Turn golf course land into an ‘agrihood’

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 11/10/17, 2:00 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 11/10/2017

Author: Allan Nichol

Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Marin Voice

The back nine holes of San Geronimo Golf Course are visible in this photo taken Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017. (Robert Tong - Marin Independent Journal)


The debate about the future of the San Geronimo Golf Course has some calling for the continuation of the golf course and defending its use as an important firebreak.

Alas, many houses on the Fountaingrove golf course burned.

Others herald the extraordinary possibilities of creating an unrivaled natural open space tied to an important salmon-spawning stream. Unfortunately, the recent enormous and terrifying fires we have just experienced have changed the game. The business-as-usual options presented to the public and decision-makers are systematic of our lack of vision, for our real needs in Marin.

We have around 80 percent of the land area in Marin protected as open space, and in the blink of an eye that open space has changed its stripes to be a place where nature flourishes, to one of great danger — and where we need golf courses to protect us from it.

If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable.

We have a housing crisis in Marin. The one that affects those nearest and dearest to us, our children, is most disturbing. Only one of my four children can afford to live in Marin. Are we to be only a community of the aging affluent, and where our children only visit us at Christmas?

There is a new housing pattern for the millennial among us called “agrihoods.” It is not only seniors who are seeking community, but many youth dream of farming and community.

The planning and financial rules make this almost an impossibility. Planners permit seniors to break the planning rules so that different levels of community living are possible. We need to provide new zoning rules for millennials, and possibly others seeking that same community style of living. The vision for the golf course property could be a ring of cottages, made fireproof with straw-bale construction using galvanized framing members, and fireproof roofs. And in the middle would be a vast organic garden that could provide local organic food that is homegrown, and not shipped in from distant lands and places.

It provides for the vision many of our children have, and gives them an opportunity for employment. And a place to have a home, and make a family.

It isn’t the time of their parents who found secure work and reasonable housing costs; the young face grave obstacles to a middle-class life. They need our help.

To make such a thing happen, we need to expand the Trust for Public Lands, and other nonprofits’ missions, to include organic gardens. And bonds to assist the young to help build their homes, as President Jimmy Carter’s home-building program has demonstrated so well.

It is a large piece of property, and other uses could dovetail with the Agrihood.

We are in the middle — of the beginning — of the impacts brought on by climate change, and drought will continue to visit us even more severely in the future.

Rather than golf course firebreaks to protect our communities, let’s make our homes fireproof.

I built my own home with straw-bale construction; it was the first in Napa Valley and sold for a second time at $2.5 million. It is a viable and proven fire prevention way to build.

Never before has a political and economical culture needed to change, and also been so resistant to it. Rather than backing into a dark future, we need to understand the challenges ahead and develop the vision to adapt to them so we can all thrive.

*Allan Nichol is a San Rafael architect.

To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/opinion/20171110/marin-voice-turn-golf-course-land-into-an-agrihood


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