Belvedere

One of Marin’s most affluent cities is also among its oldest
Photos by Tim Porter

Most in Marin know Belvedere (pop. 2,060) and Tiburon (pop. 8,660) share a city boundary. For about a mile and a half, one side is Belvedere and the other Tiburon. However, few realize that boundary line cuts right through Boardwalk Market, a local gathering spot that both communities, rightly so, claim as their own.

“The problem is,” says longtime Belvedere resident Charles Auerbach, “all the checkout stations are located in Tiburon, so Belvedere gets none of Boardwalk Market’s sales tax revenues.” That — along with a summertime influx of overly aggressive deer —may be Belvedere’s only problems. The town’s population is actually getting younger. “For quite a while, the median age in Belvedere was in the upper 50s, which is troubling,” says City Manager George Rodericks, “but now, with house prices leveling off, we’re starting to see families with five-, six-, and seven-year-old kids moving in. That’s a healthy sign; young families are good for a community.”

In fact, Rodericks finds much that is good in the 114-year-old city he’s employed to manage. “Belvedere is a great community,” he says. “The residents know what they want.” In addition, like Lola, what Belvedere residents want, Belvedere residents get—for the most part anyway. “Generally speaking,” says Rodericks, “our streets are pothole- free, our police force keeps the city mostly crime-free, and the nearby fire and sanitation districts do an excellent job at what they do.”

Furthermore, what the city of Belvedere cannot provide, the Belvedere Community Foundation often steps up to make possible. “The foundation played a big role in reworking and updating our two city parks,” says Rodericks. “Now they’re doing what parks are meant to do—attract families, kids and seniors alike.”

Belvedere has only 2.4 square miles, and all but about a fifth of that land is underwater. Geographically, in simple terms, the city consists of two once-upon-a-time “islands” with a lagoon between them. The larger of the two islands, Belvedere, is where most of the town’s approximately 1,000 homes have been built. Corinthian, the smaller island, is, like the aforementioned Boardwalk Market, shared with the town of Tiburon. Located between these two rather hilly islands, and stretching to the west, is Belvedere Lagoon, an idyllic private body of water often used for kayaking, small-scale sail boating and swimming.

Even Charles Auerbach — the Belvedere resident who laments Boardwalk Market’s tax revenues all going to Tiburon — greatly admires the city in which he has lived for well over 50 years. “I think it’s terrific,” he says. “Unlike many California cities, we’re not in trouble — fiscally or otherwise,” he adds. “You can see I love this place; it’s been a huge part of my life.”

Auerbach, a Belvedere city council member and mayor during the late ’70s and early ’80s, particularly enjoys morning walks with his daughter Darby and their two dogs. “We head for the New Morning Cafe,” he says, “because there’s a place to tie up the dogs while we eat breakfast.” What Auerbach misses is a community arts center. “The vacant DeLano’s Market would be perfect for it,” he points out. “We used to have the Cove Players, a rather good acting group; this would be ideal for them.” An art gallery and a variety of dance performances would be nice, too: “It would make this area similar to Cape Cod,” he concludes.

For the moment, realtor Lydia Sarkissian, the top producer for Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty, doesn’t share Auerbach’s enthusiasm for all things Belvedere. “Our real estate didn’t do so well in 2009,” she says in a tone uncharacteristic for her normally upbeat stance. “Our top sale was only $6.25 million.”

Over the past 12 months, she adds, Belvedere saw 22 sales in the $2 to $5 million range, eight of those properties on the Belvedere Lagoon. The lowest-priced Belvedere sale was $1.78 million; the lowest current listing is $1.89 million for “a small home needing work.”

“Also,” she says, “construction is under way on a 15,000-square-foot home on two lots with views of the city, Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge.” Sarkissian was involved in the sale of the two lots. “Together, they sold in 2008 for $9.275 million and, when construction is finished, the home will be available for $45 million.”

Sarkissian says current Belvedere listings include One Cliff Road, an estate on Richardson Bay for “just under” $30 million. Another headliner is the historically significant Blanding House at the tip of Belvedere Island at $48 million. “These two properties are each one-of-a-kind,” she adds enthusiastically; “they are very special homes in a very special area. There’s no place in the world like Belvedere.”

Categories: Environment, Neighborhoods