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Spotlight on San Rafael : From Books to Ballet in the Dominican neighborhood

Spotlight on San Rafael : From Books to Ballet in the Dominican neighborhood

The Dominican neighborhood of San Rafael (or Dominican Black Canyon to give it it’s full title) is the area that surrounds the Dominican University of California, and is one of the hidden gems of the North Bay.

Dominican is home to some of the most beautiful properties and homes in Marin County, with charming, tree-lined streets and the convenience of being close to Highway 101, a detail which is worth considering if you’re likely to be commuting over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Founded in 1890 by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, the University is one of the oldest in California. Bishop Joseph Alemany’s original intent was to teach the children of the “forty niners” — the migrant workers who had flooded into California during the gold rush. Briefly based in the East Bay city of Benicia, the school settled in San Rafael and filed articles of incorporation in 1890. In 1915, the school opened a junior college, then in 1917 became a four-year institution, and the first Catholic college in California to grant the bachelor’s degree to women. Originally a female-only institution, Dominican opened the graduate program to men in 1950, and became fully co-ed in 1971.

Today, Dominican University has a student body of around 2,000, most of whom live on campus. It’s ranked in the top quarter of The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2017. Local residents are able to enjoy access to recreation facilities and other activities at the University, which is known for being a good neighbor itself.

As an example of the cultural life that the University offers the neighborhood, the University’s Institute of Leadership Studies presents author events on campus, open to the public. This year alone, visiting speakers have included Arianna Huffington, Andy Weir (author of the Martian, recently adapted as a blockbuster movie), sports broadcaster Diana Nyad, and the actress Kate Hudson. Guitarist Robbie Robertson (of Bob Dylan and The Band fame) is set to visit in November, to coincide with the publication of his memoir Testimonial.

Another cultural feature of the neighborhood is the presence of Marin Ballet, a dance school that offers classes ranging from pre-ballet for children through the teen and adult classes. The Ballet also presents an annual Nutcracker performances at the Marin Center, one of the cultural treasures of the North Bay, and home to a diverse range of events, concerts and performances.


Photo credit : Kryziz Bonny

Marin Tennis Club is another notable attraction that the neighborhood offers, with twelve courts (8 of which are lit for night play), a great social scene and tennis pros offering private lessons and tennis clinics.

Dominican is known for being a walking community, which can be a refreshing change for people used to getting into the car every time they need to get somewhere. And it’s not just local residents you’ll see strolling on the streets — it’s a perfect neighborhood for dog lovers. “Dog friendly”, “peaceful”, “safe” and “well maintained” are words that local residents use to describe Dominican on, and it’s easy to see why.

Dominican University

Photo credit : Dominican Area News

The neighborhood association website, Dominican Area News should give you a good sense of the kind of activities that bring the community togethers. As for homes in the neighborhood? Some date back as far as 1850 and are individually unique, ranging from classic Victorian style homes to modern residences. The word “stately” is not used lightly, when describing some of the more striking properties here.

Such notable homes do not come to market often, which is understandable given the quality of life the Dominican neighborhood offers. However, for someone looking for just the right mix of culture, recreation and notable architecture, the area is certainly one to add to your watch list.

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in the Dominican neighborhood or elsewhere in Marin, I’d love to use my local knowledge to help you. Contact me anytime at 415.606.1466, or email me —

Dominican University photo credit: Dominican University of California

Laura Slanec
Marin County Real Estate Agent
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services
Drysdale Properties

Telephone: +1 415.606.1466
Fax: +1 415.479.5067

DRE #: 01914618

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