A Mill Valley address, but its own unique place
By Jim Wood
Photos by Tim Porter
It has a very rural feeling,” says attorney Jason Kuhns about Tamalpais Valley, aka Tam Valley, where he and wife Michele have lived for almost ten years. “Yet in ten minutes we’re across the bridge and in the ‘big city.’” The Kuhns, who have two sons ages two and four, are pleased with Tam Valley’s proximity to Tennessee Valley, Muir Beach and, for a less “rural” evening out, the Buckeye Roadhouse. What they don’t like about Tam Valley is the lack of an enticing commercial area. “There’s no post office, no deli, no clever shops,” says Michele Kuhns. “No places to poke around in.”
But what Tam Valley lacks in retail it more than makes up for in open spaces to roam. “For a real treat, head up Pine Hill off Shoreline Highway and work your way over to the Hawk Hill Park trail,” says Jon Elam, general manager of the Tamalpais Community Services District. Another of his favorites: the trail along Coyote Creek from Tam Valley’s picturesque Recreation Cabin to the bike path connecting Mill Valley with Sausalito. The Tamalpais Community Services District also owns seven parks, he says, including the “popular with parents” Kay Park (bordered only by homes, no streets) and the “picnic-friendly” Eastwood Park, which has basketball and tennis courts.
The community services district, the de facto landlord of Tam Valley, controls 27 miles of sewers, 12 garbage trucks and one tractor. With its 12 staffers and $3.5 million annual budget, the district ensures the unincorporated community is picked up, mowed down and flowing smoothly. And the Tam Valley Community Center on Tennessee Valley Road regularly hosts such free evening programs as movies (Charlotte’s Web), art (“What’s So Great About Picasso?”) and barbecues (hot dogs, hamburgers, including entertainment by the James Mosely Band).
Tam Valley also has one of Marin’s most popular spots to be married—the Peace Lutheran Church, a charming locale with stained-glass windows, brick courtyard and views of the surrounding hills and wetlands—and one of the most innovative places to be buried, the “green burial” destination known as Forever Fernwood.
“It’s what’s called a ‘natural burial,’” Fernwood manager Gary McRae explains. “The deceased cannot be embalmed, there can be no vault, and the casket must be biodegradable or none at all.” Often the body is wrapped in a favorite quilt before being laid to rest, and instead of a marble plot marker, the grave site is either marked with natural stone or recorded with GPS coordinates. The method may be modern, but Fernwood has been perched on its green hilltop since 1888.
A Tam Valley legend of a different sort dates back just 13 years—a considerable time when you’re an elementary school principal. Ask any local parent about Mrs. Gail Van Adelsberg and you’ll hear, “Oh, ‘Mrs. Van,’ she’s the greatest.” Many maintain she relates to every student in her highly acclaimed Tamalpais Valley Elementary School on a first-name basis. “She’s an institution in the valley,” says TCSD’s Jon Elam. “No one touches a larger segment of the community.”
Bobbi Glaser, a broker-associate with Pacific Union’s Strawberry Village office, who’s lived in Tam Valley since 1980, says the community has three primary attractions: good schools (“Tam Valley Elementary is excellent”), natural beauty combined with a variety of architectural styles, and an easy commute to San Francisco. There’s growing evidence others agree. “Within the past year, Tam Valley has experienced two sales in excess of $3 million,” Glaser reports. One property, a new five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath, almost 4,000-square-foot home on a level lot, sold for $3.5 million the minute it reached the market; the other, a shingled “East Coast type” with four bedrooms and four baths, went for $3.95 million.
“Generally, Tam Valley homes sell for between $800,000 and $1.8 million,” Glaser adds. On the low end, a “super-small” two-bedroom, one-bath home on a tiny lot recently brought $665,000. A current listing (not her own), which she believes is an “excellent buy,” carries a price tag of $1.6 million. “It’s an almost new three-bedroom, two-bath contemporary on a level lot with views of the valley and Richardson Bay.”
For years, many in Marin have only known Tam Valley as the first bend in the road going up Shoreline en route to Stinson or Muir Woods. “Well, they’re missing a real gem of a community,” Elam says. “But that’s OK. Everyone seems happy just the way things are.”
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