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Anti-development Success Story

Although not much has changed physically in San Geronimo, its residents have had plenty of societal impact.

THIS AERIAL PHOTO of San Geronimo Valley was taken in 1965. That’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard running diagonally across the photo’s upper right-hand corner; the mass of grass in the center is the barely completed back nine of San Geronimo Golf Course; and that forest at the top is what’s now called Roy’s Redwoods Preserve. A picture taken in the same spot today would look much the same. Yet considerable moving and shaking has happened in San Geronimo Valley over the past half-century. The story starts in 1854, when Adolph and Annie Mailliard acquired the 8,700-acre Rancho San Geronimo, which is now basically the community of Woodacre. Adolph was a shirttail relative of Napoleon Bonaparte, Annie was from a New England literary family, and her sister wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Their grandson, John Ward Mailliard III, served heroically in World War II and was a close adviser to California Governor (and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) Earl Warren. John’s wife, Charlotte, has served for years as chief of protocol for both the State of California and the City of San Francisco (she is now 83 and married to former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz). Another grandson of Adolph and Annie was William S. “Bill” Mailliard, who also served meritoriously in World War II, later became a U.S. Congressman serving from 1953 to 1974, and remained active in civic affairs until his death in 1992, when he was living in Belvedere. As for the San Geronimo Golf Course, it’s still there; it is the only element ever built of a master plan, approved by county supervisors in 1961, that proposed 5,000 new homes, a freeway, a civic center, a heliport (on land that Spirit Rock Meditation Center now occupies) and a shopping center surrounded by apartments. That master plan was replaced by a resident-generated San Geronimo Community Plan, adopted in 1978, which foretold much of Marin’s anti-development attitude.


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