Our Purpose and Mission Statement:
The San Geronimo Valley Stewards (SGVS) is a community based organization working to represent property owners in restoring our creeks through collaborative volunteer efforts. The Stewards’ objectives are: To talk to the entire SGV community to develop a clear picture of the residents’ needs, desires, and abilities for creek restoration; Build a diverse community coalition as a resource to support valley residents’ responsible improvement of their properties; Support those individuals who are burdened, and those that feel they don’t have a voice in the future of their home; Bring information and resources to the Valley because we trust our neighbors’ to make wise decisions if they have good information and resources.
Appeal Court Overturns San Geronimo Building Ban
and Opens Door to Stream Plan
On March 5, 2014, the California Court of Appeal overruled the trial court which prohibited home remodels and construction in San Geronimo Valley. Marin must now prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for the 2007 Countywide Plan. The SEIR will study the cumulative impact of modest improvements to existing homes and new construction on the few buildable vacant lots remaining in San Geronimo Valley.
The Appeal stems from a lawsuit Spawn filed against Marin County challenging the 2007 Countywide Plan. Spawn lost the suit, but in September 2012, the trial court prohibited the County from issuing permits for any "development" in the San Geronimo Valley. The term "development" includes normal repair and upgrades of existing family homes, such as building a fence, installing a child's play structure, or enclosing trash cans. Both Spawn and the County appealed.
The Court of Appeal decided the trial court had no authority to prohibit home remodels or new construction because it had not considered the harm to property owners.
Since 2008, over 900 creekside families in our Valley have suffered through a two-year building moratorium, the 13-month prohibition, and Spawn's seven-year delay of the 2007 Countywide Plan. The Court of Appeal ruling creates immediate confusion about which County Plan (1994 or 2007?) and which ordinance (the old Development Code or the new temporary stream ordinance?) governs SG Valley and other parts of Marin. The County intends to ask the Court of Appeal for clarification.
In the long run, the appeal ruling should benefit SG Valley residents and our stream habitat. We respectfully request Marin officials take this opportunity to correct the factual record and adopt narrow amendments of the County Plan stream provisions.
1. The SEIR should begin with the $13 million spent on stream restoration by Marin County taxpayers and Marin Municipal Water District ratepayers, plus millions in grants from California Fish & Wildlife. These completed projects have already improved species habitat. Fish biologists report a reasonably good return of fish this year, despite drought conditions.
2. We are confident the impact report will not predict a dramatic build out of the San Geronimo watershed. Over 65% of the land in the stream conservation area is County Open Space, Water District property, or cattle and horse ranches. There are only 95 buildable vacant lots in the stream conservation area. The other vacant lots can never be built out because of small size, no access, or soil unsuitable for septic. The SEIR should also consider the likely net impact if some historic homes along the streams are permitted to modernize and potentially add up to 500 square feet (cumulative total per house).
3. Since 2009, San Geronimo Valley Stewards have publicized the facts, and now is the perfect opportunity to correct errors. For example, San Geronimo Valley has no sidewalks and only 57 miles of paved roads, not 251 miles of roads and concrete sidewalks (as reported in the 2009 Existing Conditions Report). Another example: Hundreds of acres of Spirit Rock and ranchland are not "institutional impervious areas" but, in fact, are open pasture for horses and cows. The state Water Resources Board finds pollution in San Geronimo Creek is not a factor limiting salmon. Our Valley does not suffer inhospitable conditions.
4. The SEIR should consider improved management practices required for building permits under the 2007 Countywide Plan. Disconnecting hard surfaces, catching rain in swales, and installing lateral drainage reduce the effective impervious area of new construction.
Finally, the court order presents an efficient process to amend the Countywide Plan by tailoring stream protections to local geo-physical conditions in established home neighborhoods. In October 2013, the Supervisors voiced support for narrow amendments: Older family homes should have reduced stream setback areas. Surface runoff when it rains ("ephemeral streams") can be protected by drainage techniques, not requiring rigid setbacks.
While satisfying state environmental law, we can also satisfy the Marin families whose historic neighborhoods are located near streams. San Geronimo Valley Stewards look forward to working with County officials, their experts, and responsible conservation groups on solutions for healthy streams and family homes.
Find Your Home on New Stream Maps County Website
The new stream maps of the San Geronimo Valley are posted on the Marin County SCA web page. You can use the look-up tool to search for your property on the updated SCA map.
The center of each stream shows as a thin dark blue line. The light blue bubble area is the Stream Conservation Area zone, which is measured as 105 feet on each side of stream center.
Most of the streams on the map are major perennial creeks, or seasonal (intermittent) streams. A few ephemeral drainages (surface runoff when it rains) are shown as tan lines.
The property look-up and the pdf maps are online at www.co.marin.ca.us/sca You can also link to the SCA look-up tool: http://gis.marinpublic.com/GeoCodelookup/Default.master.aspx
You can search under your street address or Assessor's parcel number (APN). Vacant parcels can be searched only under APN.
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