Taking to the Hills - Page 5

Small-town feeling and informal ties set the stage for natural friendships among the Eichlers of Terra Linda
Taking to the Hills
Taking to the Hills
Top: At home with Sarah Bonar, who runs a home bakery, and Li Shen, a game designer, with daughter Penelope in Terra Linda North. Above: The couple's kitchen and dining area.

Sarah has gotten to know many neighbors because they are her customers. "Every Thursday people come by and pick up their loaves of bread," she says.

Also appealing to many buyers is Terra Linda's sun and lack of fog. "It's ten degrees warmer than Mill Valley," Deborah says, adding that Terra Linda actually gets cold in the winter. "It's kind of nice. After living in the city we finally get seasons here."

Climate change, though, is having its effect.

"It's gotten hotter," says Scott Wagner, whose family lives in the home in which he grew up. "It's hard for me to recall days with three and four straight hundred degrees in the '70s and '80s, but over the past four, five years here it is shockingly warmer."

Air conditioners, once rare, are common, thanks to heat pump technology. And foam roofs are de rigueur.

Wildfires fueled by climate change are also impacting the neighborhood. Terra Linda's hills have never burned, but smoke from distant fires has choked the valley, and two years ago, due to fire danger, power was shut off for three days. "Unfortunately," Scott says, "this is the new normal."

Heat and fire are not the only external threats to Terra Linda. So is increased development. However, it appears that this well organized neighborhood—filled with articulate, activist types that over the years have successfully fought for open space, and for a recreation center and fire station—has notched another victory.

  Taking to the Hills
A portrait of the Wagner family of Terra Linda North. Scot and Caitlin strike a cute pose with daughters Maggie and Ellie and their family dog.

The neighborhood group 'Responsible Growth Marin' blocked replacing much of the largely empty Northgate mall with what would have been the largest Costco in the country, complete with 30 open-all-night gas pumps.

"We flooded those early planning commission meetings," says one of the leaders of the effort, Patrick Gannon, whose Eichler sits near the disputed site. "We had 400 people there the first time."

But the struggle is far from over. New plans call for rental units in tall buildings, plus shopping and more. Neighbors welcome more housing, but question the density.

Plus, they want from the city what property owners have been promised for so long: a 'town center,' complete with fine restaurants and a plaza.

"We want it to be a gathering space," Gannon says, "and that means you have to have green space for people."


• The Eichlers of Terra Linda North are north and west of Manuel T. Freitas Parkway, and west of Las Pavadas Avenue. The Eichlers of Terra Linda South are on Nova Albion Way, Devon Drive, and several streets and cul-de-sacs to the south whose names suggest the explorations of Sir Francis Drake.

Photography: Sabrina Huang, Dave Weinstein