The City has been working closely with the Ritter Center on efforts to relocate their services. Two key parameters are guiding the search – the new location cannot be Downtown, and it cannot be in a residential area.
The Public Process …
Step Zero – Like any development project in San Rafael, it all begins with an idea. Over the past three months, City staff, a City Council subcommittee, the Ritter Center, and County of Marin staff have been looking for sites. Between the parameters above and a low commercial vacancy rate, only a handful of options have emerged. These options have been further complicated by a variety of factors – some sites would have to be developed from the ground up and other sites simply need to be rehabbed. Some sites are big enough for Ritter Center’s operations only and others could accommodate a multi-service center. Some landlords are willing to rent/lease to Ritter, some landlords would be willing to sell, and others are unwilling to do either. Some sites would require transportation planning.
Step One – Once a concept is developed, the “Applicant” (in this case Ritter Center and any other partners) would submit an application to the City. Before the public review process can begin, the City must first receive this application. We have not received an application for any relocation proposal. A site on Mark Drive has been identified as a potential site, but there has not been an application for Mark Drive. This concept is being explored and potentially may lead to Ritter Center and any other partners submitting an application that would include fees, site plans, floor plans, and a written operations narrative (hours of operation, security measures, staff and visitors numbers, etc.)
Step Two – If and when an application is submitted, the next step is “internal” to the City, and it’s called a “Completion Review.” The application is reviewed by various City departments (building, fire, police, public works, etc.) to ensure that the application materials have sufficient details and information, so that they can be moved on and vetted by the Planning Commission and/or the City Council. The purpose for this review is to ensure there is adequate information for the public to review and for the City Council to render a decision. A determination on “completeness” is made within 30 days of the application’s submission. If the application is deemed to be “incomplete”, then the Applicant is given a letter explaining what more is needed and it is upon them to resubmit the additional information. Once they resubmit, the City has an additional 30 days to review the additional information for completeness.
Step Three – After an application is deemed to be complete, it is then ready for a public hearing. About two weeks prior to the hearing, a notification is sent to all property owners, residents, businesses, and neighborhood associations within a geographic radius. Information is also published in the Marin IJ, the City Manager’s “Snapshot” newsletter, and various other means of communication. At a public hearing, staff typically gives a presentation about the application and presents a recommendation, the Applicant also presents their application, and then there will be public comments accepted about the proposal (written comments from the community are also accepted prior to the hearing). At the close of public comment, the presiding body can then approve the application, approve the application with modifications, deny the application, or continue the matter and ask staff or the Applicant to make revisions or address additional questions/issues and then come back for another hearing.
Where We Are Right Now …
We are currently at “Step Zero.” This is the concept development phase. Nothing has been purchased or leased. Nothing has been finalized. The Ritter Center is simply exploring the implications and options for different locations, including Mark Drive in North San Rafael.
During this phase, you are more than welcome to contact the City Council and/or me and let us know your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions. Please also feel free to forward/post/share this message.