It would be fascinating to know when an elected supervisor’s brain switches from common sense to special interest sense. Consider the following facts:
West Marin has approximately 110,000 acres in two national parks; 11,000 acres in four state parks; and 6,000 acres in eight county parks and nine county open space preserves. The San Geronimo Valley contains five of those preserves, totaling 2,600 naturally wild acres, 700 acres of which adjoin the best public golf course in Marin.
In total, there are around 127,000 acres of wild open space preserves and parks in West Marin (not counting the thousands of Marin Municipal Water District watershed acres). These 127,000 acres are available for picnickers, walkers, hikers, runners, bikers, horseback riders and beach lovers to recreate and roam.
Today, West Marin has a single 157-acre iconic public golf course, the San Geronimo Golf Course, allowing golfers to play a sport they can enjoy all their lives with family and friends, while also acting as a firebreak for the open space preserves. In summary, out of 127,157 total recreational acres in West Marin, only 157 acres are used for golf (about .01 percent), while the rest—99.99 percent—are used for other recreational uses.
From this data, our supervisors have concluded that West Marin is underserved by its existing wild parklands, so the best use of public funds is to purchase the golf course and to re-wild it at a total cost of around $19 million. This action will eliminate a unique source of public recreation, 40 jobs and a profitable tax-paying business.
West Marin also has 350 innkeeper rooms that accommodate 3 percent of the visitors to West Marin. Day trippers account for 97 percent of the visitors to West Marin. Yet supervisors have concluded that the 350 visitor-serving innkeeper rooms in West Marin (the size of one Napa hotel) should be responsible for the lack of affordable housing and emergency service funding in West Marin, calling it logical to raise the transient occupancy tax by 50 percent, from 10 percent to 15 percent. The T.O.T. rate for the remainder of Marin’s hotels would remain constant. (One would assume the supervisors feel there are no affordable housing or emergency service needs in the rest of Marin.) As a result, East Marin hotels will send their guests out to West Marin as day trippers, allowing visitors to stay in East Marin for less money and create the visitor problem in West Marin with no pay-in.
Our supervisors have historically acted as a rubber stamp for the Fourth District supervisor’s desires. And though normally a new supervisor quietly listens to gain board wisdom, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni’s method has been to rally his special interest groups, have secret meetings with the groups he intends to benefit, plot behind the scene and, in these instances, pounce on clueless golfers and innkeepers. To spend $19 million to purchase and destroy Marin’s best public golf course, and to create a ballot measure proposing two different T.O.T. rates, just defies all common sense, and is unfair and discriminatory against golfers and innkeepers. Supervisors Rice, Connolly, Sears and Arnold, please throw away your rubber stamp and provide some countywide leadership on countywide issues. And if you do not agree with our present board’s logic, please let them know the next time you get an opportunity to vote on your district supervisor’s re-election.
Jeff Harriman is a former West Marin Chamber of Commerce president, the chamber’s point person for former Supervisor Steve Kinsey’s previous T.O.T. increase, a lifelong Woodacre resident and owner of the Tomales Bay Resort and Marina.