The following Mill Valley History Vignette of June 26, 2014 is one of a biweekly series sent via email to members of the Mill Valley Historical Society. Vignettes are archived on mvhistory,org and published in the weekly Mill Valley Herald.
A Quirk of History
“The Tamalpais Land & Water Co. (TL&WC) was chartered as a 100-year corporation in 1889. To go out of business in 1988, it quitclaimed all its Marin County properties to the Homestead Valley Land Trust (HVLT). HVLT hoped that accepting the quitclaim deed might result in acquisition of more open space land. The surprise came in 1995 when HVLT learned that it had acquired streets and lanes in Homestead, Almonte and Mill Valley. In 1998, the county accepted HVLT’s quitclaim deed for streets in Homestead and Almonte. In 2009, the city of Mill Valley accepted HVLT’s quitclaim deed for 40 Steps Lanes and Paths. But the city has yet to accept a quitclaim deed for 60 Streets in Mill Valley although HVLT has made numerous requests to do so. The city is responsible for use of these streets, but HVLT owns them. Bizarre. A few examples: Throckmorton, Lovell, Molino, Summit, Corte Madera. The city Hall is on Corte Madera Ave. HVLT also owns paper streets in Mill Valley open space land such as Cypress Trail. A January 2013 letter from the president of HVLT to the mayor formally requested that the City accept a quitclaim deed for all HVLT properties in the City. The mayor has not yet responded. But after 8 months of study, the city manager concluded, “no additional interests are necessary for the City to pursue its circulatory needs or for our land protection purposes.” Almost 20 years ago the then current city manager opined that this ridiculous situation would be corrected, but he warned, “these things take time.”
Vignettes emailed to historical society members often elicit responses. Many members live on streets owned by HVLT. The fact that no one responded to the email confirms earlier indications that Mill Valley residents don’t seem to care that HVLT owns their streets.
But HVLT cares. The following case is an example of how this situation demands HVLT’s attention. Fifty years ago the Mill Valley Planning Dept. issued a building permit for a new house on Magee Ave. A Mill Valley contractor built the house. A couple lived in it for forty years. After the couple moved to a senior care facility in San Francisco, they asked a Mill Valley real estate broker to sell the house. She discovered that the title company refused to guarantee title because the house encroached on Magee Ave., i.e., part of the house was on land owned by HVLT. The owners could not sell the house because they didn’t own all the land under the house. After three lengthy HVLT board meetings where the problem was defined and discussed at length, HVLT agreed to issue a quitclaim deed to the home owners for a sliver of land on Magee Ave. under their house. Subsequently, other such cases required HVLT to resolve Mil Valley’s mistakes, thus distracting HVLT from the challenges of managing open space and park lands.
If you have comments or questions about this article
or other topics pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.