Sept. 04--Draft designs for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train stations are circulating in Marin County and San Rafael officials are calling the plans "ridiculous."
San Rafael City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to send a letter to SMART stating their displeasure with the platform or station designs, which are 65 percent complete. The scant designs by Oakland-based businesses AECOM Technical Services and FMG Architects feature a canopy, bench, ticket machine, trash can and street light.
Councilman Damon Connolly said the draft designs are inappropriate, especially for the city's downtown stations.
"I think it's imperative we have a better design there," Connolly said. "It really should be a world-class station reflecting kind of a gateway to the city."
There will be a total of three stations in San Rafael -- one at the Marin Civic Center and two in the downtown area next to the Whistlestop senior center on Tamalpais Avenue. The designs are exactly the same for each station.
Mayor Gary Phillips, who sits on the SMART board, said SMART has made it very clear these limited design plans are what each community along the train line is slated to get. He said there's obviously still some work that needs to be done.
"That looks ridiculous and that's our downtown. I mean give me a break. That's not even a starter," Phillips said.
Members of the public agreed the designs need some additional work.
Gregory Andrew, of San Rafael Meadows, said the city needs to push back and urge SMART to come up with better plans. He said the Marin Civic Center station especially needs more lighting.
"It's on SMART to come up with and to pay for a station that fits into this community," Andrew said. "There's really no sense of the aesthetics from this design."
Hugo Landecker, of Gerstle Park, agreed.
"What SMART is proposing is an outrage and an insult to our community. We deserve better," Landecker said.
Jean Severinghaus, of Greenbrae, said more amenities are needed at the stations to truly make them world class.
"It would be important to have very secure bike parking overnight," Severinghaus said. "It would be great if San Rafael could think in a visionary way."
Three members of the public said they would like to see operations at the nonprofit Whistlestop senior center right along the train tracks moved to a different location.
Gerald Belletto, of San Rafael, said he doesn't want to see the building torn down or changed.
"For them to use that site takes away a building designed specifically to be used as a train station," Belletto said. "I urge you to take control of this project now. As soon as possible."
Phillips said the city might ultimately have to pay for any station design changes or improvements desired by the City Council and residents.
"If the city has to pay for that, what pocket is it going to come out of?" Phillips said.
Unsure of how changes would be funded, he floated the idea of having notable city residents pay for station upgrades in exchange for having the station named after them.
"We've got to do something different and maybe that's one way to fund it," Phillips said.
Platforms will likely be under construction in the spring, with the trains scheduled to be operating in 2016.
Connolly said the city needs to keep in mind that it might be forced to cough up additional funding to make the platforms acceptable.
"We have to be prepared to step up ourselves," he said.
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Copyright 2014 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.