Why Did North Coast Walk Away from the Community?

After months of hard work spent by community members to reach a good-faith compromise that would create much-needed new housing, North Coast submitted an application that abandons the Seminary Tomorrow working group promises.

Indeed, they walked away from the plan they showed at their December 2019 open house. The plan they submitted to the County had never been shown to the community.

All of us wonder: what was the point? Community volunteers spent hundreds of hours working on the Seminary Tomorrow negotiation process. The applicant also spent a tremendous amount of time and resources to move the conversation forward. But during the final stretch, they simply walked away. Why?

Seminary Tomorrow

In December 2017 the Marin Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to not extend the Seminary’s expiring Master Plan and to not begin environmental review on North Coast Land Holding’s application to redevelop the site. At that meeting, Supervisor Sears admonished all sides to “get real” and to “come out of their corners”.

In January, Seminary Neighborhood Association president Josh Sale wrote a letter NCLH president Bruce Jones indicating his belief that it was time to break the cycle of acrimony and for the parties to begin an honest conversation about the future of the site.  The letter sketched out what this conversation might look like:

  • We identify a small number of Strawberry residents to represent the community.
  • We have a series of facilitated meetings.  The cost of the facilitator should be shared, in proportions to be determined, between the community, County and North Coast Land Holdings.
  • The meetings should be private but not confidential (i.e., the broader community is aware that they are occurring).
  • The scope for this group should be limited:  broadly identify acceptable uses and intensities for the Seminary site.  It shouldn’t venture into detailed site planning.
  • The group should establish an ambitious but realistic timeframe for doing its work.
  • Everything should be on the table … including a school.  At the same time, there can be no sacred cows … including a school.
  • The group should conduct a couple of public meetings to keep the community up to date.
  • The ultimate work product of this group should be a general description of the land uses at the Seminary in the future.  While this description might not technically be an update to the Seminary section of the Strawberry Community Plan, it should hopefully be a straightforward process to create such an update from the group’s efforts.

In March NCLH reached back to Sale indicating they were prepared to proceed along these lines.

Since then a group of eight individuals who have all been active in the struggle around the future of the site were selected to represent and advocate for the Strawberry community, a facilitator (Marie Rainwater) has been hired and the first facilitated meeting took place (May 15th).  All of the parties also agreed to the attached communication.  They also agreed on a name for this process:  Seminary Tomorrow.

As the meetings continue we will keep you apprised.  We will organize checkpoint meetings with the entire community.

There is no assurance that this process will result in an agreement that all parties can live with.  But we need to make every effort to try to find agreement if we’re ever going to bring closure to the future of the site now that the Seminary is gone.

Finally please remember that even if the Seminary Tomorrow process yields a compromise solution, that isn’t the end of the process.  Indeed anything that comes out of this process will still need to go through all of the County’s approval process (Strawberry Design Review, Planning Commission, environmental review and Board of Supervisors).  Seminary Tomorrow doesn’t short-circuit any of this.

Thanks for reading this far and we hope you will take a few additional minutes and read this announcement.

Monday October 30th 1:00pm County Planning Commission Meeting

On October 30th, the Planning Commission will be hearing two important matters related to the Seminary site.  The first is the Seminary Neighborhood Association appeal of the County’s decision to begin the environment review process (you can read our letter on this subject here).  As part of our appeal, we’ve hired a traffic engineer to study North Coast Land Holdings proposed project as well as the CEQA alternative.  You can read about the traffic here.

In addition, North Coast Land Holdings is requesting that the property’s 33-year-old Master Plan be extended yet again instead of letting it expire.  We oppose this extension.  You can read our reasoning here.

Please attend this important meeting if you can.  If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can write to the Planning Commission (planningcommission@marincounty.org) and share your thoughts.

Thank you.

SNA Appeals Start of EIR!

On September 29th the County planning department issued a notice that it would begin environmental review of North Coast Land Holding’s plans for the Seminary property.  The timing of this action coming just days before the October 2nd Strawberry Design Review Board meeting on the application leaves us scratching our head.

Environmental review is a significant step in the long procedure of processing the NCLH application.

The Seminary Neighborhood Association believes the County was in error in taking this action.  You can read our full appeal here.  Briefly, our argument falls into two broad categories:

First, the application is too vague and leaves too many questions unanswered for it to even be reviewed.

Second, the application is so far beyond what could ever be approved that there is no point in even beginning the lengthy and expensive review process.

The appeal will be heard by the County Planning Commission on Monday, October 30th at 1:00 pm at the County Civic Center.  Please mark your calendar and plan to attend this critical meeting and support the appeal.

Seminary Neighborhood Responds to Latest NCLH Proposal

North Coast Land Holdings has filed a revised application with the County which has some new elements but continues to be unresponsive to the complaints of Strawberry residents and the Strawberry Design Review Board.  Like the previous Branson application, this application flies in the face of the Strawberry Community Plan, Seminary Master Plan and its Conditional Use Permit. You can read the letter here.

Letter to North Coast Land Holdings with Community Survey Results

On July 26ththe Strawberry community came together to hear about North Coast Land Holding’s latest plans for the Seminary site.  At the conclusion of the meeting, over 200 Strawberry residents completed a survey regarding the future of the site.  The Seminary Neighborhood Association and the Strawberry Community Association wrote a joint letter to NCLH that highlights the survey results and calls on NCLH to engage with the community about the future of the site.  You can read the letter here.

Joint Letter from Community to the County

Now that the Strawberry Design Review Board has heard the North Coast Land Holdings/Branson application three times and voted to reject the application, the Seminary Neighborhood Association and the Strawberry Community Association have sent a joint letter to the County explaining how we expect the application to be handled.

Hundreds of Residents Protest Seminary Plan

While North Coast was a no-show, more than 300 residents attended the Strawberry Design Review Board to protest the developer's plan for the Seminary. Read the IJ recap by clicking here.

SNA Letter to the Strawberry Design Review Board

In advance of the September 12 Strawberry Design Review Board hearing, the Seminary Neighborhood Association has submitted an official letter regarding the North Coast application for the seminary property. You can view the letter here.

More Coverage on North Coast's Illegal Rental Scheme

Click here to read the latest IJ article on the secretive rental scheme being conducted at the Seminary site.

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