They certainly sound like cities—there’s a Kentfield School District, a Kentfield Post Office (zip code 94904), a Kentfield Fire Station, and a Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association. Yet neither Kentfield, nor its sister community Kent Woodlands, is actually a city. “They’re ‘unincorporated county areas,’” explains realtor Susan Bowman. “The Marin County Board of Supervisors is the governing body.”
Combined, the two communities are home to over 8,100 residents, placing them midway between Sausalito (pop. 7,300) and Tiburon (pop. 8,900) on Marin’s population rankings. Kentfield, with 6,400 of those souls, lies on the eastern and mostly level side of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between Greenbrae and Ross. Kent Woodlands—population about 1,700—occupies that lush, rolling slope of Mount Tamalpais behind College of Marin. Both communities derive their names from the family of influential Marin pioneer William Kent (1864-1928), a three-term Republican congressman and friend of John Muir who played a leading role in creating both Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais State Park.
If Kent Woodlands and Kentfield had a social center, it would probably be Woodlands Market. “It’s like our town hall,” says 30-year Kent Woodlands resident Elena Mandin. “Every time I go there I see friends and neighbors; plus, I often make new friends.” Woodlands Market, owned by Mandin’s neighbor Don Santa, and Mandin have summer parties in common. “Every summer, I open my home at the top of Ridgecrest Road to members of the Property Owners Association; there’s always a theme—Hawaiian, Wild West, Caribbean, that sort of thing.” In turn, in the early fall for the past 21 years, Kentfield’s Woodlands Market hosts a community barbecue with all funds raised benefiting the Kentfield School District. Which, according to a majority of residents, is only fitting. “Kentfield Schools are fabulous,” says Dr. Bruce Stamper, a fifth- generation San Francisco optometrist and longtime Kentfield resident. His and his wife Beverly’s two girls attended Bacich Elementary, Kent Middle School then Redwood High School (not part of the Kentfield School District). “One daughter graduated from Boston University,” Dr. Stamper says, “the other from UCLA.”
Earlier this year, a parcel tax that will progress annually from $775 to $1,200 per household per year over the next 10 years, was approved by an impressive 71 percent of those voting (the Kentfield School District also includes Greenbrae).
Both Bacich Elementary and Kent Middle Schools have been named “California Distinguished Schools,” both scored in the top three percent in recent statewide academic testing, and while Bacich boasts a 20-to-one student-to-teacher ratio, Kent is close with a 23-to-one ratio. Regarding high schools, students living in Kentfield and Kent Woodlands have several nearby to choose from. The public high school is Redwood (also a California Distinguished School) in Larkspur; close-by private high schools include Branson, Marin Catholic and Marin Academy.
“Excellent schools are definitely a reason for locating in either Kentfield or Kent Woodlands,” claims realtor Bowman, of Morgan Lane Real Estate in Kentfield. Surprisingly, according to her, the relatively low price of $469,000 will get you into the area. “That’s for a nice two bedroom, two bath condominium,” she says, adding, “of about 835-square-feet.” Bowman is quick to state that though a few Kentfield homes are available below $2 million, the generally accepted price for a single-family home in either Kentfield or Kent Woodlands is “more like $2.5 million.” Then, after another pause, she adds, “and up.”
An example of Bowman’s “and up” category would be her $3,250,000 listing in Kent Woodlands. “It’s a newer Mediterranean-style, four bedroom single story, pool home on a lot of just over four acres with incredible views of the East Bay.” From there homes in both communities, depending on their location, lot size and view, ascend into the many millions of dollars. A magnificent, Tuscan-inspired, five-bedroom estate is available in Kentfield for $10,995,000.
Last year, pitcher Barry Zito, on being traded from Oakland to San Francisco, purchased a Kent Woodlands property in the $9 million range. His neighbor is Tamalpais Bank President Mark Garwood, cooking guru Roxanne Klein lives nearby, as does Hyatt Hotel heir and accomplished musician Daniel Pritzker, who owns several Kent Woodlands properties, including the historic Kent Estate.
So who cares if Kentfield and Kent Woodlands aren’t Marin cities? They seem to be doing extremely well as plain and simple “unincorporated areas.”