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Cavallo Point

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Reduced the total area of the initially-proposed building footprint by 30% by reducing the number of allowable new units from 18 to 14.
  • Reduces water consumption for irrigation by 50%, from 1.6 million gallons to 826,400 gallons each year.


  • Saves an additional $25,000 in water costs annually through the restoration of native coastal scrub habitat, including habitat for the endangered Mission blue butterfly.
  • Saved an estimated $140,000 in earthwork costs during construction by using the building pads of 14 demolished non-historic buildings to support new structures.
  • Created 253 new jobs for the community.
  • Created a new revenue stream of $8.5 million annually for the National Parks Service through visitor spending.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Office of Cheryl Barton

  • Project Type

    Conference/Retreat center
    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    601 Murray Circle
    Sausalito, California 94965
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  • Climate Zone

    Warm-summer Mediterranean

  • Size

    40 acres

  • Budget

    $6 million

  • Completion Date


The “post-to-park” transformation of Fort Baker to Cavallo Point demonstrates the potent interrelationship between sustainable, contemporary design and cultural landscape rehabilitation. Adaptive reuse of this National Landmark District resulted in a state-of-the-art conference center, the restoration of endangered habitat, and the regeneration of public open space. The design strategy met a critical National Park Service (NPS) need for financially sustainable parklands and private partnerships to support continued public access.  


Previous development projects failed prior to 2002, when the site transferred from the U.S. Army to the National Park Service. This was due to the inability of developers and federal land owners to consent on a financial pro forma that would not impact significant natural and cultural resources. The challenge was to design a project that would be financially sustainable, protect important resources, and accommodate public use. 


Sustainable site principles were agreed upon at project inception: water use reduction, pedestrian connectivity, vehicular use reduction, habitat regeneration, and cultural landscape rehabilitation. These goals became a “filter” for all design decisions and a conflict resolution framework for competing values. The successful site now delivers a financial return while providing new open space to the community.

  • The core 28 acres of the project is designated as an “Vehicle Free Zone”.
  • One mile of trails increases accessibility and connectivity to adjacent communities.
  • Gravel covers all 11 parking areas, which act as primary infiltration zones. Below the steeper habitat-designated zone, a system of bioswales catches and infiltrates surface runoff.
  • Low-flow irrigation systems serve the majority of the site, and the character-defining historic Parade Ground is a “No water zone”.
  • Half of the site, or 585,725 sf, was restored using native or adapted landscape plantings.
  • Habitat regeneration and planting methods meet National Park Service (NPS) policy requiring genetic natives. 58,000 plants were propagated from seed harvested on the Cavallo Point site.
  • Mown lawn is only found in critical gathering areas or vantage points.
  • Native stone walls were rehabilitated using local stone with similar qualities.
  • Site lighting is minimal to conform to the NPS dark-sky initiative.
  • Site management upholds integrated pest management and green housekeeping practices, while maintaining vegetation to reduce urban wildfire risk.
  • The Cavallo Point restaurant sources nearly 90% of all produce, meats, poultry, and seafood from local producers and harvesters in Marin County.
  • Designation of a Vehicle Free Zone (VFZ) presented a significant management challenge. The VFZ was established to preserve views to the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, and the rehabilitated historic buildings and Parade Ground. Murray Circle, previously the primary access road through the complex, is now in the VFZ. All service traffic and non-valet vehicles are directed toward a smaller lane behind the historic buildings, which has worked well for service vehicles; however, it has proven to be a counter-intuitive maneuver for visitors. Hotel staff must continually point out the VFZ as people arrive, and staff often allow visitors to park there.
  • On this site, it became clear that genetic native plants can triple their growth size in one season.
  • Disconnecting building downspouts from the storm sewer system can lead to unintended erosion if the receiving structure is not designed for sufficient energy dissipation.

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Office of Cheryl Barton
Owner/Developer: Equity Community Builders LLC
Owner: The Ajax Group
Owner/Operator: Passport Resorts, Waterford Hotels and Inns, Inc
Development Project Manager: The Fort Baker Retreat Group LLC
National Park Service-Fort Baker Team: National Park Service - Fort Baker Project Office and the National Parks Conservancy
Programming: Coates Consulting, Hollyhock Institute, KIW Enterprises
Architects (Historic Buildings): Architectural Resources Group
Architects (New Buildings): Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Interior Design: Brayton + Hughes Design Studio
Structural Engineers: Murphy Burr Curry
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineers: Flack & Kurtz Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineers: URS Corporation
Architectural Lighting Design: Architectural Lighting Design
Water Reclamation: Fall Creek Engineering
Sustainability:  Worldbuild
Traffic: Nelson & Nygaard
Arborist: Roy Leggitt
General Contractor: Herrero Brothers, Inc.

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect served on the integrated design team, led workshops and creation of white papers, developed detailed design studies to resolve place-specific issues, conducted digital simulation studies, and contributed to the creation of a development model that meets the National Park Service’s multiple needs.


Land efficiency/preservation, Water conservation, Operations & maintenance savings, Construction cost savings, Job creation, Visitor spending, Trail, Traffic calming, Reused/recycled materials, Bioretention, Native plants, Local materials, Efficient lighting, Efficient irrigation, Restoration, Revitalization, Cultural landscapes

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

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