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Sausalito Volunteers Help Create Senior Housing

Case Story

Marin County is one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Imagine the challenge of building affordable housing in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Then imagine the challenge of pulling this off with fundraising, planning and construction oversight done entirely by volunteers.

Project Description

Sausalito’s Rotary Club built two separate projects that have provided 32 units of affordable housing to senior citizens in their community.

The Rotary Club’s first project, Rotary Place, is a 10 unit senior housing project. Built in 1991, this complex has units that rent from $550 to $750 monthly, well below market rents for Marin County.

The second Rotary housing project, Rotary Village, was completed in early 2004. Sausalito Rotary received approvals to build a 22 unit Senior Housing complex on property purchased from Sausalito’s longstanding Portuguese religious and cultural group known as IDESST. The corrugated metal barn on the site originally served as a slaughterhouse for cattle used by generations of Portuguese for their annual Pentecost celebration. It has been restored and preserved as a historic structure and incorporated as a community room for the new complex.


The project was not without some bumps in the road. Some nearby residents initially expressed concern about the impact that an affordable multi-family housing project would have on their property values. The Rotarians worked closely with the residents to resolve differences over the design of the complex, resulting in the unanimous support of the neighbors, the planning commission and city council for the project.

Then, during construction, work was halted when bone and shell fragments were uncovered. An archaeologist was called in to review a possible Native American archaeological site. On a humorous note, the archaeologist determined that the fragments were simply the bovine remains of past Pentocostal feasts, and construction was allowed to continue.

Community Outreach / Coordination

The teamwork began with the members of the board of Directors of Rotary Housing, Inc. (a separate corporation from the Rotary Club of Sausalito but made up exclusively of Sausalito Rotary members) who donated their time and expertise. The overseeing contractor was a board member, as was the architect, the property manager, and the treasurer. Materials used in roofing and plumbing were obtained through Sausalito and Marin County Rotarians. The landscape architect was also a Rotarian.


The Rotarians raised money for this project primarily by operating the parking concession for the annual Sausalito Art Festival. The City of Sausalito has allowed Rotary to park the cars on the City’s athletic fields for many years in support of this effort.

The Portuguese community members supported the project by selling the land. The group originally acquired the land with a $10 gold piece in 1915 for a below market price of $1 million and they are carrying the 30 year loan.

The City of Sausalito assisted by using tax-exempt, low interest bonds. Thanks to a letter of credit securing this pass-through arrangement and thorough work by the bond counsel, there is absolutely no risk to the City of Sausalito’s general fund or credit rating from this financing. As an added bonus, the Rotary Club was able to repay the $27,000 in consultant, legal and staff expenses the City of Sausalito incurred for the project, and yet they still came out many thousands of dollars ahead on the financing.


The real winners are Sausalito’s senior citizens who became the residents of Rotary Housing’s low-income housing project.

Future Projects

The Sausalito Rotary Club has now set their sights on another goal: the construction of an affordable workforce housing project.


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