West Marin residents will have an opportunity to tell the county what they’d like to see at the Point Reyes Coast Guard property during two upcoming meetings, on April 18 for Spanish speakers and on April 30 for both English and Spanish speakers, both at 6:30 p.m. in the West Marin School’s small gym. The community’s actions in large part have brought us to this moment. Here is the story behind the enormous opportunity that this property represents for West Marin.
The Coast Guard complex is hidden away just east of downtown Point Reyes Station. For more than 40 years, it housed more than 40 United States Coast Guard officers and their families. Unlike what we think of as a military base, this property consists of a generous, green 32 acres near Lagunitas Creek, 36 townhomes, a dormitory and office buildings, a dining hall, a playground, picnic areas, and tennis courts. It was a wonderful, functioning neighborhood, with children running straight up the hill—not even crossing a street—to get to West Marin School.
With advances in telecommunications, the Coast Guard no longer needed so many officers in the area and the property was designated as surplus. The federal government planned to sell it to the highest bidder on its auction website. Point Reyes Station resident Richard Kirschman heard of the plans and the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin confirmed them with our congressman, Jared Huffman. We felt that, in the middle of one of the most challenging eras for West Marin housing and community stability, this neighborhood needed to be preserved for affordable homes.
CLAM and more than 15 community leaders spearheaded a campaign to ensure this property came into the community’s hands. We formed a dynamic political partnership with Rep. Huffman, then-Supervisor Steve Kinsey and the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Responding to CLAM’s call, nearly 200 letters of support for our vision came from businesses, residents and every major stakeholder organization throughout West Marin and across the county.
Then, together with Rep. Huffman and Supervisor Kinsey, CLAM helped craft federal legislation that designated the property be used for affordable homes. We sent the letters we had received to federal agencies and legislators to show wide community support. President Obama signed the bill into law in 2016.
The legislation requires the Coast Guard to sell the property to Marin County for the purposes of affordable housing. Although many people think CLAM already owns the property, we do not: the Coast Guard still owns it. The county anticipates that it will be able to buy the property in 2019 or early 2020, and it is preparing a bidding process to select an organization to own and prepare the property for its next use.
The community input meetings on April 18 and 30 will give the county the community’s thoughts on what to ask for in the bidding process.
Now is the time for the community to provide its vision for how this property will be used and whom it will serve.
CLAM also plans to submit a bid to the county to own and manage the property for affordable housing. It couldn’t be a better match. As a community land trust, CLAM’s mission is to acquire land and create with it what the community most needs—and then to steward that asset for the community’s benefit over the long term.
In its 17 years, our organization has focused on creating homes that are affordable based on West Marin wages and salaries, knowing that, in this area defined by stunning beauty and protected land, home prices will always be out reach for many locals.
Today, CLAM provides 16 rental homes and has sold two homes for affordable ownership. Last year, we supported local homeowners to create affordable rentals on their property, creating 10 more rentals. CLAM has now created homes for 50 people across Point Reyes Station, Inverness Park, Inverness and Stinson Beach.
CLAM has been diligently preparing for the Coast Guard opportunity. With great support from donors and foundations, we hired three new part-time staff members who have brought the expertise to conduct due diligence on the project and vet potential organizational partners that will bring the financing, construction and rehabilitation experience we need. They will also help us work with a legal team to explore the legal issues, put together a capital campaign and garner resources from our community land trust partners in the Bay Area. We have been working toward this opportunity for the community every single day.
Now, you can participate in the next step at the county’s April 18 meeting for Spanish speakers and its April 30 meeting, which will be offered in both English and Spanish. CLAM staff and board members will also be present to listen and participate.
This Coast Guard property has rightly been called a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our West Marin communities. Although occupying these homes is still several years off, let’s act fully in this moment to create the vision for the equity and stability that West Marin needs to thrive. For more information, call us at (415) 663.1005 or visit clam-ptreyes.org/coast-guard-property/.
Kim Thompson has worked as the executive director of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin for six years. She lives in Inverness.