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San Rafael commits $100K for Canal lighting upgrades

May 17, 2022

Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal, May 12, 2022

Canal Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
Canal Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

San Rafael is poised to spend $100,000 to improve public lighting in the Canal area, responding to residents’ calls to increase safety after dark.

The City Council threw its support behind the spending plan at its meeting on May 2. The project, which aims to install streetlights at 45 sites and upgrade lights at 65 others, will be included as part of the city’s capital improvements program, set to be presented to the council on Monday.

Marina Palma, a member of Voces del Canal, the community organization that led the planning of the project, said she is grateful to the city.

“I really hope wholeheartedly that we can all keep working together to make all this come true and make the community of Canal a better place,” Palma told the council through a translator.

Voces del Canal worked with the nonprofit Canal Alliance and Dominican University of California to develop the project. They identified seven routes that need better lighting to allow residents to move about at night without fear. Police officers and city officials worked with the group in its planning.

Members of the group said they surveyed residents to determine where priorities lie. Residents provided testimonies about people congregating for drinking, smoking and gambling in the dimly lit Pickleweed Park. One resident said parking is an issue, and that residents run home when they park far away because they feel unsafe walking on dark streets.

Rosaura Rios, a member of Voces del Canal, said the lack of light leads to the theft of automobiles, tools and catalytic converters and that the fear of being robbed or assaulted is emotionally and mentally taxing.

The sites identified for more lighting included Harbor and Hoag streets along Canal Street; Pickleweed Park; the path behind Bahia Vista Elementary School; Novato Street; Larkspur Street; Fairfax Street; and the Shoreline Path that separates Pickleweed Park from the bay.

Bill Guerin, the city’s director of public works, said staff will have to do some work to overcome hurdles for two of the sites. That includes the Bahia path, because it’s on private property, and the Shoreline Path, because of environmental regulations.

On the others, however, work is in progress, Guerin said. The Pickleweed Park lighting could be done within a three-month time frame. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has to approve the plans for the remaining four sites, but the work is expected to be done in three to five months, Guerin said.

Guerin said the $100,000 is an initial investment.

“Whatever it takes to make that happen, we’ll figure out a way to fund it,” he said.

Parts of the Canal area have already benefited from a Transportation Authority of Marin grant to install lighting and rectangular rapid flashing beacons, Guerin said. He said the city is evaluating bus stops for lighting improvements, and recently launched a transportation plan focused on safety improvements.

Voces del Canal also asked for more police patrols in the area and asked whether security cameras could be installed throughout the neighborhoods.

Police Chief David Spiller said his department is developing a community safety committee to work with the neighborhood and that the department will amplify the police presence in the area.

Regarding cameras, Spiller said the department has a security camera registry program for property owners to register their private surveillance cameras for use in police investigations. The department will encourage residents and apartment building owners to register. Apartment building owners could be eligible for grant opportunities to purchase equipment, he said.

Click here to read the full story in the Marin IJ

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