County of Marin - News Releases - Stream Conservation

For Immediate Release
February 25, 2021

Supervisors to Receive Update on Stream Ordinance

Overview on work program progress coming during March 2 meeting

San Rafael, CA – Residents of Marin County’s San Geronimo Valley are invited to hear an update March 2 on the status of a stream conservation area (SCA) ordinance that protects nature and regulates human-made improvements to property in that rural portion of unincorporated Marin.

A view from the bank of a creek looking down to the flowing water, trees, shrubs and rocks.A Stream Conservation Area ordinance furthers environmental mandates while remaining consistent with the Marin Countywide Plan.
Representatives from the Marin County Community Development Agency, which manages zoning issues for unincorporated areas such as the San Geronimo Valley, will report to the Marin County Board of Supervisors at an online session starting at 1:30 p.m. The Supervisors are not voting on the matter, only accepting a public progress report.

Following a work program that’s been in place for the past year, CDA planners have worked with a Board subcommittee and the County Counsel’s Office on a range of concepts for a forthcoming SCA ordinance that would align with the Marin Countywide Plan and corresponding environmental documents. Some alterations since a previous version of a draft ordinance include:

  • allowing modest additions of up to 500 square feet to existing structures, subject to compliance with all permit standards
  • limiting new development on vacant lots unless strict criteria are met
  • limiting options for streamlined review of minor projects
  • implementing erosion control and low-impact development practices throughout the watershed

The envisioned SCA ordinance incorporates required setbacks on development that have been a feature of the Countywide Plan since 1973. It’s important to have an SCA ordinance in place because creek habitats are irreplaceable biological systems that provide water purification, flood control, fish and wildlife movement, and native habitat. In the San Geronimo Valley, Lagunitas Creek supports one of the largest remaining populations of threatened coho salmon south of Fort Bragg and is also home to threatened steelhead trout and Chinook salmon.

Over the years, large section of such systems in Marin have been eliminated by past stream channelization and structural development on adjacent properties. The forthcoming ordinance for San Geronimo Valley would include a minimum buffer area of 100 feet from the top of the bank of any creek or stream, but the distance might be larger to include upland areas. Overall, the SCA would maintain a conservative approach while furthering environmental mandates while remaining consistent with the Countywide Plan. According to County staff, the most appropriate way to achieve the goals is to take a conservative approach that is most protective toward the fish, coupled with targeted policy amendments aligned with existing environmental documents.

To view to the March 2 report, 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.


Kristin Drumm
Senior Planner
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 318
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6290
Email: Kristin Drumm
Community Development website