As you may have read in our most recent email, the State of California has returned/rejected Novato’s filed Housing Element. We know this whole topic has dragged on for months, and many of you may have lost track of exactly where we are at this point. It is unclear exactly how the city will proceed to revise in order to resubmit for approval.
Below is info on a meeting we are organizing and secondly, a brief synopsis of the items found in the Housing Element that the state listed as shortcomings.
FIRST: Neighbors are invited to a San Marin Compatible Housing meeting on January 23 to bring you up to date on what's been going on with the Housing Element. Coincidentally, we’d already arranged for our speaker, Bob Silvestri, when we found that the Housing Element had been returned/rejected by the state. Bob is a founding member of the Friends of Mill Valley, and an advocate of local control. He also has a lot of experience in the area of affordable housing history, and is critical of the State mandates and the role ABAG plays in this arena. Bob is the author of “The Best Laid Plans: Our Planning and Affordable Housing Challenges in Marin.”
The meeting will be Wednesday, January 23, at 7pm at All Saints meeting room. It promises to be educational and will present one or two strategies as to how residents can make their voices heard with Council and County supervisors to better control our destiny.
Secondly, the filed Housing Element was submitted in Fall 2012. It was returned by HCD this past week to City of Novato, who sent out the report which cites the problems/items not meeting Government Code and items requiring revision. City made no comments, simply forwarding the report to residents. In short:
• They (HCD) were unhappy that a lower density (20 units/acre) was specified throughout the Element for lower-income households, with the exception of Senior Housing at 30/acre. You recall that 30 units/acre is the desired density by the State.
• They noted that sites selected are occupied and there is no demonstration that owners are interested in selling, so there would not be any building of units during the planning period this Element covers. It’s interesting to note that Ross’ Housing Element was approved, and they have both the Marin Art/Garden Center and the Branson School as identified sites. This is clearly a case of “different criteria for different towns.”
• They don't think some sites are large enough to be viable (from a developer's point of view, if the costs don't "pencil out," then it is not considered "viable").
• They don't think second units specified could impact the quota since there were so few done in the last period. They are asking for an analysis of second unit potential throughout the city with plans for how these would be developed during the planning period.
• They didn't see an appropriate analysis of the need for "employee" (work force) housing.
• They did not find the document adequately addresses the need for housing for the Extremely-low income category. Low- and very-low were included, but there were no units cited for Extremely-low.
• They would like to see evidence that all community groups are adequately represented to ensure that everyone was heard/will be heard going forward.
The State is running amok, and we've lost local control. We need to all better understand the overall picture, how we fit into it, what we can do to keep Novato the way WE want it. We should ALL have a say in how/how much our city grows; this simple fact has been lost as the state reaches for more and more control over how "things are done."
Make your voices heard; attendance at City Council will let them know we will NOT roll over and let the State and special interest groups dictate what Novato has to swallow.