A Rocky Start for Tam Ridge, Marin’s New Development

ONLY IF YOU’VE spent the past four years on a deserted island would you not know the furor the Tam Ridge Residences (actually they’re apartments, 180 of them) have caused in Marin County. First it was the project’s massiveness; then its adding to traffic and drought problems; and lately it’s been the project’s colors. As a topper, last week a Corte Madera neighbor requested the media stop calling the development “WinCup,” referring to the 40-year-old steam-emitting factory that previously occupied the four-acre site adjacent to Highway 101. “It’s a disservice to the name WinCup,” she claimed.

Actually, I like the concept of Tam Ridge Residences. Yes, they are high density — 40 units per acre — but in the 21st century that’s where housing is headed. People want “walkable” communities. And Tam Ridge, on Tamal Vista Boulevard, is indeed that. Three retail centers and K-12 schools are less than a mile’s walk away. And transportation is also close by in the form of ferries, buses, the freeway and biking and hiking paths.

Tam Ridge is a development of MacFarlane Partners of San Francisco, headed by Victor B. MacFarlane. The company has been around for 25 years, not all of them pleasant years. The Great Recession smacked MacFarlane hard; according to the Washington Post, in 2011, MacFarlane’s assets under management went from $20 billion down to $4 billion. In the process, Victor MacFarlane, once referred to as the “most prominent African-American financier in San Francisco,” lost his two $35 million penthouses at the St. Regis Hotel, where his longtime pal Willie Brown still resides, and his ownership of D.C. United, a soccer team based in the nation’s capital, where many of his real estate investments are located. And according to the Bay Citizen, “Mr. MacFarlane lost more than $1 billion of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) money on ex-urban developments in Arizona and Southern California.”

Tam Ridge Residences are one part of Victor MacFarlane’s comeback. He also recently bought and sold a key multi-million dollar property on San Francisco’s Market Street and reportedly is developing a 660-unit apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Local rumors hold that MacFarlane’s financial entanglements are to blame for Tam Ridge being a year late in coming to market. “That’s not entirely true,” says Mill Valley’s Hank Baker, a real estate marketing consultant who advised MacFarlane Partners in the early stages of development in Marin. “Much of the slowdown, I think, results from architect, contractor and developer differences — changes to plans, cost overruns, those kinds of things — that often occur in a project of this magnitude. It’s not unusual.”

As for rental income from 180 units lost during the extreme construction slowdown, Baker says, “Bay Area lease rate increases may offset the additional development costs.”

What are the lease amounts? By snooping around, I discovered that an 850-square foot one-bedroom will go for about $3,000 a month, a 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom for $3,850 a month, and a three-bedroom town house for around $4,550 a month. Which means Tam Ridge will be occupied by households earning, on average, $130,000 a year. Meanwhile, 18 of the 180 units are classified as “affordable housing,” with rates based on a tenant’s income.

Nationwide, there’s ample evidence that people, young folks especially, not only want walkable communities, but are anxious to free themselves from their cars. And if public transportation is convenient it will be utilized.

That said, after a slow start but now nearing completion, Tam Ridge Residences could very well blend in here and possibly even enhance the livability and economy of Marin County. That’s my point of view. What’s yours? Email [email protected]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Marin Magazine and its staff.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Slow Start for Tam Ridge”.