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.