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City Staff Interprets State's Reaction to Housing Element

Planners boil down the gist of the state's report on Novato's draft housing element and provide a plan to move forward.

So it appears we have another full year of discussing, analyzing and finalizing a document that outlines the city of Novato's grand game plan for housing its residents ... for the years 2007-2014.

And when we're done with this one, we get to start another.

The city's planning staff — whose members probably all deserve a month's holiday in Fiji after this is all done with next December — have unveiled an interpretation of the California Department of Housing and Community Development's nearly indecipherable written reaction to a draft housing element submitted in October.

Lost you already?

Just be thankful that our local government employees can write in the English language rather than grade-A Sacramento bureaucratese.

The city's nine-page memo released Thursday outlines the process of adoption and certification of the housing element, a required section of the city's periodic general plan update that lays out a plan — sometimes general, sometimes specific — of how new housing developments might shape the city and where new future additional residents will live. Accounting for growth is a mandatory task for municipalities, and it's the M word that has ticked off so many Novato residents who are wary about a trend toward high-density complexes for lower-income people.

A sticking point at this juncture of the housing element was the city's insistence on sticking with a density of 20 units per acre for future developments. The state recommended 23-28 units per acre.

Another crux is plotting properties that could be rezoned for housing. HCD contends that the city did an inadequate job of pinpointing those buildable areas.

Those two points are just grains of sand in a desert of information.

Pour yourself a 2-liter of dark roast and dive into the summation by the city planners. You'll want to know what city officials are talking about for the rest of 2013.

If you having the kind of day when you're up for diving on a live grenade, sink your teeth into the HCD's response to the draft housing element. Masochists need only answer the call.

Both documents are attached. Knock yourself out. If you are among the brave, please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.

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2MudDucks January 18, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Great Write -Up Brent, a fun read for that first cup of coffee.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) January 18, 2013 at 03:56 PM
I think we're all a little punch-drunk over this. City staff must be chugging Pepto Bismol.
Pam Drew January 18, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I enjoyed the light-heartedness as well, having been afflicted by the heavy-handedness of the nonprofits NPH, SUNN, Sustainable Novato, Public Advocates, MCHAI, and Fair Housing of Marin in their letters to HCD trying to shoot down the Novato Housing Element, not to mention the heavy heart that the 7 page HCD response to to Novato's Housing Element gave me. It is perhaps not crystal clear to either Patch's readers or HCD that many of these nonprofits interlock. For example MCHAI is not something you would order at Starbucks. "The Marin Community Housing Action Initiative (MCHAI) is a unique cooperative relationship between two Bay Area nonprofit organizations, Greenbelt Alliance and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), in partnership with the Marin Community Foundation (MCF)," to quote from NPH's website. Who can blame HCD for looking at the myriad of letters from nonprofit organizations and failing to understand that many different names do not necessarily testify to broad-based support for shooting down the new Housing Element?
Reginald Anderson January 18, 2013 at 04:15 PM
thats why they get the big bucks
Ralph Canine January 18, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Interlocking front groups are a way to create astro-turf, a false and misleading impression of grassroots support. Secondly, front groups are a great way to hide financial conflicts of interest. Within the nonprofit - low income housing developer - public housing agency tribe, people avail themselves of the revolving door to further their careers. Within the tribe, everyone's success and prosperity depends on the continued flow of tax dollars to build low income housing. "Doing well by doing good" then gets slathered with the whipped cream of sanctimony, AKA "neighborly Novato."
Philip Metschan January 18, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Brent I would really like to know what the "actual" ramifications to the city are, if we simply tell the State to "go fly a kite". Like many it is the "M" word that bothers me the most.
Tina McMillan January 18, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Philip If you go to the city website under housing element they have a more detailed list but essentially the state can shut you down and the fine you. It has happened in other cities. I believe Pleasanton may have been a target. It is costly and there are more effective ways of responding. That is why getting the draft approved is so important. Please write to HCD and let them know that Novato has done their fair share and that other cities in Marin need to step up. http://www.marinscope.com/mill_valley_herald/opinion/guest_editorials/article_d94f1de6-8ed1-548a-8d28-10cd7fc4a3ba.html
Eleanor Sluis January 18, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Support the planning commission, city council, and staff in a fair, equitable, and financially viable response to the requests of the mandated Cal State housing authority to provide 1200 new units for Novato over the next 5-10 years. This task is difficult because there is lack of space and money to provide for new residents emigrating from other counties in the bay area. Even with spending $500,000 in new personnel to solve this problem, the loss of Measure F funds in a few years, the ongoing need for repairs to streets, safety issues, social issues, and the lack of funds for adequate schooling for those needing to adapt to the goals of reading, writing, and critical thinking. Novato needs for its citizens are barely being sustained currently with the present city budget. It will need higher taxes in the future when Measure F funds are zero. There are few beneficial impacts of state housing programs for the citizens of Novato; benefits are for the new immigrants, who are welcomed, but cannot be expected to pay for Novato’s needs on their incomes. That is why public participation by Novato residents in forums is needed. They pay the bills for the city, not the developers or the non-profits. My hope is that in the timelines there are included forums instead of only media information and three or four city planning and council meetings, which are skewed towards developers and non-profits and not for the residents who pay for the city functions.
Christine Scioli January 18, 2013 at 08:47 PM
So enjoyed this succinct summary! There is, of course, no such thing as succinct in Sacto!
Kim January 19, 2013 at 12:02 AM
I like your words here, Sir. Completely agree.
Baxter January 19, 2013 at 12:14 AM
On page 2 of the City's response regarding Site 3 (Redwood at Black John Road) it states that the City will comply with the State's request to analyze the "appropriateness" of this site for affordable housing. If the State is questioning the validity of the 4 acres chosen within this 40 acre site, it has good reason. Most of this site has slope restrictions and the majority of the proposed "flat" area within the 40 acres is too close to the PG&E main gas pipeline which is in questionable condition. Besides the main gas pipeline issue the buildable area for AH is either land-locked or have flood issues from the tides of the marsh/lagoon. Hopefully, the State will will decide that this site is best suited for professional/business development which it is zoned for, and not affordable housing development; especially when the surrounding area is entirely commercial development and is not residential. Would a developer take on the liability of building housing that close to a PG&E main gas line in questionable condition?
Al Dugan January 19, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Well articulated and right to the point. The very small minority of self serving groups that benefit from building and operating tax free affordable housing, the triad of the builders, developers and the institutional investors.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr January 19, 2013 at 03:36 AM
Agreed.
Joe Marshall January 19, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Nonprofits are bullying Novato. Wonder why Marin Community Foundations groups leave Southern Marin alone?
Al Dugan January 19, 2013 at 05:49 AM
Well done. The acronym outfits are a small group of the triad, builders, developers and institutional investors trying to use Novato as ground zero.
Lloyd January 19, 2013 at 05:34 PM
This requires much study. What struck me as odd is the request from HCD to show how these sites will be built. My understanding is we only have to show they can be built. It strikes me as odd that the same HCD approved Elements such as Ross that named sites that will never nor could ever realistically be built. Seems like a double standard that is both unfair and unenforceable. btw Pam D correctly shows this spider web of outside special interests representing itself as the champions of the poor when in reality their real purpose is tax exempt, for profit development. Using Novato as their dumping grounds has nothing to do with helping working families find affordable housing. Hypocrisy is alive and well in Sacramento and its supposed non-profit vassals. I truly find it amazing that these special interests simply ignore the better funded wealthier enclaves, or is that just where they live?
Lloyd January 19, 2013 at 05:37 PM
very well put. succinct yet absolutely correct!
Al Dugan January 19, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Joe, the investors in MCF all live there, that is the reason.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr January 20, 2013 at 12:28 AM
First, you have to wake up 71% of the Novato voters.

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