Terra Linda, San Rafael, California
|Former unincorporated community|
|Elevation||171 ft (52 m)|
Terra Linda is located on what was formerly the property of the Manuel T. Freitas family, immigrant Portuguese owners of part of the Rancho San Pedro, Santa Margarita y Las Gallinas Mexican land grant. The ranch was originally operated as a dairy farm. The site of the ranch house and buildings is now the site of St. Isabella's Catholic Church and School.
Most of Terra Linda was built after World War II and was largely completed by 1970. Terra Linda was originally developed by a group, Alliance Construction. The first residences were model homes on Hyacinth Way. They were of the then contemporary modern (Eichler) style; concrete slab foundation, hydronic heat, cork floors, low pitch, open beam ceilings, clerstory and gable windows. Terra Linda is located in North San Rafael and shares on ZIP code 94903 with Santa Venetia, Marinwood, and Lucas Valley.  About 900 homes in Terra Linda were built by Joseph Eichler from 1955 to 1965. The distinctive architectural style of Eichler homes provides a historic element. Terra Linda's main streets are Las Gallinas, Freitas Parkway, and Redwood Highway. Its population is about 10,000.
Early Terra Linda residents formed a Community Services District, and Recreation & Parks District, under the direct authority of the Marin County government. These entities built the public infrastructure that stands today. In the early 1970s, citizens voted to annex these entities to the City of San Rafael.
The valley's main arteries, Manuel T. Freitas Parkway and Del Ganado Road, follow Santa Margarita creek, whose bed was cemented over in the early 1960s and turned into a storm trough when the area was developed. Freitas Parkway was originally designed to have three lanes (it currently just has two) each way to go over the ridge into the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood of San Anselmo. This design was never finished after Marin County Open Space bought the land on the ridge. Plans are being made to restore the creek to its original state and redesign Freitas Parkway to accommodate the creek. Costs to restore the creek are estimated at $20 million.
Schools in the Terra Linda area include the Dixie School District (Dixie Elementary School, Mary Silveira Elementary School, Vallecito Elementary School, and Miller Creek Middle School), Terra Linda High School (2010 NCS 2A Rewood Empire Wrestling Champions and rival of San Rafael High School: both are in the San Rafael City High School District), and a number of private schools including St. Isabella’s Parish School (a Catholic K-8 school which in the Archdiocese of San Francisco), and St. Marks private school. St. Marks was previously known as Don Timoteo Elementary School, named after Don Timoteo Murphy, who built the first house in San Rafael. He was one of the first residents of Marin County and owned a large amount of land in the area. He also managed the property of (Mission San Rafael Arcángel). Montessori operates in Christ Presbyterian Church facilities.
Terra Linda's Marindale School, a school for students who have orthopedic disabilities, was a famous pioneer from the 1950s forward in providing a combination of specialized and mainstream education for its students, who became members of the co-located Santa Margarita School classes for a part of each day.
At the edge of Terra Linda sits the world-famous Guide Dogs for the Blind, which predates the community. Its "students" and trainers can be seen walking Terra Linda and San Rafael streets each day.
The Mall at Northgate is the only enclosed mall in Marin County. Two anchor tenants dating from its original open-air design were The Emporium, now Macy's, and Sears. There is also a Kohl's (previously Mervyn's) and a 15-screen theater complex, which was once a single-screen theater in another part of the mall. Sears is the only original tenant; the Kohl's [former Mervyn's] is new construction since the mall's enclosure, and Macy's was the Emporium before the enclosure. The original theater was located a half-dozen storefronts north of its present location. Since 2008, the mall underwent an extensive remodeling and modernization.
Kaiser Hospital and clinic, a major facility in the Kaiser Permanente network, and one of the major full-service hospitals in the North Bay area, sits on the hill on the south side of Terra Linda.
In 1975, Terra Linda was the site of a notorious murder case, subsequently dubbed the "Barbecue Murders" or "BBQ Murders" by the local and national press. On the afternoon of June 21, 1975, 16-year-old Marlene Olive and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Charles "Chuck" Riley, murdered Marlene's adoptive parents, James and Naomi Olive, in the Olive residence on Hibiscus Way. The two then burned the bodies in a firepit at nearby China Camp State Park. The duo was subsequently arrested on June 28 after Marlene gave police conflicting and confusing accounts of her missing parents' whereabouts, while Chuck Riley, also brought in by the police for questioning, subsequently confessed to the murders. In late 1975, after a seven-week trial, Chuck, tried as an adult, was found guilty of bludgeoning Naomi Olive to death with a hammer, then shooting James Olive at close range as he arrived home and discovered the body of his mortally wounded wife. Riley was sentenced to death, which was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in 1978. Marlene, after a short hearing in Marin County juvenile court, was ordered to serve three years at Ventura School, the California Youth Authority’s facility north of Los Angeles. The crime, ensuing trial, and aftermath are the subject of Richard M. Levine's 1982 book, Bad Blood: A Family Murder in Marin County.
- Joseph Alessi, a 1977 graduate of Terra Linda High School and a Juilliard trained trombonist, Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic with a number of accomplishments and recordings.
- Alvah Bessie, noted Hollywood screenwriter and author blacklisted during the McCarthy era, died in Terra Linda in 1985.
- Multi-Gold Medal U.S. Olympic swimmer Ann Curtis Cuneo operated the private "Ann Curtis Swim Club" and swim team in Terra Linda for 20 years.
- Mountain biker Susan DeMattei, who won the Bronze Medal in Mountain Biking at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, was born and raised in nearby San Rafael.
- Swimmer Rick DeMont, gold medal winner at the 1972 Olympics that was revoked when the U.S. Olympic Committee failed to notify the IOC that Rick was taking asthma medicine that caused ephedrine to show up in a drug test. He attended Terra Linda High School and graduated in 1973.
- James Hetfield, vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the thrash metal band Metallica, recently moved to Terra Linda after residing for years in nearby Novato.
- Bill Lee, MLB pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos, graduated from Terra Linda High School in 1964.
Nearby parks and open space
There are parks in Terra Linda, as well as open space. Like any community in Marin, it is surrounded and encompassed by the natural and relatively undeveloped hillsides, the bay itself, and yet still near the major bay area cities.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Terra Linda, San Rafael, California
- R. Almquist et al, Partners; Alliance Const.
- Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Quill Driver Books. p. 697. ISBN 9781884995149.
- The Eichler Network
- Levine, Richard M. (1982). Bad Blood: A Family Murder in Marin County. New York: New American Library. ISBN 0-451-12548-7.
- Best of 2002: Best Place for a Creepy Late-Night Barbecue by David Templeton, North Bay Bohemian, March 21, 2002.