Marshall Tavern owners told to build public pier

11/21/2012

The latest plans to turn the historic Marshall Tavern into a bed and breakfast on the shores of Tomales Bay are inching forward as the owners and the Coastal Commission negotiate terms, including the placement of a public pier mandated by the commission. A hearing on the merits of the coastal development permit scheduled for last Friday was postponed.

In its staff report, the commission recommended conditional approval of the nearly 6,000-square-foot renovation proposed by the property’s East Bay owners, which the county approved in 2010. That approval hinges on several changes to building plans—including the addition of uninterrupted public access along the bay—that advance the Coastal Act’s promise to maximize recreational opportunities and public access to California’s shoreline.

Though the staff noted that the project violates that act by adding “wetland fill” in the form of expanded pilings, their report recommends overlooking that and other issues, noting that any development would have some impact.

Built in 1910 as a soda shop and hardware store, the Marshall Tavern has sat vacant since 1990 and was condemned by the county in 1992. Owners Daniel Altman and Avi Atid are now seeking permission to partially demolish and partially rebuild the tavern, resulting in a five-room bed and breakfast complete with skylights and solar panels.

The staff report requires that the owners build a public pier and suggests that it be placed to the north of the tavern, where lie the remains of the Marshall Hotel, an 1870 fishing and hunting retreat that burned down in 1971. According to Marin County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner Steve Kinsey, the owners are hoping to instead rebuild a dilapidated pier to the south of the taverns.

Commission staff deemed the original proposal inconsistent with the Coastal Act for several reasons. Expanded pilings would impact marine resources, new construction would affect views and the possibility of tsunamis and coastal flooding would require altering the shore to protect against such hazards, they wrote.

They also warned of troubling projections of sea-level rise, noting that the property could be significantly endangered by 2050, when sea levels will have risen an estimated 14 inches, according to the owners’ geotechnical study.

But, citing the most recent projections from the National Academy of Sciences, they suggest the property could be in danger soon after 2030.

Among other conditions, the owners would be required to plant only plants native to the Marshall area, remove unused pilings and other debris, survey and protect bats, and clearly mark public access. The permit would limit the number of days any guest could remain in a room to 29 days per year or 14 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and would prohibit any future conversion of rooms to living quarters.