The owners of are up in arms over a 6-foot chain link fence that Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is building along the old trestle, arguing that the fence will block the view of the river and negatively impact their business.
“This is the best view in Petaluma and if they extend the fence to where we are, it will put us out of business,” said Zohreh Ansari, who, along with husband Kayvan Nikfar, has owned Apple Box Café for 18 years.
“Every business around here is struggling, but yet they want to put this in,” said Nikfar, only half joking that the new fence will make the picturesque waterfront resemble Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Currently, there is a lower guardrail running along the trestle, but SMART says it’s not tall enough to protect pedestrians. On Tuesday, workers began building a taller fence.
“There is a liability issue and it’s going up for safety,” said Laura Giraud, a real estate manager for SMART. “(The trestle) It’s getting really dilapidated. The concern is that someone will walk on it and injure themselves. And then, who will they sue? SMART.”
Following complaints from Apple Box, SMART is reevaluating how far it will extend the new fence and is conferring with the city on the issue.
But not every business on the waterfront feels the same way as Apple Box. Sami Nazzal, owner of , says the dilapitated trestle is a safety issue and favors the higher fence.
"I would rather lose the view than a person," Nazzal said.
According to a city report, 70 percent of the trestle, which is more than 100 years old, is rotten and highly unstable. In December, SMART and the city organized a community meeting to discuss possible designs for a restored trestle, which was held at Apple Box.
On Monday, city staff will present the findings at the City Council meeting and are expected to recommend rebuilding the trestle entirely and creating a pedestrian walkway. However, if the council picks that option, the project would not be eligible for historic restoration grants. The cost of the trestle restoration is estimated between $3.5 million and $4.5 million.
Running 500 feet from the to the Balshaw Bridge, the trestle is the former tracks of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad. Built in 1904, the tracks were key in transporting cattle, eggs and other local products from Sonoma County to San Francisco and the world beyond.
Do you think the higher fence along the riverfront will keep pedestrians safe?