Whistlestop announced at the beginning of the month its plans to transform it's location on 930 Tamalpais Ave. into a five-story building that will offer around 50 affordable housing units to seniors in addition to its regular services.
The popular nonprofit offers nutritional services and social activities for Marin's elderly, and serves around 5,000 seniors every year. The affordable housing plan will enable the center to remain in its current location when the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station is running in sometime in late 2015 or early 2016.
With the new design, Whistlestop's ground floor would be used for 22 to 24 parking spaces, with the second, third and fourth floors going to constructing 50 affordable housing units. The top floor would be for recreation, and would include some outdoor space and an activity hall. Jackson Cafe, the center's restaurant, will relocate to the other side of the building from its current location on Third Street. A lobby and plaza would also be added for Whistlestop shuttles.
While the city is supportive of the plan and many rejoice that Whistlestop won't have to move due to the SMART station, some question the safety of the building due to crime at the nearby transit center.
"In theory, this is a good thing. However, the area is a major crime location from Heatherton, Irwin and streets surrounding," Julie Beach commented. "The crime needs to be cleaned up. The seniors using services in the area and living there are going to be targets as they tend to be more vulnerable. Right now it is not a place I'd want any senior I know living there."
In March 2012, San Rafael police and partner agencies launched a high-visibility program as well as a series of undercover operations to target crime at the transit center. Officers, in uniform and in plain clothes, contacted 473 individuals and made 79 arrests, according to police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher.
The offenses included: drug dealing, warrants for both violent and property crime violations, sex offender violations, probation violations and for alcohol intoxication. During the operation, police engaged in five foot chases originating from the transit center involving suspected drug violators. All the incidents ended in arrests. There was also an attempted purse snatch witnessed by officers working the assignment at that time. This attempted robbery occurred on the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue during commute hour.
San Rafael police are now working with local businesses to crackdown on crime in the area.
The most recent violent incident at the transit center was on Dec. 14, 2012 when a man pulled up in a car near Marin Filmworks on Tamalpais Avenue, got out and shot another man on the platform with a handgun.
"The dreamers somehow think the shooting, stabbing and other assaults at the bus terminal will magically be kept away from the SMART station," Kevin Moore commented. "Not to mention people with limited mobility mixing in with rush hour commuters, active train tracks and busy streets. I fear many will feel trapped. I guess they can watch the freeway traffic go by, which is a block away."
Do you think the Whistlestop location is safe for senior affordable housing? Tell us in the comments.
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