By Richard Rubin.
Strawberry residents (I am one of them) have every right to know what the future holds for their community.
The dust has not yet settled on controversy surrounding the county’s intention to turn the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary into a “priority development area” allowing for high-density affordable housing. This designation was scrapped amid outcries from an aroused citizenry which county planners and the district supervisor, Kate Sears, had inexplicably failed to adequately consult beforehand.
The seminary is once again in the political crosshairs with the announcement of its sale to a wealthy Texas-based owner/developer, North Coast Land Holdings, which is examining its options that include the possible relocation of the prestigious Branson School from Ross.
Although there is no formal proposal yet and little is known about an impending deal, this has all the makings of another donnybrook if mismanaged.
On one side you have one of the most valuable pieces of reusable real estate remaining in eastern Marin and a motivated developer.
On the other you have vocal homeowners committed to preserving their bucolic
surroundings who are geared for legal battle, resent the intrusions of outside interests, are well organized, and need to be taken seriously.
Opposition in Strawberry and other towns was largely ignored during the dust-up over the PDAs, driven largely by seeming complicity between county officials and the Association of Bay Area Governments, which recommends but cannot mandate affordable housing quotas.
The tiny community has a long history of rebuffing efforts to alter its small-town character including an unsuccessful attempt in 1970 by Mill Valley to annex it along with most of the unincorporated portions of the Tiburon Peninsula.
Over the years there have been multiple efforts to annex Strawberry to Tiburon, as well as ballot measures seeking incorporation by residents who felt disempowered and poorly served by the county. All were soundly defeated.
The late Supervisor Charles McGlashan paid attention to the community, but resentment has once again surfaced.
There is a steady influx of new, affluent homeowners with young children; their priorities are safe streets, quality schools and adequate neighborhood services.
Older, long-term residents are more concerned with traffic, noise, property values and crime. These will be driving factors in the coming debate.
Any redevelopment that increases traffic will be fiercely resisted. A new traffic study is already raising red flags.
All traffic in and out of the community must travel on narrow arteries that are frequently congested and worsen during peak commute hours. Tiburon Boulevard could also feel the impacts.
Adding more public transit as the county has proposed has little support and parents like the freedom their kids have to ride bikes to school and shops.
The reality is that significant change on the site is inevitable and county decision-makers can either sit down with community members to work out acceptable solutions or face the consequences.
There is an unyielding faction within Strawberry likely to oppose any plan. But they do not speak for the many who will adapt to reasonable change providing the process is transparent and constructive, and they are given voice at the negotiating table.