Over the course of a wide-ranging, substantive and interactive hour, Sloan dove into an array of subjects, starting with the 18-month, $18 million elephant in the room: the Miller Avenue project, which is now in its 16th month, with most of the most critical – and most disruptive for Miller businesses – components finished.
“Overall it’s really been a great partnership with the businesses,” Sloan said.
Sloan touted Meet Me on Miller, the post-construction campaign from the Chamber and the City to re-engage the community with Miller Avenue shops, restaurants, businesses and organizations.
And in the immediate future, there’s MillerFest, a four-hour celebration of the new Miller Avenue, on Saturday, Nov. 4 (12-4pm) in the public parking lot near Marin Theatre Company and Extreme Pizza. The action-packed event features food from Antone's East Coast Subs, Extreme Pizza, Swirl and Whole Foods Mill Valley, along with live music from Loose With the Truth, a beer garden from the Chamber and Fort Point Beer Co., a bounce house, a bike decorating content and parade, a bike maintenance station from Tam Bikes, pedicabs from Vanguard Properties and 4Leaf, children's play from the Marin Theatre Company, nature walks, history walks and much more.
Sloan says she hopes the new Miller incites even more families to get out of their cars.
“I grew up in this town biking all over the place,” she said. “My mom loved it because she didn’t have to drive me everywhere. You knew where to go because your friends’ bikes were parked outside that store.”
“Now I have seen an explosion of kids and parents biking and walking and using other modes to get to school along Miller,” she added, mentioning the dedicated bike lanes throughout the road and flashing beacons at many crosswalks. “And we hope that grows even more when people see how much more multi-modal the street is now.”
Sloan noted that some of the biggest improvements to Miller happened under the road surface.
“This is a huge project,” Sloan said. “There hasn’t been one of this size in the county in a very long time. The biggest piece, perhaps, was underground in terms of sewer pipes, storm drains, utility upgrades – we had some serious problems underground and it warranted a job of this size being done.”
That impact has already made gains, she said, as evidenced by the fact that last winter’s record rains caused considerably less flooding around Miller and its side streets than lower levels of rain in years past.
“To all of the businesses, I say thank you so much for your patience on Miller,” Sloan added.
With the Miller project almost in the rear-view mirror, Sloan spent the bulk of the discussion on some of the macro-level issues that face Mill Valley face. The most obvious of those continues to be traffic. Sloan rattled off a series of changes that have been made, from traffic light timing adjustments to the pilot yellow school bus program, which has allowed dozens of families to avoid cross-town car trips to school, that have been made in the past year and that have reduced overall travel time in and around Mill Valley by 13 percent.
The imbalance between the percentage of people who work in Mill Valley but cannot afford to live here “is the most important issue we have here in town,” Sloan said, recalling that when she was a kid, her neighbors were the local mechanic at Masters auto repair and that as many as 10 Mill Valley Police officers lived in Mill Valley in the 1990s, a number that has shrunk to just one officer in all of Marin County.
“We have moved away from being a community where the people who worked in and served this community lived here,” Sloan said. “And it’s changed the town on a cultural level as well.”
McCann said the City itself has faced tremendous difficult fill its own staff vacancies because of the dearth of affordable housing.
To address that issue, the City Council approved a change to the City’s affordable housing requirements, requiring any development of four or more units to make 25 percent of those units affordable.
“I can’t tell you guys what a big win that is, especially looking at other jurisdictions,” Sloan said.
The Council also this year approved an affordable housing impact fee on all new housing projects and remodels costing $100,000 or more. The fee 1 percent of the project’s construction cost. The fee take effect in November 2018.
City officials estimate that the fee could generate approximately $350,000 a year, and that the City is hosting a workforce housing summit in late November to discuss how the use of that revenue should be prioritized, with the options ranging from building new housing or buying and remodeling existing apartment complexes that “could use some TLC” to offering payment assistance for local workers, Sloan said.
Sloan and McCann also touched on a number of other subjects, from the ongoing overhaul of the network of Steps, Lanes and Paths and recent parking meter upgrades to the need for businesses to stay on top of their own emergency preparedness, a subject that has been on everyone’s minds of late, for obvious reasons,” Sloan said.