The Kenwood Press
News: 03/01/2014

Community discusses speeding, farmers market

Alec Peters

A farmers market in Plaza Park and vehicles driving too fast on Warm Springs Road were the main topics of discussion at two recent community assemblies.

First District Supervisor Susan Gorin held a Town Hall get-together on Feb. 19 at the Kenwood Depot, where topics in front of an audience of about 60 people also included commercial signage along Sonoma Hwy., community separators, the state of Sonoma County roads, water issues, parking problems at a local winery, and a potential bike path through Sonoma Valley.

Other county and local officials attended the meeting as well, including representatives from the California Highway Patrol, Kenwood Fire Department, the county’s Fire & Emergency Services, Regional Parks, and Transportation & Public Works.

But the two issues that took up most of the two-hour meeting had to do with plans for a farmers market on Sundays during the summer at Plaza Park, and speeding vehicles on a straight stretch of Warm Springs Road from Sonoma Hwy. to just past the Kenwood Depot.

The farmer’s market issue also carried over to a meeting at Plaza Park three days later where the market’s manager, Kelly Smith of Marin-based Agricultural Community Events, gave details about the logistics of the market to a group of about 65 attendees.

Some neighbors of the Plaza Park area have expressed concern over the location, citing potential problems associated with parking, noise, garbage, pedestrian safety, and general disruption of surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Other community members have stated support for the market, arguing that it would be low-key, have minimal impact, be an opportunity for the community to buy local products from local vendors, including some from Kenwood and Glen Ellen, and be a venue for the community to get together.

Back in December, Agricultural Community Events filed a permit application with the county’s Regional Parks Department to run a farmers market at Plaza Park on Sundays, June 1 through Sept. 14, noon to 4 p.m. The non-profit company manages seven markets between Marin and Sonoma counties, including one in Glen Ellen at Jack London Village the last three summers, which would move to Plaza Park if given the final go-ahead.

Bert Whitaker of the county park’s department said park officials have given tentative approval for the market to operate this summer as a “pilot program.” Whitaker said that Agricultural Community Events still needs to provide the county with a traffic circulation plan that shows how parking will be handled. Also, the county’s Fire & Emergency Services Department will have to review the site plan. Whitaker said he hopes to have the process wrapped up by the end of March.

“From our perspective,” said Whitaker, “This is a community-type park, and a farmers market is a common element of a community park…it’s worth taking a good look at.”

However, he said, given some of the concerns brought up, the parks department would schedule a review of the market after it is operating to evaluate any impacts on the community.

At the Feb. 22 morning meeting in Plaza Park, Smith attempted to address the objections about the market. She described where the 20 to 30 booths would be located: in an area along the Warm Springs Road side of the park, reaching at its furthest point into the park to the bridge.

Smith said the booths would be a combination of produce sellers, prepared foods, crafts, and others such as a tarot card reader and the Glen Ellen Historical Society. There would be non-amplified music. Smith said there would be managers on site, and that they are required to take any garbage with them and leave the park as they found it.

Some members of the Kenwood Community Church, which is located on Channing Row next to the park, have stated a worry that the market would affect parking for their 10:30 a.m. service. Smith said that the noon start time for the market should mitigate any problems, and that she would work with the church to make sure there is no negative impact on church activities.

“We understand we have to be stewards of our space and be considerate of the neighbors,” said Smith.

The issue of speeding cars on Warm Springs Road was discussed at the Feb. 19 Town Hall meeting with Susan Gorin. The posted speed along the straight stretch of road in question is 25 miles per hour, but vehicles commonly exceed the limit. Last summer, a petition with 238 signatures was sent to Gorin asking for some traffic calming measures, such as the conversion of the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Los Guilicos Ave. to a three-way stop, and the installation of radar speed signs.

Jason Nutt of the county’s Department of Public Works & Transportation said that a recent traffic analysis indicated that Warm Springs Road gets 1,600 cars a day, and that 85 percent of the traffic was going 36 miles an hour. Nutt also said that studies have shown that stop signs do not slow traffic down.

Nutt said that evaluations of the intersection have been done before and that none of those studies have indicated that the intersection meets the requirements of a three-way stop. He said that in order to convince the Board of Supervisors to OK a three-way stop at that location, he would need more analysis.

Gorin said she wants to continue to pursue the speeding issue with members of the community and transportation staff to try and come up with some kind of traffic calming solution.

For those involved in the Warm Springs Road speeding issue over the last year, the discussion was not very satisfying.

“We didn’t learn anything new,” said Kenwood resident Don MacNair, who organized the petition drive.