County of Marin - News Releases - Sir Francis Drake Boulevard

For Immediate Release
March 04, 2021

Board to Take Up Drake Boulevard Naming

Supervisors to consider thoroughfare’s history and designation

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Board of Supervisors’ afternoon session March 9 will be devoted to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, one of Marin’s primary east-west thoroughfares, and the ongoing public discussion about possibly renaming portions that run through unincorporated areas of the county.

An online public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Viewers may watch or log in to participate and share comments with help from instructions on the County website.

A view of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard looking east with the Lagunitas Deli on the left.Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, shown in Lagunitas, was first named for the English explorer in 1929.
The idea of renaming the boulevard surfaced in light of its namesake’s documented history as a 16th century slave trader, deep public discourse on a national scale about human rights, and the desire to address historical record. An organized grassroots effort to rename the road materialized over the past year as did efforts to retain the existing name.

Supervisors Dennis Rodoni and Katie Rice represent the unincorporated areas through which Drake Boulevard runs, including Greenbrae, Kentfield, the San Geronimo Valley, Olema, and the rural areas of the Point Reyes National Seashore. The two have worked with a cross-jurisdictional working group comprised of council representatives from each of the cities and towns the boulevard bisects – Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. Each municipality has road naming authority for their section of the boulevard. The group met several times and guided the process as each jurisdiction engaged with their respective residents about whether to rename the road within that jurisdiction.

A January 25 meeting on the topic, co-hosted by Rodoni and Rice, included a summary of public outreach, presentation of the research gathered (such as costs and impacts to businesses/residents), historical information on naming of road, impacts to businesses and residents and Q&A panel. Nearly 600 comments have been received by County contacts. Answers to frequently asked questions are online.

Earlier, Rodoni and Rice co-hosted an online listening session in June 2020 and a learning session with historians and representatives of Federated Tribe Graton Rancheria representing the Coast Miwok in August 2020. Visit the Marin County Free Library’s Drake Boulevard History Resource Page to review the June 26 listening session and January 25 meeting in both English and Spanish as well as online resources gathered by the library staff about Sir Francis Drake, about the boulevard, and about indigenous Coast Miwok history.

The five jurisdictions involved agreed to complete the public discussion phase by March 31.

Thus far, here are the decisions by the other jurisdictions:

  • Ross’ council voted to retain the name January 14.
  • Larkspur’s council voted February 17 to retain Sir Francis Drake Boulevard as the legal name, adopt as a co-name what the consensus of the other jurisdictions is, and in the absence of that explore a historical designation or a ceremonial name.
  • Fairfax’s council voted to change the name March 3.
  • San Anselmo’s council plans to vote on the evening of March 9.

Drake, an English explorer, is believed to have anchored his ship off Marin’s Pacific Coast and made landfall in 1579. According to History.com, Drake participated in some of the earliest English slaving voyages to Africa starting in 1567, and he earned a reputation for his piracy against Spanish ships and possessions.

The County of Marin’s Department of Public Works (DPW) maintains 35.3 miles of the boulevard’s 42.9 miles of pavement. The road was labeled with several previous names before it became Sir Francis Drake Highway in 1929 as a marketing ploy to attract tourists to Marin. Local historian Dewey Livingston documented the saga in an essay shared with the Marin County Free Library.

To view to the March 9 session, watch the webcast or tune in to Channel 27 if you’re a Comcast subscriber or Channel 99 for AT&T U-verse subscriber. Residents are welcome to review the staff report and email comments to the Board of Supervisors while mentioning the number of the agenda item. Instructions for participating in the meeting are on the meeting archive webpage.

For disability accommodations please call (415) 473-6358 (voice), CA Relay 711, or e-mail Digital Access staff at least five business days in advance of the event. The County will do its best to fulfill requests received with less than five business days’ notice. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.

Contact:

Brent Ainsworth
Public Information Specialist
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite #325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3084
Email: Brent Ainsworth
County Administrator website