Upfront: Beach Shack No More

Dillon beach resort gets a facelift

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New owners are sprucing up the long-neglected Dillon Beach Resort and restaurant. Credit: Brooke Gray

The Dillon Beach Resort is getting a new paint job this week, part of a sea change underway at the ramshackle resort near the mouth of Tomales Bay in northwest Marin County.

The resort’s cafe, which has been closed for several years, will reopen later this year with a menu focused on local ingredients proffered by chef Todd Shoberg. He was last spotted at Sammy Hagar’s now-shuttered El Paseo in Mill Valley.

“It’s been pretty run-down for quite some time,” says co-owner Brooke Gray of the 55-acre resort, as she describes plans for a new Dillon Beach Coastal Kitchen and various renovations afoot on the property, which boasts a smattering of coastal cabins for rent, RV space, a pet-friendly private beach and a surf shop scheduled to reopen this fall.

Gray says the new regime is also aligning itself with various nonprofit organizations engaged in coastal-cleanup efforts—especially the Surfrider Foundation, which, she says, offers ocean-friendly certification to eco-friendly restaurants. To that end, she says, guests at Dillon Beach Resort won’t find plastic bags, straws or styrofoam.

“It’s essential,” says Gray, “that sustainability not be seen as a trend, but something that’s vital to our future and our kids.” She’s a native of Marin County who has worked hospitality jobs up and down the coast and around the North Bay, and is the owner of the Blue Barn in Corte Madera.

Mike Goebel is handling the business and permitting end of the renovation and says that besides the usual, lengthy permitting process in Marin County for various building repairs, the renovation is moving forward. He’s got support from Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, he says, along with the full-time residents of Dillon Beach, a mix of retirees and vacation-home owners. “They’re excited,” says Goebel.

Because the resort is upgrading and not expanding, Goebel says he does not expect the project to raise concerns among local environmental groups, as is the case with Lawson’s Landing, their down-the-beach neighbor. Lawson’s Landing has embarked on its own renovation plan in recent years but has faced a buzzsaw of pushback from local environmental organizations because of needed remediation—a legacy of prior managers of the campground in operation since before the landmark California Coastal Act of the early 1970s. In its renovation efforts, Lawson’s has attempted to relocate its tent-camping facilities and redo an old wastewater system, and has been sent back to the proverbial drawing board on several occasions as those plans did not meet environmental muster.

“We’re operating within the envelopment of our entitlement,” Goebel says and notes that no major changes or developments are part of the renovation. “All we’re doing is some minor cosmetic repairs. Any permits from the county are standard, common, traditional building permits to make general upgrades to the store and the cafe,” he says. As for the long-deferred maintenance and what it might reveal, he notes, “No skeletons have jumped out of the closet, yet.”

Goebel owns a couple of other businesses in the North Bay, including Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. The neighbors here, he says, are looking forward to the upgrade and the opportunity to enjoy the newly rehabbed resort—along with their dogs, as Dillon Beach Resort offers a rarity on the California coast: a privately owned pet-friendly beach. The upgraded restaurant, Goebel says, will also be pet-friendly.

“This is the only sort of commercial space in Dillon Beach,” he adds. “It’s a hub of communication, and the community is excited to have that sort of central location.”

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