Two days after several people complained about trash and debris at a vacant lot in Novato, it was nice and tidy. A man with a gas-powered weed-whacker was hard at work in the Thursday mid-day heat at the lot on Diablo Avenue, future home of a senior affordable housing complex.
At Tuesday’s Novato City Council meeting, resident Toni Shroyer put pressure on Hayward-based Eden Housing to clean up the property adjacent to Warner Creek where 60 units are to be built in the coming year. Shroyer showed the council members and public a handful of photos that showed an accumulation of trash, brush, shopping carts and graffiti. She scolded Eden Housing for not taking better care of the land since the City Council approved construction of the complex in 2009.
“Why is Eden Housing treating the people of Novato like this?” Shroyer asked. “… Don’t they realize we have pride in our community? Is this an indication of how they will treat their property after they’ve developed it?”
The council unanimously approved an adjustment to the $1.5 million loan the city gave to Eden Housing two years ago so the project can get started, but Councilwoman Pat Eklund chimed in with Shroyer and asked Eden Housing Executive Director Linda Mandolini to call her maintenance crew and doll up the place ASAP. Mandolini agreed.
“We have a maintenance contract, but nobody is there 24-7 and you can’t police the dumping as well as you might like,” Mandolini said. “The way to solve it is to get rid of the vacant lot and approve this (loan issue) and build the senior housing.”
The complex is to include 60 units for residents 55 and older and include several measures to enhance security. The complex is intended for able-bodied people and will not include assisted medical care.
Shroyer and several other people spoke up at the meeting to say they are concerned about a complex for seniors being built across Diablo Avenue from the , which has had more than a normal share of police calls in the past several years. Formerly a federally subsidized housing complex, Wyndover managers have worked with the apartments’ management company and Novato police to address the problems, create a Neighborhood Watch program and increase security.
Mandolini said the Diablo address is “nice compared to the area in Richmond where we have a property.” She said in addition to security cameras, Eden Housing would take any other additional measures to assure safety for the senior residents.
“Our seniors are very active. They watch the street a lot,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll hear from them after they move in. They are active participants in local government.”
Novato recently wrapped up a controversial yearlong debate on affordable housing by where new housing could be built in the coming years. The state mandates that each municipality plan for more housing as populations increase. With sites recently identified, Novato is in the process of updating the housing element of its general plan, which has to be revised every seven years.
With heightened awareness to housing issues, members of the council remarked that some Novato residents might not have known that Eden Housing already had approval to move forward with the construction of the Warner Creek complex.
“We are really committed to making this a quality property,” Mandolini said prior to the council’s vote about the loan adjustment. “We had five fully noticed meetings to get the project approved, and we’ve been open with our communication. We are one vote away from a $24 million investment. It will be a great addition to the neighborhood.”
For the ’s story on this council meeting, click here.