How did they describe those nail-biting San Francisco Giants games last year during the team’s run to the World Series?
Novato is on the edge of its collective lower-reserved box seat about a contentious , hoping for an end to a year of fairly vicious infighting, but it might as well settle back and order more popcorn because a settlement is going to have to wait at least three more innings ... er, weeks.
It was packed at on Tuesday night — with seats taking up the foyer as well as the training room a block away, watching on TV — as the Novato City Council let residents loose at the microphone for more than three hours to vent about that could eventually serve as sites for high-density and/or low-income housing.
By the end of the night, 76 people (at least by one person’s count) had cashed in on their 2 minutes of open time, and it was 11:30 p.m. when the council and city staff started to contemplate the next move. It took another 35 minutes to hash it out from there.
The result? The meeting would be continued until the week of Monday, July 11. A specific date will be nailed down over the next few days, but it won’t be July 12 because of a full agenda for the council’s regular session. Dates proposed by staff were July 11, 13 and 14.
The one curveball thrown by the council was the strong hints that several members would like to recommend additional properties to the list of eight sites recommended by the City Manager’s Housing Ad Hoc Working Group, which debated properties for almost nine months prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.
Council members, especially Pat Eklund, advocated for more time for public comment, saying it is critical to the process and its transparency.
“There have been only two opportunities for public comment in the past nine months, and for us to cut off the public debate — especially when we’re talking about adding new sites — is not appropriate,” Eklund said.
Councilwoman Denise Athas made a motion to continue the meeting, and the council agreed on several amendments including e-mail ideas about additional sites to the city staff, having a council discussion prior to more public comment about density and legal issues, and notifying residents who might be affected by new properties on the list.
The council also asked for clarifications about the designations for housing units per acre. The ad hoc working group recommended 22 units per acre, short of what state and regional housing authorities would like but above the “we can get away with it” mark of 20 units per acre.
Mayor Madeline Kellner had to shush the crowd regularly and remind people to stop clapping. The raising of hands was substituted for clapping when audience members were in favor of a speaker's comments. There was some heckling — gadly Gail Meyers received three warnings for speaking out of turn — but nobody had to be tossed out.
For an account of the meeting’s earlier moments, click here.