Bolinas is an unincorporated coastal community in Marin County, California. The census designated place is located on the California coast, approximately 13 miles (21 km) (straight line distance) northwest of San Francisco.
street scene in Bolinas, 2009
Location in the United States
|Coordinates: 37°54′34″N 122°41′11″W|
|Country||United States of America|
|• Supervisor||Steve Kinsey District 4|
|• State senator||Mike McGuire (D)|
|• Assemblymember||Marc Levine (D)|
|• U. S. rep.||Jared Huffman (D)|
|• Total||5.83 sq mi (15.09 km2)|
|• Land||5.83 sq mi (15.09 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2) 0%|
|Elevation||36 ft (11 m)|
|• Density||280/sq mi (110/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (Pacific)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-7 (PDT)|
|GNIS feature IDs||277476, 2407875|
The community is known for its reclusive residents. It is only accessible via unmarked roads; any road sign along State Route 1 that points the way into town has been torn down by local residents, to the point where county officials offered a ballot measure to which the voters responded by stating a preference for no more signs.
Bolinas sits at an elevation of 36 feet (11 m) above sea level. It is bound on the northeast by Bolinas Lagoon and Kent Island and on the south by Bolinas Bay and Duxbury Point. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 5.8 square miles (15 km2), all of it land. The GNIS has cited archaic alternate town-names, including "Ballenas", "Baulenas", "Baulings", and "Bawlines".
Bolinas' downtown is located on the eastern side of town along Wharf Road, which ends at Bolinas Lagoon. The downtown buildings were mostly built between 1850 and 1920. Brighton Avenue connects downtown to the south-facing Brighton Beach. In the southeast corner of town is the Little Mesa. The Big Mesa, also known as the Gridded Mesa, lies to the west, with Agate Beach at its western end.
By air, Bolinas is just 10 miles (16 km) west-southwest of San Rafael, and 13 miles (21 km) northwest of San Francisco. While located just 2 miles (3.2 km) from State Route 1, the area is not very accessible by car. The driving time from San Rafael is roughly 52 minutes, and it takes over an hour to drive to downtown San Francisco.
Bolinas lies west of the San Andreas Fault, which runs the length of Bolinas Lagoon and continues northward through Olema Valley and Tomales Bay. Bolinas and the Point Reyes peninsula are on the Pacific Plate, moving north relative to Stinson Beach and the North American Plate at an average rate of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) per year.
Prior to the European colonization of California, the Coast Miwok lived in the area, possibly calling the area "Bali-N."
In 1927, a 300-acre former dairy farm on the Big Mesa was subdivided into a grid of streets and 5,336 lots measuring 20' by 100'. Many of these lots were sold for $69.50 by the San Francisco Bulletin as a subscription promotion. Portions of the mesa, including sections of Ocean Parkway, have since eroded into the sea. A few streets on the mesa are paved and maintained by the county, but many are unpaved, and either maintained by adjoining property owners or completely unmaintained. The Big Mesa has no sewer system, and houses on the mesa have individual septic systems.
In 1967, the Bolinas Community Public Utility District was formed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. It merged two local water districts, the Bolinas Beach Public Utility District which served the Big Mesa, and the Bolinas Public Utility District which served the Downtown and Little Mesa, with the Marin County Sanitary District #3, formed in 1908 to provide sewer service in the downtown. The BCPUD provides water service and solid waste pickup throughout Bolinas, and sewer service to the Downtown and Little Mesa.
Bolinas' beaches were hit hard by the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill, with the community coming together to clean the beach of crude oil.
In November 1971, the Bolinas Community Public Utility District instituted a moratorium on new water permits, which halted the construction of new homes. The moratorium was based on the limited local water supply during the summer months and in drought years, and also serves to limit new development in Bolinas. In 1990, the BCPUD enacted a moratorium on new sewer connections, to address the limited capacity of the sewage collection system. Many lots, especially on the Big Mesa, remain undeveloped.
Bolinas and its reclusive reputation are featured in the 1981 novel Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach. In November 2003, Bolinas voters adopted Measure G. The advisory ballot measure, which was approved by a wide margin, asked for "the following language [to] constitute a policy of the Bolinas Community Public Utility District":
Vote for Bolinas to be a socially acknowledged nature-loving town because to like to drink the water out of the lakes to like to eat the blueberries to like the bears is not hatred to hotels and motor boats. Dakar. Temporary and way to save life, skunks and foxes (airplanes to go over the ocean) and to make it beautiful.
The measure was authored by long-time Bolinas resident, Jane Blethen aka "Dakar" who is known in the town for her eclectic and eccentric handmade newspaper and burlap outfits and tar face-paint. She is a fixture of the town and beloved by locals. Of the measure, Jane has said:
"There are too many machines and technology, and there needs to be some place for the disappearing animals. What we have is conflict between the airplanes flying over, the skunks and foxes. I'm saying each of them needs their place."
The Bolinas Museum was founded in 1983. Today, it contains five galleries featuring contemporary art, historical information, and works from local artists. Today, it puts on auctions and events for locals and visitors alike.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
The 2010 United States Census reported that the Bolinas CDP (Census-designated place) had a population of 1,620. The population density was 278.0 people per square mile (107.4/km²). The racial makeup of Bolinas was 1,406 (86.8 percent) White, 27 (1.7 percent) African American, 10 (0.6 percent) Native American, 17 (1.0 percent) Asian, 14 (0.9 percent) Pacific Islander, 64 (4.0 percent) from other races, and 82 (5.1 percent) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 260 persons (16.0 percent).
The Census reported that 88.4 percent of the population lived in households and 11.6 percent lived in non-institutionalized group quarters.
There were 698 households, out of which 144 (20.6 percent) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 259 (37.1 percent) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 54 (7.7 percent) had a female householder with no husband present, 32 (4.6 percent) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 49 (7.0 percent) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and nine (1.3 percent) same-sex married couples or partnerships. There were 280 households (40.1 percent) made up of individuals and 98 (14.0 percent) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05. There were 345 families (49.4 percent of all households); the average family size was 2.65.
The population was spread out with 234 people (14.4 percent) under the age of 18, 76 people (4.7 percent) aged 18 to 24, 385 people (23.8 percent) aged 25 to 44, 642 people (39.6 percent) aged 45 to 64, and 283 people (17.5 percent) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 115.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 113.6 males.
There were 986 housing units at an average density of 169.2 per square mile (65.3/km²), of which 57.4 percent were owner-occupied, and 42.6 percent were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7 percent; the rental vacancy rate was 2.6 percent. 54.1 percent of the population lived in owner-occupied housing units and 34.3 percent lived in rental housing units.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,246 people, 486 households, and 260 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 900.6 people per square mile (348.6/km²). There were 629 housing units at an average density of 454.7 per square mile (176.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP in 2000 was 77.7 percent non-Hispanic White, 0.5 percent non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.2 percent Native American, 0.9 percent Asian, 0.2 percent Pacific Islander, 0.1 percent from other races, and 4.3 percent from two or more races. 16.0 percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 486 households out of which 27.4 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9 percent were married couples living together, 10.5 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.3 percent were non-families. Of all households, 32.1 percent were made up of individuals and 4.5 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 21.0 percent under the age of 18, 4.7 percent from 18 to 24, 26.0 percent from 25 to 44, 40.3 percent from 45 to 64, and 8.0 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females, there were 110.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.1 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $53,188, and the median income for a family was $56,111. Males had a median income of $48,281 versus $40,417 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $28,973. About 5.5% of families and 10.2 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7 percent of those under age 18 and 2.8 percent of those age 65 or over.
Bolinas is in the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District, the Tamalpais Union High School District, and the Marin Community College District. Students in primary grades (kindergarten – grade 2) attend Stinson Beach School, while elementary grade students (grades 3–8) attend Bolinas School. Bolinas is included in the attendance area of Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley.
In 1951, Ford Times identified Bolinas as the first in its series of "Tom Sawyer Towns... a good place for boys and girls to live and grow... its school days, its summer vacations, its vast adventures in fishing, swimming, baseball, basking and dreaming in the sun. Such a place is Bolinas."
Bolinas is unincorporated, receiving general government services from Marin County, including law enforcement, land use planning, public health, and code enforcement. Two special districts provide local services. The Bolinas Community Public Utility District provides water and wastewater service and contracts for garbage and recycling collection. The Bolinas Fire Protection District provides fire protection, emergency medical care, and disaster management services.
Regional recreation and marine protected areas
Besides the public access beach near the downtown area, there is a county park, Agate Beach, which contains extensive tide pools that are protected as part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The town also hosts the Marin-Bolinas Botanical Gardens, and borders on the Point Reyes National Seashore to the north. Alamere Falls, one of only two beach waterfalls in the continental U.S., is on the California Coastal Trail from Palomarin Trailhead at the end of Mesa Rd.
Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area lies offshore from Bolinas. Like an underwater park, this marine protected area helps conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.
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- Bolinas Beach from the air, 2005 (California Coastal Records Project)
- Bolinas Library
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Point Reyes National Seashore travel guide from Wikivoyage