Bringing Back 'the Berries' - Page 5

Enthusiastic neighbors prove there’s nothing 'lower' about the Eichlers of Lucas Valley
  Bringing Back the Berries  

  Bringing Back the Berries
“This is the best valley in Marin,” Eichler owner Heath Caceres says of Lucas Valley, with “a ton of wildlife, it’s super accessible to the bay…and it’s centrally located.” Top: Family fun and games out back. Above: Heath and wife Mariah play indoors with their two children, Ava (far left) and Chloe.

To the west is an area popular with kids, bicyclists, and dog-walkers called ‘The Field,’ or ‘The Meadows.’ This immense area was home from 1880 to 1963 to the County Farm, which housed poor and troubled people. Today it has trails that wind beneath trees and past various county government structures—including juvenile hall. Although some neighbors recall the occasional escape of an incarcerated youth many years ago, juvenile hall is “not a problem for the neighborhood,” Steve Painter says.

On the north, Lucas Valley’s streets end at the Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve, which community members helped acquire back in the 1970s.

“We bought all the hills up here for open space,” says Dave Paoli, a well-known architect and longtime resident, who has served in several planning and open space efforts and organizations over the years.

The open space provides miles of steep and rugged trails for hiking and biking and offers more than a touch of nature.

Kevin Sullivan, a longtime resident whose home provides the neighborhood with an outdoor art gallery, much of it his own creation, remembers one encounter in the open space. Sundown was approaching, and he and his wife were on the crest of the hill.

“All of a sudden there is a big mountain lion,” Kevin says, “a full-grown mountain lion, and he’s looking at me like, ‘Whoa man.’”

Bringing Back the Berries
Inside the Caceras kitchen.

“My wife is going to run down the hill. I grabbed her. They’ll pursue anything. They’ll take you down.”

Biking is popular in the neighborhood and beyond, with organized rides sometimes going to Point Reyes, Klima says. And neighbors appreciate that the street pattern is such that it is generally safe for children to play on the street.

There are negatives to the neighborhood. Commuting to the city can take 45 minutes or longer (though folks say the really bad commute on 101 hits people who live just north of Lucas Valley), and crossing the bridge to the East Bay has gotten tough.

Looking to shop? There’s one small market that also serves sandwiches with table service at the edge of Upper Lucas Valley, and a larger, locally owned and popular market not far from 101, in a small shopping center that is otherwise abandoned—at least for now.

For anything else, or to dine, folks drive to San Rafael, Novato or beyond. “I would love it if there were a few more stores that were walkable,” Jamie Weinstein says.

And ever since devastating wildfires have destroyed entire neighborhoods just to the north, some people regard their beloved hillsides with a sense of foreboding. Some says the Marin Open Space District could do more to reduce fire fuel.

Bringing Back the Berries
At last count Lucas Valley has 17 homes with second-story additions, including the one pictured here that ‘watches over’ its neighbor

Some neighbors who live alongside the public open space, including Jamie and Kif, clear it to provide ‘defensible space.’

Sabine Grandke-Taft, who has provided CERT emergency training to neighbors, got neighbors to cut back trees on their properties and arranged for a chipping truck to reduce the branches to sawdust. But if nature threatens, it also soothes.

“This is the best valley in Marin,” Heath Caceres rhapsodizes. “There’ s a ton of wildlife, it’s super accessible to the bay, and you can drive really quickly and get to redwoods in just a couple of miles—and it’s centrally located.”

“This is a rainbow valley,” he says. “The way the sun moves through here in the springtime, when there are spring showers, it naturally produces rainbows.”


• The Lucas Valley Eichler neighborhood is located north of Lucas Valley Road, bordered to the south by Miller Creek Road and extending west to Huckleberry Road. It is bordered to the north by Marinwood Open Space. Eichler’s ‘Upper’ Lucas Valley tract is to the west, past a historic burial ground, open space, a senior residential complex, and the county juvenile hall and parks offices.

Photography: Sabrina Huang, Dave Weinstein, Steve Conkling

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