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Whistlestop files legal claim against SMART over San Rafael station

Whistlestop files legal claim against SMART over San Rafael station

IJ photo/Robert Tong

1/30/2012 – Marin Independent Journal

Whistlestop has filed a legal claim against the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District over concerns the planned commuter train will force the San Rafael nonprofit out of its building with no cash for an alternative site.

The claim estimates damages at more than $2 million and predicts construction and operation of the downtown San Rafael SMART station “will have disastrous impacts on Whistlestop’s ability to provide its desperately needed services to the elderly and disabled.” SMART officials have called the claim “baseless.”

The nonprofit Whistlestop bought the 15,000-square-foot former Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot at 930 Tamalpais Ave. in 1971 and owns the building outright, allowing the organization to devote most of its $5.5 million annual budget to transportation, programs and classes for Marin’s senior citizens and people with disabilities, CEO Joe O’Hehir said.

“The challenge I’m having is our working capital,” O’Hehir said. “It’s tied up in this building. … What really we need to know is the status of the building. Is SMART going to buy it? If not, what are we going to do?”

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