Since North Coast and Branson submitted their plans for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, we have received a lot of questions from people throughout the community. We've created the following list of FAQs to help ensure that accurate information is spread throughout the community.
If you have additional questions, please contact us at [email protected].
- Who bought the Seminary?
- Is this project a done deal?
- What are they entitled to?
- Aren't all educational uses the same?
- What about the traffic?
- Can they make these requests?
- Generally what will the process look like?
- Should I be discouraged?
- What if we are successful in getting them back to the drawing board? Then what?
- What can I do? How can I help?
- Does the Seminary Neighborhood Association advocate for individual homeowners?
Who bought the Seminary?
In early 2014, the Seminary was purchased by North Coast Land Holdings. North Coast is owned by the Fasken Trust, which got its start with Texas oil and is now one of the largest landowners in the United States. They are a trust, but don’t confuse that with charity. The trust is a way to pass vast wealth from generation to generation.
Is this project a done deal?
No! This project is not a done deal. They will have to go through a very public process to get what they are asking for. It will include many public meetings where we need a unified showing of opposition to this proposal.
What are they entitled to?
When North Coast purchased the Seminary, it came with certain rights and restrictions all of which are codified in the Strawberry Community Plan and the Seminary Master Plan. These documents give them the right to run a college-level seminary and to have up to 300 units of housing to accommodate the seminary’s students and faculty. These documents also restrict them to using the purchased land to these same narrow uses.
In other words, neither a commuter school nor 300 units of free market rental townhomes are allowed under the current agreements with the community and County.
Aren't all educational uses the same?
No, because there are very different impacts between a seminary and a commuter school.
When the Seminary was originally approved they promised that 100% of their students would be living on campus (hence the 300 units of student housing). The seminarians could walk and bike to class. Also, the Seminary, like most colleges, didn’t have a morning bell and fixed class schedules. Instead, students went to a few classes a week at various times of day. Finally, the Seminary had no theater or sports programs.
Hopefully, these simple contrasts make it clear why not all educational institutions are equal. It certainly must have been on the minds of the community leaders and County officials in 1982 when they specially granted a use of a graduate level seminary and not just any educational institution.
What about the traffic?
Traffic is the biggest issue regarding this project. During the commuting and school windows we are already near gridlock in Strawberry, Mill Valley and the rest of the Tiburon Peninsula.
Previous traffic studies commissioned by the Seminary Neighborhood Association forecast that the level of intensity being proposed will quadruple daily traffic in Strawberry.
Can they make these requests?
Yes, they can ask for this change, but they have no right to expect this change. Neither the community nor the County owe them this change. When they purchased the property they did their due diligence and knew exactly what was allowed. Our economy has a long tradition of speculation for financial gain and North Coast is speculating they can make a profit on their purchase. However, speculation implies risk and one of their primary risks is that the community and County decide to not grant them these discretionary amendments to the Master Plan.
Generally what will the process look like?
This review process is complicated and will take some time to play out. Here are some key milestones:
- The County will gather initial comments from various agencies (e.g., Marin Water, Cal Trans, etc.) including the Strawberry Design Review Board (SDRB) on the application and its consistency with the agencies practices and programs.
- The County staff will undertake a review for completeness. This will likely generate many questions, some of which may come from the public. North Coast will have time to respond to these questions and amend their proposal.
- Eventually, the application will be deemed complete at which point it will be reviewed on its merits. This review process will start with the SDRB, which will eventually make a recommendation to the County. After the SDRB review, the County Planning Commission will take up the matter. They will likely have more than one meeting to review the application. Eventually they will make a recommendation on the matter and then it will be taken up by the Board of Supervisors who will also likely have more than one meeting and eventually vote on it.
All of these meetings will be publicly noticed. Each meeting will include an opportunity for public comment. Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors may choose to condition the application as part of their consideration.
Should I be discouraged?
No! We are up against a very large, well-financed land developer and their team of hired guns. But the law and the facts are on our side. They are merely fighting for their return on investment. Whereas we’re fighting for our way of life. If we stick together and stick around (this is the start of a long race) we can beat back this proposal.
What if we are successful in getting them back to the drawing board? Then what?
We need to be realistic. The Seminary is gone. In fact they’ve been planning their departure for years and it was just a matter of time. Things will change in Strawberry. However, we can guide that change so that it is consistent with values captured in the Visioning process initiated by Supervisor Sears in early 2015. There is no reason why change can’t begin with community input and reflect Strawberry’s goals and aspirations. This is a large and beautiful site. The community and landowner should be able to find common ground.
What can I do? How can I help?
Get involved! You can learn more by visiting SeminaryNeighbors.com and joining us. North Coast will be throwing a lot of money on lawyers, PR, and other paid consultants to influence this process. That’s why we must be united as a community. Please consider donating to the Seminary Neighborhood Association and/or volunteering your time to write a letter, attend a hearing, or spreading the message to your network of friends.
Does the Seminary Neighborhood Association advocate for individual homeowners?
Please keep in mind that the Seminary Neighborhood Association’s mission is to preserve the overall character and open space in Strawberry. This Association does not represent any specific homeowner. If you have specific concerns with respect to your own home or your specific situation, you should separately advocate for your own interests, through writing letters, attending hearings and other means you deem appropriate.