Now that Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh next to the building, residents are weighing in, discussing pros and cons, and rallying supporters on both sides. But, before too many lines are drawn, Lesh and his wife, Jill, want to make sure the community understands their vision for .
Terrapin Crossroads, as the project will be known, is modeled after the Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, NY.
Helm turned his barn, about a mile from the downtown of Woodstock, into an intimate music venue after he developed throat cancer. Unable to travel, said Phil’s wife Jill Lesh, he was going to lose his house. But, the town changed the zoning to allow him to turn his barn into a place for music guests to play with Helm.
“It’s like going to American music church,” said Phil of his first visit in the summer of 2010, when he played with his two sons, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, and Helm, in front of a small crowd that included Jane Fonda. “It’s magical.”
After that first trip, Phil and Jill had “an intense desire to do something similar here at home,” he said.
Forty-six years of touring (including the most recent tour where his bus broke down), has left the Leshes with a desire to stay at home. With their younger son graduating from Princeton next year, it also seemed like a good time to create a venue where they can stay in one place and have family and friends come to visit – and play music! – without having to travel.
“I want to create a musical home for myself,” said Phil.
Once the idea was planted, it wasn’t too long before the couple settled on Fairfax as the perfect place.
“Fairfax just felt right,” said Jill.
They considered West Marin, a building in Kentfield, and even a possible location at Marin Country Mart, but a site in Fairfax, where Phil lived for 13 years, was ideal.
“[Fairfax] just strikes a chord with me because of the feeling of community and mutual respect,” said Phil. “A place like that makes the music better.”
Of course, that respect goes both ways and the Leshes are aware of the concerns some residents have about the project.
You can see the plans, project description and rendering .
Both Phil and Jill said they heard the concerns neighbors have about traffic and parking and security, which was why they decided the Good Earth building was just not going to work and chose the lot next door instead.
“They’re protecting the wonderful place they live and that’s understandable and we want to be respectful of that,” said Jil.
Additionally, they plan to offer than the number of required parking spots at an off-site location and are currently working out contracts with other sites. They’re also considering options like offering priority ticket-buying to carpools or requiring ticket buyers to sign off on an agreement not to park on residential streets.
No paper tickets will be sold at all and no tickets will be sold at the door; every ticket will be connected to a name and ID. That means no scalping and it means that if you violate an agreement not to park on residential streets or not to camp out, then you could be barred from ever buying tickets again.
“And, that’s a big deal,” joked Phil.
Jill said, though, she’s not that worried about fans causing problems. The venue will be soundproof, so there’s no chance anyone hanging around outside would hear anything. They plan to work with the police on a zero-tolerance policy for camping out, causing disturbances or vending. And there’s no way to get tickets at the door or scalp them. “So, there’s no reason to come,” she said.
And, she pointed out, the Midnight Rambles have no problems with people hanging out or mobbing the venue – and there aren’t even fences there.
Shows would wrap up by 11:30 p.m., she said, and then musicians and patrons might even play after-party shows at other local bars or simply spend money and buy food and drink in Fairfax.
In addition, the Leshes hope to offer something back to the community. Because part of the appeal of creating a musical venue at home to invite friends to play at was the idea of their two sons being involved and having a chance to play too, they wanted to also get the local youth involved.
After talking to Jack Irving, who has been helping with the music nights at the , they want to offer youth workshops for free and youth music sessions. The other music venues in town, Jill said, have been very supportive and it’s even possible the youth workshops would then play in a showcase at the y.
She also has a number of ideas for other youth workshops. After singing the national anthem at the Giants game Tuesday night, Phil talked to Bill Walton, who said he was interested in doing leadership workshops at the venue. There’s also writers, countless musicians, a renowned soccer coach and a Pulitzer-winning historian, said Jill, all interested in leading workshops – which would be offered free to local youth in some kind of lottery system or by targeting kids interested in those subjects through the Ross Valley and Marin schools.
And, then, the workshops would be offered as ticketed casual dinner seminars for adults.
Although the Leshes have big plans for the venue and are full of idea possibilities, they recognize that it may take awhile to go through the full permitting, design and traffic study process.
“This is a process and it’s just getting started,” said Bruce Burman of Jazz Builders in San Rafael, who is managing the construction of the project.
In fact, Fairfax Town Manager Michael Rock released an outline earlier this week of the necessary steps the proposal must go through before being approved by the town.
The Leshes will have to complete an initial study of the project to determine if there are any potential environmental impacts. If the study finds no potential impacts or those impacts are mitigated adequately, then it will be filed as a negative declaration and available for public comment for 30 days. If there are impacts found that are no adequately mitigated, then the proposal would have to go through a full environmental impact report, required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
A traffic impact permit is also required with the initial study to consider the proposal complete.
The completed application will be reviewed at the Design Review Board and Planning Commission for a conditional use permit and traffic variance. The Town Council would also approve the final negative declaration and traffic impact permit.
The first step is for the Fairfax Town Council to approve the scope and methodology of the traffic study before the traffic consultant conducts the traffic analysis for the permit. The council will consider and approve the scope of the traffic study at its next council meeting, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.
Since that meeting will be the first time the project is presented to the town, Phil plans to make a special presentation. And then the two of them will go listen to their son play at one of the many music venues in town.
“Music feeds the soul,” said Jill.
“In that sense, you can never have too much of it,” said Phil.