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Red Flags in City Hall

Support the city's planning staff in preserving the draft housing element of 20 units per acre and community involvement.

Red flags keep popping up in regards to Novato’s shortcomings.

One is the lack of public input about having a forum on the recently returned letter from the state housing HCD saying that changes need to be made in Novato’s housing document.

Another red flag is that the “community involvement is no longer part of city planning.” It was deleted from the strategic plans.

Lastly, the city is mostly involved with bringing in export and foreign business accounts to increase funds, by paying to sponsor a forum in Petaluma.

Let’s look at this:

The Novato Community Alliance organization has an analysis of the letter from the state housing department. One of the added compliance is that “all” groups need to be represented in Novato.  With the excising of community involvement from the strategic plans then “no” groups need to be involved, which contradicts the state’s mandate.

The analysis points out that the contractors and developers cannot build at less than approximately 50-60 units per acre for extreme low cost housing can.  This contradicts Novato’s general plan for a small town with two story heights and forces rezoning and even more segregation of very low income out of town residents.  See the new 61 units on Diablo (Warner Creek) and Center and the about 60 units across at Wyndover.  See more segregated units of a few hundred at Bay Vista at Hamilton.  Is more segregation what Novato needs?

The city has shifted unequivocally to only concentrating its efforts on increasing the tax base with commercial businesses and letting the state dictate the rezoning of properties for low-income housing.  It is co-sponsoring with different chambers a foreign investment forum for Sonoma and Marin.  Time and money spent on forums to placate the businesses with Measure F funds is wasting those funds.  Instead, the council needs to show leadership and concentrate on infrastructure and the housing element by having a forum for the residents. 

If the support for the council only comes from businesses and their receiving most of the Measure F funds with new personnel, then the city has misled the residents.  It is the blatant firewall that is being placed between the city and the residents in communication and accountability that needs to be legally examined.  Information for the following is below:

This is a copy of concerns and the analysis done by Novato Community Alliance:

...”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" (workforce) 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.” 

San Marin Compatible Housing: sanmarincompatiblehousing@gmail.com

Novato Community Alliancenovatoalliance@gmail.com

Novato City Council Removes Transparency Title from Strategy Plan

City Co-sponsors North Bay Foreign Trade Zone Seminar

City of Novato Housing Element page

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.

T. Allen January 17, 2013 at 10:23 PM
I don't know Trish. Suggest you call Warner Creek and ask them. I'll try to find out from my friend who is on the wait list (from Novato) next time I see him. It sure is a nice looking property though don't you think? Really brings the whole neighborhood up. Those seniors will be able to walk to Margaret Todd and Safeway so it is a great location for those who no longer drive.
Tina McMillan January 18, 2013 at 12:04 AM
T Allen Warner Creek Senior Housing 806 Diablo Avenue Novato, California 94947 Coming October 2012 Waiting List Opens Monday, April 30, 2012 and Closes on Friday, May 14, 2012 http://www.marinhousing.org/Waiting%20List/Warner%20Creek%20Flyer_v3.pdf To apply for the waiting list you must complete the Warner Creek Senior Housing Waiting List Application. Applications may be downloaded beginning Monday, April 30, 2012 at: www.marinhousing.org or www.edenhousing.org You may also obtain Warner Creek Senior Housing Waiting List Applications at the following locations: Hayward San Rafael Marin City Petaluma Mill Valley No applications were available in Novato. When I referred people to Eden House and they phoned the information provided ranged from telling them that the project had not begun accepting applicants to it was already full of people on existing waiting lists. It began as a 55+ and then became a 62 and over. It was not promoted in Novato and the waiting list closed in two weeks. If you can provide a list of residents from Novato that qualified for housing I would appreciate the help. I have not been able to get a response to that question. As for walking distance to the senior center, that depends on the degree of disability a resident may have and whether their will be a shuttle service available for groceries and activities.
Eleanor Sluis January 18, 2013 at 03:56 AM
T. Allen- thanks for your interest. All most residents want is fairness and equitable behavior from the city staff and council members of Novato. When developers have free reign for their proposals and access to each city council member and city manager- it smacks of despotism in Novato. Why? Most people believe in fairness and common sense, in reasonableness and equitable behavior. However, when each city council member allows lobbying by the developers for their plans and refuse to listen individually to residents who want businesses and new residential units to complement their neighborhoods and adhere to the original Vision plan 2028, General and strategic plan, red flags start flying . Residents are told to wait until later, after the lobbying by developers are given a green light privately from each separate council member, city manager and community administrator, who infers that: “This looks like a good plan.” Developers then are encouraged to proceed. Meanwhile, residents who want a private audience about encroaching businesses or dense residential development are told to wait. When they wait for the public comments, it is too late as the development is already approved in private by the city staff and council. Continued with “ How is this a problem?”...
Tina McMillan January 18, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Well said.
Eleanor Sluis January 18, 2013 at 04:06 AM
A continuation of “Red Flags discussion...” How is this problem? Two story units are not proposed in keeping a rural, suburban quality of life in Novato along with having enough tax money to educate our children, protect our families, and provide diversity within neighborhoods and repair streets and infrastructure. For example, Millworks is 50 units to an acre for a total of 100 units. Diablo’s new development is 61 units to an acre. These units are not two story or even three story buildings, but six stories and four stories including the roofs. Mission Lodge on Front Street’s proposal by the developer is for 50-60 units at least 4-5 story high and the giving away of Front Street. In front of Atherton Acres, across from the Redwood Recycle Center, the developer wants the same number of units per acre or more. What are being created are highly segregated, highly dense areas of very-low income units for developers. The same ones who are given $ 1,000,000 dollars for Diablo’s units, streets for Millworks and Mission Lodge and exemptions for paying property taxes for 55 years. Residents over the years do not appreciate this very segregated approach. A fair and equitable approach is better. Red flags keep popping up about these complex issues.

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