San Geronimo Valley Supports Streams, Not Injunctions


San Geronimo Valley Supports Streams, Not Injunctions

Editorial in Marin IJ

On December 5, SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) will ask Marin Superior Court for a second injunction against all home improvement permits in San Geronimo Valley. SPAWN's first court injunction lasted 18 months. This followed a 24-month Valley building moratorium demanded by SPAWN. Enough is enough.

San Geronimo Valley is home for 2,000 families. The average house is 1400 square feet, on a lot measuring 110 feet by 110 feet. About half of our small lots are located near a stream, which may be a main channel with fish, a seasonal runoff, or an "ephemeral stream" (drainage that appears only in the rain).

Over the past five years, San Geronimo families have been prohibited from making normal home improvements. We cannot install a garden shed, add a bedroom, or enclose our trash containers because the County is barred from issuing permits. Our hands are tied by the legal maneuvers of SPAWN, which also calls itself Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Marin County won a victory for families in March 2014, when SPAWN's first court injunction was overturned on appeal because of two defects. The Court of Appeal ruled the first injunction did not balance the harm to property owners. It also ruled salmon are already protected by the 100 foot stream setback and environmental review for all physical improvements (required by the 2007 and 1994 Countywide Plans). SPAWN's December 5 request for a second injunction should fail for the same defects.

Constant litigation directs tax dollars away from restoration and into attorneys fees. Marin taxpayers have funded $5.3 million in salmon protection projects since 2005. The County paid outside consultants $300,000 to develop a Salmon Enhancement Plan. MMWD has spent $8 million in a decade on salmon preservation.

In October 2013, our Supervisors adopted the countywide Stream Conservation Area Ordinance, which was supported by responsible conservation groups including San Geronimo Valley Stewards. The SCA ordinance fairly balances creek protections with the legitimate expectations of homeowners. It adopts practical alternatives and best practices for home remodels and landscaping. It would permit small home additions (no more than 500 square feet maximum per lot).

So what is the problem? The County cannot implement the new SCA ordinance because SPAWN filed another lawsuit to stop it. SPAWN is asking the Court on December 5 for a second injunction against all home improvement permits in SG Valley. The trial court needs to defer to the balanced approach of the new SCA ordinance, which is more effective than the hammer of an injunction.

As responsible Marin citizens, we can act now to preserve creek habitats and protect our family homes:

1. Email all our County Supervisors and request they oppose SPAWN's December 5 request for injunction; promptly prepare the supplemental environmental report ordered by the Court of Appeals; and implement the 2013 countywide stream ordinance.

2. Maintain stream vegetation around our homes, and volunteer for community restoration projects.

3. Pray for rain! The timing and amount of rainfall is critical for survival of our salmon.