The feedback was mostly positive Tuesday night as the Novato City Council offered its take on the design progress for the in Old Town.
However, moving one of the old city-owned bungalows on Sherman Avenue to make more room for the bigger complex next door might have been a good idea. That’s what several members of the council and public said when architects in charge of designing a new home for about 60 city workers — worth $12 million to $15 million — went over their revised plans.
The Scott House, just across the City Green from , had a spotlight on it as the topic of the eastern side of administrative offices was discussed. Some have said the Scott House at 917 Sherman Ave. ought to be moved to the other side of Sherman to prevent access and aesthetic problems with the new building. The idea was not a new one, but Councilwoman Pat Eklund inquired about whether it could be done in conjunction with the city administrative office project.
But that’s when City Manager Michael Frank interjected and said it’s basically too late to entertain that idea.
“I can see that the project team is chilled by those comments,” he said. “If council wants to do that, we’d be backing up about two months. … It would be changing most of … actually, everything.”
Architects Bart McClelland and Steve Worthington of agreed with Frank, saying it would be quite a setback to the process. But Worthington said the new building is being designed to work well whether the Scott House remains or gets moved.
The Scott House and a cluster of other city buildings were red-tagged by the fire marshal in 2004, forcing city staffers to find a new place to work. The city has leased space at 75 Rowland Way since 2005 but is trying to find a permanent home before rent gets doubled starting in October 2013. The council opted in May at Machin Avenue and Cain Lane, across Machin from the and directly behind the Scott House.
Eklund said the Scott House is affecting the way the new building will look and was concerned about having the main entrance halfway between Sherman and Machin.
“It’s too bad we didn’t have that discussion early on, in-depth,” she said about the Scott House location.
Overall, the council’s feedback was positive for RMW. “This was a vast improvement from the last time,” Mayor Madeline Kellner said.
There was council support for the general site plan, the formation of a site review committee and a gabled roof rather than roof sloped at an angle toward the Novato Community House to the south. Public contributors and council members agreed with that a gabled roof — with a small flat portion at the very top but otherwise sloped to each side of the building — would fit in better with the nearby buildings.
Eklund was in favor of erecting story poles so the public can visualize the scale of the new structure, but other council members said that wasn’t helpful or necessary.
Earlier in the meeting, McClelland said the design team is focused on “making the building more diminutive and less in-your-face,” following suggestions that the structure not cramp the recently renovated Novato City Hall a few feet away. He said the team, which includes six other design firms, took to heart feedback that the building fit better into the existing neighborhood.
Worthington went over the building’s footprint and discussed a new option for parking. The first plan includes 27 parking spaces directly under the building plus three outdoor spots on Cain Lane and 32 outdoor spots between the building and the Novato Community House. An alternate plan would provide for 28 more parking spots directly under the open-air parking plaza, but the price tag would run about $1.6 million.
There was no support from the council on that choice because of the cost.
Worthington acknowledged the slightly sour response from the Novato Design Review Commission to the brick façade, sloped metal roof and wood shading louvers on the western side of the building. He said the team is looking at other options.
The public will get several chances to chime in over the next few weeks. A public workshop is set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 5, at Novato City Hall, with the architects available to answer questions. On Nov. 9, the issue is to come before the Design Review Commission and, on the same night, the Novato City Council.
Here is more coverage of this issue from the .