Building Bridge #2 /Creek Park Plaza Updates
Council Subcommittee Update:
At the October 25, 2022 Town Council meeting, Mayor Fineman provided an update from the Creek Park Plaza/Building Bridge #2 Town Council subcommittee:
The Mayor reported that the subcommittee, consisting of herself and Council member Brian Colbert, along with Town staff including the Town Manager, Public Works Director, Assistant Public Works Director and Town Attorney, met with County and Flood District staff including Supervisor Katie Rice, the County Administrator, the Public Works Director and County Counsel. Also in attendance was Flood Zone 9 Advisory Committee chair, Bruce Ackerman of the Fairfax Town Council.
Mayor Fineman stated, “This first meeting was a chance to develop a baseline understanding of the closure timeline and different goals for the longtime vision of the space and to try to figure out ways to move forward in partnership. The Town is advocating very much for opening the structure back up and for doing what needs to be done to make it safe. It does not look like it like that is possible this winter. We hope by our next meeting in a month we will have a better sense around timeline and scope for mitigation to inform our position.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) - September 2022
Why was the Creek Park Plaza shut down?
In November 2018 the Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (District) purchased the buildings located at 632-636 San Anselmo Avenue, the concrete platform which supported the buildings is known as Building Bridge 2, or (BB2). The platform is also known locally as the Creek Park Plaza.
The foundation of BB2 creates a constriction in the creek that has contributed to flooding in the past during major flood events. The property was purchased with the intent to remove BB2 and restore the creek to reduce flood risk to hundreds of structures in Town and downstream as part of its San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction (SAFRR) project. At that time the Reimagine Creek Park project idea came to life to work in tandem with the District’s project to enhance Creek Park and create a Commons that connected the Park to the Avenue. In the spring of 2020, while the District worked to finalize its plans for the SAFRR project, rather than have vacant buildings sitting in the middle of downtown, the Town worked in cooperation with the District to demolish the buildings on top of BB2.
Town leases the deck of BB2
In June of 2020, in the height of the Covid Pandemic, the Town began leasing the deck of BB2 from the County for use as an extension to Creek Park, it came to be known as Creek Park Plaza. The Town covered the deck with bark and installed sinks, trash receptacles, trees, and picnic tables to facilitate public use.
Timely extension of the Town’s park space
The Plaza has been utilized by the public as an outdoor gathering area now for over two years. It was a welcome expansion to the Town’s outdoor space during the peak of COVID shutdowns. Previously Creek Park had been almost hidden behind the now demolished buildings at 632-636 San Anselmo Avenue. The Plaza provided the crucial connection between the Avenue and the Park.
In addition, through the summer and fall months, the Town Recreation Department and Chamber of Commerce have worked to provide live music in the amphitheater at Creek Park every weekend in collaboration with the Live-on-the-Avenuestreet closure events. The Plaza has provided access and additional seating areas for people gathered in Creek Park for those events.
County’s sudden announcement and closure
Town staff learned on August 30, 2022 that based on engineering report they had received, the District was considering removing BB2 before October 15th to avoid having BB2 go though another rainy season. As a result of this decision, on September 15, 2022 the District sent the Town a letter terminating the lease for BB2. The letter stated:
“The District has determined that the bridge structure that exists within the leased premises is structurally unsound and poses a danger and hazard to the public. The Town is advised to immediately prohibit any and all uses of the area and take reasonable actions to prevent entry by the public during the 30-day termination notice period. At this time, we would like to work with the Town to erect barriers to prevent access to the property.”
The Town was notified by District staff that the safety concerns were identified in engineering reports on the structural integrity of BB2. These reports were submitted by Martin and Martin, by MRC and by Ballard and Watkins. In preparation of evaluating the emergency demolition, watercourse and FEMA Floodplain Manager permits, the Town hired a structural engineer to provide an independent report of the structural integrity of BB2. In a report prepared by structural engineer, Sunny Jhutti, Jhutti indicated that BB2 is structurally sound.1 (Jhutti Report). This report was shared with District staff for their review.
On Friday September 17, 2022, the District erected low plastic fences and no trespassing signs on BB2 to prevent further entry, and on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the District installed chain link fencing around the perimeter of BB2.
Does the Town have any recourse?
With the termination of the lease, the Town cannot utilize the Plaza as a gathering space going forward. The District owns BB2 and is in charge of the SAFRR project; therefore the Board of Supervisors will make any final decisions about what to do with BB2 and how the SAFRR project will proceed. At this point it appears that the baffles project may be proposed, unless the District develops another approach that would preserve BB2 until the SAFRR project mitigation can be completed.
What about Flood mitigation?
Is San Anselmo Avenue meant to be a catch basin for future high water events?
Before the Pandemic struck the District had been moving forward on plans to remove BB2 in the summer of 2021, so the District could proceed with their flood mitigation project, and the Town was moving forward with their plans to follow on the heels of that project to transform Creek Park into a revitalized space.
The County Board of Supervisors received an update on the SAFRR project at its meeting of July 19, 2022, which can be found at the following link http://marin.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=marin_4ebaa0eb9639e9e711b865381b62ca49.pdf.
The report explained that the SAFRR project was delayed due to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirement that a project in the floodway cannot result in any increase in flood levels. (See July 19 presentation at Slide 8).
The District estimated that complying with the FEMA “no-rise” rule would require the District to mitigate 20 properties downstream. Given that the amount of money it will take to complete the mitigation is unknown, the District proposed installing a baffle located upstream of Creek Park to simulate the current flooding conditions created by BB2. (See July 19 presentation at Slide 9).
The baffle would maintain the current flooding conditions in the creek and would give the District time to mitigate the downstream properties; however, the July 19, 2022 presentation notes that such mitigation is “on hold with installation of baffles until additional funds can be secured. (See July 19 presentation at Slide 10).
The presentation states that the engineers estimate for removal of BB2, installation of the baffle and creek bank stabilization at $4,200,000 and construction was estimated to occur between April and October 2023. (See July 19 presentation at Slide 10).
What are the Next Steps for the Town?
Given that the District has changed course numerous times regarding the timing and components of the SAFRR project since 2018, the District may revise its plans as it moves forward. Town staff recommended to Town Council at a special meeting on September 21, that it would be useful to have an ad hoc Council subcommittee formed to work with staff and provide insights and input to Council about potential next steps related to BB2 and the SAFRR project in the coming months. At the Town Council meeting on September 27th, Mayor Fineman appointed herself and Brian Colbert to the Council subcommittee.
Is Creek Park still accessible to the community?
Yes! Creek Park - including the Redwood grove picnic tables, the amphitheater grass and stage area are open. The Town has moved the plaza picnic tables back to that area to provide more seating.
The community can access the Park via the pedestrian bridge from San Anselmo Avenue or from Center Avenue and Sir Francis Drake Blvd.