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Downtown Parking: This Could Get Complicated

With construction for the new city administrative offices expected to start in July, where will everybody park when the existing lot is turned into a temporary corp yard and construction zone?

Novato is about six weeks away from the start of construction at the site of the new city administrative office building that will become a new home for about 60 city employees.

That first shovel in the dirt will create some challenges for people accustomed to using one of the Old Town area's parking lots. The lot on Machin Avenue, used partly by the , will be fenced off and used as a corporation yard during the 13 months of construction for the new offices on the north side of the lot.

The city, the police department and downtown business owners all seem to wonder how this is going to work.

"We're looking at options to accommodate those who would be parking there," said city engineer Julian Skinner, one of the employees who would eventually move from the leased city offices on Rowland Way into the new building at the corner of Machin Avenue and Cain Lane.

The Novato City Council recently approved the project to go out to bid, and June 26 is the planned date for the council to vote on awarding a contract to the low bidder, Skinner said. If there are no unexpected delays, construction could start the week of July 16, and one of the first things a contractor would do is put up a fence around the existing lot so it can be used for equipment storage, he said.

"There's just not a convenient way to keep a portion of that lot open," Skinner said. "There will be times when the entire lot is not needed, but it would be hard to be opening and closing parts of the lot to the public."

There will be about the same number of public parking spaces downtown after the city administrative offices are built as there are right now, but there will be those 60-some new employees working in the new building. Plus, there is anticipated additional traffic over the next year with the opening of retail spots and restaurants in the ('s new headquarters) plus a new cluster a few yards away where the used to sit.

City Manager Michael Frank said city employees used to work in the city's bungalows along Sherman Avenue and before it was remodeled "and we're bringing back way fewer employees to downtown than were there then. That said, we're working on developing additional parking options."

Novato Police Captain Dave Jeffries said marked and unmarked police vehicles will be moved to spots on the street, and there's a chance some rarely used vehicles normally stored in the station's underground lot could be moved elsewhere.

"We've identified some opportunities to increase parking and we're hoping to accomplish most of our impact relatively easily by freeing up enough space around here," Jeffries said.

Several new spots could be created on the west side of Machin, Jeffries said. There are a couple of locations where the curb juts out into the street to separate sections of the on-street parking. He said taking out those extended curbs and doing some restriping on the pavement could result in more parking spaces.

The office building construction company would use the existing pavement as a corp yard base and place trailers on the site, then strip down the building's footprint and begin excavating for the basement parking, Skinner said. It will take three or four months for the parking lot to be completed before the top two floors of the building can start to take shape, he said.

"We're looking all over the downtown area to find underutilized parking or areas to develop additional parking," Skinner said.

Frank said negotiations are taking place with the owners of several nearby privately owned lots.


Coming up on Novato Patch: How do the Grant Avenue merchants and the Downtown Novato Business Association think this will work?

Tina McMillan June 05, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I remember the days when the city renovated Grant Avenue from Old Town up to 7th. Little attention was paid to local business owners or shoppers but parking was promised in the future. It even made its way into a former plan by local architect, MacDonald, but then that plan was scrapped and we were told there was no real need for additional parking and that we could use the existing street parking in order to reach shops, restaurants and businesses. Then someone decided to put trees in the street, thus negating even more parking spaces. These trees are now quickly outgrowing the metal structures at their base, many are leaning because they weren't properly supported and all look as if they could do with a good arborist assessment of their nutritional needs and pruning. So fewer parking spaces in the street, no parking garage as part of the downtown office project and now a year to a year and a half of building new offices with inadequate parking during construction. Only in Novato....
Worry June 05, 2012 at 07:22 PM
tina, not only was parking promised in the future the downtown specific plan clearly states that this city office site is intended for a 2-3 story parking garage to help revitalize downtown and encourage retail/restaurant growth and help create much needed sales tax revenues. the city council has decided to forgoe the will of the people, ignore the downtown specific plan, and sacrifice sales tax revenues in order to build a 20,000 foot space that will cost taxpayers $15 million+ and take away much needed parking. perhaps the city council should ask circle bank how they are able to build their 20,000 sf building for only $4.9 million. right?
Worry June 05, 2012 at 08:39 PM
an explantion of the future parking problem for jlg: the city (taxpayers actually) paid for a parking study. in the study it states in its conclusion: "“While the existing supply of public parking in Downtown Novato is more than adequate to meet the current demand, addition of the new Civic Center office building and the resulting increase in parking demand and elimination of parking supply, will the severely strain the parking supply east of Redwood Highway.” the study makes it very clear there will be a parking problem downtown when this building is built. the study was also completed during down economic times (when even fewer cars were present), it did not include the parking impact the 300 seat theatre will have, it states 999 grant will only have a max need for 45-55 parking spaces when in acutallity it will require in excess of 100 at any given tiime (25-50 circle bank employees, the employees of the other 7,500 sf of businesses planned, & the many visitors to circle's busy retail bank branch), the study did not include the impact that Trek Winery and the Mills site would have either. also important to note as well is that the parking study was going under the assumption that city offices would provide more parking than they ended up with. . there are now only 56 spaces included on site. the city has 61 employees slated to occupy 56 spaces..none for thier visitors. does this help you understand the serious future parking problems coming?
Worry June 05, 2012 at 08:52 PM
jlg.. how do you plan on "enjoying" city offices? how do you enjoy city offices right now? how often do you enjoy the remodeled sherman ave city building which is completely vacant 95% of the time? that building cost taxpayers $6 million plus to remodel 4,100 sq feet. meanwhile.. circle bank is building new 20,000 sf for $4.9 million. a building that thousands of sales tax generating people will visit per week. city offices will be empty every night and on the weekends. they generate zero in sales tax revenue and cost taxpyers $10 million more than a comparable building being built a block away. their own visitor study states less than 60 people will visit city offices mon -thursday and none friday, saturday and sunday. city offices expect a grand total of less than 240 people to visit each week. what is it you will enjoy about few visitors, no parking for the few that will visit, and spending $10 million more than is necessary? please provide a thoughtful response as to what you we should expect to enjoy at such a high cost.. we would love to hear it perhaps you can sway us..
Tina McMillan June 06, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Worry: It's useless to argue with JLG. He/she enjoys watching the city make foolish decisions and then sells tickets to imaginary barbecues. He/she uses multiple pseudonyms but essentially says the same things and most of them make little to no sense. Someday he/she will be unmasked like Brent's photos of places throughout Novato. In the meantime... I had no idea Circle Bank was building at such a low cost. Kudos to Kim Petrini. I remember when the city originally refused to let Ms. Petrini purchase the 999 Grant Building because the downtown plan was to put retail street side. Then the 2008 collapse of the real estate market happened and Petrini purchased 999 Grant and the city was just grateful to have the area be developed. It is ironic that the city is taking up all that space in old town with downtown offices at an exorbitant cost when its own plan was to put retail at street level and offices above.
Tina McMillan June 06, 2012 at 03:28 AM
continued The planning commission wasn't even provided time to comment last June when the project could have been turned around. Then in April they were told that the scope was only relevant in so far as it applied to the general plan but not the downtown specific plan. Jay Strauss, Dennis Cooper and Robert Jordan were wonderful. Each tried to make the point that the council was not in a position to do an end run around the planning commission and that the downtown specific plan did apply. Unfortunately the vote by the commission as a whole was that since the original offices were in this location the new ones were a given. MacDonald's plan and the parking garage were not considered as part of the downtown specific plan and the majority supported the council's decision. I believe this might have had a different outcome had it been addressed last June but the planning commission was put off any discussion of this issue as it pertained to the general plan until now. It is so much easier to rig the game than play by the rules.
Tina McMillan June 06, 2012 at 04:21 AM
JLG Looks like Prop 29 is passing, I guess you'll be leaving the state....
Worry June 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
tina , great points all of them. there is only one i take issue with.. stating that circle is completeing their project at such "a low cost". their cost to build the 20,000 sf at $4.9 million is the market rate..it is not low cost. $245 per foot for this Class A space vs the city spending $15 million tobuild their same 20,000 sf plus is a ridiculously high cost and a blatant disregard of tax payer funds. if you ask any commercial real estate broker in marin.. or run this price tag by any developer in california.. they will tell you the city is mismanaging tax payer funds. they will tell you that they could build the exact same building for millions less. it is truly amazing that more people in this town are not up in arms about this single biggest waste of novato tax payer funds in the history of our town.
Tina McMillan June 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM
JG I said looks like, not did. Notice the .... I will be here regardless of who is elected and what passes. No threats to leave on my end. I like it here.
Tina McMillan June 07, 2012 at 04:02 AM
JG: If you want our schools to get more money the first step would be to reach out to the State Legislature to write a bill that says school districts that are low wealth do not have to comply with the current ADA requirements. That way Novato would be able to predict their budget from year to year based on the number of students registered without losses due to absenteeism. We would still need to raise more money in order to have the ability to effectively educate our larger population of ELL and ED students. This issue might be addressed at the county level if we were to look at the disproportionate share of education costs foisted on communities with the responsibility of providing nonprofit affordable housing, below market rate housing and the largest share of moderately priced housing in the area.
Tina McMillan June 07, 2012 at 04:03 AM
continued I believe Novato Unified and San Rafael Elementary are the two largest low wealth districts in Marin County. What we need is for the state to raise the amount they add to make up the difference in low wealth districts by a larger margin. Fewer ELL and ED kids can afford to live in Ross, Kentfield, Larkspur and so on. Their districts don't have the same challenges as Novato and San Rafael Elementary. The lottery provides an insignificant amount of money to the schools. We need at least $1500 more per pupil per day to average out. In 2011, the national average of per pupil spending was $11,223. With the higher cost of doing anything in California we are between a rock and a boulder when it comes to finding better ways to provide funding for education. I do believe in prop 13. I don't think we can afford to pay more property taxes when our housing prices are so far above other parts of the country. Again, if Novato and other low wealth districts could start by being exempted from ADA requirements maybe we would have a fighting chance.
Lloyd June 11, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Looks like we are way off the topic. Parking downtown is absolutely fine unless your goal is to attract shoppers and restaurant goers. The new city offices, the new circle bank, the theatre, and new what is replacing Denny's all are bringing new construction. The only problem the current parking is at best inadequate. Without a parking garage this whole flurry of activity only serves to deepen the existing problem with parking and driving away more potential patrons. Bad planning is simply bad planning. No excuses will suffice.
Worry June 11, 2012 at 04:59 PM
lloyd.. you hit it on the nose. the scary irony is that the city plans to build offices here will, in all likelyhood, destroy any potentital for a revitalized downtown. just as private developers and donors (the theatre) are opening up to the idea of investing in downtown the city council has embarked on a plan which will negate and destroy any potential for a sizeable parking facility to help encourage retail/restaurant growth on grant ave. do not be surprised if circle bank now has a difficult time leasing their bottom floor restaurant/retail space. and do not be shocked if donors for the theatre reverse field and go in to hiding. both of these enormous projects will require parking, which there will be none of. an investor or new business can easily make the argument that without parking to accomodate the 1,000's of more people that would be visiting either of these projects, that investing in such a poorly planned downtown would be foolish. should that transpire you can thank this city council for its decision to ignore parking. oh yeah..downtown merchants and property owners.. you guys should get ready to foot the bill for the parking problem that is coming down the pike. the city will force small businesses/property owners to pay for their lack of foresight on the parking issue. assesments coming.. while $15 million dollar city offices sit vacant at night and on weekends. a "grand downtown revitalization plan".. courtesty of our city council!
Eleanor Sluis June 11, 2012 at 05:57 PM
One option is to have a parking lot-perhaps the lot between Sweetser, Machin, and Scown Lane, or turn Machin and Sherman into parking lots. There are other alternatives for discussion. If you agree with the City spending almost $280,000 for three, new administrative employees and not prioritizing discussions with the Chamber and the public over parking, please come to Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall to see the Consent Calendar. The city wants to hire two more employees, (after hiring a Community Director), using Measure F funds for approx. $200,000 (includes benefits and pensions) If you have concerns over safety personnel needed after three years or the city’s need to hire a public relations person and an economic developer, when the city pays the Chamber $ 90,000 for its expertise in advocating for tourists then please express your opinion at 6:30 during open time. Kudos to the Chamber for its experience and wanting to make Novato a destination- perhaps more money could be given to them to better plan for public relations and economic development. The Chamber has the background, the knowledge and the experience to help Novato. Why not work with them and the Leadership classes before spending city funds?
Lothrop Withington Jr. June 28, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Why is it that the parking on Grant is all day, while the parking on side streets is limited two hours? Where do you think the people who work or own businesses without off-street parking park their cars when they have to work all day? I used to work on Grant park on the side streets to save the parking in front of my business for my customers and got a ticket once, so guess where I park now? Right outside my front door. Good thing no one shops down town...


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