Sleepy Hollow Community Center Rebuild Background
Our Need and Goal
The Sleepy Hollow community wants and needs to rebuild our old clubhouse, vitalizing 1317 Butterfield Road as a gathering place and resource for all of our residents. Understanding the need, how the community set the course we are on, and how much has been accomplished can be helpful for newer residents and for those who have lived the process since 2011.
From the beginning the vision has been to create an active community-gathering place PLUS a home for the Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District and an important disaster preparedness and recovery center.
As we renewed these goals in 2019, we said the renovation must:
Renew useful life of the building, with structural improvements and up to date code compliance.
Be an active, well used place for a wide range of ages, interests, needs, and abilities.
Be adaptable for multiple uses now and as needs change.
Be sustainable, resilient, with operating efficiencies and adopt green practices for energy use, water use, recycling and zero waste.
Provide emergency facilities including technical and social connectivity, a haven in disasters or emergencies such as electricity blackouts.
The needs Assessment
In 2011-12 when the Homes Association commissioned an inspection of our clubhouse. The report found that the building needed either significant repair or a complete rebuild. The inspection revealed:
* the building’s support columns are rotting;
* the roof is leaking in numerous locations and needs to be replaced;
* due to tree limb falls and water intrusion, the roof framing is collapsing;
* the windows and window framing have dry rot and need to be replaced;
* the foundations of the building supports need to be redone;
* the skylights are leaking;
* the water heaters and furnace are at the end of their useful lives;
* the plumbing system is no longer adequate and needs to be replaced;
* the current facility is not up to earthquake code
Appraisals in May 2018 found the facility to be near the end of its economic life and valued the entire property as is at 1317 Butterfield Road at $1,530,000.
Upon receipt of the inspection report, the Homes Association Board asked a series of questions for consideration:
· Does the 1950’s design of the clubhouse still meet the needs of the community?
· Should we invest a large amount of money to rehabilitate the as‐is facility, or should we explore a new design and a new building?
· When will we ask these questions again?
The Board surveyed of community to see what residents thought. We emailed online surveys, plus sent paper surveys to all of the 785 households in Sleepy Hollow at that time. We received comments from about 350 residents, including 210 households responding to the survey, and others in meetings after that. We found that residents rated the current structure poorly (a 4 out of 10) and they visit it infrequently. Approximately two‐thirds of respondents wanted to build a new facility. Ninety four percent of survey respondents said they would visit the facility more if it were re‐conceptualized and built anew. Eighty‐five percent said they would financially contribute to the rebuild.
The Board voted to create the Sleepy Hollow Charitable Foundation a 501 (c)(3) corporation to serve charitable purposes in the community and to raise funds and manage the rebuild. The Charitable Foundation has been certified by the IRS as having charitable status. Contributions to the Foundation are eligible to be tax-deductible.
The Homes Association and the Charitable Foundation are separate entities run by separate boards of directors.
The Design Process
In early 2013, the Charitable Foundation created an Architectural Design Request for Qualifications (RFQ) that was vetted by the Homes Association Board and shared with all residents of Sleepy Hollow by email. That RFQ was put out to the design community on March 1, 2013, with responses due March 21, 2013. The Charitable Foundation created a review board composed of the leaders of the Homes Association, the Swim Team, the Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District and the Charitable Foundation.
We received twenty qualified responses. We met and reviewed the submissions and cut the list to five finalists. We then had the five finalists come and present their qualifications and ideas. We carefully checked their references. In the end, we picked RRM Design Group, a firm that specializes in community and disaster recovery centers. We felt they listened to us the best, had the most extensive expertise / community outreach skills and would be the best fit to design a community center for Sleepy Hollow.
We conducted six separate public design input sessions. We brought together focus groups and held general meetings. We invited all residents to attend the meetings via email, printed invitations and "sandwich boards" on the side of Butterfield Road. Hundreds of residents attended these sessions.
The new building design also had input from the Ross Valley Fire Department, the Marin County Fire Department, the Marin County Office of Emergency Management, the Marin County Sheriff's Office, the American Red Cross, the Marin County RACES communications group, and other disaster experts.
Based on all that input, RRM Design Group went to work.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2013 the community was called together to see the results. When the architects finished explaining and presenting the new Clubhouse designs, the packed crowd broke into spontaneous applause.
The Design Process (Cont’d)
We emailed and mailed out the drawings to every household in Sleepy Hollow and asked for more feedback. We put up a website that featured the designs and sought input. While many of the comments were complimentary, others resulted in changes. In particular, we worked with immediate neighbors to improve their experience with the property. We paid for the architects to do more than ten hyper‐realistic visual mockups of the new community center when viewed from surrounding properties.
To accommodate neighbors, we made the following changes in our designs:
• We removed a deck feature from the second story
• We lowered the roof line
• We changed windows to make the bottom of them start at about five feet, (sacrificing views of Sleepy Hollow hills) so people inside the facility can't see into any neighboring properties
• The Swim Team agreed to not allow large groups of kids to use the exercise facility
• We agreed to tear down the existing "pool house" and flip the building to the north side [we now are deferring this to ensure ample gathering space and play area]
• We agreed to plant screening vegetation along the fence lines and to work with neighbors on the choices of vegetation
• We have agreed not to have lighting that might shine into adjacent properties at night
• We moved a planned BBQ away from neighboring properties, putting it in the center of circulation. [The BBQ is also deferred and we will continue to enjoy socializing outdoors and grilling on new propane grills with griddles (thanks to the Swim Team) and reflector screens.]
• We agreed to restrict the hours of operation of the Community Center
• We designed a facility not meant for large‐scale, noisy parties, but instead a much quieter day‐to‐day Sleepy Hollow resident usage
• We agreed to work with neighbors and the County on improving traffic in the vicinity
These changes added at least $100,000 in additional cost to the project. Even though the original design was within all design codes and zoning regulations, this extra expense is part of being good neighbors.
In the end, more than 575 residents gave input into the design process.
From the start, we knew we would need to raise a considerable amount of money to finance construction of our new Community Center. More than 300 families, representing approximately 1,000 residents, have opened their checkbooks to make generous contributions. Our community raised more at Raise the Roof and Rock the Clubhouse parties, the Horseman’s Ball, Chili Cook Off, Ping Pong tournaments, and collected individual donations, sometimes door‐to‐door.
One weekend, hundreds of kids (from Sleepy Hollow, Fairfax and San Anselmo) dove into our pool and swam their hearts out with a lap‐a‐thon for the new community center and raised more than $13,000!
In all, because of the support and generosity of our community, the Charitable Foundation raised more than $800,000 in cash and pledges. After design and engineering costs, permitting costs, legal expenses and fundraising costs, the Charitable Foundation has a balance of $475,000.
While the journey has been a good one, it has also taken much longer than any of us expected. The primary time challenges had to do with the permitting process with the county and later with the due diligence process required by the Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District (SHFPD). From the beginning the vision has been to create an active community-gathering place PLUS a home for the Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District and an important disaster preparedness and recovery center.
Early discussions with the District led to a plan whereby the District would provide substantial upfront funding for construction supplemented by community monies raised by the Charitable Foundation. Based on this plan, we began fundraising and our community met each established goal.
Over time, however, for many good reasons, the SHFPD shifted to studying the concept of a long‐term lease for space and use to meet their needs. Naturally, this decision profoundly changed the timing and nature of the transaction and provided major new financial challenges. Specifically, we needed to find lending sources and a plan for additional community support to fund construction.
In the meantime, the District undertook an extensive Wildland Urban Interface Assessment in 2016, and then in 2017 developed a new Strategic Plan based on that Assessment. These were tremendous achievements and serve to make our community safer now and into the future. Consistent with the District’s Strategic Plan and desire to establish a physical presence in the community, the District then issued a “Request for Interest” (RFI) to determine if there were parties interested in providing facilities for permanent office space and supplies storage, periodic meeting space for community engagement and safety education, and disaster response and recovery space. The Homes Association and Charitable Foundation responded to the RFI and were selected in May 2017 to negotiate as a potential provider of space. Read the SHHA/SHCF response to the RFI. All of these processes, although necessary, took substantial time and delayed our progress.
All the way along this path, the Boards of SHHA and SHCF judged that a strong mutually beneficial relationship with the SHFPD continued to be the best path to the best outcome for Sleepy Hollow residents: a safer community and a more useful facility. As we worked through the process with the District, we still used the time to conduct successful fundraising, complete architectural building plans, obtain bids for construction and complete all but the final step for required permitting. We paused fundraising in 2016, pending final financing terms.
And, critically, we were able to negotiate a commercial loan with Bank of the West. After paying off existing debt, the loan balance of $770,000 is available to fund construction. And, several members of our community stepped forward to pledge at least $1M in private, low interest loans. Together, those two sources of funding brought nearly $2M to our project.
Where we are today
Now, after a seven-year journey, we have finally arrived at the door to our new Sleepy Hollow Community center.
* We have a community-designed project, ready to be built
* We have a permitted project
* We have a secured bid from a trusted contractor
* We have an agreement by the SHFPD to lease for 15 years
* We have an operating model to cover the rest of our expenses including debt service
* We have $475,000 in Charitable Foundation monies
* We have commercial bank lending
* We have private lending
We are ready to break ground January 2019. We will save money and expect to be under construction for less time by waiting until April 2019 to begin construction.
Can you help open the doors of our new Sleepy Hollow Community Center and make the dream come true?