Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve Parcels

The Two Parcels of Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve (outlined in blue; note that the MMWD parcel, 064-133-06, is not part of the preserve)

Parcel NumberOwnerZoningLand UseAcresSlopeDescription
064-133-05City of SausalitoOpen Space80 Tax Exempt2.2732.1%Lower Cypress Ridge
064-181-40City of SausalitoOpen Space80 Tax Exempt9.6937.4%Upper Cypress Ridge

The Acquisition of Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve

Mt. Tamalpais from Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve.

Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve was created in 1976 with the passage of bond Measure E. Before this success there had been at least three failed attempts to purchase the land. We’ll review this history to understand what motivated Sausalito to create the Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve, how much support it had, and what arguments and counter-arguments were made on its behalf. We are proposing a conservation easement to protect Cypress Ridge from any attempts to develop it so we should consider the efforts, sacrifices, and motives of the people who created it to help understand whether what was important then is the same things important to us today.

First Attempt – Ballot Measure Dies in City Council

Sometime shortly before 1974, an effort was made to put a bond measure on the ballot to fund the purchase of Cypress Ridge, but the proposal failed in City Council.

Senate Bill 3187 – the 1974 Extension of the GGNRA
A Coast Live Oak frames Richardson Bay at Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve.

The GGNRA was created in 1972 when $120 million was authorized for its purchase. Not all of this money was needed so a proposal was made to use the remainder to add over 700 acres to the GGNRA which thus established its current dimensions. The proposal became Senate Bill 3187. The extensions included Tennessee Valley (209 acres), Oakwood Valley (209 acres, doubling its size), Wolfback Ridge (287 acres), and two properties east of Highway 101 within Sausalito – South Ridge (30 acres) and Cypress Ridge (15 acres). The Sausalito proposal also included all of the Caltrans right of way east of the freeway. Most of the information in this section comes from the 1973 hearings on Senate Bill 3187 before a subcommittee of the Interior and Insular Affairs.


Senate Exhibit showing the proposed Sausalito extensions to the GGNRA: Wolfback Ridge (west of freeway), South Ridge (southermost section), Cypress Ridge (long extension in Sausalito in middle), and the Caltrans right of way.

Though the Senate Hearings did not spend much time discussing Cypress Ridge, Marin’s Congressional Representative, John Burton, singled out the Sausalito extensions as being of “enormous value”, and Sausalito Vice-Mayor Robin Sweeney testified that protecting the east side of the freeway with the Sausalito extensions was as important as protecting the west side of the freeway with the Wolfback Ridge extension. Both would combine to create a scenic, green corridor as a gateway to the GGNRA. California Senator John Tunney made the same point in his letter supporting the bill saying it would preserve “an impressive scenic corridor.” The bill also had the support of Senator Alan Cranston, the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and the Sausalito City Council (unanimously).

The full bill was opposed by Nixon’s Department of the Interior. Assistant Secretary Jack Horton opposed half of the Tennessee Valley extension, all of the Oakwood Valley extension, and a third of the Wolfback Ridge extension raising spending concerns. Testifying against it were two Interior Department employees, the Deputy Director of the National Park Service, and GGNRA Superintendent Bill Whalen who followed Assistant Secretary Jack Horton in opposing the Tennessee Valley and Oakwood Valley extensions. They wanted only additions that covered the ridge lines of the existing GGNRA to prevent GGNRA views from being spoiled. Whalen specifically spoke out against adding South Ridge and Cypress Ridge saying the extensions should end west of the freeway, “a natural boundary”. Superintendent Whalen later told Sausalitans he thought South Ridge and Cypress Ridge weren’t worth purchasing because of their “minimal public recreation value” (Sausalito Marin Scope, 12/5/1973). Concerns were also expressed about maintaining Cypress Ridge and supporters proposed that it could be contracted out to the City of Sausalito.

Cypress Ridge and South Ridge remained in the bill that passed the House of Representatives thanks to John Burton’s brother Phil Burton, the Representative from San Francisco and a powerful member of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (Sausalito Marin Scope, 2/5/1974). But neither of the two properties were in the Senate Bill. The compromise worked out in conference committee kept South Ridge but not Cypress Ridge. Almost all the other requested extensions were included in the final bill which passed in December 1974 (Sausalito Marin Scope, 12/17/1974). Tennesse Valley, Oakwood Valley, almost all of Wolfback Ridge, as well as South Ridge became part of the GGNRA. Accompanying bills also added the 168 acre Inverness Ridge to Pt. Reyes National Seashore and made the Farallon Islands a National Wilderness Refuge. All remained protected to this day. Perhaps South Ridge succeeded because it is connected to the GGNRA by a land bridge over Robin Williams tunnel and the natural freeway barrier argument didn’t hold. But Cypress Ridge was left to the citizens of Sausalito to purchase and preserve.

March 1975 – $850 Thousand Bond Measures E and F
A row of Coast Live Oaks at Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve.

Even before GGNRA bill S. 3187 was resolved, the Sausalito City Council considered placing a $1.5 million bond measure on the November 1974 ballot. This would have allowed the City to purchase up to eight properties for open space including both Cypress Ridge and South Ridge (Sausalito Marin Scope, 7/30/1974). The proposal eventually became Measures E and F on the March 1975 ballot. Measure E would have authorized $1.25 million to purchase Cypress Ridge and South Ridge along with Toyon Terrace, Glen Grove, and The Glen. The amount was further reduced to $850 thousand when South Ridge became part of the GGNRA. Measure F would have authorized $250 thousand to buy the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Depot between City Hall and Dunphy Park for use as a plaza (Sausalito Marin Scope, 3/4/1975). Both measures failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority. Measure E lost with 63.1% of the vote and Measure F with 62.5%. Only 1600 voters turned out (Sausalito Marin Scope, 3/11/1975).

June 1976 – $560 Thousand Bond Measure E
Angel Island seen from Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve as two sailboats enter Raccoon Strait.

The citizens of Sausalito finally passed a $560 thousand bond measure in 1976 that created Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve and authorized the purchase of its parcels. Measure E passed with 68.3% of the vote, 1890 to 879 (Sausalito Marin Scope, 6/15/1976). By restricting the bond measure to the site with the greatest support, Sausalito was able to lower the cost and secure passage. Measure E designated three parcels for purchase, the two that currently make up Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve (064-133-05 and 064-181-40) and a third, 1.81 acre parcel (064-181-21) that is currently city owned open space. All three are included in the eight we recommend be protected with a conservation easement. Also of note is that the parcels acquired included what became separated out as the round MMWD-owned parcel at the center of the preserve (064-133-06).

Sausalito Marin Scope, 5/25/1976

The City purchased the property from the American Savings and Loan Association who had promised to pursue a three year old proposal to build 56 housing units on Cypress Ridge if Measure E failed. This would have left half the parcels undeveloped. The parcels were zoned for 221 housing units and additional development would have been likely (Sausalito Marin Scope, 5/25/1976).

Advertisement in Sausalito Marin Scope, 6/1/1976

Measure E received wide coverage in the local press with at least five very favorable articles written in Sausalito Marin Scope in the month before the election. Rather than emphasize the site’s scenic value as in the GGNRA Senate hearings, supporters campaigned on three things: preventing overdevelopment, protecting the site’s public recreation value, and, most relevant to our own arguments today, preserving it for wildlife. This is from Sausalito Marin Scope, 5/18/1976:

The acreage, which has a nearly level area of grasslands sheltered from the highway above by a steep, brush-covered slope, is a much-used bird and animal habitat and breeding ground, and supports a variety of native trees, shrubs and small plants.

Sausalitan Dennis Beall, who participated in a two-month Audubon Society study of Cypress Ridge this spring, reported 28 species of birds sighted — from chestnut-backed chickadee to western flycatchers, to orange-crowned warblers, hummingbirds, vireos and flickers. Says Beall: “Cypress Ridge’s strategic location lends itself as a stopover for many species of migrating birds and the rich variety of flora extending from the top of the ridge down the sheltered slope provides cover for many resident and breeding species.”

Other articles noted the plant and animal life including this one from 5/8/1976 that commented on its oak, manzanita, and cypress and observed that “there is evidence of much animal use, especially on the steep slope of the Spring Street Valley.”

The term of the bond was 20 years, and it was secured at a 5.17% interest rate. The bond was paid off in 1997 (Sausalito Marin Scope, 1/18/1977).

Points of Note for the Conservation Easement

A Coast Live Oak at Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve.

What does all this interesting City history tell us, and how does it apply to our proposed conservation easement?

  1. Measure E acquired three parcels for open space, and the parcels were meant to be preserved as such. All three parcels are included in our proposal to cover eight parcels with a conservation easement. Their combined size of 13.8 acres is over 90% of the total of 15.1 acres we seek to protect.
  2. The citizens of Sausalito purchased these parcels at a significant expense ($560 thousand in 1976 is $2.6 million today), and they agreed to increase their property taxes for 20 years to pay for it.
  3. Measure E passed with the overwhelming support of Sausalito voters, 68.3%.
  4. The campaign for Measure E highlighted the value of Cypress Ridge to its wildlife so the election created a mandate for the City to protect this wildlife.
  5. Two facts highlight the value and importance of Cypress Ridge. First, Cypress Ridge nearly became part of the GGNRA. Second, the City’s open space committee identified 18 parcels to consider for preservation. Cypress Ridge was the only unaminous selection, beating out South Ridge which did become part of the GGNRA, and the only one acquired because it was the one most popular with the public.
  6. Nearly 50 years ago Sausalito spent a great deal of time, effort, and money to create and protect the Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve. Today, it will take little time or money to create a conservation easement that will make this protection permanent. We owe it to the wildlife that lives and visits there to do so, and we owe it to past and future generations of Sausalitans as well.

All donations made at our partner’s website,, will fund this project until its $9,000 budget is met or until December 31, 2021, whichever is first.

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