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Jackson Cafe changes

Jackson Cafe changesA change of the guard has occurred in the kitchen this week at the 65-year-old Whistlestop’s Jackson Café. Marin resident and catering veteran Stacy Scott has been appointed culinary director and her husband and business partner, Chuck Ciaccio, is the new manager.

The two have debuted a creative and nutritious lunch menu while maintaining affordable pricing ($6 for Whistlestop members, $10 for nonmembers).

“We’re thrilled to join Whistlestop, an organization we have supported for a long time, and one that shares our values and commitment to the community,” Ciaccio says. “One of our goals is to introduce far-reaching and exciting new dishes, made with local and fresh ingredients, that will satisfy varied taste levels.”

Scott and Ciaccio will continue to operate their 30-year-old catering business Stacy Scott Catering.

Whistlestop is a San Rafael nonprofit that promotes the independence, well-being and quality of life of older adults and people living with disabilities in Marin County. Find out more at whistlestop.org. For more about Stacy Scott Catering, call 415-299-2503 or email stacyscottcatering@gmail.com.

Jackson Café is open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays at
930 Tamalpais Ave. across from the San Rafael Transit Center.

Awarding nonprofits and volunteers

Awarding nonprofits and volunteersRECOGNIZING EXCELLENCE IN THE NONPROFIT WORLD: The Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) presented its 27th Annual Heart of Marin Awards on Jan. 9 at a luncheon at the Marin Center Exhibit Hall in San Rafael. More than 600 community leaders, volunteers, elected officials and business members attended the event where winners in seven categories were awarded a check for $5,000 each. An award for corporate community service was also presented. Above are all the winners and sponsors along with event Emcee KPIX reporter Betty Yu (middle row, second from right) and CVNL CEO Linda Jacobs (middle row, far right).

Awarding nonprofits and volunteersAwarding nonprofits and volunteersAwarding nonprofits and volunteers

GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY: CVNL recognized nonprofit organizations, the people who run them, the boards that guide them and the volunteers that help power them. Pictured above (left to right) are San Geronimo Valley Community Center Executive Director Dave Cort, Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence, Whistlestop volunteer Mehrbanoo Esmaili, Volunteer of the Year, and To Celebrate Life Board President Kristen Bennett, Excellence in Board Leadership.

Awarding nonprofits and volunteers

YOUNG PEOPLE IN ACTION: The youth judging panel (back row, left to right), Gracie LaKose, Jordan Hovey, Adriana Golden, Chiara Savage-Schwartz and Elijah Seabock, joined by award sponsor representative Ron Felder of Redwood Credit Union, awarded $1,000 each to five youth volunteers who have given their time and energy to local nonprofits. The youth volunteer winners (front row, left to right) were Sarah Goody, Climate NOW, Emma Lauter, Marin County Search and Rescue, Andrea Martinez, North Marin Community Services, Andrea Ortega, Next Generation Scholars and Kai Nittenberg, Ceres Community Project and OneTam.

Awarding nonprofits and volunteersAwarding nonprofits and volunteersAwarding nonprofits and volunteersAwarding nonprofits and volunteers

SUPPORTING THOSE IN NEED: Every year CVNL shines a light on those people and organizations who work to make the lives of everyone in Marin County better. Pictured (left to right) are Autistry CEO and Executive Director Janet Lawson, Excellence in Innovation, St. Vincent de Paul Society Executive Director Christine Paquette, Excellence in Leadership, Marin County Search and Rescue Unit Leader Michael St. John, Lifetime Achievement, and EO Products Co-founder Susan Griffin-Black, Corporate Community Service.

San Rafael seeks $1M from BioMarin for traffic, transit projects

San Rafael seeks $1M from BioMarin for traffic, transit projectsBioMarin could be required to pay San Rafael nearly $1 million for transportation and traffic flow improvement projects in connection with the pharmaceutical company’s plan to redevelop a major downtown property, city officials said.

The obligation is one of several tentative agreements that San Rafael and BioMarin reached this month in a private negotiation process. A development contract that spells out the obligations of both parties is now set for review by the San Rafael Planning Commission and City Council, officials said.

BioMarin is seeking the city’s permission to build two four-story laboratory and office buildings on a 3-acre site at 999 Third St., which would be a major expansion to the company’s facilities in downtown San Rafael. Additionally, the nonprofit Whistlestop hopes to build low-income housing and a senior center on the site through a partnership with BioMarin.

The proposed development contract, which is a 10-year agreement, “gives BioMarin a clear understanding of what the terms are for that site development,” said San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips. “This way, they can make their plans knowing what constraints there might be.”

According to the tentative contract, BioMarin must pay San Rafael $500,000 for projects that improve traffic flow or parking availability. One such project would improve the timing of traffic lights along Second and Third streets, which are San Rafael’s busiest thoroughfares. The rest of the money is set for unspecified city projects.

An environmental impact study determined that BioMarin’s proposed development would likely worsen traffic congestion in San Rafael, generating approximately 2,453 daily vehicle trips. The company estimates between 500 and 550 employees will work in the offices on the property. The proposed housing and senior center will bring additional people to the property each day.

The contract also says that BioMarin must pay the city $400,000 for so-called “first and last mile” transportation initiatives, which are ways for workers to get to and from public transit. According to San Rafael’s planning manager, Raffi Boloyan, that money could be used to improve bicycle and pedestrian routes, or for other traffic and parking improvement projects.

Additionally, the contract says that BioMarin must create a public plaza, 3,500 square feet of retail space and conference rooms available for public use on its property. The company must fund the creation of a bike lane along Lindaro Street between Andersen Drive and Third Street. And it must complete a $16 million environmental cleanup of its 999 Third St. site, a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. property, so that it is suitable for residential use, among other requirements.

San Rafael is required in the contract to allow BioMarin up to 10 years to build its project, if it’s approved by the City Council. The city must also freeze impact fees for the development at current rates.

BioMarin said in a statement that negotiations with the city over the development contract have been “productive” and that the company is “optimistic that we can finalize the process in the near future.”

“We’re grateful to BioMarin for investing in our community,” said San Rafael Councilwoman Kate Colin. She said the agreements in the development contract “will provide great benefit” to San Rafael, particularly the company’s environmental cleanup of the property.

The agreement, if approved, will allow the project to move forward for Whistlestop, the nonprofit organization that hopes to build a senior center and 67 apartments for low-income seniors on the property, city officials said. Though BioMarin doesn’t plan to start construction until 2025 at the soonest, according to Phillips, Whistlestop hopes to break ground this year.

Whistlestop hopes to start construction “as soon as we can, because of the vital need for both affordable housing and aging services in the community,” said Joe O’Hehir, executive director for the organization, which offers services for seniors and adults with disabilities.

Whistlestop has partnered with Eden Housing, an East Bay real estate firm, which is set to take on the affordable housing component on the site. Whistlestop’s senior center would take up the first two floors of the planned six-story building, and the 67 apartments owned and managed by Eden Housing would take up the top four floors.

According to O’Hehir, Whistlestop has raised the estimated $10 million needed to build its senior center through private donations. But Eden Housing, which plans to fund the estimated $38 million construction of the apartments through state grants, won’t begin applying for funding until city officials approve the project, O’Hehir said. If all goes according to plan, he estimates construction of the complex could be complete as soon as 2022.

BioMarin has agreed to donate the land for the project to Whistlestop, according to O’Hehir. The apartments and senior center would be built on a 15,000-square-foot portion of BioMarin’s property.

Whistlestop, in turn, has agreed to give its property at 648 Lindaro St. to BioMarin in a land swap, O’Hehir said. The property, which is adjacent to BioMarin’s campus, is used as a corporation yard for Whistlestop. The net property exchange results in a $1.2 million donation by BioMarin to Whistlestop, according to city officials.

“To me, that donation is priceless,” Colin said. “Not only because of the people that are going to be helped, but also it’s demonstrating to our population that we value healthy aging.”

The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing to consider the project, including the proposed development agreement, at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at City Hall.

Marin Voice: Creating a new model of care for older adults in Marin

Marin Voice: Creating a new model of care for older adults in MarinBy 2030, it is estimated that more than one in every three Marin residents will be 65 or older. And, the fastest-growing sector of the population will be over the age of 85.  Meeting the needs of this growing demographic will require a variety of improvements in housing, health care, nutrition, and transportation, as well as new models for providing vital services such as social connection, resource referrals, and engagement.

There is no debate about the desperate shortage of affordable housing and other services for older adults in Marin, and as the aging population continues to grow, these challenges will only become more pronounced. It is time for a community-based solution to this growing community crisis.

Whistlestop’s proposed solution is the new Healthy Aging Campus, a modern health hub for Marin’s older adults that will support the social and medical needs of older adults and provide affordable homes, accessible transportation and a myriad of vibrant programs designed to improve human connectedness in a central, community-based location. The social and medical services provided at this campus will be available to all of Marin’s older adults; not just those who live onsite.

The recent report, Older Adult Housing in Marin: Planning for 2030, estimates that approximately 7,000 older residents in Marin currently need affordable housing. Whistlestop is addressing this critical need by partnering with local nonprofit Eden Housing to develop 67 housing units that are 100% affordable and exclusively for older residents. This affordable housing project will be the first of its kind in Marin County and will feature community rooms, a computer center and library, and landscaped courtyards with gardens. The campus will also be San Rafael’s first car-free community, as services and amenities will be walkable, and transportation will be provided by Whistlestop for its residents and members.

There is growing recognition that non-medical services for older adults are as important for overall health as those received in a medical provider’s office. Whistlestop is addressing these “social determinants of health” by partnering with local health care payers and providers in creating a “modern health hub” and integrated care clinic at our new campus. Providing wraparound health care services will allow Whistlestop to more effectively address specific needs and will improve health outcomes for older adults in Marin County.

Social isolation is an epidemic sweeping our country. What many do not realize is that this is a medical epidemic. According to a study by researchers at the AARP Public Policy Institute and at Stanford and Harvard universities, the impacts of people living in social isolation add almost $7 billion a year to the cost of Medicare, mostly because of longer hospital stays — a result, researchers hypothesize, of not having community support at home. Those who are isolated are at an increased risk of depression, cognitive decline and dementia, among other health conditions. The new Whistlestop campus will be a welcoming, central hub for residents and members where they can share meals, attend classes and engage in conversations and activities with contemporaries.

The Healthy Aging Campus will also contribute to community vitality by moving isolated older residents out of their homes and into a supportive environment and integrating older residents into the thriving downtown San Rafael area. The project will contribute to the economic development, sustainability and vitality of downtown San Rafael.

At Whistlestop, we envision a connected community where older adults are celebrated and nurtured, and where all people have equitable access to whatever resources, connections and services they need in order to thrive. We call this “aging equity,” and we believe that we all share in the responsibility to make this vision a reality.

The San Rafael Planning Commission will review the merits of this project at a public meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

To learn more about Whistlestop’s Healthy Aging Campus or to view a short film that captures Whistlestop’s vison, visit HealthyAgingCampus.org.

Joe O’Hehir is CEO of Whistlestop, a San Rafael-based nonprofit that promotes the independence, well-being and quality of life for older adults and people living with disabilities in Marin County.

San Rafael commission approves BioMarin, Whistlestop complex

San Rafael commission approves BioMarin, Whistlestop complexThe San Rafael Planning Commission has approved a proposal to build 67 apartments, a senior center and an office complex on a 3-acre lot downtown.

Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the redevelopment plan for 999 Third St., which was submitted in a joint proposal by the pharmaceutical company BioMarin and the senior services nonprofit Whistlestop.

“I’m really happy to see this project is finally coming to an end,” said Jeffrey Schoppert, the commission chair. “I think it’s going to be a terrific addition to downtown.”

With an endorsement from the Planning Commission, the proposal is set for consideration by the City Council, which will have final say on the redevelopment plan. A public hearing before the City Council hasn’t been scheduled, officials said.

BioMarin hopes to build two four-story buildings on the site, each reaching 72 feet in height. The complex, which would provide space for about 550 new workers, would include laboratory and office space, and would be a major expansion to the company’s facilities in downtown San Rafael.

The company’s director of campus planning and design, Char Zamanpour, told the Planning Commission that BioMarin is aiming to start construction on one of the buildings within the next six years. It hopes to build the second building within the next 10 years, she said, noting that the company wants to “be ready to build when the need arises.”

“For our company, when a drug gets approved and a treatment gets approved, we need to be ready to immediately bring on board space as needed for employees, so this allows us that flexibility,” she said.

Whistlestop, in partnership with the East Bay real estate firm Eden Housing, hopes to build a six-story building on the property, reaching 70 feet in height. The organization would operate a senior center on the first two floors of the building, while Eden Housing would own and operate the 67 apartments designated for low-income seniors on the four floors above.

According to Joe O’Hehir, the CEO of Whistlestop, the senior center would include medical facilities and a cafe. It would be “a welcoming central hub for residents and members where they can share meals, attend classes and engage in conversations and activities with contemporaries, all designed to increase physical and mental wellness.”

Several residents told the Planning Commission they supported the Whistlestop proposal, citing a lack of affordable housing opportunities for seniors in Marin.

“Affordable housing for older adults is critically needed in this county,” said Teri Dowling, a member of the Marin Commission on Aging and the Aging Action Initiative. She called the Whistlestop proposal “progressive and innovative,” and said it is “a role model for the kind of housing for older adults we need in Marin.”

According to O’Hehir, Whistlestop hopes to break ground on the project this year. The organization has raised the estimated $10 million needed to build its senior center through private donations, he said. Eden Housing plans to fund the estimated $38 million construction of the apartments through state grants, and will begin applying for funding if the project is approved by the City Council, he said. If all goes according to plan, he estimates construction of the complex could be complete as soon as 2022.

BioMarin has agreed to donate the land for the project to Whistlestop, according to O’Hehir. The apartments and senior center would be built on a 15,000-square-foot portion of BioMarin’s property.

Whistlestop, in turn, has agreed to give its property at 648 Lindaro St. to BioMarin in a land swap, O’Hehir said. The property, which is adjacent to BioMarin’s campus, is used as a corporation yard for Whistlestop. The net property exchange results in a $1.2 million donation by BioMarin to Whistlestop, according to city officials.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a development contract between the city and BioMarin that would allow the company up to 10 years to build its project. The city has agreed in the contract to freeze impact fees for the development at current rates.

BioMarin is required by the contract to pay San Rafael $900,000 for traffic flow and transportation improvement projects. An environmental impact study determined that BioMarin’s proposed development would likely worsen traffic congestion in San Rafael, generating approximately 2,453 daily vehicle trips.

Commissioner Shingai Samudzi said he is concerned about an escalating traffic problem downtown. But, he said, “I don’t think we should halt development due to that.”

“It’s really easy to say, ‘Traffic sucks, therefore build nothing,’” he said. “We still have to solve the problem. They’re putting money up for us to do that.”

BioMarin is also required in the contract to create a public plaza, 3,500 square feet of retail space and conference rooms available for public use on its property. The company must fund the creation of a bike lane along Lindaro Street between Andersen Drive and Third Street. And it must complete a $16 million environmental cleanup of its 999 Third St. site, a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. property, so that it is suitable for residential use, among other requirements.

The proposed development contract says that BioMarin would no longer be required to create a path along Mahon Creek, which was a requirement imposed on the company in 2015 when the city approved its plan to build a four-story office building at 755 Lindaro St. But the Planning Commission recommended that the city continue to impose that requirement on BioMarin, noting that the path would provide improved pedestrian access to the downtown SMART train station.

Whistletop’s Holiday Card Contest

Whistletop's Holiday Card ContestOn Jan. 9, students, teachers, school principals and families from all over Marin gathered in Whistlestop’s Jackson Café to recognize the finalists of Whistlestop’s 2019 Holiday Card Contest. Elementary school students in grades kindergarten through five were invited to submit designs that highlight the holiday spirit of community, peace, love and giving, with the winning designs gracing Whistlestop’s official holiday card. Pictured above are (back row, left to right, Catherine Nam, principal, Rancho Elementary School, Joe O’Hehir, CEO, Whistlestop, Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools, Molly Mundell-Bass, teacher, Tam Valley School, (middle row, left to right) Heath Hochanadel, Tam Valley School, contest winner Asher Abedin, Tam Valley School, Oliver Pool, Rancho Elementary School, (front row, left to right) Quinn Ostroff, Rancho Elementary School, Varnika Kamma, Rancho Elementary School, Venisha Potnuru, Rancho Elementary School, Maya Livingston, Old Mill School, Kosara Fackler, Old Mill School, Emily Vasquez, St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School, and Josie Robison, Glenwood Elementary School.

San Rafael senior housing project eyed for 2022 opening at site of BioMarin Pharmaceutical expansion

San Rafael senior housing project eyed for 2022 opening at site of BioMarin Pharmaceutical expansionSan Rafael’s City Council next month is set to consider approval for construction of a joint redevelopment proposal from BioMain Pharmaceutical and the nonprofit Whistlestop of a project combining the drug makers’ operations with a senior health center and apartments.

The deal, approved by the city planning commission last month, calls for construction of two four-story BioMarin research laboratory and office buildings at 999 Third St., on the corner of Brooks Street downtown. It’s part of an expansion of the company’s existing campus in the city.

In addition, a six-story building would be occupied partly by Whistlestop, founded in 1954 to support independent living for seniors and those with disabilities. Eden Housing would create 67 senior studio and one-bedroom apartments on upper floors of the building.

This property is planned to be the site for the first Whistlestop integrated health services center. It would be built on a one-third acre portion of BioMarin’s existing land. Backers said the center is set to bring medical professionals to the patient at a single location, in most cases without having them travel all over the county to get the care they need.

The Whistlestop portion of this parcel was obtained in property swap agreement. BioMarin made an in-kind donation of $1.2 million to Whistlestop through a land exchange, handing over a 15,000-square-foot parcel valued at $2.6 million in exchange for property owned by Whistlestop valued at $1.4 million, according to Jennifer Golbus, marketing strategist at Whistlestop.

Under terms of a separate building partnership between Whistlestop and Eden Housing, Whistlestop would own and occupy the first two floors of the building. Senior apartments on floors three through six would be owned and managed by Eden Housing. Rents are estimated to range from $770 to $1,650 a month. The flats are designed for low-income seniors age 62 and above who earn less than 60% of the area median income.

“Our goal is to build a healthy aging campus, combining a first-floor integrated health services center and senior housing, that addresses the urgent needs of older adults in Marin County looking for social connections, affordable homes and healthy living support,” said Whistlestop CEO Joe O’Hehir. “This center will be open to all older adults in the county, not just those who live here. It will have three exam rooms and private health services consultation offices.”

He said about 16,000 older adults in Marin County are isolated and currently living alone. O’Hehir estimated that 7,000 county seniors need affordable housing.

“We believe it takes a community solution to address a community crisis — including an epidemic of loneliness — by providing more options for seniors to safely live close to each other under an umbrella of care. Marin is the fastest aging county in the state.”

Last June, the city’s Design Review Board voted to support this project. On Sept. 24, the San Rafael Planning Commission approved the draft environmental impact report and in November held public hearings on the merits of this project.

According to O’Hehir, only one step remains. The San Rafael City Council still has to vote to approve the overall development plan. With positive recommendations from the Design Review Board and Planning Commission, and after conversations with council members, O’Hehir believes a positive decision could come in early March.

“We only need three votes,” he said. “Officials I have spoken with want to see it approved.”

Marin seniors celebrate Valentine’s Day at luncheon

Marin seniors celebrate Valentine’s Day at luncheonWhistlestop held their annual Valentine’s Day luncheon for Marin seniors, who were entertained by Lucina and her Cabaret of a 1000 Faces, at the center’s Jackson Cafe on Thursday.

San Rafael council approves BioMarin, Whistlestop plans

San Rafael council approves BioMarin, Whistlestop plansThe San Rafael City Council has approved a plan to build 67 low-income apartments, a senior center and two four-story office buildings on a 3-acre downtown lot.

The council voted unanimously on Monday in favor of the redevelopment plan for 999 Third St., which was submitted in a joint proposal by the pharmaceutical company BioMarin and the senior services organization Whistlestop, both of which are based in San Rafael.

BioMarin, which bought the property in 2015, is set to build the two 72-foot-tall office buildings on the site. The company has told the city it hopes to start construction on one of the buildings within the next six years, and on the second building within the next 10 years. Once completed, the complex will provide space for about 550 new workers and will be a major expansion to BioMarin’s downtown San Rafael campus.

Whistlestop, in partnership with the East Bay real estate firm Eden Housing, plans to begin construction this year on its portion of the project, which is a six-story building reaching 70 feet in height. Whistlestop plans to operate a senior center on the first two floors of the building, while Eden Housing will own and operate the 67 apartments designated for low-income seniors on the four floors above.

The senior center is set to include medical facilities, a cafe and meeting rooms. Whistlestop plans to offer classes and activities for older adults at the center, according to CEO Joe O’Hehir. “We are thrilled and grateful that the city of San Rafael and Marin residents support our vision for the creation of this landmark project,” O’Hehir said in a statement.

BioMarin has allocated 15,000 square feet of its property for the Whistlestop project. In turn, Whistlestop has agreed to give its property at 648 Lindaro St. to Bio-Marin. The net property exchange results in a $1.2 million donation by BioMarin to Whistlestop, according to city officials.

The council on Monday approved a development contract between the city and BioMarin that allows the company up to 10 years to build its project. In the contract, the company has agreed to complete a $16 million environmental cleanup of the property, which was formerly a manufactured gas plant owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

BioMarin is required in the contract to pay San Rafael $900,000 for traffic flow and transportation improvement projects. The company must also fund the creation of a bike lane along a quarter-mile stretch of Lindaro Street, and has agreed to create a public plaza, 3,500 feet of retail space and conference rooms available for public use on its property, among other requirements. The council’s vote to approve the project on Monday came during a council meeting that the public was banned from attending in person due to the statewide shelter-in-place order aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.

Mayor Gary Phillips presided over the meeting at City Hall and was joined by Councilwoman Maribeth Bushey, while the other three council members joined in by phone. A live video stream of the proceedings was transmitted on the city’s website and on YouTube for public viewing. People could also tune in to the meeting by listening to an audio feed over the phone.

People were invited to submit comments to the council by calling in, typing them into a live chat on the YouTube stream or sending them in writing to the city clerk prior to the start of the meeting.

“It went pretty well,” Phillips said of the meeting format. “We had the system in place without any technical glitches. It’s not my preference, but right now we don’t have another choice.”