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Rants: Your Chance to Sound Off

You come to Novato Patch to inform yourself, inform others and comment on our stories about the latest local news. In this new weekly feature, we're really giving you the keys.

Compared to so many suburbs around the country, Novato almost can't be beat for its combination of beauty, community spirit and proximity to a gorgeous city, the bay, majestic redwoods and the ocean.

But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Citizens have taken stands against forced housing quotas, a school closure, the change of school enrollment boundaries, commercial development, pockets of crime and new city offices approved for the Old Town area.

It's still open season to discuss those topics with Patch's ongoing dialog, but now we want to know what we're missing. What needs fixing? If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

This isn't a fruitless exercise. We'll turn some reader-prompted Rants into stories, following up with the right sources on the questions you want answered or the problems you want solved.

Now put us to work. Your forum is just below in the comment box. The only restriction? Don't get personal. This isn't a spot for character assassinations, OK?

Otherwise, rant away!

Susan Wreden April 11, 2012 at 05:56 AM
My rant is against the NUSD. They closed Hill without a clear plan, sent the Olive kids to San Jose, then spend $100,000 to decide we need to go to Sinaloa instead. I received 2 letters from the district, stating that my daughter is assigned to 2 different schools. I am now expected to get a form signed by the office and San Jose and Sinaloa, so that she is at the same school her brother is being sent to. Of course, the form is due the day BEFORE I received the 2nd letter. Seriously? We have to be the only district that sends middle school kids to 3 different schools in 3 years, when the kids live in the same house. I would've been happy to draw a line for them last year, and given the $100,000 to the teachers.
Nick Kies April 11, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Do you recall a few years ago when we had water rationing? I asked the water district of Novato what their plan is and how they coordinate with the city of Novato on building permits and stuff. There is no plan, the district provides water for whatever Novato permits. The only solution is to encouage the use of low water toilets, facets and washing machines. We are in for bigger droughts and the next one will most likely have tougher water restrictions!
Kathleen April 12, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Brent, I was actually wondering how to get in touch with you. I have investigative reporting for you or the IJ please. Two of my friends got caught in the Lucky ATM mess. What wasn't reported was that it wasn't limited to the people who used the self check out. Neither one of these people ever stepped foot in the self check out line. One of my friends now has a new ATM card and they have gotten into her account again. What is going on? I am afraid to even walk in Lucky nowadays for fear it is starting all over again.
Tamkea Washington April 13, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Agreed. NUSD is doing a huge disservice to our community and our kids.
Tamkea Washington April 13, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Wyndover is really really bad. bad. bad. bad. Violence, beatings, car's tires being slashed, stolen stereos out of cars, children being left for days without their parent's coming home, animals not being cared for. Scary place. Scary. I mean scary. A man had a gun to his head at the beginning of the month at Wyndover. Cops all around with guns out! Why does Novato allow this ? Why? Why?
Baxter April 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Still can't understand why the SMART train won't be stopping at the original train station in downtown Novato to let passengers on and off the train. Please tell me that if SMART comes into more money, that the Novato downtown train station will open up for it's original use.
Dave Robertson April 13, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I had the displeasure to be one of a group of citizens opposing a Novato building project. Novato's city staff was unpleasant and more interested in justifying their jobs than performing them. I found that the city's boards and commissions to be uninformed and totally without concern for the welfare of this city's residents. The worst of them all these boards was the City Council itself, which in my opinion is mostly filled with biased and uninformed people who epitomize "small town politicians." I do not feel that the Novato City Council represents the interests of this city's citizens, nor do I feel that the Council even cares if we notice. The things we heard our elected representatives say showed they had little knowledge of what this city is all about, and I wonder how they got elected in the first place. What this tells me is that our voter turnout is so poor that we need to all start getting involved more in the future elections. We also need to pay attention to each candidate's record, not what they tell us when running for office. Too often have I seen local elected officials say one thing to get votes, and then proceed totally on their own agenda once elected. Then again, this happens on the national level also.
Maria Escobar April 14, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Hear Hear Robert! Good points. We have leaders that are the villiage idiots who are all lead by little bitty Mikie Frank who is the major part of the problem. Novato: Go out and vote for change!
Dave Robertson April 14, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Yes, Novato is one of the most self-destructive cities/towns that I have ever seen. You'd think our elected officials want to turn this city into a toxic waste dump.
Michael Reyff April 15, 2012 at 01:55 AM
If you are a Novato resident and feel that your voice is not being heard, then join the Novato Community Alliance. The Novato Community Alliance is an autonomous ongoing neighborhood organization to protect the quality of life in Novato through citizen participation. Visit www.nca4bh.org and get involved and we will make a difference.
Tina McMillan April 15, 2012 at 03:28 AM
I will never understand why they don't fix the lights on the superfluous trees so that when you drive down Grant at night it looks beautiful instead of awkward, out of place and unintended!
Tina McMillan April 15, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I second Dave's rant about the city offices being built downtown at an exorbitant cost and without including parking for nearby merchants. The way the council used money from the now defunct RDA to avoid putting the decision to build to a vote was, at the very least, deceptive. The issue of building offices downtown has been contentious for decades. Measure D was originally intended to stop the council from making a lone decision on a project of this magnitude because previous councils never thought there would be a onetime surplus of $17 million + dollars. When the council charged the RDA 10% interest on a long term loan and then collected through a bond measure that will cost the RDA $40 million + they managed to secure enough money to move ahead with the project and not have to provide residents with the opportunity to vote. This is not transparent government; this is not collaborative government; this is one reason why many people have lost confidence in the council and the city manager's decisions and judgment.
Richard Felching April 16, 2012 at 01:32 AM
God forbid if this town could seek out entertainment or productive revenue of any kind. The Novato Theater renovation has been a long running joke and now is becoming a punch line. Using the theater for school drama productions and whatever other Mickey Mouse operations the city deems safe and acceptable is just a waste of time. Just like everything else in Novato that's supposed to be "for the kids" (oh wait, there's nothing like that) it'll lose its luster. Oh wait, it probably won't because it'll be another overzealous mother, head-of-the-PTA endeavor. Unrelated, how about something in the San Marin area to cater more toward residents who need gas and/or groceries. The Square is a mess and that's because it's never gone under any sort of renovation (it looks like it's affected more by RADIATION). Why not throw in a worthwhile grocery store in the old Roger Wilco/Bell/DeLano's, like a SAFEWAY? Something you know can produce results.
Tamkea Washington April 16, 2012 at 04:28 AM
The Square does need attention. Why isn't The Chamber all over that to fill those vacancies?
Renee April 16, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Tamkea, do you actually reside at the Wyndover Apartments? I know there are some problems there, but not to that extent. very shocking!
FINNEGAN'S MARIN April 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Tina, hi. Just for clarification and to give the city some credit. Recently they took steps to fix the lights in the trees. They have installed all new electrical boxes on the Old Town trees and are in the process of restringing the lights. It currently looks a lot better. I believe the plan is to continue all the way down Grant to 7th Street.
Pam Drew April 16, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I was in Hayes Valley at Octavia and Fell in S.F. yesterday. The four lanes of Octavia had been squeezed down to two just BEFORE the shopping street of Hayes Valley was encountered. Two of the lanes had been made into a rectangular public park with play equipment and bollards for safety. People downtown were enjoying the sunshine. The park was a real draw. Families were having a good time with their kids. Restaurants and ice cream stores could hardly handle the demand. Maybe Novato doesn't have the numbers to make such a park on Redwood just before Grant happen but then again, maybe it does. The atmosphere was wonderful. The layout of the street is similar . Our small businesses need a hand up, the kind of attention that does more than pay lip service to home town entrepreneurs. Redwood cuts our town into two halves the way it functions now. What do you think? Pam Drew Pam Drew
Norma Dawson April 17, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Why is the Community House still standing, does anyone out there really believe someone is going to swoop in to save it? How long has it been vacant and how much did it cost to give it the lovely paint job to match the City Council building? Too long and too much. That would be the perfect site for the new city offices.
Norma Dawson April 17, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Agreed, the Square is a mess and an eye sore. I
Baxter April 17, 2012 at 01:14 AM
In response to Tamkea's post above, you asked why the City Chamber hasn't tried to fill the vacancies at the Square shopping center. Rumor has it (actually it's more than rumor) that the owner of the Square shopping center is not renewing leases to businesses and/or substantially increasing rents so that the current businesses will soon leave. Why? Because the owner of the shopping center caught the affordable housing development "bug" and now knows that he can sell the property to a developer who can provide mixed-use and affordable housing. Both the current owner of the shopping center and the developer will make mucho bucks, tax perks, etc. It's a win-win for both. The owner of the shopping center is basically in the right place at the right time. It's like winning the lottery for him/her. At least anything built there will look better than what is there now, which is virtually nothing. Talk about prime location for affordable housing...extremely walkable to schools, other stores, churches, services, transportation, etc.
Tina McMillan April 17, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Baxter Like you my mind went to the same conclusion and I have been guilty of assuming the worst about this property. I have also been trying to verify if it is more than just a rumor. During the housing element update last year there was no indication either way if the owner of the Square wanted the property to be zoned for affordable housing. To date there is no clear answer on what the owner wants. I hope he will consider a mix of market rate residential, retail, and commercial if he intends to rebuild. Perhaps he is looking for the right anchor store. It is difficult to understand why he would let shops remain empty. Perhaps the neighborhood needs to be proactive and open up communication with the owner to find out what may happen. It would not be good to make assumptions and lose the opportunity to build a relationship with someone that can have such a powerful impact on our neighborhood.
Worry April 17, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Pam..great thought.. & YES Novato can handle the demand in fact they.. well.. demand it! Redwood is an interesting thought but rerouting traffic at one of Novato's busiest intersections is tough to envision for many reasons. However, there is a location that could, would, should accomodate such a plaza/public park & it has been proposed for years by many people in Novato.. from prominent architects to city council members. It would cost almost nothing, it would draw thousands weekly, & it is centrallly located.. Sherman Ave. Sherman avenue which is ringed by city owned vacant craftsman buildings would be the perfect spot. here are the reasons why: 1. Traffic is limited on this street already as the flow from east bound on De Long has been terminated with a median. 2. Three city owned vacant buildings exist there that are potentially for sale. Why not sell them to a developer (fyi..the total cost for the 3 dilapatated buildings according to commercial brokers is estimated at $1 million). They can easily be turned in to restaurants & ice cream parlors as you suggested. 3. This street, Sherman Ave, is perfectly centrally located in old town Novato. 4. 60,000 people here in Novato have for years demanded, wondered, prayed that downtown Novato could offer them more than what it currently does. One that would encourage more and better retail/restaurant growth to accomodate our family friendly burb. ..continued.....
Worry April 17, 2012 at 03:55 AM
A downtown permanent plaza on Sherman would offer a wonderful family friendly gathering area. Honestly, there isn't a town in Marin County that has it. You could argue Mill Valley's depot has it but NOTHING in Marin w/ a play area, a lawn, walking paths, benches.. all surrounded by the Grant Ave businesses & the new ones on Sherman Ave. The closest thing to something like this would be the Sonoma Square. Of course we can't replicate that wonderful space but we could easily work with the canvas that is Sherman Ave. Best of all is that this project could cost almost nothing to tax payers & benefit EVERYONE here including seriously bolstering our tax rolls. Many developers would jump a the chance to turn this space into a downtown paradise. One thought would be to hand the buildings over to the developer ask them to maintain the architechtural integrity of the craftsman buildings on Grant and bring in restaurants/retail.. in return they build us a plaza. It is all "hardscape" so the cost would be mininimal. ESPECIALLLY.. when you compare to the tax payer monies the council is planning to spend on city offices ($35 mill after interest costs) to house 40+ employees, who generate ZERO tax revenues and are open 4 days per week. There isn't a soul in Novato that CAN ARGUE EFFECTIVELY that getting a downtown plaza would not be more beneficial to everyone here in Novato, cost tens of millions less, & generate far more tax revenues than an empty city office.
Craig Knowlton April 17, 2012 at 09:03 AM
I believe the Square is owned by a China based company and is managed through an out of town management company. This likely contributes to the current situation.
Craig Knowlton April 17, 2012 at 09:05 AM
And once we meet those restrictions, the rates will go up because we are not buying enough water. It's a never ending cycle...
Rick Voorhees April 18, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I have a problem with the streets in Novato stil, Lower part of Vineyard from Sutro down to Mill is really really bad......I mean its a matter of time before the road breaks up. Why can't we skim coat this road? Does anyone know the reason why we can't do a half a mile of this street? I know cost is concerned but come on..We can't use any money from the tax revenue from Vintage Oaks to do this.
Tina McMillan April 18, 2012 at 06:14 PM
We ran into a problem when the street that needed repair turned out to be a private road. You might want to check on Vineyard to see if it is city property, county property or private. Measure B was suppose to rehab all the city owned roads that needed work. I remember them doing that part of town some time ago. They put a slurry seal on our street and the surrounding streets. Now some of the roads are all ready showing signs of wear. This would be a good question to send to the city. Here are two links: http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=389 http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/pw/maint/page5.html
Nick Kies April 27, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Measure B was a pretty much a boondoogle. What we got was little more than a thick coat of paint on our streets. The only good that came out of it was where they fixed drainage problems from springs that came up under the streets. The "skim coat" only managed to make the streets look smooth for 6 months until the cracks all showed up again! Bottom line, the city got screwed! I think it had to do more with stupidity on the part of whoever okayed and hired a contracter.
Nick Kies April 27, 2012 at 04:42 AM
It's amazing to me how many people are clueless when it comes to driving and four way stops. They think they are being courtious when they wave other people through when the right of way belongs to them! They don't realize that not only do the people behind them wait longer but everyone else at the intersection suffers. Here's the rules: You have no right of way until you come to a complete stop. At that point the person on the right gets to go first. Never, ever does a person that wants to turn have a right of way over a stopped car. Bottom line it's not about who's turn it is, but who stopped and is on the right.
Nick Kies April 27, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Rick Voorhees, skim coating is not a fix. This is a temporary way to seal a road to make it last longer. It makes sense in areas that get a lot of moisture and freezing that breaks up the cracks in the road. The skim coat we got from measure B didn't even last six months before the old cracks appeared. Essentially we got a thick coat of black paint on our roads.

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