County of Marin - News Releases - Stream Conservation Area Ruling

For Immediate Release
December 05, 2014

County Prevails in San Geronimo Valley Court Ruling

Challenger SPAWN and County differed on development in watershed

San Rafael, CA – A Marin County Superior Court judge has rejected an effort by an environmental nonprofit group to add a new injunction on all land development within the stream conservation areas of San Geronimo Valley.

A closeup of a stream in the Ross Valley, with rocks and vegetationIn March 2014, the California 1st Appellate District Court of Appeal reversed both aspects of a 2012 Marin County Superior Court judgment in a case between the County of Marin and the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) in the nonprofit’s challenge over the environmental impact report (EIR) that was prepared as part of the 2007 update to the Countywide Plan.

At issue is the Countywide Plan’s Stream Conservation Area ordinance (SCA) and its application to more than 1,100 properties located within 100 feet of San Geronimo Creek and other creeks that are habitat for endangered coho salmon. The SCA, developed by the Community Development Agency (CDA), not only protects streams and riparian habitats but establishes special permit areas for new development.

The December 5 ruling by Judge Paul Haakenson reaffirmed the advice the County provided following the Court of Appeal ruling that SCA property owners in the San Geronimo Valley – including the unincorporated villages of Forest Knolls, Woodacre, Lagunitas and San Geronimo – may pursue development applications in conformance with the County’s 1994 Countywide Plan policies and ordinances. 

Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who represents the San Geronimo Valley in District 4, said he has supported the work of County planners on stream conservation.

"I am relieved that the court affirmed that San Geronimo Valley residents will not be unfairly treated on their own properties as we all work to protect and restore our salmon fishery in the Lagunitas Creek watershed,” he said. “Aggressive litigation is not the tool to strengthen our efforts, and this ruling reinforces that."

The County adopted the EIR when it approved the 2007 update to the Marin Countywide Plan and took measures to protect fish. However, SPAWN challenged the issue of sensitive habitat in the rural San Geronimo Valley sub-watershed of the Lagunitas watershed. 

Marin County Superior Court upheld the validity of the EIR in September 2012 but issued an injunction against the approval of most development in the San Geronimo Valley until an SCA ordinance was adopted. A development moratorium was in effect until the Board of Supervisors approved an interim SCA ordinance in October 2013. According to CDA, there has been limited development activity within the SCA since the injunction was first lifted with the passage of the interim SCA ordinance.

The December 5 ruling removes the uncertainty about a reinstatement of the injunction by the Superior Court.


David Zaltsman
Deputy County Counsel
Office of the County Counsel

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6127
Email: David Zaltsman