Apple Box Owners Angry Over Proposed Fence

SMART says it need to protect pedestrians from falling through the rotting wood of the trestle. But one local business says the current fence is just fine.

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?

Chad M. February 03, 2012 at 03:05 PM
I can understand the need for a fence, as it's just a matter of time until some drunk idiot walks out on the trestle and falls through. However this fence is such an eyesore, right in the heart of downtown. Surly there has to be a better solution than a big ugly chain link fence. Did they even consider talking to downtown businesses first?
M February 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I agree with the owners of Applebox. The current fence is quite adequate. If some drunk or stupid person decides to cross that barrier, then that person will suffer the consequences. I believe Darwin called it natural selection. It is truly ridiculous how much of a nanny state society we have become! Additionally, the fence they are installing is chainlink and most able bodied people can climb over it if they really want to do do. SMART should not be wasting our tax dollars on this. Instead, they should be using every dime to get the commuter rail up
Big Dolphin February 03, 2012 at 06:55 PM
How Ridiculous. As if they couldn't make that stretch any worse! You have the stench of garbage from the bins behind Central Market. The ominous hole in the plywood to your left, then as you walk south past the heavily guarded hot tub time machine followed by a woeful piece of open concrete on your right. Apple box with it's friendly appearance and sidewalk tables are a relief. How about this, patch the hole, move the garbage bins, have 24 hour fitness put some kind of privacy screen for people on the outside so we don't have to look in. Put some nice flower boxes along the existing 4 ft fence and make the best of it until the project goes ahead. If SMART is worried about litigation at this level then why go ahead at all ! Morons.
Chad M. February 03, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Well said
Jenny February 03, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Barry Bussewitz February 03, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Of course I have not seen the fence yet, but it sounds terrible not just for Applebox but for all of us (and tourists) who pass through this area and enjoy the splendid views of the turning basin and beyond. How can we encourage SMART to reevaluate? I am a fan of SMART and do not want them to make any unnecessary decisions that dampen public support!
Sandra C February 03, 2012 at 09:46 PM
If someone is going to climb over the existing fencing along the Apple Box Cafe', they're going to climb over the the side of any other fencing along the river as well, including the Balshaw Bridge. Creating an eye sore at the expense of the Petaluma tax payer is not only a disadvantage to the business owners, it's also a disadvantage to those of us who look forward to spending time on the deck of the Apple Box Cafe'. I think this fencing is a silly idea.
LongTimeLocal February 03, 2012 at 09:55 PM
How about we actually fix the tressle eyesore so everyone is happy. The thing is butt ugly and really an embarrassment to the city as it stands
David Keller February 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Seems like SMART needs to do some more homework, talk to the local and adjacent businesses and property owners, and get a lot more creative. There are many ways to create safe barriers that are attractive without looking like prison walls between the rail and the river, for our public, tourists, businesses and residents. This is not a new problem, and can be resolved without a great deal of mayhem if SMART will slow down a bit and take the time to get it right.
Goofpod February 03, 2012 at 10:30 PM
They don't need protection from morons who might fall from their own drunkenness or idiocy. They need protection from the greedy lawyers who will take advantage of both parties any way they can. One small target amid many in this sorely sue-ing society. Lawyers' greed-fueled indifference will ultimately lead to the downfall of our culture. Rome is burning...
Tom Corbett February 03, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Ditto to what Keller said. I may have read too much into the quote from Laura Giraud but she sounds like she's in the wrong business. Managing the RE for SMART (which I support) requires more sensitivity to the needs of the affected communities than her rigid concern about liability implies. I'm sure creative folks in our town and with SMART will come up with a solution that protects SMART sufficiently while preserving the views for the Apple Box and other riverside businesses. That trestle deck has been a mess and dangerous for a long time. If it weren't for some concerned citizens adding the plywood years ago it would be worse. Why not take the suggestion to cover the major holes with new plywood, stop the fencing short of the nice low Apple Box fence and get on with repairing the trestle. As others have said, there is no fencing that will stop determined fools from climbing and walking the trestle. The sooner it's fixed the better for all. The trestle is not only for trains/trolleys but also serves as a balcony from which folks can enjoy the river views including the visiting boats and the many river events.
bruce mallon February 03, 2012 at 11:36 PM
the holes and bad wood has been there for years. where are the bodies afloat in the river that have blundered through the rot? the small fence in existence will suffice as it has for years. who got the fence contract, Basin Street sub-prime builders? fools will climb 3 feet or 6 feet to hurt themselves anyway.
Petaluma Seer February 03, 2012 at 11:39 PM
An ugly chain link fence is not the answer along the idyllic waterfront there. SMART can do better than that if they get together with the many artisan builders in this city. There are incredible fences across town and chain link is out of sync with this city. Anyone who is drunk or drugged out can find a way around and over any fence. Even prisioners get over chain link fences if guards are not close enough. Signage should be in place with a large diagram of a person walking with a large circle and an X through the circle. That way, non-readers could understand also.
Karina Ioffee February 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Great ideas. Yet can the city really make 24Hour put in a privacy screen? And who should put in the flower boxes? The city? SMART?
Tracy Cathcart February 04, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Is SMART even responsible for the old trestle? The Applebox is truly a gem in our Rivertown community. We spend oodles of money restoring downtown to create a river town feel, and the allow a fence to be put up that is completely out of sync with the look and feel of this revival? I agree, if a person wishes to climb over a fence, they're going to climb over it. Tax dollars not put to the best, and/or intended use, yet again. We shouldn't all have to pay for other people's poor judgment and decisions. Let's work together as a community to get everyone's input on the solution. Trying to force feed the community with the wrong tools is definitely showing a huge gap in synchronicity of what we say and what we end up doing for the remaining locally owned businesses in town.
Tracy Cathcart February 04, 2012 at 12:12 AM
P.S. I love to frequent the Apple Box. I'm going to be very disappointed having to look at the eyesore of a fence being put up. It is definitely not a good fit with the special ambiance of the Apple Box establishment. This is one of only a handful of places in town with an amazing view, where you can sit outside in the sun, and the only one right on the river that I know of besides Riverside Bistro. I saw the fence being worked on yesterday, and didn't realize it would be put up by the Apple Box as well. The Apple Box is one of those rare places and hidden gems that make our town something special. Let's not make decisions that hinder yet another local business, that we make such a big deal about keeping in town.
Olivia February 04, 2012 at 12:44 AM
A not-so-SMART fencing idea. Surely, you can do better. Very insensitive and aesthetically displeasing.
Nick Hoffman February 04, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Walked by the fence today, where I noticed it, it looked nice...it's green, not some bare metal fence, I didn't notice if they went all the way down to AppleBox...I don't think it did. Hopefully, they will NOT put it where Applebox is, that would be sad.
Robin February 04, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Robin Just remember no one on the SMART board is from Petaluma. SMART just had elections and still no one from Petaluma got voted in to represent our city, which is SMARTS second largest tax revenue I believe. What do you think is coming to happen......
Mitch February 04, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Is this part of Petaluma Downtown Assocation (PDA) and the Business Improvement District (BID)?
Jordan February 04, 2012 at 04:07 AM
A fence in front of our view from the Apple Box deck would be just as irresponsible as the fool who MAY climb over the existing deck to walk on the trestle .
M February 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Water Street Bistro's view from their patio has been marred by the blight of the chain link fence. Why didn't they just leave it alone! There already was a fence and signage. What a waste of money!!!
tony February 05, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Yeah, same group who thought they were going to operate their Rail Yard in the middle of downtown Petaluma; NOT. Consistently clue-less group in regards to how the public's interests are addressed. Yeah, I support the train, but I'm not too impressed with the management group.
OldAs Dirt February 05, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Apple Box, just agree to indemnify SMART for any suits about the area to be fenced off. If you're fully responsible for liability, SMART probably won't mind leaving it unprotected. Otherwise, they're protecting taxpayers against a suit by securing the disaster area.


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