An aerial view of the Lonee C. Hoytt campus in San Rafael, home to the Osher Marin JCC, Congregation Rodef Sholom and Brandeis Marin
An aerial view of the Lonee C. Hoytt campus in San Rafael, home to the Osher Marin JCC, Congregation Rodef Sholom and Brandeis Marin

Marin Jewish campus expansion slowed by neighbors’ concerns

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The three institutions that make up the Lonee C. Hoytt campus in San Rafael — the Osher Marin JCC, Congregation Rodef Sholom and Brandeis Marin — have long been planning a significant expansion. But things are on hold for now due to neighborhood concerns.

“Just the scope of the project, many people in the community felt like this is huge,” said Gina Hagen, vice president of the Santa Venetia Neighborhood Association.

Peg Sandel, head of school at Brandeis Marin, the K-8 Jewish day school, said that feedback from neighbors and concerns about traffic and parking were heard and changes were made in response.

“That’s what we have done,” she said. “We’ve scaled back the master plan.”

Planning for the project began about eight years ago, with leaders envisioning a setup that would provide for growth into the next generation. They started by applying for rezoning in 2018 so that variable zoning regulations across the 13-acre footprint could be changed to a single zoning designation; they also stated long-term tentative building goals that included senior housing, a middle-school building for Brandeis and a new synagogue building for Rodef Sholom.

Sandel said the original paperwork was filed “just to get some input from the community and county about some of our maximal long-term dreams for the campus.”

But the senior housing and the school building have been tabled after neighborhood associations pushed back. Judy Wolff-Bolton, the JCC’s executive director, said that’s because the campus is indeed listening. “We really care a lot about the community we live in, and making sure we’re in sync,” she said.

The campus is an unusual arrangement, with the three independent institutions jointly owning and managing the land and doing long-term planning together.

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The current application, which the campus submitted in early March, focuses on what Wolff-Bolton calls “shovel-ready” projects. It includes a potential update to an attic area at Brandeis that Sandel said would add about 2,000 square feet of classroom space.

Wolff-Bolton said the JCC is planning to replace existing swimming pools to update the aquatic center and revamp the preschool area and playground. And although she said the senior housing isn’t included in the application, it’s still something the JCC is thinking about for the future. “It’s still very important to me,” she said.

For its part, Rodef Sholom is going ahead with its new synagogue building, which will see the current one-story synagogue replaced with a larger, two-story structure.

Although it uses a San Rafael mailing address, the Lonee C. Hoytt Jewish Campus — named in honor of the deceased daughter of the now-late real estate developer Gerald Hoytt, who gave a $2 million gift to create the campus — it sits on unincorporated county land adjacent to San Rafael and close to the Marin County Civic Center. Hagen said the topography of the Santa Venetia area, with ingress either by the Jewish campus or on an often-flooded, bay-adjacent road, make things more difficult in terms of traffic and access.

“We have one way in, via North San Pedro Road,” said Hagen, a native of the Santa Venetia neighborhood according to her bio on the association’s website.

Although more conversations between the Jewish institutions and the community are expected, the current status between the parties is polite and amicable.

“We feel really fortunate that the JCC and campus partners have reached out to the community,” Hagen said, adding that she hopes there will be additional community meetings about the revised application.

And Sandel said that it was important to make sure everyone was on the same page, as the school, JCC and synagogue are part of the community.

“What we do is, we are good neighbors,” she said.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.