Which Future?

“A town which is a community is a delicate organism.”  Orville Schell and Ilka Hartmann (1976) The Town That Fought To Save Itself.

A functioning community ensures its continuation by meeting the needs of future generations.

Families with school age children have been steadily moving away, and soon our existence as a balanced multigenerational community will end.

Then, as the current generation of long term residents age, the community will almost completely convert to a vacation/second home location (the last 100 home sales makes this clear – only a few have been sold to families moving to town to raise their children).

Unless we choose to do something about it.

We have two main problems:

1)  A School Leadership Problem. 

The school is not retaining existing students and attracting very few new ones.  

  • We’re down to about 87 students, from over 250 twenty years ago, in grades K-8.
  • It seems likely at least 10 more, mostly new residents, will withdraw in the next year or two.
  • 50% (49) of the once enrolled students in grades 3rd to 8th have withdrawn.  71% of the now 6th grade class has withdrawn.
  • Critically, only a very few left because they lost housing, despite the common narrative that housing is the problem.  A lack of housing keeps new students away.  Poor leadership is the primary reason existing students have been leaving.
  • Currently, only 1 student from Stinson Beach has been enrolled for more than 2 years.

2) There is almost no long term rental housing available.

  • Until recently, local families could usually find a new long term rental – often through word of mouth.  Now, it is becoming almost impossible.
  • Virtually nothing is available for new families wishing to move to town.

If we don’t come together and take drastic action, we’ll see the complete hollowing out and departure of young families from our two towns.

We need big, bold ideas to retain and attract families.  

1)  The School Completely Reinvents Itself.

If the school does not change, no amount of newly available housing, at any price, will attract and retain families – and our community’s permanent resident population will continue to free-fall.  As high as our home prices are, wealthier families are paying those prices over the hill.  With our under 7 to 1 student-teacher ratio, abundant funding, amazing location, and the increasing ability to telecommute, there are plenty of families who would move here for an exceptional school.

You can see the raw enrollment data here.

2)  Serious Short Term Rental Regulations.

To open up long term housing, especially for families, we need serious impactful regulation of the short term rental market, which has decimated the market for long term rentals.  Multiple coastal communities have already taken meaningful action.  San Francisco shut down almost half their airbnb listings.

You can see the raw data here, and some insights from it here.

3) A New Housing Model Allowing Multiple Families On A Single Water Meter.

Our population has dropped precipitously in the last 48 years since the Bolinas water moratorium.  With advances in low flow usage we need to investigate ways to respect the moratorium, while getting more people living on a single lot and meter.

What’s not going to work.

1)  Expecting the school to fix itself, or the few remaining parents to do so.

Despite good intentions all around, and a staff and school board that cares, we need help from elders in the community.  Many parents in our community don’t have the time and resources.

2)  Expecting the Bolinas Community Land Trust (BCLT) to do more than it can.  

The Bolinas Land Trust is doing great work, and much of their new housing efforts are for family sized units.  They should be supported.  But to turn the school around, we need 20-30 new families wanting to move into our community and there needs to be an amazing school experience that will attract them.

3) NOT implementing proven, common sense short term rental legislation now being implemented in many communities worldwide.  (Generally this means regulation ONLY of non-owner occupied single family homes.)

While BCLT will make an important dent in the housing crisis, it is completely unrealistic to think the they can do it all, in the necessarily tight time frame.  Additional housing efforts need to be explored, along with immediate, impactful, short term rental regulation.

It is time, once again, for this amazing place, for “Briones,” and its neighbors in Stinson Beach, to save itself.