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Developer Bulldozing Sacred Sites in Marin County?
Developer Russell Shaw of Kentfield CA was recently observed with his crew and a bulldozer, scraping topsoil off an area known to contain 2 Miwok middens in San Rafael, CA
Marin County has been blessed with abundant open space preserves and special locales thanks to the hard work and dedication of teams of environmentalists, historical preservationists and its local Native population. Still, the forces of development must be reckoned with on a daily basis. On the east end of San Rafael sits an area known as China Camp. The famous Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center building is nearby. Nestled between this and China Camp State Park are a number of as yet undeveloped acreages of unique beauty and historical significance. One of these, known locally as Oxford Valley is a 30.5 acre site that local Miwok Indians believe was once the home of a village. Two shell mound middens have been identified on the site. Oxford Valley is what some would lovingly refer to as a “secret garden”. An air of mystery, a feeling of healing hangs over this place quite unlike any other. A few seasonal creeks flow through the valley. A developer named Russell Shaw wants to develop this land.
Early in 2005, he submitted a proposal to county officials calling for the building of 26 homes, many of which would be giant big box homes of about 6000 square feet. This triggered an environmental review that as of today has caused the builder to scale back his plan to the building of just one home. He has told neighborhood representatives that he plans to re-introduce another multi-home plan for the site in the future. The Schwartz family that sold Russell Shaw the Oxford Valley site was able to skirt environmental review for a collection of big box homes close by, because one of the family was in county planning and secured favorable terms for the so called ‘piece meal’ development of about a half dozen giant homes. Shaw seems to be echoing this strategy by initiating his own piece meal development in Oxford Valley. He’s run into a number of problems.
One is a well funded and organized community resistance calling itself “Friends of San Pedro Ridge”. This group recently sprung into action when Shaw was observed last week with a crew of workers and a bulldozer driving around the valley, scraping off sections of topsoil alarmingly close to where the midden sites are located, clearly in violation of cultural resource statutes and building permit restrictions. The Friends had their attorney fire off a warning letter to Shaw and sent copies to Marin County officials and the Cultural Resource Committee of the Indians of the Graton Rancheria who have oversight authority in this region.
The bulldozer now sits quietly parked at the chained entrance to Oxford Valley, a reminder that development objectives, though stalled, are nevertheless present for the time being.
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