Tiburon is one of the most affluent communities in the Bay Area. Located on the first large peninsula in Marin just past Sausalito, Tiburon is surrounded by water on three sides and is the ideal place if you are looking for a high end home with a view of the Bay and San Francisco. With all these expansive vistas, Tiburon hills are a perfect setting for modern architecture, but also count many traditional mansions and mid century homes and very high end, view condominiums.
Located about 10-15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Tiburon is also an easy commute to downtown San Francisco with the ferry.
Careful development has kept Tiburon’s coastal beauty intact throughout its long, colorful history. The city has instituted a number of building policies to regulate new construction, and preserve the character of the city’s oldest buildings. Tiburon homes and condos come in a wide variety of luxury styles, with prices extending well into the millions for a top-end home. Many properties here have access to open space and walking and biking paths leading into the surrounding hills.
Tiburon condo prices range from $400,000 to $1,500,000 with an average of $980,000.
Single-family homes range from $800,000 to $20,000,000 with an average of $3,400,000.
A little history…
Tiburón means “shark” in Spanish. Whether Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala saw a number of sharks near where he anchored the San Carlos in August 1775, off what is now Angel Island, or whether the tree covered Tiburon Peninsula looked like a shark we may never know. The Miwok Indians had lived here for thousands of years but there is no clear concept of what they called the peninsula.John Reed, from Dublin, received a provisional grant for much of Southern Marin, including the Tiburon Peninsula, from the Mexican authorities in 1831, and was formally granted the Rancho Corte de Madera del Presidio in 1834. Reed married Hilaria Sanchez, daughter of the commandante of the San Francisco Presidio in 1836. The Reed name is preserved on streets, subdivisions, and the local school district. Various forms of Hilaria’s name, and that of her granddaughter Hilarita Reed, are found on streets, a housing development, and the Catholic Church.Hilarita married Dr. Benjamin Lyford, who became the first land developer with his Lyford’s Hygeia, now Old Tiburon. Their house, formerly located on their dairy farm on Strawberry Point, is now a feature of the Audubon Society’s Western Headquarters and Sanctuary on Greenwood Beach Road.
Life changed little in the 40 years between the death of John Reed in 1842,and the arrival of Peter Donahue in 1882. Donahue brought with him the North Pacific Railroad (later the Northwestern Pacific Railroad). He made a deal with the Reed family for a right-of-way, blasted out the rock at Point Tiburon, and built a railroad yard and ferry terminal. The passenger ferries took commuters and automobiles to San Francisco and Sausalito, while barges carried loaded freight cars to San Francisco and Richmond.
The last railroad operated passenger ferry left Tiburon in 1941, but the passenger and freight trains ran until 1967. Passenger ferry service was resumed in the 1960s when Harbor Carriers utilized sightseeing boats in the early morning and evening hours. In the 1970s the railroad tore up the tracks, plugged the tunnels, removed the trestle over Trestle Glen, and demolished the railroad ferry pier. The railroad right-of-way was purchased by the City of Tiburon and is now the waterfront Multi-Use Path. After years of hearings and studies, the former railroad yards became the Point Tiburon housing and commercial project.
During its heyday the railroad-ferry service brought many other industries to Tiburon. Codfish canneries sprouted along the bay shore to can fish brought down from Alaska. Ship dismantlers broke up many obsolete ocean-going vessels, and the Navy established a huge coaling station on the east shore of the peninsula. Brick kilns were built and several powder plants opened, and oyster beds developed in the shallow waters of the bay. The rail yards were fully equipped to not only repair and service trains but to build passenger and freight cars and locomotives.
Several of the largest San Francisco Bay ferries were built in the Tiburon yards. The Navy coaling station has played a prominent part in Tiburon and Bay Area history. Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet was refueled there on its famous round-the-world cruise. Coaling service ended in 1931 and the California Maritime Academy moved in to train officers for the merchant fleet. Because the large cranes left over from the coaling operations were still operational, the company spinning the cables for the Golden Gate Bridge set up shop.
As World War II loomed the site was converted to the manufacture and service of huge anti-submarine nets, which guarded the Golden Gate and other harbors across the Pacific, and to train the sailors to handle them. Later, the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the Bureau of Fisheries established research facilities on the site and the Coast Guard’s icebreakers made this their summer home. It is now the Romberg Environmental Center operated by San Francisco State University.
World War II brought more people to Tiburon as the Navy built housing for NetDepot workers on the site of the present Hilarita Housing, for sailors from submarines at an annex to the Net Depot (now Paradise Beach County Park). Real estate development did not get under way in any meaningful form until after the end of the war. The descendants of the Reed family still controlled most of the land that was used for cattle ranching. Small areas of filled land were sold off to create the Bel Aire and Belveron Gardens subdivisions. The Little Reed Ranch was sold and Hawthorne Terrace, Del Mar and Reed Heights subdivisions were well under way by the time the County finally got around to preparing a Master Plan for the Tiburon Peninsula.
After several years of public hearings and discussions with the primary landowners a Master Plan was finally completed in 1956. It had something for everyone: freeways on both sides of the peninsula, a four lane “ridge route” down the center of the peninsula (with a high level bridge over Trestle Glen Blvd.), a shopping center on the crest of Ring Mountain, and a bridge to San Francisco (via Angel Island and Alcatraz) off the end. A land use density of two homes to the acre, plus areas zoned for apartments and duplexes, would have permitted 50,000 to 60,000 people to live in Tiburon.
There had been numerous attempts to incorporate a City of Tiburon over the years but they had all failed to come to a vote due to the opposition of the large land owners. The only semblance of local land use input came from the Tiburon Peninsula Coordinating Council (TPCC). This was made up of representatives of each of the home owners associations; the school, fire and sanitary districts; and the City of Belvedere. In 1963, after a number of adverse rulings by County planners regarding development on the Tiburon Peninsula, the leaders of the TPCC decided that another attempt to incorporate was justified. A separate incorporation committee was established and work began. The main issues were: revision of the 1956 Master Plan, improved police services, the bridge to San Francisco, preserving open space, and getting some form of effective local government.
One of the first challenges to be decided was just what properties were to be included in the incorporated area. The mapping committee started with the Tiburon Fire Protection District map as a base. The properties of large land owners who had been able to frustrate previous attempts were eliminated from the map. Certain areas, such as the Reedlands and part of Belveron Gardens, which were outside the Tiburon Fire District, but which wanted to be in the new city, were added. Angel Island, also outside the fire district boundary, was more controversial. Most did not see any value to having it within the city limits, as it was a state park. The counter argument was that it was “there”, and we wanted a say in whatever future development might be planned. The County Boundary Commission (later LAFCO), at the time made up of the members of the Board of Supervisors wanted it out of the new city because of potential sales tax revenues.
They finally yielded to arguments put forth by the incorporation committee, and let it remain within the new city limits. In March 1964 an election was held to create the City of Tiburon, and on June 23, 1964, the incorporation was final and a City Council seated, and mayor elected.
A city manager was hired and a contract for police services was made with the county sheriff. A Planning Commission was established and commissioners appointed. Offices at 80 Main Street were rented. To help plan for the future the Tiburon Advisory Committee was appointed, consisting of citizens who had been active in community affairs. Their report, issued in 1965, outlined goals in land use, recreation, traffic, and “image”.
In 1966, at the first election after incorporation, three of the incumbents were replaced. Over the next several years, the new City Council strengthened the Planning Commission and divided it further into Boards of Design Review and Adjustments. They completed a new Master Plan and General Plan for the peninsula and new zoning ordinances to implement the plans. They also created a parks and recreation commission. Special ordinances to protect trees and to protect views were created. Property values were rising faster than funds could be accumulated so bonds were issued and several hundred acres of open space were acquired. Several hundred additional acres were purchased by the Nature Conservancy to permanently protect the ridgelines, and the City purchased additional land from the Navy. The railroad right-of-way, almost 2.5 miles of frontage on Richardson Bay, was acquired for a bicycle path.
One of the most difficult decisions involved traffic planning. After numerous public hearings it was finally decided that Tiburon Boulevard would remain a two-lane road east of Trestle Glen Blvd. Stop lights and turnouts were scheduled east of that point and eventually built. The four-lane bypass section from Highway 101 to Blackie’s Pasture (the old Tiburon Blvd. became Greenwood Beach Road) was completed in 1966. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) had anticipated extending the four lanes downtown, so the fill created during this project was placed in the Bay east of Blackie’s Pasture, and after the City did some land swapping with Caltrans, became McKegney Green and the park South of Knoll Park. Blackie’s Pasture property was also acquired and became part of the series of waterfront parks and paths known as the Richardson Bay Lineal Park.
LAFCO determined that Tiburon’s sphere of influence would extend to Highway 101. Annexation of the rest of the peninsula was attempted but never successful due to opposition in Strawberry. Eventually, those areas that wished to be within the city limits were annexed, and the city grew westward to include the Reedland Woods, Bel Aire, Tiburon Crest and Cypress Hollow subdivisions.
The completion of the Point Tiburon development in the former railroad yards signaled a change in the population mix and needs of the area. The Town acquired the waterfront land as part of the Point Tiburon development and created the Ferry Landing and Plaza. In 1997 a new Town Hall was opened with a new Belvedere-Tiburon Library next door. A new police station followed in 2000.
Following a large and successful Millennium Party the Town has pursued a policy to revitalize Main Street and the rest of Downtown Tiburon. Main Street was reconstructed for both aesthetics and to make it and the shops and restaurants handicapped accessible. The Allan Thompson Walkway along the water side of Main Street was completely rebuilt. A waterfront park from the ferry landing to Elephant Rock Fishing Pier included the Donahue Building, last survivor of the railroad presence. In the summer of 2004 a series of “Friday Nights on Main Street” community parties was inaugurated. Main Street was closed to automobile traffic and the restaurants created special menus for the occasion. Tables in the street in front of each restaurant added to the festivities.
In November, 2006, a commissioned fountain with a nautically themed sculpture titled “Coming About” was unveiled at the entrance to Main Street. About half of the $500,000 cost of the sculpture was donated by the Zelinsky family, longtime owners of many commercial properties in Tiburon. The sculpture was designed by Jeffery Reed and Jennifer Madden.
Fountain in Downtown Tiburon, CA