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Proper Housing Planning to Meet Novato's Needs, No One Else's

Top-down planning is never a success methodology and is never used in the business world.

I presented and submitted the following at the Novato Planning Commission housing element Oct. 1. I believe there are two issues that need serious consideration moving forward in the future planning of affordable housing. The issues are essential to the future of Novato.

First, the city should plan for it own needs in afforadable housing in a measurable and quantitative methodology so there is a based line to compare the city's real needs as opposed to arbitrary goals assigned by ABAG based on broad and general assumptions. Top-down planning is never a success methodology and is never used in the business world.

Secondly, Novato needs to consider Government Code Section 65584(d). Novato has overbuilt very-low and low affordable housing in Marin in the past while other cities have build none or little. The way to equalize very-low and low affordable housing in Marin is to reduce Novato's share to little or none in the the next housing cycle as required by Government Code Section 65584(d). This requires “Increasing the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure, and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner, which shall result in each jurisdiction receiving an allocation of units for low- and very low income households.”

 The goal for Novato should be to take care of the needs of Novato.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Eleanor Sluis October 02, 2012 at 11:37 PM
http://novato.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=682 An informative meeting with community input-thank you for speaking. The city has a dilemma following the centralized, over-reaching, Sacramento’s rules requiring building high density 30 plus units per acre in Novato. Novato’s residents subsidize affordable units. Acknowledging continuous needs of services for seniors, disabled, and the dispossessed, how best can taxpayers provide for services of safety, parking, and social services in a community, which has ongoing debt of one to 2 million dollars for police, administration, maintenance, roads and social services? The city council decided to build 20 units per acre and produce a feasibility study for Sacramento. Apparently, high-density groups want more units per acre. They threaten an expensive lawsuit if 30 plus units are not built to their satisfaction. Is this the same group that is threatening Marin County to build higher density in two years or there will be a lawsuit? Who is taking over Marin and Novato’s democratic procedures?
Eleanor Sluis October 02, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Is it time to countersue these groups because of their threats and harassment of city and county officials? Local and county responsibility mandates safety and care of its citizens. It means Novato and Marin’s regulations follow fiscal guidelines in using funds for city and county management, not for frivolous lawsuits threatened and harassed by Marin Housing Authority. A counter suit could stop the affordable housing groups from threats and harassment of forcing Novato and Marin County officials into higher densities and not recommended by the majority of the taxpaying citizens. It is far better socially, economically, politically, and environmentally productive to not act on fear of reprisals by groups which want to subvert a democratic process and to economically harm those residents who pay their hard earned money to live in an open, rural, agricultural space with its land trusts and low density. Maybe a push back with a counter suit is necessary.
Al Dugan October 02, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Well said. These threats by the housing groups, driven solely by profit for developers, builders and institutional investors, is unacceptable. Quite frankly it is of great interest that they did nothing in the past when a large number of southern Marin cities built NO very low and low affordable housing in previous housing cycles.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 October 03, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Al, Is the staff and city council of Novato ignoring your findings that Novato has over built low-income housing, (hence creating the concentration of poverty) therefore we are not in compliance with the law?
Tina McMillan October 03, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Toni The planning commission has used the following statistics in their argument in favor of the 20 unit per acre density for housing that is not senior housing. The senior housing would be built with a density of 30 units per acre. Each has an allowable bonus. Start reading at page 83. It incorporates the information needed to get the state to consider the lower density even though Novato is designated Metropolitan. Page 85 Draft Housing Element "The City of Novato has a strong record of achieving affordable housing. Even though Novato has about 20 percent of the population in Marin, the City created 51.4 percent of the low and very low income housing in Marin during the prior planning period between 1999 and 2006. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation for lower-income housing for the entire county was 618 units; a total of 527 permits for low-income units were issued in Novato alone, or 85 percent of the total need. The large amount of multi-family housing projects affordable to lower income households have been developed in Novato in recent years at or below densities of 20 units per acre, with some projects also utilizing allowances for somewhat higher densities through the State density bonus provisions."
Tina McMillan October 03, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Again, my understanding is that we don't get credit going back, just going forward. Since Novato chose to put 100% of its tax increment back into affordable housing, if we built more than what we declared in our actual housing element, I do not believe it reduced our future liability. Since the housing crash in 2008 much has changed. I am hopeful that the city's willingness to push back at ABAG has succeeded. I think Pat Ecklund is the one council member that I have consistently seen at planning commission and housing meetings. She seems to genuinely care about transparency and what residents have to say. I don't always agree with Pat but I respect her willingness to open the discussion of this issue with the public. We need our other council members to be equally concerned. Yes, Novato has built a tremendous amount of affordable housing so what can we do when outside agencies threaten us with law suits over our desire to reduce density? It would be helpful to know for certain what agency is making the threats and if there is a way to proactively respond that does not include litigation. I know the Marin Community Foundation paid Public Advocates to write a report in 2009 on Zoning for Affordable and Sustainable Communities. MCF seems to be behind the effort to create cookie cutter planning, using One Bay Area, as a template. If you don't follow their lead suddenly local nonprofits are at your door step with lawsuits. Hmmm...
Craig Belfor October 03, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The sad thing is that since every head is counted on the tally for housing requirements, every time Novato builds another low income development, we up our requirement. Ross, Belvedere, Tiburon and Greenbrae don't have this problem, and they employ the people Novato has to house. These maids, gardeners, and housekeepers usually get paid cash, so they qualify for a housing break. Even so, at least they work, and maybe it's cosmic justice that the citizens chip in to make up for their low pay to these people. But there's another group I don't see a need to house-the out of towners who don't work, but come here with their section 8 vouchers to live the easy life. Our police blotters are filled with people who weren't born and raised here but live on our dime. As Trish pointed out, Novato built 85% of the county's total requirement from 1999 to 2006. How did this happen? Simple. Ross hired some heavy hitters to bambozzle our council into approving these warehouses, built and run by out of town corporations who don't care what they do to our town, as long as they take the heat off Ross's requirement. Marla, Marcus, and their ilk did a good job, and our police blotter shows it. We need a new category-ultra low income that has never worked. These people should get last choice of units.No more trolling the gutters of Richmond to fill up overbuilt units, like they did for Bay Vista. Working and disabled get first choice. The rest can get a job.
Bob Ratto October 03, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Novato is simply "ground zero" for the unrelenting push for ever more AH. Why? 1) MCF is headquartered here, and they have essentially an unlimited war chest to promote their agenda, using well crafted playbooks, creating phony advocacy groups, enlisting sycophants to promote their agenda; 2) Novato has a council and management that has been willing to chase development uber alles, despite protestation from the 2/3 of the residents that are homeowners. Realistically, you cannot sue/countersue AH advocates, because they are far too well armed (MCF will fund), what needs to be done are changes on two fronts-realizing the City must grow/change according to the will of the existing citizens, and not according to HCD/ABAG, electing/hiring officials that agree with this agenda. The existing model is simply broken in so many areas.
Tina McMillan October 03, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Bob I know on many levels this is an uphill battle. What I hope everyone will acknowledge is the work done by the planning commission to support a density designation in the current draft housing element that represents our community. This was no easy task. The state department of Housing and Community Development, HCD, may still decide to reject our plan to use these sites at a 20 unit per acres designation for multifamily and a 30 unit per acre designation for senior. If we put our energy behind supporting the draft housing element we are supporting the community and the city staff. As far as the council goes, I think Pat Ecklund's eyes are wide open. My only beef with Pat is the downtown offices but when you see her at meeting after meeting after meeting, you recognize her long term commitment to the city. Going forward we need more people at the planning commission meetings and new people involved in the various committees. You were able to get on the Measure F committee. Kudos! The General Plan committee appears to be closed. Folks that supported controversial issues did not get appointed to the planning commission. Since all the appointments are made by the council it is difficult to find a way to become a part of city government in order to advocate for fiscally sustainable policies. The remaining ways to participate are: stay vocal, attend meetings and join neighborhood groups like Novato Community Alliance. http://www.nca4bh.org/

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