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San Rafael General Plan 2040 (Bret Harte) Summary of Survey Responses 6. Please review the text below, which was drafted in 2001-2003 by the City of San Rafael to describe the Bret Harte neighborhood:
Formerly a dairy farm, Bret Harte is a historical district that began development in the early 1940s. Land use in this neighborhood is primarily residential with single-family homes and high-density apartments along Woodland Avenue. Due to the smaller size of many of the homes, Bret Harte is considered a more affordable housing area and attracts many young couples and families. Bret Harte Park is a central fixture of the neighborhood and is the setting for many community events and activities. The neighborhood has an active community association, the Bret Harte Community Association (BHCA), which organizes multiple events each year designed to strengthen relationships between neighbors. The small neighborhood is very close-knit, with a mix of young families and long-time residents appreciating its affordability, central location with easy freeway and transit access, and sense of community.
Residents of Bret Harte exit at US-101 and I-580 West at Francisco Blvd, a busy interchange with four ramps, and travel through an adjacent industrial area to access their neighborhood. Because of this, residents are closely watching ongoing transportation projects, including the Bellam Blvd. off-ramp improvement from northbound US-101, and the northbound US-101 to eastbound I-580 direct connector.
The recent extension of the SMART train to Larkspur Station has impacted traffic in Bret Harte. Monitoring traffic flows on Andersen Dr. and Woodland Ave. and making adjustments to lessen impact is important.
Due to its location adjacent to open space below Southern Heights ridge, residents have been aware of homeless encampments and the resulting littering and increased fire danger that accompanies urban camping.
7 (vision/future). Please review the "Vision for 2020," which was adopted in 2004 for the Bret Harte neighborhood:
New development in this neighborhood is expected to be limited to existing homes that are being expanded and in some cases adding Accessory Dwelling Units. With ADUs, the limited neighborhood parking is a concern. Residents do not want any additional homes built on the hillsides. This neighborhood also needs to be protected from the potential impacts of nearby industrial businesses, including employee parking. All the access roads to the neighborhood must be maintained, including Irwin St., Du Bois St., and Rose St.
Given the increasing impacts of climate change, maintaining and improving gutters, culverts, and storm drains to reduce flooding are major concerns for Bret Harte residents. Upper Bret Harte residents are concerned with continued mudslides that have caused significant damage to hillsides above Glenaire Dr. from runoff from open space above Irwin St.
Emergency preparedness and vegetation-management programs are needed to manage the risk of wildfires. Many residents have been in their homes for decades, and this aging population is at risk during emergency situations. The City should prioritize Safe Routes to School between the neighborhood and Laurel Dell Elementary and Davidson Middle School. Aging power lines are currently above ground and are at great risk given the abundance of street trees and high winds, and should be buried. Given the relatively inconspicuous entrances to the neighborhood from the adjacent industrial areas, signs could be erected at the entrances of Du Bois St. and Irwin St. to demarcate the neighborhood. Improvements in Bret Harte Park should be undertaken, including landscaping of the bare hillside to prevent erosion, community art projects, and shade tree maintenance.
8. Policy: Prepare a plan for the neighborhood to address neighborhood concerns.
Restrict development on the hillsides. Reinforce hillsides to prevent future mudslides from flooding, including surface erosion control, drainage improvements, increased attention to potential slide areas, and reinforcement measures. Continue CERT/DART/NRG emergency-preparedness programs for the benefit of aging residents. Underground existing power and cable lines to prevent conflict with street trees. Continue improvements to Bret Harte Park, including landscaping of the bare hillside to prevent erosion, community art projects, and shade tree maintenance. Create protected bike and pedestrian access to Laurel Dell Elementary from Irwin St.—currently the path along Woodland Ave. is dangerous with uneven sidewalks and blind hills along a well-traveled thoroughfare—and continue to Davidson Middle School and through to downtown. Improve utility infrastructure, especially aging gas lines that run through residential yards. Monitor and discourage homeless encampments in the extensive open space below Southern Heights Ridge. Renovate Bret Harte Center on Woodland, including repaving the parking lot. Ensure the few neighborhood access points are clear in case of emergencies, including Via La Cumbre, Irwin, and Du Bois. Plant additional and maintain existing street trees to provide shade and improve the neighborhood aesthetic.