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Cavallo Point

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Reduced the total area of the originally proposed building footprints by 30%, by devising a plan that reduced the number of proposed new units from 18 to 14.
  • Reduced site water consumption for irrigation by 50%, from 1.6 million gallons to 826,400 gallons of water each year.


  • Saved nearly $140,000 in earthwork costs during construction by using the building pads of 14 demolished non-historic buildings to support new structures.
  • Saves an additional $25,000 in annual water costs from the restoration of native coastal scrub habitat, including habitat for the endangered Mission blue butterfly.
  • Created a new revenue stream of $8.5 million for the NPS and 200 new jobs for the community.

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 perpetuate continued public access.  

  • The core 28 acres of the project is designated as an ‘Auto-free zone’.
  • A 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 zone, a system of bioswales catches and infiltrates surface runoff.
  • Low-flow irrigation systems serve the majority of the site, and the character-defining parade grown is a ‘No water zone’.
  • Half of the site was restored using native or adapted landscape plantings. 585,725 sf of native/adapted species were planted.
  • Habitat regeneration methods meet NPS policy requiring genetic natives. 58,000 plants were propograted from seed harvested on the Cavallo Point site.
  • Only particular gathering areas or vantage points consist of mown lawn.
  • Native stone walls were rehabilitated using local stone of 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.


Previous development schemes failed prior to 2002 when the site transferred from the US Army to the NPS. This was due to the inability of developers and federal land owners to consent on a financial pro forma that would not impact significant 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.

  • Using the building pads of 14 demolished structures to support new structures saved nearly $140,000 in earthwork costs during construction.
  • Regeneration of the native coastal scrub habitat has resulted in an additional annual water savings of $25,000 over and above the savings realized by the reduction in site water consumption.
  • Designation of the Vehicle Free Zone (VFZ)is a significant management challenge. The VFZ was established to preserve views to the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline and the views of 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 explain the VFZ as people arrive, and staff often allow visitors to park there.
  • Genetic native plants can triple their growth size in one season.
  • Disconnecting building down spouts from the storm sewer system can lead to unintended erosion if the receiving structure is not designed for sufficient energy dissipation.

Project Team

Development Project Manager: The Fort Baker Retreat Group LLC
Owner/Developer: Equity Community Builders LLC
Owner: The Ajax Group
Owner/Operator: Passport Resorts, Waterford Hotels and Inns, Inc
NPS-Fort Baker Team: NPS - 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
Landscape Architect: Office of Cheryl Barton
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

Served on the integrated design team, led workshops and white papers, developed detailed design studies to resolve place-specific issues, conducted digital simulation studies, and contributed to development model that meets the NPS’s multiple needs.


Land efficiency/preservation, Water conservation, Operations & maintenance savings, Job creation, Other economic, Bioretention, Efficient irrigation, Efficient lighting, Local materials, Native Plants, Reused/recycled materials, Trail, 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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