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SMART neighbors express concerns about future property value, privacy

Posted: Wednesday, December 24, 2014 12:27 pm

A two-bedroom townhouse in the Gables, described as “delightful” and “close to shopping and other amenities,” might sound enticing to a prospective homebuyer. It also has the “added bonus of the future SMART train for that easy commute.”

San Rafael residents are weighing the value of the “easy commute” against concerns of what else the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit might bring with it in 2016. currently lists about a dozen homes for sale within a mile of the proposed Civic Center train platform. That number is about average in the current economic climate, and does not necessarily reflect any impact from SMART’s pending arrival, according to Realtors.

Mac Pourtabib of Coldwell Banker admits there is some concern among potential homebuyers when they hear about the plans for the train. Nevertheless, he has found some interest in a Gable Court home just 30 feet away from the proposed SMART train tracks.

“When we put the listing out, people were saying, ‘The house is so cute, but what about train?’” Pourtabib said. “Some people who are thinking about the SMART train are thinking of it as the BART train. I’ve told them to go to the SMART website and read up on it or go to a San Rafael City Council meeting to get informed. We just don’t know a whole lot more than anybody else about it.

The Gable Court townhouse is in the process of being sold and, according Pourtabib, the buyer is “getting a pretty good deal. She was OK with the price.”

Pourtabib said the buyer expressed some concern about how the SMART train could affect the property value over the next five to six years.

The pending arrival of SMART is part of the standard disclosure agreement between Realtors and prospective buyers, according to Decker Bullock’s Patricia Oxman. She has a listed property on Coleman Drive, within a mile of the proposed downtown station site, which she says should have “no real impact on the property.”

Homeowners in the Rafael Meadows neighborhood have expressed their own concerns as SMART crews are busy preparing the track for the train’s arrival. SMART crews closed part of Civic Center Drive on Monday and Tuesday to replace the old railroad tracks and ties and add rock ballast to the line.

Large mounds of dirt have popped up next to resident Kathy Minode’s yard in the Rafael Meadows neighborhood. No one seems exactly certain what will happen with the piles of dirt, but Minode and her neighbors expressed their concern.

“[SMART] has been doing track work, and my house is right along the track,” Minode told the San Rafael City Council on Dec. 15. “There’s been a very large berm that was pushed closer to our fences, so close to our backyard fences that now, whereas people used to walk by we couldn’t see them, I can see them. If I’m standing in the middle of my yard, from the chest up and they can see every part of me.

“I’m quite disturbed with the loss of privacy. It’s even worse for some of my neighbors who are closer to North San Pedro Road. The train is going to be going right by their dining room windows, very close.”

City staff didn’t have a solution to Minode’s problem at the time, but Mayor Gary Phillips offered to discuss it with SMART. Minode described the berm as wide and flat and asked if SMART might consider planting vegetation to restore the habitat and privacy.

Minode isn’t the first resident of the Rafael Meadows area to express concerns to the council about noise, safety and privacy when the SMART train starts rolling through San Rafael. Others have said they are worried about the possible noise from the train whistle as it arrives and departs the platform near the Marin County Civic Center.

SMART crews were scheduled to install medians last week to make railroad crossings “quiet zone ready” at north San Rafael locations.

The County of Marin has plans to install a new roundabout at Peter Behr Drive and Civic Center Drive, along with a Class II bike path on either side of the train tracks and a multi-use pathway on one side. The county and SMART are planning to include a bus stop and a kiss-and-ride parking lot near the Civic Center platform.

A letter from a citizens action committee to the council asked why the kiss-and-ride lot was only on one side of the tracks and not both sides. The answer came from Kevin McGowan of the San Rafael Department of Public Works, who said there was not enough of a right-of-way for lots on both sides. A potential problem could be a traffic jam around the one lot, council woman Kate Colin pointed out.

Residents voiced concerns over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists at the roundabout and as riders try to reach the train platform.

There is also a proposal to build a pedestrian pathway from Merrydale Road to the Civic Center Drive platform. McGowan gave a detailed update of SMART’s work north of the Puerto Suello Tunnel, which runs under Lincoln Avenue.

The southbound train in San Rafael runs from Smith Ranch Road to Civic Center Drive, where there would be a passenger platform. The train then crosses west under Highway 101 and continues southbound through the Puerto Suello Tunnel, along Lincoln Avenue and to the terminus in downtown San Rafael near the Al Boro Transit Center and Whistlestop.

Contact Derek Wilson at


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They ought to consider selling billboard space on their back fences! :)

That's funny Bob....and not out of the realm of possibilities.


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