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Posted on Jul 29, 2015 in SMART | 3 comments

SMART Update: Los Ranchitos

SMART Update: Los Ranchitos

As SMART railway construction continues along Los Ranchitos, residents continue their efforts to make SMART responsive to local concerns.

Saving the remaining trees

Residents were successful in getting SMART to send out an arborist to inspect the trees that were buried by construction dirt. The good news is that the trees were partially unburied, but not enough to restore the original ground level. We did a walk-through with SMART Chief Engineer Bill Gamlen and Ahmed Thieiji, the assistant engineer in charge of this section of the railway. Both assured us the arborist would be back to reassess the trees. The arborist did recently return and we are awaiting a report. Meanwhile, the tree closest to Walker Place was damaged by equipment again.

Trees damaged and still buried

The tree on the left, next to the Walker Place path, shows new damage to trunk. The double-trunked tree on the right was “unburied” several months ago, but you still cannot see the root crown.

Another berm!

A large pile of new dirt appeared alongside Los Ranchitos near Ranch Road. After repeated questions as to what this was for and if it was being removed, we were told last week that it is not permanent and will be removed “at some point”. If they had needed dirt, we already have a berm just to the north that we don’t want.

Weeds in fire season

Very, very dry weeds cover the berm behind the neighborhood and the ground between Los Ranchitos and the tracks. This was called “re-vegetation” by SMART, but we know what weeds look like. Residents expressed their concern about fire risk to the SMART Board at the beginning of the year and to SMART staff during their onsite visit this spring. The weeds were supposed to be cleared July 1, but work just began on July 27. We did notice that when the workers took a lunch break, they left their hot, gas powered weed whackers on the dry brush. Not the SMART-est move.

weed whacker on ground

We appreciate that SMART conducted a site visit with residents to hear our concerns and explain their plans. Once the tracks are finished, they will start working on the multi-use path in this same area. We impressed upon Bill Gamlen the importance of ensuring neighborhood input into the siting of the path to minimize further loss of large trees. We have learned that we have to be vigilant to ensure that our concerns are heard.

Utility building installation caused flooding

We did a story on the flooding caused by the placement of this building. Ahmed said the sub-contractor was asked to come back and fix the drainage. We reviewed this with Ahmed onsite and pointed out that the “fix” will require water to travel uphill to be properly drained on the asphalt sidewalk. The contractor is tied up with other responsibilities in the project downtown, but we’ll keep on this to ensure it is not forgotten.


It has been a good thing to be able to communicate directly with the engineer responsible for this segment, as it has been difficult to get timely information or attention from SMART. We appreciate the contact and answers to our questions. With the possibility of an El Nino this winter, we are certain SMART is going to have many more issues in this area.


  1. I walked along the tracks behind Contempo Marin today and was shocked at all the poison oak that has sprung up where they sprayed re-vegetation stuff. Any other areas you are aware of where this is an issue?

    • We haven’t heard of this. Anyone else seen new poison oak?

  2. Thanks for the post! Many of us would prefer evergreen, native vegetation lining the edges of the Right of Way instead of weeds that dry up immediately after the rains stop. The new weed mix has aggravated my allergies like never before. Because they sit atop the new berm I see the tips of them over my fence line and the pollen floats right over.

    SMART has been bad about weed removal since taking over the Right of Way. Dry weeds on the ROW endanger our homes to brush fires. We need more diligent stewardship of the ROW by SMART in populated areas.

    It’s great to have an open line of communication with SMART’s engineering team. This communication could be improved by SMART monitoring for task completion so residents don’t need to hound SMART and feel disregarded when agreed to remedies aren’t followed through with as expected.

    Every tax payer in Marin is paying for this train. Those of us in the path of it need SMART’s sincere concern and actions to reduce the disturbances and dangers of it going through our communities.

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