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Op-Ed: Neighborly Novato Group Responds to Critics

SUNN presents 'just facts' on where it stands on contentious issue of affordable housing in Novato.

Just as Joe Friday insisted upon “just the facts” so many years ago, is an organization that wants the Novato community to stick to “just the facts.”

It is disturbing to read destructive misinformation and mischaracterization about our organization’s work for reasonably priced housing. This is not the Novato we know.

Almost a year ago, several neighborhood groups emerged of certain sites as part of the city’s Housing Element update. We realized that a loud, vocal group of residents were speaking from a certain vantage point and that many other voices were left out.

Stand Up for Neighborly Novato was born to give a voice to the many residents who support a variety of housing options for our seniors, persons with disabilities and working families.

The support we’ve received shows that a voice of reason, respect and inclusion was needed in this debate.

We have been by more than 500 Novato residents, and the list grows every day. These residents are not as loud and boisterous as others in this debate, but their support for more reasonably priced housing is strong. County Supervisors Judy Arnold, Steve Kinsey and Susan Adams, the League of Women Voters, the North Bay Labor Council, the Novato Democratic Club, Sustainable Novato and others are also behind us.

We encourage you to call and thank these Novato leaders and organizations for supporting reasonably priced housing and advocating for a brighter future for Novato.

And that’s just the beginning. We believe there are thousands of Novato residents who are not aware of the impact of our upcoming decisions on housing. So we sent out a mailer to encourage them to learn more about Stand Up for Neighborly Novato and reasonably priced housing, give them an opportunity to join us, ask them to encourage the City Council to support more reasonably priced housing options and give residents “just the facts.”

This was necessary in part because recent posts and a have done a disservice to Novato by spreading falsehoods about Stand Up for Neighborly Novato and affordable housing in general.  So here are the facts:

*  Stand Up for Neighborly Novato is not advocating for any particular density across‐the‐board on all sites selected. Rather, we support careful analysis of the constraints of each possible site, which likely will result in a range of units for each individual site. For instance, for a site adjacent to single‐family, detached homes, the number of units likely might be lower than the number of units in a commercial area or where there are other multi‐family developments. In fact, one of Stand Up for Neighborly Novato’s co-founders went to Sacramento to advocate for lowering the default density to allow for a more flexible approach. It’s misleading for anyone to say we only support high-density housing.

*  Stand Up for Neighborly Novato knows that there is a large need for reasonably priced housing in Novato, a well-documented fact per the Marin Housing Authority. It’s inaccurate to say “we’ve done our fair share.” It’s not about what we’ve done, it’s about the great demand we have now and what kind of future we want. For example, more than 9,000 Novato workers commute here every day but can’t afford to live here. That’s not good for the community on many levels.

*  Stand Up for Neighborly Novato supports collaboration within the City Manager’s Ad Hoc Working Group to recommend new Housing Element policies and programs to optimize affordable housing opportunities (such as a city jobs/housing mitigation fee, reduced city fees for second units, streamlined permit processing for affordable housing, etc.).

*  Stand Up for Neighborly Novato rejects the use of fear tactics and misleading information in this housing debate. We have read and heard mischaracterizations of our organization and affordable housing. We believe a respectful fact‐based dialogue reflects the character of Novato, will encourage opinions and ideas from all of our neighborhoods and will contribute to a housing element that best reflects the needs of our community.

To read more and get to know us and the facts, go to www.neighborlynovato.org.  It is all there in black and white. Just the facts.

Bob May 26, 2011 at 02:41 PM
At the public meeting for the Ad-Hoc group last night, again a woman that stated she was a co-founder of SUNN, stated that she didn't like most of the sites because they did not allow for the 50 or more units that the developers like. You folks keep saying, and include on your website, that you want projects that fit into the neighborhoods and yet publicly you push for more units.
Ronnie Y. May 28, 2011 at 05:12 PM
.."Sustainable communities of the future will bear little resemblance to the towns and cities of the 20th century. Single-family homes will be rare. Housing will be provided by public/private partnerships, funded by government, and managed by non-government "Home Owners Associations.".. .."Sustainable communities cannot emerge as the natural outgrowth of free people making individual choices in a free market economy. Nor can they be mandated in the United States,".. .."the PCSD developed a strategy to entice or coerce local communities to begin the transition to sustainability. The EPA provided challenge grants, and visioning grants to communities that would undertake the process toward sustainability. Grants were also made available to selected non-government organizations to launch a visioning process in local communities. This process relies on a trained facilitator who uses a practiced, "consensus building" model to lead selected community participants in the development of "community vision.".. http://freedom.org/reports/sd-transform.html
Tina McMillan May 28, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Ronnien Y Thank you for the link. The political philosophy seems like a move toward communism in the sense that individual freedoms will be reduced if not eliminated for the common good - fewer choices more government.
Edwin Drake May 29, 2011 at 03:50 AM
It's growth by hodge-podge. Much of problem around here is that items arise and get decided on a case by case basis, with no connection between decisions. City leaders and residents need to look long term. this AH stuff is just another dog and pony show. (Like the millworks, like the city building, like grant Ave parking, like the defunct Fireman's Fund proposal, like the location of the smart train station, like the original list of sites, etc ...) Novato needs form based zoning. Novato needs to develop a vision for the future. More than just a general plan, a true decision of where we want the town to head and what it should look like. Speaking of which, what's going on with the General Plan? The City Council and City manager need to ask the big questions, and get everyone (mostly) on the same page. They should really WORK on this, or maybe Balanced Housing could step up and start soliciting input at citizen hearings. But otherwise it's like driving down the highway and not looking more than 10 feet ahead. (One other mention: $6 million later we have a building that CAN'T hold a large public meeting. Genius! I sincerely hope the Novato Theater, if it get's up and running, might provide space for larger assemblies. What the planned seating anyway?)
Tina McMillan February 06, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Looking back on this article is a sort of nightmarish dejavu. SUNN members cry foul and complaint that they are mainstream supporters of Novato and yet during the recent submission of the draft housing element it was Katie Crecelius that presented the letter to the city planners and that delivered the letter to Sacramento to tell HCD that the draft element was not doing enough. SUNN is not mainstream. SUNN is an arm of the Marin Community Foundation. They advocate for affordable housing built without a tax base in what ever city still has land. That turns out to be Novato. Where was Marin Community Foundation when Ross used Marin Art and Garden Center and Branson School for their affordable housing? Where was SUNN and other special interest groups when Ross's draft housing element passed with no attempt to ascertain if these properties stood even a chance of being developed. SUNN is not mainstream and while their generosity is based on the funding of MCF their desire to add more and more housing to Novato without additional revenue for schools and city services is just not a balanced or moderate point of view.

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