There has been a lot of development regarding the “Housing Element” plan, and the ‘tweaking’ of the zoning around Fairfax. The Town Council is pushing to rezone or redefine current zoning that would make it easier to build.

More housing can be a good thing, but only if it is done with appropriate safeguards and the consent of the people being affected. There are so many issues regarding environmental impacts, transportation, appropriate land use, historical preservation efforts that make this a complex issue.

Historical Context:

From Frank Egger, former Mayor and environmental advocate and long time Fairfax resident and




Fairfax voters have twice rejected Redevelopment in the past. If Fairfax’s 2024 Plan for REDEVELOPMENT & Rezoning goes forward, we lose our Town!

The whole Town is either in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) or Flood Zone. Fairfax has one road in and one road out. Add 598 units (including the  buffer)  and evacuation will be impossible if there is one accident on Drake Blvd. As in the Paradise, Tubbs and Maui fires, people will die in their cars trying to get out. Fairfax folks are losing their homeowners insurance via non-renewals. 

Stepping back in time:

In April of 1958 there was the Preliminary General Plan prepared by Wilsey & Ham Engineers and Planners for the City of Fairfax.  The population was 4,628 & Fairfax’s medium income was $3,658. Flooding in downtown Fairfax was an issue and Fairfax Creek went past Town Hall and took a left turn, cut down Bolinas Road and flowed under downtown businesses, making a right turn down Broadway and continued flowing under businesses including the Fairfax Theater (The old concrete bridge railings are still on Pacheco next to the Theater parking lot.), then down to what today is the Post Office, where its confluence with San Anselmo Creek was adjacent the Marin Town & Country Club property.  

In 1931, Fairfax had just incorporated and Fairfax and the County diverted Fairfax Creek into a culvert under Bolinas Road and down Sherman to Dominga and then connected to San Anselmo Creek. The 1958 General Plan said that the culvert under Bolinas Road was insufficient to handle Fairfax Creek floodwaters and recommended Fairfax enlarge the culvert to prevent downtown flooding (that was not done). Frank Egger was elected to the Fairfax Council in 1966.   

In 1968 Fairfax adopted a new General Plan that was prepared by the County Of Marin’s Planning Dept. The purpose of the new General Plan was to restrict the size and location of new development to preserve hillside and ridgetop properties, protect Fairfax & San Anselmo Creeks and the Coho & steelhead in the Creeks, preserve Fairfax’s small town character, maintain strict height limits, protect Fairfax’s affordable housing and keep SF Drake a 2 lane Road. In the late 1960’s the State proposed to extend Route 17 (a.k.a. Highway 580) from San Rafael through Fairfax to West Marin. And, the US Army Corps of Engineers came to Marin in the late 1960’s to end the historical flooding. The County approved their plan to channelize and concrete Corte Madera, San Anselmo & Fairfax Creeks.  

Former Fairfax mayor Peter Arrigoni was elected 2nd District Supervisor in 1968. Frank Egger and Pete Arrigoni worked side by side. Pete stopped the freeway (Route 17) from going to West Marin and Frank stopped the freeway from coming through Fairfax. Then Pete stopped the concrete channelization of Corte Madera Creek and Frank, with support of the then City Council, pulled Fairfax out of the Ross Valley Flood Zone #9 to forever prevent the concreting of our creeks. Frank’s 1st term as mayor was in 1970. He did the research and returned Fairfax’s incorporated title to a Town, Fairfax was no longer the City of Fairfax.  

Fairfax, with Frank’s lead, adopted a new zoning ordinance in 1973 to implement its 1968 General Plan, Ord. # 352. With Franks’ lead, Fairfax’s Upland Residential Zoning, UR-7 & UR-10, was adopted later and was modeled after Marin County’s Agriculture Zoning, A-60. Neither Marin’s A-60 zoning nor Fairfax’s UR-7/10 zones allow cluster development and it has saved both West Marin from and Fairfax from over-development. 

Fast forward to 2024:

How about Conflicts of Interest too? The Fairfax Town Council hired Dyett & Bhatia last year to prepare Fairfax’s Housing & Safety Elements. It is clear they have no institutional knowledge of Fairfax, neither the historical background as to why Fairfax remains the last of the old small towns in Marin nor the legal battles fought out in local & appellate courts to preserve, protect & restore Fairfax, preserve historical buildings and actually add & keep real affordable housing. Dyett & Bhatia prepared the 2nd reiteration of Fairfax’s Housing & Safety Elements after the initial process had been started by the EMC Planning Group and then after the firing of EMC.  Dyett & Bhatia’s PEIR does not provide sufficient data for the public and decision makers to make informed decisions.  

Save Fairfax commented throughout the EIR process on the inadequacies of their PEIR. Dyett & Bhatia’s response to Save Fairfax’s comments was a false claim that neither Frank Egger nor Save Fairfax ever challenged the adequacy of the DPEIR. Not only did they challenge the adequacy of the DPEIR, they pointed out in seven pages of comments the insufficiencies and then listed what Dyett & Bhatia missed and their errors. Dyett & Bhatia prepared their own Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for their Housing Element, not an unbiased 3rd party as the original CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) law required. Is that a conflict of interest, the land use contractor preparing their own EIR?  

The FPEIR mistakenly lists many of the previously saved public and private Open Space parcels as available for clustered hillside development. It took over 50 years of careful planning, litigation, initiatives and referendums to keep what brought many of us here in the first place. Mayors and council members who fought to Save Fairfax over the years included Peter Arrigoni, George Pagni, Adelaide Wilson, Bob Souza, Ross Parkerson, Al Gately, Pricilla Gray, Randy Garrison, Carol Sherman, Wendy Baker, Lew Tremaine, Niccolo Caldararo, Mike Ghiringhelli, Ryan O’Neil, John Reed, Peter Lacques and Larry Bragman.  

Dyett & Bhatia never included in their FPEIR that the SF Drake, Broadway and Bolinas Road corridors would now be riddled with density-bonus developments, up to 65 feet tall high-rise buildings on the WHO-A (Workforce Housing Opportunity) designated parcels. And, they would allow clustered multi-million dollar mansions in our Upland Residential Zoned and Hill Area parcels to save open space. Save the Open Space that we saved with zoning 50 years ago.   

Closing commercial businesses on WHO-A business zoned properties and converting their use to housing opportunities with heights up to 65 feet and little or no off-street parking because they are close to the bus depot include: School Street Plaza & Bank of America on Broadway, Fairfax Square & the former French Laundry on Bolinas Road, Fairfax Garage & Body Shop, the former gas station, now a recreational vehicle sales site next to the Bicycle Museum and the small strip of commercial businesses between Harry’s Hill and Fitzpatrick’s Plumbing & Heating.

According to the Staff Report, “The Fairfax Planning Commission recommended that the Town Council adopt an ordinance amending the following chapters of Title 17 (Zoning) of the Fairfax Municipal Code: 17.060 (Ridgeline Development); 17.072 (Hill Area Residential Development Overlay Zone); 17.124 (UR Upland Residential Zone). Adoption of this ordinance has been analyzed as part of the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the 2023-31 Housing Element Project. 

According to former mayor Frank Egger this is a false statement: the development of multi-million dollar mansions on both private and public open space lands like 615 Oak Manor Drive, a very unstable hillside parcel currently considered open space, the 10 acres of ridgetop open space  between the Canon Tennis & Swim Club and Meadowland with no public access, the parcel between Meadow Way and Bolinas Road with no logical access, the Ben Ross parcel off of Toyon, Upland Residential Zoned parcels and the two parcels on Forrest Ave as well were never analyzed for slope stability, fire evacuation, visual impacts including heights and vehicle access in the PEIR. 

Fairfax is proposing to allow cluster development in UR-7 and UR-10 Zones, ridgeline scenic corridors and steep hillside areas. What the Town Attorney does not want to understand is, once those residential zones are amended to allow cluster development, in violation of the purpose and intent of UR Zones (we know that because the former mayor that introduced UR Zoning is Frank Egger), the value and price of all UR and hillside zoned parcels will go up. Mr. Marshall originally paid $1.75 million for the Wall property and it was recently sold during a bankruptcy auction for $1 million. What’s the newest value?  

One reason we protected hillsides and scenic ridgeline corridors was the horrendous landslide problems we had. Fairfax’s known landslide issues brought in the CA Department of Mines & Geology in late 1972 to map our entire Town for landslides. The State rented a house for geologist Ted Smith for a year so he could inventory every parcel in Fairfax for the severity of potential landslides. He had prepared a large street map with little squiggles rating the sites from a 1 to a 4, 4 being the most susceptible to a landslide. Fairfax hired the nationally pre-imminent  land-use firm of Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd to prepare Fairfax’s Open Space Element and Ted Smith gave him a copy of his field notes to assist them with preparing our Open Space Element.  

So, how dangerous are Fairfax hills for building? Here’s a few of the landslides Fairfax had to deal with between 1966 and 2005: Archie and Vesta Williams’ first Fairfax home on Meadow Way had the hillside blow through it, an elderly couple living in the first house on the left after the Canyon Road Bridge had a landslide blow through their house and push them out to the street in their bed, a massive slide came off of Bolinas Road down to Meadow Way, Pine Drive had numerous slides, Upper Cypress blew out and it not only blocked emergency vehicle access, the only way in and out for 15 homes was down the dirt fire road to lower Cypress. In Deer Park we had slides on Wood Lane, Spring Lane, Hillside and Crest. We lost two homes on the down side of Forrest Avenue, one went all the way to the creek. Willow, Chester and Live Oak had slides as did Rocca. San Gabriel Drive & San Gabriel Court where a slide came off of the Wall property and blew through a home, Fairfax was sued over that one. Homeowners on Oak Springs in San Anselmo sued Dr. Wall when the foot of the hill gave out and undercut backyards of homes on Oak Springs. Two homes slid down the hill from the access road at 615 Oak Manor Drive. That was one of the reasons Wendy Baker and Frank Egger voted against the Court Ordered Settlement on Fairfax Hills, the instability of the soils up there.  

Facilitating estate houses by clustering:  Speaking of 615 Oak Manor Drive, Wendy Baker and Frank Egger are the last two former Fairfax officials still in town and with us. They were directly involved in the development process, the public hearings and closed sessions during the litigation and the final Town Council votes. Today we have the Fairfax Town Attorney writing legal opinions as to what happened back in the day, but she was not here. The 54 page Court-Ordered Settlement Agreement does have some conflicting language, a requirement that if the Town did not act within a few years, the Agreement would lapse and another condition that the Agreement ran with the Land in Perpetuity. Why does the Town Attorney always have to side with developers? Judge William Stephens, who ordered the out of court settlement, passed away in May of 2023, so we can’t ask him.  

In 1966, Fairfax annexed the County-approved 52 unit Meadowland subdivision with 10 acres of Open Space on the ridge between Canon Tennis Club and Glen Drive that was a condition of subdivision approval for Glen Drive and Shemran Court. Fairfax zoned all 52 acres, including the 10 on the ridge Planned District Development (PDD). Now Dyett & Bhatia wants to cluster mansions on that 10 acre ridgetop with no legal access to the ridge. How does Save Fairfax know that? Frank Egger was on the Council when Fairfax approved the rezoning to PDD and the Meadowland Subdivision. 

Why cluster mansions on the Ross property off of Toyon above the Hickory/Cypress neighborhood that is known as Northern Spotted Owl habitat? And, how about the clustering of multi-million mansions on the parcels between Crest Road and Francis Lane with no vehicle access above Sky Ranch. Then, why build 10 units on the two steep parcels on Forrest Ave. adjacent to the Marin town & Country Club that Fairfax originally bought for open space and recreational access to the MT&CC? Should a recreational facility ever be re-opened there and Fairfax had given the 2 parcels to a developer for housing, it will forever foreclose public access to the MT&CC from Forrest Ave.  

Help us continue to support the efforts of only environmentally correct reasonable development, that has the consent of the people.