Voices of the Watershed Series

Lynn Payton: Life on the Santa Venetia Levee

Lynn Payton at home in Santa Venetia

Lynn Payton at home in Santa Venetia.

In the 1990s when Lynn Payton and her husband were looking to downsize from a large home in San Anselmo, their daughter suggested looking at a house on Adrian Way. The minute Lynn stepped inside, she knew this was the place. She could see straight out the back door to the levee and marshland that lay beyond the property. “The back yard had just one lonely apple tree and a huge yucca,” Lynn says, “but I knew then what I wanted. A wild garden that would complement the open space.”

Today, her lush garden is filled with roses, shrubs, and tall trees. Although Lynn no longer does the heavy yard work herself, her grandson Quinn is a professional landscaper who maintains the space for her. A gate at the back of the garden opens directly to the levee walking path, where Lynn and her dog often stroll. “Over the years, I’ve made so many friends walking on the levee—people from all over,” she says. “They love the place as I do.”

In the past, Lynn was also an avid kayaker on Gallinas Creek, putting in opposite the bridges when the tide was rising, or sometimes around the bend at China Camp. “I’ve kayaked all the way up to the Civic Center,” she recalls. “It’s a beautiful trip.”

Particularly in spring, she says, when the buckeyes that brush the water are budding. “You paddle past that fragrance, and it’s so incredible.”

Valuing the serene ambience of her community, Lynn joined with other neighbors to fight the proposed soccer complex at the San Rafael Airport, right across the creek. “We’re not against soccer,” she explains. “But all that activity at night. The lights. The noise.” Despite neighbors’ valiant efforts, the soccer complex was approved. “This area should be environmentally protected,” she says. “The State has done nothing!”

Payton backyard is a serene oasis

Payton backyard is a serene oasis

Lynn has downsized again, moving to the Redwoods Retirement Community in Mill Valley with her little dog. She notes with pleasure that the campus has a walking trail along the water—just like home. And as for her beloved Santa Venetia, she’s delighted at the influx of younger residents who are discovering–or rediscovering—this unique neighborhood. “It’s such a treasured place to live,” she says.