Lorax Makes a Sneak Appearance

Take a look at this sign tacked onto a tree at the location where the new city administrative offices will be built starting in a few weeks.

Someone has decided to make a political and/or environmental statement by protesting the planned removal of a large tree on the site where the new Novato city administrative offices will be constructed over the next 13 months.

The tree, on a strip of city-owned land just off Cain Lane, is one of two large trees that will be taken down next week to make room for the new home for city employees. 

The parking lot between the long-closed Novato Community House and the businesses along Grant Avenue will be turned into a corporation yard next week and construction workers will start by excavating to make the underground parking garage for the 19,000-square-foot building.

Possibly inspired by the Dr. Seuss character who "speaks for the trees!," the protester tacked up a sign that makes references to missing the tree when it is turned into firewood.

Artist renderings of the revamped civic center area — Novato City Hall, the old community house, the police station and the new offices — show more trees being planted just off the Novato City Green. Several existing smaller trees are to be dug up and replanted elsewhere on city property, Skinner said. Two large ones, a sweetgum and a blue oak, are to come down.

City engineer Julian Skinner said "no parking" signs are now at the civic center lot across the street from the Novato Police Department, with the effective date starting Monday. Temporary fencing will be erected and construction crews will start bringing in heavy equipment, he said.

A month ago, the Novato City Council awarded a $10.4 million deal to the San Leandro-based Sausal Corporation to build new city offices. The project will bring all city workers to the Old Town area — following guidelines mentioned in the city's general plan — following a nine-year absence. A dilapidated cluster of buildings were all red-tagged by the fire marshal in 2004.

The city has been working for several years to find a way out of a cost-prohibitive lease at the  at 75 Rowland Way. In September 2013, the lease will jump from about $650,000 annually to about $750,000. If all goes well with the construction schedule, the new offices would open just prior to that increase.

(Editor's note: Thanks to Michael Prichard of for sharing the photos.)


Andrew R August 03, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Probably the same reason one house costs 250/ sq ft to build, while another down the street cost 400/ sq ft...different amenities and facilities. Debating the cost of construction and needs is certainly apropriate with public funds. My point was that a tree shouldn't be a symbol (or martyr) of any perceived council excess.
John Sammons August 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
You are correct with the symbol or martyr comments. Perhaps the powers that be can be there in hard hats and golden chain saws when it is sacrificed - if that happened. Another group listened and the beautiful tree on Grant was saved.
Mark Burnham August 03, 2012 at 03:13 PM
glad you are in agreement that questioning the appropriation of public funds..but a quick run down of the math exposes that it is more like $195/sf vs $750/sf. this discrepancy doesn't boil down to your simple analogy..it is far more disturbing. as far as your initial point regarding lucas and his "progress" being stopped.. it doesn't apply here. city offices downtown are not "progress" and that was my main point.. not the tree.
Dave Robertson August 06, 2012 at 07:56 PM
All the arguments from the City's desire to build new offices comes from their statement that leasing costs currently run $650K and will grow to $750K. Has anyone in our city government ever stopped to think that perhaps the City is currently renting space that is excessively elegant and spacious? Kids go to school in Novato in buildings from the 60's - with minimal renovations over the years, but our city offices are plusher than those of a major law firm. This to me is seriously unfair (to the kids and taxpayers). Yes, it also becomes an issue of how many dollars per square ft the city is willing to spend. Most municipal buildings I have ever seen in my life are never as nice as the current rented space, nor did they ever cost $750/sq. ft. to build! A tree is a symbol of waste by city government.
Bob Ratto August 06, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Dave City logic is that it is better to get out of paying rent of $650k per year, while the bond payments (at near 7% interest) will be more than double that...about $42MM over 30 years, if I recall correctly. So, at a time when he have escalating structural deficits, the city chooses to spend way more than what they are currently paying. Kind of like "I can afford the rent on my condo, but I would feel a better sense of permanence if I could just have someone build me a high end mansion"


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