Affordable housing units in West Marin are disappearing at an alarming rate. This month, we learned that almost 30 residences will soon be lost. The National Park Service is demolishing 10 houses opposite Marshall in Duck Cove, while four families—including 23 members of the community—will lose their homes at the Stewart Ranch. Finally, the park is planning to remove 15 vacant houses from the historic neighborhoods of Tocaloma and Jewell.
The National Park Service should not eliminate residences while our community faces an affordable housing crisis. The 10 houses in Duck Cove should be turned over to the Community Land Trust of West Marin for badly needed housing, and the park should help the four families employed by Stewart Ranch stay in their longtime homes. In both cases, there has been no public process or evaluation of the effects of displacement on our community.
According to one tally, since 1963 the Point Reyes National Seashore, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and California State Parks have eliminated at least 124 housing units from West Marin communities. These were essential to the fabric of the region, allowing people to work and live in rural areas. The loss of affordable rural housing has many detrimental effects, including more cars on the road, worse congestion and increased greenhouse gas emissions. It also means fewer students attending our local schools, some of which are in danger of closing. The Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District has lost a third of its students in less than five years.
Demolishing housing and displacing families in West Marin could not come at a worse time, when the cost of housing here is out of reach for the average worker. The park should be held to the same standards and commitments as local agriculture businesses, which routinely supply or pay for workforce housing in the community. We need a park service and a county government that work to revitalize rural communities, not tear them apart.
Albert Straus is the founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery. He lives in Marshall.