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SAN RAFAEL, CA-City officials here are considering a development proposal that would put approximately 766 units of affordable housing and 120,000-sf of commercial space on the last available undeveloped bayfront property in Marin County. Like most Marin development plans, the decision process will not be easy, and it may likely end up in the hands of the voters.

The 594-acre parcel, known as the St. Vincent’s property, is located off Highway 101 between San Rafael and Novato and includes oak-covered hills, a creek, an historic chapel and lots of open space. Environmental groups and residents have vowed to preserve the property for many years. The city is requiring an environmental impact statement accompany the proposal.

The developer is Shapell Industries of Beverly Hills and the Catholic Youth Organization. The development would be called St. Vincent’s Village and would consist of commercial buildings, an auditorium, a new 80,000-sf residential treatment center for boys, an elementary school, and lots of open space. The owner of the adjacent 358-acre property, Tony Silveira, also has expressed interest in selling his land to the group.

Several years ago, Marin residents and environmental groups successfully fought against new development, preserving thousand of acres of land that is now permanently protected. The city’s general plan was changed to permit only 20% of total landmass for future development. Today, the only bayfront sites left are the St. Vincent property and the adjacent Silveira properties.

Those opposed say that they want to preserve the historic church, the St. Vincent’s School for Boys and the adjacent Silveira Ranch properties, but they object the proposed development. Many groups are joining together in the hopes of raising enough money to buy and preserve the land themselves.

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