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Sometimes properties have a poetry all their own. Their details harmonize together to present a picture greater than the parts and a feeling is evoked. Such is the case with 40 Canyon. It is no accident that the prior owners were experts of design and the aesthetic for they would easily see the magic of such a property. Currently living in Italy, they still speak of how these spaces evoked the feelings of other spaces in Italy with the terraced yard and particular details of the interiors. Close to the incredible open space preserves of Sky Ranch Open Space, Bald Hill preserve, Deer Park, and Natalie Coffin Green Park, this property provides access to endless hiking, running, or mountain biking on some of the best Marin trails. The property spans street-street and meanders up the lot from one charming unit to another. The lower studio unit includes a one car garage and a small patio with gardens. The main unit holds the center of the parcel and boasts great light and fine details, including light hardwood & terracotta tile flooring, casement windows, pitched ceiling with skylights, wood stove, wainscotting, decorative shelving, and great flow. The remodeled kitchen opens up to the dining room with built-in shelving and window seat and flows easily to the living room. The kitchen includes marble counters, butcher block island, wooden cabinetry, stainless appliances, double sink, gas range, and gooseneck Grohe fixture. Finally, further up the lot with its’ own dedicated outdoor spaces is the third unit. This is also a studio unit with similar charming details as the others. Two dedicated parking spots are included on the upper road providing each unit a parking space. The two studio units are currently vacated, while the two-bedroom unit is leased through March 2022. The property is a great income investment opportunity or could be someone’s home with extra units available for personal use or as rental for income.
- Three grandfathered units, each with separate entrance and each with one dedicated parking spot. Garage for one parking spot, two additional ones on Scenic Ave.
- Double access to property from Canyon Road (bottom) and from Scenic Ave. (top).
- Automated irrigation system in all garden except bottom part (area with citrus trees)
- Outdoor lights on stairs and pathways through the property.
- Sump pump in basement.
- Redwood trees, fruit trees.
- Unit 1:
- Studio unit features free-standing gas stove, full-size refrigerator, (deep) double sink, garbage disposal, skylight in kitchen, full bathroom with fan/heater, closet, dedicated patio with French doors, dedicated washer & dryer and water heater (in garage), one-car garage.
- Unit 2:
- Two-bedroom unit features a large entry space, a living room with tall ceilings, skylights, hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, and built in shelves; the updated tiled kitchen features stainless-steel appliances (free-standing gas stove), (deep) double sink, garbage disposal, Multipure filter, marble counter tops, portable bamboo-top island, wooden cabinetry, full-size refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven and a large skylight; the dining room is conveniently connected between the kitchen and the living room; each bedroom features carpeted floors and a closet—and both connect directly to the bathroom. The tiled full bathroom includes a tub with shower, a fan, and a fan/heater. In the basement there is a dedicated water heater, a furnace for the forced air heating, and a washer & dryer (shared with unit #3). There is a secondary exit door in one bedroom. There is one dedicated parking spot.
- Unit 3:
- This studio unit features a free-standing gas stove, full-size refrigerator, (deep) double sink, garbage disposal, operable garden window in kitchen, electric fan wall heater, skylight, closet, bathroom with tub/shower, and fan/heater. There is also a deck with storage closet attached. There is one dedicated parking spot.
- Walk to hiking trails
- Close proximity to downtown Fairfax and San Anselmo
- Great school district
- Sewer lateral upgraded in 8/2018.
- Two new water drainage systems installed in 2019: One at the bottom of the property and the other one at the top going all the way from under the top stairs to Canyon Road—as suggested by Roy Forster.
- Plantings throughout the property, and extension of the automated irrigation system—upper and middle part of the property only.
- Installed leaf and debris guards on all rain gutters.
- Unit 1—Installation of a new refrigerator, garbage disposal, kitchen sink, kitchen faucet, fan heater and light fixture in the bathroom, and all new Lutron electrical outlets and switches (including a brand-new electrical outlet in the unit’s patio). We also repainted all the windows, replaced the garage door opening switch in the unit, and installed a new water heater in the garage.
- Unit 2—Installed a shelving system (in the kitchen, dining, and living room), new fixtures for bathroom tub/shower, installed Multipure-brand water filter unit in the kitchen, and last month had a new water heater installed.
- Unit 3—Installed a shelving system in the primary space.
What We Love
When we first moved to the property as renters, I was skeptical if it was the right decision. The property definitely didn’t conform to the ideal of the standard American middle-class home. And then there were a lot of stairs. Very quickly though the stairs, instead of being a burdensome obligation, became a way for me to enjoy the nature. Even sweeping them had a revelatory dimension. (It was so inspiring that I wrote part of a chapter of a book about it.)
Yet, the more time I spent at the property, the more I began to appreciate its genius. It was authentic Old California perfectly perched on a slope best angled to capture the sun’s journey across the sky. The light outside was always bright and cheerful, but never oppressively intense, thanks in part to majestic trees in and surrounding the property—oaks, redwoods, bay, buckeye, plum, and fig.
Unit 2 was where my wife, preteen son, and I lived. Although small for three (all working at home) people, it turned out to be a cozy and comfortable place. With expansive windows and skylights throughout, the immediacy of the landscape mentally enlarged our home threefold. Spending a day inside became a joyful event.
Towards the end of our residency, we used Unit 3 as a family office and art studio. We marveled how different the property felt from this new vantage point. When in Unit 3 I felt safely suspended somewhere between my canyon youth in the hills of Southern California and Japan, where I also used to live.
For our family, the property’s location was perfect. It was absolutely quiet, broken only by sounds of nature. There were no noises of busy streets, highways, or freeways. I loved the way the sun moved around the property throughout the day. I loved the variety and scale of the trees on and around the property—and the way the light filtered through these trees. I loved the idiosyncratic, albeit authentic feeling of “Old California” that the structures evoked. I loved the Italianesque feeling of the terraced landscape. And I loved the property’s proximity to some of the best hiking trails in Marin and to Good Earth, possibly the best natural food market in the entire Bay Area.
The grounds: I always felt as if I was back in Italy, on a terraced hillside as on the Amalfi Coast. With the mix of majestic tress—the redwoods, the oaks, the bay, the plum, the buckeye, and even the ancient fig —I always felt that I was a guest in the realm of nature. The units and landscape don’t conform to a contemporary American suburban ideal, and that gave me a feeling of relief. In this home and property, I was free to be what I wanted to be. The property has a kind of nobility and specialness that exempts those who live here from the usual pressures of the “rat race.”
There is another feature too, though not a formal part of the property itself. It is the proximity—a few hundred yards—to some of the most spectacular hiking trails in Marin. During the pandemic the daily use of these trails was essential for maintaining our physical and mental health. These trails are, in the end, what I lived in Marin for.
This property is a vernacular California cottage from 1910. It has many original architectural features from this period. It has been respectfully upgraded into three functional and comfortable apartments. The terraced terrain allows for different perspectives/views depending on where you stand. The location is also home to different micro climates, from cool shade under the redwoods to sun-bathing weather while picking fruit from the fig tree. One of the first things that struck us about this place was the light. It has beautiful light all day long.
The location was extremely important to us: we wanted to send our son to good public schools (although we even considered the private San Domenico school nearby). He loved going to the local public school and easily made friends in the neighborhood. Because we both work from home, we were looking for a property that had easy access to biking and hiking trails—without having to take the car for our daily exercise. We fell in love with the beautiful Sky Ranch and Bald Hill trails just minutes away. Fairfax and San Anselmo are just ten minutes walking distance with wonderful grocery stores and restaurants. We enjoyed going to downtown Fairfax for a casual dinner and, even more, walking back home in the evening in the temperate San Anselmo climate.
We like the versatility this property allows. Having three grandfathered separate legal units, we lived in the main unit while benefiting from receiving rent from the other two—with the added benefit of having lovely neighbors. It has been a joy living there.
Great weather, access to hiking and biking trails, good schools, and a strong, vibrant downtown make San Anselmo a desirable destination for Marin County homebuyers looking to live a little off the beaten track. The neighborhood surrounding the San Francisco Theological Seminary is a quiet, leafy enclave of large, older houses with well-tended yards. Heading up Butterfield Road will take you to the rolling hills above San Anselmo and sweeping views of the open spaces, grasslands, and oak trees of northern Marin County. Downtown, locals get their fill of delicious food at MH Bread and Butter or Cucina and and shop for clothing, gifts and accessories in many of the downtown boutiques. San Anselmo is a town made for strolling. Small shops and many restaurants line the main street, which backs onto the active San Anselmo Creek.