Slow Down San Anselmo Drivers - We Need to Protect our Children and our Neighborhoods

The death of a community cat has spurred a neighborhood petition initiative to stop speeding cars by installing downtown speed bumps.


Dillon’s Petition – to Save the Life of One Animal or Child and Slow Down San Anselmo

Oct. 6, 2012 San Anselmo, CA.  On a Friday night, at commute hour, just as I entered the restaurant,  my cell phone rang, it was my neighbor Brian, who never calls me.  I knew instantly something was wrong. 

"Dillon has been hit, come quickly" he said.  Is he OK?  "I don't know, it’s bad, hurry." 

I cannot explain that feeling of total anguish that rose up from within. When I arrived with Lan at home, there was Dillon, our boy, laying dead in the gutter.  He was the very finest cat and spirit I ever knew.  Dillon, Mr. D, he was called.  His tag read ‘ambassador of love, all species’.   The neighborhood greeter had been run down, killed by an SUV.  Later we learned Dillon been caught under the car wheels, knocked to the ground.  He stood up, staggered a few feet, then lay down. Brian’s sister in law went to his aid and petted him softly, until he began to purr. Then he was gone.

An outpouring of affection came from people who knew him, from Pine, Woodland, Cedar, Crescent, Foss, Ross, Magnolia, and Kensington.  He was not a pet, we were his people. Dozens of cards and letters arrived, hung from a make shift memorial.

One person wrote a poem and taped it to the string hung between the plum trees where he had died.

“Dillon ~ I was so sad when I moved in a year ago. You were the first friend I made on the block. Thank you for all the happiness you gave the rest of us.  We love you ~.                      Unsigned

Sam, Brian’s young son, drew a picture of a cat face, and wrote,

“I love you. I will miss you very much.”

A delightful lady we never knew from way up the street near Wade Thomas wrote:

 “Dear sad parents of Dillon; we wanted to share our special feelings with you and say how much we miss your dear fellow. We acknowledged him so much in life… the whole street is never going to be the same.  Mr. Dillon had a personality to fill all of San Anselmo

We were overwhelmed by cards and notes from people we had never known who had their lives touched by Mr. D.  Dillon had become a San Anselmo town cat, he stood for more than a few of us and we felt privileged to have been his caretakers.

 “Monster”, a butterscotch male with a short bent tail, was a bitter street cat with a bad attitude.  Dillon had won his angry heart over after many late night howl-filled, bloody fights, they were last seen sleepy together on Monster’s porch.  We were shocked to see Monster walk up the morning after.  He stopped in the gutter where Dillon died.  I think Monster was grieving too, he knew and was lonely, the last cat standing.  Even today, almost a year and a half later, Monster comes by,  perches  on the back fence a while and watches over Dillon’s grave.

It’s only a pet!, one woman said, as in, get over it you wussie. But she had no idea.

Dillon was not a pet, he was a Buddha with four feet, a Siamese spirit who filled our lives with endless joy and  boundless happiness.   Named after Dillon Beach,  he was rescued by the lovely ladies from ‘Planned Feralhood’ out in Olema where we had adopted him in Pt . Reyes one Sunday.  I never liked cats, preferring dogs instead, so I taught him to sit, lie down, shake hands plus he somersaulted naturally about the house, it was his signature move.  He’s a dog in a cat suit, we would say.  Now, I am a cat person.

Often when we went to lunch, he walked with us down to the Paper Piles store next to Comforts, there he slept in the junipers while we ate, waiting an hour or more. Once, we went to Bubbas and walked home via Pine and totally forgot him.  Three hours later, I walked back down to the Paper Pile and clapped my hands; he was still there, waiting for us.  He always ran to me when I whistled for him – or I clapped my hands and he would come sprinting from far away.  He’d roll over on the sidewalk in front of strangers, begging for them to scratch his stomach.  One neighbor, commenting on Dillon’s practice of strolling alongside everyone and tailing them for blocks said:

  “He is not walking with strangers.   He is escorting people out of his territory.”

Dillon was an experienced traveler too, a road warrior, he liked the car and would ride up on my shoulder. Once he slept all the way to Death Valley then hiked on the crusty salt flats. He’d been to the desert, the beach and the mountains.  He liked to stay illegally in hotels, and in downtown LA, we’d put him in a rolling bag, a carry-on. I’d stand him up, then sip the bag shut vertically and roll him right through the lobby into the elevator of posh 5 star hotels, always wondering what the maid thought, when she saw the kitty litter.

Xiaojuan and Lan, my two Chinese housemates were totally devastated too.  Absolutely heart broken over the loss of our inter-species ambassador of love.   Oceans of grief flooded my house for months, for a lifetime, they are here today for my street is always his death bed.  Sometimes I just want to move away.

I am reminded everyday, when people drive like bats out of hell on Woodland Avenue near downtown San Anselmo,  it’s  a frigging speedway.  Yes I am reminded of speeding cars, and I am angry too, but I am not the only one who thinks this way.  Everyone who walks these San Anselmo streets sees a fast car and knows that cars need to slow down; they are destroying the peaceful character of the neighborhood.  Some folks have even moved away, the rest of us are afraid, or pissed off.   With no speed limit signs, the un-posted legal  limit here is therefore 25 MPH, the same speed as the 3 lane thoroughfares like  Second or Third Street in San Rafael near highway 101.  That’s way too fast. The real speed limit should be 15 MPH.

Now, one thinks of the Novato family who lost their precious daughter riding her bike to school.  Could this happen in San Anselmo?  Without a doubt.  Children and seniors are the most common pedestrians on Woodland, and they ride bikers, with training wheels, play basketball, skateboard, badminton, make chalk paintings – and they actually in the street. 

We tried posting legal slow signs – up and down Woodland Ave and on Pine Street, we obtained them from the S.A. police.  But signs did nothing, cars still were going way too fast past our houses. Woodland, like many streets it is recently repaved, with new curbs, new wheel chair ramps. Many people use the street to drive kids the back way to Wade Thomas School or into the hills, and especially to avoid the long light at Ross Ave. There are a lot of seniors and children here but it is not by any means the only street in downtown San Anselmo with speeding vehicles and kids trying to occupy the same place, Pine St has the same issue, and Bolinas Ave, that long straight away, is terrible.  The way people drive here it is as if they don’t care that these are their own neighborhoods, their friends, their pets and their kids that are being placed in harm’s way.

 “You should do something about it” one woman said.  “We call them sleeping policemen, wide speed bumps that force vehicles to slow down, like the effective bumps installed on Lagunitas Road on the approach to Phoenix Lake.”  At that time, I did nothing, but now it’s time. No one should have to go through the experience of losing their Dillon.

It wasn’t until Elliott moved into the Tam House, and Tim and Agnes joined the effort from across the street that we got together and decided to do something.  We created a petition for the Police Chief and the San Anselmo Traffic Safety Committee, who reviews “traffic calming” proposals. We are asking the town of San Anselmo, to install speed bumps on Woodland and Pine.  It’s time to actually physically control speeding cars, it is the only effective solution. Let’s do something about it.

San Anselmo has something against speed bumps as far as we can tel.  As far as we know, there are no speed bumps anywhere in San Anselmo. We understand the Fire Department and emergency vehicles do not like them.  And it’s said that motorcyclists can get thrown if they hit them going to fast, so there is some legal liability.   But, they work.  Others communities have successfully used speed humps (Ross) and have taken back control of their streets.    The Fire Dept in Ross would have to drive over three speed humps to get onto the Phoenix Lake fire roads, and they must have approved those.   In fact, we can see no reason to be against a speed bump on Woodland Ave or Pine St, because we know they are essential to slow vehicles.

Dozens of neighbors have signed the traffic calming petition posted on the bulletin board in front of my house at 54 Woodland.  Drop by if you share our conclusion that San Anselmo must install speed bumps to slow downtown neighbor hood traffic.  Nothing else will work.  We are not going stop until the bumps are installed.

I am doing it for Dillon.  You can do it for all of our neighbors in this fantastic little town which we are so privileged to call home.

More to follow…….

Steve Harnsberger,  54 Woodland Ave, San Anselmo CA 94960

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Edmondson October 09, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Traffic calming also could mean chicanes, tiny roundabouts (just enough to disrupt an intersection), bike lanes (weirdly), and otherwise making the road less of a straightaway. Speed bumps will also do.
Vera Grigorian October 10, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I'm very sorry about your cat, Steve. When I was your neighbor on Woodland Ave., I always wished drivers would slow down on that street. I generally do not like street bumps, but I can see the need for them on that street. It would make the neighborhood much safer for motorists, cyclists, pets, and pedestrians.
Jann Russell October 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
So sorry for the loss of your beloved Dillion. I will sign your petition. We need speed bumps on Saunders too. Jann Russell
John Ferguson October 10, 2012 at 05:21 PM
+1 for traffic calming on my street - Glen drive in Fairfax. It's an access road to White Hill middle school and people are driving way too fast (well above the posted 25 mph limit) to get to/from school. We live in a rushed, uncalm society and there's not a great deal that we can do about it, but we can calm the traffic down with measures such as Dave suggests above. Is it time for a Ross Valley safe streets initiative? I think it is..
Steve Harnsberger October 25, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Thanks for all your comments neighbors - the petition has 5 pages of signatures and as of yet only 1 person did not want to sign. The straight away on Woodland encourages people to just hit the gas, and only speed bumps will make them slow down. I have yet to find a single speed bump in San Anselmo - there must be some policy against them. But its time that we insist on physical impediments to force drives to slow down. We posted "slow down" signs all over the street and it did not have any effect. We will be submitting our traffic calming petition shortly to the Traffic Safety Committee and a neighborhood meeting with the Town will take place following the Town's review of the speeding problem. It will take a lot of effort to make this happen, but we wont stop until the speeding ceases.


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