Historical Information

Bel Marin Keys is a beautiful waterfront community located east of the city of Novato. The community has approximately 700 homes. Most of the homes sit either on one of the many lagoons or on Novato Creek. All of the lagoons have access to San Pablo Bay through the navigational locks.

A document contained in the archives of the Novato History Museum, titled The Way We Were - A History of Bel Marin Keys was believed to have been created in 1987 and provides a seemingly well written and succinct narration of Bel Marin Keys history. It has been reproduced here with license from the Novato History Museum:

"Original plans begun in 1961 by Jack West for Bel Marin Keys consisted of a development of 2,200 acres with 5,000 homes, 18 hole golf course, two-story yacht club, country club with banquet facilities, Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts and a riding academy with eighteen moles of trails. Later additions would include school facilities, a shopping center and a church site.

Mr. West an experienced Land Developer, selected this site because of the excellent weather and the potential of developing the water oriented community that we have today. His original plan was modified several times to attempt to take advantage of the natural amenities.

At the turn of the century just about all of the land in the area behind the dikes that border San Pablo Bay was being farmed intensively by California Packing Corporation which eventually became Del Monte Foods. Mr. West's home, on the South Side of Bel Marin Keys Boulevard on "Headquarters Hill" just before you enter the development, was the ranch manager's home and the surrounding buildings housed many of the permanent farm employees. The old water tower is still visible and just a few years ago, when Bermuda Harbor Condominiums were built, the grain silos that held fodder for the farm's animals were finally demolished.

The plan envisioned a series of peninsulas surrounded by water which would be created by excavating the meadows. Little outside fill was expected to be needed because the majority of the earth would come from the channels being dug. An engineer made a bad judgement in over compacting the soil on the first street (Montego Key) and came up a million yards short. State Fish and Game Department got involved and demanded that one acre be set aside for "wetland mitigation" for each acre developed. Financial problems developed and the plans were modified. The original builders went into bankruptcy and the unfinished homes sat vacant for several months and eventually sold at distress prices. Some of the first homes on Montego Key were occupied as early as 1964. Many homes were not sold because prospective buyers said that they could not get their large cruisers and sailboats through the shallow area of San Pablo Bay into Novato Creek. Mr. West then went to the extra expense of changing the channel to run into the Petaluma River and then into San Pablo Bay and at the same time did some maintenance dredging in Novato Creek during the winter of 1966-67."

Except for the large file titled, "Plans for BMK Development", the other pdf files images are displayed with license from The Novato History Museum.

A Community for Boatmen

April 1969
License from the Novato History Museum
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A Deep-water Resort for Seafaring Families

License from the Novato History Museum
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Bel Marin Keys Before Lagoons

1967
License from the Novato History Museum
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Bel Marin Keys Hires an Attorney

1971
License from the Novato History Museum
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BMK Expansion Plan

1994
License from the Novato History Museum
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BMK HOA

June 1971
License from the Novato History Museum
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BMK HOA Meeting

April 1971
License from the Novato History Museum
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Marin Homes with Private Docs

License from the Novato History Museum
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New Community on Deep Channel Waterways

License from the Novato History Museum
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Plans for BMK Developement - NEW

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