The Coastal Post - June, 1996

Masterplan Called For Huge Development Along Coast


The West Marin Master Plan of 1961 predicte and planned, development on a scale which would have formed a West Marin no would would today recognize. There was to be an ultimate population of 66,330 (from Stinson Beach to Inverness), a tourist industry serving 20 million visitors, and the complete development of Bolinas Lagoon and Tomales Bay. Today it is hard to believe, it is so incredible, but this was before environmentalists ruled the roost in West Marin, and you will be relieved to know that the County abandoned the Master Plan after a brief five years.

The consultants maintained: "Creation of a quality rural-resort area in West Marin is obviously in the best interests of all concerned. All of the natural resources are present. It is only necessary for man to blend a maximum amount of ingenuity with a little touch of self-control to achieve this common goal."

What this "little touch of self-control" was they didn't go into, but we can imagine that money for development was no object at all, and undoubtedly many people would have become rich. Some people would have become millionaires just by developing their property in West Marin.

Such an idea had never been thought of in the Stinson Beach-Bolinas area unless you consider Kent's idea of building a railroad to the coast, with an hotel, the Dipsea Inn, built in 1905, in the middle of the sandspit. The railroad would cross the entrance to Bolinas Lagoon by a bridge, but the earthquake of '06 finished that thought, because the San Andreas Fault ran right through the sandspit.

And in Inverness, as far back as 1889, James McMillan Shafter had grandiose thoughts of making money. He hired an engineer to carve 640 acres of Tomales Bay frontage into lots, and hired an architect to design a hotel, but it never came to pass.

A man call Commodore Fred Woodworth, had said back then that "Tomales Bay will be the County Seat residential suburb of the new and greater San Francisco."

All of these plans fizzled, but they didn't have county backing; The 1961 County Masterplan it was a real.

To serve the projected 28,000 residents in the Stinson Beach-Bolinas area, new schools were slated and neighborhood shopping centers were designed for each 1,000 to 3,000 homes. Stinson's was to be in the old Stinson Ranch and Bolinas' was to be in Dog Town.

Bolinas Lagoon's Kent Island was to be the centerpiece of the $22 million Gilroy Plan. Two and a half million cubic feet of sand were to be dredged and dumped on or around Kent Island. The plan called for the island to contain a commercial fishing dock, a marina for 1600 boats, motel-boatels and fueling facilities, restaurants, bars, a shopping center, a bank and a heliport!

The 1961 West Marin Plan called for Millerton Point in Tomales Bay to be developed into a rural-resort area to serve a peak population of 66,330. It consisted of not only a seaplane harbor but a 3,200 foot airstrip, townhouses, sewage plant, golf course, boat launching and motel, single family lots, and finally almost as an afterthought, beaches.

In 1948 Robert Ray's Reber Plan for Tomales Bay included an airstrip, a trout and fly fishing area behind flood control gates, a safe boating area for canoes and rowboats, and a golf club. The whole bay to be dammed at Millerton Point. At least this plan was not county-sanctioned.

To reach West Marin, ferries were planned, one for Bolinas and one for Tomales Bay. And major highways were proposed to facilitate access to the coast. Shoreline Highway would be "improved" and sweep through Stinson Beach with four lanes, and probably a new alignment, a cut through the highlands, thus allowing more land for commercial development. Ridgecrest Boulevard along Bolinas Ridge would be a major parkway with four lanes, giving access to both Stinson Beach and Bolinas.

Sir Francis Drake would be four lanes from San Rafael to Inverness and Point Reyes Station, and heaven knows what was planned for Highway One as it continued up the coast. There is no mention of what happened after it cleared Millerton Point, but in Ray's "Reber Plan" in 1948 the railroad was still there, although the railroad stopped on July 31, 1933, a slight discrepancy in time.

But help was on the way, so the West Marin Master Plan was never completed. In Bolinas, Mrs. Thomas Kent, utilizing friendships made in a lifetime of dedicated conservation work managed to get Nature Conservancy to buy Kent Island in Bolinas Lagoon as a permanent wildlife sanctuary. And Peter Behr of Inverness was elected supervisor. Behr reacted with horror to the West Marin Plan and became an overnight environmental hero, a position he holds to this day. Behr also caused the State blueprints for roadway improvements to West Marin be scrapped in 1966, so there is no more talk of four-lane highways to the coast.

And after Gary Giacomini was elected supervisor he rooted for agriculture and the famous A60 zoning took place.

All these grandiose plans are finished now, but as recently as 1978 four entrepreneurs organized a Tomales Bay Ferry "to provide safe and beautiful transport for visitors and local residents." That never came to pass, either, so the environmentalists reign supreme in West Marin, thank goodness.