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Sonoma / Hopkins / Josephine Triangle Park Summary
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Summary Brief
The Sonoma / Hopkins / Josephine Triangle project was initiated by neighbors (organized by Elyce Judith, David Snippen and Rich Clarke; designed by Bonnie Ng) along Sonoma Avenue in early 1999 to provide some measure of traffic control and pedestrian safety at the intersection of Sonoma and Hopkins Street.  Funds were generated from a Parks Mini-Grant, private contributions from individuals, and a Council allocation for community sponsored capital projects.   A protracted City review process was required before the project could proceed.   Plans and project specifications based upon City standards were prepared, and contractors were solicited by the community group to bid on the project.   In October 2002 one bid was obtained from a qualified general engineering firm.   Work of the first phase started in January, and was completed in March 2003.  Landscaping work was completed by neighborhood volunteer efforts, and in October 2004, a dedication ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the project.

sohojo before
sohojo after
Before: Looking South Down Josephine
After: Looking South Down Josephine

Initial Project Purpose
In a series of meetings in February and March, 1999, over twenty Sonoma Avenue neighbors met to discuss issues of traffic and pedestrian safety in our area.   We contacted the City’s Traffic Engineer for information about methods that might be used to control or to slow down automobile traffic along Sonoma Avenue, and we requested the Police Department to monitor the traffic speed.   After further meetings, we decided to hold a Memorial Day Block Party to discuss with our neighbors the various options recommended by the City to address the issue of pedestrian safety and traffic control.    

We neighbors felt that something needed to be done to slow the traffic, and that the first step should be to provide a pedestrian safety zone at the intersection of Sonoma, Josephine and Hopkins Streets.  The space was simply a painted triangle of asphalt paving, approximately 1,800 square feet in area, used frequently as a parking space by trucks and autos.    Concerns were expressed for the safety of an increasing number of toddlers in the area, parents with infants in strollers, and elderly folks especially in the vicinity of the North Branch Library.   Sketches of alternative schemes for a landscaped island, or extension of the lawn area of the Library were presented to the neighbors, and comments were gathered for other ideas to be considered in the design.  It was the consensus of the planning group that the 1,800 s.f. area generally defined by the painted stripe at the center of the intersection would result in the optimum improvement, and would not be disruptive to emergency vehicle access and to school bus routes.    

The data generated from traffic citations issued over a three or four week period confirmed our own observations that indeed, traffic speed frequently exceeded the posted limits, and often vehicles would not stop at the intersections.   Although no fatalities, or serious injuries had been recorded at the intersection with Hopkins, or at the “T” intersection of Fresno Street and Sonoma Avenue, it seemed to defy the inevitable that one day there would be a serious incident in our neighborhood. 

Fundraising for the Project
In May 1999 the City Parks Department announced a Mini-Grant program for neighborhood projects to be constructed by neighbors themselves.    We applied for a grant in June, and received  $3,305 in November 2000 from the program.  That mini-grant became the starting amount for our fundraising effort over the next couple of years.   Neighbors from Josephine Street, Hopkins, Beverly Place, Fresno Street, as well as from Sonoma Avenue contributed over $1,700 in cash, hundreds of hours of labor, and many materials toward the project.     Most importantly, Councilmember Mim Hawley sponsored an effort in March 2001 to support the project from City general funds set aside for community capital projects.    Our project received $21,750 to add to our balance.  We engaged Berkeley Partners for Parks to serve as our fiscal agent for receipt and disbursement of the project funds.     

The Design and Review Process
Over the succeeding months we held several meetings of the neighbors to develop the design of the project, and to review our progress with various City Departments and officials, while fundraising continued.    As decisions were made on the design, we started the review process through several City Commissions, including the Public Works Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Commission on Disability, and the Transportation Commission.  Additionally, we met with representatives of the Police and Fire Departments to be certain to address their concerns.   No one in the City quite knew where the jurisdiction rested with this neighborhood sponsored project to be constructed in the public right of way.  But, eventually we received approvals and support from these bodies, and permits were issued by Public Works Department.  

Bidding and Construction
Following approval of our design documents in May 2002, we started to solicit bids from contractors.   With persistence and some luck, by October we found a general engineering contractor willing to take on the project for a very favorable price of $19,400.   The bid for the demolition and construction was considerably less than our estimate, and was clearly a price that could not be matched by any other contractor.   An underground drilling firm installed a water line connection to the Triangle, for a bid of $2,000.    The contractor started work in January 2003, and was completed the first portion of the project in March 2003.   

The SoHoJo Groundbreaking.
First Round of Demolition.
big rocks dirt
Neighbors put the big rocks into place.
Ammending the soil before planting.

Much of the earth fill material was supplied by a donor in the area, and labor for the installation of the irrigation system, plantings and surface medium was donated as well.   Landscape materials including the large boulders, planting soil medium and the granite gravel surface material, irrigation equipment, and other miscellaneous materials were purchased for a total of approximately $2,000.   Planting materials, other than those provided by a particularly dedicated volunteer, amounted to approximately $1,000.

Literally hundreds of hours have been provided through volunteer efforts in the completion of the project.   On 10 October 2004, a dedication ceremony for completion of the project was held.           

Commuters, and nearby residents still use the Colusa-Sonoma-Hopkins corridor to bypass the Marin-The Alameda route across town,  and traffic speeds have not abated, but the intersection at the Triangle is now more clearly defined, and pedestrians have a safe zone from which to cross to the sidewalk at the opposite side of the street.   Volunteers continue to do necessary cleaning, thinning and weeding work throughout the year, and to water the plants during the hot summer months.    The plantings are generally drought tolerant, but require some periodic irrigation due to the full sun and wind exposure of the site.    And, most passersby and pedestrian users appear to appreciate the improvement and enhancement to the streetscape.