July 30, 2010: Marin IJ Article

Loch Lomond development in San Rafael still without a buyer

by Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Marin IJ
7/30/2010

Three years after the San Rafael City Council approved a mixed-use development at Loch Lomond Marina, a developer still has yet to buy the land and rights to build there. But Los Angeles-based owner Oaktree Capital Management is moving forward with permits and other improvements to make the bayfront property more desirable for prospective buyers, San Rafael Planning Manager Paul Jensen said.

The property owner has filed for a grading permit to start doing site filling, which is required for the approvals, Jensen said.

“Since the market is so soft, and the lending is limited and they haven’t gotten a buyer, they’re doing some of these things themselves to make it more attractive,” he said.

In addition to requesting the permit, Oaktree applied to form a Mello-Roos tax district at the site, which would fund a publicly accessible park, Jensen said. In Mello-Roos community services districts, money can be raised through special taxes as long as two-thirds of the district residents approve them.

The council held a sparsely attended public hearing on July 19 and adopted a resolution approving the district. As the sole property owner in the district, Oaktree then cast its single, unanimous vote in favor of the Mello-Roos proceedings, and the item will come before the council for final approval Monday.

In August 2007, the City Council approved the bayfront mixed-use development on land that includes 29.5 acres of dry uplands, an approximately 37.5-acre marina basin and an estimated 64 acres of open water.

The planned development, called the Village at Loch Lomond Marina, includes 81 residential units, 22,250 square feet of commercial space and a shoreline park. Under the agreement with the city, the project developer will demolish Andy’s Market but relocate the popular grocery store in a new building in the commercial area, Jensen said. The boat marina would remain.

 

Project approvals will be in effect until August 2012 after state officials granted time extensions for subdivision maps throughout California, giving Oaktree and other property owners an extra three years, Jensen said.

A group of neighbors objected to the project before its 2007 approval, citing potential environmental and traffic problems, as well as concerns that developers would shut down Andy’s.

Some later expressed anger that Bobby’s Fo’c’s’le Cafe wasn’t allowed to rebuild on the waterfront because of the planned development after the restaurant burned down in 2007.

“We’re traffic-constrained; we’re water-constrained; we’re city-service-contrained,” said Stuart Brown, a Bayside Acres Home Owners Association board member who has lived in the nearby unincorporated Marin County subdivision since 1972. “We don’t need housing – we need more local business here. It’s going to ruin the whole character of the place.”

Jeanne Cohn, a former president of the Loch Lomond Homeowners Association, said she and her neighbors gave up fighting the development years ago although they still dislike the idea.

“It became increasingly expensive for us to fight them because we just didn’t have the money to get experts to address each one of these problem areas,” Cohn said.

“We’re worried about what’s going to happen to Point San Pedro Road,” she added. “The road floods anyway – what’s going to happen with the road being eight feet lower than this development is supposed to be?”

An Oaktree representative said the company generally does not comment on its activities because of securities law, confidentiality agreements and other restrictions. Two Bay Area contractors working for Oaktree on the project didn’t return phone calls Friday.