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Yvonne Roberts promoted to chief donor relations officer at Whistlestop

Yvonne Roberts promoted to chief donor relations officer at Whistlestop

Fairfax resident Yvonne Roberts has been promoted to chief donor relations officer at San Rafael’s Whistlestop after 10 years with the nonprofit that offers services for older adults and those living with disabilities. Roberts joined Whistlestop in 2009 to lead the development and marketing efforts. In her new role, Roberts will continue to be a member of the leadership team and will focus on donor relations.

Marin initiative aims to relieve housing crunch with junior units

Marin initiative aims to relieve housing crunch with junior unitsWith an eye toward adding to the affordable housing stock, a Marin initiative is encouraging homeowners to convert unused bedrooms into studio apartments called junior accessory dwelling units.

“Housing is a major issue,” said Linda Jackson, director of the Aging Action Initiative. “Renters need an affordable place to live, and more units will help with that.”

To help interested residents get started, Jackson is working with the Marin County Commission on Aging to host expos where attendees can get free advice from architects, city planners, builders and other professionals.

The first event is from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday at Whistlestop in San Rafael. A second will be from 10 a.m.

State laws that went into effect in 2017 have streamlined the process to create accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units, the latter is often referred to as JADU (pronounced jay-doo) for short.

Jackson said it’s an opportune time for residents to consider the advantages of creating these units.

“One benefit is for older people who are homeowners and can earn income from rent,” Jackson said. “Or maybe they want to downsize and move into the JADU and rent out their home.”

Homeowners could expect to earn about $1,200 to $1,600 per month in rent from a JADU at market rate, Jackson said.

An accessory dwelling unit is loosely defined as a detached or attached secondary dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more people. That includes permanent provisions for sleeping, cooking and sanitation.

State law defines a junior accessory dwelling unit as a unit that is no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within an existing single-family structure. A JADU requires converting an existing bedroom to add an outside entrance, a mini-kitchen, a lockable door between the new unit and the main living area to ensure privacy and its own restroom or access to a shared restroom.

Michael Hagerty, a member of the Marin County Commission on Aging, said the expo will be an open-house style, with stations set up for each of the three stages of creating a JADU: planning, building and renting.

“We will have experts on hand who can talk about the different laws in place in communities across the county,” Hagerty said.

City planners across the county are on board, saying that these second units are a piece to the puzzle in relieving the housing crunch.

Paul Jensen, the community development director in San Rafael, said, “we encourage both types of units as it is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for developing new housing.”

However, he said there haven’t been as many applications for JADUs as there are for accessory dwelling units. There was one application for a JADU in 2016 and in 2017 and two in 2018.

Applications for accessory dwelling units, however, have more than tripled since 2016 when there were only eight applications and six approvals. After the new laws went into effect in 2017, there were 33 applications and 30 approvals, and 38 applications and 31 approvals in 2018.

“I may be speculating, but it is possible that many are finding that they get a bigger bang for the buck by pursuing an ADU because of the relaxing of the laws,” Jensen said.

Fairfax resident Kiki La Porta successfully created a JADU at her home for approximately $20,000. She and her husband David Haskell did most of the heavy lifting to get the job done.

“These units are affordable by size, they’re affordable by design,” she said. “It creates the opportunity for people to live in our community.”

Hagerty said that success stories like La Porta’s will be encouraging for residents who are interested in building a second unit in their home.

“This is the perfect solution to making more affordable housing available,” Hagerty said.

San Rafael’s Whistlestop names 2 top executives

San Rafael’s Whistlestop names 2 top executivesSan Rafael’s Whistlestop, a nonprofit for seniors and people with disabilities, has added two new team members to lead operations and development.

Mill Valley resident Nancy Geisse has been hired as the chief operating officer. San Rafael resident Bill Cullison has been hired as the development operations director.

Geise, who joined Whistlestop as a consultant in September, will be responsible for overseeing all of the nonprofit’s programs and services, including transportation, healthy aging, and nutrition.

Prior to Whistlestop, Geisse was vice president of strategy and business development at Uppercase Branding. She also served as director of project management at Certain Solar, executive vice president at Trio Energy and chief executive officer and founder of MedStep Health Services and ran a consulting practice, providing strategic, financial and business development services to several companies.

Cullison is coming off a 14-year career at Guide Dogs for the Blind, where he served most recently as a development services manager. In his new role, Cullison will be reporting to CEO Joe O’Hehir and is responsible for managing Whistlestop’s development department, including donor cultivation and acquisition, and donor programs and events.

BioMarin gears up for cleanup at former Pacific Gas and Electric site

BioMarin gears up for cleanup at former Pacific Gas and Electric siteA big-top tent will soon return to downtown San Rafael for yet another cleanup of a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. lot, after soil tests revealed contamination on a portion of the property.

The cleanup is only one hurdle to clear for BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, which is seeking to use the 3-acre site at 999 Third Ave. for a joint development project with Whistlestop, the nonprofit agency that offers services for seniors. The San Rafael-based company also will need to pass a separate lengthy environmental impact review process, which is kicking off next month with a “scoping” meeting where the public can weigh in on environmental concerns.

“Upon completion of PG&E’s cleanup, BioMarin acquired the property with the original PG&E buildings still intact,” said Debra Charlesworth, a BioMarin spokeswoman. “Once BioMarin removed these buildings it was determined that a full remediation of the western end was necessary to accommodate the future housing and research and development facilities.”

The project site is between Second and Third streets, bounded by Lindaro and Brooks streets.

The big top will likely go up in April for workers to begin soil remediation with the oversight of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Charlesworth said.

Sandy Nax, a spokesman for DTSC, said the soil cleanup can begin after a 30-day public notification period, during which time residents can submit comments on the remediation plan.

BioMarin is also working with DTSC and PG&E to finalize a land-use covenant, which will restrict the allowable uses on the property and provide soil management guidelines for future construction.

PG&E previously conducted soil cleanup on 2 acres of the eastern side of the property. After about a yearlong effort, workers removed close to 28,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from that eastern side of the lot. Contaminants included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, petroleum products and metals, according to PG&E.

When BioMarin acquired the property about a year ago, three PG&E buildings remained on the approximately 1-acre western edge of the site along Brooks Avenue. In May and June 2018, after demolition of those buildings, BioMarin performed a soil test of that section of the lot. BioMarin’s investigation revealed the same manufactured gas plant-related contaminants were in the soil of that 1-acre section, too, Charlesworth said.

Nax said PG&E is also still required to conduct an additional round of soil gas sampling to provide assurance that the site is safe.

Deanna Contreras, spokeswoman for PG&E, said the company is sampling groundwater under the oversight of the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“To date, monitoring results show that remediation was effective,” she said.

All this work is being done to clear the way for a proposed multi-use complex. BioMarin donated about 15,000 square feet of the northwest corner of the property, valued at $1.2 million, to Whistlestop. The nonprofit plans to relocate its “active aging center” from its 930 Tamalpais Ave. site at the SMART train station.

The project would include the construction of two four-story lab and office buildings for BioMarin use, and a six-story, 67-unit affordable senior housing and activities building for Whistlestop. Eden Properties of Hayward, an affordable housing developer, is working on the housing portion of the project.

“Our partners at BioMarin assure us that the site cleanup is going on schedule and as planned,” said Joe O’Hehir, CEO of Whistlestop. “We stand ready to move forward on the proposed timeline and are eager to keep the momentum going on this exciting project.”

The project application, which was submitted last year, is still under review, said Raffi Boloyan, the city’s planning manager.

Boloyan said the scoping session to start the draft environmental impact report, required under the California Environmental Quality Act, is scheduled for the March 12 Planning Commission meeting.

The project is requesting a general plan amendment, height exception and a density bonus among other approvals. The Design Review Board, the Planning Commission and the City Council will have to sign off on all approvals.

“This proposal embraces local, state and federal initiatives to revitalize downtown areas and to redevelop brownfields,” Charlesworth said. “We are proud of this pioneering proposal that provides an opportunity for public and private entities to collaborate on a development that will have significant and long-reaching benefits.”

BioMarin bought the San Rafael Corporate Center campus in 2014 and is the sole owner and the largest presence at the campus, where it maintains its corporate headquarters.

Nancy Geisse’s Math Degree Improves Thousands of Lives

Nancy Geisse’s Math Degree Improves Thousands of LivesBy Alycia Wilson

A mathematical sciences degree gave Nancy Geisse the ability to break down a complex problem into manageable tasks. Today, she uses this ability to serve 14,000 older adults and people with disabilities in Marin County, California.

The Stanford graduate and Phi Beta Kappa alumna accepted a job in late January as chief operating officer at Whistlestop, a newly created position at the nonprofit. Many of the management tasks Geisse performs day to day revolve around transportation, healthy aging, and nutrition to foster the organization’s mission of promoting independence, well-being, and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities.

“I’m taking on the responsibility of driving growth in the organization and expansion in the services we provide,” Geisse said. “Whistlestop is rising to the challenges facing America as the baby boomers age.”

The rationale behind this newly-created position is to rise to the challenges that an increasing older adult population brings. This warrants expansion efforts as Geisse emphasizes that the number of older adults is projected to double to more than 98 million by 2060. In Whistlestop’s service area, 1 in 3 adults are expected to be age 65 or older by 2025, with the age 85 and older group projected to experience the highest growth rate. These numbers gave the organization the incentive to find more ways to create a community where older adults are celebrated and honored so they may age with dignity and grace.

The charge to find a solution to the housing and healthcare problems that many adults face in Marin County is just one example of why Geisse was appointed to this strategic leadership role.

“We are in the process of developing a healthy aging campus with affordable housing for older adults in San Rafael, California. In addition, we are addressing other social determinants of health, such as nutrition, socialization, and transportation,” Geisse said.

In addition to the many classes Whistlestop provides, Geisse is working to create socialization opportunities for older adults, both at the center and in their homes. Under her instruction, plans have also been made to expand Whistlestop’s nutrition services, which currently include Meals on Wheels, the center’s own meal delivery service, and a restaurant at its Active Aging Center.

Geisse said the critical thinking, logic, and structured analysis skills developed while pursuing her math degree at Stanford aid her every day in her new job.

“Through math, I learned to question the status quo, drill down into the how and why, and test the accuracy of the reasoning and data in my solutions. Critical thinking is vital in business, including in my new position at Whistlestop,” Geisse said.

While at Stanford, Geisse aspired to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa because she knew it would provide her with lifelong learning opportunities and allow her to be part of a network of exceptional individuals who are driven to work hard and succeed. Geisse notes Phi Beta Kappa’s The American Scholarmagazine in particular when referring to lifelong learning opportunities as it “has been a fantastic source of learning about subjects I do not encounter in my work life. The literature and history articles are especially interesting to me.”

The drive to work hard and succeed can also be seen in Geisse’s career trajectory. Before Whistlestop, she was vice president of strategy and business development at Uppercase Branding, a verbal identity firm. Previously, she was director of project management at Certain Solar, executive vice president at Trio Energy, and chief executive officer and founder of MedStep Health Services.

“Given [Whistlestop’s] planned foray into new markets and my experience launching startups, it made sense for me to join the organization in a position where I can contribute strategically and operationally to the whole organization,” Geisse said.

Speaking to the value of being a member of Phi Beta Kappa in both her personal and professional life, Geisse said that it encourages her to think big and achieve higher goals. Today, she finds that Phi Beta Kappa’s articles and publications keep her informed and challenge her to think beyond her own expertise. In addition, Geisse benefits from staying connected to other members who work in similar fields, calling Phi Beta Kappa “truly an amazing network.”

Alycia Wilson is a senior at the University of New Hampshire majoring in journalism with a concentration in political science. She interned at Plugged in with Greta Van Susteren in the fall. The University of New Hampshire is home to the Beta of New Hampshire chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Marin nonprofit Whistlestop promotes Ashley Baker to chief people officer

Marin nonprofit Whistlestop promotes Ashley Baker to chief people officerWhistlestop, a nonprofit serving adults and people living with disabilities in Marin County, has promoted Ashley Baker to chief people officer.

The group, which offers meals and transportation services, stated that in this new position, Baker continues to report to CEO Joe O’Hehir and is responsible for leading a workforce of over 400 employees and volunteers.

Baker joined Whistlestop in October 2013 and previously was human resources manager then human resources director. Prior to joining Whistlestop, Baker worked at national outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI in its human resources department for 18 years.

Baker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The announcement came on the heels of four other top positions filled recently: Bill Cullison to development operations director in February, Nancy Geisse to chief operating officer in January, Yvonne Roberts to chief donor relations officer in December and Jeff Wands to chief financial officer in October.

CalFresh eligibility will reach more on June 1

CalFresh eligibility will reach more on June 1People receiving financial assistance from a federally funded program won’t have to wait much longer to be eligible to receive Cal-Fresh food benefits after a change in state law.

As of June 1, people receiving Supplemental Security Income / State Supplemental Payment (SSI/ SSP) can apply to receive CalFresh benefits with assistance from the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Also known as the Supplemental (SNAP), CalFresh provides qualified applicants with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card that may be used like a debit card in participating grocery stores and farmers markets to supplement food purchases.

As of June 2018, 3,182 Marin County residents received SSI/SSP. Of that number, 1,417 individuals (44.5 percent) were 65 years old or older and 2,427 (76.2 percent) were people with disabilities. Marin HHS expects 3,000 residents to be newly eligible to CalFresh food benefits with this program expansion.

SSI is a needs-based program that provides a monthly benefit to individuals who are blind, elderly, or have a disability. For disabled people who have never worked, or those who haven’t worked enough in the recent years to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, SSI may be the only program available to them.

“CalFresh is the best tool we have for fighting hunger and improving nutrition among lower-income residents,” said Social Service Division Director Jesse Paran. “Some of the recipients are on fixed incomes and don’t have many additional resources for food aside from the CalFresh contributions. We’re thankful that this expansion is likely to increase participation and improve the health of our neediest residents.”

HHS staff is prepared to help
older adults and people with disabilities who receive SSI apply for CalFresh. Approximately 9,500 Marin residents receive CalFresh benefits. In 2018, there were 4,263 children and 1,488 older adults who received the benefits.

CalFresh benefits stretch household budgets, allowing individuals and families to afford nutritious food, including more fruit, vegetables, and other healthy options. Food benefits for one person range from $15 to $192 per month, with a national average of $105 to $110 per month for older adults and people with disabilities.

Households that already receive CalFresh and have a member of the household that has been excluded because they receive SSI do not need to re-apply or contact HHS. Also, if SSI applicants choose to apply for CalFresh, their SSP benefit will not go away and will remain the same.

“As a community, we are rapidly aging and aging into disability,” said Eli Gelardin, Executive Director for the Marin Center for Independent Living. “People over 60 will soon account for a third of our overall population. Social isolation, food insecurity, access to transportation and housing make a significant impact on health and wellness. Food is a form of medicine, and the expansion of Cal-Fresh will ensure that thousands in Marin will have a better quality of life.”

There are three ways to connect with HHS staff and apply: Apply at, call 1-877-410-8817 to apply over the phone, or visit any HHS Public Assistance office: 120 North Redwood Drive, San Rafael (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), 3240 Kerner Boulevard, San Rafael (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) 16th Street, Point Reyes Station (9 a.m. to noon, 1-4:30 p.m.) For more information, call 1-877-410-8817.

Marin nonprofit expands food delivery program for ailing

Marin nonprofit expands food delivery program for ailingWhistlestop, the San Rafael-based nonprofit serving seniors and the disabled, is expanding a program that delivers food to Marin residents with chronic diseases.

The program, known as Nourish, provides seven ready-made meals a week to people with illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis.

“A lot of the people are isolated with no family and can’t stand for a long period of time,” said Erika Vaughn, who manages Nourish and oversees Whistlestop’s participation in the local Meals on Wheels program.

Whistlestop took the Nourish program over from Meals of Marin in 2013 after that nonprofit ran into funding problems. Whistlestop received money from Marin County for about 18 months so none of the people being served by the Nourish program at the time had to be dropped from the program, but no new people were added during that period.

“As of June 30, 2014, the county decided it could no longer fund the program,” Vaughn said. “This is when Whistlestop partnered with Extrafood. We started off with 17 clients and now we have continued to grow the Nourish program to 65 clients.” is a San Rafael-based nonprofit that redistributes food not used by businesses, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other entities. Since its founding in 2014, the organization has collected 2.9 million pounds of food from 225 organizations and delivered it to 121 sites across Marin.

“In partnership with Whistlestop, together we are able to reach some of the most vulnerable people in the county at home with high-quality, fresh, prepared food,” said Marv Zauderer, ExtraFood’s founder and CEO.

Lee Pullen, director of Marin County’s Aging and Adult Services division, said the county still provides about $8,700 annually from its general fund to help cover some of the Nourish program’s administrative costs.

The county also contributes $90,000 annually from its general fund to help support the Meals on Wheels program. The remaining $459,000 required annually to operate the Meals on Wheels program in Marin comes from the federal government, Pullen said.

Meals on Wheels will serve 83,000 meals this year. Of those, 75,000 will be delivered by Whistlestop while the remaining 8,000 will be delivered by West Marin Senior Services.

Following its partnership with ExtraFood, Whistlestop was able to triple the number of clients served by the Nourish program, but the program’s further growth has been constrained by lack of space and an inability to safely store larger quantities of food.

Now, thanks mainly to a donation by the Norman Raab Foundation, which is based in southeastern Pennsylvania, Whistlestop has been able to add two industrial-size freezers and a refrigerator at its facility in downtown San Rafael. Vaughn said the new equipment will allow Nourish to again triple the number of people it is serving.

“My goal is to expand the Nourish program to the size of Meals on Wheels,” Vaughn said.

To be eligible for Meals on Wheels, a person must be 60 or older, unable to drive, and in need of substantial support in at least two areas of daily functioning. People of all ages can qualify for the Nourish program, and there is no requirement that recipients be unable to drive.

“Having a chronic illness is what makes people eligible for our program,” Vaughn said.

One in four Americans has multiple chronic conditions, and that number rises to three in four Americans aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whistlestop said there are more than 49,000 people in Marin whose income is below 200% of the federal poverty level of less than $23,544 a year for an individual, a standard measure of food insecurity.

“At Whistlestop we believe that food is health care, and we strive to eliminate the poor health implications of food insecurity in Marin County,” said Whistlestop CEO Joe O’Hehir.

Whistlestop relies on its 45 volunteers to do most of the deliveries for both the Nourish program and Meals on Wheels. The nonprofit employs only four full-time, paid drivers.

“Our volunteers are awesome because they spend the extra few minutes to talk to clients,” Vaughn said.

Daniel McKay, 38, who has been working as a Whistlestop volunteer since 2016, said he has taken a special satisfaction from being able to win the trust of the people he delivers to.

“I love chatting with them and getting their perspectives,” said McKay, who himself has struggled with diverticulitis and diabetes.

“These are people hidden in plain sight, often one misfortune away from homelessness,” McKay said. “Most of them don’t have their family to help them out. If we can’t help as a society, what good are we?”

Forum on the Road: Why More Seniors Are Working

Forum on the Road: Why More Seniors Are WorkingMore than 900,000 California seniors 65 and older are working or trying to get a job. That’s up from 590,000 in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some seniors are choosing to work for a company or cause they love, but many others are caught up in a rising senior poverty rate. In this hour, we’ll hear about the increase in working seniors, the challenges they face and what the state is doing to address the financial needs of this growing demographic. If you’re over 65 and working — we’d like to hear about your experience.

To listen to the forum, click here.

San Rafael board conditionally clears BioMarin, Whistlestop project

San Rafael board conditionally clears BioMarin, Whistlestop projectA proposal to expand the downtown San Rafael BioMarin campus and build a senior community center and housing complex cleared design review this week with conditional approval.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the San Rafael Design Review Board supported the project on the 3-acre site at 999 Third St., a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. property. The project calls for two four-story laboratory and office buildings for BioMarin use, and a six-story, 67-unit senior housing and activities building for the nonprofit Whistlestop.

The board requested that the applicants use the most mature trees possible in its landscaping plan throughout the project. Board members asked for more trees or planters at the Third Street and Lindaro Street corner of the BioMarin complex, where there is a public plaza proposed, to buffer street noise.

The board also requested design changes to the senior complex, including “a better sense of entry” and a more cohesive arrangement of windows along the building elevations.

“Other than that,” said Stewart Summers, chairman of the board, “I think that this is just an extremely successful application for both buildings. We’re excited to see it move ahead.”

The application will return to the board as a consent calendar item before advancing to the Planning Commission.

BioMarin donated about 15,000 square feet of the northwest corner of the property, valued at $1.2 million, to Whistlestop.

The nonprofit plans to relocate its “active aging center” from its 930 Tamalpais Ave. site and rebrand it as a “healthy aging campus,” which will double its current space from 9,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet. It will feature a cafe, a community center and an integrated aging center for medical needs, all on the first two floors of the new complex.

Eden Properties of Hayward, an affordable housing developer, is working on the housing portion, which will offer 66 studio and one-bedroom units that will be age- and deed-restricted 100% affordable to residents 62 and older. An additional unit will be reserved for an onsite property manager.

The project is being billed as the first car-free community in San Rafael, offering transportation and walkability to downtown shopping, eating and mass transit. Rooftop decks, a courtyard and other amenities are part of the plan. The senior complex is estimated to cost $46.5 million.

At the BioMarin campus, applicants are proposing 3,500 square feet of retail space, 6,000 square feet of landscaped plaza open to the public, enhanced pedestrian safety with improved crosswalks and sidewalks and a bike lane on Lindaro Street from Third to Andersen Drive, among other benefits.

When asked about the estimated project cost, Debra Charlesworth, spokeswoman for BioMarin, said the company does not publicly disclose that information.

All three buildings will be approximately 70 feet tall, requiring a 20-foot height bonus approval for lab and office space and a 4-foot height bonus for the senior housing and activity center. The senior housing planners were able to add 13 units by adding the extra floor.

The applicants are also proposing a general plan amendment to allow higher density and to blend parking so that they can apply the existing BioMarin campus parking to the proposed total. BioMarin will be adding 29 parking spots. The two new buildings would be approximately 207,000 square feet.

“All three organizations, BioMarin, Eden Housing and Whistlestop, have important health and human needs missions to improve, enhance and extend the lives of thousands of individuals young and old that need our help,” said Joe O’Hehir, CEO of Whistlestop.

“Our proposed campus expansion confirms BioMarin’s long-term commitment to San Rafael,” said Shar Zamanpour, director of campus planning and development for BioMarin.

Zamanpour said the company is performing soil clean up of a brownfield, or a site that was contaminated.

The community has shown strong support so far.

“This is going to take San Rafael to a new level,” said Joanne Webster, president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. “In addition to providing housing and economic benefits, it’s really going to beautify the downtown area.”

Linda Jackson, program director of the Aging Action Initiative of Marin County, said a recent study by the Marin Commission on Aging found that more than 7,000 residents over the age of 60 are overpaying for rent.

“This is desperately needed, it’s an innovative project, it’s a creative model, and it’s what can be used for a model for the rest of housing in downtown,” she said.

The project environmental review is underway and expected to be completed this summer. The City Council is expected to consider the project and certification of the environmental review by the end of the year.

BioMarin San Rafael planned expansion with senior housing clears design hurdle

BioMarin San Rafael planned expansion with senior housing clears design hurdleA proposed expansion of the BioMarin Pharmaceutical campus and creation of a senior housing center in downtown San Rafael cleared a crucial design hurdle Tuesday night, gaining conditional approval.

The Design Review Board voted unanimously to support the project at 999 Third St. It is set to have two 70-foot-tall, four-story BioMarin research and development buildings on a currently vacant lot of just over 3 acres.

The expanded BioMarin facility would include combined office and laboratory spaces on the ground floor with three stories of laboratory spaces above.

The project would also include and a 67-unit, 70-foot-tall, six-story building with a senior center and affordable senior housing. That would be built on about one-third of an acre.

The Whistlestop healthy aging campus would cater to low-income seniors, or those over age 62 who earn less than 60% of the area median income.

BioMarin made an in kind donation of $1.2 million to Whistlestop though a land exchange, handing over the 15,000 square foot parcel valued at $2.6 million in exchange for property at 648 Lindaro street in San Rafael owned by Whistlestop valued at $1.4 million according to Jennifer Golbus, marketing strategist at Whistlestop.

The planned housing would be a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments. Also included are a community room, a courtyard, a computer center, exercise room and other amenities.

Golbus said an environmental review is ongoing that is expected to be completed in the fall. She added the San Rafael City Council is projected to approve the project by year’s end and the facility is expected to open in 2021.

Brown Bag Pantry Rolls Out Big Help

Brown Bag Pantry Rolls Out Big Help

Woman, 90, creates scale model for Whistlestop project in San Rafael

Woman, 90, creates scale model for Whistlestop project in San RafaelSally Lewis turned down a request to create a scale model of the proposed Whistlestop building planned for San Rafael. She is no stranger to creating scale models of buildings. She even spent a portion of her art career creating amazing scale models of people. These life-size sculptures were snatched up by celebrities like Daniel Steele, and commissioned by well-known figures such as financial executive and philanthropist Charles Schwab.

Lewis enjoys taking on a challenge and admitted, “I said no to Whistlestop initially. A week later, I turned 90 and I was feeling a bit guilty for refusing. Once I saw the (architectural) plans, I thought it might help them raise money and inspire others, to know that a senior like me could create a model of this wonderful design that includes new housing for seniors and a new home for Whistlestop.”

What she didn’t know at the time, was the incredible detail work involved in creating a replica up to her own design standards. Lewis began making scale models as a communications tool.  “I was married to a man who was a gifted mathematician, but he had trouble with spatial concepts. I got interested in scale models when we wanted to build our first house, and he didn’t grasp the design ideas I had. So, I built a scale model to show him. I’d repeat it any time I wanted to remodel. I built two different home scale models for one of my sons, as well.”

In March, Lewis received the architectural plans for the six-story, 67-unit senior affordable housing and activities building for Whistlestop. BioMarin has donated about 15,000 square feet of the northwest corner of a 3 acre-site at 999 Third St., valued at $1.2 million for the project. The location is the former Pacific Gas and Electric Company property.

Lewis wanted to complete the scale model by the end of June. The pressure mounted in mid-June, knowing that the San Rafael’s Design Review Board voted unanimously to support Bio-Marin’s proposed project. “I wasn’t sure if I could stay with my timeline. This design has a lot of unusual detailing. I had to invent everything that I was using.”

The building has over 220 windows of differing dimensions. Lewis explained, “I was working at one-quarter scale, meaning one-quarter inch equaled 1 foot. I ended up having to use corrugated board from Michael’s to find material thin enough. When I painted one side of the board to match the color of the building material, it warped. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do, then I painted the other side of the board to even it out. It worked, but the paint caused some of the paper on the board to blister, so I had to iron it. Cutting the plastic to fit all those windows was a challenge, but Tapp Plastics sold me just the right thickness to cut with a scissors. Then I had to experiment to find the right glue to bond the plastic to the board.”

Working from drawings and plans supplied by Rick Williams, with the architectural firm Van Meter Williams Pollack, LLP, Lewis brought her project in under the deadline.

Jennifer Golbus, marketing strategist at Whistlestop said, “We were just amazed when we saw it. Such attention to detail, and it is so much larger than we first imagined. Sally put so much work into the model. Right now, it is with the architect who is just adding some trees – Sally did all the rest. Once we get it back, it will have a prominent place in our active aging center. Everyone is invited to come and see it.”

North Bay professionals news from Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40, Redwood Credit Union, Coldwell Banker and more

North Bay professionals news from Wine Enthusiast's 40 under 40, Redwood Credit Union, Coldwell Banker and moreSeven people from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties are Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “40 under 40” list of notable professionals in wine, spirits, cider and beer.

Sarah Cahn Bennett, 39, of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley is owner and winemaker of Pennroyal Farm in Boonville and owner-general manager of Navarro Vineyards & Winery in Philo. With a master’s degree in enology and viticulture, Bennett returned to her family’s business and launched sustainability initiatives.

Sebastian Donoso, 37, is winemaker of Fringe Collective in Hopland. Born in Chile, Donoso was tasked with running the high-end programs at Fetzer Vineyards and Bonterra Vineyards, Mendocino County operations owned by Chile-based Concha y Toro.

Paul Gospodarczyk, 37, is professor of winemaking at Napa Valley College and winemaker in charge of the school’s production facility and 5-acre vineyard.

Maayan Koschitzky, 39, is director of winemaking at Atelier Melka by Philippe Melka in St. Helena. Now a partner in Melka’s A-list consulting winemaking company, Koschitzky has worked at cult Napa Valley wineries Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle.

Jennifer Reichardt, 32, owner and winemaker, Raft Wines, Sonoma County; chief operating officer, Sonoma County Poultry and Liberty Ducks, Petaluma. In 2016, she began making her own wine using organically farmed grapes from California.

Jamie Benziger, 33, winemaker, Imagery Estate Winery, Glen Ellen. Her father, Joe Benziger, founded Imagery in 1986. After producing a variety of wines alongside her father, Jamie Benziger took over winemaking at Imagery in 2017.

Chip Forsythe, 34, winemaker and CEO, Rebel Coast Winery, Sonoma. He launched Rebel Coast Winery in 2018, producer of the world’s first THC-infused, nonalcoholic wine.


Gladys Milligan has been named manager of Redwood Credit Union’s new American Canyon branch at 406 Napa Junction Road, Suite 126, in the Napa Junction Shopping Center.

Prior to joining the credit union, Milligan worked in the financial industry for 15 years, 11 of which were in management, according to the announcement. She formerly worked for Washington Mutual/Chase and Travis Credit Union, where her responsibilities included shepherding the opening of new branches.

Milligan has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in strategic management from Sacramento State University.

Karen Cherniss has affiliated the Napa office of Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley as a sales associate. Cherniss has been a real estate professional in the Bay Area since 1986, relocating to the Napa Valley in 1994.

Noemi Doohan has been selected as interim public health officer for the county of Mendocino.

Doohan has been a health and human services partner in the work she has led with Adventist Health Ukiah Valley’s Street Medicine Program, Family Medicine Residency Program and the initial funding and implementation of the Safe Haven Clinic project, the county stated.

In addition, Karen Smith will be contracting with the county to further support development of local public health services in Mendocino County. Smith was previously appointed by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2015 to serve as the state public health officer. She most recently served as health officer and public health director for Napa County.

Stephanie Robison has been named director of healthy aging services at Whistlestop, a San Rafael-based nonprofit that works with older adults and people with disabilities in Marin County.

Prior to Whistlestop, Robison was business manager at Marin Foot and Ankle, account manager at LifeMasters Supported SelfCare, recreation and fitness director at San Francisco Towers (a senior living community), and manager of geriatric programs at California Pacific Medical Services Organization.

She has a master’s degree in gerontology from San Francisco State University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in aging from Washington State University.

Blanca Huijon has been named executive director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center in Napa. Huijon has been with Puertas Abiertas since 2010 as a case mentor.

She attended Napa Community College, where she obtained four A.A degrees: social and behavioral science, general education, fine art, and math, the group’s website stated. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chicano Latino Studies and minor in psychology from Sonoma State University. In 2013, she obtained a grant writing certificate from Sonoma State.

Josh Harrington has joined Land Trust of Napa County’s board of trustees.

Harrington is director of research at RBO & Co., an independent investment advisory firm in St. Helena. The land trust’s announcement stated his career experience includes equity research at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, portfolio management at TIAA-CREF in San Francisco, and independent consulting for investment management clients.

He was previously a director and board treasurer for Destiny Arts Center, a nonprofit based in Oakland that seeks to end isolation, prejudice and violence in the lives of young people. Harrington lives in Napa with his wife and daughter and enjoys reading, running, fishing and yoga.

Harrington holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia, with a major in finance and banking, and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.


Jack Raineault has been selected as new chairman of the Healdsburg Jazz board of directors. He succeeds Paul Mahder, who recently resigned from the board to focus on a new business venture.

Raineault retired from Diageo, a global spirits and beer company, as director of beverage alcohol law after a career of 30 years. Previously, he served on the board of directors of CancerCare of Connecticut. He also volunteers at Legal Aid of Sonoma County.

Replacing Raineault as board secretary is Dennis Abbe, a retired software executive who has been a volunteer for Healdsburg Jazz since 2000.


The National Association of Realtors has honored Mill Valley-based agent Kimberly Strub as a finalist for its 2019 Good Neighbor Awards. The award honors those “who have made a positive impact on their communities through extraordinary volunteer service.”

Strub leads the Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery, a nonprofit that improves the lives of people with brain injuries and their families through therapy, support groups and social and recreational activities. In a decade, she has raised $1 million, tripled both the annual budget and the number of people served, and helped set up a concussion protocol for children in the Marin County schools network.

Strub is one of 10 association members being honored who have donated their time, money and passion to enrich the lives of the people in their communities. On Oct. 2, five winners will be named from among the 10 finalists.