League of Women Voters of Marin County
May 7, 2001
Mayor Al Boro and Members of the San Rafael City Council
1400 Fifth Ave.
San Rafael, CA 94901
Dear Mayor Boro and Council Members:
The League of Women Voters of Marin County has long recognized that the
city-centered corridor of the county's general plan dictates that the St.
Vincent's/Silveira properties, which are included in San Rafael's sphere of
influence, are planned for development and housing, including desperately
needed affordable housing.
One of our members served on the St. Vincent's/Silveira task force from
September 1998 to May 2000, along with representatives of all the
stakeholders in the property. We are very pleased that they reached
consensus—and we are determined to defend the viability of their final
recommendations. That's why we are so distressed--and actually feel
betrayed--that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service created the study area
boundary of its proposed refuge without the slightest attempt to work with,
or honor, the task force, let alone the county and the city, which created
the task force and are considering its recommendations in updating their
general plans. All of these Marin planning processes were ignored by the
What's particularly troubling is that project leader, Marge Kolar,
acknowledged in an open forum last week that the Service knew about the
task force process, yet went ahead and drew the refuge boundary during 1999
without any consultation with the county, city, or the task force. Their
reasons for failing to communicate were entirely unsatisfactory. They
claimed the boundary was an "internal" matter and couldn't "go public
without the director's approval"—yet they worked closely with Marin's
environmentalists, actually using their map to include the St.
Vincent's/Silveira property west of the railroad tracks in the boundary.
Are these people part of the Service's internal staff? Or they part of the
public like the rest of us. It's clear to us that the Service was catering
to a favored constituency at the expense of all the other stakeholders in
There also is the issue of the scientific legitimacy of the Service's map.
By including the area west of the railroad tracks, the Service made a total
deviation from the map of the Habitat Goals Project that the Service stated
it would be consistent with. (That goals project report, by the way, is the
best available document for Bay Area wetlands research and planning, and the
Service was involved in its creation.) Again, the Service's recent defense
to the map deviation was not convincing and appears to have been made to
justify its actions after the fact.
The Service has had the task force recommendations since last December.
It has not yet answered a recent question from the League about what more
it could learn by restudying this area and protecting the habitat beyond
what the task force did.
As a result, the League's history, policies, and advocacy efforts dictate
that we support the city's resolution to ask the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service to withdraw the St. Vincent's/Silveira properties west of the RR
tracks from the wildlife refuge study area boundary.