Ross). Because FEMA funds run out in 2024, they need to do this before 2024, however, there is a 4 year buffer to 2028. County wants to demo BB2 before doing downstream mitigation, then do UPSTREAM mitigation because of the homes on the high side of the Winship Bridge (aka throwing good money after bad because they wouldn’t have to mitigate upstream if they did Winship first). So also to mitigate downstream, temporary “baffles” (like, concrete barriers) will be installed in the the middle of the new widened subject area next to Creekside, that will be removed in years after they complete the downstream mitigation because they have to demo BB2 now. The cost of this: let’s just say it’s a lot, but it’s 2.3 million short of a lot, so the notion of selling the County owned and now leased-back-to-county “Acorn Building Bridge” across from RVFD Station 19 was suggested as a way to raise that 2.3m. At about this time in the meeting, most of the sanity had left the building. Then the Town Council cross-examined the County. In short, The Town filleted the County over some pretty hot coals.
THE OUTCOME: The fence will remain up around BB2 by order of The County of Marin. The Town of San Anselmo’s requests and solutions to “use” the plaza structure were denied by the County; this is unfortunate. The County owns the Plaza; they have taken the ball and gone home on this one. The County is firm that they will demo BB2 in the summer of 2024 to restore the natural flow of the creek in flooding scenarios. Now, anticipating a 2023 no-go on the demo, the Town created the lovely Parklet in the former “curb cut” (no parking) area in front of BB2. This only cost the downtown area the loss of ONE single parking spot on the Avenue… a good trade off for the utility of the public space. Because the demo won’t happen this year, The Town of San Anselmo is able to use Creek Park as a live music venue for the LIVE ON THE AVENUE program beginning June of this year.
So, that’s one viewpoint on what happened. Over $50M of funds burned to date, a fence, some baffles, and a reminder of the 6 P’s. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Here at Creekside, we often jump before looking, and the world is not run by reasonable people, and any great endeavor requires risk and action, but sometimes you just can’t get there from here. A reminder: Don’t blame the People, focus on the Situation; the People are dance partners in the common goal, purpose, outcome for the greater good of our community. Think Aikido; the blending of two opposing forces joining in the same flow direction. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu.
In the meantime, we have a demo-free summer downtown, a much lovelier redwood fence than the chain-link blight fence, a bench-filled downtown public parklet, enjoy a wonderful downtown community of shops, retailers, restaurants and new businesses, a great live music and entertainment program, and the magic of San Anselmo here in the Heart of Marin.