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City Council, City Manager Stand By Hiring of Bob Brown

Novato's community development director, who has been in favor of affordable housing complexes, has met some vocal opposition by residents worried property values and crime.

Bob Brown received a rock-hard vote of confidence from local government leaders Tuesday night in light of some opposition to his recent appointment as the city of Novato's new community development director.

Members of the Novato City Council were unanimous in their support of City Manager Michael Frank naming Brown to the post after Brown served 10 months in an interim role. The vacancy was created by the 2012 retirement of David Wallace.

Mayor Pat Eklund addressed the matter after a few members of the public, mostly notably Al Dugan and Trish Boorstein, spoke during open time at Tuesday's council meeting, essentially calling Brown an advocate for high-density housing. At one point, Frank and Brown were called "the enemy."

For about 2 1/2 years, Novato has undergone a very public rift about forced planning for future housing developments; hundreds of residents have joined grassroots groups against low-income, high-density housing over concerns about potential crime increases and potential decreases in property values. It's a touchy issue to say the least.

Frank made the decision to hire Brown, who has more than 30 years of community development experience with public agencies and retired in 2011 as community developement director in San Rafael. Frank's move last week was met with some opposition, but Frank stood by his choice Tuesday and reiterated that the decision was not made without careful consideration and solid input from others.

"I do expect the community to hold council accountable, to hold me accountable and our department heads accountable," Frank said. "I'm accountable to the council — they're my bosses. ... I can assure those in the community that it's not our role as staff to advocate. Bob and I have had conversations about this as far to take positions that are in opposition to what council advocates. I would be very surprised if that were to occur."

The council members clearly stated their support of the personnel move and their support of the council being accountable for staff member's actions.

Councilwoman Jeanne MacLeamy said she has found Brown to be a "true professional" who has found creative ways to solve problems and make improvements during his interim stint.

Addressing the public opposition to Frank's appointment of Brown, MacLeamy said, "Obviously there is a level of trust that is missing, and we have to earn that trust. We hope you gain trust in us. Truly, Michael and Bob are not the enemy."

Council members Eric Lucan, Madeline Kellner and Denise Athas also took a minute to support Brown.

"We don't have rogue employees roving out there doing their own thing," Lucan said.

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Tina McMillan January 10, 2013 at 06:30 PM
By the way, Xenophobia is a fear of people from other countries. Low income housing is not a race based or culture based issue. Anyone can struggle with poverty. Novato has more diversity in race, culture and socioeconomic level than any other community in Marin. The primary example of socioeconomic diversity is the fact that our schools are not basic aid. Your assumptions and biases are astounding. Please take the time to actually listen to the concerns expressed by residents. They are not race based, not xenophobic, not shameful, and not fear based. They are practical, realistic and fiscally responsible concerns. If you take the time to meet the people that are posting I think you will find a diverse group of caring individuals who have realistic concerns about both the city's ongoing structural deficit and the school districts ongoing structural deficit. You can't help anyone without fiscal stability. Last year three more California cities went bankrupt. Without pension reform, without revenue, without living within our means we will face the same situation. Do you want Novato to be next on the list?
T.Sprocket January 10, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Grouchy, cousin to Bud Light, it's forward not forword. Also, that first sentence of yours is quite a specimen! You should provide the website you mention to all Patch readers so they can visit your website. What is the website?
Dave Robertson January 10, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Yes, it really is TMIMBY! A question I have always been concerned about is who are we building affordable housing for? Marin (especially Novato) are not growing substantially - other than low income housing. Are we building places for people to live so that they can commute somewhere else (to SF or South Bay)? It just sounds like a whole issue based on something that really isn't needed. Marin has never been a good place to commute from as it has a long commute to SF, and is bottlenecked greatly at the GG bridge. Either way, I just don't see the need for this stuff - not up here. There have been times that I have wondered if Novato Planning looked at all these mandates because they have very little else to do.
Dave Robertson January 10, 2013 at 08:49 PM
PaveP: Everyone cries xenophobia or racism at a drop of a hat these days. It is not true at all. It is an issue of housing that is not needed. The apartments above Whole Foods (yes, are ugly), were originally build as condos. The developers couldn't sell them for a profit so they turned them into apartments. I am sure everyone lost a great deal of money. Tina: WHile I agree with lots of what you are saying - the biggest concern I have is that California cannot control its spending - nor can its counties and cities. We have one of the highest overall tax rates in the country - which drives out industry. WHile I am a "moderate", the liberalism in California is so strong that no one wants to make the hard decisions to cut deeply into budgets and fix our overall economy. Yes, as a state we are the Greece of the USA. And within that state, many cities can't fix their spending as well. We plan so hard for the future, but ignore the present. We are in such deep financial trouble - and tax potential is pretty much maxed out. Yes, we can keep greenhouse gases, housing, and city planning in the back of our heads - but we have to fix our economic woes or we won't have much to plan for. If cities and towns in east coast states can manage, then California can also.
Eleanor Sluis January 11, 2013 at 01:40 AM
5:35 pm on Thursday, January 10, 2013 How do you want to spend your tax dollars? The complexities of housing and its relationship to mandates, money, and social changes are better understood if the city council made the effort to change the strategic plans in accordance to saving the small town character, protecting the citizens from crime, and helping to solve the educational budget deficit of Novato. One issue is the use of Measure F funds for five years. Currently, there is over $ 450,000 taxpayers’ money being spent on new hires and consultants, approximately: • $ 150,000 for new housing, general plan, Hamilton, and Redwood Blvd. manager. • $ 122,000 for a new downtown economic advisor • $ 80,000 for new public relations person • $ 80,000 for new economic person for Hamilton • $ 63,000 for a survey of properties, structures and costs to maintain or remove $ 495,000 total costs from Measure F funds. This is almost a cost of $ 5,000,000 in ten years- what is the cost/benefit to the city? This may mean that after three more years residents will be asked for more money to pay for extra personnel. At the same time, more money is needed for the upkeep of streets, buildings, and maintenance, retirees, and safety personnel. The issue is how much is spent not how much is saved. The schools and the city each need over $ 3,000,000 to keep out of debt per year. How do you want the city to spend your tax dollars?
Dave Robertson January 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Stellar example is overspending to the point of not being able to make ends meet? I still don't understand, what do we need all this housing for? Or are we just building it because we are told to? Will all the people living there be working in counties other than Marin? I certainly don't see a growing job market here (in Marin). If, as Al Dugan has pointed out - that Novato has built FAR MORE than its fair share, why do we continue to burden our city with the costs of even more on top of that? The concept of moderation is what a stellar example should be. We have gone way farther beyond moderate. That is not NIMBYism, it is pragmatism. It's why California is the Greece of the USA, and why the USA is quickly becoming a second tier country. We want to gorge ourselves on good deeds - helping everyone. But what of the costs?
Dave Robertson January 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM
They might start with taking what other cities take and no more. If we have problems funding schools, that needs to be dealt with at the county and state levels. Novato shouldn't be pulling an "end run" to squeeze more people with a regressive tax. As far as overall spending, perhaps this city needs bankruptcy to finally learn their lesson. They spend money like it grows on trees. And there aren't very many trees these days.
Lloyd January 11, 2013 at 05:59 PM
@ o n g You give new meaning to the word shill. Look it up. Someone that works secretly for other purposes. I've no doubt Mr. Brown is a gentleman. Never said otherwise. His vision is just not mine and he works for me so I believe unlike you we have a right and duty to provide input and not idly sit back and let the City & CC do whatever they want. That is called a democracy. Perhaps your method of governing would be more comfortable in some 3rd world dictatorship. Have a nice day but please stop ruining it for the rest of us.
Trish Boorstein January 11, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Dave, I stated that Novato leads by stellar example in regards to carrying the load of Affordable Housing for Marin County. I would also add to that, that Novato and San Rafael are stellar city examples of diversity. As I mentioned above in my public comment statement, profits drive this machine, not need and wanting to help our residents. Also, if you want to do some investigative work to support this observation, look up the flyer for "Novato's" new senior housing development Warner Creek and study the link below, http://www.marinhousing.org/Waiting%20List%20Info.htm Where on the building site is the leasing office for Novatoans? How about the city's website? Obviously the city and Warner Creek wouldn't demand that our seniors travel to other cities to looking for housing in Novato?
Betty Pancakes January 11, 2013 at 07:06 PM
At long last, thank the Lord Almighty and God Bless Mr. Grouchy for providing a gentlemanly post on the topic. People are saying some rootin' tootin' darn right mean and unkind things about a man who (whom?) we simply don't personally know. I hope I am so lucky as to one day cross paths with the legendary Mr. Brown and talk shop over a capuccino or the like (at Dr. I's, would be my preference 'cause I fancy that place more than the others). We can agree to disagree, but there ain't one singular vision 'o Novato, meaning some people might actually be supportin' what he's plannin' and perhaps it is time for Novato to evolve and change. Peace out (and WELCOME, Mr. Brown, I'm sorry people be stompin' all over your welcome mat).
Mark Schoenbaum January 11, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Because the is supposed to work FOR the residents, not push an ABAG agenda down their throats...
Tina McMillan January 11, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Dave R We have a parcel tax of $251 dollars that expires in 2015. The deficit is only going up and the level of services down.
Tina McMillan January 11, 2013 at 09:33 PM
People are not being unkind. They are giving credit where credit is due. Mr. Brown is responsible for the extensive low income high density development in San Rafael including the county's two PDA's. He also responsible for their current RHNA numbers, the highest in Marin, after having accepted MTC money and agreed to continue to implement more infill development along the freeway for low income housing. While this vision fits San Rafael's General Plan it does not fit Novato's. The General Plan is suppose to be a reliable blue print. San Rafael also has two to three times the land zoned for commercial development. By comparison Novato lacks the tax base to support this degree of high density development. Mr. Brown's projects represent his views on the New Urbanism. He has always been quite outspoken on what he believes should be built in Novato. Since Novato has more than one voice Mr. Brown's inherent bias makes him a source of controversy.
Trish Boorstein January 11, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Let's not forget a year or so ago how San Rafael, once they found out how much high density housing they were going to have to build due to their PDA, San Rafael wrote a letter to ABAG requesting to give Novato some of their high density housing, instead of accepting responsibility for it themselves. Novato fortunately under Dave Wallace's leadership refused to accept a PDA. Novato lacks this leadership now and the citizens of Novato must get involved in order to try to reinstate some semblance of governance by and for our people.
Al Dugan January 12, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Well articulated. Let's see if Mr. brown tries to drop a PDA nuclear weapon on Novato. In this case, there will be many people checking every move.
Trish Boorstein January 12, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Al this could also be in the guise of a TOD (transit oriented development) like Millworks. Smart stations usually have TOD's included on the site. PDA's (priority development area) when requested by a city brings funds for transportation. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Anne Reynolds January 13, 2013 at 04:57 AM
10 years from now (or less) Novato will not look the same. Look at downtown San Rafael by Lindaro Street. See those HUGE office/apartments at least 4 stories high, all are attributed to Bob Brown. Jeanne Maccleamy DID mislead the voters. She did say she didn't want Novato to be a San Rafael, then enthusiastically supports the man that ruined San Rafael. Novato is next. Thanks Jeanne Maccleamy, the rest of the city council and Michael Frank.
Allen Brown January 13, 2013 at 05:48 AM
Did Bob Brown write the letter to HCD from SUNN? Brown remains silent about it.
Dave Robertson January 14, 2013 at 05:26 AM
The Millworks is a failed development. Very few ondos sold and it is mostly rented. The original owners sold it a while back - likely at a huge loss. Why would Novato be proud of a money losing failure?
Dave Robertson January 14, 2013 at 05:41 AM
The whole city council misled the voters. No one campaigned for high density development, yet here it has come? I get tired of people thinking NIMBY is a bad thing. What is wrong with trying to stop housing that is not needed? Many Marin physicians can't afford to live here. I know lots of medical professionals that can't afford to live here. Lots live in the east bay. Why don't we house them? At least they work here. How much housing does Novato need to sustain its workforce? It sounds that if you are not poor, you can't live here. Sorry, but it seems to me that Novato is not this huge metropolis with the urgent need to increase employment. NIMBY sounds very appropriate given we don't NEED any of this. Sounds to me like Sonoma or Napa is going to get a lot of people looking to move there. If you ruin San Rafael and Novato, they are next to go to. Aside from all this senseless building, it seems that the rampant corruption in our city is getting lots of people nauseous. Top that with a city council that is totally unresponsive to its constituents and over spends like crazy - it is looking less and less attractive to live here.
DavethePragmatist January 14, 2013 at 06:53 AM
Novato doesn't look the same today as it did 10 years AGO. Is that what you want? Complete stasis (and I don't mean the good meaning of this word)? Wow. Feel free to live in the past; but please don't force the rest of the community to do the same. And to the rest of the same ol posters here, if you don't like the current govt, run for office or vote it out. You are just a few of many thousands of voices but you seen to feel that it is only YOUR vision that matters.
Al Dugan January 14, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Dave, rest assured this city council is on borrowed time. The current homeowners, a large forgotten majority, ignored by the city council will make sure this happens so thanks for your advice. I have given you the amount of affordable housing that Novato overbuilt and you never comment on that. This is TMIMBY.....Too Much and My Back Yard and that is really simple. Where do you live Dave the pragmatist ?
Tina McMillan January 14, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Pragmatist Dave, the General Plan is in the process of being updated. Here is a link to the current plan http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=949 In both plans words like maintaining existing character, compatible land uses, rural and suburban are part of the mix. San Rafael has a tax base that is two to three times greater than Novato's. Under Bob Brown's tenure San Rafael created multistory, high density, low income housing in downtown areas and along the freeways. This housing has a total tax base that includes 17% of land zoned commercial, industrial, retail, even though the rental property is non profit and pays no taxes. By comparison Novato has only 5% of its land zoned commercial. Novato does not have the tax base to support development that will impact schools and city services. If we want to become financially solvent we must begin by increasing our tax base on both ends - property taxes and sales tax. That includes using the Redwood Corridor primarily for retail/commercial development. AH advocates want to use that land to put extremely low and low income housing above stores and mixed in with retail/commercial. Low income rental housing pays no property taxes. It qualifies for tax breaks in the same way schools, churches and other non profits qualify but it uses resources that take property tax money to survive. We must strengthen our tax base and bring companies to Novato that provide jobs with living wages.
Tina McMillan January 14, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Katie Crecelius presented it at the Planning Commission meeting where the city planners discussed the draft housing element. It is presented as if it represents all of SUNN's membership. Bob Brown is a SUNN member. Whether he wrote it, contributed to it or simply supports it, the issue becomes one of conflict of interest. Can Mr. Brown put the interests of the city before his personal interests when his way of thinking focuses on the One Bay Area Plan with its high density housing mix, as a solution for both climate change and poverty in California. Mr. Brown, in addition to being active as a city planner has also taught classes at Dominican College. http://www.dominican.edu/academics/businesslead/professional-continuing/spc/faculty He is an outspoken advocate for Sustainable Development which applies theories of New Urbanism as the means of stopping global warming and protecting the environment. In this concept you turn suburban areas into urban environments by clustering people around a city center, by putting the poor along the highway and as part of infill in commercial areas. It is yet another theory that is being generously applied in California to increase new construction. It makes it seem as if we have a prosperous business climate but since it does not provide jobs or address inequities in the tax basis of each community it strains city's like Novato that have schools with structural deficits.
David Randolph January 14, 2013 at 08:21 PM
All you need to know: Bob Brown has been a planning manager and director for 31 years in some of the most progressive cities in the Bay Area. That means Agenda 21, and if you don't know what that is, you better pay attention.
Trish Boorstein January 14, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Dave T.P. How is it that it's ok for Southern Marin to look untouched by all this high density housing or equivalent development and Novato must change? This is the same message that HCD is telling Novato- we're held to a much higher standard than our neighboring cities. Hence my message to you above about taking your campaign to So. marin with "NIMCITY". How can you expect the majority of Novato to not see this epic inequality? It's not about living in the past. Currently Novato has to be very concerned about what our Planning director and staff are planning for our city, since they most likely will not be involving this community in their decisions.
Dave Robertson January 15, 2013 at 02:36 AM
The problem with agenda 21 is that it assumes that areas are growing. Right now we are not growing. These overly progressive dreamers need to look at reality. California is a sinking ship economically. All of these plans are simply wishful thinking on the part of people who devise them. The whole "one Bay Area" concept is a joke. Perhaps in 200 years or so ... That is if people want to expand our "give away" society.
Dave Robertson January 15, 2013 at 02:45 AM
I guess I see a lot of objection here but no calls to action?! If everyone is so fed up with all of this why don't we boost organizations to repopulate the City Council? Is there any single viable organization that exists to stop further development and systematically oust the whole city council as the come up for election? The next election is this coming fall!
Trish Boorstein January 15, 2013 at 06:16 AM
Dave R., sadly at the last election only 30% of Novato voted! There are several organizations and Homeowner Associations (some forming as we speak) thru out Novato. Even with this outreach voter turnout was low. We really need to launch an education campaign to inform residents of what's going on, many still have no clue. Getting the vote out is also paramount. Getting residents to subscribe to Patch would also help in education outreach. You can start by talking with your neighbors and joining Novato Homeowners Association(in the works), Novato Community Alliance, San Marin Compatible Housing Coalition, or another organization. We also need to recruit a candidate to run this Fall. Be a part of this process and maybe change can begin to happen.
Lloyd January 15, 2013 at 04:38 PM
What utter nonsense. The only vote in your club is your own. As I said b4 you are a shill who is totally without credibility. You make pronouncements and when asked to support you fall silent because there is no substance to your rhetoric. There is an old custom for how to deal with people of your type: Klingon Discommendation. You no longer exist by any of your troll names to me.

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