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June, 2006


Bolinas Gas Station May Close;
Sales Must Increase For It To Stay
By Don Deane

Marin County's number one alternative-lifestyle community may have to close it's gas station because of continuing losses in the gas business. The fuel stop in Bolinas-the only one between Tam Junction and Olema- is run as part of the Bolinas Community Land Trust which provides affordable housing in the town.
Land Trust Executive Director Gail Reitano told the non-profit membership organization at its annual meeting in May, "We either use the gas station or we're going to lose it. The community is buying about 16% of it's gas in Bolinas. For the business to work that number has to double."

Gas sales in 2005 were $344,000. But after operating expenses which includes a hefty price for gasoline because of the station's small independent status, there was a $27,000 loss.

By doubling gas sales, the loss would become a profit which could help subsidize affordable housing. "If residents bought one third of their gas in Bolinas everything would work," Reitano said. "We've got to at least break even."

Bolinas Fire Chief Anita Brown is concerned that gas won't be available in an emergency if the station closes. "We've got about 1,000 gallons in our tank at the fire station. That won't go far in an emergency if the community is cut off from the rest of the county." Gas would not be available for chainsaws, trucks, bulldozers and other power equipment which would be needed in an emergency.

Bolinas is the end of the road. It take 45 to 50 minutes to get anywhere, excluding the other outpost communities Stinson Beach and Olema-Point Reyes.

Outgoing community land trust president Richard Pfeffer told members, "I point out our immediate and serious need for increased gasoline sales. We are not now making enough for the gas operation to cover it's own costs. This means, we actually are subsidizing our gas sales with tenant rents. This is precisely the opposite of what needs to happen."

Established in 1909 and one of the earliest gas stations in Marin's growing love with the automobile just after the turn of the 20th Century, it was closed for a four years in the 90s when the previous owner struggled through the upgrading and cleanup required of stations at the time. Many independent gas stations closed their doors as increasingly stringent environmental standards took effect.

The station was bought as part of a packaged deal by the Bolinas Community Land Trust in 2004. The property was deemed ideal for eight affordable housing units by the non-profit group. First Federal Savings and Loan was willing to finance the purchase and the gas station was part of the deal. Federal, Marin County and Marin Community Foundation funds have paid for the conversion to housing and the anticipated addition of a small family duplex.

It is the second affordable housing project the land trust had taken on in Bolinas to soften the impact of escalating property values and well-to-do newcomers who have flocked to the tiny isolated town on the Marin coast in recent years. Converting the Gibson House into housing units was their first project.

Don Deane who publishes and edits the Coastal Post is a member of the board and treasurer for the Bolinas Community Land Trust

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