10 homes proposed on hills above Fairfax

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 02/08/18, 3:53 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 02/09/2018

Author: Richard Halstead

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

An outline on a photo of Fairfax shows the borders of the large piece of property that could be sold or developed in the near future. It is known as the Wall Property. (Image from KidderMathews.com)


An application to build 10 single-family residences on the “Wall property” — widely considered the crown jewel of undeveloped land in Fairfax — has been submitted to the town.

With its scenic ridgeline views of Mount Tamalpais and the beyond, the property — 100.5 wooded acres in the hills overlooking Fairfax — has been a longtime haven for wildlife, hikers and dog walkers. Concern about the property’s future has been a major topic of discussion among locals since Dr. Alan Wall sold the property for $1.75 million to a group of investors headed by Marshal Rothman in 2013.

A limited-liability company managed by Rothman filed a plan last month that calls for dividing the parcel bordering San Anselmo into nine approximately 10-acre single-family residential parcels, one 1.36-acre single-family parcel and an 8.3-acre public trail/park parcel. All but about a third of an acre of the property — some of which is quite steep — is zoned to accommodate a maximum of one house per 10 acres.

The proposed houses range in size from 3,924 square feet to 5,019 square feet, and the proposal for the smaller home additionally calls for a 1,490-square-foot detached guest house. All of the houses would also have garages ranging in size from 486 square feet to 772 square feet.

The plan calls for all but one of the houses to feature a pool; more than 289,000 gallons of water would be needed to fill the nine pools.

Access to nine of the proposed residential parcels would be via a private roadway extension of Marinda Drive. Access to the other residential parcel would be via an extension of Ridgeway Avenue connecting to a new driveway.

Ben Berto, Fairfax’s director of planning, was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Town Manager Garrett Toy said he wasn’t familiar enough with the project to comment, and Fairfax Mayor Peter Lacques and Vice Mayor Barbara Cooler also declined to comment.


But former long-time Fairfax councilman Frank Egger said, “The proposal is not consistent with the current zoning and that is an issue town staff doesn’t seem to understand.”

Egger said he wrote the UR-10 Upland Residential zoning ordinance that governs the site.

“UR-10 Upland Residential zoning was modeled after the county of Marin’s A60 zoning,” Egger said.

Fairfax’s ordinance limits the number of houses to one per 10 acres similarly to the county’s zoning, which limits the number of houses to one per 60 acres in agricultural areas.

Egger said Rothman has carved the Fairfax parcel into lots in order to meet the 10-acre requirement, much the same way as politicians gerrymander voting districts to get the result they want.


Most of the lots are long and fan-shaped with the houses located near each other in the tapered, southernmost section along where the extension of Marinda Drive would be. Egger said Rothman wants to locate the homes along the road to lower his development costs.

Egger said when a developer seeking to build in the county’s A60 zone tried a similar approach the county rejected his bid. He said for the houses to comply with the UR-10 zoning they would have to be more centrally-located within each lot.

While this is the first building application he has filed, Rothman has participated in several public meetings to solicit public comment on how the property should be developed.

One alternative proposal he tested earlier would have situated the homes in a cluster on lots of 1 acre to 1.5 acres leaving 80 acres, which would have been donated to the county’s open space district. Under this plan, the houses would have been limited in size to 2,500 square feet and each would have included an 800-square-foot, stand-alone in-law rental unit.

Rothman said he abandoned that idea, however, because it would have required a general plan amendment to change the property’s zoning. At the time, Scott Hochstrasser of Fairfax, a land use and environmental planning consultant, criticized the town for not proactively changing the zoning to encourage Rothman to do a better design.

Rothman said the site design he ultimately chose will still locate most of the houses in close proximity to each other. The owners of the residential lots would be permitted to build only within the building envelopes.

“The remainder of the property, about 94 percent of it, gets greenbelted in perpetuity on a deed restriction,” Rothman said, “so the owners of the property can’t change it in any way. It is effectively a cluster with a green belt.”


As for the increase in the size of the proposed houses, Rothman said, “Overwhelmingly the public in the neighborhood did not want second units up there. They thought it would change the character of the neighborhood and cause too much traffic so I adjusted that accordingly.”

Much of the 8.3-acre public trail/park parcel Rothman is proposing to donate consists of Miranda Drive, its planned extension to the new home sites, and a trail that continues along the ridge to an area that has become known as “Spirit Circle.”

“I wanted to give the public access to the main road because they’ve been using it for years, even though they didn’t have an easement,” Rothman said. “The road also connects to the trails up on top.”

Rothman said as a first step he has requested that the town of Fairfax conduct an environmental impact report on the project, which he will pay for.

“There is no way we’re going to get approval without one anyway,” Rothman said, “so we might as well request it and save them the brain damage of going through the process.”

No hearings have been scheduled yet.

To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20180208/10-homes-proposed-on-hills-above-fairfax


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