Community needs a say in seminary plans
If you go back to the original IJ article on April 1, 2014 when the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary property was sold, you will find promise-filled quotes that talk about a collaborative and open community process for the site’s future. The architect spoke of “engaging the community to see what is sustainable” and being truly interested in “a process that really wants to engage the community.”
Call me naïve, but doesn’t that sound like something a responsible developer might actually follow through on — especially when it’s a proposal that’s as ambitious as building 300 new residences and planting a 1,000-student high school into an existing, quiet neighborhood like Strawberry?
Well, fast forward to where we are today. Neither the developer, North Coast Land Holdings, nor the primary tenant, The Branson School, bothered to even ask the Strawberry community for their thoughts or feedback on their plans. That’s right, not a single public community meeting was ever held.
Now, we have a development proposal on the table that simply doesn’t reflect Strawberry’s character.
In my opinion, if you want to join a community, you must be willing to stand up to explain your project to the neighborhood — not huddle behind closed doors to shield yourself from tough questions.
Perhaps the developer needs to go back and re-read that original IJ article to see what they had promised. They should also pay particular attention to what our supervisor, Kate Sears, had to say back then: “What matters most is that (new owners) have a good public process and talk to the community.”
— Esther Shafran, Mill Valley
Branson plan doesn’t fit Strawberry’s vision
Last spring, Supervisor Kate Sears brought together a diverse group of Strawberry residents to create the Strawberry Community Vision. Being in the unincorporated part of Marin County, it was important for Strawberry residents to come together and really define how we’d like to see our community’s future take shape.
Through workshops, a large public open house, and hundreds of survey responses, members of our community volunteered a great deal of their time and effort to produce this comprehensive document.
That’s the good news.
Now for the bad news.
Not one year has passed since the creation of the Strawberry Community Vision, yet the new owner of the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has chosen to completely ignore our vision.
North Coast Land Holdings, which is funded by the billion-dollar Barbara Fasken trust, is proposing a super-sized Branson High School to be relocated into an existing neighborhood along with hundreds of luxury apartments.
The Vision document is as clear as can be: the Strawberry community will not accept intense density or a high school on the seminary site.
All one has to do is look at the neighborhood to see that Strawberry is already providing much more than its fair share of density. Apartments and townhomes are abundant, which is one reason why neighborhood traffic is already at a breaking point.
If all of the effort that went into the Strawberry Community Vision meant something, this North Coast Land Holdings proposal should never get off the ground.
— Robert W. Hendry, Strawberry
Friends and neighbors,
Today, we were notified by the County of Marin that North Coast Land Holdings and Branson have filed their application for the Seminary campus. There are a great deal of documents that we need to review, but from what we know, it is a massive and really offensive development proposal. The application includes a 1,000 student Branson High School (plus 200 employees) and more than 300 residential units throughout the campus. It also includes a request for a comprehensive athletic program.
The Seminary Neighborhood Association has been preparing for this moment for some time. Now that an application has been filed we will dig into the project details, communicating to each of you what we find. What we already know is that this proposal would dramatically alter Strawberry’s character and cripple the neighborhood with greater traffic.
This is the start of a long, sustained campaign to resist this highly intensive project and we need your active support. While change is inevitable at the Seminary site, a proposal of this scale is not only out of compliance with the Seminary’s campus master plan and the Strawberry Community Plan, it goes completely against the Strawberry Vision plan that was completed in partnership with Supervisor Kate Sears earlier this year. As a community, we have put time and significant effort into preserving our neighborhood and creating a vision for the future. This application does not respect our vision.
For the record, North Coast Land Holdings or Branson did not reach out to us before filing their application. In fact, they never even met with the general Strawberry community before finalizing their proposal.
Thank you for your continued support. We will regularly update you as we learn more about the proposal.
The Seminary Neighborhood Association provided comments to the County of Marin regarding the Draft Revised Community Plan Update Strategy. The details of this process are very important in order to preserve the intent of the Strawberry Community Plan. You can review the SNA letter here.