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Santa Venetia | Marinwood | Terra Linda | Canal | Downtown San Rafael | Dominican | Gerstle Park | Sun Valley | San Marin Downtown Novato | Ignacio | Hamilton | Indian Valley | Point San Pedro & Peacock Gap | Bel Marin Keys

eighborhoods Marin

Summer 2009

A look at the unique nooks that make the county a special place to live

San Rafael Novato

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Welcome to the Neighborhoods

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An old saying goes, “don’t buy the house, buy the neighborhood.” And in San Rafael and Novato, that couldn’t be more true. For the summer 2009 edition of Neighborhoods—our ongoing series of peaks into Marin’s best-loved nooks—we’re highlighting the county’s two largest and fastest growing towns. Teeming with parks and amenities, local-grown businesses and family-geared residential areas, San Rafael and Novato represent Marin’s most urban and rural outposts along the Highway 101 corridor. From the night life of Fourth Street San Rafael to the winding country roads of San Marin

and Indian Valley, our northern stretch of the county holds a fascinating past—and a promising future. When it comes to San Rafael and Novato, we recommend buying the house and the neighborhood.

—JASON WALSH EDITOR, PACIFIC SUN

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SAN RAFAEL Downtown ..............................................6 Gerstle Park ..........................................10 Sun Valley .............................................12 Dominican ............................................14 Canal.....................................................16 Santa Venetia .......................................17 Pt. San Pedro .......................................18 Terra Linda ...........................................20 Marinwood ...........................................22 NOVATO Downtown ............................................24 Ignacio ..................................................26 Bel Marin Keys .....................................28 Hamilton ...............................................30 Indian Valley .........................................32 San Marin .............................................34

San Marin Downtown Novato 101

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Ignacio Hamilton

ON THE COVER (Clockwise from top left) Downtown San Rafael, San Marin, Marinwood, Canal, Sun Valley, Downtown Novato DESIGN & MAPS Gabriel Lieb PHOTOGRAPHS Ken Piekny, Julie Vader WRITERS Allie Weiss, Samantha Campos, Shelley Shepherd Klaner, Matthew Stafford

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Marinwood Terra Linda 101

Sun Valley

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Downtown San Rafael Gerstle Park

Canal 580 101

Point San Pedro

Pacific Sun

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Embarcadero Publishing Company. (USPS 454630) with offices at 835 Fourth St. Suite B (entrance on Cijos St.), San Rafael 94901; Telephone: (415) 485-6700, Fax (415) 485-6226. E-Mail: letters@ pacificsun.com. Entire contents of this publication Copyright ©2009 Embarcadero Publishing Company ISSN; 0048-2641. All rights reserved.

Member of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Marineighborhoods Summer 2009 5


Sir Fr ancis Downtown San Rafael, positively Fourth Street! Drake FFaairf irfaxx Boyd ver the years, cattle drives, parades, Memorial hangings and shootouts, cardsharps, low-riders, toreadors and FrancisPark can friars have made Fourth Street Mission Mission Marin’s most urbane gathering spot. 5th It’s been all of that since Marin’s Av. San Rafael Av. fi rst inhabitants, the Coast Miwok, 4th settled in an area between today’s Fourth Street and Fift h Avenue at S t. the base of the region’s northern hills. 3rd

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A few centuries of fun, fi shing and foraging later, soldiers, priests and “converted” Indians from Mission San Francisco de AsÌs across the bay arrived at what is now the corner of Fift h Avenue and A Street in December of 1817 and established Mission San Rafael Arcangel, the 20th and next-to-last mission in the chain from San Diego to Sonoma. In 1834 the missions were secularized and converted into pueblos by edict of the new Mexican government. San Rafael pueblo and its environs were granted to Tim Murphy, a genial Irishman who acted as both Indian agent (he spoke Miwok with a brogue) and alcalde of the pueblo. Murphy’s most famous contribution to the local history, however, was his inauguration of Oct. 24 as San Rafael Day, which started as a feast to honor St. Rafael Arcangel and over the decades (it lasted 52 years) turned Fourth Street into a riotous scene of dancing, gorging, all-night drinking, horse racing, blackjack, bullfighting and every other sort of revelry, indulged in by ranchers, prospectors and scum from the Barbary Coast out for a killing. After California joined the union in 1850, forty-eight 300-square-foot city lots were laid out along numbered and lettered streets projecting from the mission, which also acted as Marin’s first county courthouse. Just up Fourth was the log jail where hangings were conducted from a nearby oak tree. The main business of San Rafael, however, was livestock. The surrounding hills were home to thousands of head of cattle, and it was common to see the herds

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Pacifi c Sun Hom e & Gard en photo by Ken Piek ny

driven up Fourth to the slaughterhouse on San 101 Rafael Creek. The town of San Rafael was incorporated in 1874. An elaborate new Greek Revival county courthouse was erected with cupola, columned portico and, just inside the front door, a gallows. All of San Quentin’s executions were carried out here, including that of murderer Lee Doon; convivial onlookers nearly rioted in their mad scramble over the body for souvenirs after the hanging, and thereafter executions were performed at San Quentin instead. The 1906 earthquake and fi re shot San Rafael’s population up from 4,000 to 6,500 as refugees from San Francisco raced for the suburbs. Eleven years later, thousands of onlookers lined Fourth Street to cheer Company D of the Fift h Infantry as they marched down to the Union Depot to head overseas and whip the Kaiser. Fourth Street suffered a blow in 1957 when fi re destroyed a block of businesses between D and E streets, but downtown has undergone other, more positive changes in the past several decades. The old train depot was lovingly restored in 1971 and now houses the Whistlestop organization. There were merchant-sponsored redevelopment projects in 1963 and again in the ’70s, and Fourth Street’s been repaved at least twice by Ghilotti Brothers, a company with a San Rafael pedigree dating back to 1914. The street itself gained international fame in 1973 as the lowriders’ main drag in George Lucas’s American Graffiti. Smack in the middle of all this multicultural urbanity rises the gorgeously restored Rafael movie palace, a city landmark for much of this century. Fourth Street, in other words, remains Marin’s main drag.—MATTHEW STAFFORD DOWNTOWN

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Gerstle Park, made in the shade...

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San Rafael neighborhood with a rich sense of history is quiet, tree-shaded Gerstle Park. Located half-a-dozen blocks from downtown’s Sturm und Drang, it was the city’s fi rst residential enclave, a place where families could raise their kids and enjoy a bit of country living without straying too far from the shops and eateries of Fourth Street. The neighborhood was originally named Short’s Tract after one J.O.B. Short, the fi nancier who purchased the land and developed it late in the 19th century. One early resident was Lewis Gerstle, a wealthy San Franciscan who’d made his fortune in the Alaskan fur trade and the Yukon gold rush. As a summertime alternative to his Pacific Heights digs, he built himself a gabled Victorian mansion on a steep, grassy Marin hillside with a view of the mission to the north. It was an idyllic country retreat with vine-covered trellises, alfresco sleeping porches, bamboo groves, an apricot orchard, a tennis court, ambling livestock and a squadron of Prussian gardeners to tend the fl ora exotica. Railroad workers, many of them Italian immigrants, settled in the area as well, raising grapes to make wine in their own (considerably smaller) homes, and a Greek Revival schoolhouse, Southside Primary, was built in 1903. After the Gerstle estate burned to the ground in the 1930s, the land was donated to the city to create a public park. (The 3.5-acre retreat remains a popular local destination, with its playground, picnic tables, barbecue pits and iconic 6-foot-long green and purple concrete dragon.) Many of the old houses were razed in the postwar years to make room for duplexes and apartment buildings, but in 1973 the Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association was formed to preserve the community’s unique and historic character. Gerstle Park is still a lovely, leafy suburban alternative to the hustle-bustle of downtown San Rafael. Annual picnics, garage sales, cleanup days, Halloween house-decorating contests and Christmas caroling excursions are indicative of a strong community spirit among the neighborhood’s 1,600 residents. There’s a pleasant mishmash of architectural styles

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Pacifi c Sun Hom e & Gard en photo by Ken Piek ny

to choose from— shingled centuryold Victorians, vintage Arts and Crafts bungalows, railroad flats once occupied by the area’s blue-collar settlers—and hiking trails offer easy access to the extensive adjacent open space. The neighborhood isn’t entirely rustic, though. For a quartercentury Muffi n Mania has been baking up preservative-free delicacies for its loyal local clientele. The acclaimed Keystone school for disabled youth operates a campus on the site of the old Southside Primary building. VonDi’s Rachel von Doepp arranges classy bouquets and other floral artworks out of her shop a few steps from the park. San Francisco DJ Justin Johnson has even recorded a “Gerstle Park Massive” remix that’s been acclaimed as “a monstrous tribal-electro-disco joint.” And the rambling Panama Hotel at B and Bayview has been boarding and feeding traveler and local alike since 1926. (Maria’s Pueblo, a hotel fi xture for 35 years, was Marin’s fi rst Mexican restaurant...well, fi rst post-Bear Flag Mexican restaurant, anyway.) Another lodging house, the Gerstle Park Inn, is equally venerable. It’s located in two of the buildings of the old Voss estate, built in 1895, and after several years as a celebrity drug rehab center it was converted into a B&B now regarded as one of the loveliest in Northern California. Relaxing among its manicured gardens a brief tree-shaded stroll from San Rafael’s shops and restaurants, you’ll understand why old man Gerstle and generations of loyal residents have settled down in this tranquil corner of Marin. —MATTHEW STAFFORD G E R S T L E

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Sun Valley, where Marinites go for the sunny side of the life

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5t h Forbes The neighborJ Hill Res. hood has a its own shopping center/ community 4t h gathering spot S t. at the corner of Fifth and California; included is a small independent market, a laundromat, a needlepoint shop, computer services center and a hair and nails salon. Just past Scenic Avenue on Fifth Street is the West End Nursery, a family-owned shop which provides the area’s gardening and landscape supplies. At the opposite end of Fifth Avenue is the Marin Monument Company—a monument itself since the early 1920s which outfits granite and bronze memorials for next door’s full-service, 130-year-old Mt. Tamalpais Mortuary & Cemetery. Sun Valley Park, on Solano Street between California Avenue and K Street, is a 2-acre recreation area with a playground and jungle gym, basketball court, sheltered picnic tables and—although signs calling for leashes are prevalent—a moderately sized open plot of grass just perfect for playing catch with your dog. Another prized amenity is the Rafael Racquet and Swim Club, found up Racquet Club Drive, where members can still have lunch and enjoy the beatific views of Sun Valley with a backdrop of Mt. Tamalpais and the surrounding East Bay hills. Strolling through the neighborhood today, it’s easy to see why turn-of-the-century residents originally flocked to Sun Valley. It’s the kind of place where the local market displays two public bulletin boards, mostly touting dog-walking services and job postings. It’s where residents will argue over the loss of a hiking trail or debate whether the cemetery should restructure its borders. Where a momma deer and her two offspring can silently trot across the street, impervious to residents mowing their lawns or children scooting by on their bikes.—SAMANTHA CAMPOS H



he northwest neighborhood of central San Rafael known as “Sun Valley”—unimaginatively called Neighborhood 13 in the San Rafael General Plan— includes most of Fifth Avenue, from H Street to the end. From there it meets Mount Tamalpais Cemetery, as well as K Street and the residential area extending west and including the streets of Humboldt and Solano. But Sun Valley carries the kind of “location cache” that will spur folks from the outlying Rafael Highlands, Fairhills, Forbes and Racquet Club communities to claim Sun Valley as their place of residence as well. And why not? The oldest section of Sun Valley was built up between 1882 and 1900; the San Francisco earthquake brought another wave of settlers north in ’06. In 1914, the area became Marin’s own mini-Hollywood, as the California Motion Picture Corporation set up shop at the end of K Street. Under the auspices of San Francisco entrepreneur George Middleton and his would-be-It-Girl wife Beatriz Michelena, the CMPC utilized the rustic Sun Valley hills to produce a series of country melodramas; one of its more sophisticated productions, an opera-inspired silent called Mignon, was filmed at what is now the playground of the Sun Valley Elementary School, at Fifth and Happy Lane. Alas, Marin was not Tinsel Town North and by the early ’20s CMPC had gone bankrupt; its Sun Valley studios sitting vacant until burning down in the early 1930s. The area remained relatively unchanged until the post-World War II baby boom birthed with it a need for more housing, with hillside development occurring steadily throughout the 1960s and ’70s, leading to the neighborhood’s much-discussed architectural diversity. (Though in general, Sun Valley is comprised primarily of large, single-family homes, with a smattering of some duplexes and small apartments.) While friendly, the idyllic residential community of Sun Valley is not quiet about issues concerning its peaceful habitat, and the active neighborhood association regularly holds meetings to discuss changes to the cemetery and nearby school, traffic flow, park renovations, market updates and the like.

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the early 20th e attracted Marinites since Sun Valley’s quiet charms hav was a bustling hub of San Rafael. ood century, when the neighborh

12 Pacific Sun - Marin’s Best Every Week

POST OFFICE 910 D St. P PUBLIC SCHOOLS Sun Valley Elementary, 75 Happy Lane P


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he Dominican neighborhood prisoners out at San Quentin.) “The gentle undulations, the graceis a lovely suburban enclave of ful slopes, the abrupt acclivities of the hills, all carpeted with the 101 shade trees, cul-de-sacs, hiking soft greensward...constitute an extended and lovely partrails and century-old Victorians. Narrow terre, which gratifies the eye,” read a particu. Ln Locust Av. d winding streets empty onto sylvan open space larly juicy valentine to the neighborhood L ind eGn n a A v. r an hl dA H ig si t y v. to the east and north. The locals are friendly, the composed in 1884. With its balmy ve r i n nU . ic a thrum of Fourth Street is close enough for conveclimate and easy train-and-ferryboat v . n i v A A D om nd alm nience and removed enough for quietude, and the commute to the city, Magnolia Valley R a f ae l Jewe ll climate is eternally September. But the Dominican’s (named after one of Coleman’s more Dr. St . Bell most emblematic feature is the beautiful and internaabundant flora) attracted a bevy of . St tionally renowned 80-acre university that gives the San Francisco pooh-bahs in search Mi Av. s si neighborhood its name. of their own country estate, Chronicle on Av. Bordered by the Montecito district on the south, founder M.H. de Young among them. 3rd Mis Gold Hill open space on the east, enormous Barbier The area was more than just tucked-away Fire S t . Sta. Park on the north and Highway 101 on the west, summer cottages, however. A rollicking dance it’s an ideally secluded spot for tranquil reflection far hall was located in Laurel Grove, built by from the bedlam of city living. That’s what inspired Coleman for the use of local teens. Nearby was his the area’s first householders to stake their claim hereabouts almost a expansive 12-acre nursery. Another little project, the ornate and century-and-a-half ago. (The Coast Miwok of earlier days preferred luxurious Hotel Rafael (tennis courts, stables, observation tower, 101 the flatlands below, at least partly because a rambunctious spirit rooms) stood at the corner of Belle and Rafael. And in 1887 Coleman named Yu’-tenm’e-chah was known to frequent these northern hillsold 10 acres of Magnolia Valley to the Dominican Sisters of San Rasides.) In 1871 William T. Coleman, a millionaire shipping tycoon, fael for $20,000, then turned around and gave half the money back to sugar merchant and former chief rabble-rouser of the San Francisco sweeten the deal. Within a year or so the nuns had built an impresVigilance Committee, purchased 1,100 acres’ worth of sunny San Ra- sive four-story Italianate Victorian at Grand and Locust to serve as fael with an eye toward future development. The previous landowners motherhouse and boarding school, and a four-year college—Marin’s had defoliated the landscape for farming purposes, and the first thing one and only—was added in 1917. It was such a success, the order was Coleman did was to blanket the neighborhood—and eventually able to purchase de Young’s neighboring Meadowlands estate a few much of northern San Rafael—with trees, native oaks and laurels and years later, expanding the campus and converting the publisher’s old madrone to begin with but also acacia, eucalyptus, lemon, almond, summer home into classy dormitories. pepper, pine, maple, cypress, orange, walnut, chestnut and more: some Today Dominican is a full-fledged university with 2,000 students, 10,000 trees in all. 60 interdisciplinary learning programs, an 11-to-1 pupil-professor Next he hired Hammond Hall, the unsung genius behind Golden ratio and, of course, a strikingly beautiful campus. Students from Gate Park, to lay out a new community with irregularly acreaged around the globe (nearly 80 percent of them supported by grants parcels and streets that would follow the contours of the hills instead or scholarships) study literature, philosophy and religion, complete of trying to dominate them. (Coleman also found time to dam Labiomedical research in the school’s new cutting-edge science center, gunitas Creek and form the Marin County Water Company, which perform in critically acclaimed dance and music productions and would provide H2O to his new tenants as well as the earn MBAs in a unique Strategic Leadership program. What’s more, the Dominican Penguins have won California Pacific titles in soccer, volleyball and basketball over the past half-decade. The campus also hosts the Conlan Recreation Center, where neighborhood residents can swim, exercise and play tennis for a minimal annual stipend. Barbier Park’s hiking trails offer plenty of recreation as well, as do local fixtures the Marin Tennis Club, the Marin Ballet Center and the Marin Shakespeare Company. But the favorite local pastime just might be relaxing and reflecting under one of Coleman’s canopied trees, just as the locals have been doing for generations. —MATTHEW STAFFORD n

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FFIRE Station 2, 210 Third St. LLIBRARYSan Rafael Public Library, 1100 E. St.

of Rafael purchased 10 acres The Dominican Sisters of San hin a year had opened a boarding wit Magnolia Valley in 1887 and e. leg col school and

14 Pacific Sun - Marin’s Best Every Week

PARKS Boyd Memorial Park P POST OFFICE 910 D St. P PUBLIC SCHOOLS Coleman Elementary, 800 Belle Ave. P


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Marineighborhoods Summer 2009 15


Canal, Baypoint and Spinnaker—the melting pot of Marin



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n a county By the 1960s, whites renowned and African-Americans for its bucolic from Sausalito’s nowPickleweed reek Beach el C a Park f landscapes, well-heeled abandoned shipyards began Pk. a R S an citizenry and vertigisettling the area in earnest. Fr a nc nous per capita income, San Apartment buildings and t. is c al S o n a Rafael’s Canal district offers duplexes were constructed as C Sa a divergent hint of the metrowell as single-family dwellings Ya n Ra Blv Be ch fa politan. Nearly 12,000 people—20 and residential boat slips along the canal, d l ve t H el . de arb percent of the city’s population—are which was dredged every four years to r eS or packed into the neighborhood’s 1.2 square maintain its navigability. Businesses rangt. miles. The setting is an urban mishmash of ing from fishing charters and bait shops to shops, offices and restaurants, light and heavy industry, the Marin Recycling Center and Industrial waterfront property, pocket-sized parks and high-denLight & Magic opened on the premises, sity housing. Sixty-four percent of its residents are foreign and the area’s job opportunities and low rents born and between them communicate in two dozen different attracted èmigrès fleeing war, oppression or languages. But the most telling indication of the Canal’s other-ness poverty back home. The Canal Community 580 is its median family income: $36,000 per year, somewhat less than Alliance was founded around this time to the county’s overall $89,000, with upwards of half of all households offer assistance to these at-risk newcomers existing below the poverty level. through English classes, medical care, legal Hemmed in by the San Rafael Canal on the north, San Rafael services, job training, youth education and Bay on the east and the 101/580 corridor on the south and west, development programs and affordable housing. the neighborhood, like tucked-away Marin City down the highToday the Canal remains Marin’s most culturally diverse way, is a conveniently secluded setting for chain stores, auto-body neighborhood, its citizenry ranging from the well-to-do inhabitshops, low-cost housing and a distinct multicultural demographic ants of the Spinnaker Point and Baypoint Lagoons developments not usually encountered north of the Golden Gate. A centuryalong the bayfront to the working classes (most of Latin-Ameriand-a-half ago the area was dominated by the navigable creek can descent) inhabiting the crowded apartment buildings within that meandered from the marshlands of the bay all the way to C the Canal/Belvedere/Bahia triangle. Street, offering mariners easy entry to downtown San Rafael in The neighborhood also has a history of taking care of its the city’s pre-railroad days. own, through the continuing good work of the Alliance as well Eventually a canal was dug as a drainage slough (at its termias organizations like the Parent Services Project, the Canal nus at Third and Irwin was a man-made swimming hole and an Welcome Center, the Grassroots Leadership Network and elaborate bath house where Olympian Eleanor Garatti trained DrawBridge, an arts program for homeless children. The menu for the 1928 and 1932 games), and in 1923 Congress authorized of local businesses is a testament to the Canal’s wide-ranging the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen and widen it, dumping heritage: Pupuseria El Salvador, Ping’s Mandarin, Le Croissant, the dredgings in the marshlands and creating what we now call Absolute Bar-B-Que, Oscar’s Tacos, S. Panahi Caterers, Marin East San Rafael. Pizza Man. Country Club Bowl, Marin’s only bowling alley, is at 88 Vivian. Green areas include Pickleweed Park with its soccer fields and playground, and Shoreline Park, which offers so ex excellent views of the Marin Islands wildlife sanctuary just offshore. And there’s the 3.6-mile canal itself, which not only hosts ho a lighted boat parade every holiday season, in its dredged sta state it assists rescue craft and fi refighters and is a crucial bulwark against seasonal flooding of downtown San Rafael. All wa the place really needs is a lot more intracounty parity, economic th an and otherwise.—MATTHEW STAFFORD Ke

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C A N A L / B AY P OIN T/ SP INN A K E R AT A GL A N C E FFIRE Station 4, 46 Castro Ave. LLIBRARY Pickleweed Library, 50 Canal St.

ineers; its 3 by the Army Corps of Eng The Canal was dug in 192 what is now ate cre to the marshlands dredgings were dumped on East San Rafael.

16 Pacific Sun - Marin’s Best Every Week

PARKS Pickleweed Park P P POST OFFICE 40 Bellam Blvd. P PUBLIC SCHOOLS Bahia Vista Elementary, 125 Bahia Way


ancis Santa Drake Venetia, a little Italy that became the county hub

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Marsh Open t’s quite possibly the most quietly popular enclave in Space Preserve L the county. As a 4-square-mile, unincorporated area of San Rafael, the neighDr. dola borhood of Santa Venetia is bustling Ven ro Ped N. San Wy. with activity. From the year-round Civic Center Farmers Market (the third Santa La Pasada Wat Margarita e largest in the state) to its adjoining development modeled after Venice, Italy. Island de 1,500 bayside acres of China Camp In 1914, real-estate developer Mabry McMahan Cir . State Park, the county’s own proposed that the marshland area be partially fi lled Dr. “little Venice” is a sprawling with dredgings from the San Rafael Bay and flanked yet modest, marshland with canals and gondolas (which explains the Me Civic Center ria is community that area’s plethora of Italian street names like VenLagoon Park m n In Dr . Mc acts as the unoffidola Drive, Galleria Way and Gallinas Road) Wa sh cial heart of Marin. along with a glamorous, upscale resort planned ing San Pedro Ridge ton The most visfor Santa Margarita Island. But it was an Open Space Av Marin . ible landmark of Santa ambitious idea that was put aside once Civic Center Venetia lies on its western the effects of the Great Depression and a border: the massive Frank pair of World Wars caused a need for more Lloyd Wright-designed affordable and accessible housing. Much of the subsequent Marin County Civic Center. residential development occurred in the 1960s along North Housing the county governSan Pedro Road, now the town’s main thoroughfare. ment offices and main library, Today, Santa Venetia is home to a tight-knit community that 101 the awe-inspiring 1957 stucco takes pride in its unique features and amenities. The 87,000building—and National Historic square-foot Osher Marin Jewish Community Center is considLandmark—was Wright’s attempt to “open the eyes not of Marin ered the not-so-hidden “jewel” of the county, with an inclusive County alone, but of the entire country, to what officials gatherfamily-friendly fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and ing together might themselves do to broaden and beautify human 500-seat theater that plays host to a variety of concerts and other lives.” Across the pond—in this case the duck-adorned Civic Cen- arts events. Bordering the community center and extending east ter pond—is the county’s largest performing arts venue, Marin is the expansive San Pedro Mountain Open Space, with its nearly Center; its fairgrounds are home to the beloved Marin County limitless supply of hiking trails. Most of the Santa Venetia busiFair held every summer. ness hub is near the Civic Center, where legal and civic profesBut long before 3-year-old faces were getting sticky from cotsionals sustain their busy days with hot coffee and quick lunches; ton candy and legendary architects were unwittingly influencing the Santa Venetia market serves both locals and the hundreds future sci-fi fi lms (interiors of THX 1138 and Gattaca were shot of Marinites who come to the area on a daily basis. Far more on location here, while constructs on the planet Naboo in the Star isolated down San Pedro Road is Santa Venetia’s premier eatery, Wars movies were purportedly inspired by Marin Center buildLe Chalet Basque, a neighborhood staple for years specializing ings), Santa Venetia was intended as a in delicacies from the southern French region of Basque; its patio lush with tulip trees and rose vines. Still further down North San Pedro Road is China Camp State Park, where salt marshes, luscious meadows and oak forests are home to a bevy of wildlife; a preserved 19th century Chinese shrimp-fishing village is a beach-front history lesson in California’s history of mass immigration and local xenophobia. Although the canals and gondolas may be lost the ambitions of history, the heart of Santa Venetia—through its residents, parks and civic center—is still beating strong.—SAMANTHA CAMPOS Ad ria n

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FFIRE Station 7, 3530 Civic Center Drive LLIBRARY Civic Center Library, 3501 Civic Center Drive, #427 PARKS Civic Center Lagoon Park, McNear’s Beach Park, P China Camp State Park, Field of Dogs C

ved terways were originally car Santa Venetia’s unique wa . ice Ven area into a Marin version of

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POST OFFICE 2 Civic Center Drive P PUBLIC SCHOOLS Venetia Valley K-8, 177 N. San Pedro Road P Marineighborhoods Summer 2009 17


Point San Pedro, bayside bliss in San Rafael

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oint San Pedro Road passes the communities of Loch Lomond, Glenwood and Peacock Gap. These neighborhoods, sandwiched between the waterfront and an expansive set of hills and natural habitat, are home to an eclectic set of Marinites. And locals will tell you: Marinites who have yet to explore the area are surely missing out. The first signs of life on the road east of Montecito Shopping Center are of a nautical nature—the Loch Lomond Marina, in fact, sits past the Marin Yacht Club on Pt. San Pedro Road. Loch Lomond Marina was established in the early 1950s by the McCarthy family, who operated the boat harbor for more than four decades. Over the years, the 517-slip marina has received multiple upgrades, including a picturesque boardwalk along the water’s edge. S u mm it The docks are home to their own yacht club, as well as Av. the Loch Lomond Market and a few small neighborhoodMarin Yacht serving businesses. Club Continuing to follow Pt. San Pedro Road past Loch Lomond, one stumbles upon the local communities of Glenwood and Peacock Gap, nestled against McNear’s Beach and the expansive China Camp State Park. Much of this land was originally in the hands of Ireland native Timothy Murphy, who received the land as a grant from the Mexican government in 1844. According to local historians, after Murphy learned a bit of Spanish while working at a meat-packing company in Peru, he moved to California and befriended the local Mexican governor. This friendship, combined with his own missionary work with Native Americans, scored him three large plots of land in San Rafael. John A. McNear and his brother George purchased land at San Pedro Point in 1859. A decade later, according to Marin historian Jack Mason, the McNear brothers owned 2,500 acres, including five miles of waterfront. John McNear had big plans for the land. A shipping and railroad mogul, he hoped to establish train tracks

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that would run from Ross all the way through Point San Pedro, where ferries would carry passengers to San Francisco. His transportation plans crumbled with the 1906 earthquake, and the land remained largely pasture. The McNear family also created a resort near the water that was popular during the 1930s. Some 40 years later, the former hotel and the land surrounding it was transformed into a county park: McNear’s Beach, which is now a haven for recreation seekers in warm months. The beach sits right on the edge of San Pablo Bay, and visitors enjoy the pool, tennis courts, picnic spots and fishing pier. The McNears’ presence in Pt. San Pedro began to diminish when the family’s descendants sold property to various developers. Consequently, a large amount of homebuilding in Glenwood and Peacock Gap took place in the mid- to late-1900s. Now some 700 homes, an elementary school and a public park exist within the Glenwood limits. And Peacock Gap contains an array of luxury homes and a handful of condominiums surrounding its own golf and country club. China Camp State Park, the largest and hilliest stretch of North San Pedro, is a busy weekend destination for hikers and picnickers. With 15 miles of hiking trails, campgrounds and an accessible waterfront, the park has a clear attraction for the nature-loving Marinite. Today residents fill Loch Lomond, Glenwood and Peacock Gap— but it never feels overly crowded. Something about the gorgeous bay and state park have a calming effect over the entire area. —ALLIE WEISS

P O I N T S A N P E D R O A T A G L A N C E FFIRE Station 5, 955 Point San Pedro Road LLIBRARY San Rafael Public Library, 1100 E. St.; Civic Center Library, 3501 Civic Center Drive, #427 C PARKS Victor Jones Park, Peacock Gap Neighborhood Park P P POST OFFICE 910 D St.

of San Rafael. busiest recreation spots in all McNear’s Beach is one of the

18 Pacific Sun - Marin’s Best Every Week

P PUBLIC SCHOOLS San Pedro Elementary, 498 Point San Pedro R Road; Glenwood Elementary, 25 W. Castlewood Drive


Marin Neighborhoods