Marin IJ

Group wants flood fee upheld

Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched: 08/05/2007 11:10:27 PM PDT

A group of prominent Ross homeowners has banded together to urge Hal Brown and his fellow supervisors to stand pat in their support for a new flood mitigation fee.

Brown, who spearheaded the effort to approve the fee, has said he is considering throwing out the results of a June vote that authorized the fee and repeating the election. Brown is responding to a threat by San Anselmo lawyer Ford Greene to file suit to challenge the legitimacy of the election.

About 21 percent of the 8,059 votes cast in the mail-in election were disqualified - the majority because they were unsigned. Greene says that demonstrates that the ballot was fatally flawed.

Not so, says the Ross group, which includes a municipal bond banker and a former superior court judge.

Ashford Wood, who has worked as a municipal bond banker for more than 40 years, said, "During my career, I have seen many measures similar to this mail-in ballot. That ballot was very clear that a signature was required for a vote to be counted. I am certain that the courts will uphold the vote."

Douglas Moore, who served as a superior court judge in San Francisco, said, "This is a very standard way of conducting this type of election. The instructions were very clear on the ballot, including signing the thing."

Wood said that opponents of the fee have dominated headlines since the election, and his group is seeking to present the opposing viewpoint. So far, the Ross group consists of six families, but Wood said he is confident more people will join with them once the word gets out.

"We believe that the newspaper articles incorrectly reflect an overwhelming revolt against what has been done," Wood said. "What we're trying to do is counter that by saying there are a great many flood victims that feel very differently."

"We will be seeking legal counsel to represent us," Wood said. "If the other side is looking for a fight, we're ready to give it to them."

Brown said he had been contacted by Wood. Brown said he has been hearing from supporters of the fee all along, "not just recently."

"I'm listening to all sides," Brown said.

The homes of several of the Ross group's members suffered damage during the storm that buffeted Marin in the early morning of Dec. 31, 2005. About 1,200 homes and 200 businesses were damaged across much of the county, with downtown San Anselmo especially hard hit.

Wood said his wife's art studio flooded, ruining art work worth $100,000. Moore said his home was flooded in 2005, the second time in 25 years. He has spent about $800,000 making repairs and raising the house more than five feet off the ground.

"We were out of our house for 18 months. We just got back in last month," Moore said.

Phil Gross, another member of the group, was forced to move out of his house for six months. Gross, a retired orthopedic surgeon, said he thinks the opposition to the fee comes mainly from people living in hills, who don't have to worry about their homes flooding.

"It is our problem; we bought in a flood zone," Gross said. "But at the same time, I do not have any children in school, never have. But I supported the school with my taxes because I'm part of the community, and I'd sort of like to see the same cooperation with regard to this flood fee."

Two of the group live in the hills.

"I just feel those people have suffered enough, and it's best for the county," said Henry Moody, the founder of Panamax. Moody has played a leading role in the effort to raise money to expand and renovate the Civic Center campus.

Group member Jules Becker, who has worked as both a journalist and a publicist, asked, "Whatever happened to the Marin attitude of: let's help our neighbor because our neighbor might help us?"

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at

Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360