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October 2000

Bolinas Community Land Trust To Purchase Historic Gibson House For Affordable Housing


An offer to purchase the historic Gibson House by the Bolinas Community Land Trust for affordable housing has been accepted by the current owner-partnership of the Bolinas Bay Bakery. The large, historic building will be restored and converted into a rooming/boarding house-a use it has seen in the past-for working-adults in the community. Cost for the completed project will be $675,000 for the purchase. Rehabilitation and restoration of the building to bring it up to existing health, safety and building codes is estimated to cost between $200,00 and $300,000.

With the escalating cost of real estate and the frequent elimination of small, affordable second units, rental rooms, and detached bedrooms when homes are sold, the community is faced with an unprecedented housing crisis for those working in the local economy. Carpenters, plumbers, cooks waitresses, gardeners, teacher's aides, working-artists, teachers, nurses, journalists and firemen-many of them part-time students-are finding it more and more difficult to find housing on incomes ranging from $800 to $2,000 per month.

The Gibson House will provide five to six single rooms with shared bathrooms, one studio apartment, and one small cottage. Shared common areas will include a kitchen, living room and dining room. Rents are targeted to range from $375 to $650 per month.

The negative impacts on the downtown neighborhood with this use would be minimal: Parking requirements, water-sewage use, and density would not exceed the previous restaurant-bakery operation which included employee housing. There would be little impact on the immediate area as the structure is already there and intensity of use is well-established.

Funding And Timing

Because of the timing requirements for the real estate transaction, initial funding for the project will come through bridge loans, private gifts and donations. The loans will be replaced with foundation funds, affordable housing grants and bequests in the next 18 to 24 months. Funding for grants and foundation funds usually take between six and 12 months for approval. As of October 28, the land trust had secured approximately $300,000, of the required $750,000 for the purchase and initial remolding and repairs to keep current residents in the building. The deadline to have the initial funding in escrow is October 27.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey has committed $250,000 in Marin County Housing Trust funds to the project. One or two additional bridge loans are being sought.

Financing To Close Escrow-Immediate Need

The Gibson House Proposal has been given high priority as an affordable housing project for Bolinas by West Marin's Supervisor Steve Kinsey. Preliminary discussions with county planning staff indicate that the project is achievable in terms of zoning and parking. Informal discussions with Bolinas Community Public Utility District board members and the Bolinas Community Center (the closest neighbor) have produced positive support. The project has excellent potential for funding through affordable housing and foundation sources.

Financing In The First Year-Short Term

During the first year, foundation grants, affordable housing funds, state bond funds, continuing bequests, and community share sales will replace the bridge loans. Long-term conventional mortgage financing will be sought, not to exceed $250,000, if other sources of funding fail to meet project costs.

Financing At Completion

Grants, bequests, community shares, and affordable housing funds will finance $600,000 to $650,000 of the project costs. Conventional financing in the form of a mortgage not to exceed $250,000 will fund the balance of the project which is expected to cost between $825,000 and $875,000.

Cost Perspective

Although $875,000 would appear to be an excessive amount of money to house seven to ten low income working residents in Bolinas, the cost of housing in Bolinas makes this not the case. The cost of $125,000 for each of seven residents or $87,500 for each of ten residents is modest when considering the current average bedroom cost- between $200,000 and $300,000-for houses selling in the town. The Gibson House would provide affordable housing in perpetuity.

A Beginning

The Gibson House can only happen if all segments of the Bolinas community truly believe that there must be housing for the full economic spectrum of the community. If only the rich can afford to live here, the soul of the community as we know it will be extinguished. The Land Trust hopes to generate or preserve one-hundred affordable living spaces over the next five years. Rooming houses, second units, detached bedrooms, and tasteful mobile homes are some of the possibilities being considered. Bolinas is faced with a crisis that has been growing exponentially over the last ten years-very much like a very slow, persistent rising tide. The time to help do something is now. If you don't help, who will?

Bowser, Richard Bolinas Land Trust Board Of Directors
Bruce Pfeffer, Jennie Pfeiffer, Don Deane, David Cattell, James Lord, Tania Bedford

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