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Parks and Recreation Commission to Consider Amendments to Downtown Depot Plaza Use Regulations
Posted Date: 5/30/2014

Plaza Event

City Council Meeting
June 2, 2014 | 7:00 pm

Presentation of an update regarding the Parks and
Recreation Commission’s review of the Plaza Use
Regulations and discussion of thoughts for change.
Download the June 2, 2014 Staff Report 

Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting
June 4, 2014 | 7:00 pm
Consideration of Plaza Use Regulations and
suggested amendments to the Municipal Code.
Download the June 4, 2014 Staff Report

City Hall, 26 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley


Provide Input


Download Staff Reports, Review
Past and Upcoming Meeting Information


Based on the recommendations of the Mill Valley City Council, Parks and Recreation Commission members and Recreation staff will discuss four proposed amendments to the Mill Valley Municipal Code which regulate the use of the Downtown Depot Plaza at their upcoming meeting on June 4, 2014.

The City Council will hear an update on the process at their meeting on June 2, 2014.

For the Parks and Recreation Commission, the work before them has to do with aligning the Municipal Code section regulating use of the Depot Plaza to more accurately reflect the use of the Plaza over the last few years.

“Basically, the recommendations will update the Municipal Code so we are in compliance based on our modern usage of the Plaza,” Director of Recreation Jenny Rogers said.

The Municipal Code lists a number of regulations for proposed use of the Depot Plaza, but there are three principal restrictions: events may have no more than fifty participants, there may be no more than six amplified music events per year, and event times are restricted from 12 noon to 4 pm.

Those restrictions contradict what has become common practice for use of the Depot Plaza in recent years. “We host events with more than fifty people on an regular basis, the number of events with amplified music or sound has exceeded the ordinance in the past few years and we regularly have events that extend beyond the hours of 12 noon to 4 pm,” Rogers said, giving the Arts Commission’s popular Comedy in the Plaza event and the Winterfest and Holiday Tree Lighting event as examples.

Rogers said that over time, the number of recurring annual events has grown and now includes the following: the Arts Commission’s Summer Concert Series, the Chamber of Commerce’s Wine and Gourmet Festival and Winterfest, and several special events by local organizations including Bloomathon, the Dipsea Foundation, California Film Institute / Mill Valley Film Festival, the Mountain Play, Tam High Music Boosters and Youth Give. A review of approved uses of the Depot Plaza over the past six years shows that, on average, the Plaza is used for twelve events per year, with an average of eight having amplified music or sound.

Proposed Updates
With the goal of aligning the Municipal Code with the recent use of the Depot Plaza, Commission members and staff have reviewed Council direction from past meetings and have developed the following recommendations:

  1. Eliminate the attendance cap of fifty people per event as current community events routinely exceed this cap. Maximum occupancy would be governed by event-specific conditions of approval imposed upon the event permit.
  2. Increase the cap on amplified events to no more than twelve per year.
  3. Change the time constraints on allowable amplified events to between 11 am and 9 pm.
  4. Establish an administrative approval process for limited scope users.

These recommendations, according to Rogers, will hopefully better meet the needs of the community, streamline the Commission’s operations, and simplify the permit process.

The Depot Plaza was turned into a public gathering space in 1982 after serving for years as a bus station and parking lot. It was designed by the landscape architecture firm Royston, Hanamoto, Alley & Beck and former mayor Dick Jessup, and now functions as a treasured public gathering place and a valued asset in the community.

Though no major changes have been made to the Plaza since its inception, there have been a number of improvements and additions including: installation of game tables, park benches, new trashcans, railings around the raised planters and redwood grove, fencing around the Depot Bookstore and Café outdoor seating area, and the placement of the Gravity Car Replica.

Historically, the Parks and Recreation Commission has regulated organized use of the Plaza. Event organizers work with Recreation staff to present their requests to the Commission, and the Commission has approval discretion.

In 2009, the City Council appointed a Business Advisory Board to evaluate Mill Valley’s economic vitality and provide recommendations that would stimulate the commercial and economic environment. In their final report, the Business Advisory Board recommended increased nighttime and weekend usage of the Plaza for special events.

In recent years, the Parks and Recreation Commission has not strictly adhered to the existing Municipal Code restrictions as they have become out-of-step with the community’s desire for increased local events in the Plaza. There has been much support with little objection to amending of the Plaza Use regulations, and no significant complaints to approved Plaza events in recent years.

“This is the opening of what I am hoping will be a larger conversation,” Rogers said, “I hope that updating the regulations will better reflect the Plaza’s current usage and better meet the needs of the community.”

Provide Input

City Councilmembers and Parks and Recreation Commissioners value a balanced, inclusive, and open approach to decision-making processes and encourage citizen participation. We recognize the community’s strong feelings and interest regarding the downtown and sensitivity towards change. All public meetings will be conducted in an open and inclusive process, and your comments and suggestions are invited and welcome.

There are options for you to learn more and provide input, including:

We thank you in advance for your constructive input to help guide the process, and we look forward to hearing from you either in-person at the upcoming meetings or via written comments.

For questions or additional information contact Jenny Rogers, Director of Recreation at 383-1370.

Download Documents, Review Past and Upcoming Meeting Information

Date and Staff Report (click to download) Actions or Recommended Actions:
2012 and 2013 City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed Depot Plaza Use Regulations and received public input.
May 7, 2014 Parks and Recreation Commission received an informational update and public input.
June 2, 2014 City Council will receive a presentation of an update regarding the Parks and Recreation Commission’s review of the Plaza Use Regulations and discussion of thoughts for change. Council will receive presentation, discuss and provide direction as appropriate.
June 4, 2014 Parks and Recreation Commission will consider Plaza Use Regulations and suggested amendments to the Municipal Code. Commission will receive and discuss information, receive public comments and direct staff.
Summer 2014 Tentative Parks and Recreation Commission meeting to further review City Council direction and public input.
Date To Be Determined City Council adoption of Ordinance amending Municipal Code to update Depot Plaza Use Regulations.