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A Little Quid Pro Quo on the Side

Columnist: Bill Meagher
February, 2016 Issue
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Bill Meagher
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“Marin is a special place for lots of reasons, not the least of which is its public meetings, where you can hear a non-lawyer resident ask for a little ‘quid pro quo.’”

 

The mere mention of the Tam Ridge Residence project in Corte Madera brings on snarls and salty language not usually heard in that neighborhood—which is saying something considering, the DMV’s across the street.

So a little good news is a welcome addition to complaints about the scale, paint colors, construction delays and anticipated traffic the 180-unit apartment complex could bring. One thing that is definitely on the way is a new Andy’s Market. The local company, owned by Andy Bachich, signed a 20-year lease on a 3,000-square-foot space.

The company has a pair of locations in San Rafael: One in the Sun Valley neighborhood, the other on Point San Pedro Road adjacent to a boat harbor. The existing markets are full service, while the new location will need to be more of specialty retailer because of the limited footprint. The market plans on opening in May.

One hopes the complex is open by then (it was supposed to debut in 2014), but as the ink dries on this story and Santa is prepping for his annual present delivery excursion, the project is still under “construction,” a word that, in this case, is even more demonized than usual.

A sad goodbye

Fifi’s Diner, an eatery in Greenbrae’s Bon Air Shopping Center that served up a little deliciousness since 1985, closed its doors at the end of last year after the center management informed owner Fifi Schardt that it had other plans for her space.

Originally, the mall management made it sound as if Schardt was closing up so she could retire, but then Paul Libertore of the Marin Independent Journal dug around a bit and found Schardt had no intention of playing golf or buying an RV. The truth was, Fifi would have been happy serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner into the foreseeable future, but Bon Air is bringing in a bistro and the Fifi space is needed for its kitchen.

Like a rock, a Big Rock

George Lucas wants to modify the Big Rock Ranch office center to accommodate 57 guest rooms for visiting filmmaking clients and film crews. The Lucas Valley Road complex would provide clients using Skywalker Ranch with overnight accommodations, an eatery, fitness facilities and a meeting space.

The remodel would keep the footprint the same and use 24 percent of the floor area. The complex housed Lucasfilm Animation, which moved to San Francisco’s Presidio in 2006.

The county will take up the project later this year. After the county dropped the ball on the Grady Ranch studio project—looking like it was going to approve it and then freezing when neighbors threatened a lawsuit—it will be fun to watch the county deal with this.

The new Grady Ranch project is certain to make those same neighbors happy. The 224-units of affordable housing hasn’t yet formally come to the county.

Your Marin moment

Marin is a special place for lots of reasons, not the least of which is its public meetings, where you can hear a non-lawyer resident ask for a little “quid pro quo.”

Those words were uttered at a Corte Madera planning commission meeting where Reneson Hotels is pushing a project to demolish its 110-room Best Western Hotel and restaurant, replacing it with a pair of hotels totaling 185 rooms.

Full disclosure: I know some of the Reneson management and they are nice enough folks, but I have no dog in this fight. They’re rolling the rock up the hill, since the property would be denser and likely bring more traffic to the area. Some folks feel the increased traffic along with the possible loss of a swimming pool and a pond shortchanges the town.

Aquatic fans don’t want to see the pool go, the hotel sells memberships for pool use, and Audubon fans don’t want to see the pond go, as birds enjoy it.

The project requires a general plan amendment, because the current mixed-use designation doesn’t allow for the density Reneson wants, and the quid pro quo remark centered on what residents might get if the amendment was granted and the project greenlighted.

This being Marin, one must assume that bags of unmarked cash wouldn’t be involved. But cash is definitely in play, since Corte Madera gets 10 percent of the hotel’s room revenues in the form of a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). In fiscal 2015, the town scooped up $963,590 and Best Western kicked in $489,298 of that total. Towns don’t have a lot of cash flow, and those kinds of bucks help keep cops on the street and the library open.

Bill Meagher is a contributing editor here at NorthBay biz and an associate editor in the west coast office of the Wall Street-based digital financial news outlet The Deal. He lives in San Rafael with his wife and the hardest working cats in show business. He is ecstatic about the SF Giants opening spring training this month. Contact him at bmeagher@northbaybiz.com



 

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