Optimally developing the 20 acre former Tacherra parcel on Mesa Road.
There is perhaps no more ideal parcel of land in Bolinas and Stinson Beach that could be wisely developed and become the catalyst that turns the community hollowing out around.
The parcel is level, centrally located, walking distance from the school, and adjacent to community services including the medical clinic, fire station and sports fields. There would no traffic impact upon any of the Bolinas neighborhoods and there is no immediate neighbor housing that would be impacted.
Given the location of the Bolinas sewage ponds, and the precedent set by the fire station running a sewer line under the road to it, it seems reasonable to do the same for projects on this land.
Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and Assistant Director of Community Development, Tom Lai, have both indicated that for community benefit projects that create housing and community facilities, rezoning this particular parcel would be a reasonable endeavor. They have cited the 34 home Ecumenical Association for Housing (EAH) project in Pt Reyes on the Giacomini land as an obvious precedent.
The parcel itself could be built out over time. It is currently one of three parcels in a single Williamson Act contract – which essentially allows the property owner to avoid significant property taxes. As the lot is considered substandard land, and under 40 acres, it is possible a county assessor will invalidate its inclusion in the existing Williamson contract in the near future.
This actually would be fine, especially if the lot were held for public benefit by a non-profit entity such as a community land trust, exempting it from property taxes going forward, an otherwise significant ongoing cost.
If the parcel is developed into sites for large single family “deconstructed homes,” the size of enclosed, liveable square footage is limited by water use guidelines – yet could be at least as large as the largest single family estates in the community.
If with community input and county approval we rezoned the parcel to be built out in phases, we could, in fact turn the housing situation, and hollowing out of the town, around.
Immediately coming to mind would be an eventual division of the land into at least five components.
- Using the existing water meter and building on an acre or two on the northwest corner of the lot, the first of these “deconstructed homes.” We know from BCLT’s downtown experience that 12 individuals can live off one water meter – which could include at least three families with school age children.
- Protecting the Overlook Drive sight lines, a second project worth considering might be a Community Food Forest and Botanical Gardens with day use teaching classrooms placed in small discrete farm buildings. This project would be lined up with the site lines of drivers approaching Mesa Rd via Overlook Drive. I would make this a serious educational demonstration project along the lines of Occidental Arts and Ecology perhaps in partnership with Commonweal. All water for irrigation would come from catchment systems and small retention ponds.
- A third project on the land would be in partnership with the school, who could bring their 2nd water meter over (now only used in their administrative building), or one eventually donated to them, to build teacher housing (and possibly temporary housing for families at risk who lose their housing mid school year). Using the “deconstructed home” model a good number of people could be housed, especially given many teachers are not living with children. This could also provide overnight rooms for commuting teachers who occasionally stay late, only to have to drive 45 minutes home and then back the next morning. The north east corner might be the logical location given the walking distance proximity to the school with parking already provided next to the firehouse.
- Another part of the property could be designated as affordable rental housing for individuals and families, with the Bolinas Land Trust or others bringing over a water meter for their now refined “deconstructed home” build out.
- A fifth part of the project could be a community pool and, if there is the interest, an indoor recreation facility. With the aging population in Bolinas, swimming and warm water activities become particularly important. A small pool and facility can be economically feasible as the modest but heavily used Woodacre Improvement Club has shown.
- Ideally, if the community wished, over time, more deconstructed home structures could be added as donated water meters became available.
Why it needs to be a notable project.
Aside from the housing need, Bolinas and Stinson Beach need a catalyst to bring the community together and the next generation of community builders to town. The 1971 oil spill was the last catalyst.
This needs to happen soon and before the school population shrinks to a point of no return, where no matter how high functioning it may be, most parents will not send their children due to the lack of peers and socialization in their child’s grade level.
Fortunately, we are in an unparalleled natural paradise and in close proximity to San Francisco. We have tailwinds from a growing knowledge based economy and an increasing number of people able to work from home most days of the week.
The need for alternative, cost effective, forms of housing is growing nationwide, as is the interest in permaculture, simpler living, nature based schools and community building.
All these trends can be embraced here.
There are two big risks.
1) The biggest risk to the community is that the project is not visionary enough and does not act as a catalyst for new ideas and energy coming into the community. Without a big vision, little will change and the school and community will continue to shrink until Bolinas and Stinson become vacation home towns with service people commuting daily to service it.
2) The second risk is that the design of the living spaces is not well done and not enough living spaces are created to create a vibrant pocket neighborhood feel. Good design is crucial and it is vital that the project leads and designers have a deep understanding of how to create small high quality living spaces, and then how to position and build them in a community fostering way. Because there are few precedents this is not easily done by a less specialized developer and architect.