City’s Support of our Historic Network of Steps, Lanes and Paths

The City cares deeply about our Steps, Lanes and Paths (SLPs) and continues to maintain and improve our network and has assigned substantial funds (more than $1.5 million over the next five years) toward maintaining our existing SLPs and the construction of new segments. 

The City Council will receive a report in early 2017 from the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), a committee of five citizens appointed by the City Council, regarding new priorities building on our long commitment to the special SLP network and the current 2008 Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan (BPTP). 

The new Plan will reflect recommendations for new priority projects. Those SLP improvements identified in the current plan which have been accomplished will be replaced with new priorities for SLP improvement or new construction. Regardless, of their status as an existing SLP or one in planning, or one not yet on the priority list, each SLP retains its rights and the City cherishes and protects those rights. 

The City has not eliminated SLPs from our maintenance improvement programs. BPAC has recognized the completion of many of the SLPs listed in the 2008 priority list, carried those not yet finished over to the list of proposed projects in the draft 2016 Plan or identified superior alternate SLPs and recommended new projects for inclusion as priority projects. 

City staff has prepared reports to assist the BPAC as they have developed their recommendations for the new Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. The City Attorney and staff have noted in BPAC reports that for some of the historic undeveloped SLPs research to confirm ownership and access rights affecting private properties will be necessary before construction occurs.

Community Concerns 
Concerns are being raised by members of the community following the recent filing of a lawsuit regarding four of the City’s many SLPs. Fortunately, much of the concern is unnecessary and the points being repeated are incorrect. The purpose of this report is to address these concerns by explaining the City’s strong and continued commitment to the preservation and expansion of SLPs. 

A few important facts:

  • SLPs are an important part of the community from our founding with many reflected on the first maps laying out the City in the1890’s.
  • The Mill Valley City Council and City Manager are committed to the protection and improvement of our network of Steps, Lanes and Paths.
  • The mechanism for accepting or extinguishing an SLP is clear and requires City Council action through the public hearing process. No staff member may “give away” an SLP and formal abandonment of an SLP has historically been a very rare action.
  • Our recently adopted General Plan contains several definitive goals and policies making clear the importance of SLPs to the community and the City’s commitment to protecting, enhancing and expanding the SLP network.
  • The City of Mill Valley sustains a regular and substantial SLP maintenance and rehabilitation budget and has adopted a $1.5 million five-year Capital Improvement Program for SLP rehabilitation and new construction. The City Council assigned more than $300,000 for SLP rehabilitation and new step construction in the current (2016-2018) two-year General Fund budget.
  • The City regularly scrutinizes applications for home remodeling to ensure that SLPs are protected and unencumbered by development proposals through our robust Design Review process and building permit review and construction inspection services.
  • We have secured additional rights for seven SLPs in recent years and are in the process of securing clear rights to three additional SLPs.
  • We have benefitted from an enthusiastic volunteer corps of residents for SLP repair and continue to utilize partnerships for rehabilitation projects and welcome more opportunities to continue this community-built trail work.
  • Reports of blockages or interferences with improved SLP’s are investigated by City staff and any legal issues raised concerning SLP’s are referred to the City Attorney.

Some Background

There are currently over 175 individual SLPs in Mill Valley, providing over six miles of pedestrian access and connections throughout the City. Some of the SLPs date back to the City’s 19th-century beginnings.

Considerable community and staff energy and financial resources have been devoted to restoring and improving our SLPs over many years, including our current work to update the Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. The City is committed to continuing this effort to preserve and expand our SLP network to allow safe and convenient walking routes to schools, connecting routes for emergency evacuation, and enjoyable trails for hiking—all essential parts of the identity of Mill Valley. 

The City’s strong record of improvements include, over the past few years, the allocation from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) of $73,300 to various SLP projects. This figure does not include labor contributed by City work crews, or the many volunteer hours provided by local Boy Scout Troops and other community volunteers. We have completed 7 SLP maintenance and renovation projects over the past three years with various community groups. These renovation projects are in addition to the additional resources spent to improve our SLPs. 

The SLPs play an integral role in the City’s evacuation planning. The Vegetation Management Program, coordinated by the Fire Department, inspects improved SLPs twice a year. The Fire Department dedicates approximately $18,000 annually to keep them open and clear.

The following list demonstrates completed, in-progress, or planned work on our SLPs:

  • Molino Avenue Steps
  • 353/357 Summit SLP 166
  • Marion Lane
  • Myrtle to Tamalpais SLP
  • Magee Lane
  • SLP 227 connecting Hillside Avenue to Greenwood Way
  • Mirabel Lane
  • Steps linking Greenwood to Woodbine SLP 221
  • Lower Alcatraz Place Steps
  • Greenwood Way SLP
  • Wainwright Place Steps
  • SLPs 141, 335, 336 and the property abutting SLP 136
  • Dipsea Stairs SLP 28
  • Dipsea Stairs SLP 26
  • Bernard Steps SLP 50
  • 511 Summit SLP 155
  • Tenderfoot Trail SLP 43
  • Gardner Steps SLP 230

Also: A new SLP for critical emergency evacuation purposes in the Middle Ridge area from Summit to Ralston, and a new SLP connection to the multi-use path from Lomita Avenue at Ashford Avenue through the planned SASM lift station site.

The City has made a commitment to support, study and prioritize improvements to the City’s SLPs, and has over many years dedicated considerable funds and resources to improving and enhancing this important resource; this philosophy and financial commitment continues today. The City is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the public right of way for these historic, and critically important walking paths throughout our City and welcomes continued and renewed partnership with our residents and volunteer groups to carry on our tradition of SLP stewardship.