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Of Lawsuits, Pies, Supermarkets, Eateries and Hypocrisy

Columnist: Bill Meagher
September, 2017 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

The Bard once suggested the smart thing to do was to kill all the lawyers. And while this seems a little violent, in the words of Bill Clinton, “I feel his pain.” So do the ranchers and farmers in Point Reyes National Seashore.

A lawsuit brought in federal court in February 2016 disputing the legality of allowing commercial ranching in the national park was recently settled, tossing the future of ag in the park up for grabs. The lawsuit requires the National Park Service to consider a future in the park without any dairy or ranching. It limits any agreement with ranchers or farmers to be no longer than 5 years, a dubious limit for any business or family trying to map a future.

This magazine did a deep dive on this issue in its August 2016 GameChangers issue. While the settlement included the signatures of the ranchers and farmers along with the trio of environmental groups that brought the action, it is clear that the settlement sets the table for future that does not include ranches or farms in the Seashore.

Environmentalists argued that livestock damages the park, threatens wildlife, harms water quality and limits recreational use. On the other hand, the land was originally purchased from ranchers and farmers with the understanding that they could continue to lease the land from the government.

From an economic standpoint, agriculture plays the leading role in West Marin and the settlement doesn’t bode well for ag in the western edge of Marin or for the health of the county’s econ profile.  

The Oprah effect

Mamie’s Pies in San Rafael is enjoying some love from Oprah, the legendary entrepreneur so famous she only needs the one name. The Chicago native put the tiny pies on her list of favorite things in August and the bakery business ramped up to meet anticipated demand.

The pies are produced in Maine and frozen for your dining pleasure. In Marin they are available at Andronico’s, Mill Valley Market, United Markets, Woodlands Market, Paradise Markets and Andy’s Markets.

Speaking of Andy’s, the latest version debuted down on the San Rafael waterfront at Loch Lomond Marina. While I wasn’t there for the grand opening, one of my spies was and filed a report on the festivities. The highlight was a draft beer bar, the low light was a lack of signage from the street and a roast chicken priced at $14.99. He says there were no bargains to be had and many price tags were missing in action. He compared the market to the Gigantes, trying hard but falling a bit short anyway. Of course for Andy’s it’s the first inning, for the Giants, not so much.

Bear market

At this writing a few days after the Fourth of July, the new Black Bear Diner in the old Chili’s space near Northgate in San Rafael is still not open. Turns out the remodel for the diner was underway but was shut down because the paperwork wasn’t right. Originally set for a June open, the pancake palace still isn’t serving up portions that would tame a…wait for it…bear.

The news isn’t any better right next door as Road Runner Burrito is finito. Maybe it’s just those eateries with animals in the handle having problems.

Your Marin moment

Workforce housing, the politically correct cousin of affordable housing, has always raised eyebrows and voices in Marin despite all of the alleged heart to be found in this affluent county. And in looking at Assemblyman Marc Levine’s work around AB 1537 and AB 121, that controversy is still in full bloom.

Passed in 2014, AB 1537 allowed for San Rafael and Novato to be classified as suburban and not a metropolitan area, dropping the density level per acre from 30 units to 20 until 2023. He wrote the bill with the idea of decreasing the volume of bitching from opponents of high density housing and keep developers from being scared away from potential projects by limiting the units and thus the costs.

AB121 lengthens the sunset on AB 1537 to 2028. The bill was tied to the state budget so it had just one public hearing.

Levine says that the legislation has worked with more housing being built since 2014.

Some housing advocates who supported the legislation in 2014 say it is too early to declare the legislation successful.

The smoldering disagreement over Levine’s legislation demonstrates that when it comes to affordable housing, the only thing sane people can agree on is that there isn’t near enough of it.


Bill Meagher lives in San Rafael with his amazing mate, Cindy, and a trio of cats plotting to overthrow the Trump regime. He is a contributing editor at this fine magazine and his day job is as an associate editor with The Deal and TheStreet in their west coast office.




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