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The Off Ramp to Nowhere

By Larry Clinton
It sounds like something out of Kafka, but if you’ve ever mistakenly taken the Rodeo Ave. exit off Southbound 101, you know it’s certainly no fiction.
The freeway exit was constructed in the ‘60s to allow access to the infamous planned development in the Headlands above Sausalito called Marincello. The development was finally abandoned after long legal battles which are described in the recent documentary “Rebels With a Cause.”
One of the attorneys who fought that David-vs.-Goliath battle is Doug Ferguson, who described the legal struggles at the recent annual membership meeting of the Historical Society.
Marincello was planned to house up to 30,000 people in apartments, homes and townhouse and would also include a mall and hotel at the high point of the headlands. Working with Gulf Oil, a Pennsylvania developer named Thomas Frouge purchased 2,000 acres of land and made immediate plans for the new community.
Despite protests from local preservationists, In November 1965 the County of Marin officially gave Marincello a green light. Large gates were immediately built in Tennessee Valley marking the entrance for new city. A wide boulevard was carved up the mountain to be one of the main streets in and out of the community.
After much legal maneuvering, Doug Ferguson, with colleagues Bob Praetzel and Marty Rose,
filed a lawsuit claiming that Marincello had been improperly zoned back in 1964 and allowed the public only six days to review the zoning instead the legal ten days. The lawsuit led to discovery of other inaccuracies in the Zoning Outlines that Marin had approved in 1965.
By 1966, thanks in part to the legal delays, the budget for Marincello was ballooning from its original $250 million price tag, and 1967 construction was halted.
In 1972, the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy and transferred to the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Today the main boulevard is a popular hiking, biking, and horse path, appropriately called the "Marincello Trail." It’s accessible from the Rodeo Ave. exit, via the Bobcat trail. If you’d like to explore the trail and its spectacular views, you can park near the end of the off ramp, but be aware that it’s a long, steady uphill trek and then a series of up-and-downhill connections to reach the Marincello Trail.

Marker for Marincello Trail.
Photo by Larry Clinton

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