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Fairfax Council Shows Support for Streets for People Event on Bolinas Road

Should Bolinas Road be closed for a family-friendly street event?

Some Fairfax town officials are hoping to close part of Bolinas Road later this year for a half-day event where cyclists and pedestrians can reclaim the road. 

“Closing a street can regenerate community spirit,” Fairfax resident Renee Goddard told the Fairfax Town Council at its June 6 meeting, when council members discussed holding “Streets for People” on August 26. 

The family-friendly “Streets for People,” somewhat modeled off San Francisco’s “Sunday Streets,” would celebrate local businesses, citizens, art and non-motorized transportation, according to the June 6 council agenda staff report.

“Streets for People” could include:

  • Street painting
  • Information on local businesses
  • A parklet demo
  • Bike demos
  • Acoustic musicians
  • Café tables in the street
  • Free “back to school” haircuts for kids.

All Fairfax councilmembers showed strong support for the event, however some asked that the event not include alcohol.

While the vision for the event didn’t originally involve alcohol, selling beer and wine was brought to the council as an option to offset event costs.

“The original vision has nothing to do with alcohol. This is not the Fairfax Festival in a small scale,” said Goddard, the project coordinator. “There are no tents, no cotton candy and no kids clamoring for more stuff. It’s just bringing out to the street what’s ours and what makes us want to live here.”


Closing Bolinas: a contentious idea

Fairfax Mayor Pam Hartwell-Herrero acknowledged that closing Bolinas Road between Broadway and Elsie Lane is a contentious idea. 

But event supporters, including Hartwell-Herrero, said closing the road would be an experiment to see if the town could realistically move toward the general plan vision of making that stretch of road a permanent vehicle-free greenway. “It’s never been closed off in isolation in this manner,” she said.

“In a way it’s a test,” Fairfax Police Chief Chris Morin told the council. “It is potential for huge gridlock. We just don’t know. If we do this it’s a good test to see what happens. Hopefully it’ll be like [closing] Broadway – no big deal.”


Opposition to alcohol

Morin said the department would probably bring in two officers for the event, which would cost $100 each per hour. He said if alcohol was involved it may required an additional officer.

Fairfax Councilman Ryan O'Neil applauded the event’s vision. “It’s one of the things that make’s me proud to live here. I have kids and see this as the perfect reason to bring them down there.”

But O’Neil said he could only support the event if it was sans alcohol sales – otherwise it would draw people to the street to drink (and drink and drink).

Some of the other councilmembers expressed similar concerns about alcohol. The council agreed to further discuss the event at its June 20 meeting, allowing time to draft a plan without booze.


No support for using Fairbuck funds

Fairfax Town Clerk Judy Anderson outlined some of the estimated costs for “Streets for People,” which would require traffic rerouting. In addition to police services, other event costs would include the $75 street permit and public works staff costs of $320. If the event were four hours with two officers, the total cost could be around $1,195.

Council members discussed trying to find volunteers to lessen the public works expense.

Earlier at the June 6 meeting, the council considered waiving the return of a portion of start-up funding given to the Fairbuck Project so the monies could instead be used for “Streets for People.” 

“The precedent here is not one I can support,” said Councilman David Weinsoff. “I support the Fairbuck idea but look out and see concern when we loan money out to any other town entity and we get into a situation where, for good reason, they say “Can you forgive this loan?’.”

Other council members echoed Weinsoff’s concerns and the idea was tabled.  

The Fairfax Chamber and Sustainable Fairfax are among the local organizations in support of “Streets for People, and while the event details may have a bit more vetting, it seemed at the June 6 council meeting citizens may want to mark the event in their calendar.  

“Streets and cars have taken over our communities in such a way that it has become harder and harder for us to gather, be together and celebrate our community,” Hartwell-Herrero said.


Barbara Petty June 08, 2012 at 01:41 PM
How would traffic be routed for people who are trying to access the cascade area and beyond via automobile? The only hesitation I would have is that small side streets like Forrest Ave and Park Road with many children, walkers, etc. on them might get inundated with heavy traffic. It might also change drivers' habits and make those permanent short cuts, which would not be safe.
Gayle R June 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Second everything Barbara asks ....
McKgirl June 08, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I think the event is a great idea, however I'm not sure about it being permanent. Bolinas is a main traffic artery in Fairfax for residents and vistors to Fairfax, Deer Park, Lake Lagunitas, Bolinas, etc. I used to live on the 7/11 side of Bolinas, I know it can become like a highway at rush hour times. Like Barbara, I have to ask: where would you re-route that amount of traffic down town on a permanent basis and still make it safe for the community. Bank Street and Dominga are not great options. Dominga is too residential and Bank is a mess. For a half day event once a year? Sure! Permanently?? Although I love the idea of it, I just can't really see it working year round.
sanford miles June 08, 2012 at 04:21 PM
David Edmondson June 08, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The closure is only from Broadway to Elsie, so I think the idea is to reroute traffic onto Bank and Elsie rather than Forrest Ave and Park Road. But this is only for a few hours on one day, so we'll see how well it's received and whether it should be made into a regular feature of the town. It would be nice if they could add Broadway between Claus and Elsie. It would dump Center's traffic onto SFD, but it's nothing the street can't handle on off-peak hours.
John Molloy June 08, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Sanford kind of sums it up in his opening line...............
John Molloy June 08, 2012 at 06:15 PM
This town is in a financial crisis. Was the sales tax increase not about that? We do not need to be spending money on such foolish things like closing streets and re routing traffic.......where is the profitability in this???????
julie kennedy June 08, 2012 at 07:27 PM
It is a great idea to look at new ideas to invigorate the town. As a resident who lives "SOBOBO" (South of Bolinas and Broadway) I am all too familiar with crazy traffic snarls at Broadway and Claus (difficult intersection for turning traffic) and the parking lot feel to Bank Street. Thus I assume that re-routing traffic would require a total reconfiguration/up-grade of current side street conditions in order to make this idea SAFE and practical.
David Edmondson June 08, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Considering that it will draw people from across Marin to downtown Fairfax, I suspect the income will be from sales tax revenue that day and ongoing sales tax revenue as people realize what great shops are in town.
David Edmondson June 08, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Are you suggesting they upgrade the side streets for a few hours of closure?
julie kennedy June 08, 2012 at 08:05 PM
No David, I think a half-day event would not warrant such drastic measures. If I read correctly there is some thought to implementing a permanent "green area" on Bolinas between Broadway and Elise. If that were to happen there would have to be major changes to traffic flow and street design to handle cars. It would be very expensive at a time when the town has no $ to spare so I don't see how this change could take place in the near future. But it is good to dream & envision!
valeri hood June 08, 2012 at 09:05 PM
i love the idea of an alcohol free event in fairfax-- that is the kind of example we should be setting for our kids! thanks to the originator of this idea
Holley Shafer June 08, 2012 at 10:41 PM
As a Fairfax resident, I'm happy to hear that Councilman O'Neil and other Council members support Streets for People as an alcohol-free event. Clearly they are thinking of public safety and health, which is where their priorities should be. We don't need alcohol to enjoy our community. Kudos to the Fairfax Town Council! Holley Shafer
Jessica Mullins (Editor) June 10, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I ran into Fairfax Police Chief Chris Morin at the Fairfax Festival and he confirmed that, if the event happened and the road was closed, traffic wouldn't formally be routed in any certain direction. People would, more or less, be on their own to figure out an alternative route.


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