City Takes Action on Steps, Lanes and Paths Encroachment

Update: March 14, 2017

The City of Mill Valley Moves Forward to Put Important Protections in Place for the City’s Steps, Lanes, and Paths Network and Resolves Lawsuit Filed by Longtime Trail Advocate.

The City of Mill Valley proposes further protections for City steps, lanes and paths, and resolves law suit filed by long time trail advocate.  The City continues to make progress on the 9-point action plan approved by the City Council on January 17th to address concerns about protection and preservation of the City’s network of steps, lanes, and paths (SLPs).  After adopting the action plan, the City held a joint community meeting with Mill Valley Save Our Trails, had countless conversations with interested residents, and had extensive discussions with trail advocate and plaintiff, Victoria Talkington.

Staff will now return to the City Council on March 20th to propose a resolution that would establish an official SLP inventory and map, as well as strengthen enforcement against SLP encroachments.  In a settlement agreement, Talkington agreed to dismiss her lawsuit if the City Council adopts the proposed resolution.

“Many community members, including leaders of Mill Valley Save Our Trails, are thanking us for taking action to protect our precious SLPs.  We are pleased that the litigation is behind us, so all of us who are passionate about Mill Valley’s tremendous SLP network can get back to working on the same team.  This action is an example of the Mill Valley City Council listening to the community and taking deliberate and thoughtful action to directly resolve concerns.” Mayor Jessica Sloan.

“The City has not just been saying what it plans to do about SLPs, we have been taking action. At the City Council’s direction, City staff has ramped up enforcement against encroachments. They are bringing us a resolution to strengthen SLP protections and enforcement long-term. The City Attorney found ways to mitigate the risks associated with recording SLPs in the County Recorder’s Office.  I’m glad that we have been able to work together to reach a practical and effective solution.” Councilmember John McCauley.

City Manager’s Staff Report for the March 20, 2017 City Council Meeting

Update: March 9, 2017

The City of Mill Valley continues to make progress on the 9-point action plan approved by City Council to address concerns about SLP encroachments.  

We have a procedure in place to address complaints and our Code Enforcement Officer, Denise Stoneham, has been busy logging your requests. As of this week we have resolved 14 out of 20 registered complaints. The remaining complaints are in the process of being resolved and some may require additional work with the City Attorney. We encourage the public to share information with us and we will follow up to make sure we remove any encroachments from Steps, Lanes, and Paths.

Update: February 24, 2017

The Code Enforcement Office at the City of Mill Valley has been busy in recent weeks following up on 18 formal complaints regarding encroachments onto Steps, Lanes, and Paths. We have cleared and finalized 9 of these complaints and are in the process of addressing the balance of them directly with the adjacent property owners.

February 10, 2017 

At their City Council meeting on January 17, the Council reviewed and restated its support of the City’s Steps, Lanes and Paths (SLPs) program and approved the recommended actions to strengthen it, including:

  1. Adopting a resolution reaffirming the City’s commitment to SLPs and the adoption of an SLP map.
  2. Updating and expanding the City data base on SLPs.
  3. Creating new enforcement protocol.
  4. Implementing a page on the City website for community recommendations for SLP maintenance.
  5. Looking for increased SLP funding.
  6. Reconvening the internal SLP team.
  7. Preparing an annual SLP report for Council review.
  8. Working with the community on SLP volunteer opportunities.
  9. Proceeding with diligence on approved Capital Improvement Projects to maintain and improve existing SLP network.

Since then, the City has received 14 encroachment complaints, which alert the City to a developed or undeveloped SLP blocked by a fence, barrier, debris or something else. The City’s Code Enforcement Officer, Denise Stoneham, receives the reports.

“My first step is to investigate the complaint to determine if an encroachment exists,” Stoneham said. “The boundaries of undeveloped SLPs are not always evident or clear.”

If an encroachment exists, she sends a letter to the owner of the private property adjacent to the SLP that is encroaching upon it. Those property owners have 10 days to respond to the query, and 30 days to fix the encroachment.

Stoneham said she has cleared half of the complaints filed to date, either by abating the encroachment or determining that an encroachment had not occurred. For example, SLP #2, which runs between Miller Avenue and Ethel Avenue, was found to have been encroached not by any action taken by an adjacent property owner but by someone who dumped debris on the path, including a television. In that case, Public Works Department personnel removed the debris and the path is clear, Stoneham said.

In another instance, the SLP between Walnut and Catalpa Avenues had been blocked by debris related to the tree that fell near Park School during a storm in January. Also, Stoneham and a property owner on Ethel Avenue are working together to address fencing that appears to be encroaching on SLP #5, an undeveloped SLP. For the remaining seven complaints that are active and for others that come in, Stoneham is investigating each alleged encroachment.

“It takes time to check our records, site conditions and contact property owners,” she said. “We can’t make any assumptions about encroachment based on the complaint, but we will take action as soon as the analysis is complete.”

In addition to Stoneham’s code enforcement efforts, the City has reconstituted its SLP team, a group of City staff that includes members of the Public Works, Parks, Recreation, Planning and Fire departments. The team gathers regularly “to look at the overall function of the SLP program and examine what we’ve been doing and put teeth into the enforcement behind our efforts,” City Manager Jim McCann told the City Council at its February 6 meeting.

“There is tremendous interest in the community around our SLPs,” McCann said. “And the City is moving forward quickly and deliberately to implement the nine specific points in the action plan approved by Council.”

“The Council and staff are committed to preserve and protect the SLPs, both developed and undeveloped, and we are committed to vigorously enforcing the public’s rights to access,” Mayor Sloan said. The City Council recently approved a new Priority Project list for 2017-2018, which included the development and implementation of a pedestrian connectivity program including sidewalk repair and Steps, Lanes and Paths improvement.

We welcome the community’s assistance in protecting SLPs and reporting encroachments so we can act on them.

Report Encroachments:
Ann Ivan, Code Enforcement Officer
City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 415-389-4203

Share your general suggestions with us:
Kelsey Rogers, City Clerk
City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 415-388-4864

Learn More:

Download the City Manager’s Staff Report from the January 17, 2017 City Council Meeting.


Mill Valley City Council Reaffirms Commitment to Steps, Lanes, and Paths Program at Community Meeting (Posted 1/27/2017)

Mill Valley City Council and Staff Reaffirm Commitment to Steps, Lanes, and Path Program (Posted 1/20/2017)

A Message from Mayor John McCauley (Posted 11/23/2016)

City’s Support of our Historic Network of Steps, Lanes and Paths (Posted 11/21/2016)