The Acquisition of Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve
Cypress Ridge Open Space Preserve was created in 1976 with the passage of Measure E, a $560 thousand bond measure.
The City’s open space committee had identified 18 properties to consider for preservation as open space with Cypress Ridge being the only unanimous selection. The City eventually realized that Cypress Ridge was the only property that had enough public support to get a bond measure passed so Measure E was placed on the ballot.
Advertisement in Sausalito Marin Scope, 6/1/1976
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.
The City purchased the property from the American Savings and Loan Association who had promised to pursue an ongoing, three year old proposal to build 56 housing units on Cypress Ridge if Measure E failed. This would initially have left half the land undeveloped, but it was zoned for 221 housing units and additional development would have been likely (Sausalito Marin Scope, 5/25/1976).
Part of the Measure E campaign focused on preserving Cypress Ridge 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.
An article from 5/8/1976 commented on the oak, manzanita, and cypress and observed that “there is evidence of much animal use, especially on the steep slope of the Spring Street Valley.”
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.
Cypress Ridge’s ecological value can also be seen in an earlier attempt to preserve it. When the GGNRA was expanded in 1974, the Federal government seriously considered including Cypress Ridge along with the additions made in Tennessee Valley, Oakwood Valley, Wolfback Ridge and South Ridge (1973 hearings on Senate Bill 3187 before a subcommittee of the Interior and Insular Affairs). In fact, Cypress Ridge was part of the bill that passed the House of Representatives (Sausalito Marin Scope, 2/5/1974). It was only left out of the final bill because Highway 101 separates it from the rest of the GGNRA (GGNRA Superintendent Bill Whalen’s testimony to the Senate subcommittee). This serious consideration clearly shows Cypress Ridge’s ecological value and importance to the environment, a topic we explore more on our Ecological Studies web page.
Points of Note for the Conservation Easement
What does the acquisition of Cypress Ridge in 1976 tell us about Cypress Ridge today?
- Measure E acquired Cypress Ridge in order to protect it as open space in perpetuity.
- The citizens of Sausalito purchased this land 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.
- Measure E passed with the overwhelming support of Sausalito voters, 68.3%.
- 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.
- Two facts show 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 sites to consider for preservation. Cypress Ridge was the only unanimous selection, beating out South Ridge which did become part of the GGNRA. Cypress Ridge was the only site acquired because it was the one most popular with the public.
- Nearly 50 years ago Sausalito spent a great deal of time, effort, and money to acquire and protect Cypress Ridge. 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.
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