Gary T. Giacomini is a true North Bay Leader. Mr. Giacomini, in and out of political office, was a political force in Marin for more than 50 years. He is known for his steadfast defense of planning protections aimed at keeping West Marin’s ranchlands free from market-driven growth. “West Marin would have a four-lane highway right through it if it weren’t for Gary,” said David Freitas, a former business partner of Mr. Giacomini and a lifelong friend. A 1,500-acre property in the San Geronimo area in West Marin was named the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve, honoring him for being instrumental in orchestrating the deal that saved the land from development.
In 1962, Mr. Giacomini graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga. He earned his law degree at San Francisco’s Hasting College of the Law in 1965 as an honor student. Mr. Giacomini practiced law in Marin for more than a decade as a partner with the firm Freitas, Allen, McCarthy, Bettini and MacMahon in San Rafael. He was an associate with Roth and Thorner of San Rafael.
Mr. Giacomini’s political career was launched after he won a seat on the Lagunitas School Board in 1968. In 1972, he was elected to represent Marin’s 4th District on the Board of Supervisors, where he served until 1996. Mr. Giacomini was a progressive, conservation-oriented Republican when he ran for supervisor on a platform of fighting “over development” in Marin.
In 1985, he was an outspoken critic of the San Francisco Foundation’s plan to rewrite the then-$500 million Buck Trust, bequeathed to Marin needs and programs by Ross philanthropist Beryl Buck. The foundation sought to modify the trust so its multi-million dollar bequest could be split among several Bay Area counties. The county took the foundation to court, challenging its right to alter the bequest of Buck and the foundation’s contention that the trust had outgrown Marin’s need. Mr. Giacomini’s fiery defense of the so-called “Marin-only” provision in the will resulted in a 1986 settlement and the creation of the Marin Community Foundation. He gained nationwide notoriety for dubbing the San Francisco Foundation, “Those grave-robbing Bastards”. The newly formed foundation was named as the shepherd of the trust.
In 1991, Mr. Giacomini opposed plans to turn 1,254 acres of coastline property north of Dillon Beach into an ocean-front golf course and resort. “I can’t countenance how we could ever forfeit several thousand acres of ag land into a golf course and start a domino effect up and down the state,” Mr. Giacomini said.
In 1989, when Mr. Giacomini was named to the coastal commission, the IJ wrote: “Giacomini is a respected environmentalist. He has established himself as a politician with the ability to simultaneously represent the interests of Marin’s diverse agricultural community and preservationists.”
Perhaps Mr. Giacomini’s greatest community service was his commitment to being an elected official. Mr. Giacomini served on the Marin County Board of Supervisors for 24 years. He was the longest-serving county supervisor in the history of California upon his retirement. In addition to his time served as a county supervisor, Mr. Giacomini served as a member of 25 other state and regional boards and commissions, among them the Golden Gate Bridge District board of directors and the California Coastal Commission.
After Mr. Giacomini left office in 1996, he served two terms on the board of the Marin Community Foundation. He also served as the board chairman. Mr. Giacomini called his 24 years in office “an unbelievable honor to be a steward for a wonderful place and people.” Mr. Giacomini resumed his law career after he bowed out as a county supervisor. He joined the firm of Hanson Bridgett and helped establish the firm’s Marin practices.
A Marin Magazine story in 2007 named Mr. Giacomini on the list of the 13 most influential individuals in Marin County history.
Gary Ragghianti, a former attorney for the city of San Rafael, met Mr. Giacomini roughly 40 years ago when the lawyers’ paths crossed. Ragghianti said Mr. Giacomini will forever remain a part of the county he shaped so heavily. “I think Gary was an absolute iconic giant in the history of the development of the county of Marin,” he said. “And the work he did over the years to save West Marin from development is and will remain historic. He just was a person who had a way with things. He’ll live forever here in Marin.”
Gary Giacomini’s family would like any donations in lieu of flowers to be sent to MALT http://www.malt.org/donate.