Strawberry Protests Branson’s Relocation


By Vincent Boot

Signs on the lawns and decks of hundreds of Strawberry homes read “No Branson,” particularly ones in close proximity to the Seminary.  The Seminary is a 101-acre neighborhood on the southern end of Strawberry in Mill Valley.

In September, the Seminary was bought by North Coast Land Holdings, a real estate development entity, for the large sum of $85 million. The developers aim to build more housing on the relatively open property and to allow The Branson School to relocate and expand on it. Branson’s goal is to create a much larger school than they have now; they look to construct a school suitable for over 1,000 students, just about tripling their current enrollment of 340.

The community in and around the Seminary is outraged for multiple reasons. They have coalesced under the Seminary Neighborhood Association, formed in June of 2010, aiming to make developments in the Seminary that reflect community input. They hold Strawberry community meetings and distribute “No Branson” signs.

According to the Association’s website, the development entity has restricted rights under the Strawberry Community Plan and the Seminary Master Plan. “They can ask for this change, but they have no right to expect this chance,” the website says. “When [Branson] purchased the property they did their due diligence and knew exactly what was allowed.”   

Tam junior Pablo Lochman, a strawberry resident, displays a “No Branson” sign on his lawn.  “Strawberry is a great community and already growing.  Adding a 1,000 student high school will make it difficult to get around and past Strawberry and will negatively affect the way of life for us residents,” Lochman said.

Other members of the community express a lot of concern towards the potential traffic, which the website reports is expected to increase by 1000 percent upon the current traffic activity in the area.  This traffic won’t just affect the Seminary, but all of Strawberry and Mill Valley as well.

The Seminary community (specifically The Seminary Neighborhood Association) is also worried about safety. “Thousands of cars coming and going, while neighborhood kids are biking and walking to school, is a real safety threat to our community,” their website says. 

Consistent with Lochman’s view of the situation, senior Trenten Francis said, “No one in Strawberry actually supports Branson coming in besides those associated with the actual school itself.”

According to the website, the review process will begin with the Strawberry Design Review Board, and then pass to the County Planning Commission. Their recommendation will be taken by the Board of Supervisors, who will vote on the issue.