County officials should abandon efforts to build a $100 million public safety facility on a dog park next to the Marin Civic Center and instead focus on a less expensive plan involving an office complex in San Rafael, according to former Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni.
Acquisition and retrofitting of the earthquake-safe, 455,000-square-foot Marin Commons complex off Highway 101 at 1600 and 1650 Los Gamos Road would save money and provide more than enough space for public safety facilities, allowing the lease of unused areas to create a new "revenue stream" for county coffers, she said.
Mazzoni's commentary came at a candidates' forum hosted by the National Women's Political Caucus at San Rafael City Hall, where she debated Supervisor Susan Adams on Thursday. Adams, who faces Mazzoni on the June 8 ballot, received the caucus endorsement by winning a majority vote of 24 members in private balloting.
Acquiring Marin Commons, which reverted to its lender in a $62 million foreclosure last June, means "we don't have to build another building" and is "the smart way to go," Mazzoni said of the recycling plan.
The "preferred alternative" of the Board of Supervisors is the dog park site, where officials have long envisioned the first phase of an 85,000-square-foot public safety complex will rise at an estimated cost of $58 million. Adams noted that final site selection has not been made, and an environmental analysis will "look at a variety of sites, including two off (Civic Center) campus sites." Marin Commons is among them.
"At the end of the day, people say we need the facility," Adams told the caucus forum. "The question is where it is located."
Contacted on Friday, Adams said she privately suggested the 35-acre Marin Commons site last year, and as a result the county is reviewing it.
"It's unfortunate she felt the need" to publicly discuss the idea, Adams said of Mazzoni, because speculation will drive up the acquisition price. Issues include the need for more seismic safety work, locating the sheriff's operation three miles away from the country jail at Civic Center, and whether the county needs five times as much office space as it wouild build at the dog park.
The two candidates parted ways and traded barbs on a number of issues, including the county's utility business venture, the Marin Energy Authority, which Adams supports, and Mazzoni does not.
Adams, saying she was elected eight years ago "on a vision of creating healthy communities and protecting the environment," listed a string of accomplishments including creating the county Health and Wellness Campus in the Canal area, pushing the "gap closure" project that eased freeway traffic, and boosting services for disaster readiness, children's health and the homeless.
"I've delivered," she said.
But Mazzoni, citing the county's $29 million computer debacle, service cuts required by a $20 million budget gap, and a missed opportunity to curb greenhouse gas emissions by shunning an electric car-charging outlet program, said Marin deserves better. "During this time we have seen leadership fail us at the county level," she said, calling for more oversight and accountability at Civic Center.
Adams said that thanks to county leadership, Marin "is in the best fiscal condition of any county in the state," and said supervisors will eliminate the $20 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year. "Very few real body layoffs are happening" at Civic Center, she added, because vacant posts are being scrapped.
Adams reported that Mazzoni had visited her office three times in eight years, once to lobby for Kaiser Permanente and another for the Marin Builders Association. Mazzoni rejected a questioner's assertion that her San Rafael business, Mazzoni & Associates, promotes big business, saying her clients include two charter schools and a textbook lobbyist.
The two sparred over a flood control tax facing Santa Venetia residents, with Mazzoni contending neighbors weren't consulted. Mazzoni also criticized a county pitch that San Rafael host a homeless facility. "It's not the responsibility of just one city" to house the homeless, Mazzoni said. Adams said that following a county "query" to San Rafael about a site, "we're looking at alternatives."
After exchanging commentary for a half-hour, the session ended with the incumbent noting that winning the election won't be easy.
"This is going to be a tough race and I am facing a worthy opponent," Adams said.