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.
Move Forward With Protection for Creeks and Homes
"SGV Stewards are pleased the Marin Independent Journal
published our article on January 7, 2014."
Marin IJ By Peggy Sheneman Guest op-ed column - January 6, 2014
MARIN'S interim stream conservation ordinance takes an important step and provides a framework for improvements. Marin Conservation League, Marin Audubon Society, Friends of Corte Madera Creek, San Geronimo Valley Planning Group and San Geronimo Valley Stewards all requested the Board of Supervisors to adopt the ordinance.
While it is less than perfect, the new ordinance moves us forward.
This is not about "developers" building shopping centers in West Marin. This is about families' rights to use their backyards, and responsible stewardship of our creeks.
The interim ordinance complies with the 2007 Countywide Plan. Development within the stream conservation area (SCA) is minimized and, when allowed, is carefully controlled by permits and site assessments. The SCA is a mandatory setback of 30 feet to 150 feet from the creek bank. The SCA setback must be protected even if the home parcel is small, or is on a hillside where fish cannot swim, or is near an ephemeral stream that flows only when it rains.
We are not "developers." We are 930 families in San Geronimo Valley, where the average lot size is 120 feet by 120 feet. Old homes were built decades ago in established neighborhoods near creeks. An additional 3,000 family homes are located within the SCA in Sleepy Hollow, Kent Woodlands, San Rafael and other parts of Marin.
The ordinance has no "broad exemptions" for "development." The only exemptions are: handicap-accessibility retrofit, maintenance of existing homes, removal of trees if necessary for fire prevention or other hazard, fences that do not bar wildlife access and 120 square feet (cumulative total) for a new deck or patio.
The 3,900 families who live in the SCA do not seek to build five-story apartments or line our creeks with concrete. If we want to add 500 square feet (cumulative total), the ordinance requires us to apply for a "Tier 1" permit and undergo site assessment.
Construction must follow good management practices, with no closer encroachment on the stream.
Why is this reasonable ordinance not effective now?
Because two renegade litigation groups (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network and Center for Biological Diversity) filed a lawsuit against Marin County to stop it. There was never any "developer" threat to file suit or invoke a "poison pill."
SPAWN and the Center for Biological Diversity cloak themselves in the guise of "environmentalists," while seeking taxpayer money to pay their attorneys in strike suits. This is SPAWN's third lawsuit against Marin County.
Not a single salmon will be saved in the courtroom.
SPAWN and other private groups have collected $1.5 million in government grants to count salmon the past two years. Marin County is about to embark on a massive flood control and stream conservation project in Ross Valley.
Marin Municipal Water District has spent $8 million on creek stewardship since 1997, and plans on $6.6 million more by 2019.
Marin County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $7.8 million on salmon enhancement from 2005 to 2011.
We ask that SPAWN and Center for Biological Diversity withdraw their lawsuit so the interim ordinance can take effect.
Let's move forward with the task of preserving our creek habitats.
Peggy Sheneman of Woodacre is a director of the San Geronimo Valley Stewards. She also is a member of Marin Conservation League.
NEW STREAM ORDINANCE AND COUNTY PROGRAM
-- THE PATH FORWARD
From San Geronimo Valley Stewards:
Dear Homeowners and Supporters,
It has been an interesting Fall. We want to update you on recent developments and where we go from here.
IS THE NEW STREAM ORDINANCE GOOD FOR THE VALLEY?
Yes, the new temporary ordinance lifts the Court injunction that banned all building in the Valley. SGV Stewards supported the Board of Supervisors vote on October 29, 2013 to adopt the temporary stream ordinance on a Countywide basis.
The temporary ordinance allows small home projects. Each homeowner can add up to 500 square feet of impervious area to their home (such as a new bedroom, deck, or garage). Cost of a Tier 1 permit: $250. Another 120 square feet of improvements can be added within a previously disturbed area (such as a landscaping or driveway). Also, the homeowner can repair and maintain his home, add handicap access, trim trees and brush for fire protection, and build fences -- without any permit required.
I, along with 40 other San Geronimo Stewards homeowners, are participating in the Land Owners Assistance Program that educates property owners on how to protect habitat on our land.
We have had experts from agencies such as, Fish and Wildlife, Army Corp of Engineers, Marin Municipal Water Dept., NOAA, onto our properties to advise us. We have gone on to educate others in the Valley. We have never met a homeowner who once informed was not willing to cooperate. Yet SPAWN has called us "know nothing homeowners" who are responsible for the demise of the fish.
No other environmental group the Valley homeowners have worked with (and there are many)has ever blamed our 9% of the entire watershed for the plight of the salmon.
WE want our supervisors to give us a fair ordinance, commensurate with the scientific truth of our situation, that we can live with. One that is motivated by the desire to protect fish, habitat, water quality and the people who have lived in harmony with the fish for over a hundred years. We do not want an ordinance created by a board who is trying, above all else, to protect themselves from litigation, and therefore placating an organization who wants more and more power over homeowners in the Valley.
~ Quotes by Donna McGuinn
The Court ordered the ordinance must comply with the 100-foot setback in the 2007 Countywide Plan. However, the setback applies only to mapped streams. The County improved its stream map for San Geronimo Valley to show the blue line running down the center of each mapped stream. The new map more accurately measures the 100 foot setback. For geophysical reasons, few ephemeral streams are mapped, except those on the ridgetops which are headwaters for major creeks.
Most important, the temporary ordinance applies to the entire County. Over 3,900 homeowners in every Supervisor District will be affected by the temporary ordinance. This is one reason all five Supervisors have expressed interest in studying amendments to the 2007 Countywide Plan, to make it more friendly for houses on small lots in developed neighborhoods.
The day is past when County officials could toss San Geronimo under the bus and drive away.
WHAT IS THE COUNTY PROGRAM FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS?
On October 29, the Supervisors adopted a "Work Program" to assist homeowners under the temporary ordinance. Marin Resource Conservation District (RCD) will help landowners obtain permits for creek improvements and apply for financial aid. RCD has successfully worked with West Marin ranchers for decades. SG Valley Stewards welcome their participation. RCD respects property rights and has experience and expertise in cost effective conservation of natural resources.
The Supervisors also voted to appoint a Stream Watershed Advisory Group (SWAG) which will include representatives of major homeowner associations, government officials and conservation groups. SWAG meetings and a series of public workshops will consider possible amendments to the 2007 Countywide Plan. The focus will be on differing approaches to protect ephemeral streams (surface run off when it rains) and modifying the stream setbacks (currently, 100 feet in West Marin, and 20 feet to 100 feet in Southern and Eastern Marin).
San Geronimo Valley Stewards expects to send a representative to the SWAG. We look forward to working with responsible conservation groups and other homeowner associations to find common ground and compromise our differences.
WHEN WILL THE STREAM ORDINANCE BE EFFECTIVE?
On December 28, 2013, the temporary ordinance will take effect in San Geronimo Valley and the rest of the County.
It has a "sunset" of April 28, 2016. On that date, the temporary ordinance will automatically expire. The County plans to prepare amendments to the CountyWide Plan and a permanent ordinance by that date.
During the 29 months of the temporary ordinance, if any group (such as SPAWN) files a lawsuit challenging the temporary ordinance, the County can stop enforcing or applying the ordinance. This is the "poison pill" or "no contest clause". Any group that tries to obtain a court order, saying the ordinance is not strict enough or does not comply with the law, risks losing enforcement of the ordinance for the entire County.
However, any future lawsuit would not stop work on the County Program. Homeowner assistance would continue. Study of Countywide Plan amendments would continue.
WE ARE THE ONLY ORGANIZATION WORKING TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY HOME AND OUR STREAM HABITATS.
With your support, San Geronimo Valley Stewards have accomplished a lot since the first building moratorium hit the Valley in January 2008.
* The first draft of the 2009 SEP (Salmon Enhancement Plan) would have been a disaster for homeowners. Stewards successfully fought for changes (such as SEP's recommendation the stream setback be reduced to 35 feet).
* We defeated the SPAWN's proposed 2010 "Riparian Vegetation Ordinance" which would have outlawed home gardens and increased fire risk.
* We convinced the Supervisors to modify the 2011 tree ordinance and reduce permit fees.
* Over the past year, we whittled away over reaching aspects of the temporary stream ordinance, and persuaded the Supervisors to study amendments to the Countywide Plan.
* We sponsor community meetings and bring County officials to the Valley. We listen to your concerns and carry your suggestions to government representatives.
* We have built bridges to other homeowner groups and conservation groups interested in a balanced approach.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP US MOVE FORWARD
Over the next two years, we have some miles to walk in the path forward. San Geronimo Valley Stewards are all volunteers who donate their time, talent and funds. We have no paid staff. We do not receive government grants.
We encourage you to volunteer, donate time and services. We have so much talent in our community!
Your attendance at the county-sponsored workshops and public hearings will be very important to achieve amendments to the CountyWide Plan.
We can always use your generous donations of money. We are a "do it ourselves" organization, but sometimes we must employ experts on legal and scientific matters. This costs money.
We look forward to your suggestions for cost effective means to protect our streams and our homes. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org We read all your emails, and reply to as many as possible.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STREAM ORDINANCE?
The Marin Community Development Agency is currently drafting guidelines for home projects to assist with the permit approval process.
You can locate your home on the stream conservation area map.
You can also email Suzanne Thorsen at email@example.com, or Tom Lai at firstname.lastname@example.org
SG Valley Stewards will soon publish on our website a "Homeowners Summary" of the temporary stream ordinance. Visit www.sgvstewards.org
TWO CENTS 11/20/13
Has the county done enough to protect wild salmon?
Total Votes = 122
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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