Radical environmental protectionism in a small community : a study of the Bolinas water moratorium

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


A moratorium on further extension of water service was instituted to halt population growth in Bolinas, California on November 26, 1971 by the Bolinas Community Public Utilities District. This action by the recently elected Public Utilities Board reflected community attitudes towards environmental, concerns which had developed in response to recent moves to further develop and commercialize the area. Political response to environmental issues resulted in defeat of supporters of a multi-million dollar regional sewerage system. The ideology of the new community leadership contained elements of the radical "New Left" movement of the sixties, environmental protectionism, agrarian romanticism, and parallels to the American populist movement. The ideology when put into practice at Bolinas revealed a number of discrepancies not anticipated at the outset. Tactics used to retain the moratorium resulted in deterioration of the water supply, inadequate fire protection, and an increase in the occupancy of sub-standard illegal dwellings. Meanwhile real estate prices rose, pricing many of the original supporters of a no-growth policy for Bolinas out of residency. Growth was not appreciably affected by the moratorium; the population has more than doubled in a five-year period. The mixed rural and vacation community is well on its way to becoming an expensive and therefore exclusive suburb.




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